İsmail Beşikçi, a sociologist in Turkey, has spent a lifetime as a dissident. He was the only non-Kurdish person in Turkey in the 70s, who spoke out against the mistreatment and brutality of the Turkish state attitude and policies toward their Kurdish population, especially in Southeastern Turkey where most of them have lived.
Because of his activities, he has spent many years in jail. His first jailing was 17 years. And it was not just languishing in a modern prison and watching television. He was tortured. Even as he was released after this first imprisonment, none of his views toward the issues changed. He is a true lion in the den of sorrows and state domination over citizens.
Still today, the problem is not settled. Still today, people cry in Turkey. But the problem is not ethnic or religious. These things are made into problems. Dr. Besikci is Turkish. He sees the miscalculation and the array of strategies meant to keep old mechanisms in the Turkish state maintained, feeding the pockets of certain elites who do not want to change and remain wealthy and powerful. But there are those in the Turkish government and in the Turkish society, who have fought bravely.
In the summer of 2008, I had the privilege of having lunch with him and other Dersim Alevi and Sunni Kurdish scholars and activists in Ankara, Turkey. For two hours, we had conversations about how Americans could help and what possibilities there were and what he thought needed to realistically happen in Turkey for things to change for the Kurdish people in Turkey. We also thought what he thought would happen as things were going. Most Kurds and Dersimians in Turkey, consider him as ‘giant as a mountain’ as one of my interpretors phrased it. Considering that he is a very small statured, small-framed man, I could still see his power in his convinctions, making his heart and mind huge. He has spent a lifetime writing for the rights of people, especially who have come from Eastern Turkey.
İsmail Beşikçi is a beacon of strength, commitment and resistance for what must be done. He has not wavered.
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