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The Turkey abroad that I (we) admire

by Ekrem Dumanlı, Today's Zaman on . Posted in Columns

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Korea, Iran and China: These are the three countries that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has visited recently. I had the opportunity to closely follow these trips. The participant journalists have all said something. And there were also remarks and anecdotes that were not published or aired on TV. Let me describe some of these untouched moments from the trip because they suggest that there is a whole other Turkey abroad.

First: Seoul. I am walking there with a man who moved to Korea many years ago. His voice trembles when talking about Turkey; his eyes get bigger when referring to Korea. He adds his emotions to every part of the city. First, we pay a visit to a Buddhist temple. He gives extensive details on Buddhism that cannot be provided in an encyclopedia. And then he takes me to a mosque. We take a deep breath to enjoy the moment of worship there. In the backyard of the mosque, he describes the presence of Islam in Korea. When he narrates the humane acts of the Turkish troops during the Korean War, you would think that the spirit of these young men has been resurrected.

Because journalists are not admitted into the official talks, we decide to use the opportunity to see the remarkable places of Seoul. Our last destination is the international school sponsored by Turks. From outside, it does not seem very appealing, and even the interior parts are not so glorious. However, we meet young teachers there: their eyes are bright and their hearts excited. The principal tells us about how difficult it is to run a school outside of Turkey, particularly in Korea where education standards are extremely advanced. We are impressed by the applications of technology. The editor-in-chief of a leading Turkish paper says, “I have seen a lot of schools abroad, but this is the first time I’ve seen such impressive programs.” One of the participants in the trip asks the principal, who loves giving extensively detailed answers, “How did you end up here?” The answer is so sweet: it turns out that he was from a Central Asian country and he studied in a Turkish college in Central Asia. After graduation, he studied further in the West and then he came to Korea to serve the people. And when he talks, I look at his face, where I see no sign of pride or arrogance. We have a young person who has made sacrifice a philosophy of life. In other words, we have a young individual who believes in Korea, Turkey and peace in the world.

Next: Tehran. And the first shock…As usual, the journalists get on a minibus, waiting for departure to the hotel. A bearded man is standing next to the car, staring at us strangely. Some of us become uncomfortable. We ask somebody who knows what is going on. He tells us that he is from the secret service. One of the journalists makes a good joke: “If he is from secret service, he should do his job secretly.” We do not pay attention to him, and the same guy and his men are everywhere. Anyway, the Internet is down and it is almost impossible to send reports. We are told that there is Internet connection in the hotel lobby, but it is impossible to have access to Facebook, Twitter or Google. This makes us bored. At that moment, we see a Turkish businessman. He has made investments in Iran. He also mentions some other investors. Our respect for Turkish entrepreneurship grows larger. We want to congratulate the entrepreneurs for what they have done.

And lastly we are in China. First we head to the region where Uyghur Turks live. I will not try to bring that excitement into this column because a lot has been said and written on this matter so far. There were some more impressive scenes there; I think it is useful to make reference to them. For instance, nearly 300 businesspeople came to China upon the recommendation of Prime Minister Erdoğan and six ministers. A number of businessmen had already made investments in China. Both countries realized the contribution of the mutual investments; for this reason, they now want to increase bilateral trade.

It is nice to see Turkish businesspeople in China, as well as students who study thousands of miles away from Turkey. I did not notice any slight complaint; it is like China has become their new homeland. Yet their eyes get bright when they talk about Turkey. For instance, one of them dropped out of a prestigious university in Turkey and decided to go to China. After he learned the Chinese language, he enrolled in a new university. Asked about his future plans, it becomes clear that he does not have any intention of going back to Turkey. They tell us how to integrate with the Chinese society and the value of the bridge they will build between Turkey and China. When I ask a Turk who has been living there for years about the overall situation, I realize that there has already been a natural integration. His wife is Chinese, and their children are both Chinese and Turkish.

Statesmen, including Prime Minister Erdoğan, hold frequent visits to foreign countries. This is a great service. For instance, Prime Minister Erdoğan holds his visits and trips despite the risk these pose to his health. History will acknowledge his service. And there are others who moved abroad for trade and education purposes. They build bridges between societies without promoting a political goal. They get to know and love their new home and promote ours as well. And as these people establish strong ties between nations, history will recognize their contribution some day.

Finally, the Feb. 28 intervention has been brought to trial. A period where the gravest psychological warfare tactics were used will be held accountable before the law. This is a historical moment and opportunity for our democracy. The natural allies of the postmodern coup, like those in the Ergenekon case, make agile moves to dilute the process. For instance, they frequently make reference to the fact that the Feb. 28 National Security Council resolution was undersigned by the current president Abdullah Gül. It is almost as if they are referring to Gül, one of the political victims of that coup, as one of the coup makers. This is such an attempt at distraction!

They employ the same strategy against Fethullah Gülen. They paint Gülen, who was subjected to a media lynching campaign during the Feb. 28 intervention, as a supporter of the coup perpetrators. Is it reasonable and fair to present him as their supporter given that he was persecuted for eight years during that period? They base their argument on his remarks back then when he criticized the government of the time and he noted that the National Security Council (MGK) was a constitutional institution. Is this the criterion for their argument?

It was pretty obvious that the coalition government of the time made some mistakes; and unfortunately, the coup makers succeeded just because the administration failed to take timely action. Both wings of the coalition government at the time were informed about the approaching danger, but they did not look at the matter this way. However, the coup was coming. The military should have been stopped, but the coalition government thought that the military would be stopped by some minor concessions including salary raises. But sadly, this did not work out.

They did close the elementary school section of the clerical schools. They introduced a strong inspection program and schedule for the private schools. They tried to close Turkish schools abroad. By reliance on fake documents, they expelled 160 military officers from the army, flagging them as supporters of fundamentalism; measures were taken to ensure that these men did not find a job. Opponents and dissidents were silenced. The Libya trip that was not cancelled despite sincere warnings from pro-government circles was used by the coup makers to justify their actions. And the fast-breaking dinner at the Premiership Office also raised the fury of the military. A number of people wearing traditional and religious outfits and controversial events and organizations became targets of those who were eager to stage a coup by relying on psychological warfare techniques.

Some military servicemen eager to stage a coup also desired that things would get worse. They were reckless. Some of them publicly insulted the prime minister. The tanks took to the streets. The majority of the military servicemen were in favor of a coup to deal with the extreme danger of fundamentalism. They were seeking to establish a Baath-like regime, strict and far-reaching. plan was even more brutal, and they were determined to remain in power to raise a whole new generation.

Unfortunately, the government lost control, but the destruction could have been limited. Some spent effort on trying to limit it. This was the reason why the government resigned. The system was deadlocked. If they had decided to hold an early election, the people would have responded to the coup makers in a proper democratic way, as happened in the April 27 memorandum. If those who were asking for a bloodier coup had not been stopped, we would not be enjoying the current democratic advances. Those who did not experience those difficult days cannot possibly understand this great test.

Sadly, the media were the most active and ardent supporters of the Feb. 28 intervention. In accordance with the instructions they received, the media were attacking the people and intimidating them. Interviews with some influential media figures confirm this.

While this is the case, it is a horrible mistake to present the victims of Feb. 28 as supporters of the perpetrators. History will not forgive this. If you do so instead of admitting that you had to do what you were told to do, both history and public conscience will invalidate your argument. It is obvious that you are suffering from panic attacks, but you should not twist the facts.