The simplest definition of freedom, which has had varying interpretations in the past, is to be able to behave and act with no external intervention, hindrance or pressure. Everyone is born with the same human value. They must therefore live equally free, regardless of religion, nationality, race or opinions, and must enjoy the same human rights. Rights and freedoms cannot be limited by the majority or the strong; their implementation and protection is one of the main propulsive forces behind a prospering society.
Democratic countries, with their respect for individual rights and freedoms, differences and private life, are equally progressive in the democratic sphere. In societies with properly functioning democracies, people’s rights and freedoms are respected and protected even if they are not approved of or encouraged by others. In countries that lack a developed democratic structure, however, the majority - or the strong - can place limitations on those who do not resemble or are not of them.
There is no doubt that Turkey has recently striven to become a more transparent and advanced democracy. It has made great progress on the road to democracy with its radical reforms in recent years. The latest freedom introduced, for students at high and middle school to wear the headscarf as of their 5th year, is an excellent development in terms of Turkey’s opening up to democracy, and students who so wish have begun attending classes wearing the headscarf across the country. However, the ban on dyed hair, make-up, moustaches and beards previously enshrined in the Ministry of Education Regulation on Clothing and Appearance has been preserved entirely, and piercing and tattoos have even been added to the list. Accordingly, students at schools cannot dye their hair or have themselves tattooed or pierced. This has led to renewed debates about democracy. Many people are saying that the limitations in question have cast a shadow over the democratic gains of recent years.
However, the world changes, opinions change and pressures evaporate. The best thing to do is to adapt to advances and change on the path to democracy as much as one can.
Young people are without doubt those most affected by change. Young people now wish to be free, to live at ease and in happiness and to spend their best years free from pressure. They do not want strict discipline. Young people who wish to be pierced or tattooed want to be free to do that, without hindrance, and to enjoy their youth as they see fit, just like those choosing to wear the headscarf. Young girls who want to wear make-up to look nice or young boys who feel more handsome when they grow a beard no longer want to be restricted. Middle and high school are when they want to look their best. Let us let them dress as they please, happy and free from pressure. Schools should be brightly colored and vibrant. The peace, joy and energy that come from freedom should be felt everywhere. If the underlying reason for restrictions is a fear that young people will become degenerate, well, colors have never made anyone degenerate. The same goes for beards, moustaches, tattoos and ear rings.
The fact is that individual rights are among the most demanded human rights in the world no matter from which religion, nation or ideology one may belong to. When individuals’ rights are taken away, the result is fear, unease, restlessness and insecurity, and that inevitably leads to a structural sickness. People whose individual freedoms are taken away lose their joy, zeal and creativity. Instead of being relaxed and productive as they are when they are free and able to express themselves as they please, they become unhealthy and introverted; that does nobody any good because a youth freed from repression and able to think freely, represents the hope of the nation and a guarantee for the future. Moreover, the youth are one of a nation’s greatest forces. Turkey, with its youthful population, must make the best use of this feature and encourage young people to be free, to think freely and have the sense to assume great responsibilities.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Urdu Times & Arabian Gazette