Turkey: The truth about coronavirus from Fahrettin Koca (Minister of Health) to Fatih Terim (Trainer of Galatasaray)

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Translated by Melissa Clissold

Hello good day. I said I would make a broadcast about Fahrettin Koca. I’m doing it now even if it is delayed for a few days – but I’m adding Fatih Terim to this broadcast too. Because now Fatih Terim is clearly on Turkey’s agenda; more precisely, let’s say those who have tested positive for coronavirus, starting from Fatih Terim. There are those who are struggling to survive, there are those who have lost their lives, and of course there are many, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of our citizens who are possibly infected with the coronavirus; there is an uncertain process ahead of us.

In the broadcast I made about Fahrettin Koca during the first days that the virus emerged, I was one of those people who appreciated Koca’s calmness, his inclusive style, and his authority over and scientific approach towards the subject as he is a doctor. And yesterday, after watching the press conference, I realised once more that there was a limit to positivity, that here in Turkey, everything that is good has some sort of punishment, that once more obstacles are created for those who want to do good. I’m not the only one who sees this; Colleagues such as Murat Yetkin and Kemal Can also highlighted this issue – there are others, I may have overlooked them.

At the press conference yesterday, we saw that Fahrettin Koca’s playing field was truly narrowed down. There were remarks of appreciation and gratitude presented to the President, who has remained in the background, but especially towards Minister Berat Albayrak who is responsible for the economy. It is not possible to understand why. The money that is being used -and some information was provided regarding how much of this money was being used-, none of this money is anyone’s personal money.

There is a serious debate about the common value, common treasury of this country and whether or not these have been acted on too late. He bypassed these discussions and said that everything was under control – and you know, the Minister of Education, Ziya Selçuk, told students during the first on-line lesson that they had that the state was keeping everything under control. How true this all is, I leave to everyone’s discretion. But I can say that we are not so certain; at least I’m not so sure personally. Of course, the state is doing something. But I have serious doubts about whether Turkey will manage to prevent this situation turning into what has happened in Italy or Spain – I hope I am mistaken.

The curfew issue that I mentioned in a previous broadcast is still pending. Those who talk about this are perhaps not instantly accused of Gülenism as much as they used to be; but what the Minister is currently suggesting is for people to create their own state of emergency. Now with the incident of Fahrettin Koca, we can see him as a profile that people have truly missed in Turkey; with his different mannerisms, his approach that is clearly distant from polarisation and his image as a completely unique statesman. This seems to have caused discomfort; we haven’t seen him change his style, but the effort to push himself into the background, we saw in yesterday’s broadcast that he made an effort to show himself as being trivial, not that important. This is not a good thing. To try and recreate the structure of the political administration in Turkey, I don’t think will be too possible here, these are futile efforts. 

Under normal circumstances, people like Fahrettin Koca should be on the increase. Not just ministers but mayors, civil society personalities and institutions should come to the fore. Because it is a very difficult process. It is not a process that can be dealt with through arguments, it is not a process that can be dealt with through stubbornness. We are receiving very strange news from all over the world – often negative; We are receiving quite demoralizing news, analysis and forecasts for both the short and medium term, and even the long term. Stubbornness needs to be left behind throughout this process and Turkey needs to overcome this by staying together and being as calm as possible. But we still see people trying to ‘grab roles’. And frankly, there are doubts about what those people who are trying to ‘grab roles’ are really doing.

Turkey was caught off guard with this epidemic. This epidemic has taken place when there are already numerous problems, especially economic problems occurring, and during this time when we see countries that do not have this problem experiencing huge traumas, it is going to be really tough for Turkey to overcome this with the least amount of damage. Those who are aware of this danger, must really leave certain mannerisms, their stubbornness, grudges and – how can I put this? – their egos behind and need to open the way for those who truly want to do their job to help this situation. Obstacles must not be created indirectly or openly in front of those who truly want to help.

As far as we can see, Fahrettin Koca will keep a low profile. If a serious problem occurs, then it will be dumped on him and experts that are dealing with the situation. And if there is a certain success as well… When will we understand if things are going well? When we start seeing certain names that have been distant, coming up again. When they start making certain statements on the screen, from press conferences. Then we will see those people who have been carrying the true weight being left in the background.

Currently, there are very different comments regarding what sort of a strategy Turkey has. Firstly, I think that the treatment shown to the health workers, who have taken on the most burden during this process, is very inadequate. Of course, it is nice to applaud them at nine o’clock at night, in the sense of solidarity. But it is somewhat disturbing that the payments, salaries or bonuses that are being made to them have been expressed as a kind of loss by some who have mistakenly talked about this.

They deserve so much more. They are doing something very risky. We are seeing the same scenario all across the globe. There is news regarding health workers, doctors, caregivers, etc., who have lost their lives or have become infected in Iran, China, or Italy and elsewhere during the fight against the epidemic. They are very devoted to their jobs, and they are taking huge sacrifices in this period. I am not of the opinion that their rights have been fully granted. They have many complaints and expectations. They are expressing their needs – even if not individually, through their organisations. Were satisfactory answers given to these? Frankly, I’m not so sure. At the press conference yesterday, Fahrettin Koca did not bring much explanation to this issue. He said everything was under control; but to what degree is it under control? I am not sure.

Another issue is of course the elderly. There was such an atmosphere regarding the elderly it was as if this disease, this epidemic was being caused by the elderly. As if, if it were not for the elders, everything would be peachy. There is no such thing. It is incredibly wrong to blame the elderly. This may not be the purpose of those who are imposing these restrictions. But in all societies, all over the world as well as here in Turkey, bad feelings and actions can unfortunately spread very fast and wide. And old people are almost turned into scapegoats in this incident.

Now, if we come to the point that I mentioned at the beginning – the Fatih Terim incident: I remember those days; As a Galatasaray fan, before a Beşiktaş match and as someone with a combined ticket, we had debated a lot with friends regarding “Shall we go to the game or not?” Because at first, the match was going to be played with spectators. Then it was turned into a match without spectators. President Mustafa Cengiz was very angry. “If it is going to be played without spectators, it should be canceled.” The match was held. It was a very dull match.

Anyway, it was nothing like an old derby etc. Then the Football Federation statement came that the matches would continue without spectators, and then this was canceled at the last moment. As in many parts of the world, the matches were canceled, postponed, and firstly, Fenerbahçe Beko’s basketball team … of course this a separate branch, but they are all under the same umbrella; These so-called federations are autonomous, but they are all making decisions based on instructions from Ankara.

First, some bad news came from the Fenerbahçe Beko basketball team. Then, news came from Galatasaray regarding Abdurrahim Albayrak, his wife, and finally Fatih Terim who was tested positive last night. With Fatih Terim, it was speculated that his assistants and even some journalists were positive. Some of these speculations were denied, some were suspended. But aside from everything, here it is necessary to see that: If that match was not played, would Fatih Terim and Abdurrahim Albayrak and others have been tested positive? Maybe they would have; we do not know how they got this infection, how they got the virus – it will not be determined.

But I want to say this in particular: We are reacting late towards everything. In the case of Fatih Terim – and I know this is a difficult name for some and many do not like him but we have to admit that he wrote his name in Turkey’s sports history. Of course more as a technical director than a player. This should be highlighted. If Turkey is sacrificing this name in vain – and I have to say that those involved include people from the management of his sports club – it is the best example of how the process in Turkey is being mismanaged. This is how it usually happens. Something happens to some prominent personalities during incidents that people don’t really care about. Such news is coming from all over the world. NBA and basketball players, senators, ministers, film actors etc. many singers… and these show the seriousness of this incident. I wish this was not the case.

Fatih Terim shared a very cool-headed social media post. I am sure that he will beat this the way he has overcome several other things. But we also saw how one of his daughters – the other was quieter, but the other one – was cursing on social media. Because these are not things that can be easily accepted. We have such a reality, unfortunately, with Fatih Terim in Turkey for example and with others across the globe…and what we understand now from the Minister’s statement is that we are talking about an epidemic covering the whole of Turkey and rather than talking about people who have contacts with abroad, we are mentioning those who have contact with those having contact with abroad.

Of course, it is necessary to open a wide parenthesis regarding the Directorate  of Religious Affairs. It is very nice to pray for patients in the evening, to pray together. It is admirable; but if they had not insisted on conducting that first Friday prayer, or simply scolded and sent home the first group of people from Mecca…we can rewind the whole event. If they had brought up on the agenda not even going to Mecca during such a period and so forth…In this sense, The Directorate of Religious affairs holds a big portion of the responsibility of what is happening in Turkey. 

Turkey could possibly be conducting an effective fight against the epidemic. But by making certain decisions late – how can I put this? – it leads to certain losses that cannot be compensated. As you now know, England has finally come to the point of a curfew. The Netherlands was indifferent at first. Then they also came to a certain point. Of course it’s not easy; the whole world is in the same boat. For example, the United States is debating this right now. Trump seems to be against people being locked up in their homes because of the state. But it is not clear what will happen tomorrow. There is confusion all over the world and this confusion always leads to losses.

Turkey needs to clarify what it is doing straight away. It must share its decisions with the public, the representatives of the public and society in a transparent way. And it must take on certain responsibilities whilst also sharing these responsibilities with the public. At this point, this whole process is being loaded onto technocrats – technocrats more than politicians – such as the Health Minister, to a certain extent – even though his status is not related to the lives of citizens directly – the Education Minister, and to the citizens. We are faced with such an incident. Yes, that’s all I have to say. Have a nice day.

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