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Decree victim teacher’s outrage: It was my mum’s labour

Teacher Polat said that, on being dismissed, he was most sorry for his mother who had brought him up alone. Focusing on music, Özgür Polat says that he is trying to add meaning to his life.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 30 Eylül 2017 Cumartesi, 18:02

[Haber görseli]

Özgür Polat is 37 years old. He is a school counsellor. He is an educator of eleven years’
standing who inspired love with the outstanding nature of his work at one of Erzincan’s best
high schools. He is the father of six-year- old Toprak. He was dismissed under a decree with
the force of law in February. Even if no reason was stated, he thinks that he was expelled for
having participated in trade union activities as a member of the Public Workers' Union
Educational Branch, Eğitim-İş. He has applied to the state of emergency commission. He
wants to believe and believes that this period will also pass. The decision to expel him came
as the second turning point in Polat’s life. He lost his father to a cave-in at a mine in Adana at
the age of three and a half. Being deprived of his father remains an unhealed wound. He says,
“The state actually owes me a dad. It left us to fend for ourselves at that time, just as it is
doing now. They stole my mum’s labour by expelling me. That is what upsets me the most.
She was left on her own with two kids, one in her womb, and brought us up alone.”

We were encircled by barbed wire

He learned that he had been deprived of his profession in a phone call close to midnight from
his brother living in Aydın. He says his brother’s voice was so bad that, expecting news of a
death, he was relieved to hear about the decree: “My brother’s announcement came as a
relief, having feared the worst. I thought that something had happened to my mother.”
Explaining that he did not initially become consumed with negativity and thought that things
would somehow work themselves out, continued, “In the future I’ll be able to tell my son that
I had now paid a pretty price. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that my son would be proud
of me. I said I would stand on my feet somehow. In the end, I saw that they had me penned in
on all sides and left no opportunity for me to work. You can’t work at supplementary
education centres and it is hard for you to open a private place. I slowly realised that we were
encircled by barbed wire. I now have plenty of time. I repeated the courses I took at
university. I spent a long time reading up on psychology and new theories. I scanned the
literature on counselling procedures.”

The state’s second blow

This is the state’s second blow in Polat’s life. His father fell victim to a cave-in at a mine in
Adana’s Pozantı at the age of 22 in 1984. His 20-year- old mother was pregnant with his
brother. No compensation was paid, nor any other assistance. His mother was given a

pension, that’s all. His mother never remarried and brought up her two sons on her own.
When Polat was 12, they moved from their village in Erzincan to Aydın. Their mother put her
kids through school by working in the fields. She set out for the fields at four or five in the
morning while the two kids were asleep. She made teachers out of both of them. Polat is now
sorry for his mother, whose great efforts he thinks have come to naught, rather than himself.
He says, “The state actually owes me a dad. It employed him without security in a mine and
deprived us of our dad. We were unable to see him and grew up without him. I have no
recollection of him. We have a single photograph together. My brother doesn’t even have
that. There was no law at that time, either, and they left us to fend for ourselves. I think the
state both killed our dad and left us without support. But, despite that, we stood on our feet
with our mum’s efforts. My mother never made us work. She looked out for us and didn’t
wake us up when she left. We went into the fields a couple of times. I am upset about my
expulsion with her in mind. This labour was her labour. She is a strong woman. She got over
this, too. She came straight to my side on hearing the decision and supported me. I have
strong women at my side. My wife is strong, too.”

Sayings keep him going

Polat is now focusing on what he describes as his other half, music. He used to go to Alevi
villages and collate Alevi sayings and folk tales. Erdal Erzincan has included some of this
collation in an album of his. He has an album project through Eğitim Sen’s Erzincan Branch,
the proceeds from which will be devoted to the trade union out of solidarity. This process has
brought him even closer to Erdal Erzincan. Figures such as Metin Kemal Kahraman and
Ahmet Aslan are also supporting the project. Polat says that the musicians will perform tunes
from different faiths in the album.

Solidarity is a must

He says that, “The arts are an important force” and adds: “All of a sudden losing the life you have bust a gut to create in a period when you are at your most productive could cause serious psychological problems. It would be a lie to say that I have rid myself of that state of mind yet. In the time left over from my collation work, I make all sorts of meals for my wife and son. I play the baglama. I listen to people. I want to be patient and attend to those things I have neglected in my music. If I can make the solidarity album I think this will be a meaningful response to these goings-on. It’s enough if tomorrow they say, “Some people went to some trouble.” Then I am thinking about an album of my own. Meanwhile, my relations with my pupils continue. I was at their sides while they were choosing their options. Never mind school administrators, a significant portion of my teacher colleagues all called with questions. In my view, the means for getting through this business is solidarity. And especially solidarity in spirit. I have received serious support from my school and from my union. I think that being together and being strong over this process is of key importance.”

I believe this period will pass

Polat also has some recommended reading: Viktor E. Frankl’s book entitled “Man's Search for Meaning”. Polat says, “Psychiatrist Frankl attributes getting out of a concentration camp alive to one thing. His thinking, ‘I will get out of here and write about what I’ve been through.’ Then he discovers logotherapy. I, too, am trying to add meaning to my life. I want to believe and believe that this period will also pass. This thought inspires a sense of wellbeing in me.”

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album, fields, kids, says, she, father