As regular readers of my blog know, when I live abroad I hang out with dissidents and real freedom-fighters. (A fact which greatly contributes to my disgust with the posturing phonies one meets among self-styled "radicals" in the US.)
Most of my dissident friends are in Eastern Europe. However on a couple of occasions I've had the pleasure of meeting with Turkish Classical Liberals Dr. Atilla Yayla and his colleage Ms. Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz.
Turkey is an odd and interesting case. Once the powerful and feared enemy of the West, now a secular republic on the verge of joining the EU. Though Turkey has made great strides towards a Liberal order (in the classic sense, you know - the one you can be proud of), it has done so at the cost of tying their sense of national identity to a cult of personality centered on Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.
Dr. Yayla has had the courage to question this in public, and has gotten into trouble for it. Not disappeared/assasinated/ tortured trouble (at least not yet) but he could use some support.
This support wouldn't cost anybody anything, just an email would be good. And the payoff would be - you'd done something you could be proud of, and maybe make the acquaintance of some fine brave people.
Here are two articles about his situation:
Freedom of Expression in Turkey, Atilla Yayla, published in Herald Tribune http://www.liberal.org.tr/index.php?lang=en&message=article&art=546
An article by Mustafa Akyol at Turkish Daily News http://www.liberal.org.tr/index.php?lang=tr&message=article&art=558
And below is the story sent to me by Ms Yilmaz with contact data.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN TURKEY
THE ATILLA YAYLA CASE
What Happened ?
Atilla Yayla, a professor of politics and political theory at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey, gave a speech on 18th November 2006 in Izmir, Turkey. The speech was made in a panel on “EU -Turkish Relations and Their Impact on Turkish Society” which had been organized by the local branch of the governing Justice and Development Party. The title of Dr. Yayla’s speech was “EU, Civilization and Turkey”. In the spech he criticised Kemalism, the official ideology of Turkey which was created partly by M. Kemal Ataturk and mainly by some of his followers after his death. The next day the local daily Yeni Asir named Professor Yayla as a traitor who “heavily insulted Ataturk”. Some national dailies and television stations, who were apparently unhappy with Atilla Yayla’s liberal ideas, took this claim without an honest and balanced investigation as a fact and started a lynching campaign against Dr. Yayla. His university, influenced by and feared from the campaign, took also action against him. The university commenced two investigations about Dr. Yayla and dismissed him temporarily from his post at the university, took away his classes and reduced his salary by one third until the investigations were terminated. A public proscecutor in Izmir also started a criminal investigation.
The summary of Dr Yayla’s Speech
“Some authors think that there is more than one civilization. And they call these civilizations in different ways. Some make classifications, depending on ethnicity, like Turkish civilization and German civilization. Some others, depending on geography, say American civilization, Eurepean civilization. And some use names from time to time like Christian civilization and Islamic civilization by depending on religion. In my opinion there is only one civilization which we can call as common human civilization There is only one civilization because civilization is created by human beings in human societies. Whatever their religion, ethnicity etc. are, there are similarities more than differences among human beings. This is why we can talk about human kind, humanity.
By studying past and present societies and the history of civilization we can determine the basic foundatins of civilization. These are:
I- Private property (as de jure not de facto)
II- Division of labour and expertising in different fields.
III- Free exchange
IV- Freedom of contract and a culture together with moral and legal codes that facilitates the application of contracts.
V- Limited and rule based political governance
VI- Freedom of thought and expression
VII- Freedom of religion that includes also freedom of religious minorities and non-believers
VIII- Rule of law
IX- The absence of political crimes
X- Widespread horizontal, not vertical, human relations in society
XI- Rich social variety
XII- Variety in human needs and their constant and regular satisfaction
These are the basic foundatins of civilization. If this paradigm makes any sense and has any use every country can be evaluated from its perspective. For example, if we test Marxist system from this theory’s point of wiev, we see that it is uncivilizing, not civilizing. For Marxism is against private property, free exchange, and rule of law. It is a system that depends on brute force.
It is also possible to evaluate the Turkish Republic from the perspective of this paradigm. However, in doing this we must carefully escape from a mistake which is to evaluate the history of the Reublican era as a whole from 1923 to today. We have different periods in our history. The period from 1923 till 1925, the period between 1925-45, the period of 1945-46, the period between 1946-50 and lastly 1950 and afterwards. We should evaluate the history of the Turkish Republic at least in two main periods, the one between 1925-45 and the other one between 1950 and afterwards.
If we do so, it can be said that the first period is not as a big step-forward as the intensive official propaganda claims. It is even a step-backward in some respects. In the first era there were serious problems with respect to freedom of expression, legal and legitimate political opposition, limited and accountable government, and freeom of expression and association. After 1950 we transferred the country from a regime in which there was no freedom of expression to a regime in which there was more freedom of expression. We passed from single party system to multy party system, namely democracy. In the second era private property gained more legal recognition. And the same happened with respect to religious fredom.
EU is in a better position than Turkey in respect to basic foundations of common civilization. However, that does not mean that EU is identical with civilization or civilization has first been born with EU. Such claims are nonsense exagerations. Beside, EU has some serious problems. It has problems with respect to freedom of expression. It sometimes uses double-standarts. In Europe racism does exist.
We have to place EU’s demands from Turkey into two categories. In the first group there are those demands that are requirements of civilization. For example, EU asks Turkey to expand freedom of expression. I do not see the expansion of freedom of expression under the pressure of EU as a concession delivered to EU or as a dishonourable behaviour. Because, Turkey and Turkish citizens, not EU and citizens of member countries, will benefit from such an expansion. But EU has also political demands from Turkey. These are not related to the basics of civilization but rather they are political and diplomatic issues and require diplomatic and political bargaining. For example, the issue of Cyprus is a political and diplomatic problem that can, and should, be resolved through negotiation and bargaining”.
The Most Controversial Part of the Speech
“Turkey should discuss these issues. Turkey has come to a position to discuss these matters. If EU accession process proceeds smoothly despite all problems in coming years we may have to discuss these issues . Even more will be brougt to the agenda. They would ask us “Why Ataturk’s statutes are everywhere?’. They would ask us ‘Why in every government office the same man’s photographs are?’ ‘Kemalism is Turkey’s problem and so on. Our friends will harshly react against this, but sooner or later you will have to discuss them. You can not cover, you have to discuss. Either you will be a member of this club (EU) and in the process what is happenning, for example, in Holland will also happen in Turkey. Or you will say ‘No, I am not a member of this club’. You will say ‘Our regime is like the one in Jordan and Syria’.
I would like to see these issues discussed in society but these discussions should not bring about a big fight. They should not create tension. Issues must be debated in a reasonable manner. The problems should be solved without harming or insulting anybody . I am a university lecturer, it is my duty to tackle with these issues. I have to talk to the people about these issues. I wish to see counter views. I hope counter views appear so that I change my ideas and say ‘Kemalism is not what I thougt it was’ “.
At the end of the two investigations Gazi University punished Dr. Yayla with two “denouncing”; the first was for leaving Ankara, where university is based, without official permission and the second for behaving, in out of official duty, in the way “to harm the sense of trust and respect”. He was reinstated after this decision of the university and started his classes again by the end of February 2007.
In the end of the criminal investigation the public prosecutor filed a lawsuit against Atilla Yayla on the claim that he breached the law 5816
that punishes “publicly insulting Ataturk’s moral legacy”. He asked Dr. Yayla to be imprisoned between one and three years and his dismission from public duties according to Turkish Penal Code Article 53. He opened the law suit without seeing the full text of Dr. Yayla’s speech, by depending only on Yeni Asir’s news and the testimony of its correspondent. The court is taking place in Izmir 8th Court of First Criminal Instance (8. Asliye Ceza Mahkemesi) and the first session was held on 30th April, 2007. The file number of the case is 2007/107. The second session was held on July 2nd. And the suit is postponed for another third trial to be held on 16th of October to hear some other wittnesses whether his speech contains insult or not.
Meanwhile the military tutelage over the Turkish political and legal system uncurtained itself through this event. The head of the Association of Retired Officers, retired general Rıza Kucukoglu, visited Gazi University Rector Kadri Yamac and, in his words, “encouareged him to permanently dismiss Professor Yayla from the university”. Five months after the speech, the Chief of Staff, general Yasar Buyukanıt, attacked Prıofessor Yayla in his press conference of 12 April 2007. He made some quatations from Dr Yayla’s speech and attempted to question his quality as a scientist. This is illegal in the country as there exists a law that prohibits making interptetations about legal cases taken up by courts on the ground that they may harm due process by influencing the judges. However, Turkey is a country where, in G. Orwell’s words, “some are more equal”, and the judiciary usually takes this sort of comments from the military like a command and acts accordingly.
Professor Yayla received threat letters and messages from some Kemalists. The attack on him violated not only his right to speak freely, but it has become a threat to his life. He was provided with a bodyguard by the government to be protected from possible attacks. The assault made his personel and professional life miserable.
You can reach to Dr Yayla to express your support and to ask how to help.
His email addresses are:
atillayayla at yahoo.com
yaylaatilla at gmail.com
His Office number: ++90.312.2308703; ++90.312.2316069
His fax number: ++90.312.2308003
His office address:Association for Liberal Thinking
GMK Bulvari, 108/17 Maltepe, Ankara 06570 Turkey
His cellular phone number : ++ 90.533.3845165.
His faculty’s mail address:
Faculty of Economics and Administrative Science, Gazi University,
Besevler, Ankara, Turkey
Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz
Association for Liberal Thinking
GMK Bulvari No: 108 / 17
Phone: ++ 90 312 2316069
Fax: ++ 90 312 2308003