Turkey has thankfully completed the elections, which had fully engaged our agenda for a few months, with the anticipated maturity. We showed respect to the people’s will, and accepted the objections and results with the same maturity. We must now focus on our work and the future.
In the last week ahead of the elections, I became strangely curious. It was not the kind of curiosity concerning the results of the elections. I started to wonder what book or books the mayoral candidates – preparing to run the metropolitan cities, and particularly Istanbul, which is one of the world’s metropolises – had last read. Perhaps this question was asked, but I did not come across anyone asking it in written, verbal or visual interviews. What value was my question among all this hustle and bustle, especially amid all the discussions on the problems of cities, districts and boroughs, and their solutions?
It is curiosity and cannot be helped. What book did Mr. Binali Yıldırım and Mr. Ekrem İmamoğlu – the two mayoral candidates for Istanbul – last read? I am aware that they have been going through a busy period, and hence, they do not have time for this. This is why I am changing the question and asking it once more: The summaries of which books did their advisers last present to them?
Numerous figures who left a mark on history have gifted us with countless works and memoirs reflecting their experiences. I draw attention to these from time to time, and recommend them to as many people as possible. The memories of individuals who struggled with problems similar to ours before us, that sometimes faced defeat and sometimes overcame them and raised themselves and their community back up on their feet, are the most important guides in terms of both writing the history of the past and establishing the history of the future.
You are wondering what I read and where I am trying to bring the topic to. First, I read an interview with late Zeki Velidi Togan that was published in the Yakın Tarihimiz Dergisi (Our Recent History Magazine) in the 1960s. In that interview, he was regretfully discussing one of the works he wrote about the history of Turkestan but was never able to publish. Of course, this had to be a book other than his 1942 book titled, “Bugünkü Türkili ve Yakın Tarihi” (The current Turkish country and its recent history). After reading this old interview, I was in search of something new, and East Turkestan's first state President Alihan Töre's memoir, Turkestan Fight, came to my rescue. Despite its first print being in 2006, what slipped my attention is that I had the second print prepared by his son Kutlukhan Şakirov (Edikut), adapted to Turkey's Turkish by Oğuz Doğan, and published in February by Tarih-Kuram publishing. Alihan Töre, a man with a great cause, is one of the important intellectuals and scholars that attempted the fight in Turkestan in same years, exactly like Zeki Velidi Togan.
Alihan Töre, who is less known in our country compared to Zeki Velidi Togan, is a politician who considered the Basmacılar movement as a wasted attempt that led to the loss of numerous children of the country, and hence took a different stance. In other words Zeki Velidi Togan is a man of action who thinks quite differently.
Alihan Töre's memoir is an essential source for those seeking to understand the history of the oppression of the old Soviets in Turkestan and China in East Turkestan, which was on our agenda, but we forgot because we were in the election period. Alihan Töre, who was born in an Uzbek family in the Tokmak city of Kyrgyzstan, which was formerly known as Balasagun, takes his readers on a long journey throughout Turkestan. As he tells of his political struggle in Turkestan, which was in the clasps of the Soviets on one side, and China on the other, and the founding of the Republic of East Turkestan, he also takes his reader for a swim in the depths of the history of Turkestan and Islam.
Think about it, as we hear the names of great centers of knowledge and civilization such as Samarkand, Bukhara, Qashgar, and take pride with scholars and scientists raised there in the Middle Ages, how many names can you mention raised in the same region in the 20th century? Alihan Töre is only one of the names we do not know that has not seen the attention he deserves. As he tells his memories from his travels between Balasgun and Qashgar as of the 1920s, each one worthy of being the subject of novels, scenarios and films, he suddenly takes you to the history of the Oghuz and the Uyghurs, from Satuk Bughra Khan to the Samanoğulları. Among his memories, he conveys the reasons behind the delay in the Islamization process of the Turks, the sad story of Qutayba bin Muslim in Fargana, and the things that happened to a people that raised the likes of Avicenna and Farabi, after they fell into ignorance and lack of knowledge. He reminds us of Qashgar's enslavement, and highlights the results of neglecting education. The language he uses in reference to those responsible is one that nobody would want to be mentioned by: "These are men that have committed an unforgivable crime against the homeland and the people. Because these men have condemned their state to collapse, their people to slavery, and their homeland to abasement."
Alihan Töre's memoir contain a great deal of information that could be used by historians as documents. It includes the operations of the Azatlık (Enfranchisement) Society that led to the founding of the Republic of East Turkestan, and the Proclamation of Independence on Nov. 12, 1944, as well as the colors and meanings of their sanjak and flag. I will end with a few articles from the nine-article proclamation:
Chinese sovereignty on East Turkestan lands will be eliminated forever.
The newly founded state will be a true, free and completely independent state that is based on the equality of the people of East Turkestan.
As the majority of the people of East Turkestan are Muslim, Islam will be supported, yet other religions will also be protected.
Do you not also think that everybody, but primarily politicians, should read memoirs?