The young men of Roboski

Ji bo nivîsa Kurdî li vir xînin.
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It was busier than last year, the commemoration of the Roboski massacre. This year, the gendarmes did not close off the road from Hakkari, as they did in 2012, so more people could make it to the ceremony. It also helped that 28 December, the day on which the massacre took place in 2011, was on a Saturday. Apart from that, the ceremony was the same, and it will be the same for years to come. Only when the truth about the massacre comes out officially through an independent and thorough investigation will the families of the victims and the villagers be able to lay their grief to rest.

Continue reading “The young men of Roboski”

Ciwanên Roboskî

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Kesên ku îsal beşdarî bîranîna Roboskî bûn ji sala berê pirtir bûn. Îsal rêya Hekarî wek sala din nehat girtin, ji ber vê yekê girseyeke mezin tev li bîranînê bû. Roja ku qetlîam di sala 2011an de bûbû jî wek ya îsal Şemî bû, ev jî bû alîkar ku pirtir kes bên Roboskî. Derveyî van her tişt wek berê bû –di salên pêş de jî wê wisa be. Hek bi lêkolîneke bi rêk û pêk rastîyên vê qetlîamê derkevin holê, wê gavê dibe ku êş û kedera malbatên kuştîyan siviktir bibin. Continue reading “Ciwanên Roboskî”

Roboski gençleri

Ji bo nivîsa Kurdî li vir xînin.
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Bu yıl Roboski katliamı anması geçen yıldan daha kalabalıktı. Bu yıl 2012’de olduğu gibi Hakkari yolunu kapamadı, bu yüzden daha büyük bir kalabalık törene gelebildi. Aynı zamanda katliamın 2011’de gerçekleştiği gün olan 28 Aralık’ın bu yıl Cumartesi’ye denk gelmesi de buna yardımcı oldu. Bunun dışında tören aynıydı – önümüzdeki yıllarda da aynı olacak. Ancak bağımsız ve derinlemesine bir inceleme sonucunda katliam ile ilgili gerçekler su yüzüne çıktığında kurbanların aileleri acılarını bir kenara bırakabilecek. Continue reading “Roboski gençleri”

A basket stuffed with rotten apples

The corruption affair is still shaking Turkey. It’s a week ago now that the sons of three Ministers and some businessmen, among whom the filthy rich real estate magnate Ali Agaoglu, were taken into custody, suspected of corruption. That was followed by a wave of policemen getting fired: the government sees the affair as a political game and aneffort to damage the power of the government and the position of Turkey in the world.

Problematic of course, for the AKP. The party won its first elections in 2002, partly because of the promise it would deal with the wid-spread corruption in Turkey. This message was even in the name of the party, which is officially not AKP but AK Party, with AK meaning ‘pure’, ‘clean’.

In that year, 2002, Turkey was at 64th place on the corruption list of Transparency International, together with Thailand: a worse score than China but just a bit better than Senegal. During the next general elections, in 2007, Turkey was still at 64th place, but was doing slightly better during the elections of 2011: place 61. In 2013 Turkey made it to53rd place.

A huge traffic fine

These are not hard statistics about how much corruption there really is in a country, the ranking is based on ‘perception’ and is thus about how much corruption people experience. In that respect, it’s going in the right direction in Turkey. But there are different kinds of corruption. It can very well be that the people experience less corruption because it occurs less on a level that bothers or helps people. You don’t have to slip some money to a civil servant anymore to get a passport quickly, and the days that you can pay a cop some money so he will tear up a huge traffic fine are also over. But what if the corruption has removed itself to the level at which a normal citizen doesn’t notice it? To the highest posts in the government, to the richest businessmen?

I think that’s exactly what’s going on. Turkey has turned into a ‘constructocracy’ over the last decade: politics is dominated by the construction sector. With amazing speed everywhere in the country TOKI complexes have appeared: groups of concrete apartment blocks, often on the outskirts of cities, for middle class incomes. TOKI is a government project and there are unimaginable amounts of money at stake. And TOKI is only a small part of the building fever of the AKP government.

Not a soul

Two whole new cities will be built on the coast north of Istanbul, a sort of second Bosporus will be dug in the western part of the city, the construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus has started and there will be a third airport, and the metro tunnel under the Bosporus was opened recently. Add to that the dozens, no hundreds of shopping malls appearing everywhere in the country, including where I live, in Diyarbakir – not a soul comes to any of the shops and only the fast food restaurants in the malls seem to do good business, but who cares, the leaders of the constructocracy got their money.

And the sons of which ministers are now suspects in the corruption scandal? Those of the Ministers of Environment and Urbanisation, of Interior Affairs and of Economy.

It is exaclty this overload of construction works that triggered the protests in Istanbul and other Turkish cities in the spring and summer of this year: the construction bosses have, directed by the AKP, taken over the cities, and people are fed up with it. The motto of a big demonstration a few days ago in Istanbul made that clear again. It was: ‘The city is ours!’ But also this was, until now, not really linked to corruption, which doesn’t directly affect people’s daily lives like the everlasting and immense construction sites, the disappearance of parks and cultural heritage and the total lack of power that the people have over the development of their cities.

‘I am AKP’

So, this scandal must be a blow to the AKP? The party that said it would fight corruption has now totally fallen out of grace with its supporter base? Well, no, I don’t think so, actually. The local elections of 30 March 2014 will make things more clear, but for now it seems many AKP voters still support their party.

A few days ago I read an article about reactions to the scandal of AKP voters in the daily Radikal. The owner of a small shop said that not the whole government can be blamed for what’s happening: ‘There are rotten apples in every basket’. But what also drew my attention is that he didn’t say that he voted for the AKP, but ‘I am AKP’. For him the AKP is not just a party to vote for, but an identity.

And I think that counts for many AKP voters. They are often members of a group that was close to invisible before the AKP came to power: devout Muslims who were ignored by the Turkish establishment and who had no political or economic power. The AKP changed that. The economic policies of the party brought these people and the Anatolian cities they live in (Kayseri, Gaziantep, Konya, Denizli, etc) prosperity, they got more religious freedom and the old establishment (among whom the staunchly anti-religious army) were sidelined. These people identify themselves with the party, and see the leaders of it as sincere Muslims who live by Islamic morals and only want the best for the country.

Sixth ship

It’s quite something, I reckon, to then admit that there are not just a few rotten apples in the AKPbasket, but that the beautiful shiny healthy apples are actually the exception. That it’s not even worth the trouble to take the untouched apples out, because the many rotten ones in the basket no doubt give the good ones stains too. To admit that the religiousness of the AKP is just keeping up appearances, and that under the surface it’s all only about money and power.

Why would it be that Erdogan doesn’t clean up his government by sacking the tainted ministers and state that he will continue with a clean team? Why does he fire the cops that are involved in this investigation, and why does he propose a law that arranges that policemen from now on need permission from their superior for any corruption investigation, even if that superior is the subject of it? Is it possible the current scandal is only the tip of the iceberg? And would the sixth (!) ship the son of Erdogan recently bought shatter on that iceberg?

Homeless and disregarded

And imagine that the AKP voter does open his eyes, then where can he go, politically? There is no alternative. The biggest opposition party, CHP, represents the old elite that looks down on AKP voters, and is not even for CHP voters a real choice because they lack an alternative. The smaller ultra nationalist and also religious MHP is an option for some AKP voters, but they are too nationalistic for others, and they are also too small to break the power of the AKP. The pro-Kurdish BDP is still regarded by many Turks as close to terrorism, and the party is also not attractive for AKP voters because it doesn’t care much about religion.

And see how this corruption in Turkey starts touching the daily lives of normal, average Turks again. Another group in society that, when it has the guts to open its eyes, becomes politically homeless, and doesn’t get represented but is on the contrary deeply disregarded.

Who else but the liberators?

December 3, 2013
Ji bo nivîsa Kurdî li vir xînin.
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‘There is no such thing as a Turkish race’, said Mr. Aktay, a professor and member of the governing AKP. He was speaking on a university panel, and his remark angered some students so much that they left the room. Aktay said it after explaining the problematic connotation of the word ‘Türklük’, meaning Turkishness, and stating: ‘It’s said Turks come from Central-Asia. Is this really the case? Take a look: how many of our grandfathers really came from there?’, and concluding that the Turkish race doesn’t exist.  Continue reading “Who else but the liberators?”

Hek ne yên azadî pêk anîbin be wê kî bin?

3 Berfanbar 2013
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Prof. Aktayê ku endamê AKPê ye wisa peyivî: “Tiştekî wek nijadê Tirk tuneye.” Hin xwendekarên zanîngehê yên ku ev axaftin guhdar dikirin, pir hêrs bûn û ji salonê derketin. Aktay, piştî ku pirsgirêkên têgîna Tirkbûnê anîbû ziman ev tişt gotibû: “Tê gotin ku Tirk ji Asyaya Navîn hatine. Ev rast e? Hek em lêkolîn bikin, gelo çend bav û kalên me yên mezin ji wir hatine? Bi ya min nijadekî Tirk tuneye.”

Continue reading “Hek ne yên azadî pêk anîbin be wê kî bin?”

Özgürlüğü sağlayanlar değilse kim?

3 Aralık 2013
Ji bo nivîsa Kurdî li vir xînin.
For the English version, click here.

“Türk ırkı diye bir şeyden söz edilemez” diye konuştu iktidardaki AKP üyesi Prof. Aktay. Bu konuşmayı yaptığı üniversite panelini dinleyen öğrencilerin bazıları bu sözlere o kadar kızdı ki salonu terketti. Aktay bu sözleri ‘Türklük’ kavramının sorunlarını açıkladıktan sonra söylemişti: “Türklerin Orta Asya’dan geldikleri söyleniyor. Bu gerçek mi? İncelersek gerçekten büyükbabalarımızın kaç tanesi oradan gelmiş?” diyerek Türk ırkının gerçekte var olmadığı sonucunu çıkarmıştı.

Continue reading “Özgürlüğü sağlayanlar değilse kim?”

Power struggle, or: off the shelf

On Thursday, daily Taraf revealed a document from a National Security Council (NSC) meeting at which it was decided that the movement led by the influential Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen should be finished off. The signature of Prime Minister Erdogan is on the document, which dates back to August 2004.  A long time ago, you would say, so is it actually still relevant today?

Representatives of the government, like Erdogan’s advisor Yalçın Akdoğan and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinc, have admitted immediately after Taraf’s scoop that such a document exists, but claim that the government never took any action on it. It was just an ‘advice’ from the NSC, a monthly meeting at which representatives of the army and the government discuss current affairs.

Fethullah Gülen
Fethullah Gülen

I don’t find that hard to believe. Turkey was quite a different country in 2004 than it is today. Erdogan’s AKP had been in power for only two years, and was not as firmly in the saddle as it is now. The party was deeply distrusted by the army because of its Islamic  roots, and the AKP had to take that into account: the days of military coups, with or without tanks in the streets, was not yet over at the time.

In 2003, the National Security Council, established after the military coup of 1961, was reformed. The authority of the NSC had been expanded after the 1980 coup, and till 2003 the government had to follow up on the ‘recommendations’ it gave. The balance between military and civil representatives in the NSC (five members from the military: the Chief of General Staff, and the commanders of the air forces, land forces, navy and gendarmerie, and five from the government: the president, the prime minister, and the ministers of internal affairs, foreign affairs and defence) had only been a balance in numbers. And in 2004, Necdet Sezer was president of Turkey, a man of the old guard, who opposed the AKP just as fiercely as the army did.

Huge election victory

Since 2003, the government doesn’t have to follow the NSC ‘recommendations’ anymore. And it’s very likely that this specific recommendation was not carried out, because the relations between the AKP and Gülen were still very good at the time. The followers of Gülen helped deliver the AKP a huge election victory in 2002, after the party was established in 2001. The AKP’s economic policies helped the businessmen in Anatolian cities who voted for the AKP. The Gülen movement, in which education plays an important role, got the opportunity to open private schools, both for regular education as for private prep schools for, amongst others, the university entrance exam. And slowly the ‘Gülenci’s’ were rewarded for their loyalty by getting increasingly important posts in the bureaucracy.

The document with Erdogan's signature, source: daily Taraf
The document with Erdogan’s signature, source: daily Taraf

In the summer of 2011, the AKP dealt an important blow to the military power, which is now largely (but certainly not fully) under civilian control, and the army is now lead by a man loyal to the AKP. That, along with the closure case against the AKP that the party survived, made the AKP free, or, more precisely, confident. Very confident. We all know by now what that lead to: Prime Minister Erdogan is increasingly authoritarian and tries to dictate his conservative values to society, either by law or by publicly scandalizing people with a different lifestyle.

Tremendous changes between the time of Erdogan’s signature on the NSC document in 2004, and now. Old powers have been marginalized, and that has given space to a new power struggle: between the AKP and the Gülen movement. It first started to surface in February 2012, when Gülen followers in the judiciary tried to incriminate the leader of the national intelligence service, Hakan Fidan (an Erdogan confidant) by connecting him to the banned Kurdish organisation KCK. Ever since, relations between the AKP and Gülen have deteriorated.

Education is crucial

The latest low is a fierce discussion about the prep schools that the Gülenci’s had opened all over the country in the last decade: the AKP wants to close them down. Prime Minister Erdogan says attending the prep schools shouldn’t be necessary to be successful in the university entrance exam, but the Gülenci’s see the attempt to close their schools as a direct attack on their movement. Education is crucial to them: there they educate their young followers, there they keep them inside the movement by housing them in their own student accommodation, and there they make them ready for the highest  possible positions in society.

The power struggle between the AKP and the Gülen movement seems to have everything to do with the presidential elections scheduled for August 2014. Although not announced officially, nobody doubts Erdogan wants to run for the position. The other less certain but still anticipated candidate is the incumbent President Gül (who was present in the NSC meeting in 2004 as Minister of Foreign Affairs). The latter has, as is widely assumed, always been closer to the Gülen movement than Erdogan. If Erdogan breaks the movement, he may lower Gül’s chances for presidency.

Erdogan may have had no reason to follow up on the National Security Council’s recommendation in 2004. But it looks like he never forgot about it, and has now taken it off the shelf.

The supremacy of Turks

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Ji bo nivîsa Kurdî li vir xînin.

Bread crumbs. That’s how I define the measures Prime Minister Erdogan took for Kurds in the democratization package he announced a week ago. I picture the man in power throwing the letters Q, W and X to the Kurds, expecting them to be grateful for it. It is a whole crust he is throwing when he allows them to make political propaganda in Kurdish. A whole crust! And you still want more?

Let’s first look into the measures that Erdogan announced concerning Kurds. Continue reading “The supremacy of Turks”

Serdestîya Tirkan

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Hûrikên nên. Ez pêşnîyarên di pakêta demokrasîyê de yên ji teref Serokwezîr Erdogan hatin dîyarkirin wisa bi nav dikim. Kesê ku hêz di deste wî de ye herfên Q, W û X diavêje ber Kurdan û dipê ku Kurd bi wan herfan kêfxweş bibin. Gava ku mafê propagandaya sîyasî ya bi Kurdî dide jî zen dike ku qalikekî nên daye wan. Qalikekî nên! Û dibêje ma hun hîn pirtir dixwazin?

Em di serî de li pêşnîyarên ku Erdogan dîyar kirine binêrin. Continue reading “Serdestîya Tirkan”