Monday, September 26, 2016

Little people forgotten in the march of history

It would be fair to say that life has not been kind to Harun İpek.

While serving in the Turkish Army in 2003 the young conscript stood on a landmine planted by the Kurdish separatist group PKK, which has been waging a guerilla war with Turkey on and off for the past 30 years. Both his legs had to be amputated.

After he was invalided out of the military, İpek was able to retrain as a public servant and gained a job with the Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks. That ended in the wake of the 15 July failed military coup against the Government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

İpek is one of more than 100,000 workers sacked or suspended from State institutions over their alleged links to cleric Fethullah Gülen who Erdogan blames for engineering the coup. The disabled veteran’s offence was that he accepted scholarships from a Gülen Movement School for his four children.

“My children used to be proud of being the children of a veteran. Now they are seen as infidels. I have still not been given a reason why I have been removed,” İpek said recently.

This one human story reveals the lengths to which Erdogan is going in his “cleansing of State institutions”, to use his words.

It is hard to see what kind of threat a disabled former soldier working quietly away in an agency dedicated to improving the country’s environment might have been to Erdogan or his Government, and why he should be so punished for taking an opportunity to give his children an education.

While the Government will no doubt maintain that the Gülen Movement Schools are breeding grounds for revolutionaries, why then did it allow 300 schools catering for more than two million students to thrive up until the coup?

And why is it that the more than 700 schools that operate outside the country, including some in the United States, have not attracted the attention of local authorities?

When the events of 15 July are examined in the sober light of history, it will most likely be found that the coup was a bungled attempt by a few disaffected military officers who, in the end, could not even convince the forces at their disposal to do their will.

What the historians will concentrate on is the massive over-reaction by the Government which many observers are now saying, with some justice, has developed into a witch-hunt.

What they will not record in detail are the ruined lives and shattered dreams of the countless ordinary people like Harun İpek, punished for just being in the way.   

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