The Epidemic of Terrorism under Turkey’s Mubarak

* Bu yazı 27 Aralık 2011’de Monthly Review’in güncel politika portalı MrZine’de yayımlanmıştı.

A new epidemic has broken out in Turkey. It’s called “terrorism.” This ideologically transmitted disease (ITD) appears to be extremely infectious. Otherwise how can we explain the large and growing number of terrorists in the country?

The Associated Press carried out a survey on terrorism convictions in the world. The figures are worrying. According to the findings of the survey, at least 35,000 people were convicted of terrorism in the world in the last ten years. 12,897 of them were convicted in Turkey. (For comparison, China, with a population of 1.3 billion, has 7,000 people convicted of terrorism.) In other words, Turkey alone accounted for one third of the world total. A rough estimate shows the size of the epidemic of terrorism in Turkey: of every 5,500 Turkish citizens, one is a terrorist.

Thanks to the efforts of the government, Turkey managed to break another record in prison population statistics. The total number of convicts and pre-trial detainees in Turkey reached 121,000 in 2010, an all-time high. Just nine years ago, when the Justice and Development Party first came into power, that number was 60,000. Did you notice something strange about the political party held up as the “model” of democracy for the “Arab Spring”?

There is another interesting point. Terrorism, oddly, is very widespread among intellectuals in Turkey. According to a report prepared by the Progressive Lawyers’ Association of Turkey, there are around 500 university students who are currently under arrest and charged with terrorism. Evidence? Public prosecutors’ indictments are full of symptoms of terrorism: participating in May Day celebrations, protesting the government on various occasions, and, worst of all, keeping the books of Lenin, Stalin, and Che Guevara at home. . . As if that is not enough, even a professor of law, Büşra Ersanlı, and a publisher, Ragıp Zarakolu, were recently discovered to be infected with terrorism. Alas!

By the way, the Progressive Lawyers’ Association might not be the best institution from which to learn facts about terrorism. Because last month police forces raided the houses of more than 40 lawyers in Turkey, among them the members of this association. The court said it suspected that 33 of these lawyers might be infected with terrorism. They were arrested. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights condemned their arrests. It was the biggest wave of arrests of lawyers in the history of the Republic of Turkey. Even in the years of military coups, in 1971 and 1980, we didn’t face anything comparable.

I remember that, just a couple of years ago, the journalists were very hopeful about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attempts at “democratization.” Dreams have shattered, and now almost everybody is complaining about the erosion of the independence of the judiciary. Some of them even started to question which is worse — the period of military coups or the reign of Turkey’s Mubarak?

Well, the journalists had better pick their words carefully. Because the public prosecutors and the anti-terror police are keeping an eye on them all. Any attempts to hinder the government’s march towards “democracy”? Any suspicious signs of terrorism?

In fact, media professionals are very anxious nowadays. Famous journalists and broadcasters like Banu Güven, Can Dündar, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, and Ruşen Çakır either have quit or have been forced to quit their newspapers or TV channels because of their critical attitudes to the government. Turkey’s Mubarak and his ministers held a closed meeting with the biggest media bosses and their chief editors to call “for sensitivity in covering terrorism.” That is how “censorship” is spelled under “democracy.”

The journalists in Turkey clearly know what happens to “insensitive” ones. Half a year ago, I wrote about the Yürüyüş incident, a police raid on a left-wing publisher, in which six journalists were arrested. 12 months later, these six journalists are still in prison without any trial. They were read indictments only a month ago. Staying in a high-security prison and not knowing why you are there for 11 months — that is what happens to you in Turkey when you lack “sensitivity” in covering terrorism.

Too bad not all journalists learned their lessons, which forced anti-terror squads to raid their houses and offices, again. On the 20th of December 2011, the anti-terror squads of Turkey’s Mubarak launched raids in five cities of the country. They identified 49 journalists suspected of being infected with terrorism and took them under custody. Just a couple of days later, we were told that 36 of them certainly had a high probability of being terrorists. These journalists were working for the Dicle News Agency, the Etkin News Agency, the Özgür Gündem newspaper, the Birgün newspaper, and the Vatan newspaper. They were now sent to the government’s specially designed quarantine locations: high-security prisons.

A couple of months before, Turkey had already won another judicial championship, becoming the global leader in jailing journalists. For Turkey’s Mubarak, a man aiming to make Turkey a world leader in all senses of the term, this was far from enough. Hence the addition of 36 more to make his record indisputable.

What will happen next? The associates of Turkey’s Mubarak are still worried about the epidemic of terrorism. While I was writing this article, I heard the Interior Minister make a speech about how highly infectious terrorism is. After referring to those who covertly spread this ITD under the guise of “cultural associations,” the minister said:

How are they supporting terrorism? Maybe by reflecting it in their paintings. They write poems and reflect it in their poems. They write daily articles and columns about it. Not content with that, they are trying to demoralize the soldiers and police who fight against terrorism by making them the subjects of their artworks.

Isn’t it funny? Not if you are living in Turkey.


Turkey: Freedom of opPRESSion?

Press Freedom
* Bu yazı geçen sene Monthly Review’in güncel politika portalı olan MRZine’de yayımlanmıştı.

On December 24th, 2010, a publishing house in Turkey was raided by the police. Without any prior warning, its office’s electricity was cut off, and special operations teams surrounded its building. Walls were rammed, doors were torn apart, and people working for Ozan Publishing were arrested and tortured.

Not satisfied with that, the police forces also confiscated about 3,000 books, thousands of journals, computers, external hard drives, and the archives of the publishing house. By then, a helicopter was flying over the building, to add an element of psychological warfare.

The Ozan Publishing employees are still under detention. But don’t look for their indictments by the public prosecutor. State terrorism needs no legal documents. A “decision of confidentiality” was issued by the court, which means that — under the current practice in Turkish law — they may stay in prison for a year or two without any indictment, without any information given to them or to their lawyers, let alone a fair trial.

Ozan Publishing was the place where a dissident journal called Yürüyüş [The March] was edited and laid out. With a circulation of 17,000 readers, this weekly socialist journal is still exposing the anti-democratic practices of the oligarchy in Turkey. In recent years, one of its newsboys was shot by the police (Ferhat Gerçek, 2007) and another was tortured to death (Engin Çeber, 2008).

A couple of months after the raid on Ozan Publishing, in March 2011 the homes of two journalists were raided by the police. After extensive searches of their homes, Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were taken under custody. Then guess what happened. The court issued another “decision of confidentiality.” Şener and Şık, too, have been detained without any indictment or information, other than allegations about their involvement in the activities of an extremist right-wing terrorist organization called Ergenekon.

Strange. Although mainly writing for the mainstream bourgeois press, these two journalists are known for their love of democracy rather than fondness for right-wing extremism. What’s more, Şık, an important left-wing journalist with socialist leanings, had attracted public attention with his recent books — co-written with Ertuğrul Mavioğlu — that are critical of the Ergenekon organization as well as the government.

Soon it became clear why Şener and Şık were arrested: because Şık was about to publish a book, titled The Imam’s Army, in which he unveils how the Justice and Development Party (JDP) government of Erdoğan started to restructure the police forces in line with the intra-oligarchic contradictions inside Turkey. Everybody in the country became extremely curious about the book: Where is the draft that Şık was working on, before he was arrested?

This question was answered by the state terror again. A couple of weeks later, another publishing house, İthaki Publishing, was raided. The police and prosecutor found the draft of Şık’s book in İthaki Publishing and confiscated all the hard copies of it. Its soft copies were also deleted from the computers of the publishing house. Legal authorities claimed that those who kept the book on their computers could be arrested, using the magic word “terrorism.” It was the first time that a book was banned before it was published in Turkey.

First They Came for . . . .

When Ozan Publishing was raided by the police, the mainstream media were not outraged. Radikal, for which Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Ahmet Şık worked, is an important example of the bourgeois media’s attitude. After hundreds of policemen stormed the Ozan Publishing office and illegally confiscated its books and equipment, Radikal just wrote that “7 people were taken under custody after the police operation against the headquarters of a journal which has alleged ties with RPLP-F” (RPLP-F being an illegal Marxist-Leninist revolutionary organization in Turkey).

There was no proof of the alleged ties between Yürüyüş and RPLP-F, but who cares if a socialist journal was raided by the police? No condemnation of this anti-democratic police raid, not even a word about the violation of the freedom of expression and press, could be read in the pages of Radikal. Copying and pasting the anti-terror police officers’ claims onto their newspaper, Radikal journalists thought that their turn would never come.

A couple of months later, however, police forces visited the office of Ertuğrul Mavioğlu at Radikal to delete the remaining soft copies of The Imam’s Army (this practice of systematically deleting books may be called a digital Fahrenheit 451). It was only after this and other recent raids that the petit-bourgeois intellectuals of Turkey remembered the old quote of Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the Communists. . . .”

Today, nearly 70 journalists are inside the prisons of the state of Turkey. Most of them are imprisoned under terrorism allegations only, without any clear indictments. These pre-trial detentions can last years. Such prolonged pre-trial detentions have become a tool to punish those who oppose the government. You may be acquitted after a trial, but that won’t let you recover two or three years that you have lost in prison.

According to a recent report of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the number of journalists in Turkey’s prisons is double the respective numbers of imprisoned journalists in Iran and China.

Last but not least: the homes of two Boğaziçi University academics were raided by the police forces in recent weeks. One of the academics, Nejat Ağırnaslı, a sociologist and the translator of four books, was taken from his house in İstanbul to Diyarbakır, without being allowed to contact his lawyer and family. Even his academic syllabus was confiscated by the police, as an alleged proof of his ties with the Kurdish movement in Turkey. Although he was set free, his friends and colleagues knew what his detention meant. It was a warning for all the dissident academics to get their brains attuned to the state ideology.

This witch-hunt is likely to escalate, given the big May Day celebrations in which hundreds of thousands took part in Istanbul. As the revolutionary ferment as well as Kurdish democratic resistance grows, if the JDP government manages to consolidate its power after the June 12 elections, the democratic opposition will have to brace for a more brutal battle ahead.

Tiyatrocular İçin Kalk Borusu

Muhafazakar Sanat
Geçtiğimiz günlerde, Zaman gazetesinde tiyatrocuları çok ilgilendiren bir söyleşi yayımlandı. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreteri Prof. Dr. Mustafa İsen’le yapılan söyleşinin başlığı “Devletin sineması yoksa, tiyatrosu da olmamalı” idi. Ne parlak fikir, ne güzel bir akıl yürütme! AKP kadrolarında çok sık rastladığımız bir başka mantıksızlık örneği daha.

İktidar sahiplerinin emrinde 200.000 polis, özel yetkili mahkemeler ve F-Tipleri varken düşüncelerini temellendirmelerine, mantıklı konuşmalarına gerek yok. Söyleşisinde kendisine “demokrat” diyen YÖK üyesi ayaklı oksimoron İsen için de aynı şey geçerli. Siyasi tutuklu sayısı bakımından dünya birincisi olan Türkiye’mizde, bütün demokratlar içeri atıldıktan sonra elde kalan bu, ne yapacaksınız?

Mustafa İsen kendisiyle yapılan söyleşide, üstü örtük bir biçimde AKP’nin tiyatro alanında başlatacağı saldırıyı özetlemiş. İki başlık altında toplanabilir bu saldırının kapsamı. Saldırının birinci yönü Devlet Tiyatroları’nın özelleştirilmesine yönelik. Önce personel alımları durdurulacak ve tiyatrolardaki “atıl kadrolar eritilecek”. (Erim erim eriyesiniz DT’nin atıl kadroları. Siz kendinizi Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı mı sandınız?) Daha sonra da mevcut kadrolarla “proje bazlı” bir tiyatro faaliyeti başlayacak.

Biliyorum, içten içe soruyorsunuz: Acaba bu projelerin seçim kriterleri ne olacak? Kime verileceği nasıl tayin edilecek? Olasılıkla, ülkemiz gibi gün be gün ilerleyen bir demokraside, tiyatro dünyasından parlak ticari dehalar çıkarak, “sahnecik” ve “dekorcuklar” edinecekler; bunlar Unakıtanların ve Çalıkların sanayi ve ticaret alanında yaptığını, sanat alanında yapacaklar Allah’a çok şükür.

Saldırının ikinci yönü, zaten bu projelerin değerlendirme kriterlerinin ne olacağı konusunda fikir veriyor. Şöyle diyor AKP demokratı İsen: “Siyasi manada muhafazakar demokrat olarak tanımlanan yapının muhafazakar estetik ve muhafazakar sanatla ilişki kurabilecek bir normu da teşekkül etsin istiyorum,” ve ekliyor: “biz bunun maddi tarafını oluşturduk, manevi tarafını da oluşturalım diyorum.”

AKP iktidarının Türkiye’de oluşturduğu “maddi taraf”ı düşündüğünüzde, bu sözlerin kültür ve tiyatro alanı için ne anlama geleceğini takdir edersiniz. “Müşteri gece gelsin, pijamayla çıkar satarım” diyen bir ekonomi anlayışıyla yaratılan maddiyatın, zengin ve yoksul arasında açılan cehennem çukurunun “dindar nesiller yetiştireceğiz” diyen bir manevi tarafla tamamlanması kaçınılmaz. Yoksa isyan olur, dirlik bozulur.

Bütün toplum değişirken, Devlet Tiyatroları’ndaki kendi yağıyla kavrulma, halkı zulüm içinde ezilirken şen müzikal sahneleme, aynı oyunu 2′şer sene arayla orada burada sahneye koyma ve ülkenin aydınları, devrimcileri tutuklanırken görmezden gelme “özgürlüğünün” yara almayacağını düşünmek saçmalık olurdu. Piyasa ekonomisinin canı tiyatro çekti ve Devlet Tiyatroları’nın yerini sormaya başladı.

Şampiyon demokrat İsen, ülkenin tiyatrosunun geleceğini alana yıllardır emek veren tiyatroculara tek bir kez bile danışmadan tasarlayadursun, birkaç gün önce AKP iktidarı İstanbul Şehir Tiyatroları’na (İŞT) yönelik ilk saldırısıyla zemin yoklamaya başladı.

Zaten Zaman gazetesi bir süredir tiyatrosever olmuştu. İŞT’nin AKP çizgisine uymayan oyunlar sahnelediğinden, fakat padişahların hayatını anlatan oyunları ve Necip Fazıl’ın oyunlarını raflarda beklettiğinden yakınıyordu bu Zaman haberi. Hiç olur muydu, Devr-i Erdoğan gelmişti ama onun selefleri olan “IV. Murat, Fatih, Yavuz Selim” gibi zalimlerin hayatları sahnelenmiyordu. “Muhafazakar estetik” kendisine yer bulamıyordu.

Gereken yapıldı. İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediye Meclisi aldığı bir kararla İŞT’nin yönetmeliğini değiştirdi ve tiyatronun bütün sorumluluklarının Belediye’nin seçeceği bir müdüre verilmesi kararlaştırıldı. Eğer tiyatrocular ısrarlı bir direniş göstermezlerse, bundan sonra İŞT’yi AKP’nin bürokratları yönetmeye başlayacak. İŞT’nin mevcut sanat ve estetik anlayışı ile AKP’ninki arasındaki farkı bu şekilde kapatmış olacaklar.

Bu İŞT’nin başına gelen ilk saldırı değil elbette. Bundan 46 yıl önce, 1966 yılında Adalet Partisi’nin iktidara gelmesiyle birlikte İŞT’ye bir saldırı daha yapılmış, oyunların seçimini yapan edebi kurula Belediye Meclisi’nden bürokratlar atanmasına ilişkin bir karar çıkarılmıştı. Tiyatrocular sağlam bir direniş örgütleyemedikleri için, tiyatronun özerkliğini savunan Muhsin Ertuğrul görevinden alınmış, Türk Yazarlar Birliği’nin boykotuna rağmen AP hükmünü sürmüştü.

AKP iktidarı AP’yi mumla aratır. 10 yılda el sürmediği alan kalmadı. Sanayiden sağlığa, eğitimden spora her şey yağmaya açılıyor, her şey bu yağmanın ve halklara boyun eğdirme politikasının bir parçası haline getiriliyor. Kendisine bir şey olmayacağını düşünen, ülkesinde olan bitene sessiz kalan herkes bir gün İdris Naim Şahin’in önünde takla atmaya mahkum olacak.

Şimdiye kadar oturup izlemenin bir faydasını görmedik. Sağlıkçının evi yanarken, eğitimci izledi, gecekondular yıkılır, hapishaneler yanarken sanatçılar izledi. Görülebileceği üzere, ekmek eskisinden ucuza satılmadı.

Bu saldırılar boyutlanacak. Gerek İstanbul Şehir Tiyatroları’ndaki, Devlet Tiyatrosu’ndaki sanatçılar, gerekse de yeni oyuncu adayları için hayat geçmiştekinden çok daha zor olacak. İstanbul’da 1 milyon gecekondunun yıkılmasıyla, tiyatro salonlarının, sanat müzelerinin ve eski sinemaların yıkılması, tren garlarının peşkeş çekilmesi kol kola giden yağma faaliyetleridir. AKP şu bu demeden, bir bütün olarak saldırıyor.

Direnmekten, birleşmekten başka çare yok. Sanatçıların halk direnişlerinden, işçi, memur ve öğrenci eylemlerinden alacağı önemli dersler var. Muktedirlere “iyi niyetli” açık mektuplar yazılarak bir yere varılmıyor. Sonuna kadar gitmeye hazır olmadan bir bayram bile kutlanamayan, tedavi hakkı bile alınamayan bir ülkedeyiz. Türkiye manzarası yeni bir hak elde etmeyi bırakın, mevcut hakları korumak için bile militanca direnmeyi, halkın her kesimiyle birleşmeyi gerektiriyor. Sanatçı başına gelen musibetlerde halkının yanında durursa, sanatında onun dertlerini anlatırsa, halk da, Grup Yorum örneğinde olduğu gibi, zor zamanda sanatçısının yanında durur, onun sanatını göklere çıkarır.

* Yazı daha önce adresinde yayımlandı.