Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes


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):

Cindy Hauert

hopla. Guess that will teach you to be sympathetic. I assume this person misread your message…what a pity.
23 hours ago via mobile · Like

Tülay Günel Alper What a pity İlknur….
23 hours ago · Like · 1

Vicky Loras

I agree – it’s not your fault of course, Ken and she is not representative of the teachers we know from Turkey who love you and appreciate what you do.
23 hours ago · Like · 2

Esen Metin

It’s not interfering by the way, it is caring!
23 hours ago · Like · 2

Çapulcu Burak Akyüz

Supporting and defending human rights does not have nationality Ken. Feel free my friend..
23 hours ago via mobile · Like · 15

Sara Hannam

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

Ken Wilson

Maybe I should ask Ilknur to write me a guest blog – what do you think? (I’m being serious here).
23 hours ago · Like · 10

Sara Hannam

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

Peter Whiley

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

Kristina Smith

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

Ece Elt

Ilknur sounds like a supporter of someone who believes that he has the authority to decide when and how much people should talk and express their ideas.
23 hours ago via mobile · 


Hakan Şentürk

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

Burcu Akyol

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

Özge Berna

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

Jeremy Harmer

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

Zoi Abrazi

Teachers…what we do wrong and so many people think like Ilnkunr?
22 hours ago · Like

Gabriella Leville Hirthe

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

Sara Hannam

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

Chris Rowe

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


Jeremy Harmer

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


Sara Hannam

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

Thom Jones

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

Birgül Kasap

I do believe that each and every person in the world has a right to comment and/or support what is going on in the rest of the world. Thanks for your concern, Ken Wilson .
22 hours ago · Like · 1

Billy Sevki Hasirci

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

Anita Kwiatkowska

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

Yasemin Yelbay Yılmaz

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

Bren Brennan

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make
21 hours ago · Like · 1

Sharon Nosely- Kallandzhs

They’ll always be one bad bean, carry on with the support and ignore this bean!
21 hours ago · Like

Veríssimo Toste

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).

Varinder Lekh

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

Selcan Kurt

“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

Marcos Benevides

It must be terribly frustrating for supporters of the regime to see that literally the entire world supports the resistance.
20 hours ago · Like · 1


Chia Suan Chong

Hmm…do you think Ilknur would be okay living in Germany and no being allowed to have an opinion on anything that happens around her?
19 hours ago via mobile · Like

Saziye Alkayalar

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

Regina Bustamante

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

Sergio Lins

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.

As to Brazil, yes, I hope things get better. We will SURELY cherish any kind of support to help us have a better country to me (and you).
17 hours ago via mobile · Like

Venusz Vidak

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

Lynda Steyne

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

Jill Hadfield

And the Velvet Revolution overthrew a dictatorship by the gentle ring of key rings..
9 hours ago · Like · 1

İpek Kestekoğlu

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.

Comments on: "I can’t help it if all my Turkish friends are Çapulcuz…" (11)

  1. Ken,

    Thank you for sharing this…with us all.

    I am now a Turkish citizen (unlike you, according to some, I can say what I want about canim Türkiyem) – does a Turkish ID card a few weeks old make that much difference?

    Those of us that love canım Türkiye…and care about her deeply…simply want an “end” to all this. We do not go into the streets with molotov cocktails…rather we call for “tolerance”.

    I (like many of my dear, dear friends) do not care “which 50%” people come from, we want the best for OUR nation (natural or adopted)…and, we all agree with Ghandi:

    Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

    …a message that 100% of Turks should agree on.

    Take care,


  2. Ken,

    Were you to have voiced support for Erdogan’s politics, I am sure this character would have welcomed your reaction and trumpeted it to the four corners of the earth.

    Then you would have been paraded on twitter and AKP pages proudly, as proof that the west condones Erdogan and police violence against protesting citizens.

    As citizens of the world, we have every right to talk about anything we choose, to approve or disapprove, to comment or not to comment.

    We do not need permission from Ilknur or her ilk or from anyone.

    Beginning a dialogue is an idea that may turn this post viral – or virulent, one of the two.

    It’s your choice.

  3. Claire Brennock said:

    Dear Ken,

    I believe you have handled this matter in the best possible way.

    EFL teacher, London

  4. Hmmmm …. whose business….?
    I understand that AKP has huuuge support, elected democratically, etc.

    Also, I see the silhouette of a pattern here:
    -here comes Mr. Politician with his very skilled mass media communication team
    -wins elections backed by insane majority of votes (which seems quite unnatural, there are so many kinds of people, getting such unanimous support is quite unlikely, unless it is the result of media marketing witchcraft, I don’t know …)
    -Mr. President/PM grabs power and never wants to let it go
    -forgets about the masses he is supposed to be the leader of, thinks that he is appointed to do whatever he wants, trallalla…

    Having the majority of the votes doesn’t mean they are good leaders and they can afford to ignore concerns of the opposition. It only means that they can please quite a large number of people. And it doesn’t mean they can violate basic human laws.
    We are all teachers, mainly helping other people grow. Many of us teach kids. From this point of view it IS our business, regardless of borders and nations. We must teach kids to tell right from wrong. Beating up smaller and weaker kids is definitely wrong. Even if you have masses behind you, even if you are PM, even if you have water cannons. Wherever you are.
    And one more thing, this (social) media is not that old one, it’s two-way, they always forget about that.

  5. Wow! How did I miss this on Facebook. Well I’ve seen it here. Excellent post as always Ken.
    One thing struck me. İlknur pointed out that your business is ELT. What she failed to realise is that politics and culture are as much a part of ELT as vocabulary and grammar – whether we like it or not. Politics and culture are unavoidable for so many reasons. As a person who has been an English language teacher, teacher trainer and course book writer for so many years, you know all about this. I’m still struggling with it. Before the recent events in Turkey I did my best to keep any opinions I expressed on my Facebook account limited to general education and language. If you’ve seen my Timeline of late, you know I’ve abandoned that policy in a big way. And why? Like you, I have friends and colleagues in Turkey. I worried about them. One of the very important things that Occupy Gezi taught the world is that ordinary hardworking educated and sane people protest. I think that in our post 911 world we may sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that only extremists protest, but in this case we KNEW that the people protesting were NOT extremists. Our friends were outraged because the Turkish police broke up a small quiet peaceful protest of only a few people with tear gas and water cannon – techniques used to deal with riots. The police response was SO overwhelmingly unnecessary that it shocked the world. How could we not respond? How could we not have an opinion? If the police force in a first world soon-to-be member of the European Union can oppress its citizenry like that, then we all need to be afraid.

  6. Hilarious! Ken, why have I only just discovered your blog? I’m ashamed of myself.

  7. I have not visited this blog since a post made by myself a long time ago was deemed unacceptable as I was not a Turk and therefore deemed unable to comment. Interestingly enough, the situation now seems reversed. I guess it all depends on which perspective in Turkey most of your readers are supporting.

    I remember an upper intermediate class I had very well. We once did a critical thinking piece from the Economist related to militarism in Turkey. The general consensus from my students was that, as the writer was not Turkish, “they could not possibly understand or comment on the country.” Three weeks later, we then did a lesson on conspiracy theories, specifically 9-11, which many Turks believe was perpetrated by either the US government or Israel. I asked, “if most Americans don’t believe the government or Israel perpetrated these attacks, why do Turks?”. The response? “Well, generally when you live outside the events that are happening, you have a clearer perspective on them. Oh, the irony.

    Myopia is common when it comes to the strength of one’s own beliefs. You are right and others are wrong, whatever the justification may be.

    The reality is, despite the widespread nature of the Gezi protests and the government response that exacerbated them, a large contingent of Turks still strongly support Erdogan and his government. This division is at the heart of Turkish society. It is just now that it’s becoming more visible to the Western gaze.

    Can you comment on this issue? I suppose you can. Will it build bridges with AKP supporters that enables dialogue? No, it won’t. Where that leaves you, I’m not sure.

    • “The reality is, despite the widespread nature of the Gezi protests and the government response that exacerbated them, a large contingent of Turks still strongly support Erdogan and his government…” You got the point, whatever Gezi supporters do, there are thousands more that support Erdogan for what he do in Gezi:) irony hah:)

  8. Bridges? I don’t think any bridge can be built here and I fully agree with Marisa, also have had experience with various conspiracy theorists, pretty entertaining :))
    I simply think we are born on this or that bank of the river, with this or that mindset. And it’s okay, as it is said here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html
    But it’s not okay to use violence. I would think stating your opinion in a non-violent manner is okay.
    And one more thing. I really want to know what it FEELS like to be warned in that particular style, Ken? Can you accept it as an argument? Reasoning? To me it feels like verbal aggression, this is not okay either. Whatever mindset. Or I don’t know.

  9. Hi Guys, interesting article and thoughts. I’m currently based in Istanbul and I would say the times have been interesting. For our Turkish students learning English, they have mostly been encapsulated by the events that have unfolded since May 31st. We’ve tried to incorporate the themes of the movement into as many of our lessons, and video lessons as possible. So far, it has worked to keep them focused and motivated. Here’s an example, http://turkslearnenglish.com/?p=1675 feel free to use these videos if you are currently teaching adult Turks in the ESL/EFL field, Cheers,

  10. Hello Ken,

    It is great to enjoy different perspectives in foreign pages as it shows the united bonds among all nations and sensible men. Though I like the global interest in Gezi incidents, I call it global interference:) I really wonder why so many media groups just jumped over Erdogan over this small incident. It is as if somebody sparkled a fire and everybody just moved on… But when you check the results, you can see that the issue is more than ”tree”. Interestingly, it did not even help Erdogan to lose any votes. It is strange there were many groups that ranged from real terrorists to real nature lovers in these incidents. What a good way to come together! Nature lovers and all sorts of people together! It is strange that many members of officially accepted anti-country bodies were in this movement! which was even confirmed by the forerunner celebrities in riots. Many of the supporters of this movement did not go there for love of trees but love of sending Erdogan out! They could not do anything to him more than showing again how strong he is! When you compare the number of all supporters that were out for riot in İstanbul, Gezi followers could not be equal to a quarter of the participants that Erdogan have in one of the İstanbul open speeches. So it should be clear that more than 50 percent of this nation supports him and values him a lot. Many love him.

    Do you know why ?

    Because it is first time with him that we saw a government that stopped dealing with scarfed Muslim girls in university doors. It is first time in our history we sacked IMF out and now are giving credits to this holy-money -giver! It is first time many governmental actions are taken for groups oppressed before (these groups do not like him since he turned some of the followers of these groups to his side to large extent, but they accept him the only possible key for solving their problems: )

    Also, do you wonder why so many university teachers hate Erdogan so much? How come all the universities hate him? The answer was given in the first sentences 🙂 Turkish readers of this page would remember, of course old professors would clearly remember (hands-on activity) there were rooms called ”persuasion rooms” whose target was to either stop scarfed Muslim girls entering university or to stop any right group followers thriving in the university. So we witnessed many years in which any religious or right minded people could not come to any higher place, they were just simple students in universities and they were not selected to any MB and Phd progam (of course there were a few). As you imagine this is changing to the reverse!!! However, the left groups suppressed many before and they took all the high positions, it is because of this , you see many high class men and their students out there fighting against Erdogan, but do you think same will happen ten years later! So the driving force that helps Erdogan in every case is not his so-called faults but the tears many groups suffered in left regime parties before. It is the real reason why left groups cannot come to power as Erdogan did, just one party….They just succeeded in getting % 20 of the total votes till now. So I suggest supporters of Gezi to think back and correct what your leader parties did, go and apologize to the families that you did not even let into any official ceremonies just because they were good muslims!!!

    Everbody remembers, this country has seen many incidents in which people lost their job just because they were seen ”praying“ in the mosque. I am not kidding!!!! My father was nearly sacked, just because he was a regular goer to the Mosque and my sister was not accepted into school!!! But after Erdogan came, she went to 2. best university in Turkey… I still remember in my university when one of the girls was threatened to be given “0” in the exam if she did not unveil her scarf (4 years ago) So, there is not any chance for any left group to come power apart from military action, which left groups like a lot and opted for before many times:) which is the reason all these 50 percent still hate left groups in Turkey. They favored guns a lot in the past!!! When they can not get enough votes, they like to go to Paşa Baba and ask for help:) This time, they are trying to start a civil war, unfortunately without guns!!! I know many will laugh at my words or take it serious, the decision is yours, my words are not hate-oriented towards any Gezi followers or left groups. Just read it and please understand what I mean. If it is democracy, I would like say why never ever they would achieve anything. These are my opinions, any worst critism or hate-word for my ideas is welcome. As a line of family, we get used to this either from previous left governments or now from high intellects:)

    Best Regards

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