Sunday, July 29, 2007

A radical demand: Democracy!

We are going through difficult times when those who are not fundamentalist, who practice common sense and remain reasonable are pushed to the outer edges of society and find themselves alone. The simplest, most accepted suggestions are enough to make some people hopping mad with agitation.

Defending democracy, holding a democratic stance against what`s happening puts people on a rocky and difficult path. A demand for those who carry weapons to stay away from the political arena has been marginalized in a supposedly democratic country - does this not demonstrate how the world of thought has turned upside down, how values have been irrevocably damaged?
Let`s look at some concrete examples.
Approximately a month and a half ago, the central Istanbul offices of the weekly Nokta were raided following a complaint from the military, and all the computers at the magazine`s office were searched with a fine comb for a full week. The news magazine`s owner gave in under pressure and had to declare that Nokta would no longer be published. Most of the media did not address the issue and political figures remained silent since it was well known that Nokta had an editorial viewpoint that the Armed Forces did not approved of.
We know that from time to time there are problems with the democratic process in many developed countries, but to claim that a country where the freedom of the press can be trodded upon to this degree is democratic is possible only through an extreme form of optimism that severes all ties with reality. What is worse is that under the current military guardianship regime, defending loudly that what happened to Nokta is anti-democratic can be enough to warrant concern over your own safety.
Last week, in the Guesthouse column of Agos, Doğan Gürpınar wrote: "There is no `choice` for political ethics with regards to the Memorandum. What is at stake is a non-personal principle and what should be defended is `politics.`" To defend this viewpoint that has completely left the minds of people in countries whose democracies do not resemble ours can put you in an extremist position in Turkey. You can find yourself trying to explain to your friends why being against a military intervention does not necessarily mean supporting the current party in power, and even more painfully, you can be shocked to see that your words fall on deaf ears.
In countries where sacred values of a certain ethnic origin are not on the national curriculum, you can say that nationalism is evil, that it divides people into synthetic groups and sets them violently onto one another; you can defend a political line that is anti-nationalist. Here, to do the same, you need to accept such labels as "treacherous" and "separatist." You also need to remember that one day you may have to leave your country, or you may fall to the ground with bullets in the back of your head.
In this environment, it may be problematic to even state that your ethnic origin is Kurdish, Greek, Armenian or Assyrian. The powers that `correct` the public decided one night to declare that "everybody who is against the `Happy he is who declares he is a Turk` philosophy is an enemy of the Turkish Republic and will remain as such."
The longing we feel for the days where the only measure for supporting any idea will be the scales of our intellect and conscience grows every day.
Translated by Deniz Akkuş
June 1, 2007

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