The Day I Witnessed War

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That beautiful afternoon, everyone was having a wonderful time. As I looked around the room, I saw only happy faces, smiling, eating snacks, chatting, flirting… I could also see the Sun outside the window right across the room, slowly descending to the horizon between the other long buildings. I wondered what floor I was on: maybe 20, 25? It must be quite high, the sunset looked magnificent.

Then came that odd, deafening, whistle-like sound… I scoped the room to see who felt the need to whistle that loud – did not want to miss the joke. But no one was laughing. In fact, everyone was looking around to locate the source of the sound, just like me. The next thing we heard was a crumbling, loud explosion and an unnatural, blinding brightness that surrounded the building next to ours. I was stunned at the view as someone yelled “DOWN! IT’S A MISSILE!” Out of shock, my glass slipped through my hands. I was desperately looking for a cover – a couch, a table, anything. I hid behind a couch next to a group of friends, who seemed to lose their logic: “They already hit the building next to us, they won’t hit us.” “How about going to the basement?” “We’d definitely die there, it’s good we are on this high – we actually can survive if the building collapses.” Meanwhile, I was crying, thinking of my mom and how I did not respond to the last message she had sent. Then, something hit the building.

Continue reading The Day I Witnessed War

As a Turkish Citizen, I Have No Sympathy for the Turkish Protesters in the Netherlands

Important: This blog has been moved to a new website, The Justice Journey. Please visit the new address to access the most recent content.

Yazının Türkçesini burada okuyabilirsiniz.

These two weeks have been a bumpy ride, to say the least, for the Turkish government in terms of foreign policy. First, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked Germany, calling them Nazis, and now he did the same for the Netherlands following the cancellation of the Foreign Minister’s plane’s landing permit and the deportation of the Minister of Family to Germany. (Yes, we have a ministry that regulates family life)

Normally, I try to conduct more in-depth analysis but this time, my emotions are taking over my logic The problem is, my friends, the Turkish government now claims that Europe has turned into a tyranny, infused in authoritarianism, for doing what it already does to its own citizens on a daily basis. This disgusting hypocrisy made my sympathy completely diminish for Dutch-Turks, who gathered around the Turkish Embassy in Rotterdam and protested the Dutch government’s decision and then were attacked and dispersed by the Dutch police and water cannons.

I am truly sorry, but I have a hard time keeping the moral high ground here. I will not defend the Dutch government’s actions, but it is impossible from my moral standpoint to regard the protesters as anything other than hypocrites. Here is why:

  • Any kind of sympathy for the Turkish government is sympathy for their methods of crushing opposition and jailing politicians, journalists, academics, intellectuals by labeling them “terrorists”.
  • Even if you have no sympathy for the Turkish government but solely defend the ministers’ freedom of speech, you have to understand that they will not only simply exercise their free speech rights. They are campaigning for a referendum that proposes amendments in the constitution, which will give the Turkish president unlimited powers such as dismantling the parliament any time he wants, unlimited executive order authority and the power to appoint judges to or remove them from the Supreme Court. Furthermore, their campaign rhetoric is based on targeting the “No” voters, academics and intellectuals, accusing them of treason to the country and supporting terrorism. Because of this, every time they open their mouths, they jeopardize the safety of my friends and family.
  • The protesters in Rotterdam are dual citizens, who will most probably vote “Yes” in the referendum, validating the unlimited power granted to the president and legitimizing future oppression on Erdoğan’s dissidents. While these people enjoy their most basic rights, high-quality education and welfare systems in countries like Germany, the Netherlands and other Northern European countries, they relentlessly support a tyranny that strips the very same rights and opportunities off the Turkish citizens.
  • It is only funny to hear that most of these people do not want to return and live in Turkey, although they praise the leadership of Erdoğan and power of Turkey on every single occasion and platform. Well, if they like Turkey this much, then what stops these people from coming back?
  • While these protesters praise Erdoğan for cracking down on “traitors” “inner enemies” and “terrorists”, why are they so pissed, yelling about democracy values, when the Dutch government treats them the same way?

All political games and democracy values aside, as someone who has suffered at the hands of the Turkish government, I have no sympathy for their supporters who for the first time taste their own medicine and experience what it feels like to be oppressed just for having a stance on a cause that matters to them. Although this does not justify the Dutch police’s actions, I still have a glimpse of hope that maybe, maybe, this experience will be eye-opening for them, now that they have a first-hand experience with everything we have been already going through since the last decade.

What do you think about this ongoing diplomatic crisis? Can you sympathize for the protesters, unlike me? You can share your opinion in the comments.

Featured image credit: Carlos Latuff

Update (March 13, 2017): I understand the criticism directed to this post that there is a very diverse Turkish community in the Netherlands, which is true and should never be forgotten. Being Turkish/Dutch or Turkish/German or Turkish/X does not equate to being an Erdoğan supporter and this kind of a reductive narrative only empowers the dangerous rhetoric of ultra-nationalists like Geert Wilders. The sole focus of this post, however, is the Euro-Turkish citizens who support and protest in the name of Erdoğan. So, I had to limit my scope and could not mention the rest of the Turkish community. But I welcome the chance to share your experiences and opinions here on my blog. Please do not hesitate to share your opinion or criticism in the comments or by using Contact, so that I can respond to them here or correct myself if I made any errors.

My Reflections on Women’s March

Before going to bed after such a wonderful and exhausting day and turning this marvelous day into memory, I decided to write a couple of words about my experience at Women’s March Los Angeles.

First, I feel so proud and honored to have walked with 750,000 women and men of all colors, races, religions and sexual orientations to defend our rights, freedom and dignity from tyrants all over the world. I will never forget this special day and the solidarity of people. Freedom to protest in Turkey is nonexistent now. But being here, chanting, jumping, dancing and walking reminded me what it meant to be truly free from a dictator that turned my country into a dystopia only in a couple of years. It also reminded me why all dictators are so afraid of the slightest sign of opposition. Because it empowers, uplifts and unites people. And when people are empowered, uplifted and united, they gain courage and change things.

Not a single day goes by without thinking of the loved ones I left behind. Instead of letting this heartbreak consume my soul, I allow my it to feed my spirit so that I can have the power to always stand up and fight back wherever I see injustice. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. There is no way I can turn a blind eye to the injustice here while knowing firsthand how it feels.

Because of this, to me, defending minorities here means defending minorities there. Demanding equality here means demanding equality there. Fighting Donald Trump here means fighting Tayyip Erdoğan there. I may have been silenced in my homeland, but I won’t be silenced here. I am fired up now, ready to go.

Martin Luther King Jr. as a Universal Hero

Since today is celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr. day, I’d like to commemorate him on my blog once more. In a world where the right extremism is on the rise, threatening the peaceful coexistence of humans with different stories and identities, we need to remember, read, teach, learn and talk about his legacy and example more than ever. One can see why even by only looking at his inspiring words. If you have no idea about who he is, I advise you to get started by reading “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, an important document that carries important messages for all, where he makes a very strong case for why he chose civil disobedience to make his and his fellows’ voices heard.

My part ends here, so that Martin Luther King Jr.’s words can speak for themselves, words that are still relevant in today’s world despite being spoken decades ago, and have important teachings for us and everyone else who struggle for human rights and justice on a daily basis. Here are some of the best MLK quotes I have encountered here and there, and which, I have to admit, fill my eyes full of tears:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

“The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die”

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

May you never give up dreaming of a better world like Martin Luther King Jr!