Air Must be Banned, Too

by Tarık Günersel    /  March 28, 2014  / No comments

In Turkey air must be banned, too, because it carries sound waves.

A protester holding a sign expressing opposition against Turkish PM Erdogan

A protestor holding a sign expressing opposition against Turkish PM Erdogan Photo by Ceyhun Isik via Flickr

PM Erdoğan blocks so well he should be recruited by the NBA: He has blocked the judiciary. He has blocked parliamentary attempts to inquire into the many cases of government corruption. Now he has blocked Twitter and YouTube. And he is trying to block the struggle for democratization in Turkey. Thus, he has also blocked the possibility of being remembered on good terms.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

PEN Turkey
The Turkish PEN Centre has criticized PM Erdoğan’s decision to block Twitter: “This is a scandal on an international scale,” it said. “It is a humiliation of [Turkish] society.”

Berkin Elvan, 15, is also an Alevi
The 15-year-old Berkin Elvan has recently died. Last year, at the height of the Gezi protests, he was targeted by police and struck with a tear gas canister while apparently getting bread for his family. After the initial injury, Elvan fell into a coma, and his tense parents waited for 269 days for their son to revive. Massive protests followed Elvan’s death. Erdoğan also took the time to insult the victim and his parents.

So now six young demonstrators in the Gezi Park protests have been killed by police. All of them were Alevis. Isn’t that strange?

Alevis (Alevilik in Turkish, meaning “Alevism”) are a sect related to Islam that’s neither Sunni nor Wahhabi, and has been under pressure for centuries in Turkey. Alevis do not pray in mosques. They perform their religious duties in places they call cemevi (gathering house), where women and men pray together. Music and dance are also an integral part of their ceremonies. PM Erdoğan’s AK Party government refuses to allow them any kind of religious status.

No Religious Freedom Under Erdoğan
He refuses to accept that cemevi is the place of holy prayer for Alevis. He insults atheists. He forces children to attend classes on Sunni Islam. There is no religious freedom in Turkey. Just like there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.

Secularists are Under Attack
Our internationally renowned pianist and composer Fazıl Say has been sentenced to one year of imprisonment for a re-tweet echoing a verse by Omar Khayyam.

PEN member journalist Mine G. Kırıkkanat has been taken to court by two Islamicists, Adnan Oktar and Fethullah Gülen, because she criticized them. She faces five years imprisonment.

Several novels and literary works have been banned under the AK Party government. Authors, translators, and publishers are taken to court.

We secularists are under threat. The danger is growing.

A Collective Dr. Frankenstein
As a PM, it seems that Erdogan was created by a collective Dr Frankenstein.

US strategists chose him some 15 years ago, when he was the mayor of Istanbul. At the time, some famous, but misleading strategists such as Samuel P. Huntington argued that Turkey should get rid of secularism, forget becoming part of the West, and become an Islamic country connected to the Middle East. They wanted to get rid of the secularist legacy of Atatürk and believed that an Islamic Turkey would better serve US interests. They flirted with the idea of “a mild Islamic regime” but did not pay attention to friendly critiques from within Turkey.

In the beginning, some Turkish liberals and even some leftists naively thought that Erdogan was a democrat. Now they claim that he was good for ten years but changed his course last year. Unfortunately, this is far from the bitter reality.

PEN International
In Turkey over the past few years, critical journalists have been imprisoned and/or lost their jobs.

That’s why PEN International formed a delegation headed by PEN Int’l President John Ralston Saul, two years ago. We talked with Egemen Bağış, then EU Minister of the AK Party cabinet, and visited President Abdullah Gül. We presented our reports and shared our concerns emphasizing the need for democratization in the country.

Most Imprisoned Journalists are Kurdish
Journalist Füsun Erdoğan has been in prison for seven years now. She has still not been released. Recently some other prisoners have been let go, but there are more than 50 journalists in prison, most of whom are Kurdish.

PEN member, novelist, and activist Ayşegül Devecioğlu has been sentenced to prison, though she can remain “outside” unless she “commits a similar crime,” which specifically means a crime related to Kurdish rights.

From 2/3 to 1/3
A few years ago two-thirds of Turkish citizens supported Erdoğan. Now one-third supports him. Still seems like a large group of supporters? That’s because the mainstream media is under his control.

Erdoğan and his close circle have sold our future. There’s no democracy left. But there is struggle.

Peace or War?
Erdoğan claims he wants peace but keeps using methods of war. The steps he takes imply a dangerous path. A civil war could break out unless fair local and general elections are held, which seems unlikely, especially after his recent banning of Twitter, which is a sign of the worsening situation.

Can Erdoğan’s close circle control him and convince him to retire? It’s become clear that he’s unable to control himself. He believes that he’s right and that whoever criticizes him is a traitor. Do I need to use psychiatric terms here?

Erdocracy Must be Replaced by Democracy
Erdocracy, the term I have coined to express his rule, is a version of fascism.

A collective Dr. Frankenstein has created Erdoğan as a PM. Now they don’t know what to do with him.

We must stop the growing trend of anti-secularism if we want democratization. The two efforts must go hand in hand.

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

View all articles by Tarık Günersel

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