The efforts of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) municipalities and districts to ensure that the Turkish Olympiads were not held in Turkey this year led to some strong reaction.
Former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış, also one of the founders of the AK Party, expressed his sorrow about the obstacles that were deliberately manufactured to hinder the organization of the event. He added that the failure to hold the event in the homeland of the Turkish language may have irreversible repercussions. Yakış also said: “Is there a Turk who watched the games and did not feel sad? It will take time for us to replace these schools if they are harmed.” Stressing that what the Turkish schools abroad do is something that state officials cannot, Yakış further said: “This is a matter of dedication. If it is broken, it cannot be replaced.” Former AK Party deputy Nevzat Yalçıntaş said: “I cannot believe that the efforts of those who learn Turkish are being obstructed,” adding that he offered his 60,000 square meter plot of land in İstanbul as a venue for the Olympiads when he heard that the games were not going to be held in Turkey. Yalçıntaş further said that Fethullah Gülen, who pioneered this initiative, should be rewarded with a state medal.
An investigation of allegations of government corruption that was made public on Dec. 17, 2013 put Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's political career in jeopardy. Instead of collaborating with the police and facilitating the judiciary's work, however, Erdoğan's response was to label the probe a coup attempt and to accuse an international consortium of villains of combining their efforts to topple his government. He has elected to deflect the spotlight of the investigation and demonize the Hizmet movement, which has been calling on the government to help justice prevail by facing the assertions. Without providing any evidence, he has stigmatized all associated with the Hizmet movement as coup perpetrators and has repeatedly vowed to fight, including threatening the closure of Turkish schools abroad and saying at one of his rallies that the Turkish Olympiads would not be given any venue in Turkey, a clear violation of fundamental freedoms.
Yakış, who is worried that there may be serious consequences, said: “Turkey is losing in this…I am a person who has observed over the last two decades that the Turkish schools [abroad] have been extremely useful. For this reason, it will take long time for us to replace these schools if something happens to them. It is not possible to find such dedicated people.”
Noting that what the Turkish schools abroad have achieved is something that state officials could not do, Yakış added: “This is a matter of dedication. Here we observe this dedication. If this sense of dedication is damaged, it will be hard to replace. Turkey will be harmed by this. While there is opportunity to make progress, thanks to these schools, if they are not used, it will be a huge loss in diplomatic and political terms.”
Yalçıntaş: ‘It is an awful decision to obstruct Turkish Olympiads'
Former AK Party deputy Nevzat Yalçıntaş also expressed his sorrow about the obstruction of the Turkish Olympiads. “Of course, it is nice to hold the games in foreign countries, as well. However, it would have been better if they had taken place in Turkey. There are many Turks abroad, particularly in Germany. But the ban in Turkey is unacceptable,” he said. Yalçıntaş also said: “I told the organizers that the games could be held outdoors. I said that we could host the event on a stage that we could build on my land. I asked them to hold it in Istanbul. I have a house on the land that the kids could have used.”
“A student who learns Turkish wants to see Turkey and İstanbul. These festivals have a large audience. I have been watching these events on TV or listening to them on the radio for the last several years. Governors are subordinate to the central administration; they are bureaucrats. The prime minister represents the central government. The governors follow in the footsteps of the prime minister when he expresses a strong opinion. I think that his reaction is outrageous.”
Nevzat Yalçıntaş further added that the person who pioneered such an initiative should be given a state medal. Yalçıntaş said: “A person who has been of service to the Turkish language and the Turkish identity, as well as to Turkey, deserves a state medal. I am saying this as a person who has seen these schools.” Yalçıntaş then shared one of his memories: “Years ago, we were invited to Kazan, capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan. A large group of people welcomed us there and some of the parents made gestures of respect. I thanked them for their warm welcome, but I thought there must be a reason for such great interest. They clarified the matter, telling me that their sons studied at the Turkish schools and had started living like their grandfathers and grandmothers. They said, ‘We all forgot about our traditions because of communism, but these kids studied at these schools and, for example, then they started washing their hands before dinner. And we recalled this tradition.' I was impressed by this. [When I traveled abroad] many people asked me to help them because they were unable to enroll their kids in Turkish schools because the schools were so popular. The schools' event should have been held in their homeland, Turkey.”
Published on Today's Zaman, 30 June 2014, Monday