“I have a lot of problems with the Turkish Republic,” he said with a big smile on his face. “I do not like the Turkish Republic. I like Ottoman. I am an Ottoman warrior,” he continued as he munched on an egg and sipped some tea.
“Why is that?” I asked inquisitively. Usually, the answer has to do with politics and how ethnic minorities feel as if they are being assimilated into the overall Turkish sphere.
“Religion!” he put in triumphantly. “Turkey ignores religion. It says Islam is not important, but we are Muslim. We are a Muslim country. It is important that we follow our religion. For this reason, I like Iran. I want Turkey to be like Iran.”
I was amazed. This was the first I had ever heard of anyone in Turkey, no matter how religious they were, openly saying that they wanted a system in Turkey like that of Iran – people always insisted on the opposite.
“You like Iran then,” I said cautiously, unsure of how to proceed.
“Yes, definitely,” he continued as he poured us more tea. “Iran is very good, except for violence towards women. They throw stones at women, kill women. This is bad. You know, I read the Qur’an and it does not say these things. So that violence is very bad.”
“Right, it says be merciful to people, right?”
“Yes, yes, exactly.”
We sat in a short lived silence, as we continued working on our breakfast. “But I do like Iran, you know. I think all women should be covered. You see some women and you think what are they doing. It’s very bad.”
“Yeah… What about alcohol, though? Should that be banned?”
“Absolutely. I never drank alcohol, it is forbidden.”
“Right, but what about for Christian or Jewish people? They need alcohol for their religion. Can they drink it?”
For a second here my friend, the Ottoman warrior, faltered. Although he continued to have his big welcoming smile, you can tell he was trying to work out a conundrum in his head. Within a second though he had recovered.
“Yes, yes, of course they can. You know, I read a lot of Nietzsche. You know Nietzsche? My family always asks me why I have these books. ‘God is dead!’ But for me, no problem. I like reading, I like new ideas. People are people, you know. So for Christians if you need to drink, you can drink. No problem.”
“The Ottomans were like that, right? Every group had their own laws, it was very tolerant.”
“Yes, yes. You know, I am a soft Islamist. Every person is special, so you should not hurt or kill anyone. If I cut you or I cut myself, it is the same blood, yes? We hurt the same.”
“People are people,” I murmured in agreement.
We sipped our tea and sat for a few moments, admiring the beauty of the traditional Mardin courtyard we found ourselves in.
“So tell me, friend” he said slapping me on the back. “What do you do?”
“I am a teacher,” I replied smiling, expecting the normal positive response that I get from Turks.
“Teachers? I hate teachers,” he said with a big smile. “You know, I was a teacher for a while. Then they arrested me. I was in prison for two months.”
“Why, what happened?”
“In class I told them all how I hated the Turkish Republic, and I was an Ottoman warrior,” he said laughing. “They were not happy.”