The German-Turkish author works as a translator and has published various books, most recently “In your words: conjectures about my father’s faith”.
Almost all major countries in the world are involved in the region, but the decades-old conflicts continue unchanged. It could take revenge that we in Europe still think that the state of affairs in the Middle East is none of our concern.
It is already grotesque: the killing of an Iranian militia general has made almost the whole world sit up and take notice as if the changes of time are approaching. Murder and manslaughter have been commonplace in the Middle East for at least the past two decades, a bloody civil war is raging in Syria, Iraq is no longer a functioning state, a coup general is in power in Egypt, and Turkish democracy has now been badly damaged.
What’s going on in this part of the world? All possible callers give an answer to this question. Almost nothing is heard from those affected. Is it a silence of the victims or a silence of the perpetrators? Possibly both. Who is in whose debt will not be resolved by further wars. The blood toll rises, the last threads of reason are cut off and disappear behind the horizon.
There is a simple cultural pessimistic interpretation of these unsustainable conditions. In this part of the world, it is said, it has always been so. No education, poor education, poverty and oppression, accompanied by a repressive, backward religion. What can one expect other than conditions like those at the time of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe? Such basic settlements always have an in-depth effect. But they don’t exactly provide foresight and distract from their own entanglements.
Wars in the Middle East are now like natural disasters. Almost all major countries in the world are involved in them in one way or another. Almost all of these conflicts take place along confessional dividing lines. People lose property, property and life and worse, they seem to have lost their minds, common sense.
Countries like Turkey, which had a reasonably well-functioning system, have exchanged it for an autocracy of ancient colors in order to organize grotesque conquests that, due to lack of power, end five kilometers behind their own national border, but cost lives and resources that are urgently needed elsewhere.
Small wars everywhere by self-proclaimed princes, regardless of losses. Any interest in the thoughts of the other seems lost, one speaks to oneself and locks oneself up. There is no one left to agree with that you disagree, and probably will not agree.
The progressive voices are almost silent
It was not long ago: It was in the 1980s. Turkey was trying to recover from a military coup. Then suddenly magazines appeared, in which for the first time publishers from different worlds of thought, socialists and Muslims, rationalists and mystics, liberals and modernists published together.
That was new for Turkey. In a country where there are deep ideological divisions, these publications were platforms of hope. The unorthodox left-wing intellectual Murat Belge, an important free-spirited voice, was one of the initiators, his magazine was called: “Yeni Gündem” – “The New Agenda”. Such publications opened new channels in society, bridged the gap between left and right, traditionalists and modernists.
That Turkey has not long ago plunged into a bloody civil war like the neighboring state of Syria, it is because the country is still feeding on this phase of hope, albeit with smaller and smaller portions. But what happens when there is nothing left, everyone speaks for themselves without a counterpart?
In large parts of the Middle East, the conversation with a counterpart beyond the tea ceremony fails. To open one’s mind to another, to exchange ideas with someone who thinks differently, to maintain the dispute, and to gain not only knowledge, but also pleasure and foresight, that is the foundation of every enlightened, educationally friendly civilization. The opposite of this has existed in the Middle East for decades, regardless of whether these countries are Western allies or opponents.
If people from these regions did not leave to come to us as refugees, defenseless, have-nots, the damage to us in the West would probably be minimal. Bad tongues could even say that this situation is not exactly unfavorable for the interests of certain powers in the region. All of these cynical speculations are now meaningless.
The stricken self-respect distinguishes people from this area from others in large parts of the free world. When a human life is no longer worth anything, at most serves as a filler for corrupt ideologies, there is no more self-respect, no personality, no right to a decent life. There is no need for complaining anymore. There is no space or time for self-pity. It has long become an expression of the incapacitation and devaluation of human individuals.
Perpetuum mobile of oppression
The Middle East, it seems, is now heading towards hour zero. Tabula Rasa, to end everything that has plunged people from one accident to another for generations, a system as a perpetuum mobile of oppression and tyranny. Is there really an alternative in another direction?
When it comes to becoming active in this region, this question would first have to be answered credibly, that is to say to some extent with some hope and practical solutions. Instead, there appear to be only military issues to be resolved that lead to further violence and often to the stabilization of corruption and injustice. The question of how many soldiers of which country are where is almost marginal.
As long as the people from this region do not really get together to analyze the causes of their misery with a cool head, they will not be able to live in a civilized, decent environment during their lifetime. But what does it mean to team up? Where are the approaches to a new agenda? An exchange of conflicting thoughts, thinking outside the box?
The delicate plantings of civil society have been crushed in almost all countries. Autocrats, religious sectarians or corrupt power barons. This situation has primarily to do with the ways of thinking in these societies and their historical characteristics. These influences have their roots in Islamic history and in an understanding of religion that faith does not create any potential for peace, but is rather an inspiration for war and destruction.
Of course, the history of the Enlightenment shows that there are ways to overcome this condition. But the conditions for an improvement in people’s living conditions based on liberal, educational ideas are vulnerable. One must be wrested from sinister thoughts and be protected. The history of the West with its erroneous paths, dead ends and abysses is proof of this.
Neither the United States nor Europe today is able or willing to play a constructive role for the Middle East similar to that of the Americans in Central Europe in 1945. This role was important in terms of civilization, because the Western victorious powers did not contribute further to weaken or to an all Annihilation of the losing opponent, but helped to build a better society. And all against the backdrop of monstrous war crimes committed by the Germans.
Vicious circle of believe, repress, rule
The interventions in the Middle East have so far only had the opposite effect. In the civil war-torn country of Syria, it was passivity. In the event of the US intervention in Iraq, long-smoldering conflicts were transformed into permanent instability. Such actions can no longer be transfigured as stabilizing measures.
For the Middle East there will be no magic hand that can provide living conditions overnight. How can this vicious circle of belief, oppression, rule and war be broken? How can the cynical hostility to life of one’s own set of values, which educates to murderers and executioners, be recognized on site?
This is hardly possible without an effort, without philosophy, without the critical, self-critical light of the mind. Otherwise, differences will no longer result in cohesion, but fragmentation, decay and war.
It could take revenge that we in Europe still think that the situation in these countries is none of our concern, but rather a peripheral problem. The strife in this region is also changing other parts of the world. It shifts standards and turns politics into a source of suffering and irrationality.