Good Demirel/bad Demirel

Good Demirel/bad Demirel

I grew up in a strange environment where Süleyman Demirel was not particularly liked but also considered Turkey’s one and only savior. 

My family did not even once vote for Demirel but we had fans of Demirel nearby, among neighbors and certain relatives. It was an environment where, you know, the young were sharper and the old were “cool,” more concerned with their livelihood…

I frankly expected, in the comments made after the news of his death, that this distinction between the good Demirel and the bad Demirel would be highlighted. 

Even the most objective commentators were content with the distinction of the Demirel of before 1980 and the Demirel of after 1980. 

There are those who think that it is not appropriate to batter a character after his death, especially one who played one of the leading roles in Turkey’s history for 40 years, was influential for almost 50 years and who spent his last years as a balancing force.  

My aim is not to counter with a column that says “No, you are all wrong. Demirel was not as magnificent a person as he was said to be.” 

However, instead of boring each other to tears with praise or swearing, I guess it is much better to list the pros and cons in a balanced manner. 

Let alone, Süleyman Demirel, with his “democrat, tolerant, conciliatory and open to criticism” identity, especially in the second act of his political career, had shown he was capable of all these.  

At least, this is the portrait those who cannot stop praising him are painting. 

Yes, it is okay if we praise that he lead a life that could be called modest, despite possessing the advantages of the government for years. 

But at the same time, let us not forget he defended his nephew, Yahya Demirel, in a corruption case by saying, “They are taking on a 25-year-old youngster.”   

Yes, it is okay that we absolutely appreciate his initiatives, medals and efforts in Turkey’s “development moves” and remember him with gratitude. 

But at the same time, let us add to our notes that he told those who asked for jobs, “Did you have jobs and we took them from you (And also, Did I drink [and finish] the diesel)?” 

Yes, it is okay that we say to those who remind us of his respectful stance toward democracy and human rights, of his struggle with bans, “Yes you are right, well done…”  

However, we should remember how he acted while the death sentences of Deniz Gezmiş and friends were being voted on in parliament, through journalist Altan Öymen’s narrative, “Mr. Demirel was sitting in the front seat of the Justice Party [AP] group in parliament. He raised his hand for ‘yes to death sentences,’ and then he turned back to see and control whether everybody in his group had raised their hands. Then he turned again with a dignified expression. The death sentences were approved…”

The list of these examples could go on, they can be shifted to harsher fields, but this is not my intention. 

This piece is not only about Süleyman Demirel either. 

For sure, absolutely, he made all his decisions according to his own aims and with totally sincere feelings… 

However, it is not correct to resort to merely admiration or to merely expletives after the deaths of characters that were, are or will be historic figures. 

May Allah rest his soul, though; that is quite a different matter…