Why publishing in Turkish made me cry

I got so happy when huge Turkish language news portal HaberX asked me to publish some of my blog posts on their site. I want to reach as many people as possible with my writing, so publishing on a site with 80,000 visitors per day, in a language that I don’t yet publish in, is wonderful. But after my first blog post was published there, it suddenly hit me: now I’m no longer writing for outsiders abroad, but for Turks in Turkey. It feels to me like a totally different arena.

So different in fact, that it made me burst out in tears. What I fear is that I will be put in a political camp. That I get a stamp on my forehead: ‘She’s pro AKP!’, or ‘She’s against Atatürk!’, or ‘She against the unity of Turkey!’ For all three, and everything else you can think of which labels me as taking sides: not true.

Why does this touch me so much? It is, you could say, an old pain. I’ve been in a tumultuous relationship with a Turkish man for six years. Me, a liberal Dutch journalist, trying to somehow figure out this country, he a leftist nationalist pro-army Turk. As you can imagine, we had a few fights about politics. And consequently about my work. It’s too complicated to go into the details, but in the end, he questioned my journalistic integrity. Suggested I was paid by parties other than media outlets to publish in a certain way about certain subjects. Accusing me of many other things that all boiled down to being an infiltrator against the secular Turkish republic and its founder.

You cannot believe how much that has hurt me. I could not defend myself. What can you say to somebody who is so utterly suspicious? And over time, it got worse. I got to know Turkey better and was able to give better counter-arguments to his – in my view – very scary nationalist views, and that would sometimes get totally out of hand. It made me feel utterly powerless, misunderstood and denied, both as a person and as a journalist.

And now I’m afraid that will happen again. That I will be too easily judged from a Turkish perspective. I am not a Turk. I don’t want to join the polarization that is going on in Turkey. I am not even able to. I think differently, simply because I grew up in another country. I love living in this country, but I don’t have the passionate feelings that Turks have about all the issues that matter here. Turkish history, Turkish culture and Turkish blood: it is all just not in my veins. So don’t put labels on my writing as if it were.

I’m scared. At the same time I know I can have faith. Because the fear is based on what is now history – I put an end to the relationship a year ago. Since then I have expanded my Turkish social circle. With every new Turkish man or woman that I meet, I realize my ex was an exception. No need to be uncomfortable sharing my writing with Turks. In fact, the time is exactly right for it. I want to be in the middle of this society, and joining the debate in Turkish is only a logical part of it.

Read my first column on HaberX here.

11 replies
  1. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    I think every good writer always questions how their writing will go down in certain circles. Being labelled is also a possibility if your writing affects people. If you don’t get labelled then it means your words are not getting through.

    The best pieces are always the ones that provoke emotions and thoughts long after the person has read it. Well done on breaking your comfort zone and also being noticed. This means your words have a message and the more people that see it the better.

  2. Mehmet Tekin
    Mehmet Tekin says:

    Your being an outsider is an advantage to your cause. I find it so much more valuable that you express your opinions and thoughts in Turkey as a foreigner.

    The problem in Turkey is the idea that “Bitaraf olan bertaraf olur” (Someone who is neutral will be put out of way) as once PM Erdoğan stated.

    I wish you good luck and success in your attempt to be a unpolarized journalist in Turkey.

  3. Kemal
    Kemal says:

    Goedemiddag 🙂 Go for it Fréderike! We just need different voices and ideas. Turkey turned into a dipolar political arena which is awfully depressing. Your effort is valuable, you have my support and Bedankt!

  4. Eline
    Eline says:

    Love the way you analyze your own thoughts on the matter. Be brave (I know you are) – you have been asked to write for the local public. I think that’s a huge achievement, one to be very proud of! It means that you are becoming an ‘insider’, a part of the country you have chosen to live in. As you state yourself, it is only logical that you should take part in the debate.

  5. Nur Emmink
    Nur Emmink says:

    Congratulations Frederike. You are brave and open it means that you will be succesfull.. The matter of fact is turkey and turkish people are not easy to be understood .. So donot worry aboıut this. That is also our problem even we have all the things wat you’ve mentioned about are in our veins :=))

  6. Odrinaz K.
    Odrinaz K. says:

    Although I don’t always agree with your blogposts, I like following your blog. I like the way you view the news and matters in Turkey from the viewpoint of a foreigner. And I got glad when I read this blogpost; you got more familiar with the Turkish culture, Turkey etc. as you lived here but you certainly don’t completely got track with the Turkish culture, history etc. So it became a bit more understandable why you still sometimes write really in a anti-secular Turkey point of view.

    Congrats btw on your new Turkish column on haberx 🙂 (although I was not thrilled by the article you chose as a starter…)

  7. Inger
    Inger says:

    Congratulations, you made a big and important and decisive step! And of course it is scary, especially with your recent experiences. I admire your courage, personally and professionally. Never underestimate your achievements, and do celebrate this one! *drinking to your health now*

  8. Fréderike Geerdink
    Fréderike Geerdink says:

    Thanks for all the great reactions, wonderful really!

    Odrinaz, I wonder which postings you refer to when you say I sometimes write anti-secular. And how you link it to this. I mean, you don’t think that I base my opinions on experiences in my relationship, do you? Because I don’t.
    I don’t write anti-secular. You might interpret it that way, and that’s okay. Pro- or anti-secular is in general just not my perspective. I am in general pro-freedom, and some Turks call that anti-secular, and that’s another angle of looking at the same thing.
    It’s funny really: before you discuss these things, it’s always a good idea to first define what you mean with certain terms. What’s secularism? What’s laicism? What’s freedom? What’s democracy? What’s left, what’s right?
    I grew up learning secularism means the government governs the state and religious clerks manage the church and they stay out of eachothers way, mainly based on the thought that religion needs to be protected against state influence. In Turkey it means something else: the state does mingle in religion, even regulates it, to protect the state against religion. So, you can never say I write ‘anti-secular’. I 100% believe in and support secularism the way I learned the concept. Turkish secularism is another concept. I don’t always support the way it turns out in practice. But that’s something else than being anti-secular. I call it nuance 😉
    By the way, I also didn’t like the article I chose as a starter, to be honest. But when I wrote the headscarf story and called Kagider and couldn’t use the interview in the article, I decided to write a blog post on Kagiders stance as soon as the article would be published. I decided to stick to that, even though it would mean my first posting on HaberX would be about the headscarf issue. Ne yapabilirim 😉

  9. MaryAnne Oxendale
    MaryAnne Oxendale says:

    Until 3 years ago, I lived in Turkey for over six years. Your post brought back a lot of memories of the things that drove me batty when I was there (I was in Kayseri 2 years, in Istanbul 4). I had so many impossible arguments with friends, boyfriends, students, colleagues. I’m in no way an absolutist. I am not polarized. My world is not seen in black and white. More than one perspective is possible. The world (and Turkey) is a complex place that I couldn’t reduce to Secular v. Islamic, AKP v. MHP v. CHP, Us v. Them. I understand your apprehension and your frustrations. I like the way you explained your views. I look forward to reading more. By the way, I live in China now…and it isn’t so different (just different polarizations…)

  10. Hevallo Azad
    Hevallo Azad says:

    Thanks for that, it was very brave of you!

    I hope that you did not know very much about the Kurdish Question at that time!

    Still, hopefully he will also be being slowly deprogrammed with others as the media continue to educate and slowly reveal the true horrors of the crimes against the Kurds in Turkey


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