The prime minister delivered a speech to the enthusiastic crowd after he was granted a special award by the organizing committee of the Olympiads. “Absence from home is loneliness. We have no tolerance for loneliness. We are saying that this absence from home [of Gülen] should end. To be honest, I understand that this is also what you all expect. So, let's say the absence should be ended. As the child of an ancient civilization, I am extending my thanks to the ones who call on us and the entire world tonight in Turkish, the language of a rich culture. This is what I am saying, let's put absence from home and longing for the homeland to one side,” the prime minister said in his call to Gülen.
Gülen is highly respected both in Turkey and a large number of countries across the world for educational activities he has pioneered, along with his efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the globe. The Turkish Olympiads are an initiative pioneered by schools associated with the Hizmet movement, inspired by Gülen. He is in self-imposed exile in the US though there is no legal hurdle that prevents him from returning to Turkey. Shortly after he went to the US, in 2000, he was charged with establishing an illegal organization, but he was eventually acquitted in 2008.
The prime minister's invitation to the prominent scholar received thumbs-up from various segments of society in Turkey. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ backed the prime minister's invitation for Gülen, and said the AK Party government would like to see the prominent scholar back in his homeland. "It is up to him [Gülen] to decide, but our desire is to end his longing for Turkey and see him in his homeland," Bozdağ said when speaking to reporters. Bozdağ also recalled that the government made similar calls previously to many leading Turkish figures living abroad for various reasons. "We have stated various times that it would be better for Turkey's values for them to serve in Turkey rather than in other countries," he added.
Bülent Arınç, also a deputy prime minister, said thousands of people in Turkey want to see Gülen back in the country, adding there is no legal hurdle to prevent him from returning. "I am one of the many people in Turkey who know that Gülen misses his country. I hope it is finally time for him to return to Turkey," he told reporters. According to Arınç, there is great consensus among Turkey's politicians and civilians for the leading scholar to come back to his country. "At least Gülen may visit Turkey from some time to time. We want him to return to his country after over 10 years and reunite with people who love him. I hope our prime minister's wish [for Gülen to return to Turkey] will come true soon. We will be happy to see Gülen in Turkey," he stated.
Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı praised the finale of the 10th International Turkish Olympiad, thanked everyone who worked for its organization and voiced his support for Erdoğan's invitation to Gülen. "I sincerely support the message of our prime minister. I want to see everyone who is longing to see his or her homeland back in Turkey," he said.
Author Hüseyin Gülerce, who is known for his proximity to the Hizmet movement, said the prime minister's invitation would “foil attempts of some dark circles to instigate a fight between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the Hizmet movement.” “The prime minister invited Gülen to Turkey, saying that his longing for his homeland should end. I thank our prime minister. For the past couple of weeks, some groups were trying to instigate a fight between the [AK Party] government and the Hizmet movement. The prime minister put an end to their efforts [to provoke a fight] with his speech,” Gülerce stated.
Gürsel Tekin, the former second-in-command of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said he would personally favor Gülen's return to Turkey, adding that the decision of whether return or not belongs to the scholar. Gülen has written nearly 60 books in Turkish, most of which have been translated into dozens of languages. He was most recently honored with the EastWest Institute's (EWI) 2011 EWI Peace Building Award for his contribution to world peace.
Students delight spectators with magnificent performances
Joy and excitement prevailed in Türk Telekom Arena on Thursday as tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the outstanding performances of student competitors in the 10th International Turkish Olympiad.
A total of 1,500 students from 135 countries came to Turkey for the Olympiad. This year's competitions commenced on May 30 and finished on June 14. The event was predominantly held in Ankara and İstanbul, but there were also activities taking place in 41 other Turkish provinces. The theme of this year's Olympiad was “İnsanlık İçin El Ele” (Hand in hand for humanity).
On Thursday night, a group of 290 young performers put on a show in a 16-minute visual feast presented to the audience amidst a stunning light show depicting a world map in honor of Turkish teachers who have moved to countries across the globe to teach at Turkish schools. The performers wore costumes specially made for the closing ceremony.
Animations and images were projected onto a giant screen set on the pitch as an orchestra composed of 50 musicians provided the music for the night. Four giant models of the four different continents from which the students came were also placed on the stage.
Prime Minister Erdoğan, his spouse Emine Erdoğan, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı, İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş all attended the closing ceremony. The organizers from the International Turkish Education Association (TÜRKÇEDER) delivered the ceremony's Special Award to Erdoğan for his “support for efforts to promote the Turkish language.”
Erdoğan, in a speech delivered following his reception of the award, hailed the Olympiad as an effective way to promote Turkish language and culture, expressing his gratitude to devoted teachers working in Turkish schools in more than 140 countries all over the world. “Turkey is a friend and brother of your country,” Erdoğan told foreign students in the stadium. The prime minister spoke at length about the clout of the Turkish language in past centuries and saluted the more than 1,500 students who came to İstanbul to participate in the contest. Erdoğan also said teachers who are working in Turkish schools abroad deserve plaudits and much gratitude and thanks, saying it is not possible to ignore their work.
Published on Today's Zaman, 15 June 2012, Friday