For more than five decades in active journalism, I’ve not come across such an extremely difficult situation to part with on ethical grounds. Life is the most valuable property on a human being. It is such a unique and divine gift that it should be unimaginable anyone finding it as simple as taking breakfast to deny another person this natural right or, at the worst, comfortable with terminating one’s own –committing suicide.
A news item lands on my desk. “Father escorted by gendarmes to son’s funeral in handcuffs.” I fail to swallow my saliva. Who would ever give such unkind treatment to any person? I have to read more about the story. It reads worse on. The son is just 16-year-old high school student, Bahadir Odabasi. The worst experience, I read further, the father had to shed his tears on the handcuffs. Nothing else he could do. He could neither attend the funeral prayers nor take part in the burial rite. Hell knows what he was to feel thereafter back in prison.
How did the son die? He jumped to his death from the tenth floor of an apartment. And why did he (‘decide to’) take his own life? He lapsed into depression caused by the situation of his father being fired from employment, arrested and jailed. Did Bahadir really ‘decide’ or was he driven by reigning conditions pertaining in his country to simply quit anyhow?
Such stories of youngsters taking their lives abound in Turkey. There is something systemically wrong in the country under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his pseudo Justice and Development (AKP) Party. Does the President, at least, notice that these youngsters dying have been born and bred during his reign? They are his products, whose interests should be deep at his heart. Why is the opposite happening?
At the height of the Bahadir and other stories involving a medical school undergraduate Enes Kara (20) and another high school student, an Istanbul-based KHK Platform, founded by victims of purges after the planned-to-fail coup, held a protest drawing attention to the government policies that drive youngsters in the country to take their own lives.
The protesters displayed one banner whose message I could not get but sensed it bore some importance from the way it was positioned. I scanned and sent it to a friend who speaks the language. The translation came back reading: “Since you are silent and (the) Bahadirs and Eneses die, the justice will not return to this country.”
The NGO took both cases as benchmarks. While Bahadir committed suicide due to depression caused by the loss of employment, arrest and imprisonment of his father, the case of Enes was due to pressure and anxiety at the student apartment run by an Islamic cult. Could this constitute be Turkey’s major problem? That is, the case of injustice fueled by intolerance?
The KHK Platform said they had “gathered for Odabasi and other youngsters in Turkey, who weren’t allowed to live their lives, who grew up behind bars, who experienced social alienation as the children of purge victims, to child workers, to youngsters like Enes, whose free will was disregarded due to government-backed violence.”
Last month, December 2021, three people were reported to have died on the same day as a result of depression caused by actions of the Turkish government. These were 48–year-old Fatma Demirel, a mother of one and former health worker, who died in her house; a university student, whose parents had been fired and a high school student, whose father had been dismissed from the armed forces.
Parents are already worried about the mental health of their children. According to a DW correspondent, this is mainly as a result of social alienation. Even teachers are claimed to openly call children terrorists, leading to psychological problems, which contributes a lot to the development of suicide tendencies or symptoms in society.
So, going by the KHK Platform argument, one can put it this way: That “people in Turkey are driven to commit suicide by the AKP, its government, supporters and all those who remain silent in the face of such incidents.” Some available statistics reveal that “at least 100 people have died by ‘suicide’ since 2016 while 38 have drowned in the Evos River or the Aegean Sea while trying to flee Turkey.”
The KHK Platform has made a must call if justice is to come back to the country because, to say the truth, it is no longer there. And the best way is, while protesting against the wide range of injustices taking place across the board in the country, there must be some remedy being prepared in the background for this state of affairs to die out.
This takes me back to the anatomy-based process of “girdling the plant”. In the practice of agriculture, one effective way of killing a plant, other factors including time remaining equal, is girdling. All you do is girdle around the target plant to interrupt the circulation of water and nutrients. Slowly, but surely, that plant will die in the style of the Soviet nerve inoculations of political opponents.
AKP and alliances constitute the target. It’s time for girdling the Erdogan regime injustices. Civic societies in Turkey must learn that they have to unite and speak one language. If they blame each other, they only fall in Erdogan’s “divide and rule” trap. Unity of the opposition parties must be seen to grow stronger and more real. Slowly, the rest will follow.
A joint study conducted by Brussels-based Solidarity with OTHERS and Justice for Victims Platform established that the biggest problems of purge victims are:
- Economic hardship (97.9%)
- Psychological problem (88.6%)
- Loss of prestige/social exclusion (83.7%)
- Disintegration of social circles (83.1%)
- Unemployment/lack of (80.4%)s
- Lack of social security/benefits (73.2%)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year more than 700,000 people die due to suicide, which was also the fourth leading cause of death among the 15-19-year-olds globally in 2019. What the world fails to appreciate is that “every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long lasting effects on the people left behind.”
The problem is why then should country leaders; in particular, find themselves making life of their subjects – including youths for that matter — so difficult to the extent of driving them to take their own lives? What remains of their legitimacy if they cannot even make life worth living?