On lions and sheep in today’s Turkey

Most will be familiar with A Song of Ice and Fire, the famous fantasy novel by  American writer George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones, the TV series based on the novel, which recounts the power struggle between different noble houses. One of the leading characters of the series is Lord Tywin Lannister, the fearless and fierce patriarch of Casterly Rock’s House Lannister.

We meet Lord Lannister towards the end of Season 1 of the series. Busy sharpening his knife to butcher the carcasse of a deer in a tent at the Lannister’s army camp, Lord Lannister is busy lecturing his older son Jamie, who is in command of the army, about life and responsibility.

“You spend too much time worrying what other people think of you,’’ he says.

“I could care less what anyone thinks of me”, Jamie responds.

“That’s what you want people to think of you. When you hear them whispering Kingslayer behind your back, doesn’t it bother you?”, the father continues, referring to the murder of the former king by his son.

“Of course, it bothers me”, says Jamie.

At that moment, father Lannister utters one of his most memorable phrases: “A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of a sheep.”

Turkey has been ruled by lions – or those who perceive themselves as lions – for some time now. Lions came to power (and hold on to power) through the votes of the majority of the people. They claim to speak in the name of the people, yet their view of people is no different than the elites that have ruled Turkey before them. They take notice of them only when there is an election; at other times, they see them as a herd of sheep, whose opinions they need not concern themselves with.

And the people do not seem to be bothered by the lions’ view, either. They like to be sheep. Sheep who prefer to remain silent – let alone raise any objections to – lions when they turn Kurdish villages into ashes; when the army is bogged down in the swamp we call Syria; when corruption tapes are circulated around and tenders are offered to pro-government businessmen and businesswomen and when the economy is dragged into a crisis which would last years, if not decades.

I can already hear some of you asking “Did you just call the people sheep?” Well, the short answer is no. I don’t call them sheep, but the lions do. Those who hold the power do. I am simply articulating their feelings. Don’t talk about elitism, either. Because, the elites are part of the herd as well. Those who can, run away; those who cannot, obey. We know it, you know it.

In the meantime, others who should be seen as assets to the country – not only those who are “famous” in the country, but the nameless heroes, such as the teaching assistant who signed the Peace Petition, the civil servant jailed on accusations of being a member of a terrorist organization, the baby jailed with his or her mother who is accused of being a coup plotter – are sacrificed on a regular basis for the well-being of the lions.

This time around, it was the turn of 13 academics, activists and intellectuals. There is no need to mention the titles they earned after years of toiling: Betül Tanbay, Turgut Tarhanlı, Meltem Aslan, Yiğit Ekmekçi, Çiğdem Mater, Asena Günal, Hakan Altınay, Bora Sarı, Ayşegül Güzel, Hande Özhabeş, Filiz Telek, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yusuf Cıvır.

Their crime is severe. They “organized meetings in a place called DEPO, which belongs to Anadolu Kültür Inc., with the aim of deepening and spreading the Gezi Park incidents, brought activism trainers, moderators and professional protestors from abroad (such as the Standing Man, Man Playing the Piano, the Woman in Red) to maintain the continuity of Gezi Park incidents under the guise of Civil Disobedience and Nonviolent Protest, engaged in activities of creating new media with the aim of bringing the continuation of Gezi Park incidents and similar other incidents like Gezi that are likely to occur to the agenda via their own media outlets.”

It has even been discovered that “their leader”, Osman Kavala, met with several people and institutions in Europe to stop the sale of pepper spray to Turkey, which became an issue during Gezi Park incidents”.

Just imagine: these 13 “traitors” targeted “our” pepper spray stock without which, no doubt, our country would suffer terribly. 13 sheep who forgot that they were sheep and dared to challenge the lions.

How dare they? Don’t you agree, dear members of Open Society? After all, you were quick to issue a public statement to the effect that you had no connection whatsoever to either Osman Kavala or his actions when he was detained.

Right, dear businesspersons? You know and trust the “lion-in-law” Berat Albayrak from his days at the Ministry of Energy, so nothing to worry about.

Right, dear “national left”? The detainees are bloody liberals and members of the “ Not Enough, But Yes” movement, which has supported the AKP once upon a time at the end of the day. Laissez faire, laissez passer. Right?

No, it is not right. As Tyrion Lannister, the younger son of Lord Lannister who has been perpetually loathed by his father for being a dwarf, once said: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”

Perhaps it will sound too romantic or idealistic, but let us still say it. We will not forget our 13 friends who objected to being a sheep throughout their lives and we will not forget the real sheep who keep aiding and abetting the lions to hold our friends captive. We know who we are. And who you are. We are ready to wear our identity like armours.

Are you? Don’t rush to answer; the lions might be watching. You wouldn’t want the Turkish police knocking on your door at 6 a.m. in the morning, right?

  • This article is first published at Ahval News.

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