Sunday, May 8, 2016
“Conflict is easy… Apology is difficult…”
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Our friend Ulash Gokche says `Conflict is easy, apology is difficult` and writes an article for my page in YENIDUZEN newspaper entitled `A Russian example in avoiding conflict in ethnic or religious problems…`
I want to share in summary, this important article of Ulash Gokche today with a view that it could open our minds about how a conflict can be handled in order to avoid tension and even bloodshed in Cyprus…
Ulash Gokche writes:
`On the night of the 1st of April 2016 something serious happened that could lead to serious ethnic or religious conflict at the capital Elista of Russian Republic of Kalmykia. One of the sportsman who was at Elista for the wrestling championship from Dagestan, went to the biggest Buddhist Monastery in Europe there called Burhan Bakshin Altan Sum and made his toilet in its garden. He physically attacked the monument of Bhuda and published all of this on the internet through Periscope. When the citizens of the town learnt about this, they went to the hotel where this sportsman from Dagestan was staying and took him to the Monastery, made him go down on his knees and apologize.
Kalmykia is the only Buddhist area in Europe. The Kalmyk who have Turkic roots believe in Tibetan Buddhism. The neighbouring Dagestan that has a border with Kalmykia is another interesting republic of Russia. Dagestan is where hundreds of ethnic groups live together and it is the area in Russia where there is the utmost ethnic and lingual variety. Dagestan is also the richest country in the world concerning lingual variety per kilometre. Dagestan has 14 official languages and the Dagestan people are known among the Caucasus peoples as warriors and the most hard-headed. Furthermore, Dagestan is a place where Islamic fundamentalism is most widespread in Russia. So with such differences, carrying the potential dangers for conflict, such an incident happened between the two neighbouring republics that could have led to serious conflict in any other country, including Cyprus. We believe that what happened afterwards is a method of resolution for such ethnic or religious reasons of conflict.
After the ugly attack, the Elista police, arrested the sportsman from Dagestan. He will be tried for infringing the law of `Freedom of Conscience and Belief`. After this arrest, the President of Kalmykia, Alexei Orlov called the President of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov and gave him information through the phone about what had happened. Abdulatipov, in his public statement denounced the irresponsible behaviour of those youth with a lack of culture and stated that the mother and father of the sportsman had extended their apologies. The president of Dagestan also gave a `punishment of warning` to the Minister of Sports. After this the President of Dagestan made an urgent visit to the capital of Kalmykia, Elista. Here Orlov and Gamidov made a joint statement to the press. Orlov in his speech denounced such actions that could create conflict among the two peoples and stressed that they share the same view as Dagestan about this issue. Gamidov on the other hand, said the following: `All of the people of Dagestan were very uncomfortable with the unethical behaviour of some Dagestan people. We denounce the unethical behaviour of our citizens. In the name of all Dagestan people and in my own name, I express my deep sadness to the brotherly people of Kalmykia. Our peoples have always been in good neighbourly relations. Today thousands of Dagestani are living and working in Kalmykia. The Dagestanis who live here are living with utmost respect to the religion and all of the values of Kalmykia people. Some young people shamed our republic with their behaviour. The Kalmykia people can be sure that this event will not be without reaction. From today the coach of the sports team who brought the sportsman to Kalmykia has been fired from his job. This event that happened last night creates an occasion for us to give more importance to youth so that such events never happen again…`
The statement of the leader of a people who are living and even ready to die for their honour, can be a good example for us about how problems that can lead to ethnic and religious conflicts should be handled.
The Dagestani and the Kalmykian authorities, without giving any opportunity to extreme religious or nationalist circles to manipulate this event, shared it with the public. For the events not to become bigger and for the opportunists not to gain from it, this is a very important step. Hiding such actions, pretending they did not happen or ignoring them and stating that such actions are only done by extremist is actually allowing the problems to turn into conflict. In order to solve such issues, it is necessary to openly discuss such actions without fear or shame. Intolerance towards religion, lack of religion, towards other languages, towards other political or sexual preferences, towards other peoples is a very common disease. The nature of human beings is afraid of those who are not like him and feels the need to protect him/herself. We will always encounter such behaviour and we would always have to produce solutions to such problems. We need to get used to the human nature. We cannot solve the problem of lack of tolerance by ignoring it. Quite the contrary we need to see the problems and take them seriously.
Another important point is that such actions should be taken seriously at the level required. That is attacks against religious beliefs or lack of beliefs, attacks against ethnic identities must be answered at the highest level and with utmost importance. This is necessary to show how much importance is given to these and at what level they would be answered – the public must be given the right message.
The third important point is that steps must be taken both politically and at the level of police in order to prevent such actions. Such actions must definitely be punished.
Because the attack is not aimed at a single person, a single religion or lack of religion – it is aimed at the peace, at the future of a community and can cause massive actions.
All over the world, if an ordinary crime is committed against a person, its punishment is different. If a crime is against a whole community, that is if it is a crime of terror, its punishment is different, it is heavier.
A citizen who left some atheist brochures at a church in Britain was punished with prison. Similarly, those who had danced at the Jesus the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow were also punished with prison.
The biggest mistake would be to call these as ordinary work of vagabonds…
Cyprus is a place of mass amounts of `missing persons` and mass graves. Thousands of our people are in graves. Hundreds of people are waiting for us to find them at the bottom of a well, under a tree. The only crime of our people were that they had sucked with their mother's milk Turkish or Greek language. Children and youth and elderly and women and men were killed for that. This country is a whole statue of what nationalism has brought us. That is the past of our country is the result of our leaders for not being as clever and wise as the Kalmykian and Dagestani leaders. Whether our country unites or stays as it is, we might encounter the problems we lived in the past… That is why apart from tolerance towards all sorts of differences, religion, language and race, we must show utmost lack of tolerance towards the lack of tolerance. Today in Germany and Russia, there is an incredible amount of lack of tolerance towards fascist symbols, fascist language and fascist organisations.
In a country as democratic as Germany, a Nazi symbol is as serious as making sure that someone stays in prison for many long years. But why? Because both Germans and Russians (USSR) had been the victims of fascism. That is why there is no tolerance to fascism that has caused tens of millions of deaths. Let the Kalmykians, Dagestani, Russians, Germans be a lesson to us… Let them be a lesson to our leaders, to our teachers, to our religious people, to our politicians, to our journalists, to our police and to our soldiers…"
Photo: Orlov and Gamidov making statement together…
(*) Article published in the POLITIS newspaper on the 8th of May 2016, Sunday.