By Yalcin Dogan
He is a Muslim of Moroccan origin. He was 15 years old when his family migrated to Holland. He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering but he was first a journalist before going into politics. He has double-citizenship; Moroccan and Dutch. Ahmed Aboutaleb is 53 years old; he has been the mayor of Rotterdam for six years.
After the Paris attacks, the Muslim mayor said on television: “It is not possible to understand your attack on freedoms. If freedom is too much for you, then pack your suitcase immediately and leave.”
Aboutaleb said he was deeply affected by the attack: “I am speaking as a very angry Muslim, not as the mayor of Rotterdam. It is not possible to explain the terror that presents Islam differently. If you are not happy here, leave immediately.”
Several countries are applauding him, with the praise that he has been “the Muslim administrator who has taken the clearest stance against terror.”
There are two lessons to be drawn: First, according to the West, Ankara’s attitude toward terror is inadequate. Nobody is talking about Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who is trying to send a domestic message.
The mayors of Holland are appointed by the government. The government has appointed a Muslim mayor to its second largest city. In Turkey, today, it is not even imaginable for a non-Muslim to be nominated and elected as the mayor of a large city.
The columnist’s right to speak
Columnists for daily Cumhuriyet, which published a selection from the latest issue of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ceyda Karan, are being given death threats: “Your voyage to hell has started, you will be punished, I will clean your brain.”
I have spoken to my old friend Hikmet, who said something important. “All we did was condemn terror and we were made into a target. I have informed the prosecutor about the threats. There are people who are singling me out on television. Don’t I have a right to defend myself? These broadcasts are one-sided; they do not give me a right to speak.”
Apart from threats, there is also a new blow to freedom of expression. Before publishing that selection, daily Cumhuriyet was subject to a police raid; the prosecutor checked it, found no problems, and allowed the paper to be distributed. However, the next day, when Davutoğlu criticized the paper and when some others complained, the prosecutor opened another investigation into the publication.
Davutoğlu said he went to Paris to support freedom of expression, but here freedom of expression is dead once again.
Art as an indicator of the regime
The total state contribution to private theaters in Turkey is currently 4.5 million Turkish Liras - the same amount as an apartment overlooking the Bosphorus.
Actually, apart from finances, culture and arts are badly hampered in Turkey by oppression and bans.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) recently issued a culture and art report for 2014 - a fascinating democracy record.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government set a one-year record last year: 135 incidents of censorship and pressure; 32 bans against films and plays, including a ban on the TV station that showed the thrice Oscar-winning film, “Piano.” There were 22 irregular appointments, removals or forceful resignations in art institutions. There were 18 censors or bans on newspapers, radio stations and TV stations; websites or social media platforms were banned 17 times. An investigation was launched into the teacher who recommended an Aziz Nesin book to his pupils; and composer Fazıl Say’s pieces were excluded from the program of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra.
Indeed, the report is a fascinating democracy record.