WITH HIS neatly clipped moustache and checked shirt buttoned up to his neck, 51-year-old Yalcin Yalman doesn’t look like a typical trendsetter.
But the images he has filmed since 2007 from the suburban Istanbul holiday village where he works as a night-watchman have helped turn UFO-spotting, once the object of scorn, into a popular pastime among educated Turks.
“For me it’s just a hobby, a way of passing the night,” Yalman shrugged outside an Istanbul conference centre where more than 1,000 people had paid 35 lira (€16), a handsome sum by local standards, to listen to him and ufologists from around the world reveal their latest findings.
Holding cups of watery coffee selling at an extortionate three lira, elegantly dressed Turkish ladies with word-perfect English peppered speakers from as far afield as Mexico with questions about 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar.
Former head of the UK defence ministry’s UFO desk and a well-known ufologist, Nick Pope, one of the speakers at the conference, confessed himself amazed at the turnout.
“Ufology has a bit of an image problem back home – computer nerds, trainspotters, you know,” he said. “But that is not the sense I get here at all. And there seems to be an equal balance between men and women.”
Haktan Akdogan, the organiser of last weekend’s International UFO and New Age Congress, the fourth of its kind in Turkey, put growing domestic interest in UFO sightings down to the increasingly receptive Turkish media, “more sympathetic than the media in the West”.
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