There is an anecdote told by some old grandfathers in Turkey who are rare because they are not very nationalistic. Three good friends -- a Turk, a Kurd and an Armenian -- were walking near a garden. They realized there were plums in the trees and wanted to taste some. It is called “eye right” in Anatolian culture, and means if somebody wishes to eat fruit from a tree, the owner should offer some.
Nevertheless, the Turkish owner of the plum garden was too selfish to do so. They entered the garden and decided to eat the plums clandestinely. The Turkish owner saw them, but waited for some time to be sure that they were eating plums like thieves. After a while, he ran to the trio and caught them all red-handed while they were eating the plums. He first yells at the Armenian: “These two are Muslims, but you, you are not even a Muslim; how dare you enter my garden and eat my plums without my permission!” He beats the Armenian without any objection from the other two, and forces him to leave the garden. After, he turns to the Kurd: “You are not even a Turk; how dare you enter my garden and eat my plums!” He beats the Kurd and forces him to leave his land. It was the Turk's turn: “Don't you feel ashamed to eat my plums together with an Armenian and a Kurd? I can understand your theft, but how can you do it together with those two?” He beats the Turk just like the other two. While wiping his bleeding nose, the Kurd asks the Turk: “Why did he beat the three of us?” The Turk answers angrily: “In the beginning we shouldn't have let him beat the Armenian.”
This part of the world, Anatolia, is soil that has seen immense suffering from all periods of history. The last century was the time period with the most suffering. First we beat the Armenians and forced them to leave the plum garden. Afterwards, there has been an ongoing struggle with Kurds, which the peace negotiations are a part of. Now, the political Islamist government is targeting the Hizmet movement, starting with the arrest and detention of journalists from the Zaman media group.
I think 2014 was the longest year in Turkish democratic history. At the end of 2013, we saw the graft probe of Dec. 17-25, which implicated several government officials, including ministers. First, the government preferred to close the investigations by dismissing the police officers and members of the judiciary involved. They did it with the aim of protecting their power; however, they failed to realize that this is not a way to protect their government. Instead, they fell into a position that only protected them against the corruption claims. The prime minister could have acted in a different way and said that the government did not share or support the same values as those who are involved in corruption and ask for an impartial and independent judicial review of the government officials. In the end, if they were acquitted, this would have been a real protection of honest values, and the government could have survived and maintained greater support, but the prime minister didn't choose this option.
This week was the first anniversary of the Dec. 17 graft probe, and the new government of the “New Turkey” has chosen to start a war against the Hizmet movement. Two days ago I read that the remaining Jewish minority in Turkey has started to leave the country because it has been receiving a variety of threats. Previously, the Neve Shalom synagogue of İstanbul was attacked and bombed by several groups. Now, it has received written threats attached to the front gate, saying “Building to be demolished.”
One by one, group by group, community by community, people pay a ransom for a democratic society. One day there will be nobody left to eat plums, and the owner of the plum garden will be the most lonely, isolated and selfish plum eater in the world. He will eat all the plums but die without peace.
German protestant pastor Martin Niemöller said: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Published on Today's Zaman, 18 December 2014, Thursday