Accidentally business class

Editors-in-chief of national newspapers, columnists, academics, lawyers and others attended the workshops quite eagerly and produced quite interesting material. I think the results of the workshops will make the Ergenekon proponents embarrassed. We hope to introduce the workshop outcomes to the public soon, and I hope Today’s Zaman will publish our report. When we publish the workshop minutes you will see that democratic intellectuals and human rights defenders have quite a strong stance with regard to the Ergenekon case, which can be summarized with one sentence: In spite of its shortcomings, the Ergenekon case is vital for the future of democracy in Turkey. I was really glad to see this strong common understanding of the case by Turkish intellectuals. There is another thing that gave me a huge relief, and it is this: Through these workshops I understood that we are not alone. So many people who know Turkey quite well feel extremely uncomfortable with these ongoing disinformation campaigns. I became really happy seeing that there are so many people in Turkey with whom I share the same feelings.

So, when I was leaving İstanbul for Ankara I was quite happy and hopeful. My flight to Ankara from İstanbul was just as interesting as the weekend itself.

I am an economy class passenger. It is very rare that I travel business class on flights. This Sunday though, there were only seats available in business class and I had no choice. When I came across my friend Umut at the airport, I felt little bit uncomfortable; my old leftist side made me little bit embarrassed to be in front of Umut, who was going to fly in the “economy class” section on my plane.

Umut is a gay rights activist, and we started to discuss what we could do together to promote gay and lesbian rights in Turkey. “We should start with the basics,” I said. “There is something which makes Turkish society quite confused. When they mention sexual orientation they refer to ‘choice’ as if one could choose his/her sexual orientation. I think we should focus on this Umut, if we can show that sexual orientation is not a choice, then we can take a giant step forward.” We started to board the plane as we were talking. While we were passing by the business class section, I felt I needed to explain to Umut why I was travelling in business class. “I could not find any place in economy class,” I said. My statement immediately attracted the attention of my flight mate seated next to me.

Sitting beside this stylish blonde lady was the most interesting part of the weekend. When we started to have a casual chat, four ministers from the current government took their seats in the business class section, too. While we were drinking our champagne, after raising her glass to mine, she sighed and explained how uncomfortable she felt because she had to fly with “those people.” As she pointed to the ministers with her hand she had a mixture of disgust and contempt on her face. Most probably I was not the “ideal” flight mate for her as an “accidental business class” passenger, but as I was “drinking,” I was “OK” I guess.

With that one gesture I experienced a realization about the nature of the regime in Turkey. Since the establishment of the Turkish Republic, we have been living in an apartheid regime. Our black people are devout Muslims who should not share same buildings, the same schools or the same social surroundings as the white “secular” Turks. This lady was uncomfortable with the fact that she was travelling with the black people of Turkey, no matter what rank they hold, no matter what they do, no matter who they are. They may be a minister or a scientist, but they are black, after all.

We were travelling with four “black” ministers. Since we were “secular” people, we were superior to them. If you were to ask this lady, I am sure she would say she is concerned about the possibility of regime change in Turkey. After the “pro-Islamist” Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) seven years in power, this lady, drinking her champagne on a state-sponsored airline flight while travelling with government ministers, surely was not concerned with Shariah or anything. The only concern she had is witnessing the collapse of the Turkish apartheid regime. The Ergenekon case is also a part of this “regime change.” For the first time in the history of Turkey, the “white man” is accountable for the crimes he has committed. The military and civilian bureaucracy was immune from prosecution until this case. My weekend started with my pondering about the regime in Turkey and ended with an insight into the real nature if it. The apartheid regime is falling down!