BÜLENT KENEŞ

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BÜLENT KENEŞ
April 24, 2012, Tuesday

Warriors of enlightenment: pen versus bullet

Like every year, people have started to feel a sweet sense of excitement as the month of May nears. The first harbingers of the traditional festival have already reached here thanks to some live TV broadcasts.

The vivid and lively colors of the country finals are being aired every night from Egypt, Azerbaijan, Indonesia or elsewhere. Soon, hundreds of students chosen in these national finals from about 140 countries will come together in Turkey. The countdown has started for the big, global final, i.e., the 10th International Turkish Olympiads, a fair displaying the results of the hard labor of self-sacrificing Turkish teachers who have left their countries, families and beloved ones to educate the children of foreign countries with humanistic ideals and raise them as architects of world peace and stability.

As we were watching the country finals enthusiastically and becoming impatient for the great final in Turkey, we were shocked to learn that a heinous attack had been launched against one of the educational institutions that, like their counterparts in the remotest parts of the world, offer preparatory courses for the kids of poor families in the disadvantaged regions of Turkey. Just as they brutally killed a popular imam in Hakkari as he was going to the mosque for morning prayer several years ago, threw Molotov cocktails at a student dormitory in the Cizre district of Şırnak, heavily wounding three students on May 27, 2011, and launched numerous attacks against the reading halls that offer free educational support to the children of poor families in the Southeast and in poor neighborhoods in metropolitan cities, the traitors raked a university preparation course in Cizre with Kalashnikov rifles while some students were still inside. They wounded the security guard at this course, the attendees of which had earned the top three scores in the province of Şırnak in the last university exam.

This attack on one of the university preparation courses that offer all sorts of educational support to the children of this region, who had been neglected for hundreds of years, to raise the level of education in the region and ensure that their attendees are raised as individuals who benefit their families, their region, the nation and humanity clearly indicates that the bloodthirsty terrorist organization that seeks to recruit ignorant and poor youths and that promises nothing to them but more poverty and more intricate deprivation, death, bloodshed and hatred is investing its hopes in keeping the people of the region ignorant and backward. These university preparation courses have emerged as a source of hope for the poor families of the region, who have welcomed them as gateways to science, knowledge, prosperity and peace, which have been denied to them for their lifetimes, and the attacks on the courses certainly aim at nothing but maintaining the ignorance and socioeconomic backwardness on which the terrorist organization feeds. What is happening as the terrorist organization targets the educational activities and institutions in the Southeast of the Hizmet movement that, inspired by the ideas of Mr. Fethullah Gülen, a well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar, provides educational services to all people in the region regardless of their ethnicity, religion, class or sect? Terrorists may be growing more and more violent trying to scare away the self-sacrificing teachers who labor hard to allow innocent and financially deprived students to be able to compete with their peers from the more developed regions of the country, but they thankfully are getting the exactly opposite of what they aim.

Every time an attack occurs, the self-sacrificing and heroic teachers working in the region understand more clearly the level of the threat to the people and youths of the region, and their determination to help them is further clinched. With every attack, the people of the region and civil society organizations (CSOs) move closer to each other, and they take these eminent education institutions and teachers who act as the “cavalry of light” under their wing. Every bullet fired at these educational institutions touches the sensitive collective conscience of the people in the region before it reaches these institutions. Every nefarious plot that seeks to keep the children of the region ignorant, uneducated and poor so that they can easily be lured into believing the terrorist organization’s propaganda is actually pushing these people to stick to these educational activities with heightened determination. Every attack fails to intimidate or discourage the heroic teachers; rather, this stimulates them to boost their self-sacrificing services in an awareness of the significance of their mission.

Fahri Koca, director of the FEM Dershanesi (a university preparation course) that was attacked by the terrorists, exhibited a remarkable maturity despite his young age, and, holding a press conference with the people of the region who visited the building to show their support, said the following: “We just pity and feel sorry for the people who attacked innocent students and the quagmire they are in. We hope Almighty God will correct them. We are the people who follow the principle of ‘being without hands against those who strike you, and without speech against those who curse you,’ as Yunus Emre put it. We will not curse them or pronounce anathemas against them. We always stick to positive actions. We don’t have time for hostility. But we are determined to keep our values, love and brotherhood alive.” He lauded the local people’s attitude on the attack. “After the attack, the families of our students and the people of Cizre supported us. Those who want the people of this region to be behind in education will not succeed,” he said. Koca also explained their educational activities and targets, noting that they provide teacher-supervised study hours until late at night for the students who cannot study at home due to the adverse conditions in their households.  “We provide facilities for students to study at this private course building, and we are ready to make all sorts of self-sacrifice for our students. Our teachers are working hard to perform their duties under difficult conditions, with the awareness of the sacred character of their profession and their ideal of serving mankind. We hope such incidents do not happen again,” he said.

Pointing out that ignorance, social disunity and poverty are the region’s three main problems, Koca listed the cures for these problems as follows: “Education is the cure for ignorance, fraternity removes social disunity and having people learn certain professions will eliminate poverty. We, as the FEM Dershanesi, have been working to raise the level of education in the region since 1994. The number of people who could attend university was almost non-existent before our course began. But we open the doorway to university for hundreds of students every year. Our province has started to raise the physicians, teachers and engineers it needs. Some forces that are unhappy with this illumination attacked on the day we announced that one of our students earned the top score in the province on the 2012 Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS).”

Kudos to you, respectable director! Kudos to the heroic and self-sacrificing teachers! Kudos to the people of Cizre/Şırnak who lent support to these heroes who are paving the way for the future they dream of for their children!

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