The Day I Witnessed War

Image Source: Pinterest

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.

I didn’t even know where Gambia was until two days ago and now, I root for its people

If you have been following the news, you might have read that the Gambia has been dragged into a chaotic uncertainty in less than a week. The president/dictator Yahya Jammeh, who has been clinging to the power since 1994 after a bloodless coup, refuses to step down and allow the peaceful transition of power. He recently declared a state of emergency and extended his rule of 90 days as the last resort, yet Senegal’s army has already entered the country and at this moment marching to the capital, aiming to remove Jammeh from power. Adama Barrow, the president-elect, sought refuge in Senegal after the declaration of state of emergency and was sworn to the office at the Gambian Embassy in Senegal just yesterday.

To be frank, I did not even know where the Gambia was or who Jammeh was until two days ago but as I began to read the news, that tingling sense of relevance grew in my head: This whole incident happening in Turkey is disturbingly easy for me to imagine. A ruler who refuses to step down with the fear of prosecution, declares a state of emergency to desperately cling to the power, does not allow peaceful transition of power, is famous for putting his political opponents in jail, using political Islam and showing symptoms of delusion with claims like “God willing, I can rule for a billion more years” or “I cure AIDS with herbs and prayers” or “Who doesn’t support me is a traitor”. Well, it almost sounds like a certain individual in Turkey (I’m not the only one who noticed the resemblance, by the way. The members of “the Turkish Reddit”, Eksisozluk has been posting jokes and puns about these two since yesterday).

But STILL, why do I care so much as to dedicate a blog post for this? Because 1) I am highly familiar with the frustration, fear and hopelessness the citizens of the Gambia must be feeling now and 2) It validates my theory: Regardless of geographic, socioeconomic or political conjunctures, all dictators are eventually destined to fall – and most of the time, in a brutal fashion. Because of this, every time I explain to someone how I feel about my country’s future, I end on a hopeful note: “Well, I know it looks bad, it is bad, but it will not last forever.” I believe this hope is what we, the Turkish citizens, need at this moment – especially at this moment.

These are dark times, there’s no denying. Difficult days for my country are slowly appearing on the horizon as the Turkish Parliament is currently voting on a constitution that will dissolve the democracy in Turkey. The Turkish lira has been plummeting, unemployment has been growing, politicians and journalists have been thrown to jails without even a trial and my friends have never felt so pessimistic about their future. And I have never felt so heartbroken yet glad to be away from the land I call home at the same time. My only silver lining is that I since I left, I have felt awestruck by what an unstoppable force the progress of humanity is (even Donald Trump’s election didn’t change my thought).

Since the first humans began to record history, there has always been someone whose imagination transcended their time and someone else who would try to shut them up violently, because the status quo favored them. But ideas never fell even though the people did – they would simply continue to live on someone else’s mind until the moment comes for them to flourish and carry the humanity forward.

But I guess this is embedded in our nature. Since the beginning of our evolution, we wandered the meadows, climbed the mountains, crossed the oceans. We spread to the whole world. We explored. We invented. We created. We communicated to pass on the knowledge, moved forward. We still are. Human mind is just not meant to be oppressed or dulled. One way or another, every single person who attempts to stay in the progress’ way is destined to kneel before its power or become history.

Because of this, I believe that, now more than ever, we have to look at the fate of people like Yahya Jammeh and remind ourselves that eventually, courage will trump cowardice. Freedom will trump chains. Justice will trump revenge. Hope will trump fear. Brain will trump ignorance. People will trump tyrants.