Letter to Turkey

I was enjoying a nice 60-minutes Börek (don’t ask me what it is; this is Tel Aviv) with my nice Turkish compatriot who came to visit for a few days. Like the good Turks we are, we started talking about Turkey before talking about ourselves, regardless of the 8 years we have spent not seeing each other. Oh Turkey, do you know you haunt your people’s minds? We just love you so much, and we get so hurt when you tell us that people with our mindset do not belong to you. We are so hurt when our essence needs to be hidden. We now whisper to one another, afraid it might be the wrong person we are talking to or listened by. But we still speak up, and we do so because we believe that we are aiming for the best of the country. And you call us traitors while our primary love is for Turkey and for the Turks, and not for power or religion.

We all made mistakes; history is complex. I strive for progress, and I am ready to listen and talk about all that has been done wrong. Because many wrongs have been done, and it is primordial to acknowledge it. If we stay stuck in the past without a critical lookout, then we regress. And if you were oppressed in the past, then today I will fight for your rights too.

But look at what is being done. Look at what is being done to your people, to your country. It feels like a vendetta that has been installed, in which the media machine (and TV shows) sells the scapegoats that the masses need to blame. Kurds, Jews, seculars, Democrats, scholars, journalists, historians: all the hardship of Turkey is blamed on the Other; and your own people are depicted as “the Other”. And all discussions are silenced, and horror stories about the Other are fed. And then some supporters are outraged to see the President’s picture in front of a Coca-Cola factory, because they call it “Jewish” and that it needs to be boycotted.

But what my friend told me helps me write these words without falling into the despair of not being heard and understood:

Turks never fought for democracy and the separation of religion and state.They fought for independence. Democracy was given to them, imposed from above. It was not a struggle à la Revolution française. It was transposed, as a foreign ideology with no roots in the previous Ottoman system of governance. And despite its turbulent beginning, the democratic system was emplaced. In a few years, it grew to be fully part of the Turkish identity.

And so, today, Turks take to the streets. They talk, they write, they film, they sing, they march. Turkish people are not ready to abandon their democracy. They will continue to fight for a separation between religion and government, they will continue to fight for the respect of the law and the separation of powers, they will continue to fight for having more than 5 seconds in the ballot box to call their country a democracy. Don’t forget, on your last referendum, 48,6% of your population felt that losing checks and balance was dangerous; and they voted against.

And it won’t stop now; it will survive in the privacy of homes if it’s needed. Turks will keep fighting for freedom of expression, for a life without the fear of being heard, without religious discrimination. They will fight for tolerance, inclusiveness, for minorities and majority’s rights. They will fight for education, for critical thinking, for love.

And if unexpected others feel that they are fighting for the same things, then let’s all unite. Polarization is what you make of it, and the middle ground needs to come together because we are not so far off each other.

But we won’t cease to exist. We will always be Turks, fighting for Turkey, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or time.

Ne mutlu türküm diyene

Özdemir Erdogan – Gurbet 

About the Author
Originally from Switzerland and Turkey, Danielle Levi completed her B.A. in International Relations at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and finished her Master degree at Tel Aviv University in Public Policy, Conflict Resolution and Mediation. She is currently working as a political analyst for a security company based in Israel. She is passionate about the international world, from its politics to its culture, and has traveled throughout the continents for an extensive period of time.
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