Letter from Turkey

[ Γράμμα από την Τουρκία ]

“An absent-mided tightrope walker comes. From the sea of late hours. Blows out a lamp. Lies down next to my weeping side, for the sake of the prophet. A blind woman downstairs. Family. She raves in a language I don't know. On her chest a heavy butterfly, broken drawers in it. My Aunt Sadness drinks alcohol in the attic, embroiders. Expelled from many schools. A blind cat passes in the the black street. In its sack a child just dead. His wings don't fit, too big. The Old Hawker cries. A pirate ship. Has entered the port.” 

A Blind Cat Black, poeme en prose of Turkish poet Ece Ayhan.



12 April 2017

Dear All,

Lately, I have been sending you e-mails from time to time about violations of freedom of expression and human rights in today’s Turkey. And I have kept saying that this is a problem of the whole world’s population due to the rightest and chauvinist politics gaining momentum in the world, not only the Turkish population’s, even though it is acutely and furiously escalating in Turkey. And I am trying to draw attention to the danger of this despotism’s spreading around if it becomes prominent at one point.

Also from time to time, I am sending e-mails about cases of many international prize winner and anti-militarist Ms. Asli Erdogan; feminist, sociologist, writer and human rights activist Ms. Pinar Selek; professor of law, writer and human rights activist Ms. Istar Gozaydin; 70 years old linguist Ms. Necmiye Alpay; editorial director of Turkey’s oldest book supplement and book reviewer Mr. Turhan Gunay; journalists  Mr. Ahmet Sik and Mr. Ilker Deniz who are jailed and/or are being tried for heavy life imprisonment due to their opponent stands in order to ask for your direct support and to draw attention to general over particular cases.

As far as I know, the word “postmodern” was mentioned for the first time in an American poem anthology in 1934 to point out an era differentiation. Concept of post-modernism which had got into circulation in 1960’s, became a post-modern situation which was generally accepted in late 1970’s.

Many decedents from Saussure to Wittgenstein, from Levi Strauss to Lacan, from Barthes to Althusser, to Derrida, to Foucault, Levinas, Deleuze, Rorty, Mono, Metz, Kristeva, Pierce, Jakobson, Morris, Bantin, Greimas, Guattari, Husserl, Sarup, Perec, Calvino, Eco, Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Laclau, Mouffeu, Toynbee, Feyerabend, D.F. McKenzie, Duchamp, Cixous, Kuhn, Nasio, Irigaray, Butler, Stirner, Nauman, Lyotard, who had quite different viewpoints from each other and some of whom existed within modernism, played roles in the existence of this concept that had never become stable (maybe it is better not to become stable).

Even though, post-modernism, the gate to which was mostly opened by phenomenology and hermeneutic, became popular conceptually in late 1970’s, decadence of modernism had gone back to much more earlier times, to the end of World War II. We could say that modernism was dead in 1943 with its projects of rationality and universality, its enlightenment, its idealism and its historicism.

In the search of questioning and overcoming modernity in its phase of decadence, it is undoubtedly possible to understand post-modernism not as a new historical era but as a phase within modernism or as a specific period. Anyhow, without dwelling on the subject I should say that it is a very important step that modernism’s patronising and standardised information (and ideologies, as well) was replaced by globally spreading information reproduced in different names, meanings and contexts and in a state of freeness not seen until that day, and circulation of which became almost impossible after internet, even though names like Lyotard and Derrida advocated that information had been limited by disciplines and institutions. (Information and its circulation together with disinformation, perception management and information technology which became a sector now, have certainly transformed into a new way of commerce.) At a time that we are leaving post-modern in the past as well and at a time which we could name as post post-modern, however, most of the population from west, south, north and mid of a country is unaware of the civil war in the east of the same country.

Since July 15 and during the sate of emergency in Turkey, 45 newspapers, 16 TV channels, 23 radio channels, 15 journals and 3 news agencies have been closed by the statutory decrees of the President. TV channels and newspapers other than the ones operating as the government’s bulletin, have given up opposing in this climate of fear; only a few small scale newspapers and internet newspapers are left, making opposition at a certain level.

Since OHAL (state of emergency) started, there is a civil war continuing in the Kurdish territory of Turkey. More than 7000 people were killed; some settlements have lived/are living long time curfews, telephone, internet cuts. Many places were burned down and wrecked, however, this civil war could take place nowhere including the opponent press. Most of us is unaware of this war. A small part of the population knows a little about it through foreign correspondents who can go into the territory or by way of the communications which we can make with friends and/or acquaintances who live there if we can get in touch with them. Today referendum is the only agenda in Turkey. Constitution is not a must; there is not a constitution in countries like England where there is explicit jurisprudence. In Turkey, on the other hand, items voted as bylaws are not even remotely close to a constitution because these items are not in consensus for the population of the country to live together. It is only conducting a referendum for a demand of governing the whole system by only one man and hence disabling the parliament. In other words, leaving legislative, executive (whole budget) and indirectly, judicial powers to one man’s hands without any supervision. A totalitarianism to well strengthen in Turkey. Of course there is no rule as “what settles here stays here”. A totalitarianism which could easily ensure to the world’s strengthening authoritative governments.

It is not so important for me that the president and the prime minister is one man now or one man becomes there men If I can determine with my free will in complete transparency where my taxes could be spent or not. However, as I say, Optional Tax System (it is no doubt that similar concepts have been produced; so this is my theory) should work in complete transparency. A system where the individuals could determine where and where not their taxes would be used, one by one itemised, with their free wills every year, except the general irrefutable pool for nourishment, sheltering and health. I do not put education into the pool knowingly, because education given by state is unfortunately political in all over the world. Why should I pay taxes for state education where incorrect and even hazardous information, according to me, are given, as correct or very important information, again according to me, is left extracurricular. Why should I pay taxes for supporting institutions, banks and companies which I do not approve, their tax rate reductions or their exemption from tax. If there is Optional Tax System, many state institutions and institutions supported by the state directly or by way of exemptions, remissions, etc. would disappear by themselves.

An important project staying non negotiable and underlying being one man in charge, combining presidency and prime ministry is to protect Turkishness of the state’s continuation. This big national nonsense can indeed be read from nationalism which is the biggest propaganda factor used for referendum today. As a note; Turkish nationalism is quite different from the western nationalism. Its reciprocity in the population is conceptually hollow; it is more like sports fanaticism which takes action faster than the western nationalism and unlike it, Turkish nationalism’s targets are not stable; change often. Previous most important target becomes a cog in the machine next year; it even becomes a friend and a recently circulated target immediately becomes the biggest object. In the 2015 general elections, Kurdish party HDP (Peoples Democratic Party) which had presented more democratic arguments to whole Turkey received 10.3 % of the votes (most of HDP members of parliament is in jail today before referendum). They want to make the parliament nonfunctional against the danger (!) of HDP’s determining role at parliament due to the possible growth in its votes increase plus the votes and chairs at the parliament to be received by a Muslim Kurdish Party if such a party is established. The ultimate aim is to leave two parties (AKP -Justice and Development Party- and CHP -Republican Public Party-) at the parliament and by the election of one of these two parties, to establish a government run by one “Turkish” (!?) President, however, this is almost totally kept off the table for now in Turkey.

By the way, Kurdish “late nationalism” is going to establish a Kurdish State definitely tomorrow if not today. USA aims a Kurdish corridor state which will connect Israel to the Mediterranean, as well (however, this Kurdish state has not been formulated yet due to Kurds’ not being heterogeneous, Russia and Iran counter elements and remote counter element China). This state also creates a fear (?!) in the rear, however, as Turkey already knows that it has nothing to do against this global resolution. Anyway, in these days we are going through, borders in Middle East (Turkey included) are about to be redrafted.

State initialed slaughter of Armenian peace activist and journalist Hrant Dink in Turkey’s late history created a conscientious outburst and people with different identities in large groups reacted at the instant against it. However unfortunately, identity politics became dominant again and as a fact, raising voice collectively against this injustice trailed off. The same conscientious outburst was unfortunately lived during Gezi Uprising which became modernistic after its 3rd day and was tried to be plastered with ideologies, like Barcelona’s “Indignez-vous!” oriented action’s having become modernistic after its 2nd day. These two actions with broad participation also made police’s usage of gas bombs to opponent masses a regular practice. Today, these gas bombs which are not monotype and contents of which are questionable are widely used at the civil war in the Kurdish territory. There are allegations about the usage of some different chemicals.

HAKİM (Animal Rights Monitoring Committee) having requested to enlighten what had happened in Kurukoy village of Nusaybin county of Mardin kept under curfew for a long time and, an investigation to be launched, addressed a series of questions to many governmental institutions. Only three of these institutions answered to HAKIM’s written formal applications and claimed that no rights were violated and no humans and animals were harmed.

Nusaybin County Food, Agriculture and Livestock Directorship stated that no chemical gases were used in the village and the photographs shot in Kurukoy, showing many animal carcasses belonged to the animals’ miscarried young in the village. 

Animal Rights Monitoring Committee Coordinator veterinarian technician Burak Ozguner, on the other hand, says that the photographs do not only belong to young; there are also full grown dead animals. “We approach to all of these deaths as ‘unexpected’. We are not satisfied with the answers we received. These answers do not have any detailed explanations about the matters that we requested to be clarified in the first place. It is stated that needs of all the living were met during blockade, however, the photographs shows the exact opposite. If any ‘enforcement’ harmful to humans was avoided, why are there that many animal carcasses in the photographs, why did that many animals have miscarriages at the same time? Moreover, why was an old man battered and taken into custody? We are still concerned about answers to these and all other questions; we will try to bring up this matter to TBMM’s (Grand National Assembly of Turkey) agenda.” (Though, “yes” would win in the referendum, the TBMM will no longer function anyhow.)

During Gezi Uprising, many people were injured (some went blind), many cats and birds were killed by the gas bombs used by the police.

By the way, British MPs say Turkish president is using attempted coup to suppress human rights. Commons foreign affairs select committee says relationship with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could damage UK’s international reputation.

The Commons foreign affairs select committee has accused the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of using an attempted military coup last summer to purge opponents and suppress human rights as the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, embarks on the first full day of a goodwill visit to the country.

The committee’s published report, says the government is right to engage but warns that the UK’s approach to Erdoğan could damage its international reputation and weaken declining human rights in Turkey. It said Ankara’s response to the attempted coup was neither necessary nor proportionate, arguing that the scale of the systematic abuse of human rights and lack of a free press in the country made it difficult to see how a referendum next month to extend Erdogan’s presidential powers could be seen as credible.

The report comes as Johnson and the foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan visit Turkey in an attempt to cement UK trade and strategic ties with a country increasingly at odds with other European leaders.

The UK has been the EU state most sympathetic to the Turkish government since the coup attempt and also backed Erdogan’s claims that the coup was masterminded by a network of supporters of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

In contrast to Dutch and German opposition towards Turkish ministers seeking to hold pro-Erdogan rallies on their soil, Johnson has said he would welcome them to the UK.

But given the unexpectedly critical tone of the report, Johnson will have to work to reassure Ankara about the broadness of British support.

In potentially, its most damaging finding the report challenges the validity of the referendum, saying: “It is difficult to foresee a fair, free and credible referendum when media, opposition MPs and civic organisations critical of the government have been closed down or silenced.”

Meanwhile, since the beginning of the year, it was banned for 197.000 prisoners and convicts in 372 prisons in Turkey, to keep more than 5 books at their wings. Guardians hold the 6th book. Many books are even forbidden in the prison. Attorney Mehmet Ali Basaran has started an online petition against this invasion of freedom (it’s Turkish but all people from all over the world can sign.): https://www.change.org/p/ceza-ve-tevfikevleri-genel-m%C3%BCd%C3%BCrl%C3%BC%C4%9F%C3%BC-kitap-yasaklar%C4%B1-kald%C4%B1r%C4%B1ls%C4%B1n

As you all know, one of Trump’s campaign promises was to abolish Climate Action Plan in order to boost the coal sector in the USA. While Climate Action Plan was encouraging usage of low carbon renewable energy sources, it prevented coal to be used in electricity production. Climate Action Plan, which Trump is now attempting to abolish, was trying to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. If the plan is abolished, the global warming is going to scale up much more rapidly and starting from Bangladesh, many areas are going to be submerged by the water of the melting glaciers and desertification will accelerate.

One of the first assignments made by Trump was Scott Pruitt as Head of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) who sued EPA 14 times during Obama’s Presidency period. Next step is going to be closing down EPA.

Another assignment made by Trump was Rex Tillerson as Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the CEO of the world’s biggest oil company and target man of all climate activist campaigns because he knew and kept as a secret the people driven climate change in 1970’s.

Please let us not keep quite; let us not allow totalitarianism grab us by our throats and also destroy the environment gradually. Let us make injustices step back by raising our voices globally and keep ourselves on full alert against the future hazards by raising our voices constantly by way of peaceful, innovative, globally spread methods. Everybody could do something. You can at least draw the attention of the ones around to the existing and future hazards.

Best regards,

Mehmet Atak


(πρώτη δημοσίευση: περιοδικό ΧΡΟΝΟΣ, 15 Απριλίου 2017)

ΧΡΟΝΟΣ #48, 15 Απριλίου 2017

Since July 15 and during the sate of emergency in Turkey, 45 newspapers, 16 TV channels, 23 radio channels, 15 journals and 3 news agencies have been closed by the statutory decrees of the President. TV channels and newspapers other than the ones operating as the government’s bulletin, have given up opposing in this climate of fear; only a few small scale newspapers and internet newspapers are left, making opposition at a certain level.