The fixation on a CHP member’s Christianity

The fixation on a CHP member’s Christianity

The “story” I came across on social media, the one that I was able to reach with a click, was titled: “CHP spokesperson Böke has been baptized.” The CHP is the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party; Böke is Selin Sayek Böke. 

Daily Bugün, which is administered by government-appointed trustees, had this story as its headline story in its Jan. 9 edition. As I was reading the subheading I blushed: “She was not able to answer the question, ‘Are you a Christian?’” 

I read the rest of the story. It may look as if I am testing your patience but this exemplary piece can be shortened as follows: 

“Nowadays, the religious identity of Selin Sayek Böke is being debated in the CHP. While Ankara is talking about this claim, our reporter called İzmir deputy Böke on the phone and asked her, ‘Are you a Christian?’ The CHP spokesperson was not able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question, she only said, ‘Ask the headquarters.’ The U.K. magazine The Economist in an analysis printed on June 6, 2015, wrote, ‘And [CHP head] Mr. [Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu has managed to bring in such female candidates as Selina Doğan, an ethnic Armenian lawyer, and Selin Sayek Böke, a respected Arab Christian economist.’ The claims that Böke was a Christian and her religious identity have created a serious uneasiness in the CHP. 

“The Sayek family is known to be one of the oldest families in [the southeastern province of] Hatay. Prof. İskender Sayek’s family is claimed to be Christian belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church. The religious identity of Böke has created a serious disturbance in the CHP and several party members started expressing their concern that ‘a Christian person has been named as the spokesperson of the party.’”

Now, where should I start criticizing this “story?”  What kind of a mentality is this? To be angry, to be sad, or to say, “What is that to you?” are all possible, but all of these acts are followed by the same hopelessness and the same feeling of emptiness that come and conquer your soul. 

To understand why this this problematic story, which can easily be evaluated as the “bottom of journalism,” was printed is both simple and difficult at the same time. 

If the aim was to cause harm to the CHP, the party is actually already so good at this it hardly needs outside help. 

If the aim was to “corner” a bright name, which is very rare to find in the CHP, then it should not be done by vague phrases like “some members of the CHP were disturbed.” 

It was also possible not to take this mentality seriously, not to bring up this subject, to disregard this story in a paper which has a circulation of around 4,000, but I was unable to stay quiet. 

The same paper that printed this story followed up the next day with: “CHP members regarded it as normal that deputy chair Selin Sayek Böke was Christian. Some party members supported Böke.”

I know it is useless to form a debate platform by responding to this mentality, this stance which does not have any kind of ethical or intellectual point of view, and ask them, “Dear colleagues, is it a shame, crime, mistake or sin to be a Christian?”

For this reason, I can only say “shame.” I can also say “sin” and wish for a quick mental recovery.

Believe me, I really do not know what else to say.