We the pious did not feel for the suffering of the Kurds

Date posted: January 9, 2012

Ezgi Başaran, October 10, 2011

One of the leading figures of the conservative community Cemal Usak has criticized the community both for its view about the Kurdish Issue and its test with power saying: “Freedom of the Kurdish Language, which was said to be licit, should have been defended but that was not the case.”

Why Cemal Usak?

Cemal Usak is an intellectual, participated since the foundation of the Association of Writers and Journalists, which is known for its proximity to the Gulen Movement and now he is the vice president of it. More importantly, he represents the common sense among the conservative community. Recently he shared a personal anecdote about the Kurdish Issue and wrote a critical article about the conservatives’ test with power. One must listen to Usak, especially when the tension about the Kurdish Issue is determined by the media, majority of which is possessed by the pious.

You talk about your first encounter with the Kurdish Issue in your book “Anatolian Conscience” published by Open Society Association. When was it?

Back in 1974 I was a student. I was in the Nur movement but not in the Gulen Movement as it is called today. Of course I personally had a deep sympathy and an interest in Fethullah Gulen. So I was taking care of 4 student houses in Kadikoy at the time. There was a group of 6 or 7 students and most of them were from Bingol and Urfa. One day I was at their house and I asked where Halim and Mehmet was. It turned out they were cooking in the kitchen. As I approached the door I heard a language, which at the time was called unknown by the state. Later I found out that it was Zaza Language ( A dialect of Kurdish). When I came in they panicked and stopped. And they tried to explain apologetically: “We’re sorry, it will never happen again. We just missed our mother tongue.” It seemed like a police bust.

What was your reaction?

I told them it was their mother tongue and they were free to speak. At first they could not believe me and they said Hasim, who was an older Kurdish boy from Urfa, prohibited them from speaking it. When I talked to Hasim afterwards he said he too was not happy about not being able to speak in his mother tongue but he was just trying to keep them out of trouble. But still this explanation doesn’t justify the indifference of the congregation.

Licit meaning optional

Could you open that indifference of the congregation a bit?

In the book that includes Bediuzzaman’s interviews with the Kurdish clans in 1911, there is a part that suggests: Educational language of the region is Kurdish, Arabic and Turkish. The saying “Turkish required, Arabic needed and Kurdish licit” was pretty popular among us. We understood the word licit as optional meaning anybody who wishes to learn Kurdish was free. Even though this saying was popular it was never applied in practice.

What do you mean?

The freedom of Kurdish language, which was said to be licit, should have been defended but that never happened. Because the official discourse of the state dominated the pious as well. So even though my community accepted the existence of Kurds, they got carried away with the official discourse and could not do what their conscience suggested. Overall us the pious and the nationalists, we sympathized with Turkistanis who suffered under the cruel rule of the Chinese and the Turks in Bulgaria who even couldn’t obtain Turkish names. Whereas we ignored the sufferings of Kurds who were just in front of us.

Why did this happen, is pious being victims of the state the only explanation?

Well, the first reason was us being under the pressure of the state as well. The second one is that everyone had their own agenda and they didn’t want to clash with the state meanwhile. Because the official discourse against the Kurdish Issue was obvious. So the pious were also the victims of the state just like the Alevis and Kurds.

So did the pious say we cannot defend the rights of the Kurds, when we already have so many problems of ourselves?

The pious community did not want a second burden so they ignored the Kurdish Issue. I don’t approve of it but I understand it. Was this the right attitude? No. Because a sufferer should sympathize with other sufferers. In this country, Alevis, Kurds, Rums, Armenians and Jews have sufferings. Even if nobody understands this, the people who make religion the core of their lives should.

Isn’t them internalizing the official discourse the reason behind this?

Well, there was a misconception that suggested: “Essentially there is no Kurdish Issue, this issue is being created by some foreign powers by the way of manipulating the traitors within us.” Notably the people with the National View (Milli Gorus) supported this idea. And they thought that the solution was the brotherhood of Islam.

The Brotherhood of Islam

Late Erbakan defended this idea until his last days…

Okay but what is the brotherhood of Islam? It is not something like a medicine capable of solving your problems overnight. The important thing was being a part of the ones trying to solve the problems of Muslim Kurds. That idea never really had a concrete solution for the issue. In the Qur’an it says: “The diversity of your languages and colors is from the verses of Allah.” 15 years ago I grasped the meaning of this verse like this; The Almighty wanted to be prayed by different languages. So if I have faith in the Creator, I must respect the different languages He mentioned in his verses. National View community couldn’t do this so they were not able to go beyond some slogans.

How did Gulen Movement’s view about the Issue changed in years?

I am not in position to speak on behalf of the movement but I have been here since the foundation of the Association of Journalists and Writers which is quite popular among the congregation. The association studied the subjects to pave the way for a better Turkey as the likes of; state-religion relation, religion-democracy relation and democratic law state. Mr. Erdogan presented the secularism as a value in his visit to Egypt but everyone knows that, in the political fraction he comes from, this is not the case. So in the years when the association organized a secularism gathering, secularism was in a contradicting position in Erdogan’s political tradition compared to today.

Why did secularism become a value then?

Like everyone else he and his entourage changed too. Recently a law suggesting the return of non-Muslims’ seized property was accepted in the parliament . This is a crucial turning point. When we first invited a patriarch and a rabbi to an iftar, Islamic newspapers didn’t approve of it. So if someone from this political tradition decides to return the property of non-Muslims, that means they have changed. Likewise the EU process affected this transformation.

An Identity Issue

I see.. You were just talking about the Gulen Movement’s view of the Kurdish Issue, secularism interfered…

At the beginning, generally we touched the issues in Turkey. Then we organized some meetings from the perspective of Kurdish and Alevi issues. Our meetings about the Kurdish Issue was in Erbil, Ankara and Abant. But if you go back 15-20 years, I can understand why the people, who are striving to exist, have put their own issues in front of others’.

How is the situation now?

Listen… Government’s spokesman can explain their stance on issues but we’re not in the same spot.

A movement is a sociological organism, it is represented by its followers. There’s even a television channel named “Dunya TV” founded by Fethullah Gulen’s followers and it broadcasts in Kurdish. An attorney in our Abant Meeting said he’s had some suspicions about our sincerity but he said the atmosphere in the meeting has persuaded him.

Do you think the sincerity of the community is being questioned in the region?

I don’t think so, of course it depends on the people you get in touch with. People from Diyarbakir, Mardin and Urfa express their appreciation of the study centers, training centers that the movement opened and the aid “Kimse Yok Mu” provided in the region. Whereas the PKK and its sympathizers claim they’re being assimilated this way. This claim would be a slander that is hard to believe for the congregation. So the volunteers will open schools in Philippines or in Madagascar accepting those people with their identity and when it comes to Turkey they will try to assimilate people. That’s nonsense.

Okay but aren’t you teaching Turkish in those countries?

Turkish is not obligatory in all countries. When you say a Kazak-Turkish school or a Philippine-Turkish school Turkish is in the curriculum but in several other schools Turkish is not obligatory.

What do you think about the government’s stance on the issue?

Of course there is a relation between the terror issue and the Kurdish Issue but even if you solve the terror issue overnight, Kurdish Issue wouldn’t be solved. Pkk stemmed from the Kurdish Issue. So at first there was only the Kurdish problem. They didn’t use to accept the Kurds whereas now they accept them but they link the problem with terror and this makes it even more complicated. There is a wrong perception among the pious and the nationalists; “Okay Kurds have sufferings but first we have to solve the terror issue” I definitely don’t agree with this idea. Kurdish Issue is essentially the problem of the freedom of the language and the identity.

For some the establishment of TRT ŞEŞ(6 in Kurdish) and the Kurdish courses are enough to solve the issue. What do you think?

There are Kurdish, Babani and Surani dictionaries and grammar books published at the Ottoman time. What does freedom of a language mean? If I were a Kurd, would the only way I could maintain my mother tongue be speaking it at home ? This is the situation today. But no language can be maintained that way.

Then you believe they have every right to education in their mother tongue?

Education of the mother tongue cannot be compensated with only language courses. Kurds should be in the educational system wherever they are in the country. So if a Kurd comes up to a school and says he would like his child to learn Kurdish, that option should be offered. Without a doubt, the TRT ŞEŞ has a symbolic importance. The ruling party pushed the law to the limits and took a risk by doing it but still it is not enough. As the obstacles on the way to the freedom of Kurdish are still valid.

So if the pious seriously defended the rights of the Kurds in the past would we be in a different situation today?

Absolutely, some columnists who claim to have Islamic sensitivities still can’t see this. They are nearly at the point where they can even say “the Kurds are off the line, they have enough rights already.” The people who call themselves faithful should accept the freedom of different identities and languages. They should also do whatever is needed to achieve this freedom. Pious couldn’t carry out this responsibility.

Are there any others among the conservative community who self-criticize like you do?

10 years ago the pious in Turkey were suffering from poverty. Today they are wealthier and competent. This new situation comes with new responsibilities and creates a new test for them.

How are they doing in that test?

I can say that some of them are failing. I was saddened by seeing some municipalities’ extravagant organizations during Ramadan. You know our people say “the liquor doesn’t stay as it stays in its bottle.” Power is just like that. When it enters and flows through your body, it changes people.

Do you think that the Prime Minister changed too?

Without a doubt he did. There’s no turning back from this. As a faithful, my wish is that these changes do not turn into degeneration.


Source: Radikal Newspaper http://www.radikal.com.tr/Radikal.aspx?aType=RadikalYazar&ArticleID=1065858

Disclaimer: The original article is in Turkish. Slight deviations from the original meaning may have occurred due to difficulties in translating phrases and idioms. PII volunteers translated the article.

Related News

Can resurrecting the caliphate solve Muslims’ problems?

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris once more brought up the issue of how homegrown terrorism is shaping up to be one of the most striking elements of today’s terror threat, as former US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano predicted in 2011.

Anti-Hizmet plot no more innocent than practices of coup periods

Since the launch of the major corruption operation on Dec. 17, 2013, more than 20,000 police officers, bureaucrats, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned for no official reason other than their suspected links to the Hizmet movement.

Turkey will conduct ‘operations’ against Erdogan’s enemies in U.S.

“This is a blatant and alarming admission by Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin of actions by the Erdogan regime in clear violation of international law and agreements to which Turkey is a party.”

3 journalists detained after interview with jailed Gülen-linked businessman

Three local journalists in Turkey’s Gaziantep province were detained by police after releasing an interview with jailed businessman Ahmet Selim Ener, who was imprisoned over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Kimse Yok Mu chair Cingöz: Everyone feels some type of oppression in Turkey

Kimse Yok Mu was designated a nongovernmental organization in March 2002. It had started its work following a devastating earthquake in Turkey in August 1999. Kimse Yok Mu now reaches out to different regions of the world affected by catastrophes. It is officially recognized by Turkey as an association that works for “public interest.”

Turkish Gov’t Seizes 965 Gülen Movement Affiliated Firms With $11.3 Billion Worth

Turkish Deputy PM Nurettin Canikli said on Friday that the Turkish government has seized 965 companies which were affiliated to the Gülen movement. The value of assets belonging to companies seized by the Turkish state during the ongoing state of emergency is also announced as nearly 41 billion Turkish Liras, around $11.3 billion.

Latest News

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

Bulgaria, the state sentenced to compensate Turkish journalist

64-year-old bedridden woman in 17th month of her imprisonment on “terror” charges

An ‘impossible’ choice: Leave 5-year-old son in foster care or risk being tortured

In Case You Missed It

Chronology of Dec. 17: The stones are settling into place…

Libyan minister would like to see Turkish teachers, schools in his country

Afghan Parents Complain to UN Over Detention of Turkish Teachers

Gülen issues condolence message for Iraqi victims of ISIL

Youth address global poverty in Gülen Institute’s essay contest

Daily publishes evidence of ‘color lists’ used to recruit public sector employees

Erdoğan…a factionist PM?

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News