Leyla Zana is a Kurdish politician who caused an uproar in Turkey twice when swearing in to the parliament. The first was in 1991. The oath goes like this:
"I swear by my honor and my dignity before the great Turkish people to protect the integrity and independence of the State, the indivisible unity of people and homeland, and the unquestionable and unconditional sovereignty of the people. I swear loyalty to the Constitution. I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people."
Leyla Zana recited the last sentence, "the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people" part in Kurdish. At that time, Kurdish was outlawed. I mean can you believe that it is illegal to speak your mother-tongue in public! That same year, the ban was finally removed.
Anyway... Rewind some 24 years. Leyla Zana who has been prosecuted for so long and has been put in jail has said that she has lost faith in the system and would not run for parliament again. But times change, people change their minds. -I know... Sometimes you are just so tired and say you are not going to travel again, but then it gets back to you after a bit of rest. It's the same with people. I tire of the interactions with people, to be involved in their petty characters and incapabilities, I withdraw into my turtle shell. Then, after a while, after I've rested, I feel the need to stick out my head again and look around. Well... Back to topic.- It's now 2015. Leyla Zana is elected to the parliament once again. Lo and behold, it's time for another "oath crisis."
See, the word "Turkish" is supposed to mean everybody living within the borders of Turkey. But "Turkish" (referring to the people, not the language) and "Turk" is the same word in Turkish: Türk. So it obviously has an ethnic connotation. That's why some people have started using the word "Türkiyeli" which literally means "people of Turkey" instead of the ethnic specifier. So this time, Leyla Zana took the oath completely in Turkish, but she made a small change in one word in the first sentence. Instead of "the great Turkish people" she said "the great people of Turkey." ("Türkiyeli" instead of "Türk".)
Murat Sevinç, a doctor in Political Sciences, criticized her in an article saying:
“Leyla Zana put in the word Turkey instead of Turkish while swearing in. It's a standing I heartily stand by politically. Ethnic expressions in the constitution that sometimes go as far as racism should be done with forthwith. However, the current oath text needs to be sworn in as is! Until the day it is changed.”
That's exactly the trouble with democracy. I don't think I agree with Mr. Sevinç. I understand what he says perfectly well, I understand that he sees it this way as a constitutional lawyer. BUT... “the current oath text needs to be sworn in as is! Until the day it is changed,” okay but... Is it easy to change that text? Let alone easy, is it at all possible? The fact that the legal road to something is open unfortunately does not imply that road to be passable/navigable. How difficult is it to reach the end of that road, to change that text? How many people does it take, how many years? If people like Leyla Zana take the risk of burning themselves up and open some things to debate, at least that road being opened can be hastened and a change becomes possible.
Things should be simple. It should be easy to change the wrongs. The reaction to this oath should be "Ah okay, this woman took the oath like this. Obviously, she is trying to make a case. Is she right, does she have a valid point?" And you look and consider, and see she has a point (I mean it's not so difficult to understand why some groups may have a problem with that word. Is it?), then you change things. This is how it should work. Instead, what happens?
The response is "Oh such an imposter! Such an unacceptable thing to do! Who do you think you are to stand up to us, to defy us!" and you use your power to suffocate the contrarian voice. This is how the system works. It is there to protect itself. Not to serve you, the people, its citizens. That's the lips service part for show.
There is so much hatred in the world and so much of it is injected into people by politicians. The Youtube comments of Leyla Zana's oath is full of people swearing a blue streak. It is part of the official discourse about Kurds. I know... Because even my 90 year-old grandmother curses them. Why can't someone in the parliament have a mature approach, uniting people instead of dividing them? Why can't they say "My dear brethren and sisters... Yes, this is against the established order. But it is a valid protest and not an undermining of the state. So we should listen to people who are trying to make their voices heard."? Don't leaders have a responsibility to calm down the angry public? Politicians do not meet halfway, do not act humbly, they see such acts as an opportunity to attack the opposition. They escalate things instead of deescalating. They turn things into a crisis. That's how they keep their livelihoods. Just like the news media... Feeding, feeding, feeding on garbage and violence. Enough!
My husband keeps telling me the same things, that I need to change things within the system. Sorry, I do not believe in democracy or voting much either. A handful of people play the game, we pretend to take part in and are satisfied. Sometimes some people need to rebel. This, of course, needs to be a rebellion coming from the bottom up. That's what I'm working for in my own way.
“It's possible to agree with a political standing. As long as this 'agreement' does not prevent seeing what needs to be done legally,” Sevinç asserts too. “When the two levels are mixed up, there is no difference between how the AKP members see the law: 'I don't like it, I'm not obeying it!'”
Here, there is this difference in my view: AKP is in power. They can make changes. They have the power to. Therefore, they do not have the right to say 'I don't like it, I'm not obeying it!' Besides, AKP and including all other parties, their being a party in the first place means they've accepted to join this game, therefore the rules of the game binds them; it's expected that they abide by the rules of the system they are a part of. Whereas I, as an individual, have not chosen to be subject/liable to these rules. Yes, I know there is something called a “social contract”. However, I have not accepted that neither at birth, nor do I now. I don't accept it. I pledge/contract to not killing, not hurting anybody without a cause/with no reason, not to initiate the use of power, not to steal, not to lie. These I accept. But I do not accept this social order the way it is, I don't want to accept it. I don't wish to be a part of it. Yet, I am made to accept it, obliged to. I am made to live with rules I do not want, I do not approve of. What's more, I am exposed to these only to live a normal life as an ordinary person.
“Do you have a right to say 'I'd like to put the tax legislation in the fridge, these taxes are very heavy, I do not feel like paying' or 'I do not like the military legislation at all, let's not do the military service'?” Sevinç also asked.
Yes! I have a right. I'm sorry I do. Or if according to you I don't, I have to have that right! I do not want to pay taxes, not because I find them too heavy but because I do not have a say on where it is spent. (Anyone interested may read further into my suggestion of a different tax system ) Can I evade taxes? No. The only thing I can do is to support the man at the market evade taxes by letting him give me a receipt of 1 euro when I have paid 2 euros. Meanwhile, my husband pays in 250 euros more out of our pockets to make some people pay taxes! And drives me crazy!
If I had a chance to evade taxes, would I? Yes, I would. (The saying goes “He who pays the piper plays the tune.” Whereas we pay, I mean they -the governments that is- get the money from us by force, and they get to play the tune themselves. It's a disgrace. There has to be a limit to insolence. They play the tune and you have to be their monkey to dance to their tune.) If I could dictate where the money I pay goes to, would I evade taxes? No, I wouldn't.
That's the way I see it. And it will stay so until somebody can show me where I think wrong.
Thus with the military service... In my opinion, nobody should be obliged to go. I mean anybody who wants to go, feel free. But anybody who doesn't, shouldn't be forced to. Albeit, some people need to be “conscientious objectors” and go to jail in order to pave that way. In my view, there should be no need for any of this at all. It's unacceptable. Ah what, it's the law! To hell with such a law! Ah, it's a crime to say this too! Oh yeah, we just shut up and obey! Good thing I don't have a son, I'd sure get myself into serious trouble if I did.
The piece I wrote on illegality is very “light” compared to my thoughts on military service. I'm sorry, I cannot accept the obligation to abide so many laws that are coercing me, leaving me no room for individuality.
Mr. Sevinç puts it as “Are we citizens or are we assholes?” I guess by assholes he meant to say “Are we idiots to obey rules?”
To me, there is not much difference between being a citizen and being as asshole, or an idiot in that sense. We are treated that way anyway.
I guess I personally prefer to be anything instead of a “citizen” in the way it is defined in our world today.
Note: This piece was going to end like this but let me modify it a bit.
I personally prefer to be anything instead of a “citizen” in the way it is defined in our world today. I mean... Look at it. All the torment they afflict on people wanting to go from one place to another just because they are citizens of another country!
Citizenship should not be something we are cauterized at birth according to the imaginary line we were born in. It should be a club that we have a choice to join. It's not enough politicians wooing for our votes; countries should woo us to become their citizens. Governments should work hard to make a place liveable, come up with alluring packages if they want citizens to govern.
You think it's funny?! Well... I'm dead serious. We need to change the rules of the game. It's time. Way past time. Okay, maybe not way past, but it is time to plant this idea in the new generation's brains so that by the time they grow up, the idea comes into leaf and can be implemented.