When I am on the Mediterranean coast, I feel the heritage of the great civilizations of the world, the footsteps of humanity. Despite everything, despite all the political problems and the length of the road that we have to take toward a better life, I feel hope at the Mediterranean coast.
I was at the coast of the Mediterranean this weekend, in one of my favorite cities in the world, Beirut. I sat next to the sea and watched the horizon for a long time.
Something happened when I was at Atatürk Airport on my way to Beirut. We, as the passengers going to Beirut, were called to the gate for our flight. We went through security and boarding was supposed to begin but, just a few minutes before takeoff, the gate was changed. At the new gate, the security check started again and the officials did not even start the second X-ray machine for us, nor did they apologize.
Then the protest of the passengers started. Some passengers, including me, started to clap our hands in a peaceful manner and demand an apology. Then, at that moment, I noticed that the only passengers who were protesting the situation were Turks. The Lebanese passengers, obviously as disturbed as us, were hesitant to join us. I felt that they were even more frustrated because of our protest. I think their attitude is very much related the political culture that they come from.
Then I started to think. If it were several years ago, if it were before Turkey’s rapid transformation, most probably Turkish citizens would have hesitated to protest also. We are learning to look for our rights, at least at the door to a plane.
Last weekend both Turkish citizens and Lebanese citizens were hostages of politics, politicians and laws. Here in Turkey the recent crisis that emerged because of the arrested deputies was just starting to get direr. The laws and Constitution that were imposed on us despite our will brought this crisis about. This crisis of ours is a structural one, it is very much related to the understanding that “citizens should be controlled all the time and if they make bad choices, they should be corrected by the state.”
Our politicians, who did not take the necessary steps to change this mentality, made the situation even worse. Regardless of their political affiliation, instead of preventing the crisis by taking the necessary measures beforehand, they started to play their favorite game; the power game. For them we are just pawns.
The situation in Lebanon is more complicated and there is no clear light at the end of the tunnel for the time being, as opposed to the situation in Turkey.
Lebanon has not had a government for a long time. The previous one was broken up due to a disagreement over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which was supposed to investigate the assassination of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. When I was writing this article, the indictment, whatever it is, was not public yet but, as many will agree, Hariri is the John F. Kennedy of the Middle East, and we will never know who really killed him and under what circumstances. But one thing is very clear: The indictment will bring lots of new problems to Lebanon, this wonderful country on the Mediterranean.
As Maya Mikdashi writes in an article in Jadaliyya under the title of “What is [the] Left,” referring to the situation in Lebanon, “What this constellation of forces will bring is unknown, but it is certain that when the floodgates open, we will either sink or swim in a tide of violence and further instability.”
It is not clear how our crisis in Turkey will be resolved. We will see if Parliament is wise enough to find a solution to the issue, if the politicians and judiciary of this country are able to act wisely and find a solution before frustration deepens in the mostly Kurdish-populated areas of Turkey.
The core of the issue here in Turkey, as I said before, is structural. For years everybody has given the Kurdish question a different name, either defining it as just a terror problem or as an economic issue, but in the end they are not brave enough to make bold decisions to solve it. Here in Turkey we were unable to confront our past and understand each other, an attitude which has just caused new problems.
At the other corner of the Mediterranean there is a similar situation. The sectarian structure of the state, unable to confront its past, is just bringing new problems to Lebanon.
Plus, as we feel in Turkey, though it is surely much deeper in Lebanon, the regional developments are making the situation even more difficult. Of course, Lebanon feels the direct impact of the regional situation.
Despite similarities and differences, despite differences in the political situation and structure, despite the differences in attitude, we are from the Mediterranean. The crisis in Lebanon may be more painful for its citizens and the solution might not happen in the near future, unlike Turkey. But at the end of the day, we are hostages of our history, our dominant political culture and our politicians who love power games. But then again, here is the Mediterranean, and its people are powerful enough to establish civilizations and they definitely deserve a better life than they were given.