The photo you see above is the kind that tells a lot than pages of explanation. But maybe some interpretation would work for a better understanding.
The photo was taken at the Ata concert and event hall of the Turkish Education Association (TED) in Ankara on January 15. It was the Çankaya International Peace and Friendship Award ceremony, which Çankaya Municipality presented for the first time this year. The first recipients of the award were Giorgos Papandreou, the former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, and Zülfü Livaneli, Turkey’s renowned artist and intellectual. It was the leaders of the opposition parties that presented the awards. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, presented the award to Papandreou, who is also the head of the Socialist International, and İYİ (Good) Party Leader Meral Akşener presented the award to Livaneli.
The photo says something even with so little sub-text, right? Let’s continue with the photo analysis and add that the ceremony was held on the 120th birthday of poet Nazım Hikmet, on January 15.
If we compare this photo with the photo taken on January 5, captioned as the “Birthday” visit of President Tayyip Erdoğan to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, partner of the People’s Alliance.
Two photos, two alliances, two worlds
That photograph, which was published after Erdoğan’s visit to Bahçeli, was like a show, a display against the increased reactions to the record inflation rate announced two days before that day and to unstoppable price hikes.
So is this photograph of the opposition, which was taken ten days later, on January 15. Recently, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and MHP are in an effort to cause discord between the Nation Alliance with allegations about outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). We can see that the allegations have not seemed to affect Kılıçdaroğlu and Akşener much. Or let’s put it this way: even if it did affect them, they decide to handle it internally and not to show it.
Let’s be frank; it was the participation of Akşener, who came from a nationalist background and led an establishment of a centre-right movement, which upheld the republic’s values, secularism, and equality between women and men, that further increased the importance of this ceremony. Those who applauded Akşener while giving an award to Livaneli were the people who gave the highest vote support to CHP in Turkey. It seems like her efforts were appreciated.
On the other hand, Papandreou is an important figure in Greece-Turkey relations as he and his then-counterpart İsmail Cem were the initiators of the rapprochement of two neighbours in a time of a scandal when the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was arrested while hiding in the Greek Embassy in Kenya, with the CIA-MIT operation. The former Greek leader continued his efforts during his term as the Prime Minister, and he underlined his outlook in the award ceremony. He said that Europe should not exclude Turkey for its own sake.
The need for friendship and peace
Today, Greece has a government that provokes its powerful allies against Turkey, and Turkey has a government that has to respond with the same harshness. (In the Alexis Tsipras era in Greece, there was a policy of no provocation against Turkey, and there were no harsh messages from Turkey.)
In times when both countries are in economic trouble, a discourse of cooperation, not hostility, is needed. Therefore, the peace and friendship messages and the photograph can be considered a show and a declaration of Turkey and Greece’s domestic and foreign policies.
The idea of initiating an international peace and friendship award belongs to Çankaya mayor Alper Taşdelen. The Republic of Turkey was founded in Çankaya district, which hosts the Parliament, Ministries, Embassies. In this town with a population of one million, Taşdelen won 74% of the votes for the CHP. Therefore, it is one of the targets of the AKP government. Taşdelen is a politician who studied International Relations at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Ankara University and completed his master’s degree in the same field at Columbia University. His speech’s main axis was that Turkey shifted to a foreign policy that changes on a daily basis as it moves away from Atatürk’s principle of “Peace at home, peace in the world”.
Global crisis of democracy
The head of the award jury was Hikmet Çetin, the former Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and CHP Chairman. In his speech, he cited his conversation with Papandreou before the ceremony. They talked about the global crisis of democracy. There is a pessimistic picture in terms of representative democracy. This situation affected governments in all countries.
Kılıçdaroğlu also touched upon this in his short speech. “Democracy is in crisis in our country too,” he said, and addressed the youth. He said that the new generation will solve the crisis in Turkey. He received a lot of applause from the young audience.
You can listen Zülfü Livaneli’s song “Özgürlük (Freedom)” accompanied by the Çankaya Symphonytta orchestra conducted by Rengim Gökmen at the end of the ceremony from this link.