“We call for the future’; Democracy and Freedom Conference on Turkey held in Berlin

BERLIN – The second Democracy and Freedom Conference on Turkey started yesterday in the German capital Berlin with the participation of many of Turkey’s ethnic components such as Yazidis, Syriacs, Kurds, Armenians, Alevis, and well-known dissidents in exile, human rights advocates, and civil society organizations. The first Democracy and Freedom Conference was also held in Berlin in 2019 under the title ‘In search of a social contract for a democratic Turkey,’ to find common democratic ground for Turkish society, to overcome differences, and highlight the commonalities of Turkey’s peoples.

The conference is an initiative of famous exiled journalist, writers, left-wing and social-democratic thinkers, opposition politicians (HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was invited but not able to attend physically due to a travel ban ordered by the Turkish authorities), and activist academics with the aim to discuss, support, and advance the democratization process in Turkey, away from autocracy. Attendees included journalists Hayko Bağdat, Can Dündar, Celal Başlangıç, Yavuz Baydar, Ragıp Zarakolu, academic Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar.

Representing the European Syriac Union, Slemun Rhawi delivered a speech on the undemocratic and violent events suffered by the Syriac people in Turkey, citing personal events that befell his own family in Midyat in the Syriac homeland of Tur Abdin.

The two-day conference includes workshops with themes around damage assessment, social opposition, building a future together, violence against women, and weighing-in for a way out of autocracy. According to a statement on its website, the initiative for such a conference came about not because of “hostility to those who declared us enemies” but “it was our love of country, our belief in democracy, our passion for freedom, our demands for peace, our insistence on equality, our need for justice, our struggle for rights, and our promise of brotherhood.”