June 9, 2015

“There will be no Turkish Olympiad,” says Erdoğan

Selçuk Gültaşlı

Bülent Arınç, a deputy prime minister in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, is the “good cop” who takes the stage when there is a need for reconciliation.

During a speech made in Bursa, he said, “Well, they are not all bad; there are also some good people,” in reference to minority religious groups and communities. “Those groups know me well and I know them well. I urge them to pay attention to this: If we exist, they will. If we do not, they will not,” he continued. This is known as the “Bursa Warning.” These were remarks that a religious politician should not have made because they are against the main premises of the religion. Well, we see him as a politician rather than a religious figure, but we were surprised when we heard these remarks. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan then confirmed this stance while addressing a political rally in Hatay with this notorious statement: “There is no water for them. There will be no Turkish language Olympiad.”

As usual, Erdoğan and Arınç made strong statements that went beyond the bounds of courtesy. Erdoğan kept his promise and closed the doors to the Olympiads in Turkey but the Olympiads have since become a popular global brand. The magical climate of this event, which had been a source of joy in Turkey, took hold in different parts of the world, including Australia, Ethiopia, Brussels and The Hague, which is home to the International Court of Justice.

Without Erdoğan, the Olympiads would have remained a local brand and neither the European Parliament (EP) nor the International Court of Justice would have hosted these activities. Without Erdoğan, only Turkish politicians would have received these brilliant kids but now European politicians take care of them. Now Martin Schulz, leader of the largest international assembly in the world (the EP) and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Rynders support it. Belgian Federal Prime Minister Charles Michel, who attended the full program in Brussels, said he -- speaking on behalf of all Belgium -- was proud of hosting this program.

Belgian Federal Parliament President Siegfried Bracke said, “I watched an amazing program today. We received all the messages delivered here.” But there was one particular attendee at the event who deserves closer attention: Former Belgian Prime Minister and the first President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy. Van Rompuy, who made the opening speech along with the current prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, said it was an extraordinary program. Van Rompuy was the president of the EU who hosted then-Prime Minister Erdoğan on his visit to Brussels shortly after the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption probe.

On his way back to Turkey, Erdoğan spoke to journalists aboard his plane and told them he had convinced EU leaders, including then-EU President Rompuy, of the probe's origins in the so-called “parallel state.” I remembered these remarks when hearing Rompuy yesterday. I told myself that Erdoğan did not convince the EU leaders at all; in fact he might even have encouraged them to participate in the program.

The famous Belgian script writer Adil el Arbi made the most important statement in the program: “It is an amazing event. It is unbelievable to bring such talents together from different parts of the world.” We are grateful to the volunteers of the International Festival of Language and Culture (IFLC), the Federation of Active Associations in Belgium (FEDACTIO) and the Belgian-Turkish Friendship Association (BELTUD) who took part in organizing the program. Erdoğan might have felt badly when he saw that the official French-language broadcaster of Belgium, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), aired the program live, but we should also thank him. Would we see this happen without his stance? Would the language and culture festival have become globalized? This means that we will exist with or without you. We will have the Olympiads because you cannot decide this for us. Only God has that power."

Published on Today's Zaman, 09 June 2015, Tuesday