A Turkish Harvard research fellow sternly challenged President Abdullah Gül during the latter’s visit to the US, asking why the president was not ashamed to deliver lessons on democracy after thousands of people had suffered in a harsh police crackdown on the Gezi Park protests of last summer.
Gül was paying a non-official visit to the US, a NATO ally of Turkey, to attend his son Mehmet Emre Gül’s graduation ceremony at Harvard University, and was also invited to make a speech at the panel discussion “A View from Turkey: Current Regional Issues and the Way Forward” at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on Friday.
Introducing his questions by recalling the first anniversary of the Gezi events, Altındiş first reminded the Turkish president about an article written by Altındiş and his colleagues, some of whom have won Nobel prizes, for Science magazine, in which they urged the Turkish government to end its violent crackdown on the protests that began with the Gezi Park events in late May of last year and later spread across the country.
“We have decided to protest against the Turkish government as it has killed eight citizens and caused 90 people to undergo head trauma, nine people to lose their eyesight and millions of people to be covered in tear and pepper gas. However, the violence still continues in Turkey. Every day three women are killed and four workers are murdered in workplace accidents. During the Roboski massacre the military, headed by you, killed 34 people. Seventeen of them were children. You live in Ankara. Ethem Sarısülük was shot in the head in [Ankara’s] Kızılay. His murderer is free. Aren’t you ashamed to lead such a state? How dare you offer us a sham of democracy here? How do you sleep at night? Berkin Elvan was 14 years old. Your prime minister has called a 14-year-old child a terrorist,” Altındiş asked Gül in Turkish, urging the organizers of the panel to translate his words into English.
Gül, enraged by Altındiş’s questions, said: “Now, you listen to me. No one can give you the right to ask a question in this way.” In response, interrupting Gül, Altındiş said, “I would get a whipping if I were in Turkey.”