Living with fear

Living with fear

Two blasts have hit Turkey within a week and left us with all kinds of fears. First of all, naturally, we fear for our lives and our safety; there’s no such thing as all continuing our lives as usual, in order to “frustrate the terrorists’ goal of frightening us.” It is a big lie that we can fight and compete with terrorists by not being scared, since it is an asymmetrical situation in which they have bombs and determination to sacrifice their lives for a cause and we have no protection against any weapon and such radical determination. It is both stupid and unfair to expect ordinary people to express similar determination and risk their lives to frustrate terrorists.

Then there is the fear for our country’s prospects of turning into another place of insecurity and instability in the region. So far, Turkey is in a very fragile situation that has resulted not only from the spillover effects of the Syrian war, but also because of the war against the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has intensified along with military operations in the Kurdish-populated region of the country.    

Finally, there is a fear of being labelled as “supporters of terrorism.” After the Ankara bombing which killed 29 last week, the president announced that from now on, “It is not only those who have weapons but also intellectuals, academics and NGOs who will be defined as terrorists and will be treated as such if they support terrorism with their words.” Shortly thereafter, three academics were arrested because they held a press conference to underline their determination to stand up to the government’s suppression of the signatories of a petition that called for peace and a return to negotiations with the Kurds. In fact, some academics lost their jobs after signing the petition, while the rest faced not only disciplinary investigations from their universities but also court cases against them (including myself since I am among the signatories).

Again, after the Ankara bombing, our president made it clear that, “you are either with us or with the terrorists.” It means that anybody who does not support the government line concerning the country’s Kurdish policies can easily be accused of “supporting terrorism.” Moreover, even criticism of the government on the grounds of security and administrative failures have started to be classified as “attempts to weaken the government which are no different than the purposes of the terrorists.” Therefore, after each bombing, we should first take care not to make any comment that could be evaluated as a challenge to the government and its policies. The president and his government’s official line is that “terror is a global problem that is not particular to Turkey” and that “it happens everywhere like in Paris” and that “no government can be held responsible for the atrocities resulting from blind terrorism.” Besides, we are expected to comply with the government’s understanding of terrorism in Turkey in particular through the prism of the “global enmity” against Turkey. Indeed, these two views are rather contradictory since, if terror is a global problem which even hit Western capitals indiscriminately, one may ask why Turkey is a particular case at the same time that many powers want to hit it. The answer is simple that those who in power do not need to be consistent.

It’s that simple.

Under the circumstances, we have to watch out and avoid “crowded places,” shopping malls, government buildings and the like to avoid risking ours and our loved ones’ lives. It seems that we cannot help but worry about the future of our country. Finally, we should keep silent, rather than inquire, and comply rather than challenge, to save ourselves from being labelled as supporters of terrorism and receiving our requisite punishment.

But is it possible to live with all sorts of fear and just to try and avoid them personally? A writer friend of mine, Ece Temelkuran, wrote years ago that “this country does not give us the chance of living ordinary lives; we are only left with the chance of living a heroic life.” As fear is one of the most innocent of human weaknesses, when fear envelops and governs our lives in every way, we have no choice but heroism. 

But when the stakes are high, why challenge fear by simply avoiding shopping malls? How much better to challenge those responsible for the real problem.