Rumi’s timeless advice holds good for Turkey


Sir, An article in the FT (April 12) examines Turkey’s freedom of expression through unfortunate events at Bogazici University, which happens to be my own alma mater.

Academically, Bogazici is to Turks what Harvard is to Americans or Oxford is to the British. Every year, it admits the best students from Turkey and, globally, it is ranked in the top 200 by the US News and World Report.

In addition to a world class academic education, it was here that I learnt to ask questions and have an open mind. However, having come from rural Anatolia, I could not help notice the elitism and the detachment from society at large. That’s probably why Bogazici’s intellectual leadership is largely confined to Turkish private business, with little impact on social and political life.

In the absence of EU convergence, Turkish intellectuals must take part in and eventually lead the country’s social and political reforms. To bridge the gap between the so-called White Turks and society at large, Rumi, the 13th-century Turkish-Persian poet, offered timeless advice: “I have learned to defy the world at a young age / Then I have resolved to walk with the crowds / But then I realised the real walk should be against the crowds.”

Mehmet Gerz
Istanbul, Turkey

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