A salute to Sancar and Güler

A salute to Sancar and Güler

Some people are rather officious or dunderheaded to say the least. There are only a few people who become living monuments. Such people are the honor and pride of a society and must be treated accordingly.

Yaşar Kemal, for example. Was he not a living monument? Was it not an honor to have an opportunity to exchange few minutes with him? He passed away leaving a huge vacuum in this country... Was Türkan Saylan much different? Not only did she devote her life to fighting leprosy and promoting the education of girls, particularly rural girls (either of which causes would have been more than sufficient to earn her a place in any society), but with her life style and progressive ideas, she served as role model for republican women. Did Turkey not lose a great personality with her death, though, while on her deathbed, she and society was tortured and traumatized with an early morning ambush on her residence because she was a secularist gang member? Right, those were the times of the Ergenekon thriller and the prosecutor of that trial is now the president of the country… She was definitely a living monument.  Did anything change? Saylan was and still is the queen of our hearts.

I do not know Aziz Sancar and honestly, I had not heard anything about him until news reached Ankara that he won the Nobel prize for chemistry. From what I have found out since then, he was apparently a modest person aware that, with hard work, dedication and the education opportunities offered by the Turkish Republic, a small boy from a Mardin village might climb the ladder of science and elevate himself to the level of the world’s most advanced scientists. Not just because he won the Nobel but, rather, by preserving his humble character and modesty after receiving such a prestigious prize and presenting the prize to the Atatürk Mausoleum as an expression of gratitude to the founder of the Turkish republic. In these times of extreme difficulties bordering on civil war in some sections of this country, he came as a reassurance of the national and territorial integrity of this nation and country. He, thus, became a monumental personality.

Ara Güler is a living monument as well. Not only because he is Armenian and there is sympathy towards him in order to soothe the communal conscience for all those sad developments the Armenians of this country were compelled to live through but, rather, because he has been a modest, humble and extremely successful (and proud) photojournalist who, in his own words, froze important times and personalities in photograph frames to carry their stories to the next generations. Güler is definitely a monumental figure of our times. It must be an honor and pride to be living in the same time as these huge personalities.

Sancar and Güler have come under attack of some impertinent people who were too shallow to understand what politics is and distinguish politics from the respect for high positions who represent the integrity of the nation and indeed the Turkish state. Why are Sancar and Güler subject of a “social lynching campaign?” Because Sancar not only visited Atatürk’s Mausoleum, paying his respect to the founding father of the Turkish republic while delivering some remarks to inflate the nation’s pride, but he also visited the presidency and paid his respects to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Erdoğan has been an autocratic leader. His stance on rights, liberties, minorities, supremacy of law and democracy might be problematic for many people. For some (including this writer), President Erdoğan’s constant and premeditated violation of the separation of powers principle of parliamentary democracy is not acceptable. But is he not the legitimately elected president of Turkey? Isn’t disrespecting him in a way disrespecting the nation and the state? Criticism must be separated from insolence. Or, rather, insolence should not be confused with criticism.

Sancar and Güler are great personalities. What is wrong with a Nobel laureate or a photojournalist Turkish national visiting the president and having dinner with the first family? It was an honor for the Erdoğans if Güler offered kindly to take their photographs. Just as much as it was an honor for Güler to be received by the president and given permission to take his and his family’s photographs. Neither Sancar nor Güler asked for easy credits, soft loans, privileged rights or alms from the president nor was the president bribed into receiving such monumental personalities.

If there are people that must be criticized, it is those filling the halls of the presidency and applauding so zealously the imperial aspirations of Erdoğan in full awareness that their presence in that hall was just for window dressing to provide some legitimacy to a greedy politician aspiring to be elevated to the post of super-president that most don’t consider any less than a transformation to a full-fledged dictatorship.