by Uygar Baspehlivan
It would be highly irrational for me – both socially and ethically – to deny the brutality and cowardice of Charlie Hebdo attacks in France on 7th of January 2015. As a wannabe academic/journalist – and a radical one in that regard – seeing that the notion of freedom of speech is challenged and threatened in that way was disturbing to me as to any of my friends who actually live in Europe. Of course, like any middle to high class teenager living in the 21st century, I tried to express my irritation by changing my Facebook profile picture … And the reaction I got from my friends and my relatives in Turkey led me to write this quick analysis.
“Dear Uygar, I agree that there should be some kind of reaction or protest to any unlucky and unjust event happening around the world, however don’t forget that there are incidents like that occurring ‘in your country’ too. Love you”. My cousin wrote this comment under my Facebook profile picture which I innocently put in the name of freedom of speech, yet this passive-aggressive statement questioning my national loyalty was clearly an attack to my own freedom of speech. And frankly, I saw tons of comments and memes and videos that initially had the same idea as this comment: “Why do you care about the deaths in other countries when there are clearly similar massacres happening in countries that are more related to you?” This regional division of worldwide issues reflects the hidden problem of today’s international system … “Nationalism”.
One day before the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Nigeria. On a normal day, Turkish news wouldn’t have mentioned these attacks at all. Nigeria was never important to Turkish media and it probably won’t be in the future. Yet when the Anti-Muslim mentality in the Western Sphere ignited (which I’m definitely against) Turkish journalists and right-wing politicians were not reluctant to heavily criticise the lack of attention given to Nigerian attacks in the midst of the Charlie Hebdo solidarity movement.
The problem is: Turkish media was right. European media never gave enough attention to other major terrorist attacks outside Western world. Yet Turkish media didn’t do that either. None of these countries would ever care about someone dying if it’s not in their national interest. Turkey was interested in Nigeria in that timespan because they were worried of the anti-Muslim mentality rising in Europe. Europe was interested in Charlie Hebdo attacks because it was now “their” countries that have the possibility of being attacked by terrorists. Nigeria was never the actual issue but the concept of a terrorist attack happening outside Europe during the Charlie Hebdo attacks and how these nations can use this concept to vitalize their national interests was “the” main point.
If these concepts before states attitude continues, the peace cries of thousands of diplomats will be worthless. International peace is impossible without stable international moral values. Seeing someone as a citizen of the earth population rather than “a stranger from another nation” is what we need to achieve. And the definite rise of right-wing extremism in the world and the consequent over-nationalistic policies will take us further down the road of chaos. This is not only about state policies – but about people. Morality is shaped by the society. Nevertheless a society without moral values except for their own nation is nothing but counterproductive. If we continue dividing international problems by regions, by races, by religious ideas, we will never find the path for international solidarity that both Europeans and moderate Muslims today are striving for. Nationalism corrupts international moral values. That’s what I concluded from what I saw in the social media after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. “Races” that try to get the best for themselves out of a horrid situation. Pathetic, to be honest.