Semantics and symbols

Semantics and symbols

Semantics and symbols have always been important, particularly for the eastern societies. How an issue is presented. How a person sits or walks. The words he decides to use in describing an issue. They are often more important than the substance.

A few days ago, a group of northern Iraqi tourists were on a tour of Turkey’s Black Sea region. Through touristic, business and such trips to each other people get to know each other. With increased investments in each other’s country, increased trade and such interdependency develops and thus it becomes all the more difficult to become hostages of tension politics, xenophobia and such dangerous obsessions.

The Turkish people love their flags and national emblems. Even if the symbol of the gray wolf, for example, has become a symbol of ultranationalist groups, it has a place in the mythology of this nation and thus not only is it an important symbol in the Italian culture, it is as well an important element of the Turkish culture. Naturally, if someone makes an armband bearing the gray wolf symbol, it might be rather irritating, but such irritation cannot diminish its cultural importance. Obviously, it cannot be compared to the Nazi swastika – which indeed is beyond being a geometrical figure and is an ancient religious icon in the cultures of Eurasia. It is used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions. Yet, like in Turkey where a connotation of ultra-nationalist violence was developed regarding the gray wolf, the swastika was contaminated with the blood and violence of the Nazi regime.

Turks love the red and white of the Turkish flag, very much like peoples of other countries adore their national colors. Can anyone feel bad seeing the blue and white, the national colors of many countries including our western neighbor and NATO ally Greece? Naturally, Greeks should feel proud of their national colors very much like the Turks.

There might be conjectural or historic problems, misunderstandings and conflicting interests between states and peoples of these states. There might be some historical background to not-so-friendly, and indeed obsessive, prejudices against each other. Shall we be captive of such prejudices or walk over them and build a better, brighter and more promising common future for all?

It was sad to see a group of people trying to lynch a group of northern Iraqi people (of course, they were ethnic Kurds) just because some of them wanted to pose in front of cameras with some items in their ethnic colors of yellow, red and green. Worse, not only these people were attacked, they were held in police custody for more than 26 hours. Later, they were carried on bus to Kayseri presumably to avoid a repeat of a similarly provocative action. Even worse, all the way from Trabzon to Kayseri, the 60-person northern Iraqi tourist group was denied access to their mobile phones.

Turkey cannot be such a country. Turkey should wake up and increase penalties for hate crimes. If Ogün Samast, also from Trabzon, was not provided protection by some “brothers” in the police, our colleague, Hrant Dink, would be alive today. This ethno-religious obsessive nationalism should not be tolerated at all and should not be confused with patriotism. Neither Trabzon, nor Turkey, deserves to become victims of such hate crimes.

Yusuf Kanlı,