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March 31, 2013, Sunday

What is this harshness for?

Most newspapers start the day by a comparative reading of the other papers to see who wrote what, how they approached recent developments or whether they covered something new. What surprises us the most is to see a known issue being approached from a very different angle. Sometimes you become amazed and sometimes you ask whether it has a different meaning.

While reading the papers on Thursday, I experienced this sort of surprise. The headline of the Taraf daily was “Brachycephalous Turks.” They added an asterisk by the first word and added an explanation: “A method of measuring skulls used to identify the races, this method served as the basis of racist ideologies. There are three types of skulls: brachycephalous, dolichocephalous and mesocephalous.”

I took a look at the list in the paper to see who the brachycephalous Turks were: Mustafa Kafalı, Halil İnalcık, İlber Ortaylı, Alev Alatlı, Hasan Celal Güzel, Edip Başer, Hüsamettin Cindoruk, Mustafa Destici, Yaşar Okuyan… The list goes on to include neo-nationalists who are suspected of being members of Ergenekon. What happened such that this paper implied that these people are racist? This was the thing: More than 300 people had made a declaration where they had asked Parliament and the government not to remove the notion of “Turk” in the new constitution.

At this point, we have to seek an answer for a critical question: Is it good or bad for Turkey to silence people who hold different opinions on some controversial matters by lynching them? Ortaylı, İnalcık, Güzel… If these people should not speak up, then who should? Let us say that we do not agree with what they say -- I personally believe that some parts of that declaration are wrong -- should we accuse them of racism? Isn't such an accusation a sort of racism as well?

The point is not the improper headline of Taraf but there is an overall problem: Everybody who offers an unusual solution to the Kurdish issue is being sidelined. Any sentences or statements that start with a question mark are not allowed from the very beginning. Recently, a leading columnist was asked who should be included in a list of “wise men.” The answer he gave is interesting: “They should be picked among those who support the process.” But such a critical issue cannot be resolved just by people who hold the same view of the subject matter. The opposite view is necessary for such delicate issues.

A substantial proportion of those who, when asked, state that they are not opposed to the solution process have to go on saying, “It is necessary to use every idea and opinion to make sure that the process proceeds well.” This is the case indeed. If every opposing idea is ruled out and if every opponent is sidelined, the process cannot be successful.

Besides, we also notice many details in the İmralı process that refer to uncertainty. Those who support the process are also sometimes hesitant. And most of the time, what the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) says and what Kandil does contradict each other. Some contradictions are also observed in Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan's statements. For this reason, it is truly necessary to properly understand the desire of the people who love this country and nation for a better grasp of what has been happening and to be empathetic. Unfortunately, the process offers a portrait of meaningless enmities.

What did Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan say a few days ago? “Withdrawal without laying down arms is not acceptable. They [PKK terrorists] could bury their weapons in inns. Those who do not interfere with the terrorists trying to cross the border while holding guns are committing a crime.” Imagine if this statement had been made by a columnist instead of a prime minister. You can be sure that he would have been lynched. Some media figures actually hurt the process even if they seem to support it.

We are going through a period where we strongly need the conflict of ideas. It is necessary to make sure that every idea and opinion is used and expressed in order to attain the glory of truth and reality. If those who make dissenting statements and raise unusual opinions are going to be labeled racist, pro-status quo or stubborn, then we will have to deal with a huge problem. As a person who supports the process, I find the harshness and animosity by part of our media during this process very dangerous and detrimental. This is not a democratic or liberal stance.

Allergy to Turkishness is not useful for anybody

“Let us say people from Turkey, not Turks; let us call the flag a ‘state flag' rather than the Turkish flag.” But why? What is the reason for this unreasonable allergy to the notion of Turk or Turkish? Who would address the concerns of Turks if every issue is approached this way? Besides, if we make reference to Kurdish intellectuals, Kurdish people and Kurdish issue, why should we avoid using the notion of Turk?

Wouldn't they ask what is going to happen if you remove the notion of “Turk”? Let us change the name of Turkish Airlines (THY), let us do the same with Türk Telekom. And let us go further by removing the notion of Turk from Turkish papers and TV stations. Where and when will this end?

I am afraid that the hatred and discrimination against the notion of Turk is starting to push the limits of sanity which would foster Turkish racism most because racism is encouraged by racism. If you leave chauvinism alone, it would not advance by an inch. In no other part of the world is such enmity towards a notion observed. I have seen people who find the national anthem too nationalist and racist. For this reason, I published the Turkish translations of the national anthems of Western countries on Feb. 21, 2006. Viewed from the narrow perspective and angle in our country, all national anthems in the world are racist, chauvinist, fascist or discriminative. However, nobody views national issues from such a narrow and superficial perspective.

The daily criticisms based on the notions and symbols formed in accordance with the particular conditions in a specific period of time have no significance. There is no end to such absurd polemics. Who would guarantee that there will not be huge criticisms if you do something consistent with the overall sentiment presently?

It is not proper to divert from the paradigm of equal citizenship rights and democratic gains when resolving the Kurdish issue. Some people who have limited interactions are unable to feel the pulse of Turkey in their hearts. They are also unable to see that some reactions perceived as enmity towards Turkishness will turn into a huge problem. Maybe there are also those who use the enmity towards Turkishness as a strategy to provoke the people; I am not sure. But I can say that they are just wrong because enmity towards Turkishness is a type of racism. And racism of any kind fails its holders and proponents. History and God are witnesses of this.

Previous articles of the columnist