Translated by Melissa Clissold
We must ponder upon the 96th year of the Republic; why we are so far away from goals of freedom, equality and fraternity and how we can get out of this?
Hello, good day, good celebrations to all. Happy 29th of October Republic Day. What are they saying? “It is not a holiday, it is a festival.” This is true, and for us too. We are working today. But we must seriously see October 29 as a festival, not a holiday, and celebrate the republic. We each have our own republic story and generally the republic is always commemorated in a good manner. Even if there are those who speak against the republic, the majority always speaks of it positively. But this does not mean that we always think all that is happening in the country is right, or that we adopt everything going on. For me, the three fundamental principles of the French Revolution evoke the republic.
They are liberty, equality and fraternity. When we look at these, when we look at Turkey’s republican history, we can see that the main issue, that these main three concepts, have always been debatable. And we know that the closer we get to these, the more we get closer to the ideal of the republic, and the further we get away from it, we get further away from the idea. Openly speaking, I believe that today we are very far from these values. And the sad thing is, I actually thought that, up till recently that we had gotten quite close to these values. I was hopeful and excited. This is my own personal view. But especially that which has been experienced in Turkey in the last five to six years shows us that we are moving further and further away from the concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity.
It is not very meaningful to do this: They usually say “What aboutism” to this, meaning: “They say this, what do you say to this?” When you criticise something today, they try to neutralise your criticisms by giving certain examples from the past. This is ridiculous. When we look at things today and towards the future, past negative references do not legitimise today’s problems, they do not excuse them. Therefore, if there is indeed a problem of liberty in Turkey currently – and there is -, this does not excuse or make right the hitches during the past one-man party management or later periods or the periods of the military coup or that which took place on February 28. Today, Turkey is a country is far from the liberty it deserves.
People are afraid to speak their mind, something happens to them and in the recent periods, even though there have been some positive stirrings, Turkey is further distancing itself from being a state of law. This is where we are. And, things that took place in the past, unjust occurrences that took place in differing periods for certain reasons, does not excuse the need for a state of law, the need for a “just system” as Erbakan used to say. Turkey desperately needs liberty right now. People need to be free.
Freedom of expression especially needs to be exercised. The freedom to organise and protest is needed. And Turkey is far behind when it comes to this. But like I said, up until recently there had been certain positive developments. Turkey, especially within the European Process, had carried out very serious democratic initiatives, reforms; its area of freedom, rights and freedoms were expanding. But after a certain moment, we started counting backwards again. And perhaps Gezi could be given as a milestone. It was something that started before, but the important milestone was Gezi. And the demands of the prime minister of the time, Erdoğan, the public requests were chosen to be suppressed with security forces, and Turkey entered a brand-new route.
Of course, within this, there were the Gülenists, the conspiracies, coup attempts etc. that they planned. But these were all used one by one for Erdoğan to achieve his one-man regime. Of course, there had to be a struggle against them, but under the guise of fighting against them, rights and freedoms were restricted, people were thrown in jail, there are many still “thought-criminals” who are still in prison.
The second concept is equality. It is clear that Turkey is very backward when it comes to equality. Of course, there is a clear inequality when it comes to classes. It is always present, always has been present in a capitalist system. And the gap is widening. There are the new rich that have emerged. Those who have been made rich through the help of the government or those whose riches have doubled through the state. During a certain period, there were certain services and assistance provided by the AKP towards the lower classes within the field of a social state. These have been cut off immensely especially with the economic crisis that has been taking place. And in this respect, class inequality has grown and can be seen even clearer.
Other than that, when the concept of equality is talked about, there are the opportunities provided by the state – and when we say opportunities provided by the state, the state does not actually own these opportunities, it collects from the citizen and returns some of them back to the citizens through services. There is no such structure as a state that is producing its own fund or capital. The state of course transfers the taxes it receives from citizens to certain areas. And we can see that there is huge inequality in the distribution of these services. Favouritism and nepotism have increased incredibly. And there is of course squandering. We were able to see this a lot more openly following the March 31 local elections and change of municipalities.
These were displayed – vehicles etc. Or the expenditure of municipalities, especially of the trustees in the Southeast. All these have shown us that partisanship and favouritism, that have existed for a long time in Turkey has increased. Loyalty is at the forefront, as opposed to competence. Under the claim of fighting against Gülenism, interviews are a lot more determinant in the interviews for state jobs. And we of course know that to a large extent those who are close to the administration are preferred. And at this point we can also say that discrimination against minorities, especially the Kurds and Alevi’s has increased.
Of course, in addition to this, discrimination against women has also increased in this period – and gender equality was actually one of the greatest achievements of the republic. It was never completely achieved, we know that, but this was the goal. And we can see that this aim has been pushed to the side-lines, women are talked about but the state and those supporting the state have pushed this to the side. And in this respect we can see a very serious problem of inequality, or the deepening of an already inequality.
We said discrimination; therefore, we must mention fraternity. Turkey is a polarised country and those running the country like this polarisation. Because, there are no longer that many opportunities to present bright perspectives regarding the country; meaning that, there is a very serious deadlock because President Erdoğan and those running the country are going through a serious ideological and political crisis. And in order to overcome this deadlock, they are playing with certain fragilities existing in society, and certain policies supporting the majority and excluding the minorities are in place.
We can see this. There is very serious polarisation in Turkey. There are several levels of polarisation. Certain steps were taken to prevent this with Alevi’s and Kurds at different periods, but they were all cancelled one way or another. Those minorities in society – and the fundamentals of democracy actually mean that the rights of minorities should be respected by majorities – there are very serious problems regarding this issue and we know that there is vast polarisation. We have also seen this with the latest operation in Syria too. And with many other incidents that have taken place.
We saw this with the Kobani incidents. We are very far from being a country where people from one part of the society supports another when they are sad or happy. Therefore, right now, on the 96. Anniversary of the republic, we are very far away from the fundamental principles of a republic. But I hope and predict that Turkey can overcome this, that not only can it overcome it, but that it is the only choice, that it will fix these problems through adorning the principles of the republic with democracy. Why do I think this? This is more than just wishful thinking, as Westerners usually think. We see this because of our own stories.
Each one of us have different stories. I personally have seen where I have come from and where I can go. Of course, my family, environment, myself, my friends have a share in this. But of course, there is a serious share of the will that constructed the republic. In some ways, this country, no matter which region or fraction, no matter what past, religion, belief or non-belief, has a foundation that wants to open the way for people. This wants to be blocked. In different periods, this mobility, this movement wants to be prevented by those running the country.
But I believe that the foundations were built incredibly strong. And this foundation, despite everything, despite all the shocks will manage to salvage itself and stand on its feet. I think that we are going through one of Turkey’s worst periods. Whilst it could have been so much better, Turkey unnecessarily spent its energy in wrong places, and continues to do so. There is a very unnecessary polarisation taking place. Instead of resolving its problems, it is worsening them.
But these are resolvable issues. And Turkey, I believe, will be able to resolve them. When we look at things in this respect, and I am going to stress this one more time – and certain viewers will get angry at me once again, I am saying this so they get angry: Turkey cannot do anything if it does not resolve the Kurdish problem. I am not Kurdish. But because I am not Kurdish I want the Kurdish problem to be resolved as soon as possible in a permanent manner. Because for people who aren’t Kurdish to live happily, Kurds also need to be happy. Yes, I want to say once more, happy Republic Day. This is all I have to say, good day.