Eulogy: Salute the great son of Anatolia
Yaşar Kemal, one of the monumental personalities of Turkey’s recent history, an outstanding journalist and definitely the last grand master of Turkish literature, has walked to oblivion at the age of 91. He passed on a day when news reached news rooms around the country that the imprisoned leader of the separatist Kurdish terrorists had called his gang to convene a congress to decide to lay down arms. On a day when Turks and Kurds of this country could capture an opportunity for a “civilian democratic resolution” of the “Kurdish problem,” a great man who, with his works and words spent a lifetime to achieve peaceful cohabitation with dignity for all peoples of Anatolia, walked to eternity. A crowning coincidence? A last minute award from the Almighty? Definitely Feb. 28, 2015, will be remembered as the date when the last great master of the Turkish word passed away, if not both for mourning him and a celebration for the day that ushered “peace in Anatolia.”
Will the separatist gang indeed lay down arms? Will civilian politics manage to achieve a civil resolution to the Kurdish problem? Or, will this be yet another false spring? No one can know what the eventual outcome of this process might be. Still, the message from Abdullah Öcalan to his gang has carried the ambiguous Kurdish opening of the ruling Justice and development Party (AKP) into a new and very important stage. This latest development boosted the expectation for the success of the process.
Indeed if the gang really declares a “farewell to arms” on or around the March 21 Newroz celebrations and some verified progress is achieved before the June polls, the AKP may capture the prospect of an overwhelming electoral success. On the other hand, Öcalan’s message immediately created such a high expectation that failure to achieve some tangible results or at least a perception that success of the process has become discernible, might produce a huge backlash. Naturally, insisting on the security package being negotiated in parliament and which is feared will turn the country into a police state cannot be compatible with the spirit of peacemaking. Will the government withdraw that package? A statement Sunday from the outlawed “Koma Civakên Kurdistan” (“Group of Communities in Kurdistan” or KCK) indicated the government and Öcalan were not in full accord, but the terrorist chieftain has decided to give one “last chance,” despite being unhappy with many failed appeals for a resolution since the March 2013 call for a ceasefire.
Will this effort hold and will it usher Turkey to a new era of peace, cohesion and prosperity? Once talking about Turkey and the very difficult challenges the country faced, the great master of word had said, “I have never ever give up hope for my country. On the contrary, rather than giving up hope, I cherish new hopes. Turkey is a country of great capacities. Cultural capacities, human resources, natural resources and income opportunities… Turkey is a resourceful country with immense capabilities and I have great expectations from Turkey, great contributions to humanity… No harm, definitely.”
Yaşar Kemal was such a monumental figure for peace and tranquility that he became in his lifetime some sort a “wise man” for his people of all ethnicities, religions and colors. At a time when hunger strikes were sweeping Turkish prisons, it was he who bravely took the step which carried the word of peace, resolution and compromise, pushing aside brute force, alienation and discrimination.
Obviously, Öcalan did not issue the “lay down arms” order to his gang without getting anything tangible from the government. Irrespective of whether Öcalan will be awarded with better prison conditions, transfer to a “house arrest” or even amnesty for the members of the gang, the government must employ public diplomacy to convince the masses. Even if such steps – and perhaps additional ones – must be employed in order to leave behind the almost three decades of immense trauma and heal the wounds, for the overall resolution of this greatest problem of Turkey’s republican history, there is definitely a need to cherish Yaşar Kemal’s hope for Turkey’s capability to reform itself.
In a 2013 acceptance letter he wrote to the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) when he was awarded the “life time honor award,” Yaşar Kemal wrote in very plain language that even the tallest and shortest of the current political clan ruling the country could understand.
In that letter, the great master of the word stressed that the power of media was indeed the power of the word. “That is why buying out journalists and newspapers has been a bad tradition that survived from the faltered Ottoman times… Unfortunately, that bad habit increasingly continues. … In our country, there is unnecessary fear from the media. Media is as well scared of itself and is unable to make self-criticisms. Journalism is creativeness. A newspaper nourishes its own reader. If politics are allowed to turn into an arena of hearsay and if newspapers start reporting the same words, claims and blasphemous charges of the same personalities all the time, focus on printing topless (indecent photographs), plenty of ads and distribute gewgaws rather than newspapers, they frustrate the people. Newspapers must report news. They must educate people. Newspapers do not try to appease everyone. They neither should incite people. With bold headlines, a sports event should not be made a national issue. The great national issues such as the Kurdish problem should not be exploited by newspapers either. Newspapers must not try to hide realities like the sort of genocidal destruction on nature and the sort of issues very much connected with the future of the country. … Journalism is not a craft; it is an art, a creativity and resistance. Media should not align with interests, including those of its own. That is what I understand from press freedom. Free thought cannot be restricted. Today, there are people defending the honor of the profession and human dignity in prisons or at the doors of courts. Those people and the ones who, for the defense of their rights walk, shout shoulder to shoulder, raise their voices against injustices, and are indeed proving that our humanity has not yet vanished; our ignorance has not yet made us murderous. Man is a creature creating hope from hopelessness. Creating democracy has been the great power of mankind. I said it many times, repeating again: Either democracy or nothing… And, Turkey does not deserve ‘nothing.’ Salute to those colleagues resisting and campaigning for freedom of thought and human rights. Salute to those who walk in fear. Salute to those who saw that unless humanity vanished, all together hope will not vanish. Of all mankind, they are the ones who are the most beautiful and who deserve most to be blessed.”
Salute the great son of Anatolia.