Jul 032017
 

By , 99GetSmart

The Justice March (Photo: Edgar Şar)

The Justice March (Photo: Edgar Şar)

Triggered in Ankara by the arrest of the main Turkish opposition deputy Berberoğlu, the march for Adalet (justice) is now heading towards Istanbul and growing each day.

On June 14, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), announced that he and his supporters were to embark on a march from Ankara to Istanbul, a distance of 450 kilometres. What is now known as a “Justice March” has been organized to protest the arrest of a former journalist and CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail on spying charges.

Holding a single banner bearing the word adalet (justice), Kılıçdaroğlu said that Turkey was facing a dictatorial regime that puts parliamentarians, journalists and academics in prison. “We do not want to live in a country where there is no justice,” he added. The march is expected to last 24 days and will end at Maltepe Prison in Istanbul, where Berberoğlu is now being held.

Kılıçdaroğlu has often been criticized for his passivity and inability to exercise an influential opposition against the anti-democratic moves of the Erdogan government, especially after the controversial constitutional referendum of April 16, which turned the Turkish parliamentary democracy into an authoritarian presidential system. The referendum was won by a narrow margin and, due to the scandal of “unstamped ballots”, half of the population in the “No camp” has trouble believing in the veracity of the referendum results.

In fact, Turkey’s recent adventures with justice are not specifically related to the controversial referendum results. On July 20, 2017 it will be the first anniversary of the State of Emergency Rule that was declared following last year’s dramatic coup attempt on July 15. This past year under the State of Emergency Rule has been marked by injustices, human rights abuses and freedom violations on an unprecedented scale. According to official figures, nearly 50.000 people, thereof 15 members of parliament, have been arrested, at least 150.000 civil servants have been dismissed and more than 170 journalists are in prison.

Kılıçdaroğlu has been calling July 20 a “civilian coup” staged by the government with the declaration of the State of Emergency Rule.

Justice March” marks the first instance in the history of the Republic, where the leader of the main opposition party embarks on a protest march of such a long distance. For many Turks, who believe that they were treated unjustly by the State of Emergency and who cannot take any legal action because of it,the adalet march has become an event of unique significance.

The pursuit of justice was able to unite larger segments of the society, which feel excluded and exposed to injustice both in front of the law even in their everyday life. Additionally, the Justice March seems to bring many opposition groups together, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), other political parties, labour unions, bar associations along with the half of the Turkish population who voted “No” in the referendum.

CHP announced that it would no longer restrict its democratic struggle to the parliamentary opposition and is determined to have more presence in the streets. In this respect, the march may help consolidate the CHP’s role as the main opposition force against Erdogan’s tightening grip on Turkey.

This aricle is co-authored by Seren Selvin Korkmaz.

147.thumbnailAbout the author

Edgar Şar is a PhD student in Political Science at the European University Institute. He received his BA from Marmara University and his MA from Bogazici University. He is the co-founder and co-director of academic studies of Political and Social Research Institute of Europe. His current research focuses on secularism and democratization in the Middle East.

May 232017
 

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

Documentarist & video-activist Kazım Kızıl who was arrested while following the post-referendum protests in Izmir, misses his camera the most while in prison. Kızıl says “I will first hug my camera, and then my family and friends. I want to go on a vacation then; look at fields full of flowers, dive into rivers. I want to go a little crazy. It is not this prison that makes me crazy, it is liberty itself.”

Kazım Kızıl, having been behind bars since April 22 has answered Seyhan Avşar’s questions for Cumhuriyet Daily. He was arrested with claims of having insulted the president, which he states is not likely himself. “Insult is not my personality. I have nothing I cannot say through valid criticism to revert to insult. There are currently two court cases against me and an investigation. Both of the court cases are about journalism, regarding the news pieces I was following; and the investigation has started due to my participation in ‘Cinema for Peace’. If I am to summarize the situation in Metin Altıok’s lines, ‘I am dangerous for some, to be burned at stake, to set an example.’ The will is obvious; to prevent police violence on camera. Yet I continue to repeat, ‘Journalism is not a crime!’ Kızıl answers Avşar.

What about unfinished works?

I had been working on a series of documentaries regarding child labor prior to my arrest. Kids who work at tobacco fields with their parents, unpaid labor which is not considered work officially; the production of the first of series was complete for ‘Where are you, Friend?’. There was only the soundtracks and color correction remaining. Reflections of my childhood are in this documentary, which takes its name from Yaşar Kemal’s book that consists of his interviews with children. The second film was to be about Syrian child-workers. And the third one would be about the crony-businessmen erecting skyscrapers in Izmir’s Bayraklı, titled “Penises of Izmir”.

Do you have any problem in prison?

This is the first time I enter a prison in my life. I have been subjected to psychological harassment and pressure. For a long time Erdoğan-marches were echoed in my ears. Thankfully later I have erased the Erdoğan-marches from my ears with folk songs of Neşet Ertaş and poetry of Turgut Uyar that I kept repeating from within myself, having learned them by heart. We stay 19 people in a room for 8. Five of our friends sleep on the floor. Our letters are kept waiting in ‘reading committees’.

How do your days pass?

The books in the prison were finished only in a few days. I have started working on my English. I keep writing essays, articles, stories. Just like Sait Faik (Abasıyanık) has said ‘I would go crazy if I did not write’.

May 182017
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

The Project for the New Middle East

For the past 20 years Washington has aggressively pursued the age-old imperial strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ throughout the Middle East, Southwest Asia and East Africa. Frustrated at its inability to control national policy of various independent nation-states, Washington used direct and indirect military force to destroy the central governments in the targeted nations and create patchworks of tribal-ethno-mini-states amenable to imperial rule. Tens of millions of people have been uprooted and millions have died because of this imperial policy.

Washington’s strategy of fragmentation and secession follows closely the “Greater Israel Plan” set forth by Israeli politico-military writer Oded Yinon in February 1982 and published by the World Zionist Organization. Yinon maintained that the key to Israel’s domination of the Middle East rested on fostering ethno-religious and regional divisions. Following the Yinon Plan, in the first instance, Tel Aviv signed accords with Jordan and Egypt to break-up Arab regional support for the Palestinians. It then proceeded to fragment what remained of Arab-Palestine into small warring enclaves between the West Bank and Gaza. Israel then sub-divided and settled wide swatches of the West Bank with the collaboration of the corrupt ‘Palestinian Authority’ under Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s ‘divide and conquer’ strategy toward the Greater Middle East depended on its placement of ‘Israel First’ officials in top policymaking positions of the US Defense, State and Treasury Departments and the power of the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) — the so-called “Israel Lobby” – to control the US Congress and Presidency in matters related to Israel.

The Israeli Mid-East strategy of fragmenting and weakening pro-Palestinian governments thus become the official US policy toward Arab countries.

This policy has not been limited to the Arab Middle East: Israel and US policymakers intervened to undermine the ‘pro-Palestinian’ government of Sudan by supporting a secessionist war to create a huge resource-rich ‘Southern Sudan’ conglomeration of tribal warlords, leaving a devastated region of mass murder and famine.

Somalia, Libya and Ethiopia were also riven by regional wars financed and armed by the US with overt and covert Israeli operatives and advisers.

Israel’s policy to weaken, fragment and destroy viable developing countries, differed from the traditional policies of colonial regimes, which sought to conquer and exploit unified nation-states. Washington has blindly followed Israel’s imperial ‘model’ without assessing its impact on US interests and thus undermining its past practice of economic exploitation of viable nation states.

‘Israel First’ officials within the US federal administrative policy-making bodies played a decisive role in fabricating the pretexts for the 2003 US invasion and destruction of Iraq. They pushed fake ‘documents’ alleging Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and they promoted a plan to sub-divide the country in three ethnically ‘cleansed’ regions: Kurds (as Israel’s allies) in the North, impoverished Sunnis in the center and easily controlled Shia tribal leaders in the South.

The policy of dismantling a central government and promoting regional fragmentation backfired on the US authorities in Iraq: Sunni insurgents, often trained by experienced Baathist (former Iraqi Army) officers, formed the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS), which took over major cities, slaughtering all non-Arab, non-Sunni residents, and threatened to established an independent state. The Shia-led government in Baghdad turned to Iran for support, forcing the US, Israel and the Kurds to declare war against ISIS, while trying to retain the weakened Sunni tribal clients. No viable central government remains in the once powerful multiethnic republic of Iraq.

The US joined Saudi Arabia in invading and bombing Yemen to destroy the Houthi rebels and favor the Sunni Salafist groups allied to al Qaeda. The goal was to weaken Yemen and prevent popular Yemini revolts from spreading to Saudi Arabia as well as undermining any Houthi alliances with Iran and expression of support for Palestine.

The US directly invaded Afghanistan expecting to easily conquer and ‘neatly’ subdivide that enormous region and ‘skillfully’ pit the various regional ethno-tribal groups against each other – while setting up a lucrative and militarily strategic site for launching future wars against US (and Israeli) rivals in Iran, Central Asia and China.

The battle-hardened Afghan Islamist Pashtun guerrilla-fighters, led by the Taliban, and unified by ethno-religious, national, tribal and extended family ties and customs, have successfully resisted this divide and conquer strategy. They now control most of the countryside, infiltrating and influencing the armed forces and police and have driven the US forces into garrison airbases, reliant on dropping mega bombs from the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, blinded by the media propaganda reports of their ‘successes’, Washington and the NATO powers launched a bloody surrogate war against the secular nationalist government of Syria, seeking to divide, conquer and obliterate an independent, pro-Palestine, pro-Iran, ally of Russia.

NATO’s invading armies and mercenary groups, however, are sub-divided into strange factions with shifting allegiances and patrons. At one level, there are the EU/US-supported ‘moderate’ head-chopping rebels. Then there are the Turkey and Saudi Arabia-supported ‘serious’ head-chopping al Qaeda Salafists. Finally there is the ‘champion’ head-chopping ISIS conglomeration based in Iraq and Syria, as well as a variety of Kurdish armed groups serving as Israeli mercenaries.

The US-EU efforts to conquer and control Syria, via surrogates, mercenaries and terrorists, was defeated largely because of Syria’s alliance with Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Syria has effectively been ‘chopped up’ by competing imperial and regional powers leading to a possible confrontation among major powers. The US-Kurdish-Turkey conflict provides the most immediate danger of serious open warfare among major nations.

Among the myriad surrogate groups that Washington supported in its seemingly contradictory policy of violently overthrowing the Syrian government in Damascus while seizing territory from ISIS, Pentagon strategists have relied most heavily on the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG). The US escalated its military support for the YPG, promising heavy arms and increased US ground and air support. Meanwhile, the YPG expanded its control of the Kurdish regions in Syria especially along the Turkish border, creating a powerful territorial tie of Syrian-Kurds with Turkish-Kurds and Iraqi-Kurds. The US generous supply of heavy weapons to the YPG has increased the Kurds capacity to fight Turkey for the establishment of a contiguous ‘Greater Kurdistan’. Moreover, the US government has publicly informed Turkey that its armed forces will provide a ‘shield’ to protect the YPG – and indirectly the PKK – from Turkish attack.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is acutely aware that the YPG’s goal is to partition Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria and form a Kurdish state with Iraqi Kurdistan. US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ pledge that ‘Washington is committed to protecting its NATO ally (Turkey)’ is ambiguous at best and most likely a hollow promise. Washington is counting on the Kurds as a strategic ally against both Damascus and ISIS. Only after accomplishing their twin goals in Syria might the Pentagon turn against the Kurds and support the Turkish government.

Complicating this scenario, the Israelis have long-standing ties with the Iraqi Kurds as part of their own divide and conquer strategy. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has been bombing Damascus, aiding ISIS fighters in southern Syria (with material and ‘humanitarian’ medical treatment) while supporting YPG against the Syrian and Turkish militaries.

The Erdoğan regime is in a quandary: A victory for the Kurdish YPG and their occupation of territory along its border will materially threaten the ‘unity of the Turkish state’. An armed, unified Kurdish presence in this region will result in enormous pressure on Erdoğan from the nationalist political parties and supporters and the Turkish Armed Forces. On the other hand, if Erdoğan launches cross border attacks on the Pentagon-supported YPG it will directly face US ground and air power.

President Erdoğan is clearly aware that the US was involved with the silent ‘Gulanist’ permeation of the Turkish state leading up to the 2016 abortive Gulanist coup. Erdoğan’s scheduled meeting with US President Donald Trump in mid-May may not resolve the impending Turkish-Kurdish confrontation in Syria where the US is committed to protecting the YPG.

Washington hopes to convince President Erdoğan that the YPG will hand this strategic territory over to an amorphous, minuscule puppet Arab-led militia, presumably made up of non-Kurdish collaborates of the US-NATO-Saudi war against Damascus. It is hard to imagine the veteran politician Erdoğan believing a Pentagon plan for the YPG to just hand over its territorial patrimony after having fought and died to secure the region. The US is in no position to force the YPG to surrender its gains because the YPG is crucial to the Washington-Israeli-Saudi plan to destroy the central government in Damascus and fragment Syria into weak tribal mini-states.

Erdoğan’s imminent failure to get Washington support for his war with the Kurds will force him to play his ‘nationalist’ card: There will be more pro-Palestine rhetoric, more opposition to a Cyprus accord, more pro-Russia posturing and the ‘discovery’ of more and greater ‘internal threats’ to the great Turkish State.

Will Erdoğan be able defuse the hostility among his own and independent nationalist supporters?

One point is clear: A territorially-based powerful Kurdish militia, armed by the US, will be far more formidable threat to the unity of the Turkish state than the previous ill-armed rag-tag guerrillas in the mountains of northern Iraq.

It will be a humiliating defeat if Erdoğan surrenders to Pentagon demands and tolerates a US-YPG alliance on Turkey’s border. Erdoğan has some powerful options of his own: Turkey might deny the US Armed Forces access to its huge airbases in Turkey thus weakening NATO’s ‘southern flank’. A Turkish threat to withdraw from NATO altogether would have greater repercussions. Even the slightest hint of exercising these options would set off a ‘second coup’ against Erdoğan. This would involve a more serious US-NATO-backed uprising by senior Turkish officers, ‘nationalists’, democratic secularists and Kurds in major urban centers with ‘Gulanist’ politicians and bureaucrats waiting in the wings.

President Trump and the Pentagon may gain a foothold against Damascus with Kurdish surrogates in Northern Syria, but the loss of Turkey will be a strategic setback. Behind all of this confusion and devastation the partition of Syria and, eventually of Turkey, fits in very well with Greater Israel’s ‘Oded Yinon Plan’ for subdividing Muslim countries.

James Petras is author of The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire, Extractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East. Read other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

May 122017
 

By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart

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Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have been on hunger strike for more than two months after exhausting the processes to be re-appointed to their positions as educators which they had been dismissed with a decree ruling of the State of Emergency Rule that has been declared in the aftermath of July 15 coup attempt.

Özakça was a teacher at Mardin Mazıdağı Cumhuriyet primary school until getting dismissed from duty with a decree ruling numbered 675, and Gülmen used to work at the Selçuk University until she was dismissed with decree ruling numbered 679 on January 5th. The two educators have been showing great strength in the face of pressure from government over the course of two months. They had been detained, but still continued their hunger strike. When they were to pass a critical threshold on day 45, the physicians’ chamber members wanted to get their consent forms for medical intervention if they were to lose consciousness; yet they refused to consent.

The two educators continue their hunger strike in the heart of Turkey’s capital, Ankara; only few hundred meters away from the Parliament. In a press interview, Gülmen had said “We have lost weight, and are well aware of the risks. We do not want to starve, hence our call to those in charge of getting our jobs back.”

Özakça had stated in an interview, “We not only want our jobs back, but also struggle for our honor. If we struggle together, we shall win. Our victory shall mean the end of fear atmosphere that the government wants to install in Turkey.”

While the two educators continue on day 65 of their hunger strike, there have been several solidarity hunger strikers in other cities and countries. Several other academics for peace, university students, politicians, artists have staged sit-in protests for a one-day hunger strike and have been on rotation, drawing attention to the heart of Turkey, where the two educators are conducting their strike.

PEN International has released a statement naming the worries about the health of Gülmen and Özakça; while in the Netherlands, people have gathered in Amsterdam’s Dam Square rallying in solidarity for the two.

As there have been national and international solidarity rallies to draw attention to injustice and inhumane treatment of the people who have been dismissed with decree rulings and stripped of certain rights, the Prime Minister Yıldırım had stated that he is unaware of the situation, asking if the two have been in prison, after main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu informed Yıldırım on the continueing hunger strikes.

After starting hunger strike on March 10th, the two educators are reportedly showing symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. According to Bianet’s news piece, Ankara Physicians Chamber has held a press meeting where they have announced that the two educators have been showing serious deterioration in health conditions which is a signifier of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Chair of the Physicians’ Chamber, Vedat Bulut has announced that the critical stage has been passed and permissions for medical intervention should be taken, which the two strikers refuse to give. Especially Gülmen has been showing slowed down in heart beat, as well as dropped blood pressure.

10-15% of the people who pass the critical stage on day 45 lose their lives, while 77% lose their lives due to infections in later stages even after leaving hunger strike. 25% must get hospitalized and receive long-term healing and special care in order to come over physical and psychological problems.

Since the declaration of the State of Emergency Rule, more than 150 thousand people have been dismissed from their jobs and lost access to healthcare, education and employment market, including more than a thousand academics and tens of thousands of teachers. NGOs, unions, student movements and various human rights initiatives have been calling for an end to unjust treatment and sharing their worries regarding the hunger strikes.

 

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Sources:

https://twitter.com/dokuz8_EN

www.diken.com.tr

www.bianet.org

Apr 262017
 

Originally posted at dokuz8HABER, 99GetSmart

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Documentarist and video-activist for Kamera Sokak, Kazım Kızıl has been arrested and sent to Menemen Prison. On April 17th, Kazım was detained while covering the protests in Izmir, Bornova after the referendum results had been perceived as illegitimate by many citizens. At the Küçükpark Square in Bornova, university students had called for a rally titled “No, We have Won”. The police intervened the rally and detained protesters, not allowing the press to take visuals from the site.

After Kazım was detained, his lawyer Dinçer Çalım stated that he was sent to court for arrest for non-compliance with Article 2911 -law regulating the meetings and rallies- and article 299 of Turkish Penal Code, ‘insult to President’. However during the questioning at the prosecutor’s office, issues related to “inciting violence” has been asked and new accusations have been made against Kazım.

Lawyer Çalım said, “There were 19 suspects in this file. The prosecutor did not take statements from those who have already given before. Kazım had given his statement in the police headquarters and prosecutor ‘accidentally’ also sent him to court for ‘insult to President’. They already do not look at the files, send everyone to court for arrest. There is no tweet or statement where Kazım has insulted the president.”

After 19 people have been detained, nine have been released and 10 have been arrested. Kazım Kızıl, Baran Bozdaş, Hasan Benli and Doğan Barış Halidi have been transferred to Menemen T Type Prison while female students Emine Ababa, Ezgi Toker and Enise Irin have been transferred to Şakran Women’s Prison.

There have started petitions and campaigns for Kazım’s freedom with the hashtag #FreeKazim.

Feb 242017
 

By , 99GetSmart

Woman posing with a car beading the ‘People’s Special Operations’ emblem (Photo: TürkiyeHaberMerkezi)

Woman posing with a car beading the ‘People’s Special Operations’ emblem (Photo: TürkiyeHaberMerkezi)

The upcoming referendum could affect Turkey’s constitution and governance for decades to come. Amid declining public support, Erdoğan’s closest circles take radical steps to stay in power.

On 16 April Turkey will hold a constitutional referendum on whether or not to significantly extend the executive powers of the presidency. The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been mobilising all its resources to guarantee the passing of the momentous 18-clause constitutional reform.

AKP’s shrinking support and alliances with the far-right

Despite several spikes in approval — to an all-time high point of 49.5% following the destructive military campaign in southeastern Turkey that left dozens of cities almost razed and after the 15 July coup attempt — both Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP have seen an overall decline in public support since winning a disappointing 40% in June 2015 election. The politically motivated purge of over a hundred thousand people from their jobs, the hushed economic crisis and the extensive pressure on the political opposition have taken their toll.

As a result, the AKP has responded by aligning with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Judging by the results of the latest general election, the two parties’ combined support would amount to 66%. This is barely below the 67% required to change the constitution without a public vote in the parliament, where parties need 60% of the quorum to bring any proposal to a referendum. Hence, amid the campaigns for the constitutional referendum, an open alliance has been declared between the ruling AKP and Turkey’s fourth-largest parliamentary party, the MHP.

Current polls suggest that the constitutional reform is unlikely to pass: the ‘Yes’ vote has 42% support. A failure to win the referendum is expected to further shrink the AKP’s support.

The referendum atmosphere could hardly be seen to comply with democratic standards, with high level officials calling the ‘No’ voters “terrorists, separatists, and criminals”.

The image of the president

Fearing popular protests similar to those in 2013, or another coup attempt, the AKP has been preparing local branches for an uncertain future. The media has reported that members of the AKP youth are being offered armed training, but most recently a new formation has made the headlines. ‘Stay Brotherly Turkey’, a group initiated by Orhan Uzuner, the father-in-law of President Erdoğan’s son, has been preparing a so-called ‘Communications Network’, designed to be able to take millions of people to the streets swiftly to oppose any future uprising, revolt, or coup attempt.

The Network has been preparing extensive WhatsApp messaging groups, all coordinated by Uzuner, yet independent of each other. Each group member is asked to start their own local group with their close contacts.

According to Uzuner, the Network’s main aim is to “unify people around the image of President Erdoğan”. While the group-leaders share recent developments and information regarding the president, the content in the groups themselves is advised not to touch on political discussions and party politics, uniting primarily around Erdoğan’s persona.

The group also actively participates in the ‘Yes’ campaign.

Purchasing equipment and providing training

According to the daily Cumhuriyet, the Network has purchased the necessary equipment to operate but needs to invest more to guarantee its operations. It has begun establishing radio stations, applying for nation-wide frequencies and naming local operators for wireless transmitters.

The group also intends to establish a system of loud-speakers and sirens to be able to continue broadcasting during power cuts and Internet shut-downs. The systems are to be constructed in apartment buildings, shops and even cars. Moreover, each member is being encouraged to obtain hand-held megaphones to be used on streets.

The group also trains its members in four different categories, all certified by official institutions and directorates: first-aid training certified by the Ministry of Health, drone aviation training by the General Directorate of Civilian Aviation, wireless transmission licensing courses and information and data security training.

Stay Brotherly Turkey also invites members to use the walkie-talkie app Zello. The app currently has 300 members and the password for the group is ‘1071’, which is the date the Turks defeated the Armenians and entered Anatolia from the city of Manzikert; an important reference for Turkish nationalists.

Arming the members

The 18 articles of ‘Presidential Constitution’ (Infographic: dokuz8HABER)

The 18 articles of ‘Presidential Constitution’ (Infographic: dokuz8HABER)

At its January meeting Stay Brotherly members were informed about the group’s working strategy and communication methods. “We are one Turkey. Whatever they do we will not be divided. We are united around the epitome of liberty and our leader President Erdoğan. We do not want him to get harmed in any way. The smallest apparatus we have is a whistle. I have a megaphone in my car. There are also weapons to be used in times of necessity. We must be prepared,” Uzuner stated at the meeting. The following day Uzuner made a statement saying he was misunderstood, that he had meant not weapons but sirens.

Another group called ‘People’s Special Operations’ (Turkish: Halk Özel Harekat), which emerged after the 15 July coup attempt, uses police-like emblems, posing with weapons and extensively sharing calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty, raises fears of a parallel militia force loyal to President Erdoğan.

While the ‘No’ vote still seems to be in the lead, the delicate alliance of the far-right MHP and the AKP appears increasingly fragile and might opt to secure its accomplishments from 15 years in power at all costs. Combined with the sinister warnings of civil war by other AKP officials, the criminalisation of the opposition and the arrest of elected members of parliament, such groups, their statements and activities create a climate of fear that threatens to undermine the free nature of the upcoming referendum.

Feb 232017
 

By 99GetSmart

Originally published at dokuz8HABER:

Fotoğraf: Umut Sen

One of the 121 thousand people who have so far been expelled with a decree ruling in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt in Turkey is Betül Celep who has started her personal resistance against decrees. Her resistance is today on its 30th day and is growing.

Betül Celep had been expelled with the decree ruling numbered 679, on January 6th. She has started “the Women’s Decree Resistance” in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, at the Kalkedon Square on January 23rd. It all started with Betül seeing her name next to a number in a list of people to be expelled from state offices in the aftermath of the July 15th coup attempt. She says she still does not know why she had been expelled, which is also one of her banners asking “Why Did I Get Expelled?” next to her in the square.

It has been a month since she has started her resistance, and over the last month, she has attracted attention of thousands of people, some people have come to join her, and some questioning eyes have asked what was going on. She says she used to be the syndicate representative at her work place, Betül wonders if it was one of her identities that led her to her expulsion; as a socialist, woman, feminist, human rights defender, pacifist. She continuously asks if one or more of these were reason for her losing her job and social rights.

Betül explains, If you lose your job unlawfully, you resist. This I have learned from the workers who had been laid off unlawfully after they demanded their syndical rights in Gebze, Çerkezköy, Şekerpınar. They resist because they want their rights. For this reason I have also decided to resist. I might have been expelled with a decree ruling, that does not matter. I try to raise my voice on a daily basis in this square, I repeat that I do not accept the decrees. I am trying to write our ‘Women’s Decree’ and believe that I have a historical responsibility.”

Every day other people who have been expelled with decree rulings come to visit Betül, and she listens to their stories. She learns of their conditions and tells them of the experiences she has had. She explains that the only way to end the ‘tyranny of decrees’ is to strengthen and expand the resistance and to invite other victims of decree rulings, to tell their stories too. Hence, her desire to be the voice of the decree victims in Kalkedon Square.

The Women’s Decree Resistance includes other women who have joined in and have been standing in solidarity with Betül. It is no longer a personal story, many women come in support, help her organize the square and invite all others. Betül comments on the presence of others in her month-long resistance saying, “What things these eyes have seen over the past month … We have said that a resistance is blooming in this square; in the beginning I was joyful, merry and a rookie. I still have certain flaws due to inexperience, yet I have learned a lot. On the very first day there were crowds, there were women. I have connected with many people, met hundreds of people, even those whose names I can not remember. I have had many beautiful memories, and many disappointments.”

The police has also been present at Betül’s resistance in Kadıköy. She says it was on her first day when she was to announce the decision of resistance that she was presented with ‘options’ to disperse after press statement, to only stay for two days and leave, to just conduct silent sit-in. She responded these warnings that she does not accept their advices and she can think on her own. The level of threat has increased since the first day but did not lead to a point of physical intervention yet. From time to time there are attempts to do that, but the women in the square seem not willing to give in.

Betül still stands in Kalkedon Square in Kadıköy, inviting the people who have been expelled from their jobs with a decree ruling, and encourages them to share their stories as well. She says “the decrees, much-beyond putting people on a trial of hunger, disposes one of all hope under these circumstances.” Betül also explains on her 30th day of resistance that she has come to understand the essence of state, syndicate and significance of assembly.

So far there have been declared 21 decree rulings by the government, expelling more than 121 thousand people. There are various syndicates and unions that have made calls for resistance and protest meetings in various districts of Istanbul and many other cities. Betül Celep’s is one of them, and when she was expelled, on the first day she was a single person, now she is the voice of ’Women’s Decree’.

Follow Betül Celep on twitter @betul_celep_

Jan 262017
 

By , 99GetSmart

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Turkey has once again updated its national education curriculum, downgrading philosophy, cutting classes on single-party rule in the 1940s and adding the latest coup attempt under philosophy and the social sciences.

On 16 January, the Ministry of National Education announced the new education curricula for secondary and high schools in Turkey.

The national curriculum has been a recurring topic of debate in Turkey for decades. It has always been controversial, given that all governments and political bodies have wanted to reinvent the educational system in the ideological image of the ruling party.

Less philosophy, more religion and values

The number of chapters in the philosophy course books has been generally reduced, while keeping political philosophy and philosophy of science. According to the new curriculum, class hours will remain the same at 72 hours per term, while the expected learning outcome for philosophy has been slashed from 58 to 20 points on Turkey’s assessment scale.

This major reduction of philosophy’s significance in the curriculum echoes the debate from a few years ago on the possibility of studying philosophy in the modern Turkish language. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister at the time, said that this was inadequate, insisting that one needs to use the Ottoman Turkish, which borrows the alphabet and most of its vocabulary from Arabic and Persian, or English in order to study philosophy.

“If we were to teach philosophy for 20 years, it would be a different country”

Istanbul-born philosopher and President of Philosophical Society of Turkey, Ioanna Kuçuradi, said “We make philosophy but he does not recognise us as philosophers.” In an interview with Sözcü in March 2016, Kuçuradi claimed that ignorance is at root of Turkey’s current social and moral crises and that they could be overcome through proper philosophical education: “If we were to teach philosophy for 20 years, it would be a different country.”

A pro-government conservative education union, Eğitim Bir-Sen, recently proposed the removal of ‘Ataturkism’, the official ideology describing the founding principles of modern Turkey, from the social sciences curriculum, and starting religious education at first grade.

While Eğitim Bir-Sen’s proposal on compulsory religion classes for first grade students was not introduced, Ataturkism has indeed been scrapped, and the principle of encouraging the observance of religious holidays adopted.
In line with the spirit of Eğitim Bir-Sen’s proposal, ‘Darwin & Evolution Theory’ was also purged from the school syllabus. It had been a controversial matter in Turkey for some time, especially since the Turkish Science Institute’s prohibition of publications about evolution.

The new approach will now rely on ‘values education’, e.g. the notions of ‘national unity & solidarity’ as well as ‘national, moral and universal values’. The new curriculum refers to values education as having a cultural impact, claiming that it is significant in turning these values into new norms and daily behaviours for society in the future.
As part of the new elective course for secondary schools ‘Basic Religious Teachings’, ‘jihad’ will be taught as part of religious values. Positivism and secularism will be categorised under the ‘Problems of Faith’ chapter, dedicated to the “promotion of individualism and the separation of state and religion”. Also under the problems of faith heading, students will be taught about deism, agnosticism, atheism, nihilism, satanism, reincarnation and false prophets.

Shifts in historical education with a special focus on the 15 July coup attempt

The coup attempt on 15 July 2016, which had a major impact on social and educational life in Turkey, has also been brought into the curriculum. Students will start learning about the coup attempt starting at sixth grade as a part of social science and philosophy classes. However, it is not certain whether previous coups will be referred to in the same classes.

At high school level, the students will now be asked to write essays on “Social Resistance against the Anti-Democratic 15 July Coup Attempt” within the framework of national-will, rule of law, and democratic understanding. “National Will” is a common reference in AKP (the ruling Justice and Development Party) campaigns, referring to the strong support behind the party in elections.

Contemporary Turkish and World History classes that focus on World War II will no longer refer to the anti-war efforts of Ismet Inonu, the president of the republic at the time and leader of the single-party CHP (Republican People’s Party) regime. Nor will it refer to his contributions to Turkey’s political and economic activities in the 1940s. Inonu was a general during Turkey’s War of Independence, a friend of the founder of republic and was declared “National Chief” during World War II, while keeping Turkey out of the war at all costs. As Inonu’s efforts at neutrality are being erased from history books, the transition to a multi-party system and the history of the Democrat Party is put under the spotlight.

The class on contemporary history, which has a chapter on the ‘Cold War Period’, will now include topics on ‘Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Developments in Turkey during the Time of the Democrat Party’. This in itself was a controversial period, with the start of a multi-party system that brought about the grasp of power by the Adnan Menderes government, starting in 1946. The new topic will focus on the election systems that were initiated in this period, which was heavily criticised for authoritarian tendencies and gerrymandering, due to the Democrat Party’s post-election downgrading of urban entities that did not predominantly vote for the ruling party.

Honouring Turkish success

The revised educational curriculum will honour Turkish citizens that have had international success. High school chemistry books will now have a topic on Prof. Dr. Aziz Sancar in the chapter on ‘Relations between Inter Chemical Species’ with his Nobel Prize-winning study on DNA-repair. Contemporary History will include Galatasaray’s winning of the UEFA Cup in 2000, as well as the national football team’s finishing third in the World Cup.

Students will be informed about scientific and technological developments in Turkey, about its satellite programme and communications technologies.

While the new curriculum is being championed by some media outlets in Turkey as the new system that will generate geniuses and inventors, many critical eyes see the decreasing presence of philosophy in the curriculum and hostile approach to secularism and positivism as a problem.

Even though the AKP’s efforts to erase ideological traces from national education may appear to modernise the education system through a more results-oriented approach, rewriting the history books from a centre-right political perspective only replaces the existing problems with new ones.

 

About the author

102.thumbnailGürkan Özturan is a graduate of Bosphorus University in Istanbul and he obtained his MA degrees from CIFE and Istanbul Bilgi University on European Studies and International Relations. His main areas of research include Far Right, Populism, Radicalism and Digital Media & Politics. Currently he works as a project curator and coordinator, writer, translator. He is a board member for Turkey Europe Foundation, as well as taking part in general coordination meetings of several other NGOs

Dec 152016
 

By 99GetSmart

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

The 8th edition of Istanbul’s Which Human Rights Film Festival (WHRFF) was launched on December 9th, on the eve of the International Human Rights Day. The opening ceremony was a tribute to the city’s iconic Emek Movie Theatre, demolished in 2013 to make place for a shopping mall.

Three years after the unsuccessful attempt to defend the heart of the city’s cinema scene, which also paved the way to the Gezi resistance movement, hundreds of viewers gathered at Şişli Urban Cultural Centre for the premiere of the documentary Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater.

The premiere coincided with the opening of a cinema multiplex under the name of “Emek Hall” at the Grand Pera shopping mall that was constructed on the original site. 

The Cinema

The original Emek Movie Theatre was as old as Turkish cinema itself. Located in the historical building of Cercle d’Orient (built 1884) the cinema opened its doors to public in 1924. It was originally called Melek Sineması or Angel Cinema as a reference to the Art Nouveau angel sculptures at the entrance of the former structure, and was the oldest cinema hall in Republican Turkey. 

The building was originally constructed for purposes other than film screenings. Among others, it used to serve as a theatre hall and as the gathering place for Istanbul’s cultural life. Its giant hall and the lounge, which could welcome hundreds, was ultimately found suitable for film festivals. 

Located on Istiklal, one of the most crowded avenues in Europe, the hall had been the home of Istanbul Film Festival for decades and the most popular cinema hall in the country for almost a century. It had left a deep mark in the social memory of the city.

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Emek Movie Theatre (Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat)

Writing about a cinema-goer, Yusuf Atılgan, an early republican Turkish novelist, argues of the importance of being able to walk out into the city after watching a film and to be part of the society in order to digest what she or he had just watched.

Yeşilçam (Green Pine) Street, at which Emek’s entrance was located, gave the name to Turkish Cinematosphere. For Turkey, Green Pine is what Hollywood is for the US.

Emek cinema was not just any other movie theatre screening expensive international productions with profit-oriented mentality but a social space, which allowed young directors and independent films to find a screen and flourish.

The Film

At the opening of the WHRFF, the Cultural Center was filled with activists, architects, directors, researchers, students, labourers, former managers of Emek and many other people. They arrived well ahead of the screening to be united around the memory of the lost movie theatre and the ongoing struggles for presence in the city. 

The famous banner of Emek was placed in the hall, reading “Emek is Ours, Istanbul is Ours”. Many old friends met once again under this banner, the excitement was palpable.

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

“Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours” (Photo: Gürkan Özturan)

Audience Emancipated captures the activism for the right to the city in Istanbul, such as the Emek is Ours Platform and their years-long struggle against demolition or neglect of cultural spaces, low-income residential neighbourhoods and parks. 

The 48-minute-long documentary summarizes the stages of demolition and resistance against it, stating the significance of this building for the cultural life of the city and the lure of profits for the investors, despite the court decisions marking the structure for preservation and other court decisions dictating a halt on demolition/construction works. 

However, experts, architects, the judiciary and even internationally renowned directors, such as Costa Gavras, stated opinions against demolition of the structure. And even though there were given many official decisions by courts to stop demolition, none of these were heard by the government, municipality, investors and construction companies went ahead with their plans. 

Now, a shopping mall enchants the luxurious consumers of Istanbul in the increasingly de-cultured and profiteering atmosphere of Istiklal Avenue. 

In the film, the mayor and construction company experts explain to the media how the Emek Hall will be preserved, not at the street level on ground floor but, thanks to the “modern preservation technique called ‘moving’, it will be dragged to the eight floor of the new shopping mall, exactly as it is.” This statement caused an uproar of laughter during the screening. 

After the screening, there was a period of discussion, quite emotional moments as the two former operators of Emek cinema came up on the stage. They had avoided the construction site in order not to see the demolition three years ago; and they had seen it for the first time, on screen. Their hands were shaking as they held onto the microphone and spoke about the times when they thought they’d be running Emek for their whole lives.

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Photo: Nazım Serhat Fırat

Right after them, Master Architect Mucella Yapıcı, the general secretary of the Turkish Union of Architecture and Engineering Chambers, Istanbul Metropolitan Branch, took the stage and emphasized the significance of reclaiming the city and social memory. She drew attention to the destructive populism wave of demolishing urban spaces and living areas for humans and animals, as well as trees in the city. As a final remark she reiterated the importance of not giving in and losing morality in the face of this expanding threat. “We must continue putting things on top of each other, building up culture and future,” she added. 

In the discussion after the screening, there was a consensus to boycott the shopping malls and unsocial profit spaces that destroy and demolish the memory of the city without even asking the people suffering the consequences or living there. 

The trailer of Audience Emancipated:

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.