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HomeHeadlineTurks mark Eid Al-Fitr in ‘MULTI-D’ agony

Turks mark Eid Al-Fitr in ‘MULTI-D’ agony

As students at a school of journalism, it was commonplace in news reporting and writing sessions to be told: “The story is not when a dog bites a man but when the man bites the dog”. I remembered this old work ethic in the dying days of this year’s (2023) holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan after reading two Tweet-account posts about Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. One was from a Prof Dr. Salih KUK tagged: “Erdogan goes to mosque.” Another, from Karsi Gazete, ran under the “Erdogan goes to buy a bread” header.

erdogan shop

Of course, there is nothing unordinary about Erdogan, a Muslim, going to mosque or buying bread during the month of Ramadan or any month for that matter. What is unusual (the man biting the dog) is what accompanying video clips reveal. In the former post, Erdogan, the incumbent president seeking re-election, goes to mosque under heavy missile guard. I am not an arms expert. But how can prayer be held ‘peacefully’ under the heavy-gun protection? Is it for scaring anyone harboring thoughts of a Turkey government minus the mighty Erdogan after the polls? Intimidation?

In the latter, the motorcade and number of guardsmen do not tally with the price of bread or concept, practice and spirit of the evening fast-breaking iftar meal. It is out of proportion. The President normally doesn’t even know what is on his Iftar menu. Why all this pomposity? Can’t it also be better understood in the context of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections? Part of the campaign maybe?  But it could as well be ill-timed when ‘the bread’ is an issue in current Turkey under hyperinflation. Hasn’t ‘the man bitten the dog’ when a president has to go to a house of prayer under heavy guard? Who else should feel secure in a country? How about going out “to buy a bread”? What has gone wrong with the palace purchasing and supplies system?

Now, come the end of the fast, giving way to the Eid Al-Fitr festival, the people of Turkey find themselves face to face with another unusual (but real) situation. The three days’ celebration in Turkey, is traditionally an occasion of having pleasure, praying and eating together, on top of exchanging gifts between family members and neighbors. This time around, because of the February earthquakes that left more than 50,000 people dead and about three million displaced, the people in earthquake hit areas had to send bouquets of flowers to cemeteries, where they could not even locate graves of some of their loved ones because of mass burials.  Meaningful exchange of family visits and gifts cannot take place when many are living in tents or container housing and still facing difficulty meeting their basic needs of shelter, water and food. There is practically nothing to exchange but agony.

The people are angry with their government for the slowness it showed in responding to identify, rescue, evacuate and provide for the victims of the earthquakes, leading to their president’s apologies. The same president still plucks the courage to run for another, and for that matter, constitutionally controversial term in office on the graves of his electorate, some of whom were buried without accessing religious rites. This needs special courage. ‘The man has to bite the dog’.

Reports emanating all the way from the City of Cologne in Germany, which has the highest Muslim communities in that country, talk of “a feeling of sadness because of the recent earthquakes.” Ahmet Erdogan, vice-president of the Keup Street Craftsmen’s Union, is quoted as saying: “Holidays, naturally, are a joy, happiness as always. On the one hand, there is a bittersweet joy because we are also saddened by the earthquake in our country and the citizens who lost their lives.”

The Eid Al-Fitr festival holds a special significance. Religious leaders say It is the time to practice special reconciliation. It is the time to practice forgiveness. It is the time to cultivate compassion and let go of past grievances, fostering a spirit of kindness and goodwill to all.  President Erdogan performed his Eid prayers at the prestigious Sophia Hagia in Istanbul. In a message addressed to: “My august nation … treasured brothers and sisters…”, he says (claims?): “I salute you from the bottom of my heart and affection. I wholeheartedly congratulate you… We have left behind yet another Ramadan, the beginning of which is mercy, the middle is forgiveness and the end is salvation from eternal torment.”

One is at liberty to believe his words. But what is really happening on the ground contradicts all this. Sixty-eight women in Ankara’s Sincan Prison have asked the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to take immediate action on suspicious deaths in the country’s prisons and launch an investigation into them. Jailed on political charges, they say that the two powerful earthquakes which hit the country in February and claimed more than 50,000 lives have diverted attention to rights violations, allegations of torture and suspicious deaths in prisons. As “political hostages” in Sincan prison, they are concerned about the lives of inmates in solitary confinement. In the event of suspicious deaths, they allege, prison authorities advance reasons like “heart disease and suicide”.

He goes on to say: “We have allowed neither the election agenda nor other state affairs or occupations of the daily life to cause the earthquake zone to be forgotten.” If this were true, people’s complaints aside, how does one conceptualize the most government move to ban purchase of air tickets to the earthquake hit zone area until May, 17 – three days after the polls? Isn’t that part of the election agenda? Erdogan is cheating the people. This is why one middle aged housewife (excuse her language) has been quoted in the media as literally asking: “Where are those Eids of Old? Our Eids were lovely in the past. Now, I can’t see that enthusiasm and excitement in the eyes of the children today. They see Eids as if they were normal days.”

The answer to her question is clear. Erdogan must go. But, this in the present circumstances can only happen through the ballot. And those who replace him must conduct themselves in a way that practices special reconciliation, forgiveness; cultivates compassion and lets go of past grievances, fostering a spirit of kindness and goodwill to all.  All of these are lost items on the Erdogan regime’s list. Their recovery can only take place painstakingly and very, very slowly. Erdogan has subjected his people to multi-dimensional agony to which the response is: “Enough is enough.”


 

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FELIX KAIZA
FELIX KAIZA
Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.
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