İstanbul, Aug 27 () - A Kuwait-born Irish tourist who was captured on video beating up an army of Istanbul shopkeepers after being attacked with sticks and stools has become an online hero in Turkey - but both he and his assailants struck a somber note in their first interviews after the incident.
“They just picked the wrong man” Mohammed Fadel Dobbous told private broadcaster Show TV on Aug. 26. “I was not drunk. I wanted to apologize [for the incident] but they attacked me with sticks. Who are they? Shopkeepers or butchers?” he added, referring to the incident that was sparked after he accidentally spilled a fridge full of water bottles.
Turkish social media users have likened Dobbous to a number of fictional figures, including a Spartan facing 300 Persians, the Hulk, Jackie Chan, and Neo from the Matrix.
Some Turks suggested that he should be awarded for “speaking the language of rude shopkeepers,” while one social media user said he would vote for Dobbous if he forms a political party.
Dabbous ‘in training’
The tourist told the broadcaster that he was not frightened when assailed by the 15 local shopkeepers, some holding sticks and machetes. Although rumored to be a professional boxer on Turkish social media, he said he was not a professional but only “in training.”
Dobbous said his arm was broken, his shoulder blade cracked, his waist stabbed, and his cellphone and golden necklace lost, “just for a bottle of water.”
Still, he added that he was ready to mend fences with the shopkeepers if they apologize to him. When asked whether he would like to visit Turkey again, he said “of course.”
Argument over alcohol?
But not all shopkeepers in Istanbul’s Aksaray neighborhood - who Dobbous described as “eliminated” during the brawl - are willing to extend an olive branch.
Şenol Palan, 32, who owns the store where the whole incident occurred, told police that Dabbous had first came alone to his shop and asked to buy an alcoholic drink. When he said he did not sell alcoholic drinks, they argued and the tourist soon came back with a friend to start a fight.
“The man was so strong. He was knocking down everyone he hit. Then shopkeepers in the area came over to help. It was like he was made of concrete … like he wasn’t human” Palan said in his testimony, seen by daily Hürriyet.
‘Falling into existential vacuum’
Nurullah Elkatmış, an employee of a tourism firm based in the neighborhood, told daily Hürriyet that “the most unfortunate person” in the fight was a local peddler named Şeref, who can be seen in the video footage being knocked down by Dobbous with a right hook to the jaw.
After the punch, the dazed man stumbled to the sidewalk before checking the two teeth he lost in the bout. “It seems like he has fallen into an existential vacuum,” one social media user quipped on Aug. 26.
One local restaurant owner told daily Hürriyet that Dobbous came back to continue the bout twice.
“After hitting Şeref, the tourist went back to his hotel. He rested there a little. Then he returned to the street and started taking on the stick-holding shopkeepers again. He came back twice,” he said.
The full picture may be revealed during the investigation, as police are probing longer footage of the whole incident.
Irish-Kuwaiti tourist Mohammed Fadel Dobbous, R, and the local store owner, Şenol Palan.