Murdered by the state, and remembered till justice is done

The swallows are about to leave their nest. Father and mother swallow encourage their little ones to take the dive into the bigger world, despite all the dangers out there. Every now and then, I see the adult swallows try to scare off the cats that come too close to the nest. It’s their way to give their offspring as much chance in life as possible. I go take a look at the nest a few times a day, and wait a bit. I’d love to see the little ones take their first flight.

Palamutbükü, Datca peninsula – which is where the nest is, located in a corner of the ceiling of the hotel where I am staying for a short holiday – is paradise. I look at the birds, I swim in the sea, read a book, have a glass of wine at night. And of course I follow the news.

Another state murder

The sorrow over the loss of 301 lives in the Soma mine isn’t even over yet and then the news comes in of two other deaths inflicted by the state, this time in Istanbul: Ugur Kurt and Ayhan Yilmaz. The incident in which they were killed was connected to another state murder: Berkin Elvan, who eventually died on 11 March of this year, after having been in a coma for months after being hit by a teargas canister in June last year, is remembered in his neighbourhood every Thursday. The police could have decided to back off, but they didn’t.

‘Will you organize a ceremony for every death?’, Erdogan asked in a speech, adding: ‘They died, and that’s it.’ No, sir: they did not just ‘die’, they were killed. Killed by the state. The mine workers because of negligence, the otherss because of brutal police violence, which is getting even more out of control because of impunity.

For average citizens who die of natural causes, no mass commemorations are held. Not right after they die, not on every anniversary. Remembering them is a private matter. But for the ones the state killed, it’s different.

Until there is justice for the victims

On 13 May 2015, people will remember the 301 deaths of the Soma mine, not only in grief but in anger too. On 22 May 2015, people will publicly remember Ugur Kurt and Ayhan Yilmaz. Soon, on 3 June 2014, the first deadly victim of last year’s Gezi protests, Abdullah Cömert, will be remembered. After that Ethem Sarisülük (14 June), Medeni Yildirim (28 June), Ali Ismail Korkaz (10 July), Ahmet Atakan (9 September) and Hasan Ferit Gedik (30 September).

These commemorations will go on until the day that there is justice for the victims. And it doesn’t look like that day is getting any nearer. The court cases that have started against the policemen who are responsible for the individual deaths over the last year don’t promise serious results. And who truly believes that the bosses of Soma Holding will be held responsible for the death of their workers, or that any government official, like energy minister Taner Yildiz, will step down?

Musa Anter, Hrant Dink

History doesn’t inspire confidence either. Turkey still remembers countless murders that everybody knows were committed by the (deep) state but the truth of which has never officially come out.

On 9 January we remember Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan, Leyla Söylemez, murdered on that day in 2013.

On 19 January, we remember Hrant Dink, 2007.

On 5 May, the Dersim massacres of 1937 and 1938.

On 6 May, Deniz Gezmis, 1972.

On 2 July the victims of the Sivas massacre, 1993.

On 6 and 7 September we remember the Istanbul pogrom of 1955.

On 20 September we remember Musa Anter, murdered in 1992.

On 28 September we remember little Ceylan Önkol, murdered in 2009.

On 24 October, we remember Ugur Mumcu, killed in 1993.

On 21 November, little Ugur Kaymaz, 2004.

On 28 December, we remember the 34 deaths of the Roboski massacre, 2011.

The list is close to endless. The Baran Tursun Foundation has been constantly updating a list since 2007 and the list now contains 157 names. Fraksiyon has a list of children killed by the state, starting in 1988.

Uprising, terrorism, civil coup

State murders go back to the early days of the republic, when opponents of Atatürk lost their lives. Murders have continued ever since and the state always had an excuse. In Dersim there was an ‘uprising’ (only there wasn’t: the people tried in vain to defend themselves against the mass slaughter they knew was coming), in the Southeast there was ‘terrorism’ (although it was a matter of human rights from the beginning), during the Gezi protests it was a ‘civil coup’ that needed to be put down.

It shows that, although many people call Erdogan ‘Ottoman’, the Prime Minister is in fact very much a child of the Turkish Republic. Under his authority and to keep him in power, citizens are murdered – despite all the excuses, and that is always the reason behind all the state murders of almost the last hundred years. Whoever was in power, Atatürk, Erdogan, or anybody else.

What is happening in Turkey now makes clear that all the so called democratization packages and policies are nothing but superficial. I knew that already, and it’s sad to see it confirmed again and again. I will only believe democratization has started when all these countless murders get solved, if those responsible get punished if still alive, if the state apologizes sincerely and if the history books get changed.

Then, the state will finally do what it is supposed to do: not protect itself, but its citizens. An important task, because it’s a dangerous world out there. No swallow hands its children over to the cats.

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