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October 21, 2007, Sunday

To name correctly

In the old Turkish fairy tales and stories, there is an interesting child-naming dimension; children are given their names only after getting a bit older and doing something significant.Up until they do something praiseworthy, they succeed in something or certain pillars of their personality became visible, they would be called simply “Adsız,” Nameless. When the elders decided that the child deserved to be named, the success or personality measures would be used to name the child.

This tradition got weaker and weaker with time. Though not as strong, the nickname tradition continues in one or the other, even today. Sometimes people are given nicknames according to their habits or after a remarkable thing they do. In some cases, their real names are forgotten and even their grandchildren start to use this nickname.

In Turkey, people are usually very careful when they are naming their children. Sometimes they name their children with the names of the elderly of the family, to show their respect for them. Sometimes, they give names to their children according to their expectations. Maybe this is why the names Ümit (Hope) and Barış (Peace) are names so common in Turkey. It is true that the families who do not want any more children name their last one Yeter (Enough) or Songül (Last Rose). There are also girls named Döndü (Swapped) -- this one is used by parents who keep having girl babies and want their next one to “swap” to a boy.

As of late, it has been possible to see names like Kahraman (Hero), Hınçal (Revenge), Nisan (April) and Eylül (September). After Turkish society began to be keen on environmental issues, new names were created, especially for girls, carrying a Su (Water) suffix at their ends: Ayşesu, Cansu and so on. The male names ending with -er (soldier) are still common in society and it seems that with the recent rise in military interventionism, names like İlker (First Soldier), Soner (Last Soldier) and Türker (Turkish Soldier) will mushroom.

My daughter is called Hazal for several reasons. It is the name of my aunt. In Turkish it means “Enjoy!” in the imperative; this is what I wished for my daughter. The name has other meanings in other languages. In Persian and in Arabic, it means “dear.” In Western languages it is easy to pronounce. So in some way, it belongs to this geography but sounds familiar for the Western world and this is what I aimed for my daughter.

Maybe we Turks also believe that names affect the personality and should harmonize with the fate of the person.

Turkey is facing a huge problem now. Everyday, everywhere we are discussing it. It hurts us severely, bitterly. Every day, our young boys are sacrificed because of this problem. We feel it in our blood, in our souls. We are not only loosing our sons, but as a society we are losing material resources, our mental health and tolerance for the “other” as well.

We called the solution to this huge problem a “motion”: the parliamentary authorization for an incursion into northern Iraq.

Now we will see how this motion will develop. Most people are raising their wishes that Turkey not be forced to use this authorization. Will the related sides, the Iraqi administration and the responsible persons of northern Iraq finally realize this huge problem of ours? In the meantime, will Turkey be able to present its thesis in an understandable way to the world? Will it be able to conduct public diplomacy? If this motion will be used, will it be possible to target only the hostile elements, or will we kill innocents also? By the way, who is the real enemy? If this motion will be successful as a deterrent, will Turkey be able to take the necessary measures to tackle the problem? Are we becoming the victims of a terror organization which wants to be a political power and cause Turkey to face even bigger problems inside and outside? More important than everything, will the developments lead to social frustration within society?

Or… did we give the right name to this problem? Is it an economic underdevelopment problem? Is it the conspiracy of other states? Is it only a terror problem? Or, is it a matter of human rights and democracy? Maybe the most correct name would be the “Kurdish problem.”

If the old Turkish -- well, I know Greeks have the same myth also -- belief that name determines the character of the child is true, what if we are giving a wrong name, a dangerous name, a more powerful-than-real name to the problem?

It is time to give the right name, before it is too late.

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