‘I feel this hidden discrimination from people’s gaze and attitudes’

‘I feel this hidden discrimination from people’s gaze and attitudes’

Sait Mentes Birlik shares a moving testimony about his journey from Turkey after he started to live with the Guillain-Barre syndrome: a striking evidence that interwoven discriminations further hinder the capacity of certain groups of older adults to contribute to society.

“If you are mature and disabled, discrimination is everywhere. In 2013, I met with a rare disease named Guillain-Barre syndrome. After one year in intensive care unit, thanks god I came back home and recovered. But a new life started for me as the syndrome left me with heavy disabilities.

I was living in Turkey, my home country, at the time and I could not find any opportunity to work and set up a new professional career. So I thought, perhaps it may be good idea to move to Europe where I expected they are more respectful of human rights and non-discriminate.

At 52 years old, I moved to Italy where I passed a Master exam in Bologna University and gained hope again that it would open up new opportunities. Now at 54, I have just finished my MBA. But still: when I am looking for a job, or when I am getting an interview or rent a house I feel this hidden discrimination from people’s gaze and attitudes.

Maybe it is not open, direct discrimination; but I can tell you, if you are older and disabled, you will definitely face a glass wall. Even my school did not put my picture in their materials; they are using only young pictures! The job search and company websites are another problem, they all proudly expressing that they are diverse but you will never see a middle age employee or disabled employee picture in their websites.

This discrimination is alive, hidden and strong. This discrimination makes me feel I am restricted to an age and a disability – but these do not define me! I will not give up. I will keep fighting. I may be old, I may be disabled: but I stand determined and strong!

Sait Mentes Birlik, Italy

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