On May 19, the Turkish Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth, and Sports holiday (which remembers Ataturk’s landing at Samsun and start of the Turkish war of independence), members of Turkey’s national football team visited Soma to pay respects to the miners that lost their lives in Turkey’s worst industrial accident. In Soma the players and coaches visited the graves of the miners, solemnly laying flowers down, before taking part in afternoon prayers. Although Turkey’s team won’t be appearing in the World Cup, this appearance was just as—if not more—important for a football-crazed nation.

Many footballers spoke, including Galatasaray forward Burak Yilmaz who made clear that the visit “is not just for show, we are here because we truly felt this pain also.” Then came a grave speech (taken from both Sporx.com’s piece and from Milliyet.com’s piece. Interestingly, Hurriyet.com’s piece had no mention of the comments below:

Bu sefer ateş düştüğü yeri değil düşmediği yeri de yaktı. Herkes yandı. İnsan hayatına biraz daha fazla önem vermemiz gerektiği aşikar. Böyle günlerde değil, bu ülke her zaman bir ve birlik olmaya alışkın bir ülkedir. Bu refleksimizi kazanmak zorundayız. Böyle acılar vesile olmadan da birarada olmalıyız. Acılarımızı biraz olsun dindirebilirmiyiz diye geldik. Ama tüm heyet de acılı olarak dönüyoruz. Ateş düştüğü yeri değil düşmediği yeri de yaktı.

“This time the fire didn’t just burn where it fell, it burned where it didn’t fall as well. Everyone burned. After coming here we can feel that. That we need to give more importance to human life is clear as day. This country is used to being together, and not only on days like this one. We need to achieve this reflex. We need to be together without [needing] tragic events like this one to spark it. We came to see if our pain could be abated, as little as it might be. But the whole group is returning in pain. The fire didn’t just burn where it fell, it burned where it didn’t fall as well.

These were not the words of a politician. They certainly weren’t the words of the Prime Minister, which came a few days ago. These were the words of Turkey’s national football coach, a career football man who smoothly transformed from player to coach. These are the words of Fatih Terim. While I—like many Galatasaray fans—have a love/hate relationship with Mr. Terim (he can in many instances be too crude), here—in this instance—I have to commend him for a job well done. If there is to be anything taken away from the Soma tragedy it is that, in Turkey, more importance must be given to human life everyday. That is what will truly help Turkey move forward in the world, both politically and culturally.

The job of recognizing and stating that fact, however, should not have to fall on football coach. It should come from the country’s leader instead. Abdullah Gul, the president, has been very sympathetic to families of the victims. But the leader—and his aides, for that matter—have not had the same response. A well-publicized photo of Prime Minister Erdogan’s aide Yusuf Yerkel (a former PHD student, no less) kicking a protester who is pinned down by soldiers has already made its rounds.

Also, a recent video of Prime Minister Erdogan calling a protestor “Israil dölü”—literally, “Israeli Semen”—is beyond explanation. Video of the disgusting incident can be seen here, courtesy of an opposition newspaper’s website. Subsequently, the Turkish foreign ministry has categorically denied that such things were said and so far only a few Jewish specific news outlets have reported this event in English. I should hope that the denial is truthful—videos and their audio can be doctored, and we should never immediately believe that everything we see is real in the digital age. But, for me, the real issue is that a democratically elected Prime Minister should be as level-headed and calm as possible under pressure—it would do a lot to prevent such negative publicity, regardless of veracity. And it would also help if the Prime Minister of a modern democratic country could say half the things said by the football coach of a modern democratic country.

19 Mayısınızı Gönülden Kutluyorum.

 

Members of Turkey’s National Football Team Pay Their Respects. Mr. Terim is in the Foreground, in a Blue Blazer:

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Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26445283.asp%20

 

You Are Supposed to Kick the Ball, Not a Defenseless Human Being Mr. Yerkel!

Yusuf Yerkel

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/15/turkey-mine-disaster-aid-pm-pictures-kicking-protester

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