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“We will celebrate a new world”

They built our hopes up with their peace and fellowship messages at a time when our morale was shattered by the sudden outbreak of a snowballing tension, when the world media was airing pessimistic images of our country 24/7, and when we were longing for even the slightest good news. The languages, faiths, colors, countries or flags of the two thousand Turkish Olympiads participant students who hyped up millions in 55 cities and on tens of TV channels were different. Yet, they shared the common mission to build a new world filled with love. They were practically the realized vision of "the man of cause" who had said, "Alas, I was hasty, I came in winter. But you will come in a paradise-like spring. The luminous seeds sown today will blossom in your time." They were the colorful bunches of those who went around the world with mission of "living to let the others live" in their hearts and "peace" on their lips, in the manner of Yunus Emre. Everyone-from average person, the president, artists, and intellectuals to leftists or rightists- liked them a lot. And here's what they shared about their ambitions and impressions of us in their letters written in a fresh Turkish to Aksiyon magazine: "My name is Abdullah and last name is Bakari. I'm from Tanzania. I competed in speech category of the 11th Turkish Olympiads and won silver medal. First of all, the event was a great success but I was curious to know about it in advance. I was asking to myself "What is it going to be like?" Sometimes, I couldn't go to sleep. I was astonished when it was time, as it was even better than what I had thought. We, two thousands students from six continents and 140 countries, were speaking the same language. We stayed together. We forgot about...

Before the Lights are Out…

You know how the poet that says, "Bleeding a thin line, my chest/Watched in wonder, amazed!" This was the exact situation I found myself in. It was a sorrowful moment, one that weighs you down, when the tears that have welled up in your eyes push themselves down your cheeks... It was as full of hope as it was baffling. And that was precisely our consolation, indeed it was. "We are in a forest full of monsters" is the way Cemil Meriç chooses to describe it; "Ghosts cut our tracks at every corner!" he says. An elusive and darkened world adorned with imported concepts is drawing us further and further into it. It is a vacuum so powerful and worldly that those who strive to stay clear of it are ridiculed and condescended and are beckoned with cries of, "where are you, why don't you just come on over". The place to which we turn and beg is nothing but a pit of fire. It has, unfortunately, come to a point where we struggle in finding one part of it that has not been blemished with blood. As time progresses, pain is penetrated to its every corner. We wake up to a new suffering every morning. On one Sunday evening at the Olympic Stadium, though, we were met with a completely different picture. The mangle of madness the country was currently in had loosened up a bit and it was as if an atmosphere that did not belong to this world had formed in that stadium. So much so that it seemed as though the premiere of a fifth season, in which the climate was dominated by compassion and smiles, was being held. Songs were sung, and hope rose overhead the stadium like a colorful rainbow. Unfortunately, the days and hours that were only so many had passed and...

Before the Lights are Out…

You know how the poet that says, "Bleeding a thin line, my chest/Watched in wonder, amazed!" This was the exact situation I found myself in. It was a sorrowful moment, one that weighs you down, when the tears that have welled up in your eyes push themselves down your cheeks... It was as full of hope as it was baffling. And that was precisely our consolation, indeed it was. "We are in a forest full of monsters" is the way Cemil Meriç chooses to describe it; "Ghosts cut our tracks at every corner!" he says. An elusive and darkened world adorned with imported concepts is drawing us further and further into it. It is a vacuum so powerful and worldly that those who strive to stay clear of it are ridiculed and condescended and are beckoned with cries of, "where are you, why don't you just come on over". The place to which we turn and beg is nothing but a pit of fire. It has, unfortunately, come to a point where we struggle in finding one part of it that has not been blemished with blood. As time progresses, pain is penetrated to its every corner. We wake up to a new suffering every morning. On one Sunday evening at the Olympic Stadium, though, we were met with a completely different picture. The mangle of madness the country was currently in had loosened up a bit and it was as if an atmosphere that did not belong to this world had formed in that stadium. So much so that it seemed as though the premiere of a fifth season, in which the climate was dominated by compassion and smiles, was being held. Songs were sung, and hope rose overhead the stadium like a colorful rainbow. Unfortunately, the days and hours that were only so many had passed and...

Future’s continent and African renaissance

Over the last three days since Friday, the issues and the glamorous developments of the African continent have been discussed in a hotel along the magnificent Abant Lake. In addition to experts on Africa from Turkey, academics, journalists and statesmen from different countries on this continent have made presentations and discussed a number of issues relevant to Africa. The Abant Platform, affiliated with the Journalists and Writers Foundation, has once again reminded all of the need for Turkey to stay focused on developments in the near and remote abroad despite unpleasant developments in respect to the settlement process of the Kurdish issue and to Gezi Park. Africa, the largest and the second most populous continent in the world, makes up 6 percent of the total surface area of the planet and 24.4 percent of the total land with its area of 32.2-million-square-kilometers. The continent, which also has 15 percent of the world's population (1 billion people), has 54 independent states. Despite huge socio-cultural and economic differences and remarkable demographic diversity, Africa is viewed by some who take a simplistic approach as if it is a single political entity, and African intellectuals now object to this. Displaying huge differences from the north to the south and from the east to the west, Africa needs to be properly understood and recognized by countries like Turkey, which are trying to enhance their relations with the countries of the continent. The African countries that were colonialized by the European colonialist powers in the 19th century are now trying to deal with the impacts of this traumatic invasion that lasted 100-150 years. Knowing that there were only two independent states, Ethiopia and Liberia, on this huge continent during those dark and unfortunate years indicates the inhumane acts by European powers in Africa. At the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference convened with the participation of the dominant...

No place for excuses!

EKREM DUMANLI Mr. Fethullah Gülen, a well-respected Turkish Islamic scholar, has made a very important statement. He says when we consider that people are endowed with rights and freedoms indiscriminately by God, we understand that no one has the right to introduce prohibitions against certain groups. This principle should be applied to the Kurdish issue. Mr. Gülen's remarks on education in one's mother tongue is a high-level democratic move. Mr. Gülen suggests that "some private schools can provide education in Kurdish for a while until proficient teachers who are capable of teaching in Kurdish are trained, and then the number of schools providing education in Kurdish will increase." While saying this, Mr. Gülen also underlines the importance of Turkish as it is a part of Turkey's reality. Many Kurdish politicians including Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Sırrı Sakık and Esad Canan and Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Diyarbakır deputy Galip Ensarioğlu support Mr. Gülen's remarks and this situation indicates the democratic expectations of Kurdish people. There is another side of the coin: Media outlets affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are insistently targeting the Gülen movement and spreading black propaganda against it. If you look at the websites of these outlets, one would get be misled to think that the settlement process is proceeding flawlessly while the Gülen movement keeps obstructing it. These outlets that act as the PKK mouthpiece resort to every sort of lie and slander. Unfortunately, there are some setbacks in the settlement process. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently said that only 15 percent of PKK terrorists have withdrawn from Turkish soil. Fikret Bila, a Milliyet columnist, says the withdrawal has hardly begun. According to a newspaper report, the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) reports also confirm that the withdrawal of PKK terrorists is not happening. In addition to this, a military helicopter...

Better late than never: Gülen’s Kurdish education initiative

Ruşen Çakır* In the Rudaw interview, what Gülen said on education in mother tongue is especially important: "The acceptance in principle of education in mother tongue is the requirement of the state's being fair to its citizens." Because of the Gezi Park resistance, several issues of Turkey have been forgotten, left behind in the shade. The most important of them no doubt are the Kurdish and the PKK issues and the "resolution process" aiming to solve both of the issues. So much so that at the final meeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held the other day with the Wise People delegation, two wise men, Mural Belge and Baskın Oran did not attend because of the prime minister's attitude at the Gezi Park process. Also the comprehensive reports prepared by the wise people did not get the attention they deserved because of the details that have caused disappointment in the speech Erdoğan has delivered. Likewise, the interview Fethullah Gülen gave to Rebwar Kerim from daily Rodaw printed in Kurdish in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, received less than the normal level of interest because of the Gezi resistance. You can read the full interview at http://cihan.com.tr/caption/Gulen-Kurtce-gazeteye-konustu-Temel-hak-ve-hurriyetler-pazarlik-konusu-olamaz-CHMTA2NjQ4NS80. We can say that in the interview, Gülen gave extremely critical, courageous and positive messages on the Kurdish issue and the peace process. Education in Kurdish Gülen was unreserved about calling it "Iraqi Kurdistan" instead of "North Iraq." He also said that it was strange to make it a cause for discrimination "when being Turkish and Kurdish was out of our will... Turks should embrace the Kurdish issue before the Kurds... The key to the solution is to ask for the same for others what we ask for ourselves." Gülen's stance reminded me of the movement's Iraq Coordinator Talip Büyük and the interview conducted with him which had repercussions. (http://www.rusencakir.com/Gulen-cemaati-19-yildir-Irak-Kurdistanina-hizmet-goturuyor/1930) In the Rudaw interview, what...

Abant Platform on Africa

For three days I will be away from Turkey's increasingly suffocating internal politics. For this reason alone I am grateful to the Journalists and Writers Foundation, organizer of the Abant Platform on Africa. I think this three-day event will, among other things, show us, Turks, that there is a huge world outside Turkey and that we need to be humble about our country. Our Turkey-centric approach and our obsession with internal politics -- which pave the way for ignorance of the outside world -- will be challenged in this and similar meetings. The meeting will have five sessions: One, "Africa: Images and Realities"; two, "Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence"; three, "Education in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities"; four, "Health in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities"; and five, "Economic Development of Africa: Different Approaches to Sustainable Growth." I want to specifically focus on the first and second sessions. The decision to have sessions on "Africa: Images and Realities" and "The Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence" reminds me of the Hizmet movement's worldview. This worldview first and foremost rests on humility. Second, it does not see itself as having a "civilizing mission" but a mission to build bridges between different individuals, nations, groups, countries, religions and civilizations so that they will know each other better, accept each other as they are and cooperate for a better world. The first session's title implies that we must be humble about our knowledge of Africa. Second, it suggests that it is wrong to project our constructions, myths and imaginings onto Africa. Third, we must make an effort to have an interactive dialogue with Africans, instead of speaking and making decisions on their behalf. These three themes are also suggested by the title of the second session. The title "Contribution of African Values to Universal Coexistence" has more to tell us. It is...

Education in mother tongue

The Wise People Commission has prepared a report on its two months of work and submitted it to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What does Turkey -- east and west -- think about the settlement? What are the basic expectations and demands? How will concerns that the country could be partitioned be eliminated? Will Turkey be able to confront its past? Will past sins be brought to justice? Will the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) withdraw to establish a Kurdish state in Syria? Will PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan be released? There are many other questions voiced by the public included in the report. I listed above the most prominent ones. People in different regions make different demands, but the demand for a new constitution is made across the country. Education in one's mother tongue has emerged as an indispensable demand in the Kurdish-dominated eastern and southeastern provinces for the settlement process to succeed. Against all odds and despite a strict policy prohibiting its use, the Kurdish language has miraculously survived into our time. There was pressure on speakers of Kurdish not to use their language and there were no efforts to pave the way for education in Kurdish. Even if education in Kurdish is allowed, which will happen eventually, the academic infrastructure for trouble-free education in this language will need to be built. Given the Kurdish population in the country, I think about 200,000 Kurdish teachers would be needed just to teach the language alone. There are millions of people who speak Kurdish, but more than half of this population lives side by side with Turks. Thus, it must be admitted that it is Turkish, not Kurdish, which makes social integration possible. It is a distant possibility for these two communities to be separated under a federated state system and for Kurdish to become the official language of the federal...

Mr. Gülen’s felicitous advice on Kurdish issue, freedoms

BÜLENT KENEŞ The interview Mr. Fethullah Gülen, a well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar, gave to Rudaw, an online newspaper in northern Iraq's Arbil, resounded powerfully in the Turkish media. I must note that it would be wrong to analyze the views Mr. Gülen expressed in this interview within the scope of the developments that have occurred in the wake of the recent Gezi Park protests in Turkey. At a time when certain groups who excel in currying favor with the government are quick to accuse anyone who spurts out any opinion that even slightly diverges from that of the government of being "opportunists," I must emphasize that the interview consists of answers Mr. Gülen had given long before the Gezi Park protests started. The responses Mr. Gülen gave in May to journalist Rebwar Kerim's questions are proof that he approaches issues with a principle-based perspective rather than within the framework of daily or conjuncture-oriented developments. This point should be taken into consideration in assessing Mr. Gülen's views. Mr. Gülen's answers to Rudaw's questions can be summed up as follows: "The activities launched to stop the long-lasting bloodshed and violence in the region [the southeastern provinces of Turkey] deserve our support. Basically, we must not allow past tragedies to poison our future and we must focus on forward-looking constructive efforts. With sincerity and mutual respect, we must seek for everyone else what we seek for ourselves, as the Prophet of Islam put it, and we must avoid for everyone else what we avoid for ourselves... "... We must make sure that our words and acts do not offend anyone and we must act with patience and in a way that embraces everyone. Everyone must act with caution and prudence and be on alert against provocations. Problems cannot be solved with slogans or ravings. Issues should be handled with reason, perspicacity and clemency,...

Mr. Gülen’s felicitous advice

BÜLENT KENEŞ The interview Mr. Fethullah Gülen, a well-respected Turkish-Islamic scholar, gave to Rudaw, an online newspaper in northern Iraq's Arbil, resounded powerfully in the Turkish media. I must note that it would be wrong to analyze the views Mr. Gülen expressed in this interview within the scope of the developments that have occurred in the wake of the recent Gezi Park protests in Turkey. At a time when certain groups who excel in currying favor with the government are quick to accuse anyone who spurts out any opinion that even slightly diverges from that of the government of being "opportunists," I must emphasize that the interview consists of answers Mr. Gülen had given long before the Gezi Park protests started. The responses Mr. Gülen gave in May to journalist Rebwar Kerim's questions are proof that he approaches issues with a principle-based perspective rather than within the framework of daily or conjuncture-oriented developments. This point should be taken into consideration in assessing Mr. Gülen's views. Mr. Gülen's answers to Rudaw's questions can be summed up as follows: "The activities launched to stop the long-lasting bloodshed and violence in the region [the southeastern provinces of Turkey] deserve our support. Basically, we must not allow past tragedies to poison our future and we must focus on forward-looking constructive efforts. With sincerity and mutual respect, we must seek for everyone else what we seek for ourselves, as the Prophet of Islam put it, and we must avoid for everyone else what we avoid for ourselves... "... We must make sure that our words and acts do not offend anyone and we must act with patience and in a way that embraces everyone. Everyone must act with caution and prudence and be on alert against provocations. Problems cannot be solved with slogans or ravings. Issues should be handled with reason, perspicacity and clemency,...

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