First of all, thanks to Ece, who sent me this image. The reason for it should become clear in a moment.
I think everyone who reads this blog will know about the ongoing events in Turkey, which started with a protest about the demolition of a park in Central Istanbul, European side, and escalated into a general and nationwide protest at the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, mainly because of the heavy-handed police response to the initial protest.
Like most people who have contacts in Turkey, I was anxious about the well-being of my friends and colleagues, but I was also interested to know how they felt about the government’s response to the protest. My instinct was that the people I know, who are mainly teachers, would be shocked by the police action, with its almost immediate use of tear gas and water cannon.
My instinct about my friends was right, of course. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have been awash with their angry response since the very beginning.
We must not forget that Mr Erdoğan was elected in a free and fair election and has been prime minister for more than ten years. He clearly has a lot of support. He just doesn’t have any support from the people that I know.
But someone who supports the actions of the government seems to have made an appearance here on my blog.
This is what happened.
The last thing I posted (see below) were the impressions of a Russian student who I met in Rostov-on-Don a couple of months go. She is currently in Istanbul and wrote her quite graphic impressions of what she has seen around her.
The following comment arrived from someone with a Turkish name, Ilknur, but a German email address:
Dear Mr. Wilson,
Turkey belongs to Turks. And only Turkish people have a say. We have always been a great nation. And we’re becoming even greater for the last decade. No country or no member of any nationality has a right to interfere.
Please mind your own business which I believe is ELT, not an international strategic analyst.
I decided to post her comment on Facebook. Ilknur, if you’re reading this, here’s the stream of response that your comment generated (note the names come before the comments):
The idea that only members of a nation can make any comments about its position and development goes against any idea of internationalism and collaboration amongst the world’s citizens. That is one of the key ways of thinking that has landed Turkey with such a blinded and uncaring leader. You are right Mr Wilson – she is most definitely a supporter of the regime as is. Oh well – it is a lone voice on your blog I imagine. In this argument we should all be citizens of the world. 23 hours ago · Unlike · 10
I am all for debate and dialogue as that is how everyone learns. Just be careful that you can ‘manage’ it in such a way that stays collegiate. That will be the challenge. 23 hours ago · Like
Erdogan said similar things the other day….forgetting that Turkey wants to join the EU. You only become great by embracing alternative ideas to your own. Ask Ilknur to write a blog defending Erdogan, Ken, show her that you are open to reading her views. A great idea of yours, Ken. Ask her why she thought Burku went to the park to protest. 23 hours ago · Unlike · 4
1. Turkey sets itself up as an example for other states in this region so it is natural for both Turkish and non-Turkish people to pay attention and to comment. 2. In this globalized world we have responsibility to find out about other places. 3. No one is interfering, just sharing opinions and eye-witness accounts (which are always coloured by the writer’s previous experience and knowledge of the culture.) 4. Your readers are intelligent enough to read widely in order to form their own opinions. It would be great to hear more of Ilknur’s ideas. I suggest she start a blog. You can share the link on yours. 23 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 7
I also believe that everybody in the world has a right to comment and/or support what’s going on in the rest of the world. Especially when there is an open and obvious attack on human rights. I remember Mrs. Erdoğan crying over the victims in Myanmar, would anyone say anything about interfering with their internal affairs?? No, please Ken, we need everybody’s support. And thanks again for the little rally on your street. 23 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 13
This is a general AKP attitude. A typical AKP style reaction. ‘Mind your own business’ approach. They’re copying their leader’s words and hostile behaviours. In democracies everybody has a say about any subject. I would definitely disregard her. 23 hours ago via mobile · Like · 9
As humans we should all be against dictatorship, racism, police brutality, violence and murdering people no matter where they are from.. I am proud of you and your family Ken because the way you act and your picture in here make me feel happy to see that there are good people on earth with great humanity and this is exactly the way great teachers behave! Cheers! 23 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 6
I’m not sure I would ask her to do a guest blog. She has asked you to keep out of ‘her’ affairs; why then bring her into yours? And the tone does not suggest any sense of dialogue. Indeed far from it. On the other hand…. 22 hours ago via mobile · Like · 5
Teachers…what we do wrong and so many people think like Ilnkunr? 22 hours ago · Like
As an American everyone has always been interfering with their opinions on our politics – that’s human nature isn’t it? Aren’t we all fighting for some kind of thing – called democracy? 22 hours ago · Like · 1
Jeremy Harmer dialogue is fragile in such times and so is building bridges though you are right about the big ‘keep out’ sign attached to the response. Making the offer to listen is like saying ‘I won’t return your lack of reason with unreasonableness’. But I am happy to agree with Burcu Akyol and others more familiar with the environment. Perhaps at such a crucial time energy is better spent giving a voice to those supporting change rather than those supporting things stay the way they are – how about a series of ‘why I went down to Taksim square’. If I still did ELT under the microscope that is what I would do 22 hours ago · Like · 2
If you offered her the chance to guest blog you’d have to ask her how she would deal with the fact that people would read her thoughts and then give her theirs in accord or not. As is the way in the uber-democratic system that is the Internet. If she’s happy to allow others their opinions, get her on! 22 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
I think my unease, Sara – as it has been all along – is that I (like Ken or you or any of us who are watching from afar) am demonstrably not Turkish. I believe, as most of us do, that what is happening there is profoundly wrong and that the suppression of protest (and the way it is done) offends every democratic bone in my imperfectly democratic body. But whether ‘my’ voice as a foreigner helps to build bridges or, instead, close doors, I am not sure. I want to support dear friends in Turkey, support the people’s right to protest, but if my ‘presence’ helps to close down dialogue (who do they think they are, is the cry), then…….. 22 hours ago · Like · 2
Yes I feel the same. So the way to go is to provide a platform to make sure that the local voices are heard as much as possible. But also to ensure that people understand supporting local resistance is a legitimate activity for anyone outside Turkey. Presumably it would be OK for the blog contributor if the international voices supported his/her position and was against resistance? So its not about being a foreigner per se. There are millions of dissenting voices in Turkey and that is the thing he/she will have to confront ultimately. Burcu Akyol‘s response on Ken’s blog makes this point. ‘we may all be Turkish but we do not all agree’. 22 hours ago · Edited · Like · 1
I think it’s a question worth asking. I’m not a Turk, but my wife and this, half my family are. Also, and in a mildly comic vein, Turks always think I look like a Turk and recently even an AKP supporter. Regardless of any of the above, anyone should be allowed to express their opinions-no matter how noxious others might find them. Having said that….I always prefer hearing opinions I agree with! 22 hours ago via mobile · Like · 2
Oh I’m so excited! You struck gold Ken. Do you realise how difficult it is to get an AKP supporter to venture out into the open and actually say something? I say, give her the stage. I’m dying to hear what she has to say. Oh and perhaps she could explain Mr Erdogan’s comments yesterday about foreigners having no right to be out protesting. As a foreigner living in Turkey, I was a little annoyed by that. I’m all ears (or eyes). 22 hours ago · Like · 1
A long time ago, someone wrote a blog post expressing his opinion about Turkey – I remember very clearly how he described what happens to those who rock the boat. That someone was not Turkish and he was told he had no say because he hadn’t lived there long enough. Wonder who remembers that… 22 hours ago · Like
Dear Ken. I am a Turk too so I suppose I am eligible to comment I can only thank you for supporting us. For posting the pictures for showing us that you understand. Humanity speaks one universal language – that of tolerance and understanding and you are a fluent speaker here Nobody should ever mind their own business. This is our world and if someone can remain silent or ignorant while others violate basic human rights I would question their sanity. 21 hours ago via mobile · Unlike · 8
They’ll always be one bad bean, carry on with the support and ignore this bean! 21 hours ago · Like
When Turkish media fail in their role to inform and Turkish friends ask you to spread the news, I shared the posts and the images. How different this discussion might be had we not done that, (if it would exist at all).
Wow! Amazing how brave someone can be sitting comfortably in a country with human rights, the freedom of speech, no threat of being teargassed or beaten. I would be really interested in meeting Ilknur in, say, 50 years time when her daughters, her daughters’ daughters are living in a society where they will not be able to say or do anything without a man’s permission. 20 hours ago · Like
“You will be always welcome no matter who you are” this is Mevlana’s saying and Turkish people always welcome every nation in this country. We talked about whats going on here today but i think this reply comes from a person called “İlknur” may be help everyone to understand what they are trying to do in my country. They try to ignore people who has different thoughts and ideas and so we will always fight with separatism. We have a multicultural country so those people think that they are Turkish but they act like aliens in this country or they dont know their own history! 20 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
Unfortunately we have been in such a difficult situation as Turkish people and any person in the world who sees this situation has a right to say his/her idea about it. Hasn’t İlknur talked about any different country’s situation in her lifetime? if not, itz a pitty that she lives in a different world I guess…Don’t worry Ken, if u r a teacher, this doesnt mean that u do not see,think and share your political,social opinions…itz quite normal. If a person paints his house, it doesn’t mean s/he is a painter. Like İlknur is not an authority… 19 hours ago · Like · 1
Ken, there will always be people who think like this person. But I can assure you that your Brazilian friends will be grateful for any support to the manifestations there and reports of equally brutal police intervention…. 17 hours ago via mobile · Like
Reading Illknur’s comments, I felt she is someone who wants freedom w/o being set free. She is still to limited too what respect, support and care means. Freedom and democracy do not belong to one in particular and anything that is intended to stain such clear goals should be confronted against.
In this particular case in Turkey, the more outside supporters they get, I believe they will feel more motivated and stronger to fight for their needs.
Really sorry for Illknur. I surely shall not interfere in her own business, as long as it does not interfere in mine: and I am committed to seeing no-one suffer – as in Turkey.
this person is way too patriotic and rude. we all have opinions and luckily we live in a country where we can express them too.dont let it get to u. 11 hours ago · Like
As I watch Istanbul and see our colleagues stand for freedom of speech, the right to assembly, and the abolition of corruption, I can’t help but think about the former Czechoslovakia and the rest of former Eastern Bloc in ’89. There was no FB, no twitt…See More 9 hours ago · Unlike · 1
We cannot forget your support, Ken. Please ignore this lady’s comment. You and your lovely wife DEDE are our brother and sister. Love you.