"My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men."
--Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
What great news out of Istanbul over the weekend -- democracy still lives in old Turkey, which is new again after Sunday's election returns. Not only does democracy still live in those ancient precincts, but it has taken on new life, strength, confidence, hope and determination after more than a decade of gathering darkness under the aegis of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, old-style Pasha and new-style totalitarian.
Let the bells ring out from every tower, or rather the word be proclaimed from every minaret: This would-be dictator's best-laid plans to remake Turkey in his own image have come to naught -- less than naught. For all the opposition parties, or what was left of them after his machinations, unexpectedly united and rose up to defy the regime and set their country free again. And proclaim liberty throughout the land.
Once again, Turkey has a real opposition again -- unintimidated and effective. They will now have to jockey for position in parliament or join a coalition government with the would-be dictator's still dominant party, but the immediate threat of a dictatorship has been averted.
For some 13 years, since his first victory in the country's parliamentary elections, Turkey's increasingly autocratic ruler has pulled every underhanded trick he could to subvert his country's once strong alliance with the United States, our NATO allies and the West in general. And to undermine the civil rights of its people by oppressing any group that stood in the way of his ambitions, and now . . . this. The sun of freedom shines bright again.
Let's not us not just bemoan the decay of liberty in that part of the world as America retreats and resets under this indecisive administration, but rejoice that an increasingly captive people has arisen to throw off the chains that a tyrant was busy forging for it. Sic semper tyrannis. Freedom-loving minorities like the Kurds have won a great victory. Along with all those citizens who believe in not only upholding their own rights but the rights of others.
Let's put it this way: Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern, secular, forward-looking and groundbreaking Turkey, is no longer just a dusty portrait on the wall of every government office. He's a living presence again, a guiding spirit. Hope doesn't just spring eternal; sometimes it is fulfilled -- as in Turkey's elections last Sunday.
Let it be noted that the Turks did all this themselves, redeeming their past and enhancing their future, not with bullets but ballots. And the West, with all its values and hopes, has been vindicated peacefully by voters who had finally had it with this rising tyrant who is no longer rising but falling.
To quote a 50-year-old doctor in Istanbul who had consistently supported Erdogan Pasha till now, but has finally seen the light of the Western sun: "My expectation now is to have a more livable country, under more humane conditions, where people understand and tolerate each other."
Ataturk lives again in the country he ushered into modernity. May this be only the beginning of another new age for his country and its brave people. Pass the stuffed eggplant, and I'll take a glass of Okuzgozu with it. This latest news is enough to revive the appetite, especially for freedom.