A country of freedoms

A country of freedoms

Turkey’s ruler has declared: “Irrespective of what they want, we will do it. It is going to happen."

Is he a legislator? No. Is he the sole lawmaker of the country? No. But this is the de facto reality of Turkey, and soon it will be the de jure reality, once the 2019 elections have taken place.

Opposition parties have decried the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its undeclared coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Women’s groups have staged demonstrations and have been gassed and harassed by security forces. Secularist sections of society have condemned the move as a breach of the principle of secularism in the state and constitution.

Ruling deputies and pen-slingers in the allegiant media have also struck back, “reminding” that the principle of secularism was violated back in 1938 when a funeral in line with religious Islamic traditions was held for the founding father of the modern republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Has there ever been a ban on funeral ceremonies according to Islamic rites? Has there been such a discussion?

Perception is often far more important than reality. Did not the tall, bald, bold, ever angry and yelling man claim there were times when the people of this country could not find imams to lead funeral rites? When? Where? Was there any need to verify or elaborate? Does something even need to be true in order for it to be politically exploited?

While the country indulged in a publicized bet, whether the tall man or Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gökçek would win a war of nerves, parliament endorsed the notorious legislation. Thus, once the president signs it into law, as it was probably already signed last night, the offices of the “muftis” will be authorized to perform marriage ceremonies like municipalities and other authorized civilian authorities.

Will there be a boom in child marriages because of this move, which opponents consider a blatant violation of the principle of secularism? The government and the MHP, and obviously the “instructor” president, have defended it as the opposite. “No one may listen to mayors, but my people will listen to what a mufti says … This will put an end to unregistered marriages,” the president proudly declared.

Naturally, the census department will still handle marriage registrations and most likely, girls in their early teens will still continue to be sold to aged husbands and remain unregistered. Why has this been fight waged?

By the way, what happened to Gökçek? He was expected to resign last Monday. He did not. Social media had speculated that he would publicly accept the president’s invitation to step aside by Wednesday evening at the latest. Now, talk in Ankara is that he will resign on Friday. By the way, there is also a claim that if he does not resign, he will be forcibly removed from office and risk spending some time at a five-star compulsory public rest house we often call “prison.”

During all this excitement news came of Osman Kavala’s detainment at the airport on his way back from a trip to Gaziantep.
I do not see eye to eye on most issues with Kavala, who is a rights activist and a businessman. Be it the Armenian issue or the Cyprus problem, I totally disagree with his defeatist approach—to say the least—which often appears to support anti-Turkish claims. Yet, he has always been a man of integrity. He has never been an opportunist. As a rich businessman, he might have sat back and enjoyed life but he spent his time, energy and of course money, to address the problems of this nation.

Why was Kavala detained? Why are so many hundreds of people who subscribe to views other than those shared by the ruling Islamist elite in prison? Why are there at least 154 journalists behind bars today? Has it become a crime to criticize the government?

Turkey has definitely become a paradise for those who wish to applaud the president. This country champions sycophantic praise.

But Criticism? How dare you?

hdn, Opinion, Yusuf Kanlı,