Charlie Hebdo artists would have mocked the march
My wife Tansu and I were one of the earliest participants in the Paris march the other day and were therefore able to get right beside the statue in Republique Square.
The first thing that attracted my attention was this: The atmosphere was such that the immigrants climbed the platform of the sculpture before the French.
Of course, my first business was to check whether or not there was a Turkish flag. No, I was not able to see a Turkish flag about two hours before the rally started.
The weather was very cold; we wanted to have a hot drink, but all the cafes were completely full. Some of them had stopped taking customers. We were able to find a small place at a café with a lot of difficulty.
About one hour before the beginning of the march we wanted to walk toward the square, but the road was packed. We walked with difficulty.
A little later when I approached the square, the first thing I saw was that there was a person with a Turkish flag on the platform of the statue. Moreover, the person had added a French flag to the Turkish flag, waving both.
Right above it, I saw somebody else waving a flag; there was an Abdullah Öcalan portrait on that flag. A bit above that there was a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) banner.
I understood that the platform of the sculpture was dominated by immigrants. While walking with the crowd, an African-French person and a white woman caught my eye in the building to my left. They put up a banner which read: “I am Muslim but I am not a terrorist.” Suddenly, there was applause up and down the square. I have lived in France for six years and I have never seen such a scene.
One in every 15 marched
From the moment the march was over, every television channel estimated the number of participants.
All around France, some 4 million people took part in the Republic Marches. The number of people walking in Paris was 1.6 million. Almost one out of every eight Parisians had marched.
Lyon has the record; 300,000 people marched, in other words, one in every four people.
According to French statements, this was the largest march since Paris was liberated from German occupation.
Have you noticed the symbolic meaning of this? France marched once after its liberation war; its second march was for “freedom of speech.”
That means freedom of expression is at least as important as a country’s independence.
Would Charlie staff mock Erdoğan?
There was an editorial in Monday’s Le Figaro, asking if it was possible to not be affected by this demonstration of a people who have finally become one nation.
The editorial went on to say these people would continue to think differently. “This is democracy. What is important is this: To unite when the core of democracy is threatened,” it read.
The writer is saying that the way to become one nation is through freedom of speech.
At one point in the editorial, it said, “No doubt Charlie staff would have also mocked the march on Sunday. Especially because of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s right hand’s presence there.”
There was not much of a mention of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the papers.
But I don’t agree with this attitude. Davutoğlu’s participation in this march was very important and as a Turk, I was proud of it.
But, there are lessons to be drawn from the determination and enthusiasm of the French in defending freedom of expression.
I repeat: The way to become one nation passes through freedom of expression and true democracy.