Mentality problem and the beasts
In Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Jan. 14 statement, there were a few sentences that anyone with a sober mind and an understanding of civil liberties, freedom of expression, and intellectuals’ right to engage in affairs could approve of. The statement addressed a declaration signed by over 1,000 academics demanding an end to military curfew practices that have been in force in parts of southeastern Turkey since the November election.
One of those few sentences was the one where Davutoğlu questioned why the declaration did not at all mention the heinous crimes committed by the separatist gang. Another was the absence of a sentence in the declaration regarding the duty of the state to provide the security and wellbeing of citizens without discrimination. The prime minister complained that the academics did not even ask whether in any democratic country there is a place for armed forces other than those of the state’s legal security forces.
He was also perfectly right that often in this country to be considered an intellectual or someone sensitive about rights and liberties there is a tacit expectation that one must be anti-state. One must turn a blind eye to all illegal and illegitimate activities, even the murder of civilians of all age groups, just because those actions are aimed at eroding the image of the state abroad or instilling the perception of an inept government at home.
However, this being said, no one can be denied the right to make an individual petition or joint declaration that is critical of a government, institution, or policy. What might be said in such a statement might be totally absurd and - as is clearly the case in the latest one signed by over 1,100 academics - it might be one-sided or deficient in some key elements. But no one can be denied the right to express his/her position.
What’s more, a prime minister cannot openly or tacitly blackmail people with expulsion from academic life if they do not reconsider their positions “by the time the Higher Education Council meets to review the issue.”
Davutoğlu boasted in the same speech that he was once a university academic himself, and he always underlined to his students that they must always be critical - particularly of their teachers. Criticism provides the opportunity to progress by eradicating the wrongs, he added.
Indeed, that ought to be the aim of all criticism. Criticizing someone or a certain policy should not necessarily mean being against that person or against the policies of a government or institution. Wrong, inappropriate, indecent, deplorable or ethically wrong methods must always be criticized and opposed. If a minister siphons public funds, or if security forces drag the dead body of a “terrorist” through the streets of a neighborhood, is it not the “patriotic duty” of a journalist, writer, lawyer, intellectual, or someone aware of rights and liberties to deplore such developments?
The prime minister was perfectly right to say a huge section of Turkish intelligentsia – without making any discrimination between left and right - is vocal about criticizing the wrongs of the government, but almost always quiet when it comes mentioning the crimes of terrorist gangs. However, the pro-government media has also been quiet about how arms and ammunition were stockpiled in southeastern towns and cities, which the security forces have been trying to cleanse since November.
Tolerating terrorism for any reason has always carried a heavy cost. Those who tolerate or even abet terrorism pay heavily as well. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was in government conducting a so-called “Kurdish opening” when those arms were stockpiled. Can we forget those photographs of terrorists passing in front of garrisons and complaints of security forces told not to fire unless fired at? Was it very different with Islamist terrorists? Were they not simply described as the “disgruntled Sunnis of Iraq” who everyone should show understanding for?
The beasts that the government now says it trying to fight were allowed to grow by the government itself.