July 1, 2014

'We wish we had spoken Turkish in its motherland'

It was the students who were most saddened by the fact that this year's 12th Turkish Olympiad was forced to move abroad due to the lack of venues allocated to the competition.

Many of them expressed regret that they were not able to show off the Turkish skills they have acquired and worked hard for all year in the country where the language is spoken. Some said, “The whole world has stepped up to embrace us, but nothing can replace Turkey in all this.” Sixteen-year-old Nourane Zayen, who came to the Olympiad from Tunisia, said “I do wish that I could speak and perform in this language that I learned, and which I love, in its home country. I will never forget the cultural festival in İzmir and the closing ceremonies at İstanbul's Atatürk Olympic Stadium last year. This whole event works best in Turkey.

Timur Nusret, also 16 years old, is one of two students from an original group of 22 that had been going to join the Olympiad from Afghanistan until various problems stopped most of them from doing so. He said, “I would have loved to have been in the country of my teachers, whom I love so much.” Yücel Özyaşar, a teacher for the Tajikistan group, said: “We told 16 of our students that we wouldn't be able to go to Turkey. I still remember the tears shed that day.”

Nevertheless, this year the 12th Turkish Olympiad, organized by the International Turkish Foundation (TÜRKÇEDER), brought together students from 145 countries all around the world. Due to various hindrances and pressure put on this annual competition, the opening ceremonies took place in Ethiopia, the song final was held in Romania and the closing ceremonies took place in the German city of Dusseldorf.
While preparations going ahead at full speed in the German town of Paderborn, teachers were still busy answering questions from students about why this year's program was not in Turkey.

Zayen is quite pleased with the interest she has seen in Germany. Yet, despite the fact that just two days ago, some 3,000 Turks came to the dress rehearsal for the event in Dusseldorf, Zayen still lamented the fact that this year's competition was not happening in Turkey. She said: “I wish we were in Turkey…We would have experienced that warm atmosphere.” Northern Iraqi Kazhe Honwta agreed: “We ought to have been in Turkey for these Turkish Olympiads.”

Turkish teacher Yücel Özyaşar talked about how he had to give the bad news that they wouldn't be going to Turkey to his 16 students just one day before the scheduled departure, recalling: “They didn't tell us until the last moment. I can't get rid of the images in my mind of crying students now. These are young people who spent so much time getting up early and studying so they could learn Turkish and go to our country.” Teacher Eyüp Kaya also noted that though 21 of his students had prepared for the competition, a full 19 of them were not able to come.

The one Albanian student participating in the ceremonies in Germany this year, 15-year-old Ronaldo Ruka, is of the same mind: “I really love Turkey. We ought to have been in Turkey, not somewhere in Europe.”

Turks living outside Turkey excited about the competition

Perhaps the greatest excitement about holding the Turkish Olympiad closing ceremonies in Germany rather than in Turkey this year was felt among Turks living in Germany. Because of their geographic distance from Turkey, these Turks never had the chance to witness or be involved in this event before. And so, this year, they have kept the competing students company throughout the event. In addition, there were special programs held in Oberhausen and Leverkusen that were of the same quality seen during the finals. Hearing the songs performed by students from all over the world --145 different countries –was like hearing professional artists. A full 3,000 or so Turks who live abroad came to the language and culture festival held in Paderborn.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 June 2014, Monday