Mandela, Balbay, Gezi

Mandela, Balbay, Gezi

Surviving communists, socialists, social democrats, liberals, conservatives and world leaders united yesterday in bidding a final farewell to one of the greatest men mankind ever had, Nelson Mandela. Did anyone ever bring together such a huge gathering of world leaders for his final journey? From Obama to Washington’s arch foe Cuba’s Ramos Castro, blacks and whites together bid farewell to the last of the great leaders with eulogies and music heralding the struggle against one of the ugliest of human crimes: Apartheid or racial discrimination.

As he did in the 2003 signing of the additional protocol to the 1963 Ankara Agreement - enhancing the scope of the Customs Union to include all new members of the European Union, including the Greek Cypriot-administered Republic of Cyprus - Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay represented Turkey at the funeral. Atalay has become the coriaceous face of the government. Be it the EU protocol, the Kurdish opening or the funeral for Mandela, it has become Atalay’s responsibility to do whatever the prime minister does not want to be involved with or wholeheartedly gets attached to. Apparently, someone higher could not go there, perhaps fearing to face the question: “How dare you attend the funeral of a man who spend a life struggling for human dignity and human rights?”

How can a country sincerely claim that it respects human rights and freedoms at a time when, coincidentally, a prosecutor released the indictment for the Gezi incidents of last summer? This latest one was the 40th separate indictment against some 308 people – including some children – on the grounds that they violated the law with protests, harming public property. Though they could not be verified further than what the tall, bold, bald and ever angry man of the country claimed, in the indictment it was also claimed that the accused harmed a place of worship by littering it…

The imam of that mosque said no such thing actually happened. He was banished to a remote mosque. Not one photograph or a few seconds of video showing the protesters drinking alcohol or engaging in any act to intentionally violate the sanctity of the mosque emerged, but protesters were still charged with such crimes. Definitely, I have no doubt during the trial that sufficient evidence will be concocted at the Center for Excellence in Concocting Crime and provided to the court. This is an advanced democracy after all.

If a government still cannot understand that during the Gezi demonstrations – not only in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, but throughout the country – people were demonstrating against not only the cutting down of a few trees, but also the insolent, bossy, autocratic leadership style. If there is an insistence on such and even worse attitudes, with an understanding that stepping back would mean cracks in the wall that might lead to the eventual collapse of their castle, perhaps it is high time to remember the saying that "fear is no remedy to death."

After so many years behind bars, our friend and colleague Mustafa Balbay is finally out of prison. He was first arrested on March 6, 2009. Now the government is contending that Balbay should be thankful because his release became possible due to the last constitutional amendments in which individual appeal to the Constitutional Court was allowed.

When I hear such oddities, I remember Oğuz Aral’s famous “Shameless man” caricatures. What do you think, could Erdoğan represent this Turkey that he has molded at Mandela’s funeral?