Painesville Chamber of Commerce & Sevgi Ackarcesme on Civil Rights in Turkey
On Thursday, January 22nd, we attended two events that both involved the Painesville Chamber of Commerce. First we went to Coffee Contacts at Mary Ann's Family Hearing in Painesville that was put by the Painesville Chamber along with the Mentor Chamber of Commerce. Then we went to a luncheon at Lakeland Community College that was organized by the Painesville and Madison-Perry Chamber of Commerce. These were both good opportunities to see old friends and, particularly, make new contacts because nine new members were inducted into one of the chambers. The luncheon had two good speakers who were Mr. Andrew Smyser, Manager of Energy Services for COSE, and Mr. Philip A. Burne, III, who works with CLS Facility Services. Both of them talked about energy efficiency and how businesses can save money on energy costs. Since March of 2013, Mr. Smyser has been inspecting buildings and making suggestions to their owners. He estimates that 400 buildings have been inspected and suggestions have been made that have saved their owners $1.43 million. Mr. Burne talked about the need for building owners to modernize their lighting which will save both energy and money. He was glad that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 is forcing companies to move away from incandescent bulbs that produce more heat that actual light and move in the direction of LED bulbs whose ratio is 90% light and only 10% heat.
We met Ms. Nancy Currie from the Madison Library who told us that she remembered a speaker from Margaret W. Wong and Associates doing a presentation at the Lake County Chamber board. We gave our contact information to Mr. Jeff Jenkins who told us that he used to have a business in Cleveland that dealt with a lot of people who had immigrated to the United States from Korea.
We also talked to Mr. Jim Belding of Jim Belding Monuments who told us about a bricklayer who used to work for him named Pete who had immigrated to the United States from Ukraine. Peter was determined to make the most of the opportunities that the United States has to offer and consistently outworked the other people who were working along with him and knew more about the United States than most people who were born here. Mr.Belding recalled that he and Pete's co-workers helped him out by quizzing him before he took his citizenship test which, of course, he passed with ease.
The new president of the Painesville Chamber of Commerce is Mr. David Komjati, Manager of KeyBank in Painesville. We are grateful to Mr. Komjati for taking some of our brochures to put on the literature table at his bank.
Most of the programs that we attend at the City Club take place at noon but on this day, we went there at 6PM to hear Ms. Sevgi Ackarcesme speak about "The Significance of Media Freedom for Democracy," a program that was sponsored by the Niagara Foundation headed by our good friend, Mr. Murat Gurer. Ms. Ackarcesme is a Turkish journalist who works at "Today's Zaman" as a correspondent and blogger and as a columnist at the Turkish daily "Zaman," which Ms. Margaret W. Wong visited on her trip to Turkey last summer.
Ms. Ackarcesme spoke about the repressive climate in Turkey at this time due to the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who first took office in 2003. Ms. Ackarcesme believes that things "were going better than expected" in terms of democratization of Turkish Society, a strong economy, and overtures of Turkey joining the European Union, but conditions worsened around the time of a major governmental corruption scandal in 2013. Ms. Ackarcesme indicated that President Erdogan has been affected by the power that comes from being in office too long and is now moving away from secularization and is engaging in "social engineering" by trying to impose an Islamic religious agenda on the people of Turkey. Ms. Ackarcesme is a Muslim, herself, but does not believe that anyone has the right to impose their religion upon others. President Erdogan won a third term in 2014 and increased his crackdown on those who criticized him especially the media and "Zaman."
In terms of foreign policy, our friend Mr. Pierre Bejjani asked her about the relationship between Turkey and Syria. Ms. Ackarcesme said that Syrian refugees are accepted as "a social reality" in Turkey and President Assad of Syria should be opposed, but President Erdogan has "overestimated our abilities in the Syrian crisis" and has made a big mistake by presenting the image that Turkey is "tolerant of Isis."
Ms. Ackarcesme was very clear, however, that she doesn't want "foreigners to come and save us," and freedom of the press "must come from within." She does believe though that the oppression that is going on in Turkey affects the Middle East region and, subsequently, the rest of the world, so it is our responsibility to call this to the attention of our elected leaders and human rights groups. She said that, "I don't have to explain media freedoms to you because they are sacred here...If you silence the media, society becomes deaf and blind."