I have a few topics to discuss here, but I’d love to start with my childhood. Nowadays black polyester bags are found unhealthy and considered carcinogenic, yet they continue to be used. As I explained in my previous article about Turkey’s economy (the Sausage Effect I), garlic sausages were expensive. So were bananas and any kind of meat (including chicken and fish). Again, as I explained in the previous article, they tasted much better. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into a weird nostalgia about how the grass was greener or how the light was brighter. We used to use those terrible-smelling bags to cover expensive food, as they are completely black and they don’t show what is inside. My family has been a low income family for so long, but I remember having a sustainable life in my childhood when I was 5-10, that was, 15-20 years ago.
I grew up in a small town located in a big city. We had a nice neighborhood. We used those bags whenever we could afford high quality or then-expensive food, because there might be some people who cannot afford them. Now, since my teenage years, we have been using them to cover alcoholic beverages. There are still some people using them for the previously described purpose, but not many. I also remember the more religious hadji elderly embracing the youth of the town, sharing a laugh with a drunk young man, kindly advising him to keep it together, but continue to have fun of his youth. At that time, we considered people who were obsessed with other people’s lives deranged sociopaths who would be ready to kill us “when the time comes”. I’m not saying everything was great and the Turkish society was a liberally oriented one, but “they” did not hate us and want us dead this much, because there at least wasn’t a solid understanding of “us” and “them”. THEY practically did not exist, unlike US. Today, it proves impossible to get along with each other each day. Maybe black polyester bags were used long before my birth, too, but it was long before my birth, and blacks maybe didn’t have the same rights as whites in the US either. Now we have an experience of democracy and freedom in the world, at least in some parts of the world, and our terminology, along with our understanding of the world changed. Yet we continue to use those hideous bags to cover up a crime we committed. We are carrying them to tag ourselves as degenerates, infidels, terrible people.
Now, when I carry that bag, I see the old man looking at me with hate. I feel pretty sure that he wouldn’t mind if I died right here and right now. I see the policemen who fined my brother for “getting drunk and disturbing the public”, by drinking around a non-residential area where there actually is no one to disturb. I see another group of policemen who beat him up just because he was sitting in a park with his friend, i.e., being young.* I see everyone in any town running towards me with anger just because I am doing something fun, something to make my life interesting, something I enjoy, just because their king ordered them to hate me. Sometimes openly, sometimes with policies, measures, etc. to “protect the public”. This is not about our life syles, this is about our rights to live. We are constantly being pushed outside the society just because we sometimes disagree with the king. Purchasing alcoholic beverages is not a crime yet, but they are making us criminals when we buy them on the black market or when we buy them “unofficially” from our familiar liquor stores after 10 pm, by making it illegal to retail alcoholic beverages after 10 pm, although there is no real reason for them to do so. They are making a criminal of a rape victim, when they say “you can’t get an abortion after a few weeks (where it’s usually barely possible to detect pregnancy) of pregnancy, you must give birth to that child”, and the woman looks for “illegal” measures, like underground clinics, etc. In today’s news, there was a university student from Ege University. Apparently she had a cyst in her stomach and needed medication. The university’s medical center refused to give her medication without a pregnancy test. “We’ll test you for pregnancy, and inform your family if it comes out positive,” they said. She is over 18, technically an adult. We see many examples of these nowadays, like the Ministry of Health texting a not-married woman’s father: “for your information, your daughter is pregnant.”
This article won’t end if I continue to give examples. There are not hundreds, but thousands of such examples, all of them against basic rights and freedoms. All those examples show that there is constant pressure on people who don’t live lives according to the king’s commands. Believe me, it gives you stress, paranoia and you can’t even live your humble, regular life anymore. Nowadays I can’t even have an honest conversation with waiters, taxi drivers, shopkeepers. Even the necessity to assume that everything is going great practically kills you within. There’s no point in disagreeing anymore, I just wanna use the cab and go home, why bother trying to convince a person I don’t know? He/she seems to like me, prays for me, I agree: “amin” or “inshallah”. He/she says everything is great in the country, mentions what a powerful state we have, playing the world on our finger tips, then cries when he/she can’t buy a school uniform for his/her child. Back to last year, I’m unemployed, General Healthcare Plan comes out, boom! I’m supposed to pay money, for being unemployed. Now they are limiting the scope of the healthcare plan. Back to a few years ago, the government is advertising the private hospitals, because now we can use them with our families’ social security plans, with a small, insignificant fee. Show your ID, pay -just throwing in a small number, nothing official- 5 liras (2.5 dollars) and get checked at any hospital, great, isn’t it? That 5 TL becomes 10, 20, now it became even more. If you go to a state hospital, prepare for long lines, angry people around, etc. But wait, there’s more, our benevolent king is helping us with an appointment system. Oh, sorry, you may be sick but our next appointment slot is in three weeks. You may use the emergency services, they are free of charge, but the most they do is send you home with an injection and ask you to come back with an appointment, or, go to a private hospital.
You can’t drink around schools, because the kids would be curious and start drinking, great measure, but you can’t drink in a 100 meter radius of a mosque either. Suddenly a mosque’s plot of land practically increases on each direction by 100 meters. Considering that there is a mosque located at every 400-500 meters and they still continue to build these things (without tax), now every place on the face of the country is a large temple, forcing you to condone to their rules. But wait, there’s more. The call for prayer (yes, we have that) is actually a lovely thing. I’m saying this as an atheist. Arabic is a beautiful language and gives me goosebumps when sung by a beautiful voice. So, why don’t we build mosques everywhere and make it impossible to hear anything else with definitely unhealthy levels of noise? Check! Now, with the new adjustment coming up, you won’t be able to smoke within a 100 meter radius of a mosque, a hospital, a schoolyard. A hospital? Sick people might be affected. Reasonable. A school? Children’s health might be affected, and they might want to try smoking. It’s best to keep them away from cigarettes when possible. Reasonable. Why mosques? Because now everwhere is a mosque, and our king loves to “confiscate” cigarette packs from people’s pockets. He doesn’t like it, so, “we can’t ban it completely, but how about we make your life miserable at every level? Ya know, like we did for alcohol…” If you are not more than 100 meters away from a mosque, you are practically in a mosque and you are forced to behave like you are in a mosque. Belive me, constantly being more than 100 meters away from a mosque may prove impossible for some places. After Gezi Park protests, there has been massive attacks on many platforms against the wounded people who had to take shelter in a mosque. What did “these guys” do? They blamed the wounded people of disrespecting holy ground by coming in with their shoes, “when they were wounded (some of them badly), and there are hundreds of policemen physically attacking them outside”. Do you know how some people defended “these guys” verbally attacking innocent civilians everyday, trying to convict them of drinking in mosque (“if there’s such a crime” you would say, and there actually is)? They said to the western world (apparently they think we don’t have a Christian population that has been living here for hundreds of years): “what if they entered your churches with their shoes and drank alcohol?”. This is the ideology, idea, philosophy, political understanding, vision and the level of IQ we are doomed to deal with everyday.
Yes, garlic sausages used to taste much better, and yes, I’m writing this piece to talk about the last remarks of our Prime Minister, or should I say His Royal Highness Mega-Hero-World-Leader-Superstar McAwesomeville? The problem is that this soil, “Anatolia” have seen many stepping stones for democracy, but ruined it.
1923: a wise attempt to create a country where “the people” will rule. The Republic is founded. But oops, the people ARE ruled, for the people, despite the people. A long period of a single-party regime.
1945: a great opportunity to embrace the people, accepting their concerns and values, maybe “saving” them from the aristocratic structure of the politics of that time. What happens? Adnan Menderes gets drunk with power and feels the need to consider himself a hero that just saved people. It all ends badly, especially for Menderes, who was hanged.
Early 2000s: the military power on the politics of the state was mostly removed. Now the army is merely a servant of the people, just doing its job, like it’s supposed to do. What should we do next? Probably we should “conquer” the judicial system, too, and leave no place for a control mechanism on the government, just in case someone wants us gone in the future for abusing the power we have, and becoming oppressive everyday. Don’t worry, I can do whatever I want, because I got half of the votes.
The Ottoman Empire or the Republic(!) of Turkey could not sustain such periods of opportunities in their history, because they didn’t have a culture of state like the Romans. They came, they conquered, raped, loitered, damaged and used the resources. The first thing they did when they just conquered an “infidel land” was to convert the biggest church there into a mosque and have a nice Friday prayer. They had nothing else. The literature was taken from Arabs, and Persians. The artistic production was carried on by the minorities. They were just powerful in the most brutal and barbaric sense (and yes, I’m calling the Turks barbarians, if you have a problem, write a comment), they had nothing else. This is why Hagia Sophia is still the most beautiful structure in İstanbul, 1000 years later. Yes, 1000 years. This is also why there currently is no way we can turn this country around and face forwards. Not until we get over our obsession with this “one guy government”. Agree or don’t agree, Atatürk got it right at a point and ruined it, just like Menderes did later and Erdoğan is doing now. Today, we are at this point: “only a strong sole-leader could take Erdoğan down”. Many people mention this one, but I don’t think they see the problem here. The problem here is not that we cannot pick a single person to save the country from the hands of this dictator, the problem here is that we still think we need a “one guy” approach. What will happen if that one guy comes and “saves” the country? I’ll tell you, he will establish his own dictatorship soon. However, I’m pretty sure he will not be as bad as Erdoğan, or Menderes who demoted a city and legally converted it into a town just because he didn’t get enough votes from that city. Actually, Menderes and Erdoğan are alike in many ways, but it’s different and very long story.
I don’t have any hope for my country. I have some hope for my life, but in terms of a probability in the future, that is, if I leave this fucking country and get a decent life. I’ve tried to stay calm and analyze everything I experienced here, but I can’t take it anymore. Now I believe anyone who voted for the AKP is responsible for my suffering, as they cannot see that their votes are used against other people as torture (yes, there is still torture in prisons), arbitrary arrests, neighborhood pressure, etc. Think about it, a politician can say a thing like “I don’t like the cleavage on that TV presenter”, and that TV presenter gets fired. A journalist criticizes a politician and is instantly fired. A journalist or an academic writes a book about Turkish politics and is jailed for an attempt of a coup, just because “a politician” does not agree with him. A guy is wearing a scarf associated with the Kurdish population in the country, boom! The scarf is an evidence that he was throwing Molotov Cocktails somewhere**, and he gets eleven years in prison. Now the “dude” is talking about banning different-sex people from living in the same flats. They already banned small, 1 room apartments as they think these apartments are against “our culture and values”. Why? According to “these guys”: such apartments promote a celibate life where people get to see the opposite sex, and eventually have sex. The comfort and affordability of these apartments? No one cares. The housing means new students and young people get to enjoy? Practically non-existent. And yes, no one cares. They take an entire country and say: “we are banning this, and that, because people might have sex and that would be terrible.” People’s ideas, visions in life and ambitions can change, and I respect that. I think it’s not too late.
At every attempt on the lives of people who didn’t vote for the AKP, supporting people say “well, this doesn’t seem good, and it contradicts with the democratic and freedom-filled life the AKP has been providing so far.” This is something regular. At every terrible occasion, the comment is the same: “well, this is not good, and doesn’t suit the democrat and freedom-supporting AKP.” How many of these occasions will you need before they start hanging us on public squares? How many examples should we show before you start to say, “well, there’s something off with these guys.” So far, every person in my entourage supporting the government has said nothing but “well, I don’t agree with this, despite that the AKP improved many things in terms of freedoms, human rights and democracy.” There are no exceptions. Let us accept this one: there is no democracy, everything is decided on by a single guy and that guy is ignorant, have no sense of human rights and freedoms, feels that it’s his duty to regulate every single thing in our lives. This guy uses his election results as a buffer for criticism. After all, he has a 50%, he can’t do anything wrong. There is no freedom or human right here. You can check any index and you will see that Turkey SUCKS at anything related to human rights and freedoms. Women’s rights? Forget about it. Tens of hundreds of women are experiencing violence, rape, etc. every year. Even the most extreme cases of rape get this result: “the 14-year-old consented the intercourse with 30 people and her psychological state was not damaged, so, I’ll set you free.” With clearly Islamic motives, this government creates an environment where consensual sex is practically prohibited, and even rape is OK.
Think about the example of the pregnancy test I gave above. What if the university student is pregnant? They are ordered to carry this to her family. What if her family is “ok” with honor killings (that are still happening in Turkey) but not so embracing about sex without marriage? In that case, her blood is on your hands, especially when the mayor of the capital city says: “why is a rape victim getting an abortion and killing her child, she should kill herself instead.” After the PM shared his remarks on men and women living together, here are some results:
Adana Governor: “We’ll take our PM’s remarks as an order. We are starting the procedures. It’s the state’s duty to protect morality.”
Ministry of Health Consultant: “I talked to some clinics and it seems there is a high abortion rate for university students. We should do something about it.”
AKP Deputy: “Men and women can’t openly stay in the same apartment. We might not prevent this with laws, but we can take other measures.”
A resident in Üsküdar on his note in the entrance of the apartment: “Men and women staying in the same place is dangerous. They might be things we can’t control. Please call the police if you see such things.” (implying the only female student living in the apartment should be forced out with neighborhood pressure and police intervention. The reason? Some male friend come for dinner and it’s against our culture).
I’ll explain this thoroughly after another example I’d like to repeat. The PM stated that C-Section operations are not natural. The issued a law about this later, banning C-Sections without an existence of a medical emergency. A woman went to a hospital with cramps and problems, they sent her from a hospital to another hospital until she died of blood poisoning, because the PM thinks C-Sections are bad. Not because they are forbidden. The law hadn’t even passed at that time. We see other examples in the cases of abortion. Normally, abortion has been limited to 10 weeks. What do we see? We see state hospitals not performing abortions even if the pregnancy is in the first weeks. Why? The Holy King thinks abortions are bad. Think about it, you are a woman who is 3 weeks pregnant. It’s still legal to get an abortion, but every hospital nearby rejects your attempts to get an abortion, even if it’s FUCKING LEGAL. Because the Ministry of Health might get offended. You either get a miscarriage, die, or seek additional ways to get an abortion. Imagine you have to get an illegal abortion from an unlisted, underground clinic, just because local hospitals aren’t taking you in. They are just afraid of the PM, even if they don’t have any legal concerns.
Another set of example from other issues? You betcha sweet ass, I have them. The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) is under pressure of the government that wants to demolish it. A few years ago, a court order made it certain that it is a cultural asset, and cannot be harmed. The order also said “it should be restored and repaired”. We saw last summer that most of it was emptied and prepared for a demolition. The AKP guys say that they will carry on their work in demolishing it and building a “better” one, despite the court order. Gezi Park wasn’t even an issue. It was decided by two court orders that the Park shouldn’t be demolished and harmed in any way. The protests started with the “unlawful” attempt to demolish the park. Still, it’s on discussion, DESPITE THE TWO COURT ORDERS THAT SHOULD PREVENT THE PARK FROM BEING DEMOLISHED.
So, when you see that even the legal system doesn’t apply to these guys, do you see a nice future for yourselves? When you have been seeing over and over that these guys are above the law, do you think you can change anything? Now some people say that an action against mixed-gender apartments would be unconstitutional, and cannot be applied. Do you think these guys care about that? Some of our laws are already unconstitutional, and they contradict with the international treaties we signed. What difference does it make? None. They say we need a new constitution for democracy, freedom, etc. Why do we need it? Why do we need it when the police officer who shot a protester gets promoted, or the “citizen” attacking others with a machete is still free just because he acted towards the advantage of the government? Why no one connected to the government pays for their crimes against humanity? Like, not ever? So, laws don’t make it any different, because they are above the laws. The laws don’t apply to them when they kill people, ruin people’s lives. But if you wear a scarf, you can get arrested and held in for 11 years.
Hence, in my opinion, anyone expecting anything humane or democratic from “these guys” are idiots. Maybe you didn’t think they would do such harm and you were delusioned. I respect that. However, if someone votes for the AKP in the next elections, I also believe the blood of domestic violence victims, rape victims, etc. is on their hands. Everything is clear now, you have nothing to support and defend here. People have died, for FUCK’S sake. Get your shit together. “Those guys” do not seem to be going anywhere with democratic demonstrations or protests. They need an electoral awakening. Maybe we can tell them to shut up about our lives in the next election.
The article is finished here, and I’d appreciate anyone who suggests a legitimate and feasible getaway from this terrible country. Maybe I can do it in the future with my academic career, but it’s still a chance that I won’t be able to, because my country is killing its intellectuals. My concern here is not that I want to get away as a beggar on the streets, but believe me, I would love to. I’m very involved with my academic studies, but I don’t have the resources to get out of this living hell. I’ll try to get out while I’m applying for some PhD degrees, but any other suggestion will be appreciated.
*: These are not projections. These ACTUALLY happened.
**: There was no actual evidence about the person. The “evidence” was that: the guy who actually threw M. Cocktails was wearing a scarf, the police “later” saw a random person wearing a scarf at another place, and arrested him. Yes, just like that. It takes “this much” to get you arrested and convicted for eleven years.