Supposedly a joke, it went viral on Facebook, Twitter and so on. Had it not been for the email from one of my readers, Ali Rıza Malkoç, I would not even have known about it. To top it all, it is not a joke at all but heart-breaking reality.
I will quote that email verbatim:
‘... In the morning, I called in at the porters’ coffee shop that I frequent opposite the covered vegetable market. At one table were four waste-paper scavengers of my age and we had a chat.
It seems they were from Aleppo.
One of them was a Baath Party member and a radical leftist, one was a Turkmen nationalist, one was Kurdish and one was of mixed Arab-Turkmen heritage and a member of a religious brotherhood.
They said, ‘Mate, in Syria, never mind sit at the same table, we could not bear to be in the same street as one another. Now the country has gone to ruin and we are here searching through the same rubbish heap...’
Had I not overheard a heated argument at a neighbouring table in a hostelry these same days, I would not have introduced you to the story of the four Aleppians at the same table but would have let it go with a bitter laugh.
There were three in my crowd. I gathered from their conversation that one of them was Kurdish and the other two Turkish, but the three of them were left wingers, and staunchly so. They were talking about our ‘canteen-man Şenol’ who had been arrested and remanded in custody for publicly stating that he would not treat Erdoğan to a tea. That is precisely why I pricked up my hears and listened in on the sly.
They clearly did not expect any ‘cherished citizen informers’ to be in earshot, because there was an outpouring of criticism that went much further than an unwillingness to offer a tea.
One of them said, ‘Mate, look at that bloke, you only have to say something against him and he has you chucked inside. The way things are going we won’t be able to have our little chats.’
He should not have bothered. The chat flared up into an argument and the argument grew in ferocity.
- It’s thanks to you lot that it’s this way, lad. Saying ‘Not enough but yes’ you have put the man at the top of the state. You lot have got no right to complain now, alright?
The Turk who was apparently the jibe of the ‘Not enough but yes’ remark did not take it lying down, that’s for sure.- Piss off, what were we supposed to do? What if we queued up along with the Evrens and Bahçelis and said ‘No’ like your crowd? That’s not what we said ‘Yes’ for, it was to shake up the cosy old boys’ set-up at the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, to see to it that Evren’s crowd had their day in court and to win the right to apply to the Constitutional Court. You people said ‘No’ for fear of any change to the 12 July constitution.
The Kurd, tied up in laughter at the Turks’ duello, was full of himself:
- We boycotted it. We didn’t side with Tayyip, but we didn’t side with Evren and Bahçeli, either. We didn’t give two hoots about that referendum.
At this, the two Turks turned on the Kurd, their words complementing one another’s:
- What a flipping disgrace. Boycott, you say. I thought you were supposed to be a party of Turkey? Did your chair not even say, ‘We are not against the presidential system?’
- Of course he didn’t. When did our chair say that?
- Lad, we’re talking about your top chair. Isn’t this what your chair in İmralı said?
- OK, he did. But, he had conditions. He said there could be no executive presidency without those conditions.
The argument was about to switch from the constitutional referendum, away from ‘Not enough but yes – enough but no,’ to the Kurdish problem, when it was punctuated by the waiter coming over and asking if they would like more beer. And I had things to do, so I got up and left in the midst of this spirited banter.
I am not about to draw conclusions more portentous than the two different conversations.
For example, I am not about to come out with, ‘These conversations are both lessons in democracy,’ and give childish advice along the lines of: ‘If only Aleppians could bear to be in the same street as one another and perceive their differences to be a richness; and if only our lot, rather than squabbling over ‘You said not enough but yes ... You said enough but no ... We didn’t give a hoot and boycotted it,’ could unite in the face of the intensifying attack that deals one deadly blow after another to democracy on a daily basis.’
I make do with bringing the two cordial and meaningful conversations to your attention.
Leaving those who care to do so to draw whatever lesson they wish.