Several anniversaries in Turkey: always the same movie

The current government in Turkey has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Reading its twenty years through other anniversaries in this country allows us to better understand the news, from the November 13 explosion in Istanbul to the attacks on the Kurdish opposition, victims of repression.

This was before the current government. In 1998, I was arrested by the Turkish police while conducting research on the Kurdish movement. The goal was to force me to say the names of my interlocutors. I refused. The torture continued day and night. I refused. In the end, I was thrown into prison in terrible condition. There I met several tortured and abused women. If I had known then that there were 35,000 political prisoners and that torture was systematic, I would have better understood why I spent two and a half years at night with the cries of tortured women.

On December 19, 2000, there was a “revival operation,” a deadly crackdown on prisoners and political prisoners who began a hunger strike. The state aimed to completely isolate us. It was a massacre. I saw my friends die, I heard their cries in the fire. This was before the current government. I was released from prison on December 22, 2000. But not from a bad movie that forced me to live in exile today. Despite being acquitted four times, I have been living under the threat of life imprisonment for 24 years. My trial reflects both the continuity of the authoritarian regime in Turkey and the configuration of the means of repression.

2022 is the centenary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, which historically corresponds to the massacre and forced exodus of several hundred thousand Greeks. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which divided Kurdistan into four parts. The nationalist and militaristic Turkish nation-state, born from the Armenian genocide, massacres of Greeks and Kurds, strengthened its legitimacy through mythological-religious language.

It was after the third military coup of 1980 that the resistance of the Kurdish movement led to the cross-border popular movement and the war that continues to this day. Moreover, the emergence and convergence of new social movements have changed the methods of mobilization: feminist, environmental, anti-militarist and LGBT movements have shaped a new era of protest characterized by persistent pacifism. As soon as I was released from prison, I witnessed the strengthening of the non-structural revolution and repression. Since 1992, about 2,000 intellectuals and activists have been killed. Taking advantage of the war with the Kurds, the Deep State increasingly structured itself. The National Security Council, created by the military, imposed its agenda on the government. But the revolution from below continued.

In 2002, the neo-conservative and neoliberal Justice and Development Party (AKP) emerged with the support of Western capitalism. His promise was to build an economic and political liberalism based on conservatism with a Muslim sauce.

After coming to power, he attacked the power of the National Security Council of Turkey, approached the EU, and showed his readiness for dialogue on Armenian and Kurdish issues. Although involved in neo-Ottoman projects, these facade changes raised hopes in Europe during the early years of the quinquennium. However, under the conjugation of multiple influences related to transnational economic-political alliances, we have seen the collapse of AKP’s self-weakening neo-Ottoman policy in the Middle East. Small openings were quickly closed.

On January 19, 2007, Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who demanded the recognition of the “Armenian genocide”, was assassinated. In 2009, I left Turkey after the decision of the Court of Cassation demanding a life sentence. But social mobilization continued unabated. Demonstrations Trip In 2013, the revolution that the international media called the “Turkish Spring” brought the revolution that started from below to the agenda. But until then, the state did not understand this dynamic. Since then, the Deep State has made a rapid comeback. In the end, AKP tolerated this and formed an alliance with “Grey Wolves”. Thus, Turkey entered a very special period of its history marked by economic, legal and social deregulation.

The Kurdish democratic movement received a cruel blow. Deputies and mayors were arrested. Confiscation of municipal buildings. Mass arrests. Conspiracies. Endless trials, arrests without charge, judgments based on invisible witnesses… And above all, Kurdish feminists are especially targeted. In January 2020, there were approximately 80,000 political prisoners in Turkey: activists, journalists, artists, lawyers, writers, academics, MPs and mayors… Imagine a country that imprisons all these people.

For example, this year, eight intellectuals, artists, and peace activists were sentenced to life or 18 years in prison on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” by organizing demonstrations. The president of the National Order of Doctors, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, went to prison when he drew attention to the videos of the chemical bombs used by the Turkish state against the Kurds. The strategy of chaos and tension is accompanied by a strengthened nationalist fiber. This atmosphere prevents a possible electoral alliance between the Kurds and the Kemalists. Troubled power serves as fuel for this dark political repertoire.

The attack in Istanbul on November 13 is a harbinger of the worst events. I watched this horror with a chill behind me. After immediately naming the Kurds as the culprits, the Turkish authorities intensified the use of chemical weapons in northern Iraq and Syria and launched the “Sword and Claw” air operation. They killed dozens of people. Those fighting Daesh.

Taking advantage of Russia’s green light and the common silence of the European Union trying to save its short-term economic and financial interests, the Turkish government is intensifying its murderous attacks on activists and intellectuals. The murder of feminist journalist Nagihan Akarsel about a month ago shows that since the “Turkish services” are very active in Europe, the exiles are not immune either. 2023 is predictable. On the occasion of the elections, we will witness new explosions or attacks organized by the “invisibles”. Investigations will never work, just like the plot I’m a victim of.

This year, we will celebrate the centenary of the Republic of Turkey by glorifying Kemalist nationalism. Even if social movements in this country are plants growing in concrete, the gap between their resources and power is implacable.

Turkey will not come out of the tunnel of horror it is trapped in unless the Western countries take a clear stand against these crimes.

France and Europe must break the silence.

Pinar Selek

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