Common Ground

by    /  November 17, 2017  / No comments

Painting by the last Ottoman Caliph, Abdülmejid.

Art exhibition under attack

As part of the Istanbul Biennal, several paintings of the last Ottoman Caliph Abdülmejid
have been on display. He made the nude picture when he was 31 years old, before he became Caliph. The exhibition has been disturbed by a group of five people, who claimed it was disrespect to Caliphate and the Ottoman past as well as to Islam. The exhibition continues despite the threats.

A Common Ground Against Fascism

Mr Ihsan Eliaçık, a leading democratic theologian who is among the “anticapitalist Muslims” in Turkey, was attacked by Islamofascists at Kayseri Book Fair in late October. He held the ruling AK Party responsible for the attack. Mr Eliaçık took part in the democratic-environmentalist Gezi protests in 2013. Having read his constructive interpretation of the Quran, I admire his recent courageous comment that “If this (ISIS and other violent and oppressive versions) is Islam, then I am atheist against it.”

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg.
  7. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom.
  8. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

Islamofascist Anti-Propaganda

Islamofascist anti-propaganda against gender equality, secularism and atheism are incompatible with democracy. How can such assaults be acceptable in the name of freedom of expression? How can any racist and fascist organizations and propaganda be allowed at all?

Austria and France are right to ban the burka and veil. Atatürk was right to ban them in the 1930s, after he had led the establishment of the secularist republic of Turkey.

I feel terrified when I see women covering their faces in the USA and elsewhere. There is male oppression behind each covered face, even if those women believe that it is simply a matter of faith.

In Turkey and Turkish, there is an illegal website to encourage girls who wish to cover their faces assuming that it is a requirement of Islam:

Such websites should be blocked. Not Wikipedia.

Would you allow the revival of the sacred Inca ritual that involves cutting into the chest to remove the heart? Even though both sides believe that it has to be done to please a god?

A religion or sect is like a package tour: If you allow a key attack, you will make it more difficult to stop the demand to be allowed to chop off hands and execute opponents including critical intellectuals and people whose life styles are considered against religion.

A Common Ground?

Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi is a courageous lawyer who had to leave her homeland Iran. I met her in Sweden in late August thanks to the PEN Peace Conference organized by Uyghur PEN and Independent Chinese PEN centers, supported by Swedish PEN, PEN International and the Municipality of Malmö.

The topic of the panel was “Searching for a Common Ground.” I wanted to add some joy to the bleak atmosphere: “I have good news: We already have a common ground: Our planet.” Then I mentioned the initiative called the Earth Civilization Project (ECP) as one of the numerous traces of an ancient dream that persists: increasing solidarity on Earth respecting the biosphere.

Then I added, “It is too simplistic to criticise the regimes in Iran and China. We cannot see the big picture if we do not include imperialism. For example, if the USA and the UK had not toppled the democratically elected secularist Mousaddiq after his nationalization of oil in Iran some 60 years ago, there would not be an Islamist regime today.” Ms Shirin Ebadi agreed.

Banned Books

Awards-winning publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu curated an exhibition at Göteborg and Frankfurt Book Fairs: Banned Books in Turkey. The exhibition explained that there had been “three taboos since 1925: 1) Communism and Socialism; 2) the Armenian Genocide; 3) and the Kurdish issue.”

Those “taboos” cannot be fully understood without taking into account: 1) the influences of the capitalist interventions led by the USA; 2) the French imperialism that provoked the Armenian armed gangs leading to massacring thousands of Turkish civilians, and 3) the British imperialism (at least since the beginning of the 20th century) pursuing hegemony in the Middle East for the sake of its oil, supporting Kurdish nationalism while suppressing the Irish nationalism.

Voltaire Award

This year International Publishers Association Voltaire Award has been presented to two journalists from Turkey: Turhan Günay, the editor of the book supplement of the secularist Cumhuriyet (daily Republic) who was kept in prison for a year, and Cavit Nacitarhan, the Editor-in-Chief of the banned left-wing Evrensel Publications. Unable to leave Turkey to attend the award ceremony in Göteborg, Turhan Günay was represented by his daughter Elif Günay.

Leipzig Press Freedom Prize

Imprisoned German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel and ex-prisoner novelist Aslı Erdoğan follow in the footsteps of past Leipzig press freedom prize winners Ahmet Altan (2009), Nedim Şener (2015), and Can Dündar and Erdem Gül (2016), who were also imprisoned by the Erdoğan government. The choice of award winners is a statement of solidarity by the Leipzig Media Foundation with all journalists in Turkey who are being suppressed due to their commitment to press freedom.

A Trustworthy Ally?

The “visa crisis” between the USA and Turkey is the just tip of an iceberg. As long as the USA insists on not sending Fetullah Gülen back to Turkey and supporting armed organizations considered to be terrorist by the government, a comforting outcome is not likely.

A White House spokesperson has recently said that Turkey has ceased to be a trustworthy ally and become a Middle Eastern country.

But who pushed Turkey to that position? The successive governments that provoked “mild Islam” against secularism, i.e. the USA. Please re-visit SamuelHuntington’s book, “The Clash of Civilizations,” in which he suggests this sort of position for Turkey, in the hopes that it would be to the benefit of the USA!

Has the USA been a trustworthy ally? A recent poll shows that nearly ninety percent of the population in Turkey does not think so. Only one out of ten adults have a positive attitude towards the USA.

Food for thought –for a better world

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