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January 20, 2013, Sunday

On death

When one hears of someone's death, one is prompted to ask oneself: What would s/he be doing if s/he were alive now? As a matter of fact, we may invert the question and ask: "What would I be seeing on the other side if I were in his/her shoes?" This question has the potential to make us realize that those crucial items on our agendas we are hurriedly following are actually trivial, and then we may derive lessons on the true meaning of life.

It was heart-rending for me to hear the death of Mehmet Ali Birand. I thought about those who were left behind: his relatives, kin, friends, colleagues. An ember burns where it falls; it is true. No one can feel the pungent sorrow close relatives feel after a person's death. As we console ourselves with "Life goes on," allow me to ask another question. What would the seasoned journalist be doing if he hadn't died on Thursday? In modern times, people die first on the Internet. Birand, too, died such a death. "He died," people posted on the Internet, but his son objected from the hospital, "No, my father lives," and everyone started to wait for the good news to come from the hospital. But the sad news came in the evening: Birand had died.

Imagine he left the hospital in good health -- as he has done before-- and mingled with us. What would be our perception about him? It is not difficult to predict. "Let's eat fish in the evening," his wife quotes him as saying. He would certainly go to the TV station. He would prepare his program. Cengiz Çandar, one of his close colleagues, says, "We had talked about who would be a guest on the program."

As Çandar noted, Birand was preparing to make a program on death had he lived. He would discuss the deaths of three Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members, who were inexplicably murdered in Paris. He would try to find out who might have pulled the trigger and who might be involved in the shadowy organization behind those contract killers and what ends they might be trying to achieve and, finally, he would try to keep alive hopes for a luminous future for Turkey. Of course, the matter would not be restricted to the Paris killings as the corpses of the assassinated women had been brought to Diyarbakır for burial.

As usual, Birand would be prompted to ask new questions. The questions he might ask in this program include: Who gave a message to whom for these killings? Were the women assassinated for lending support to or undermining the İmralı process, which involves brokering peace via negotiations with the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is currently serving his life term in İmralı Island off the coast of İstanbul? Will the powers that rely on terrorist attacks in the region allow the solution of the problem via negotiations between the PKK and the state?

Many other questions would certainly be asked and those who would watch the program would find their minds dizzy with questions. Even some viewers would hurl serious charges at the guests and even at Birand for some of the remarks they would make during the program; he might even be accused of treason. More cool-headed viewers might post "Birand's gaffes" on websites that would be waiting expectantly for such pieces of information. Columnists would hastily pen down articles about the views voiced during that program, sparking speculations or controversies. Birand would laugh off these remarks, most of which would be “utter nonsense” and, instead, he would feel sorry for his favorite team Galatasaray's defeat by Kasımpaşa on Friday, and he would lend enthusiastic support to his team for its matches on the Champions League.

None of these happened. If he had lived, he would have attended the ceremony to commemorate Hrant Dink, who was assassinated six years ago. Yet his own funeral ceremony coincided with that ceremony. An unexpected death claimed the life of a man who would discuss three deaths. The “most crucial agenda items” became meaningless for him. Now, his sole achievement consists of what he did during his life, the good things he did for humanity... As a matter of fact, a similar end awaits each of us. With our last breath, we will see our whole life roll before our eyes. Our hatreds, disappointments or offenses will become meaningless. When death comes, life will become more meaningful, and then we will understand that self-questioning is more important than the agenda items of daily life...

I am not suggesting that an "agenda" is insignificant. I just want to remind you that there is a greater agenda that directly relates to every individual. Every death is a warning lesson. With Birand's death, we should think about the good deeds we will take with us to the other side when we die as we will build a new world there with what we take with us from this world.

Which one is the sheep? Which one is the wolf?

The last week was rife with interesting developments, but most of them were obscured by a quickly changing agenda. I hope a brief mention of some of them will contribute to the understanding of a few plots being put in place in the country.

For some years now, the houses of Alevis have been defaced. Those who seek to spark a conflict between Alevis and Sunnis have been marking the houses of Alevis and they have been making sure that certain media outlets make news stories about them. The investigation had revealed that those who marked the houses of Alevis were Alevis themselves. Now, we have a new piece of information about this incident. It has recently been discovered that it was the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) that forced its members to make those marks. Given its past deeds, one can easily guess the organization's aim.

Another "sheep and wolf" story came out of the Zirve massacre. It was discovered that suspect Varol Bülent Aral, who pretends to be a nationalist and conservative person and who is accused of masterminding that hair-raising massacre of several Christian missionaries, had previously been detained in connection with an attack conducted by the DHKP/C in 1995. The suspect accepted being detained in the face of the evidential documents sent to the court. Şengül Akkurt, whom he referred to as "my close friend," had died of a prematurely exploding bomb as she was preparing to assassinate former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Türk in 2008.

A big operation was conducted in İstanbul and many people including lawyers were detained. Our conventional media organizations are putting the spotlight on the "detention of lawyers," but there is more to it. Suspects are accused of involvement in six armed attacks, killing three police officers and wounding six people. It is reported that the police entered the secret rooms of the DHKP/C and its new leader was detained. Of course, these are currently mere accusations. It is wrong to incriminate or acquit the suspects at this phase of an operation under which more than 50 people were detained. We should wait in anticipation and review the picture in the light of the evidence. There are many wolves disguised as sheep in this country, and dens of wolves tend to merge into the labyrinths of organizations.

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