‘Wishing you life’

‘Wishing you life’

It is not easy to be an intellectual in Turkey. It is even more difficult to be a diva. Like her or not, Demet Akbağ has become synonymous with extraordinarily good performance not only on the theater stage, but at every moment of her life.

“Expect no New Year message from me. I can only wish [you] life. That’s all … #Kayseri” wrote Akbağ after the heinous car bomb blast in Kayseri that claimed the lives of 14 beloved sons and wounded more than 50 on Dec. 17.

She indeed summed up the feelings of many people in this country. At a time when the official and non-official propaganda channels are working to convince people open up their homes to Syrian refugees, Turkey itself is gradually turning into one of those tumultuous spots on the world map. 

Turkey is capable of solving the unfortunate situation it has been pulled into. But under a number of different pretexts, the country’s security network has lost many important personnel in recent years. Many nationalists and secularists were hunted during the era of government-Fethullah cooperation in the recent past, while others were hunted down during the government’s more recent anti-Fethullah campaign. Clearly, the end result of such purges is an acute security and intelligence deficiency.

The Syria problem was not something Turks might have cared much about when it was just a fight between a secularist dictatorship and Islamists zealots supported by Turkey and the West. But then Russia came in.

The milder Islamists and the more radical Islamists went their separate ways. Then the Kurds joined the fight. Several anti-government factions started fighting amongst themselves. The Kurds played their cards well, shifting allegiances between Damascus, Washington and Moscow and eventually emerging as the best ally of Washington in the fight against Islamist radicalism. Where was Turkey in all of this? A country watching from the sideline? A country always betting on the loser? Or a country haunted by its old fears, held captive to political Islam, Sunni solidarity and other such nonsense, which allowed itself to get pulled into the Arab quicksand while vowing to be the “shield of the Euphrates”?

The end result is that Turkey has become a country with deficient, almost entirely collapsed security network. How could an intelligence network that failed to protect the country’s president and government be trusted without an overhaul? With bombs exploding in the heart of major Turkish cities, and with prisons filled with thousands of critics of the government, the country has been gradually turned into a typical authoritarian regime. Unfortunately, worse is in the pipeline once the constitutional amendment is completed and the president finds a legitimate coating to his super-presidential ambitions, which amount to little more than a desire to unite all powers in his hands.

People tend to only consider Syrians, Africans and Afghans when we talk about refugees. Unfortunately, for the first time since the 1980 military coup - when because of the high number of refugees from Turkey seeking asylum in Germany, the Bonn government clamped down on visa requirements, which still continue – Turkish nationals are once again fleeing to Europe. As always, however, the hypocritical Europe appears more concerned about preventing a flood of Syrian refugees on European streets and finding ways to appease the Turkish leader, rather than questioning why many Turks are now thinking of leaving their homeland.

Feelings of insecurity of all sorts are compelling people seek a safer life abroad, in places where they might be able to maintain their psychological integrity. 

In Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots may not like it but the Turkish Cypriots are rather happy to be seeing mainland Turks choosing to visit – and settle – on the island these days. Some say this is a “brain drain” from Turkey, but Turkish Cypriots simply say that Turkish intellectuals seeking a secure life – free from terrorism and free from the tall, bold, bald, ever angry man in the extravagant palace – are most welcome. With these newcomers, at least, the Turkish Cypriots have little of the cultural confrontation that they have had with many of the mainland Turks who made Cyprus their new home in previous years.

But Cyprus is not the only address of “brain drainage” from Turkey. Most of those Turks, in efforts to find a new homeland, prefer to travel to Europe - the same Europe that they complain has been hypocritical in its approach to Turkey.

Were they happy when abandoning their homeland? Were they happy when adopting another country as their new home?

There is perhaps one hope left. If praying for rain is still a practice, perhaps the entire top state apparatus of Turkey should gather under the leadership of the supreme leader in the garden of the extravagant palace in Ankara, and they should pray for security and better intelligence.