I was casually stalking people on facebook, (as you do when you have nothing better to do) when I came across an event advertised by the Network of Students (NOS). Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, was coming to the London School of Economics. Before asking my parents I booked my place. I was going.
So, after arranging the trip, my friends dropped me off to the LSE building and they went off to enjoy the sites of London. I hate being alone. There was a group of three in front of me, who were clearly loyal to CHP- the main opposition party in Turkey, created by Ata Turk. I recognised them from miles away. One of the girls within the group, deliberately looking at me, started talking about how her father had graduated from LSE etc. Neither of my parents went to uni, and my dad owns a chip shop, but this isn’t anything to be ashamed of. If she was any better she’d be sitting beside the minister rather than sitting two seats beside me. The normal Aysegul would have buried her in that building, but 1) I was alone and 2) the security officers were huge.
Anyway, we sat down and, after a half an hour wait, Davutoglu arrived. The three sitting beside me didn’t applaud. After being introduced by the chairman of the LSE Turkish Studies, Davutoglu started by mentioning how his aim wasn’t to become a minister. Instead he said, “I prefer spending time with students in a lecture, rather than having to walk down the streets of London with bodyguards.” Davutoglu is known for his sensitivity over the issue of Palestine and we all knew he would bring this issue up.
He mentioned that the world had witnessed three major earthquakes in the years gone by. The first was the Cold War, the building of the Berlin Wall and the issue of freedom and democracy. The second: the 9/11 attacks, which he argued changed world politics. The link he made between the two events was interesting. During the Cold War America was fighting for democracy, free elections, free enterprise. However, after the 9/11 attacks the US government demanded more power and started limiting, not only its own citizens’, but the freedom of people all around the world. I certainly agree with this as my headscarf was checked at an airport before flying to Turkey. He extended on this point by sharing the story of his friend called Cihad, pronounced “Jihad”, the word that has became familiar with the world after these attacks. His friend Cihad went to the US and his friends shouted his name “Cihad Cihad” and apparently, as Davutoglu described, the people in the airport all fell to the floor, assuming this was some kind of terrorist attack. The audience laughed but it was clear his main point was to identify the damage the 9/11 attacks have done to Islam. The final “earthquake” he mentioned was the global economic crisis that the world, especially what is being witnessed within the EU.
It was obvious where Davutoglu’s speech was going. Just as I predicted, he started criticising the UN and its 5 permanent members, which have the right to veto any decision being made. He insisted on not mentioning these countries and rather sarcastically said “you all know who I’m talking about.” Indeed we did. However the only two which really mattered for us were Israel and America. He argued that reforms were necessary to the UN assembly and criticised the previously mentioned countries as to not having legitimacy. “The only reason why they had legitimacy in the 20th century is because they were the winners of the Second World War.” Now, this led on to the issue of Palestine.
Davutoglu started off by reminding the audience that in 1947 the UN general assembly promised that Palestine would have a state to themselves, parallel to Israel. This never happened. It was only in November 2012 that Palestine was granted statehood. 129 countries had voted “yes” while 9 voted “no.” Britain did not cast a vote, however, as expected, Israel and the US both voted “no.” “The thing I don’t understand” he continued, “why won’t these countries recognise Palestine.” A country which has a radius smaller than London, with most of its land being held illegally, with Egypt failing to support the Palestinians while the US bribe it with money, what harm would Palestine bring?
After Palestine came the issue of the civil war in Syria. Just to reinforce his point, he mentioned figures: 70,000 registered deaths, 72,100 lost, 250,000 refugees in Turkey of which 150,000 live in camps. 249 babies were born in those camps, however Davutoglu emphasised that Turkey is doing its best to provide Syrian children with decent education. He criticised the “two countries” again for staying quiet about the issue in Syria. But he did say, “just as they apologised to Bosnia, where 100,000 women were raped and 200,000 people were killed by the Serbian army, one day they are going to apologise to the people of Syria.”
One thing about Davutoglu is that he is a person of great humanity. He was the only minister to cry live on TV after hugging a Palestinian who had lost his child. “They criticised us,” he continued, for being so sensitive over Palestine and Syria. The leader of CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, had also absurdly criticised Davutoglu, arguing that he only cried in order to become front-page news. He reflected upon the issue of Palestine as an ethical issue. Davutoglu is a religious man and he did mention that every night before he goes to sleep he always asks himself whether he has done enough for his Palestinian and Syrian brothers and sisters. He knows that where he hasn’t tried his best, he’ll be punished for it. While finishing up about the Middle-East, he mentioned that he was working for a new Middle-East, run by its own people, with reduced foreign influence.
The final issue: Turkey’s demand in becoming a member of the EU. Davutoglu started by mentioning the EU economic crisis. Personally, I do not understand why these Turks are so passionate about being a member of a single currency union. However, he stated various arguments which were in favour of Turkey becoming a member of the EU. His first argument was that Turkey is a country which is geo-politically relevant to the EU. In order to be competitive against economies such as Brazil, India and China, he insisted that the EU needed Turks. I do not take Economics, but now really lets be realistic. However, I did foolishly agree with his final point: Turks are culturally inclusive. Turkey is the only country in Asia which is relatively close to a western-style democracy and European culture. If the EU cannot accept Turkey, “who can you accept?” He argued that Europe could not accept and have forgotten that the Ottoman Turks ruled Europe for four centuries. My argument clearly is: LET THEM NOT ACCEPT IT.
Continuing, he briefly touched upon the issue of terrorism in Turkey. “The PKK will not split the country and our citizens are sure of this.” Are they really? We’ve had enough of turning on the news and witnessing another mother cry, due to a conflict which will never be resolved, due to a conflict which has no reason, due to a conflict that caused a nation to fall out with each other. He reassured the audience not to be scared and said a country with such fears “cannot act rational.”
“You have to make your nation confident” and the government must promise its people this: “I will provide you maximum security without restricting your freedom.” He was slowly coming to an end. He was an amazing speaker and I wouldn’t mind listening to him for hours! He advised the young audience to be proud of their history, have dignity and self-confidence. “Those who write history are those who take risks.” This statement was so ambiguous as it could mean that the government were going to take risks in order to achieve significant achievements. However, time will tell.
I had never applauded anyone in my life for so long, even at PMQs when Ed Milband asked David Cameron when was the last time he smashed down a restaurant. Davutoglu was different. He is definitely my bid for becoming the next Prime Minister of Turkey. Some people did ask him questions, which were all rubbish. I was a wimp and got afraid to shoot my hand right up. I WAS AFRAID. If I did ask him a question it would’ve been based upon the civil war in Syria. Steve (my law teacher) did want me to ask him why Turks are killing “innocent Kurds” but I don’t understand… Since when have terrorists been labelled “innocent?” If they were innocent then what are British troops doing in Afghanistan? It was Steve, and I couldn’t argue back because we were in a law lesson. I let him off.
Aysegul Gurbuz, A2 Politics Student.
(Sorry about the quality of the photo. And they say iPhones are good. I do regret not taking a canon camera, you must live with it)