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December 12, 2012, Wednesday

Empathy, justice, humility

The terrible civil war raging throughout Turkey’s neighbor Syria does not just affect the Sunnis there. After all, we are talking about a civil war, meaning that everything there has come unhinged.

In Turkey, the official empathy is limited to the majority Sunni Syrians. And with the exception of a handful of civil society organizations, it is difficult to say that Turkish society in general seems very saddened by what is happening. At the same time, though, in addition to the Sunni Syrians who have been deeply affected by the civil war, there are also the Syrian Armenians, former citizens of Anatolia. These are people whose ancestors were kicked out of Anatolia. The grandchildren of those who survived the massacres live today in Syria, Lebanon and a few in Iraq. So don’t they deserve just as much sympathy as their Sunni compatriots? Especially in light of all that befell them a century ago.

At the start of the Syrian civil war, there was talk of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu raising the issue with Armenians in Turkey. True or not, couldn’t Turkey, so inept in facing up to its past with Armenians, reach out to extend just a bit of support to the grandchildren of the Anatolian Armenians? In fact, if only a miracle were to unfold and citizenship be re-granted to these people...

Vital test for the judiciary

The Turkish justice system is marked by the reflex to protect the state against the society and the citizen. It will be very difficult and lengthy to finally start looking out for the citizen. It was in fact with the military-inspired 1982 Constitution that our pro-state justice system reached its peak point. With the recent EU-inspired reforms, followed by the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum and the two latest justice bills, members of the judiciary have had a hasty series of new rules difficult for them to keep pace with.

But the problems of the judiciary do not end here. It now faces individuals who are becoming more and more vocal against the authorities much more than they ever used to be. And so the judiciary finds it increasingly difficult to ensure justice in the face of this democratic power with all of its various demands and criticisms.

Today the system produces a kind of justice in which individuals lined up before the courts are potentially guilty. And they are not just those who have committed political crimes, but any citizen.

Saddam Hussein and his mosques

The debate about the prime minister’s mosque projects reminds me how much hubris is a common human behavior. Saddam Hussein, who had no nothing to do with religion, suddenly got interested in religious topics after the war with Iran and the first Gulf War. Then the foundations of three gigantic mosques were laid in Iraq. Saddam did live to see the Umm al-Ma’arik, or Mother of All Battles, Mosque, but I do not think the second mosque, Ar-Rahman, has ever been finished. As for the third one, the Great Saddam Mosque, which was intended to be five times as large as the Umm al-Ma’arik, has fallen from the agenda. Actually, the building of the first mosque is in itself a legend. Its four outer minarets, each 43 meters high, came up against the 43 days of the “Desert Storm” battle of the US Army. As for the four 37-meter-high inner minarets, which are attached to the outer minarets, they celebrate the April 1937 birth month and year of the late dictator. And interestingly, they are built in the shape of Scud missiles aimed by Iraq at both the US and Israel. Some compare the shape of these minarets to a Kalashnikov rifle. What stylishness!

The mosque’s Quranic calligraphy was written by Abbas el-Bagdadi, using 28 liters of Saddam’s blood mixed with ink. Each of the 605 pages is protected in glass. As for the small pond outside the mosque, it is in the shape of the Arab world, with a tiny island in its corner made from blue mosaic stones in a copy of Saddam’s fingerprints. Let’s see what secrets will be enshrined in the prime minister’s mosques.

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