“Have peace in your heart, sooner or later hope will blossom”
On the day of the military coup of 12 September 1980 in Turkey, my mom and dad had completed all the preparations to for their wedding, but they had to postpone it for another week due to the coup. My mother was an idealist teacher in those years. My father, a member of Pol-Der (Police Association) was an open minded man with progressive ideals. He was determined to become ’people’s police’. His idealistic prospects were shattered under the dark clouds of the 1980 military coup.
The neighborhood they lived was predominantly for low-income families. Neighbors liked this young couple so much even they organized their wedding ceremony on the streets of this township with a modest street festival.
One day my father was arrested. Handcuffed and escorted to his house by the military police, gendarme. My father had pleaded to the gendarme soldiers: ‘Please let me walk in the front alone, my wife is pregnant, so if we enter home in this situation, she may lose the baby”. The soldiers rejected his plea. Despite, my father made eye contacts with the on-looking neighbors who gave him the strength and started running towards the house. The soldiers’ “stop” warnings echoed the streets. He managed to run around the corner and knocked on the door. He felt little bit of relief, because my mother was not home yet. Soldiers stormed into the house and the house was rampaged. They confiscated well known books of Ugur Mumcu, Aziz Nesin (leftist elite writers) as evidence of organized terrorism. Then the trial began.
The harsh transition from proudly serving the State as a public servant and becoming “people’s police”, to the point of being accused and labeled as a “terrorist”, was a devastating period in my patents’ lives. In the meantime, one Friday on the Night of al-Qadr (Kadir) their daughter was born, they named her Kader (Destiny) , inspired from the meaning of that special day.
Lots of people had a fair share of suppression and harassment during those dark years of our country. Thousands of elite citizens were tortured, spent prison time without any criminal charges or proven guilt. Maybe the 1980 coup in Turkey did not directly impact the lives of all the individuals, but the country they lived significantly fall behind in social development, thus lost its competitiveness in the world in terms of economic development.
My father and mother had a lifelong commitment to defend the truth with honor and pride. They raised their children with these same values. After long years of lengthy legal struggle, even without a lawyer, they managed to win their case. However, our family paid a very high price for not giving in and sticking to their values for many years. We had lived in seven different districts of Anatolia until the year I started my university studies. I had to attend two different schools during my senior year at the junior high school. We were on the blacklist; they tried to suppress us with threats, intimidation and harassment. As a result my parents were always assigned to two separate geographical locations remote from each other.
As a result of these constantly changing assignments, once my father was appointed to a remote conservative Anatolian town. Over there when I questioned symptoms of withdrawn and unhappy life of my father, first time in my life I noticed concerns in his frowning face. Then, my experiences at school and at their work substantiated the reasons for his concerns: separating men and women in the family and social life, a mentality supporting harsh reactions to student’s curiosity and creativity in the educational system , even school officials reported and complained to parents about female students going to the library. At the end, this suppressive social atmosphere and pressure become very detrimental to the society, thus turned everyone against each other.
The social pressure not only targeted adults, but also children’s’ future. Such suppression in the social system destroyed the future of many bright young people in Turkey. However it could not and did not kill the hope in our hearts, on the contrary it made us even stronger. In my current position today, because of these unpleasant experiences I have lived through, I can tolerate different viewpoints in Turkey and assess them from various angles. After all these events during my childhood made me love and understand Anatolia and the people of my country.
One more important thing I realized: when there is no freedom and justice, neither a real economic growth nor any social development can take place.
By Kader Sevinç, CHP Representative of the European Union and the European Socialist Party (PES), Member of the Board of Directors
Most people when they think about the social challenges, they normally have this preconceived notion of “what can I do alone?” syndrome. Thus they do not do or do not have the courage to do something and accept their faith because they believe that nothing can be done about it. Kader Sevinç’s personality demonstrated the opposite of this submissive attitude towards faith. She has not only taken an individual initiative to follow her own destiny and but determined to make a change with impact. She is a role model of how an individual can make a difference, a perfect example of how one person can change these preconceived notions with perseverance.
I have been following Kader Sevinç, since 2008, the year she become the EU representative of CHP. Until that time, most politicians and political institutions in Brussels have not even heard the name of CHP. EU was unaware of the existence of a social democratic main opposition party in Turkey. Kader has achieved an incredible success in Brussels, now CHP exists with a respectful reputation at the European Union. Besides, she has demonstrated that CHP is an alternative political party to the incumbent ruling AKP which has been losing credibility within EU in recent years. Her message was clear “There is still hope for Turkey”
I have been in Brussels for almost a week. Kader Sevinç, both a successful politician and a poet, I have listened to her incredibly exceptional life story, starting at the Akdeniz University (Antalya Turkey), then to Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities in the US, coupled with her troubled and extremely challenging childhood in Turkey . I asked her “write these as open as you have told me”, and she did.
This is the story of outstanding achievements and victory of Kader, who is the daughter and the only hope of an idealist Turkish couple, a police officer and a teacher. A couple, who paid a very high price for their ideals for a better Turkey; with imprisonment, exile, suffering and torture. I am writing this article to give hope and encouragement to the families in Turkey whose lives are ruined and destroyed because their loved ones are imprisoned or exiled for their ideals.
“We accept the destiny we deserve”
Cumhuriyet Daily by Mine Kirikkanat