From Turkey: We’re not Dead Yet

By Claire Berlinski for Ricochet


I wanted to share a response I received to my article about Turkey’s referendum. Actually, two responses. The first was from a friend in the States who wrote on my Facebook page, “So much sadly accurate retrospective analysis … but what do we do now?”

The second was from a Turk with an answer. Ege Yildirim is an urban planner in Istanbul. I thought her response deserved a hearing, so I asked her for permission to publish it:

I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation. But I have to say that all these diagnoses about the death of a country’s democracy are still dishonorable and meek.

Here in Turkey, we still exist, as citizens who said, “No,” the intelligentsia who did not succumb to brain drain, the economic powerhouses of the big cities, the inheritors of the practice of true civil society, and believers in democratic values. We have not disappeared just because of a fraudulent, Pyrrhic victory at the referendum; and actually, many are hopeful that “This is the beginning of the end” … for some things. To declare Turkey beyond help or hope at this point is just another escapist trap the West is falling into. This is actually the darkest hour before dawn. This is when you can step up and help us pull this unique and critically strategic country out of the hole it has been sinking into.

We will continue to live, produce, and hold on here, maybe keep our heads down for a while, but persist until better days come, because this is too precious a country to abandon to the wolves. And anyone in the world with awareness and conscience should support us in this struggle. Do better than just watch from the sidelines with nodding heads and long faces.

As for what exactly one might do to support us, here are some ideas:

  • Don’t consider and declare Turkey a lost cause;
  • Acknowledge the civic and official opposition. Focus on their brave stance, their point of view, make it get heard louder;
  • Support a revival of tourism to Turkey. (It is the citizens, and the tourism sector’s smaller players, who have suffered the most from the blow the sector has taken. And it’s the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism!)
  • Exert pressure on decision-makers, opinion leaders, and the media to avoid making deals with Erdoğan. I think the former are afraid of the consequences, particularly of losing their stakes in their relationships with Turkey.
  • For global opinion leaders: Visit Turkey and meet the opposition groups to show your solidarity and moral support. Emphasize the importance of secularism, both in the Muslim, Christian, and any other context. And redeem the reputation of Turkey’s so-called “secular elites” (rather, the middle and upper-middle classes), who should not be blamed for being skeptical of AKP all along — just for their ineptitude in effective organizing. (You were quite right about that in your article) …