Demirel’s last letter and a testament

Demirel’s last letter and a testament

I remembered the letter the moment I heard the news about the death of Turkey’s ninth president, Süleyman Demirel. I called the founder of the Doğan Media Group, Aydın Doğan, the other day and told him, “Mr. Doğan, you should publish that letter on the day the state funeral ceremony is held.” I continued, “You should publish it or you should let me publish it.” He told me to go ahead and publish it. 

Today, I am printing the letter written to Aydın Doğan by a politician who was a major influence on Turkey’s destiny for 40 years. It was dated Feb. 7, 2015. 

It was written to Aydın Doğan, but I think it was a testament to the Turkish nation. For this reason, I want to thank Aydın Doğan very much for letting me publish this letter in my column. The content of the letter, as a matter of fact, concerns the future of us all, my children, your children and all of our grandchildren. 

The letter goes like this:

“Ankara, Feb. 7, 2015,

“I have known you for 40 years. In these 40 years, you have asked and requested nothing from me. I also have not requested anything from you. There were days when I was angry and sorry at you because of the stories in your newspapers. However, I never associated these with our social and personal contacts. I was not cross at you; I was not offended. It did not even cross my mind to give you a hard time with the power of the state. I regarded it as ‘the fate of the politician;’ I tried to ignore it and repressed it. After all, as the press, you were publishing the way in which you regarded as correct; I, on the other hand, had to act with the responsibility, the impartiality and the tolerance of the state. It is up to history to decide who was right. 

“In the years when I was politically banned, Mrs. [Sema Doğan] played host in your Çamlıca residence; it was an evening that also drew Nesrin Sipahi [a famous Turkish singer], under the full moon and across a magnificent view; it was an impeccable banquet. I have never forgotten that evening. 

“Now, at the end of 40 years, we [are able to] come together and have a conversation despite our differences of opinion in the past. We are enjoying an aged friendship. Everybody should do his own job well. Thus, when this is so, resentment between them is forgotten. Good memories remain vivid.  

“I want to point out to two matters: 

“First: Turkey should, no matter what, cling to the anchor of the European Union. There is no way of giving up on this. 

“Second: Turkey, since Ottoman times, has been subjected to extreme threats. The state should continue struggling against them and should never surrender.

“With love and respect,
Süleyman Demirel.”

Lessons for everyone  

The will of Demirel, who served this country for 40 years as a civil servant, technocrat and a politician, is this: Do not give up on the path to the European Union.
There is also a very interesting detail in the letter. The late Demirel mentioned a dinner hosted by Sema Doğan in their Çamlıca residence in their honor. 

If you have noticed, he noted that this banquet was given during the times he was “under a political ban.” 

In other words, during a military regime era when everybody was staying at a distance from him, the Doğan family opened the doors of their house…

The same Aydın Doğan, again in those years, financed the news magazine “Arayış” published by the other banned leader, Bülent Ecevit. 

I would like to ask those men who get as low as to call him a person “supporting coups and terror” today: Which one of you showed this courage, this boldness in such an era? 

Here is another wonderful quote from the late Demirel: “Those who do not know how to make peace should not fight.”

All of us are going through difficult times. Many injustices have been done to Aydın Doğan. They tried to destroy him and his media. 

But I know very well that this person that I have been honored to work with for 21 years is one who knows how to reconcile. In other words, he is a proud warrior.

Everybody should think once more.

This last letter of Demirel could also be a “letter of intent” for all politicians and the media of this country.