An open letter to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan

Ekrem Dumanli
Ekrem Dumanli

Date posted: November 25, 2013

As you know very well, those who firmly believe in God are responsible to tell the truth without kneeling or bowing before another servant. And this is especially applicable to matters related to the love of this nation. Uttering the word of justice and truth and preventing a historical mistake has become a duty for everybody who believes in Him. We have to tell the truth about things that would leave a deep mark in the hearts of the people. Because, “Truth is to be held in high esteem.” And we hope that you, who carry the heavy burden of being a ruler, want to hear the criticisms and suggestions of your brothers.

Mr. Prime Minister,

It can be concluded from your statements that you feel resentful and you are displeased. Believe me, people who love you are displeased and feel as resentful as you do. Because one question remains unanswered: Why do you insist on closing down the prep schools instead of trying to eliminate all the other problems of the education system? Efforts to change the course of the conversation through semantics are insufficient to heal the wounds caused by the government’s efforts to force educational institutions to shut down. As a person who has been victimized by laws and whose party was once under the threat of being closed down, I can tell you that your harsh discourse on closing down these educational institutions hurts people’s hearts. As a result, the issue is not limited to the closure of the prep schools [dershanes], and profound doubts are tormenting the public conscience. People cannot understand recent developments.

At least, you should lend an ear to these people

There is deadlock. A demand voiced by people from all parts of society should influence the government. Journalist and writer Hekimoğlu İsmail, who has dedicated years to this cause, says: “I will feel more resentful, displeased and disappointed than anyone else if you close down the prep schools,” but none listen to him. Opinion leaders from the East and Southeast warned against closing down the prep schools, but no one paid heed. Educators, sociologists, legal experts and businessmen say that “there is something wrong with this,” but their words keep hitting the same wall and bouncing back like plastic balls. The national preparatory schools union, which represents 3,000 prep schools, held a press conference on Nov. 22. They are wailing, but it seems that officials from the Ministry of Education have fallen into a deep sleep in their “persuasion rooms” while listening to their own stories. And some media organizations didn’t publish even a single story on this press conference, which represented 70 percent of entire prep school sector. One day, it will be revealed why these media organizations hesitated to publish these news reports.

Believe me, Mr. Prime Minister,

The issue is not limited to the Gülen community. The owner of Arşimet Prep Schools, who came to you in Beşiktaş Square with his students and said,”Mr. Prime Minister, we have sold even our watches in order to establish our prep school, please do not close down the prep schools.” Zeki Çobanoğlu, owner of Final Prep Schools, says, “We have 236 branches across Turkey but none of the school’s 236 branches could meet the requirements the government has specified to be converted into private schools and avoid complete closure.” Emre İpek, owner of Donanım VIP Education, says, “My wife and I have established this prep school together. Now they want to shut down our home.” These people have nothing to do with the Gülen community. When you define the people who oppose the closure of prep schools as the “other side,” then people who love you are disappointed. The reason our voice is loud is not because we are defending the rights of the people that you defined as a certain group representing 25 percent of the sector. We are expressing the feeling of the whole prep school sector and dealing with a problem that will affect the entire society.

You were informed about this problem before the debate erupted

Mr. Prime Minister,

You say, “We have discussed this issue with the people who are also members of the Gülen community.” You are right, it has been discussed, but it has been stressed that “the closure of the prep schools will be very painful and lead to an emotional split in society,” in each meeting. With God as my witness, whenever this issue is brought to the agenda, you were informed that it would be wrong to pass a bill that closes prep schools. And it was presumed that you gave importance to your fellow brothers who always supported you without expecting anything in return. It was presumed that sincere criticism from your fellow brothers would be taken into account. Now, there is great disappointment. Those who supported you with might and main in all good works and contributed to the democratization of Turkey as vigorously as possible gave their hearts to you because you repeatedly said: “I pledged to my Lord that no one would be hurt during my term of office as prime minister.” Now, those who love this country believe that what you are planning to do will hurt not only them, but also the whole country. Given all this, why do you so firmly insist on closing the prep schools?

Please, lend an ear to the people, starting with your closest circle. Then you will see that everybody opposes the closure of the prep schools. Many people, including your party’s executive staff and members of different communities who lack the courage to directly express their opinion to you, are saying, “I wish we hadn’t put ourselves in this position.” Until now, I have not seen anyone provide a reasonable justification for closing down the prep schools. Unfortunately, the government’s claim that prep schools will not be shut down but transformed into private schools is unrealistic.

We informed society with information from an actual document, and we hoped that an official would say that this unacceptable draft was wrong. Because nationalization of the private sector is a huge mistake. The democratic promises you made and the democratic practices you tried to implement during your 11 years in power conflict with the practice of forcing a private educational institution to change into a private school. Moreover, it has been revealed that the news reports saying the government plans to close down the prep schools and drafted a bill to this end — which Education Ministry officials denied — were true.

Then there is the slap analogy. Since it was a verbal statement made on a live television program, I personally believe that it was a mistake. Because everybody knows that we follow the principle of “being without hands against those who strike you, and without speech against those who curse you,” as Yunus Emre put it. Of course, we will follow the principle that Yunus taught us if the issue is a personal matter. But we did not and could not remain silent this time because we are bound to tell the truth when the rights of the people are threatened. Our principle of telling the truth while defending the people’s rights cannot be likened to a slap.

We have expressed our concerns about the closure of the prep schools, but our concerns have not been taken into consideration at all. Moreover, the Gülen community has never demanded anything in return for its support to your party. We have expressed our concerns for the sake of our people and country. Unfortunately, your statement that “I have not turned down any of their demands” is very offensive.

Before a complaint to the public turns into a complaint to God

Mr. Prime Minister,

For now, our people, who have been disappointed, are just complaining about this compulsory transformation. Silencing this outcry via polemics will not solve the problem, but deepen it. You should feel neither resentful, nor displeased, because people are exercising their democratic rights. It is wrong to harbor resentment instead of listening and trying to solve the problem. Everybody should fear the curse of the wronged and oppressed. Those who complain to the public about their problem will have to refer their problems to God. It is necessary to solve this problem before the people start to curse those who victimize them.

About one month ago, I expressed my concern that the issue of the closure of the prep schools would come to this upsetting point in this column, and modestly called on you to do something about this issue. And one of my friends told me that you resented me for that article. I was absolutely shocked. Because I wrote in that article: “Prime Minister Erdoğan should solve the deadlock on closing the prep schools.” Just as he has done with other controversial issues, he needs to take the people’s concerns about the closure of the prep schools into consideration.” What we face today is an obvious mistake that may lead to a greater communication mishap.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Please try to perceive this issue properly, because flatterers and sycophant journalist who approve or sanctify each government action may mislead you. In fact, they will harm you instead of helping, because the ties of brotherhood require one to support correct moves and criticize bad ones. The situation that we’re facing today is that the law to close the prep schools or transform them into private schools is inflicting a very deep wound in the hearts of the people.

Finding a middle-of-the-road solution on this issue is an approach that befits your political experience. There are abundant examples. It is not easy to find another leader who considers the people’s objections and revises his decisions according to the demands of the people as much as you do. Everybody, including the president and the ministers, educators and families who make great sacrifices to make sure their children go to university, is concerned about the legal closure of the prep schools. Everybody wants this issue to be debated, wants the opinions of all interested parties to be taken into consideration, wants consensus to be reached on a solution that will help us to raise better generations. Thus, a no-one-can-question-my-actions attitude is wrong.

When it is necessary, making objections demonstrates honesty; approving everything is an indication of hypocrisy. So if all these people are saying that this is wrong, listening to them is not a weakness but a virtue. This is what the nation expects from you. Otherwise, it will take forever to heal the wounds that have been inflicted in their hearts. So is it worth it?

Source: Today's Zaman , November 25, 2013

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