The fastest goal ever scored in a World Cup Match was eleven seconds. Hasan Şükür was the man who pulled that off in a match against South Korea. While that name might not mean that much to those in the West, anybody here in Turkey would immediately know who I was talking about. Şükür was one of the greatest players in Turkey racking up nearly 400 goals mostly for Galatasaray. Since I am a Beşiktaş fan for Turkish soccer and a Yankees fan for baseball, I guess I could say a comparison to Ted Williams is in order. Like Williams, Şükür was a great athlete who happened to play for the enemy.
In another way, Şükür is less like Ted Williams and more like the boxer Manny Pacquiao, the basketball player Kevin Johnson, or the American football player Steve Largent. Like each of these Hasan Şükür used his successful athletic career as a springboard into politics. In 2011 he was elected as a member of Parliament (MP) representing Istanbul. He initially did so as a member of the AKP, the same party President Erdoğan is a part of. However, he later disagreed with the direction that party was headed and switched to independent. That pretty much killed his political career. In February Şükür was brought up on charges for criticizing the government on his twitter account. Yes, you read that correctly. Even worse, just a few days ago a warrant was issued for his arrest for alleged ties to Gulen, the man Erdoğan has chosen to blame for the coup. Currently Hasan Şükür is in America and it looks at this point that he will end up staying there for a long while. It certainly isn’t safe for him to return to Istanbul.
Speaking of returning to Istanbul, I have just done so this past week. My absence made me late in my rent payment and on Thursday I set aside a couple hours to take care of the problem. Now back in America paying rent is a small thing. My landlord’s office was right next door. I would knock and come in. We would spend a minute or two on small talk (sports, weather, etc). He would ask if there were any issues and I’d say no. I would drop the cash, he would write a receipt and I would be on my way. Five minutes tops.
Here things never move so fast. I would come in, we would hug and he would offer me some çay (tea). We would then proceed to cover every conversational topic that could possibly be brought up. We hadn’t chatted since before the Istanbul bombing, the coup, or my trips to Izmir, NY, and Gaziantep that was a lot. After an hour or so and a couple glasses of çay we would finally get around to taking care of the rent. I’d pay, he’d write a receipt, and then a third glass of tea would come and we would dive back in. I love it.
I don’t even remember the exact context of him saying it, but somewhere along the line my landlord said something that stuck with me: “Since you are an American, that is especially not safe for you.” While it is true that right now Americans are not as popular as they were a month ago (read this). That statement has bounced around in my mind the past couple days not for the safety implications it might entail as much as the question it has triggered. What makes a democracy a democracy?
The obvious answer is that in a democracy, the right to vote provides the active majority with the right to determine the policies of a nation. This is true and in this sense, both Turkey and America are democracies. But there is a dynamic that exists in democracies of places like America and the UK that are missing from so the called democracies of the Middle East. You can see it in play all over the place on Facebook. In a true democracy, the minority has the right to dissent without fear of reprisal.
I don’t like Trump. More than once on one social platform or another, I have made it clear that I do not like him and that he would be a horrible choice for president. Even if he does get elected, that will not be the end of the world for me. I don’t have to worry that what I said about him might end up getting me thrown in jail. I don’t have to worry that, like Hasan Şükür, something I said on twitter will end up leading to an arrest warrant and prevent me from ever being able to go back. Things like that don’t happen in a democracy.