Nov 102016
 

By 99GetSmart

The Creature played by Bendedict Cumberbatch (photo: Catherine Ashmore/National Theatre)

The Creature played by Bendedict Cumberbatch (photo: Catherine Ashmore/National Theatre)

As many Turkish artists fight for their existence under difficult circumstances, a growing number of people are flocking to theatre halls to breathe the freedom of art, against all odds.

I recently attended a screening of the London National Theatre’s “Frankenstein” at the Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation (IKSV) Hall, which broadcasted a recording of the play along with many other cinema halls around the world. Of course, I would rather see Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch play Dr. Frankenstein and his monster live. But looking at the Turkey’s recent cultural developments, I believe it will not be possible, in any case not in the near future.

As in the play, when the monster is hounding Dr. Frankenstein for acceptance, the artistic stage in Turkey now seems to be expanding at a faster pace under growing pressure.

Turkey’s most famous culture house, AKM, – the notable structure on Istanbul’s Taksim Square– has been under renovation since 2007. Recently, the minister of culture once again expressed his wish to demolish it. The highly contested plan to redesign the building now seems like a neglect-based long-term demolition plan.

Additionally, the government has made several attempts to limit the themes of plays in recent years, using two major arguments: public morality and political criticism. Certain newspapers report on the “taboos and insults to the nation” committed by artistic groups, which they continually target for “immorality”, and judicial and bureaucratic measures inevitably follow close behind. Since the popular protests in 2013, many actors and actresses have been participating in mass protests and some have even become the faces of protests. This has been used as one more reason to up the pressure on the theatre houses.

There are striking similarities to censorship attempts in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, when a board called the Star Chamber was founded to “edit” the parts out of narratives and plays which were considered harmful. The same period is now officially called the “Despotism Era” in the history books. These measures have intensified, with private theatre houses receiving a notification that in order to continue receiving subsidies, they must guarantee the staging of plays that comply with public morality standards.

Due to restrictive measures and intimidation, state-owned theatre houses have been suffering badly, while one of the biggest mechanisms keeping the private companies afloat – the state’s cultural subsidies – seems to be disappearing into tax fines for companies whose actors have participated in protests or spoken out openly. Yet, the plays that have been staged in the past half a century in Turkey have generally had political or social-gender themes, rattling the nerves of conservative and nationalist viewers while serving as a massive hub of progressive ideas and liberal notions.

Despite all the hardships, the Turkish stage after the resurrection of restrictive measures is now coming back to haunt the authorities, much like Frankenstein’s monster. As in the play, when the monster is hounding Dr. Frankenstein for acceptance and taking a more severe stand when deceived, the artistic stage in Turkey now seems to be expanding at a faster pace under growing pressure.

According to Turkey’s National Statistical Board there are 719 theatres across Turkey that welcome some six million viewers annually. Although the same report also suggested that performance numbers are down 2% compared to the previous year, despite the 18% increase in the number of halls. Even though the government charges theatres with immorality, the counter-argument in defence of the stage is also a moral one. In response to all the things going wrong in Turkey at the moment (corruption, impunity, child brides, gender violence, etc.), the notable Turkish theatre and cinema actor Haluk Bilginer said, “The more theatre houses there are, the less immorality exists in society.”

What the stage in Turkey is currently experiencing reminds me of the storyline of the 1999 movie (and the fate of 1937 musical) “The Cradle Will Rock,” which deals with the state impositions on federal theatre in the US during the 1930s, when the target was the “Reds” and theatrical performances were deemed to be socialist propaganda that needed to be shut down. Unlike 1930s America, however, the restrictions in Turkey hit the mass media hardest, in a nation whose media tradition was already relatively weak.

However, humanity finds most use for fiction precisely during moments of despair. It is used to create hope and design a vision for a better future. It could be due to the growing pressure on media platforms (published and broadcast), that each year more people are taking up the habit of reading regularly and watching plays on stage.

Or perhaps it is merely a way of making a quick getaway from reality. “In such times of crisis,” urges Turkish political scientist Dr. Büşra Ersanlı, “hang onto theatre, books, literature and invest in your artistic capacity.” It might not be ideal at this time, but developments will come gradually.

Turkey’s theatre might have a much brighter future than the monster in the play and, perhaps soon, we might get to enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting live in Istanbul. Until then we must rely on London, Berlin, Paris and New York.

Nov 022016
 

By The Radical Democrat, 99GetSmart

Academia and media in Turkey have been devastated by two gruesome decree rulings that stripped academics of their work and shut down over a dozen media organisations. The purge continues with full speed, and an unfortunate victim of imprisonment has been Tolaz the Parrot.

Tolaz the parrot, DIHA

Tolaz the parrot, DIHA

Dicle News Agency (DIHA) offices have been sealed after a ruling by decree decision (October 29th) declared over a dozen media organizations closed in the early hours of November 1st, when there was no office worker there. When the offices were sealed without any prior notification after the tax officers and police made their inspection and reporting, Tolaz the Parrot – the mascot of the news agency – was locked inside, and door-locks were changed.

According to media reports Tolaz answered upon a reporter knocking on the door by saying “Heval who is there” (heval: [Kurdish] brother). Several journalists kept staying at the door of the news agency offices, keeping company to the parrot from a behind the door and waiting for someone to come and open the door to free Tolaz. However for a long time, no official that had answered, seemed willing to take any responsibility, and Tolaz’s fate depended heavily on the bureaucracy of Turkey.

One Nation, One Language, One Parrot?

Contrary to the echoing motto being chanted on streets by many people and political leaders as “One State, One Language, One Nation”, Tolaz the bilingual parrot can speak up to 70 words in both Turkish and Kurdish. Tolaz’s name also comes from Kurdish, and it means “womanizer”.

Caretaker of Tolaz, a DIHA journalist Hayri Demir stated “Tolaz has not been fed since early hours of the day before and he needs food and water urgently. He gets upset when there is no one around him talking; that’s why I brought him to the office. He is quite social, responds when there is doorbell ringing or dances if there is music.”

DIHA journalists waiting to free Tolaz

DIHA journalists waiting to free Tolaz

Amidst the raids on critical news organizations and imprisonment of journalists with alleged crimes of “harboring terrorist activities without being a member of a terrorist organization” Tolaz the Parrot is now of symbolic value beyond a pet, in all absurdity of the situation already.

Upon the suffering cries of Tolaz, main opposition CHP’s deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu initiated a process and notified the Çankaya Municipality in Ankara to find a solution, to free the parrot from captivity. Finally when all official steps were taken, Tolaz was saved from captivity at 14.00, thanks to DIHA journalists’ efforts.

As a final word, it would be appropriate to have a closing remark with this couplet from the poet Cemal Süreya:

“Life is short,

Birds are flying…”

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Oct 292016
 

By , 99GetSmart

Iceland's top Pirates (photo: Pirate Party Iceland Blog)

Iceland’s top Pirates (photo: Pirate Party Iceland Blog)

A decade after it was founded, the Pirate Party are set to make yet another historic step, this time in Iceland, where it has has mobilized a great level of public support and has been leading the polls ever since the announcement of the national election.

A decade ago I was invited to a meeting of the newly founded Pirate Party in Sweden. It was intriguing, since I was fed up with the traditional right-left party politics, which keeps falling back to questions of identity rather than ideology. Having started out as an anti-copyright movement, the Pirate Party has definitely become something beyond a radical protest party. Its agenda is quite simple: transparency, freedom of information, direct democracy, public participation and decriminalization of narcotics.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir (photo: Pirate Party)

Birgitta Jónsdóttir (photo: Pirate Party)

Ahead of the Icelandic election that will take place on October 29, the Pirates look forward to at least quadruple their presence in the parliament. With only 5% support and three MPs, the Pirates have already led a successful term. Former spokesperson of Wikileaks and the Icelandic Pirates’ figurehead Birgitta Jónsdóttir defines herself as “poetician” (poet+politician). Her vision for Iceland is very different from that of other political parties. The party currently stands at over 22% in opinion polls and she might have a major impact by becoming the parliamentary speaker in the next term.

The Icelandic Pirates had forced Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to resign after it was revealed in the Panama Papers that his wife owned an offshore investment company with claims on Iceland’s failed banks, which constituted an evident conflict of interest for the former prime minister. The week after the prime minister stepped down, the polls showed Pirates at 43%, after a long march reclaiming a new record every second week for over a year.

Mattias Bjärnemalm

Mattias Bjärnemalm

The Pirates set out to bring a new approach to party politics also elsewhere in Europe. Vice-President and Net Political Spokesperson of Pirate Party Sweden, Mattias Bjärnemalm, says “I cannot emphasize enough how important it would be for the pirate movement globally to have a government with pirate ministers. Today before the elections, they are standing with more parliamentary experience.”

Julia Reda, a Member of the European Parliament and the president of Young Pirates of Europe (YPE), the European federation of Pirate Party youth organizations,  states:

“The Icelandic Pirates are not just carried by the hopes of the electorate, they have been convincing in their day-to-day parliamentary work. I think they are a great role model for Pirate Parties in other countries, where voters may want to give the local Pirates a chance. But may have doubts about their effectiveness in parliament.”

Getting elected to the Abgeordnetenhaus, Berlin’s state assembly in 2011,  the German Pirate Party were the first Pirates to ever enter state parliament. However, partially due to internal divisions, the public support in the party fell dramatically in the Berlin’s state election this year. With 1.7% of the votes, the party lost its seats in the assembly.

Julia Reda, MEP

Julia Reda, MEP

Over the years, when I had been talking to people about the Pirate Party, most responses revolved around “they too have no ideology” or “it’s just another radical protest party.” Yet in Iceland, the Pirates have successfully led campaigns to abolish blasphemy laws, declare asylum for Edward Snowden, campaign for Chelsea Manning, and they have been speaking up against injustice and dysfunctional systems; there is more to the party than a mere protest voice.

The electoral agenda of the Pirates in Iceland promises an adoption of a new constitution, ensuring just distribution of the wealth generated through natural resources, re-establishing free health care, increasing public participation in decision-making, restoring trust and tackling corruption. A strong set of promises on the road to sustaining liberties and empowering the people.

Smari McCarthy

Smari McCarthy

Pirate Party Iceland’s prime ministerial candidate, Smari McCarthy, reiterates the promises saying:

“We are on the cusp of a new wave of liberal politics, where corruption and abuse of power is challenged and systems reformed to serve the needs of the public, rather than the needs of powerful elites.”

Even though all party-groups from right to left have Europe-wide associations, the Pirates might have the highest interconnectedness thanks to their focus on digital communications and social media. This weekend in Reykjavik, Iceland’s Pirates will welcome the support of Pirate Party representatives from over 30 other countries.

They are pioneers in terms of structure, like no other political movement before. As a Europe-wide grassroots movement, the Pirates are validating themselves through elections in the eyes of the electorate, while refusing to be categorized in traditional terms.

Aug 172016
 

By Banu Adiyaman, 99GetSmart

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen and OKC Thunder center Enes Kanter. (NonDoc)

ISTANBUL — Enes Kanter, a center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, was recently disowned by his family for following and backing the so-called cleric Fethullah Gülen after a small military junta linked to Gülen launched an attempted coup July 15 in Turkey. Kanter announced he has changed his name to Enes Gülen.

Kanter appears to be a young man simply finding shelter in a father figure in the U.S. The Gülen movement is very good and experienced at attracting and ensuring the loyalty of young people through their schools in Turkey and all over the world. Some say Gülen has given Kanter an incredible honor by comparing him with the Prophet Muhammad’s adopted child Zaid bin Harith, who did not leave Muhammad after his family wanted to take him back.

In reality, it is much easier for Kanter to continue following Gülen after the coup attempt because he does not live in Turkey. Gülen himself lives in Pennsylvania.

Harsh decisions

Since the coup attempt, Turkey has embarked on a massive purge of all elements linked to Gülen from a range of institutions, detaining or sacking tens of thousands of people. The number of people dismissed from governmental services is nearing 70,000 as of the writing of this article.

In light of this climate, people in Turkey are forced to choose their sides between the Gülen movement and the government very harshly nowadays. Simply being a secularist or having always openly denounced military coups and Gülen’s hizmet (“service”) movement — even when mutual affection between AKP and Gülen was at its warmest point — would still leave doubt in the government’s eyes as to your loyalties. Therefore, even if you prefer simply to abstain from the ruling authority’s current protests and demonstrations against the coup and its backers, you can still be stigmatized as a “coup supporter” or even a “traitor.”

This could be part of why Kanter’s father, Mehmet Kanter, a lecturer at Medeniyet University, released a statement saying that his family condemned his son’s actions.

“We think that he was hypnotized and being used by Gülen. We are rejecting Enes and are asking him to change his surname. I apologize to the President [Erdogan] and the Turkish people for having such a child.”

Enes’ father’s position as a lecturer in a country in which almost 1,000 public and private university employees have been fired in a few months leaves little chance for his family to survive in Turkey if they had backed their son. Also, Mehmet’s claim that Enes is being used and deceived by Gülen likely has a base: the 24-year-old has invested in the so-called service movement, which was confirmed by recent hacking revealing Enes’ Twitter messages to a Turkish comedian linked to Gülen.

Gülen: Former political insider deemed ‘terrorist’

Since late October, Gülen has appeared on the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Turkey’s “most wanted terrorists” list, designated in the red category to indicate the highest threat level. Before earning such a dubious distinction, Gülen had close relationships with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and had many followers in the police, army, judiciary and the governmental system. However, Gülen’s increasing demands to share power with President Recep Tayip Erdogan led the way for tension between the two parties to reach a climax.

Given the background between Gülen and Erdogan, Kanter made headlines owing to his strong support for Gülen even after the coup attempt, and he drew widespread criticism for that — access to his Twitter account is still banned in Turkey. (Similarly, Turkish singer Sıla’s concerts have been canceled recently over her remarks about a “democracy” rally Aug. 7 in Istanbul, which she described as a “show” and where Erdogan hinted at the return of the death penalty in Turkey.)

What goes around …

Ideas don’t change overnight, but it is satisfying, to say the least, for one’s sense of justice to see that Gülenists can’t get away with all their bad karma after years of dominance and cronyism in the judiciary, the military, police organizations and ministries, eliminating non-Gülenist elements with unbelievably designed plots regardless of merit, experience and competence.

I hope karma will ensure what goes around comes around for others and allow us to be in the front row to see when they get theirs, too.

 

“IF YOU’RE REALLY A MEAN PERSON YOU’RE GOING TO COME BACK AS A FLY AND EAT POOP.”
― KURT COBAIN

Jul 282016
 

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

(Flickr/Merton Wilton)

(Flickr/Merton Wilton)

Turkey has opened its first Traitors’ Cemetery in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt and Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor announced that the first burial has taken place.

“There is a place needed, to be called the cemetery of the traitors; all passers-by to curse when around it. All those walking by should curse and spit on it; there shall be no resting in peace for them, even in their graves.” –Kadir Topbas, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor


Some days it feels like life in Turkey is a chapter in a dark and deep dystopian novel. Today is one of those days. On July 20th, only days after the failed coup attempt, Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor, Kadir Topbaş announced his will to open a cemetery for the traitors who participated in the bloody coup on July 15th. According to media reports, the cemetery has just been opened and the first burial taken place.

The first body buried is Captain Mehmet Karabekir who killed the community chief in Istanbul’s Acıbadem neighbourhood on the night of the coup attempt. The mayor announced that the family of the dead did not want his body, so he was to be buried somewhere and the ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ was the venue for this occasion. The cemetery is located in Istanbul’s Pendik district, at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s ‘dog shelter’.

Previously, the religious authority of the Prime Minister’s Office, Diyanet had announced that there would be no religious services for those who died in an attempt to overthrow the government through a violent coup. Denial of religious services had previously been discussed for certain leftist/progressive academics and journalists, yet no matter how much reaction there was from right-wing supporters, the services still took place.

However, there are also many unknown graveyards of notable rebels of the state; Sheikh Said, the leader of an Islamist/Kurdish uprising in the 1920s; Seyid Rıza, the religious leader of the Kurdish movement in the 1937-38 Dersim Rebellion; Said Nursi, an influential Kurdish Sunni cleric in the early years of the Republic who later inspired many Islamist movements formation and rhetoric. Their graveyards are still unknown to date.

Apart from rebel leaders, the body of Aziz Güler, who had gone to Rojava to fight against ISIS, was kept waiting for 2 months at the border before being given to his family for burial; and another disturbance occurred when Şafak Yayla, the perpetrator who had taken prosecutor Mehmet Kiraz hostage at the Istanbul Court Palace, was killed, and his family had to bury him in the front yard of the house after violent mobs threatened to attack the body, which finally ended with his family pouring cement on the gravesite.

Attacks against graveyards are also a recurring theme in Turkey’s history. After the 1960 military coup, when the prime minister at the time, Adnan Menderes, and two of his ministers were hanged by Alparslan Türkeş (later founder of far right Nationalist Movement Party MHP), their bodies were buried in a neglected state on İmralı island –currently where the PKK leader Öcalan is kept in solitary confinement. However, Menderes’ remains were carried to a mausoleum in 1990.

The idea of a ‘Traitors’ Cemetery’ and its location at the dog shelter feels like it is straight out of a dystopia, or a horror film. However, this is the reality in Turkey; still a country that feeds on hostility, even regarding the dead. Yet, the word ‘traitor’ is used quite loosely by almost everyone, and who knows, perhaps some of those who are accusing each other of treason might lie side by side in that cemetery someday.

Mar 242016
 

By The Radical Democrat, 99GetSmart

bogazici

 

Turkish government had declared academics, who have announced their opinion contrary to security policies of the government, as “traitors who should be declared as terrorists without weapons” and started acting on presumptions to intimidate, detain and arrest them. Just recently three academics had been arrested for terrorism charges while dozens of others are still under investigation and hundreds are subjected to even more serious threats. The fact that Turkish universities are subjected to Higher Education Authority (YOK), and do not have absolute autonomy makes it difficult for academics in uttering their opinions. Yet, since there were no crimes listed earlier in the penal code, the academics facing investigation could not be put on trial easily. With the new additional regulations to Higher Education Law, the legal framework for putting academics on the “felon’s dock” becomes much easier.

The government has quickly drafted a new bill to suppress academic freedoms that allow critical scholars to announce their thoughts that are contrary to government policies. According to the new draft bill, any academic that gets involved with “activities that have separatist claims or terror activities, or acts in support of this” would be kicked out of universities and lose public offices.

According to the new bill, these are the new regulations:

-An update to Higher Education Law that previously foresaw “warning, condemnation, temporary loss of wage, stopping promotion” now also includes losing academic title, dismissal from work, dismissal from public office”.

-Academics who get involved with separatist claims or terror activities or those who get involved with ideological or political actions, or supporting such actions will lose their public office.

-Apart from political activities, involvement with boycott, occupy, slowdown strike, strike, stopping public works that would disturb institutional tranquility, peace and work atmosphere, would result in losing employment.

-Against political works at universities, YOK president is now authorized to start investigation, YOK Disciplinary Board has authority to give punishment, university disciplinary boards have authority to dismiss one from work and from public office.

-Crimes of political involvement include crimes of political and ideological petition, propagating for political parties; discrimination based on language, race, color, gender, political thoughts, philosophical belief, religion and sect, attain personal interest, act on political and ideological reasons.

The new regulation has not left the retired academics, who had signed the peace petition that initiated the latest stir in Turkish judiciary. The academics who have retired or ended their academic work for any other reason will have a mark in their personal files, and their punishments will be given if they go back to work or start working for foundation (private) universities.

Mar 222016
 

By The Radical Democrat, 99GetSmart

bogazici-universitesi-nde-tutuklanan-akademisyenler-icin-aciklama-121763-5

Turkey had seen an increased mobility in the campuses when over 1100 academics from across the country had got together to sign a petition calling for peace. Quickly they were declared as traitors and recently three academics, Dr. Esra Mungan, Dr. Muzaffer Kaya, Dr. Kıvanç Ersoy were arrested, waiting for trial in the Bakırköy Prison in Istanbul.

Esra-Mungan

As of March 21, Evrensel reporter, Mithat Fabian Sözmen, wrote that after three days at the short stay unit, Dr. Mungan has been put in a solitary confinement cell with 1.5 hours of air time during the day, without any chance of seeing another face. The solitary confinement cells are located in the branch of the prison where inmates are allowed visitors only once a month. Dr. Mungan had previously written letters to her students and fellow academics from prison on the note pads of visiting politicians and lawyers, where she had explained that they read a lot.

University Stands with Academics

Dr. Mungan teaches cognitive psychology at one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey, Bosphorus University, which was founded in 1863 as Robert College. The university president, Gülay Barbarosoğlu, led the senate on the nights of March 17th, and on March 18th, the university came up with a statement:

For the first time in its history, a Bosphorus University professor has been arrested. Dr. Mungan has been accused of “propagating for terrorist organization.” We find this accusation unacceptable. Our colleague Dr. Mungan’s place is not prison but in the campus halls, where she has been teaching and researching for 15 years.

As Bosphorus University, we have always and under all circumstances had the sanctity of human life as basis and stood up against all kinds of violence. None of our professors have encouraged terrorism, and would not.

Our university, with her students, professors and alumni, have stood up against all steps that harm democracy. The right to free expression and thinking make up the body of this stance.

Where there is no right to free expression and thinking, there can not be a university, no lecture can be given, no research would be carried out and scientific advancement would stop. A climate of violence and terrorism would most effectively and rapidly be defeated at the free discussion atmosphere.

Dr. Mungan and fellow academics, Dr. Kaya and Dr. Ersoy, who have been arrested, and Dr. Camcı, about whom there is an arrest warrant, and Dr. Stephenson, who was deported, have all used their right to free expression, which is under constitutional guarantee.

We demand that our fellow professors be released and that they be rejoined with their students immediately.

Visit to Prime Minister

6

After the statement, university president Gülay Barbarosoğlu had applied to the chief prosecutor for the release of academics from prison. On March 19th Saturday afternoon, President Dr. Barbarosoğlu also paid a visit to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – also an alumni of Bosphorus University – who, prior to his political career that started in 2009 with his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs, had been teaching as professor of political science. The meeting ended with impressions that Prime Minister Davutoğlu would closely monitor the process.

Another statement had been made by the University Professors Association that welcomes all lecturers as members. The statement followed “the arrests in our country are a signifier of a very dire course of events. Intellectuals and academics get subjected to investigation, detention and even arrest simply because they made critical statements. As the trials continue with academics under arrest, this application itself has turned into “punishment without trial” mechanism that does not hold even reasonable justification. We demand an immediate release of our three fellow academics, who we believe have been arrested actually for opposing views and other intellectuals who have been subjected to investigations for their articles, statements, works.”

Pro-Government Academics Against Peace Petition

Vice-President of the Sebahattin Zaim University, which is a recently founded educational institute that includes AKP officials, ministers, prime minister and president as its founders, Dr. Bülent Arı evaluated the “Academics for Peace” on a TV program on March 20th. Dr. Arı briefly stated that the real problem of Turkey is the people with education, and that it is the ignorant people that will keep Turkey standing. Dr. Arı also stated that in order to leave a future to next generation, the current one needs to sacrifice itself and die. Regarding the peace petition Dr. Arı stated:

“I trust the judgement of the uneducated ignorant segment in this country. They are the ones to keep the country on its feet, the uneducated, not even primary school graduate, the ignorant people who have not been to university. They would never make such mistakes; how should I evaluate that declaration. They are leading Turkey into the middle of the fire. The educated segment in Turkey, starting from professors and going further back, the most dangerous types are the university graduates. The ones who can evaluate things most clearly are the primary school graduates, because their minds are clear. University and higher is very dire, they can not read the situation, their minds are blurred.

Let’s go back to Ottoman era, Sultan Hamid initiated royal schools where secular education would spread to whole country. Those who studied in those schools, toppled Sultan Hamid. Now when reading rate increases, I become exasperated. I am frankly afraid, I always trust the judgement of the ignorant people. Even in traffic the most dangerous types are university graduates. The ignorant ones abide by whatever you give them in traffic, these ones would not pose a constant threat. Those who can not see the world are those who have studied. The more one studies, the less able they are in analyzing Turkey. We are faced with an imminent disaster if Erdoğan is gone. We are at an undercover war, let’s accept that. We need to sacrifice maybe even ourselves and loved ones, to leave something for the next generation.”

Mar 162016
 

By The Radical Democrat, 99GetSmart

dayanisma-buyuyor-baris-icin-yayincilar-girisimi-akademisyenlerin-yanindayiz-104879-5

Over 1100 academics from 89 universities in Turkey had gathered in a meeting hall in Taksim, Istanbul on the 11th of January, to compile a declaration calling for peace. The original text demanded Turkish government to end the “siege” in the Southeastern cities of Turkey, and reiterated the motto of the text -which later came to be the title of it- stating “we will not be party to this crime!

The academics have seen violent reactions since then; their offices have been raided and marked (marking doors have been a reminder of earlier massacres in modern Turkish history), some of them have been subjected to pressure on campuses, intimidation in daily life, they have been subjected to hate campaigns by pro-government media and the government officials have stated that these academics will face dearest of all punishments for “complying with terrorism through means of academia”. A notorious criminal who had been awarded “the Khan of all Turks” title by the Ministry of Culture, Peker said “There will be rivers of blood, and I will bathe in the blood of the academics who do not wish to be party to a crime.”

Marking doors have been a common far right exercise in Turkey prior to massacres.

Marking doors have been a common far right exercise in Turkey prior to massacres.

Upon violent intimidation of the academics, the declaration had been opened for further signatures in Turkey and abroad, and over 2000 academics have signed the petition including Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler, Immanuel Wallertein. Although there has been somewhat international declaration of solidarity from individual academics and civil bodies, due to lack of unwavering commitment by International Political Science Association (IPSA), the academics for peace had also started a call for a boycott of the IPSA’s 24th World Congress that was originally to be held in Istanbul, Turkey. There have been legal investigations against 1128, suspension of 27, termination of 40, and threatening of 47academics so far, and legal action is expanding against those who criticize the ongoing state violence against civilians. The repression of academics had ignited many other professional platforms and they had started new petitions calling for peace and declaring solidarity as Writers for Peace, Translators for Peace, Students for Peace, Cinema for Peace, Theatres for Peace, Journalists for Peace, Lawyers for Peace, Doctors for Peace, Pharmacists for Peace, Pensioners for Peace, Unionists for Peace, Tourist Guides for Peace, and White Flag for Peace.

barisa-destek-veren-akademisyenler-tutuklandi-65724

The original peace declaration had called for a return to negotiation table and a democratic solution without state imposing violence on its citizens. However the excessive reactions to the original declaration came to such a level that a second declaration had been drafted with a headline “Regardless of all threats, we will not back off”. The three professors who had read out this second declaration, Esra Mungan of Bosphorus UniversityMuzaffer Kaya of Nisantasi University, and Kivanc Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, had been called to the courthouse to be questioned about their statement, later on transferred to the prosecutor on duty, who then arrested the academics for “propagating for a terrorist organization” and “humiliating the Republic of Turkey and its organs section of the [infamous] Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code of protection of Turkishness”.

Dec 162015
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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What Makes Recep Run? The Making of a Modern Pasha

Erdoğan began his ascent to power as a social reformer in opposition to the power elite; he was a rabble-rouser for popular Islam and social welfare. Once he takes political power he enriches his family and the business elite and purges adversaries and rivals.

With political power and economic connections, he amasses personal wealth through illicit business transactions.

With political power and personal wealth, he seeks prestige and status among the Western elites by serving imperial interests: He shoots down a Russian military jet over Syrian territory and thereby threatens hundreds of Turkish businesses and loses a major source of personal enrichment. When the Russians threaten to cut off energy exports to Turkey, Erdoğan’s opponents suggest he heat his own palace and villas with cow dung this winter.

The Two Faces of Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a long and ignoble history of betraying political associates, trading partners and military allies; of pledging friendship and then bombing his ‘friends’ and murdering citizens; of negotiating ‘in good faith’ and then killing rivals; of playing democrat then behaving like an ordinary demagogic dictator.

Erdoğan appeals to the plebeian and austere values of the Anatolian provincial petty bourgeoisie, while building the largest luxurious presidential palace in the world – fit for a 21st century Pasha. He repeatedly pronounces his fealty to the ‘Turkish Nation’, while he robs the Turkish treasury by repeatedly accepting bribes and pay-offs from building contractors who then double charge for publicly-funded projects.

More recently, Erdoğan claims to oppose terrorism and fight ISIS, while the major Turkish and regional newspapers, journalists and most domestic observers document the massive flow of illegal arms across the Turkish-Syrian border to ISIS terrorists.

Erdoğan’s ‘Carnal Relation’ with ISIS

Erdoğan supports ISIS by bombing the Syrian Kurdish fighters who resist the jihadi mercenaries; by shooting down a Russian military jet defending the Damascus government against the terrorists; by smuggling and selling oil which ISIS had stolen from Iraq and Syria; by providing medical assistance to wounded ISIS fighters; and by training and arming ISIS terrorists in Turkish bases.

There is a reciprocal relationship: Erdoğan uses ISIS operatives to terrorize his own domestic opposition, including terror bombing a gathering of Kurdish ‘socialist youth’ in the town of Suruç on July 20, 2015, which killed 33 and the massive bombing in Ankara on October 10 of a ‘peace and justice’ march, which killed over 100, targeting trade unionists, leaders of professional associations, community activists and members of a democratic Kurdish electoral party and wounded many hundreds.

During the legislative election of 2015 ISIS terrorists and thugs from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) attacked the offices, meetings and candidates of the opposition parties, especially of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), to ensure that Erdoğan secured a super-majority.

In other words, Erdoğan has three uses for ISIS serving his external and internal interests:

(1)  To attack and destroy secular Kurdish forces resisting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, thus preventing the formation of an independent Kurdish state on the Turkish border.

(2)  To attack and destroy Syria’s independent Baathist government under Bashar  Al-Assad, dismantle the multicultural secular state apparatus and install a Sunni Islamist client in Damascus subordinate to Erdoğan’s AKP.

(3)  To attack and terrorize the Turkish domestic opposition, including the broad-based Kurdish HDP, and the leftist trade union confederation (DISK).

Erdoğan has a decade-long strategic alliance with the militant Wahhabi terrorists who now make up ISIS. He intends to ‘remake’ the map of the Middle East to serve his own expansionist ambitions. In part this explains why Erdoğan has provided large-scale arms and material to the terrorists, trained thousands of mercenaries and provided medical aid to wounded ISIS fighters. It also explains why Erdoğan took the unprecedented and extremely provocative step of shooting down a Russian military jet over Syrian territory, which had been bombing Erdoğan’s ISIS allies. Russian and Syrian Army successes against ISIS have threatened his ambitions.

Erdoğan’s transformation from ‘Muslim democrat’ to bloody authoritarian Islamist ruler with pretensions of becoming the dominant Middle Eastern Pasha has to be seen in light of his rise to power over the past 40 years.

What Makes Recep Run?

Erdoğan, early on, showed his affinity for extremist Islamist politics. In the 1970’s he was head of the youth branch of the Islamist Salvation Party (MSP), a virulent anti-communist, anti-secular party committed to converting Turkey, a huge multi-ethnic secular state, into a theocratic regime (along the lines of contemporary ISIS).

After the military coup of 1980 the MSP was dissolved and reappeared as the Welfare Party. Erdoğan became a leader of the new (re-named) Islamist party.

Erdoğan and the Welfare Party exploited Turkish mass discontent with the corrupt and authoritarian military. The Welfare Party embraced a populist social welfare program with Islamist religious undertones in order to build a formidable grassroots organization in the working class neighborhoods in Istanbul. Erdoğan was elected mayor of Turkey’s largest city in 1994.

As Mayor, Erdoğan over-reached his power by preaching militant Islamism and was convicted in 1998 of sedition against the secular state. He served 4 months of a 10-month sentence.

Henceforth he changed tactics: His Islamist fanaticism was disguised. He changed the party name from Welfare to the modern sounding Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdoğan then launched a series of political maneuvers, in which he cleverly manipulated adversaries to gain power and then … stabbed each of them in the back.

Erdoğan: Embrace and Back-Stab 

Despite his earlier conviction for sedition against the secular state, the ‘reformed’ Erdoğan allied with the Kemalist, secular Republican Peoples Party (CHP) to overturn the military’s ban on his participation in politics in 2002. He was elected Prime Minister in 2003. After the AKP won the general election it cut its ties with the CHP. Erdoğan was re-elected Prime Minister in 2007 and 2011.

Erdoğan allied with the pro-US Islamist leader Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmetor Cemaat Movement, which was influential within the judicial system, police and army. Together they launched a purge against secular military and judicial officials, journalists and media critics.

The Erdoğan – Gülenist state apparatus arrested and jailed 300 secular military officers, judges and journalists and replaced them with Erdođan and Gülen loyalists – all Islamists.

Dubbed “Operation Sledgehammer” the entire purge was based on fabricated charges of treason and conspiracy. Yet it was described by the Western media in terms that flattered Erdoğan’s democratic credentials, calling it an ‘effort to consolidate democracy’ against the military.

It had nothing to do with democracy: The purge consolidated Erdoğan’s personal power and allowed him to pursue policies that were more overtly neoliberal and Islamist. The purge of the judiciary further allowed Erdoğan to enrich crony capitalists and family members.

Erdoğan: The Birth of a Neoliberal Pasha

Erdoğan then embraced an IMF-designed ‘stabilization and recovery’ program, which reduced wages, salaries and pensions while privatizing public sector enterprises and activities. This attracted a large inflow of capital as foreign investors and cronies snapped up the goodies at bargain prices. Most emblematic of this ‘free-for-all cronies’ approach to the economy was the Soma coal mine disaster in May 2014 when over 300 miners were killed in a previously state-owned mine, which had suffered a breakdown of worker safety conditions after it had been privatized to an Erdoğan-crony. Despite local and international outrage, Recep ignored the scandal and unleashed police on the demonstrating miners.

Erdoğan’s combination of Islam with brutal neoliberalism attracted support from Brussels, Wall Street and the City of London. Large inflows of speculative foreign capital temporarily inflated Turkey’s GNP and Erdoğan’s wealth and ego!

In the beginning of his rule Erdoğan’s concessions, tax incentives, government contracts to big capital were broadly distributed to most sectors, but especially to his crony capitalists within the construction and real estate sectors.

As the capitalist boom continued and his power increased, Erdoğan became more obsessed with his role as the savior of Turkey. By 2010, a serious difference developed between Erdoğan and his Gülenist partners over the division of power. Erdoğan moved rapidly and brutally. He launched another massive purge of suspected ‘Gülenist officials’. He arrested, fired, jailed and relocated Gülen sympathizers among judges, police and civil servants despite the fact that these were officials who had served him well during the earlier purge of the secular military.

Erdoğan is not willing to share power with any other party, movement or group. Pasha Recep wanted to monopolize power. He has attacked critical newspapers, businesses and conglomerates claiming these were ‘Gülen controlled’. Erdoğan ensured that only capitalists completely loyal to him would receive regime patronage. In other words, he strengthened the size, strength and importance of crony capitalists: especially in the real estate and construction sector.

Pasha Recep’s Assault on Civil Society

Turkey, under Erdoğan’s absolute power, has seen a geometric increase in corruption and mindless ‘development projects’, leading to the degradation and usurpation of public spaces. His arbitrary and destructive policies have provoked sustained civil society protests, especially in the center of Istanbul – during the Gezi Park demonstrations, which began in May 2013.

In response to civil society demonstrations, Erdoğan shed all pretensions, ripping off his ‘modern democratic’ mask and brutally repressing the peaceful protestors in the heart of Istanbul– resulting in 22 deaths, hundreds wounded and more arrested and sentenced to long jail term. Erdoğan subsequently targeted liberal critics and business leaders, who had criticized his brutal use of force.

2013, the year of the Gezi Park Movement, was a turning point – Erdoğan and family members were implicated in a $100 million-dollar corruption scandal while liberal critics of the regime were purged.

Facing opposition from sectors of the elite as well as popular classes, Erdoğan became more rabidly ‘Islamist’, chauvinistic and megalomaniacal – ‘Neo-Ottoman’.

In short order, he re-launched his attack on the Turkish Kurds and increased his support to the Islamist terrorists in Syria, including what would become ISIS. These policies were designed to complement his ongoing war against the secular Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

Erdoğan: Backstabbing Secular Syria and “Best Friend” Russia

From the beginning of his rule, Erdoğan cultivated the ‘best of relations’ with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He signed dozens of trade agreements with Damascus and Moscow. Putin was welcomed to Ankara and Erdoğan to Moscow where they signed billion-dollar energy deals and mutual co-operative agreements.

Up to 3 million Russian tourists visited Turkish resorts each year, a bonanza for one of Turkey’s major industries.

Erdoğan’s regime was ebullient, effusive, embracing Moscow and Damascus while systematically preparing the ground for more backstabbing!

By 2011, Erdoğan had been deeply involved in preparing the ground for what would become the bloody Islamist uprising in Syria. Early on, hundreds of armed foreign Islamist terrorists crossed the Turkish border into Syria. Their presence overwhelmed local Syrian dissidents. Armed Islamists seized villages and towns brutally purging them of Christians, Kurds, Alewives and secular Syrians. They took over the oil fields. From one day to the next, Erdoğan was transformed from loving friend to deadly foe of neighboring Syria demanding ‘regime change’ through terrorist sectarian violence.

Erdoğan embraced the most extreme, sectarian Wahhabi Islamist groups because they were committed to undermining the nationalist aspirations of the Syrian Kurds as well as overthrowing the secular Al-Assad government. Erdoğan’s covert alliance with ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups was motivated by several strategic considerations, which are outlined below:

1)      The alliance serves to prevent the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish enclave on the Syrian-Turkish border in the event of a Damascus defeat, which Erdoğan fears would then link armed Syrian Kurds with the huge disaffected Kurdish population in southeastern Turkey and lead to the formation of an autonomous secular Kurdish state.

2)     Erdoğan’s alliance with jihadis in Syria has served Ankara’s ambition to impose a puppet Sunni-Islamist regime in Damascus.

3)     The ISIS regime controlling the Syrian and Iraqi oil fields provides Turkey with a source of cheap fuel and lucrative profits for the regime. Recep’s son, Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan owns and operates the BMZ Group which buys the contraband Syrian and Iraqi oil in Turkey and sells it overseas (especially to Israel) earning nearly a billion dollars a year for ‘the family’.

It is not surprise that the Erdoğan family directly financed ISIS, which uses the cash from contraband oil, pillaged antiquities and ‘tribute’ taxes, to purchase heavy and light arms, military and transport vehicles and communications equipment in Turkey and elsewhere to support its terror campaign in Syria and Iraq. Well-informed Turkish observers believe that Erdoğan’s intelligence officials are directly involved in recruiting ISIS terrorists to operate within Turkey and attack Erdoğan’s internal opposition, especially the Kurdish electoral party HDP and the broad-based Turkish left and trade union movements. Observers claim Turkish intelligence operations had a direct role in the ‘ISIS’ bomb attacks in Suruç and Ankara this year, which killed and maimed hundreds of Erdoğan opponents and civil society activists.

Erdoğan and ISIS developed a co-dependent relation, one of mutual manipulation. Each has publicly declared their tactical enmity to the other, while busily pursuing joint strategic aims.

Ankara uses the pretext of fighting ISIS in order to bomb the Kurds in Syria who are resisting the jihadis. ISIS uses the pretext of opposing the NATO member Turkey in order to cover its massive oil and weapons trade deals with Erdoğan’s family and crony business enterprises.

The Pasha Stabs the Bear and the Bear Bites Back – One Stab Too Many 

Russia’s highly effective aerial bombing campaign against the jihadi and ISIS terrorist networks in Syria was in response to a formal request for military intervention by the legitimate government of President Bashar Al-Assad. Russia has long-standing ties to the Baathist regime in Damascus. The intervention has threatened to undermine Erdoğan’s regional power ambitions and illicit business operations in Syria. First and foremost, it ended Erdoğan’s plan to annex a large swathe of Northern Syria and call it a ‘no fly zone’. The Turkish-controlled ‘no fly zone’ in Syria would  expand Turkish military training bases for ISIS and other jihadi terrorists and secure the transport routes for ISIS oil shipments smuggled out of Iraq and Syria.

Unlike the US, which had rarely bombed the strategic Erdoğan-ISIS oil smuggling operations, the Russians destroyed over a thousand oil trucks and numerous ISIS oil depots and logistical centers in the first month of its air campaign. By reducing the flow of smuggled oil, Russia cut off the main source of massive profit for Bilal Erdoğan’s BMZ Company as well as for Turkish arms dealers.

Like gangsters, Erdoğan, his family and cronies have been immersed in massive corrupt business activities at home and abroad; he can no longer operate within the context of the larger interests of the Turkish capitalist class with its $40 billion dollar annual trade and investment relations with Russia. Erdoğan’s decision to shoot down a Russian jet in Syrian territory, on November 24, 2015, was largely motivated by his fury at Russia’s successful interruption of the ISIS  oil convoys. By protecting his own family interests, Erdoğan stabbed more allies in the back: The Russians, as well as large sections of the Turkish capitalist class!

Up until Erdoğan’s act of war against Russia, he had publicly embraced Putin as an ally, friend and partner. The two leaders had cordial relations for over a decade. The Turkish military was fully informed about Russian military operations in Syria, including its flight paths. Then suddenly in November 2015 he risked a total rupture in relations and invited retaliation against Turkey from Russia by shooting down a Russian jet.

Russia immediately responded by upgrading its most advanced weapons systems to defend its operations and bases in Northern Syria and intensified its bombing of the ISIS – Turkish oil operations.

Russia retaliated by imposing visa restrictions and economic sanctions on Turkey, adversely affecting the multi-billion dollar tourist business. Strategic energy deals were terminated. Large-scale Turkish construction contracts were ended. Turkish agricultural exports to Russian markets virtually stopped.

The Pasha Bites His own Tail

Erdoğan’s unilateral actions were clearly against the broad interests of Turkey’s large export sector. From Gezi to Gülen, from one purge to another, Erdoğan, the former ‘poster boy’ of neoliberal Turkish capital, has become a self-centered despot, acting on behalf of a narrowing circle of corrupt family and crony capitalists. Erdoğan set himself up as a modern day pasha more in the image of the self-indulgent Ibrahim I (the Madman) than the far-seeing Suleyman I (the Wise).

Once Erdoğan realized the damage that his fit of egomaniac fury against the Russians had provoked abroad and his growing isolation within Turkey, he rushed to NATO on bended knee to beg for support. True to his authoritarian personality, Recep Erdoğan crawls on his knees before his ‘superiors’ (NATO-US) while grabbing the throats of his ‘inferiors’ (the Turkish people)!

Conclusion

Erdoğan’s road to absolutist power is strewn with indiscriminate purges, terror and deceit; violence against environmental and liberal protestors in Gezi Park and moderate Gülen Islamists; jail sentences and firing of journalists and publishers, military officials and judges; repression of workers and capitalists; terror bombing against activists and democrats; and war against Kurds and Syrians.

Erdoğan’s paranoid and greed-driven vision of politics precludes any trust and stable relations. He thinks he is very clever with his combination of charm and broken promises, but he fools nobody. He reignites the war against the Kurds in Turkey and Syria but they retaliate!

He attacks Russia and provokes a very costly retaliation so far limited to the Turkish economy.

He increases his personal power, but undermines the interests of the Turkish nation and its people. Erdoğan believes he is the rising regional hegemony, indispensable to the West. He blackmails the EU for billions of Euros to control the flood of refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq with his promises to warehouse desperate refugees in Turkish concentration camps. But Europeans must know that their money can never buy trust and loyalty from the Pasha.

His oil deals with ISIS are in tatters. Russian bombs ensure that Erdoğan will have to find other sources of illicit profit. Worst of all, Erdoğan’s furious actions have lost markets, allies and domestic support. He faces enemies from all sides – liberal professors, students, big business owners and organized workers in Istanbul; small business people in the tourist trade; construction and oil companies in Ankara; farmers in Anatolia, and, above all, the coal miners in Soma Manis.

Who knows under what circumstances Pasha Recep (the ‘Megalomaniac’) will be replaced?

Oct 222015
 

By Michael Nevradakis, 99GetSmart

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Dear listeners and friends,

Gürkan Ozturan

Gürkan Ozturan

Beginning TODAY and all this week on Dialogos Radio, the Dialogos Interview Series will feature a timely and exclusive interview with Turkish journalist, blogger, academic and activist Gürkan Ozturan, who played a key role in the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey and who, as a result, is a wanted man by the Erdogan government in Turkey. 

Ozturan will speak to Dialogos Radio about all of the latest developments in Turkey and the wider region, including the recent terrorist attaks in Turkey, police and state violence in Turkey against protesters and the left, censorship that is imposed in the Turkish media and on the internet, the 2013 Gezi Park protests, the armed conflict against the Kurds, the ongoing war in Syria and the Middle East and Turkey’s involvement, and the refugee crisis which has resulted.

Along with this interview, we will feature our commentary of the week segment, as well as some great Greek music. All this and much more, this week exclusively on Dialogos Radio.

For more details and our full broadcast schedule, which begins today, visit http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=5662.

Our Interview with Déborah Berman-Santana Featured in Truthout!

Our recent radio interview with Déborah Berman-Santana, retired professor of Geography and Ethnic Studies at Mills College in Oakland, California, on the ongoing economic crisis in Puerto Rico, the island’s long history of colonial subjugation, and the similarities with the situation in Greece, has been featured in Truthout and 99GetSmart! 

Check it out here: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33275-puerto-rico-s-debt-crisis-greece-isn-t-alone-in-struggling-against-austerity.

And here: http://99getsmart.com/puerto-ricos-debt-crisis-greece-isnt-alone-in-struggling-against-austerity/

Best,

Dialogos Radio & Media
 **************************
Αγαπητοί ακροατές και φίλοι,
 
Αυτή την εβδομάδα στην εκπομπή μας, παρουσιάζουμε μία εξαιρετικά επίκαιρη συνέντευξη με τον Τούρκο δημοσιογράφο, μπλόγκερ, ακαδημαϊκό και ακτιβιστή Gürkan Ozturan, ο οποίος ήταν βασικός συντελεστής των διαδηλώσεων του πάρκου Γκεζί το 2013 και που είναι πλέον στοχοποιημένος από την κυβέρνηση Ερντογάν για τον ρόλο του στις διαδηλώσεις. 
 
Ο Ozturan θα μας μιλήσει για όλες τις τελευταίες εξελίξεις στην γείτονα χώρα και για σημαντικά ζητήματα όπως τις πρόσφατες τρομοκρατικές επιθέσεις, την κρατική και αστυνομική καταστολή στην Τουρκία, την λογοκρισία που επιβάλλεται στα Τουρκικά μέσα ενημέρωσης και στο διαδίκτυο, τις διαδηλώσεις στην πλατεία Τακσίμ και στο πάρκο Γκεζί το 2013, τον πόλεμο κατά των Κούρδων και τον πόλεμο στη Συρία, και για την προσφυγική κρίση.
 
Μαζί με αυτή την ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη, θα παρουσιάσουμε τον καθιερωμένο μας εβδομαδιαίο σχολιασμό της επικαιρότητας. Όλα αυτά και πολλά άλλα, αυτή την εβδομάδα αποκλειστικά στο «Διάλογος».
 
Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες και το πλήρης πρόγραμμα μεταδόσεων της εκπομπής μας, μπείτε στο http://dialogosmedia.org/?p=5659.
 
Φιλικά,
Διάλογος Radio & Media