EKREM – Do not silence your conscience

Do not silence your conscienceWhen you look at the picture in Soma where Turkey’s most devastating mine accident recently took place, you can see that several errors were made. There is a mining company that failed to meet world standards, has not taken the necessary measures to ensure work safety and has not planned what should be done in the event of an accident. If only this were just a matter of maladministration of those who want to get rich quick.What about the errors of the state? Can’t we attribute some blame to the lawmakers who have not made it compulsory for mining companies to build a safe refuge chamber, a stainless steel emergency cabin that is key for miners to survive accidents in mines? Can’t we criticize the relevant institutions that failed to properly conduct periodic inspections at mines?When we remember that the 33 Chilean miners who were rescued in 2010 after being trapped underground for 69 days had escaped to such a room after the roof of a copper and gold mine had collapsed, we experience inexplicable sorrows for our 300 miners who were killed in Soma.All around the world, those who are responsible for such accidents are identified and held accountable for their errors. People first start asking the owner of the company and then the government bitter questions. Those who are held responsible resign from office in order to prevent mass outrage. The principles of being held accountable and seeking accountability are the cornerstones of democracy. Ignoring these principles may save the political careers of some people but cause social trauma. Why? Because people believe the owner of the mining company does not feel responsible for such a disaster and because the political authority which issued this company its mining license and is responsible for inspecting this mine does not allow people to criticize them. Thus no one is called to account for this tragedy and the blame for this disaster is placed on those who lost their lives in this accident. This is a scandalous situation!The eclipse of reason in Turkey had gone beyond the threshold of negligence and has moved to a more arrogant level. What we are now facing is a political authority that spanks its citizens instead of being accountable to the people. The photo of Yusuf Yerkel, one of the aisers of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, kicking a mourner who was being held on the ground by two soldiers during ErdoIan’s visit to Soma will not be forgotten for years. I still cannot believe how Yerkel, who is known for being calm and kind, could have done such a thing that further disgraced the country.And how about those who defended Yerkel’s behavior? Let alone the Akit daily editor, Hasan Karakaya, who congratulated Yerkel on the “necessary” kicking of the mourner, saying “Health to your kicks,” what about the other aiser to the prime minister who claimed that Yerkel was the real victim of this incident? The victims of the past have become the conceited people of today. When this is the case, one is urged to consider the following possibility: “They can commit any crime.”Prime Minister ErdoIan made a visit to Soma to share in the sorrow for the loss of the miners. And this was the correct decision. However, his remarks while addressing a crowd outside the Soma Municipality was a complete disaster. ErdoIan cited irrational comparisons between the death toll in the Soma disaster and other mining disasters around the world — such as 204 deaths in England in 1862, 1,549 deaths in China in 1942, 1,099 deaths in France in 1906 and 687 deaths in Japan in 1914 — which were made by the government media. The government media may provide such unreasonable facts to their lunatic readers but the prime minister of the country cannot read a list of mining accidents dating back a century to make a comparison. Since dozens of the prime minister’s aisers missed this fact, the prime minister listed these examples by reading an explanatory note. It is much more heartrending and degrading.What is worse is that ErdoIan defined such accidents as being normal and said death is part of the nature of mining. He should not have made such a statement while people were waiting in agony for news about the fate of their relatives. The final death toll in the Soma coal mine disaster was not clear.When ErdoIan left the municipality building after the press conference, we witnessed a scene that will be remembered for a long time to come. ErdoIan was subjected to protests — this is normal and can happen anywhere around the world. However, nowhere in the world does a prime minister subsequently punch a citizen who protested against him. When ErdoIan said “Come next to me and boo me” before punching the protester, ErdoIan’s close colleagues, including Deputy Prime Minister Bulent ArIn, could not say “Even though you are right, this is unnecessary.” When he was making an anti-Israeli slur against the protester, not one of his close colleagues tried to prevent him from making such a historic mistake. Then the protester was also beaten by ErdoIan’s bodyguards.No one can call such an outrageous scene normal. Would such a scandalous thing happen in the US, the UK or Germany? Let’s say it did in fact happen. Would the leaders of these countries who punched a citizen as a result of an outburst of anger keep their positions? It is pitiful for this country. In fact, this incident has not come as a surprise to anyone. The prime minister hurls gross insults at everyone and no one is able to say this is wrong. There is no one who thinks or acts rightfully or voices out his mistakes to him. When you look at those who have been insulted by the prime minister, including Constitutional Court President HaIim KIlI, Turkish Bar Association (TBB) President Dr. Metin FeyzioIlu, the leaders of opposition parties and German President Joachim Gauck, you can see that what happened in Soma was not a surprise.Even experienced politicians such as Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesperson Huseyin elik defended both ErdoIan and Yerkel’s actions in Soma. When the people who used to be considered the conscience of the AK Party bend or twist before power, then enormous errors might be made. Too bad!The two main values that keep a state alive are reason and conscience. In the last few years, Turkey has been losing its credibility. As a predominantly Muslim country, Turkey had been an exemplary country thanks to its bid for EU membership, its progress made toward pluralistic democracy and universal laws. However, Turkey has been quickly distancing itself from its previous exemplary position but converging with the static red lines of the oppressive regimes of the Middle East. The rule of law has been replaced with brute force, the unifying discourse has been abandoned and a discourse of hatred and hostility has become popular. It is obvious that Turkey is suffering from an eclipse of reason. But at the very least do not silence your conscience, because when you silence your conscience, you will open the doors of oppression and harm both yourself and your country.It does not befitSeveral important developments have been overshadowed by the mining disaster in Soma. However, some of these incidents are worth discussing — like for example Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu’s harsh and unbecoming remarks to a Zaman daily reporter: “If a journalist who asks the government a question can return home, then the press in Turkey is free.”This is the picture that I see: Those who had been victimized by the state in the past are ruling the country and have unfortunately inherited all the anti-democratic practices of the old state. The old state used to utter such veiled sentences to threaten people.These behaviors used to perfectly fit the old rulers of the state because they were far away from both the public and God. However, this overbearing and threatening discourse does not befit those who hold office today. Indeed, such an attitude does not go well with a person whose intellectual background is well-appreciated, is an academic and has been victimized by the anti-democratic practices of the state.I could understand the behaviors of those who are trying to send the message that “I will fight against the ‘parallel structure’ to earn the favor of Prime Minister ErdoIan” and do their best to prove this, but I cannot believe DavutoIlu as an intellectual could utter such a sentence.No one can say we have negative feelings about him. This is not a well-intentioned argument because I personally know that DavutoIlu is well-loved and respected by our newspaper staff. I have always adopted a positive attitude toward him I still want to maintain my positive attitude toward him. But for God’s sake, what is this? He has not yet disclaimed his statement recalling the Ottoman state tradition of killing crown princes in order to eliminate potential rivals for the throne.Our reporter did not answer him in order to prevent demagoguery. And it is good that he did not. What would he have said? Should he have said “Mr. Minister, I am grateful to you for sparing my life and allowing me to return home”? For God’s sake! Mr. Minister — and other members of the AK Party — please return to your roots, listen the voice of your conscience by going outside the established rhetoric patterns and retake your oath and say “The state is for the sake of the people.” And let me add this: Letting people live is not a blessing of the state.Our membership in Media Association has endedWe had very big hopes when establishing the Media Association. We were going to contribute to our profession, professionalize journalism, help to deepen our awareness of professional liability and represent media ethics based on fundamental rights and freedoms. But that did not happen. Our efforts failed to go beyond on-the-job training programs. We still tried hard to make a difference. Despite everything, Media Association President Salih Memecan and Secretary-General Deniz Ergurel have done a good job. However, some of our colleagues have not considered the Media Association as an opportunity to improve journalism in Turkey. They considered its programs political activity.Unfortunately, some recent developments have made this fact more visible. In the last few months, some journalists have not refrained from writing fabricated news, launching a smear campaign, defaming a segment of society or not respecting rights and laws. It was not possible for us to continue working under the same roof with these people, who have nothing to do with journalism. As a result, we have decided to end our membership in the Media Association, which we supported in many ways. God helps and aids those who are right and may God not make us feel ashamed both in this world and in the hereafter.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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