On July 2nd, 1993, 33 human beings, 33 Alevi’s, 33 intellectuals were burned alive in Sivas. After the Friday prayer, people who left the mosque with cries of allahuekber [Allah is the greatest], gasoline cans in hand, set them on fire… centuries after the “Dark” Age. They killed the ones who played saz the best, who painted the best, who laughed the best. Following the teachings of Haji Bektash Veli, following his lines which read “Do not hurt others, even if you are hurt.”, it was said this was not real Islam, that real Muslims would not take lives. Yet we didn’t see a single Muslim denouncing the massacre.
In 1978, in Maraş, once again those who shout allahuekber, who shout “War in the name of Allah”, chopped off the heads of children with axes. We saw images dead bodies of women and old people in photos, in narratives. Not a single soul of Allah said this was cruelty, not a single soul of Allah tried to stop the cruelty. We did not see, we did not hear. We waited for real Muslims. We thought maybe they would come and help carry the coffins. Not a single Muslim appeared.
In Çorum, they attacked Alevi neighbourhoods under the pretext of a rumour that said Alevis burnt a mosque. As in Maraş, as in Sivas, hundreds of innocent souls were massacred. The rumour was false. Not a single person said it was a sin in Islam to lie.
And again, all the way until today, until this very moment, ISIS gangs have been slaughtering people in Shengal and Kobane for months. They carry a spoon around their necks to be able to eat rice in heaven. They carry a key in their pockets to unlock the gates of heaven. And they have their guns in their hands. We waited for someone to announce that this was not the path to heaven, that this was not compatible with Islam. We waited in vain.
In Paris, in an attack on the humor magazine Charlie Hebdo, 12 people were slaughtered. Immediately afterwards discussions on Islamophobia started. All those sentences were lined up again: This is not real Islam, real Muslims do not massacre people, Islam is a religion of tolerance.
What is real Islam, what is not real Islam, who is a real Muslim? Who will decide these, which criteria will be used? Given that so many murders were committed in the name of Islam, are the victims supposed to go and find real Muslims, or study the Islamic catechism?
I don’t know where real Muslims live, what they eat, what they drink. But I’d like to ask. Will you protect a person who accidentally smokes in Erzurum during Ramadan from lynching? When a diabetic person in Bayburt goes to the kiosk and asks for water during Ramadan, or rather, when this person is stabbed because he did so, will you call the ambulance? Will you accompany him to the hospital? Will you keep watch against those who put signs on Alevis’ houses? Will you take the gas and lighter off the hands of those who came to burn people? Etc. etc. Once these questions are answered affirmatively, we will all know who is real and who is not. And these discussions will come to an end.
And a few words on Islamophobia. One does not become islamophobic by saying he/she fears radical Islamists. It’s not that easy. Allow people to be afraid of Boko Haram, an organization that kills 2000 in a single day. We know more or less what Islamophobia is. We also know that it’s a weapon for European right-wing militants and fascists. Don’t you worry; most of those who took to the streets in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, will do so again when fascists slaughter Muslims, immigrants, Jews, or Romani. The real Muslims need not doubt it.
According to our compilation based on news items published in media, reports of labor organizations, and testimonies of workers and their families, at least 1235 workers died in 2013.
Work murder, not work accident …
As The Assembly for Workers’ Health and Work Security, we document deaths at workplace. The criteria for our documentation is as follows:
1- According to Turkish Statistical Institute data, approximately 30 614 000 people were employed in 2013. In our reports, we do not use the legal restrictions. This means, we include work accidents of all the workers, including domestic work, security sector, shopkeepers, farmer, public sector, and non-citizen workers.
2- Laws use the term “work health”. This wording designates a mindset based on the health of work (that is, the efficiency of the enterprise, its profitability etc) and not the health of the worker. Therefore, we will use “worker’s health” in our report.
3- Our main assumption is that all work accidents are avoidable. As workers’ deaths can be prevented, we do not use “work accident” to define the incidents and instead use “work murder.”
4- We do not focus only on workers with social insurance who died at the workplace or in the shuttle buses. We also include the death of precarious and non-insured workers; and we consider all the labor process, including transportation, alimentation etc.
5- Due to our lack of personnel as the Assembly, we have access only to a part of the deaths. Therefore, we emphasize the words “at least” in our report.
Work murders by sector
Construction (including road construction): 294
Agriculture and Forestry: 198
Trade, Offices, Education, Cinema: 95
Metal works: 79
Municipalities and Public Services: 36
Accommodation and Entertainment: 24
Food and Sugar: 23
Cement, Soil, Glass: 22
Petrochemical works and Rubber: 19
Timber and Paper: 19
Docks, Harbors and other sea sectors: 18
Health and Social Services: 15
Media and Journalism: 7
Work murders are concentrated in areas of seasonal employment, where trade unions do not exist, and in areas under precarious working conditions. We should further add that in sectors such as textile, metal and food production, if the work murder happened inside the factory, we have less chance of obtaining that information.
Work murders by cause
Traffic and car accidents: 433
Collapse and wreckage: 222
Explosion and fire: 79
Electric shock: 79
Poisoning and suffocation: 60
Getting hit by objects: 33
Others (including heart attack, suicide, lightning, assault): 129
Work murders by gender
Work murders by age
14 and under: 18
over 51: 189
(144 could not be determined)
Turkish law defines “those who are 14 years old but under 15 years old, and who finished her/his basic education” as children workers; and “those who are over 15 and under 18 years old” as young workers. However, children enter the labor market at an earlier age to “earn their bread.”
According to a report published by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, among the 15 247 000 children of ages between 6-17, some 893 000 work. Although forbidden 292 000 children aged between 6 and 14 are stated to work too. Work prevents children from going to school. According to the report, 20% of those 292 000 children do not continue their compulsory education. Same applies to high schools, as 66% of young workers quit school for work.
The main reason of child labor is the poverty of their families. Child labor is also a prototype of unregulated, precarious work. In 2013, child and young workers constitute 5.4% of the work murders. This means that of every 20 workers who lost their lives, one is a child or young worker who works due to poverty.
On the other hand, the Social Security Institution states that only 1 young worker died in 2012. Similarly, as a response to a parliamentary question, the Minister of Work and Social Security declared that in 2012 only 5960 children were working. These statements show a clear attempt of state authorities to hide child labor.
One method of child labor is seasonal employment in construction and agriculture. Especially girls are employed for picking the crops; and they are exceptionally over-consumed as girls are also expected to the housework. Boys are employed more on construction, in which they are expected to do hard work together with adults.
Apprenticeship and internships for child and young workers operates via a cooperation of the Ministry of Education and enterprises in industrial zones. Long working hours, intensive work and low wages are characteristic of this type of child employment. As apprentices, half of the grade of the student is given by his employer. Hence, intensive work and low wages are the rule. Vocational schools have become subcontractors of big businesses. A new restructuring of vocational schools (a joint work of Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor and Social Security, and European Union) emphasized reforms at schools based on the priorities of markets. Accordingly, the “quality” of high schools students are determined by their performance; which brought about lack of control over work security. In industrial zones, young workers are exposed to poisonings, explosions and ruptures. They further suffer professional diseases due to carrying heavy weights, bad air quality and chemicals at work.
Female worker murders are understated in state statistics. According to Social Security Institution data, only 9 women died at work in 2012.
Our data shows that in 2013, 103 woman laborers lost their lives at work. This corresponds to 8.4% but we shall emphasize again: We do not know. Seasonal agricultural labor and domestic work remain undocumented in official statistics, and we have limited access to the real conditions of female workers.
Almost half of women workers are employed in agriculture and the big majority also does gratis housework for her family. While working in the farm all day long, women are also taken responsible to take care of the house and children.
Among women workers, 15% work in industry and 35% work in the service sector. Most of these women are also doing gratis housework.
İstanbul İşçi Sağlığı ve İş Güvenliği Meclisi
The Turkish original of this report, written by The Assembly for Workers’ Health and Work Security (İşçi Sağlığı ve İş Güvenliği Meclisi), was published on January 13th, 2014, months before the mine explosion in Soma. The original report consists of 20 pages and contains a very detailed analysis of the working conditions in Turkey, including the full list of workers who died at work. As part of our “Why revolt in Turkey?” series, we translated parts of it that we thought were exceptionally indicative of the conditions of the working class in Turkey.
This is a brief and incomplete compilation of what AKP leaders said about women, gender equality and feminism. It is part of our monthly theme “Why revolt in Turkey?”. Note that this is clearly not a list of all sexist or patriarchal discourse in Turkey. We aimed at a less ambitious goal of restricting our attention to AKP politicians.
“There was someone, I don’t know if she was a girl or a woman.”
Tayyip Erdoğan / on Dilşat Aktaş. [‘girl’ in Turkish language implicitly refers to virginity]
“Violence against women is exaggerated.”
Tayyip Erdoğan / on the 1400% increase in women murders in the last 7 years.
“I don’t believe in gender equality anyway.”
Tayyip Erdoğan / in his meeting with women’s associations.
“Those who say ‘My body, my decision’ are all feminists.”
Tayyip Erdoğan / on abortion.
“I consider abortion as murder.”
Tayyip Erdoğdan / on abortion.
“Raped women shall have the baby anyway, the state will take care of if necessary.”
Recep Akdağ, Minister of Health, AKP / on abortion.
“The raper is more innocent that the victim who has an abortion.”
Ayhan Sefer Üstün, AKP deputy and Chairman of Human Right Commission in the Parliament / on abortion.
“Women who got raped should not have an abortion. In Bosnia, women were raped but they still gave birth.”
Ayhan Sefer Üstün, AKP deputy and Chairman of Human Right Commission in the Parliament / on abortion.
“A woman should be moral so that she is never obliged to have an abortion.”
I. Melih Gökçek, AKP Mayor of Ankara / on abortion.
“If the mother is raped, so what? Why should the child die? Let the mother die.”
I. Melih Gökçek, AKP Mayor of Ankara / on abortion.
“They should have taken care of their daughter.”
Celalettin Cerrah, High-Ranking Officer in the Police Department / on the murder of Münevver Karabulut (18 yrs old)
“Media exaggerates. Violence against women is just about selective perception.”
Fatma Şahin, AKP Minister of Family and Social Policies.
“Isn’t domestic work enough?”
Veysel Eroğlu, AKP Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs / to a woman who asked for a job.
“Unemployment is high because women seek for jobs.”
Mehmet Şimşek, AKP Minister of Finance
“When girls study, men are not able to find girls to marry.”
Erhan Ekmekçi, AKP, member of Kargı Municipal Assembly
“A non-covered woman is like a house without curtains. A house without curtains is either for sale or for rent.”
Süleyman Demirci, AKP Ünye Public Relations Director / on headscarf.
“My intention is to go all the way up to four. Polygamy is a way of divine service. I do not get permission from my other wives when I get a new wife, and I’m not supposed to.”
Ali Yüksel, advisor of Tayyip Erdoğan / on the questions relating his three wives.
“Having a second wife is part of our culture. People should form affinities by getting a second wife from the East. This would help to solve the Kurdish issue, and the state should encourage this practice.”
Halil Bakırcı, AKP Mayor of Rize / on solutions for the Kurdish issue.
I am one of many who got detained on May Day in Beşiktaş, Istanbul. I wrote this text because I think everyone (and not only my family and friends) should know that what we experienced was unlawful.
May Day was not a holiday in the advertising agency I work. Early in the morning I left my house for work, but I was not able to catch the bus because police would not let me go to the main avenue.
I took another street but all streets leading to the main avenue were blocked by the police. I encountered two taxis, they were available but they said they were also not allowed to the avenue. So I started walking in the opposite direction. My idea was to walk around the police barricades and reach my workplace.
I had to walk all the way until the headquarters of the trade union, DISK. I passed the crowd in front of the union, and finally managed to cross to the other side of the avenue. Then I tried to make another detour to reach the crossroads that would take me to my destination. It was also not possible.
I realized it was past 10 am. I quickened my steps and went down a street to reach another crossroads. There, I decided to go up the hill but a group of protesters told me that police wouldn’t let anyone pass. Even so, I gave it a try and after 200 meters I saw the police sending people back. There was nothing to do, so I also walked back. When I reached downtown, I noticed some conflicts.
I went to a shop to get tobacco and, to avoid the conflicts, decided to walk up a street. All of a sudden, I heard a bunch of people running up the street towards me. As they approached I started running with them, but we saw another group in front of us running down the street. We were trapped. Some 200 people were trying to hide in a building. Cops were approaching. I tried to enter the same building but as we were so many I gave up and hid myself behind the wall between the building and its yard. There were two more people with me. The cops were really close. We told each other to keep silent and waited. Near the entrance of the yard, 20-25 officers of riot police were standing. We were able to see them, but they couldn’t see us. They were discussing how to get the people who entered the building. Just then, one of them shouted “They are here, in the yard.” There was nothing we could do. First we didn’t show ourselves, but they shot rubber bullets and we had to come out. I left my hiding place and headed towards the door, and the torture started.
One cop opened the gate, pulled me, and kicked me in my testicles. While falling down, another seized me and dragged me out. My sunglasses fell down, a cop deliberately stepped on it and broke it into pieces. They joined my hands on my back, put plastic handcuffs, and forced me to walk. When I was walking a cop asked another protesters “Are you a faggot?” When he said “No”, the response was “Fine, you’ll be a faggot soon! You are a faggot now!”
The cop who seized my arm had a stick in his hand. We paused for a moment and an undercover police officer asked him what it was, he answered “We found it in this guy, my chief” and tried to give it to my hands. To avoid leaving fingerprints on it, I clenched my hands. He was slyly hitting my hands to open them but, realizing that his efforts were in vain, he later threw the stick away. They could walk us down to Beşiktaş Square very easily in this position. However, “to make an example” they made several detours through smallar streets. They would constantly insult us and trap us to make us fall.
Finally we reached the traffic lights next the square. There, Mahmut Tanal (I later learned he was a CHP deputy, he never left us alone afterwards) tried to take us from the police. Cops hit him, and me too… They sprayed pepper gas from a very short distance to get rid of him, then put me inside a police vehicle. I was surrounded by 15 cops. They bent my head so I couldn’t see anything.
My head down, one cop pulled my beard, another pulled my earrings to hurt my ears, yet another one put his hands under my sleeves to bleed my shoulders, and yet another one hit me on the head. I realized that I was being lynched there. Determined that I must resist physically, I started to flutter and kick around. I shouted the one who was pinching my shoulders “Why do you pinch me? Hit me like a man!” and they sprayed pepper gas to my right eye from 1-2 cm distance. When I raised my head, I saw a police officer in phosphorous green uniform (I can identify him very easily, I don’t think I can forget this ugly character) stretching to hit me with a thick pipe in his hand. Just when he charged to hit, I jumped towards him so that he couldn’t hit me in the face. So, he only managed to hit my back.
Two cops took me away from there and put me inside a civilian car. They sat to my sides and took me to the police station. In the police station, my eye was hurting like hell, tears were still flowing and I couldn’t see anything.
Seated, they gave me gas masks and helmets, and asked if they were mine. I did not touch anything and told them they weren’t mine.
They handed me a document stating things like “opposition to the law on meetings and demonstrations, destroying public property and insulting the police”. There was nothing I could do, so I signed it. (Later we invalidated the document because my lawyer was not with me at the moment.)
I was taken to Istinye Public Hospital to get a medical report. The medic wrote “redness” for the damage in my eye. I was still in shock, I didn’t say anything. I later learned that the cornea was torn and my already existing astigmatism increased by 300%.
They kept us in Beşiktaş Police Department until 8 pm. Meanwhile, Progressive Lawyers Association as well as CHP deputy Kadir Öğüt was always with us. They helped us a lot, and provided food and drinks. We were questioned in the presence of our lawyers. We were then informed that we would be transferred to Istanbul Police Headquarters. The lawyers told us that they were doing their best for our release but that we might have to spend the night there. We were already demoralized enough.
They put us in police buses and took us to the Headquarters. Our mobile phones (which, until then, were on and with us) were taken away. They searched us, and took away everything including shoelaces. Due to lack of space, they put us into the jails of the anti-terrorism section. My right eye was red and swelled, tears still flowing. When we entered the jail, they told us they will make a “detailed search”. They undressed us, until we were left with our underpants. We were already guessing that they would abuse the female protesters that came with us.
I told them that I must go to a hospital because of my eye. One of them said he could take me to the toilet so I wash my face. I said “This cannot be washed away, don’t you see?” They told me they’d take to a hospital, and put us into a cell for three people. Inside the cells, the lights were always on and there were no mirrors nor clocks. The cops would give us wrong answers when we asked the time. I demanded to visit a hospital at 12 am but was taken only at 4 am. They took me to Haseki Hospital. I asked for a cigarette but the cops didn’t give me even though they themselves were smoking. Seeing that I was accompanied by cops, the doctor briefly looked at my eye, told me that I was fine, and wrote a prescription. The prescription had no stamps, no signatures, no names on it… As I didn’t see my lawyer yet, I still keep it with me.
The next day when we were taken to the hospital for medical report, we were handcuffed and treated badly. The doctors did their best to understate the bruises. After we took the reports, one girl refused to be handcuffed. A police officer pulled her hair and swore at her.
Our breakfast in jail consisted of a expired 20 gram pack of cream cheese, one pack of jam, and one pack of butter. Together with it, expired bottled water and some stale bread. The first day we lacked the necessary consciousness and ate what they gave us. But in the following 48 hours we didn’t eat anything. They asked if we were on hunger strike. Those who declared they were on hunger strike received only water and sugar from then on.
To go to toilet, we had to wave our hands to the camera in the cell. When we shouted, they either wouldn’t hear or ignore us. So, we would force them to come by covering the camera with our blankets.
When the prosecutor requested to extend the detention period, they tried to make us sign a document, on which accusations including “throwing Molotov cocktails” and “carrying bomb equipment” were stated. We declined to sign. Of course, police treated us in a ridiculously violent way. As if we were guilty, they tried to take photos of us and get our fingerprints.
There was one thing in their daily routine, which was that they had to ask us if we want to make a phone call and inform our family. Everybody said yes and gave a phone number to be called. Only when we got out did we learn that none of those numbers were called and no one was informed.
After 6 days without law, regulation, sleep and food, we were taken to Çağlayan Courthouse at 6.30 am. They made us wait there until late at night. We were very bored while waiting. We made a ball from tinfoil, the package material for the food our lawyers brought us. Of course this was until the ball went a little too far and a cop shot it even further away. Fortunately, we managed to make another one.
While waiting to be brought before the prosecutor, police deliberately gave us incorrect information. A police officer said we would be released right away. He pretended to talk on the phone and said out loud stuff like “Let them free”, so that we would be disappointed later on. Yet, as days went by, we became conscious of these tricks. We danced, played games, even organized a forum.
When brought before the prosecutor, he stated “The person detained due to suspicion is in fact a victim” and declared not to proceed further.
It was a bad experience, but I am glad to have witnessed the unlawful behavior of the state of Turkish Republic. I already detested it, now I have solid evidence for my dislike: what I went through…
Life goes on, as it does. The bruises in my body are getting better. But the real problem is my eye. They told me it would take 3-4 months to recover. In any case, I will collect all my medical reports and seek my rights. I intend to appeal to the Court of Human Rights. And I am confident that there are hundreds, even thousands of courageous lawyers who believe in justice. I am sure that the righteous people are on my side.
Yet, after all that I told you, do you want to know my final words?
I am ashamed and disgusted to be a citizen of the Turkish Republic.
The spirit of this century seems to be one of mass struggles and highly confrontational demonstrations. Every morning, we wake up to hear about a huge protest in some distant part of the planet. It turns more and more difficult to follow what is going on here and there.
But why are all these people revolting all around the world?
One good answer is that they revolt for one and the same reason: Capitalism, nowadays more fashionably called neo-liberalism, has made it impossible to pursue happiness in any sense of the word (it’s not a very profitable concept anyway), and the time has come for the people to say “Enough is enough.”
An equally good answer is that they revolt for completely different reasons. For capitalism manifests itself in very different forms in different places.
This is not a theoretical text to analyze social movements around the world. We have a less ambitious goal: Give a taste of “Why revolt in Turkey?”
Why did people in Turkey revolt? What kind of reasons led to the uprising that inspired us all?
One year after Gezi protests, we will try to give concrete examples of the oppression that Turkish people have been experiencing… well, for some years, but we will focus on more recent developments.
This is also an open call. If you encounter a news item that you think everybody should know, send it to us. Or if you simply want to share your own anger with everyone, tell us more about it. Or if you have some other idea about our theme, just send us a message.
( outforbeyond [at] riseup.net )
Articles and news items published within this theme:
Note: This essay, written by Şöhret Baltaş, was published in Jiyan.org in Turkish on March 18th, 2014 with the title “Bir kız çocuğu… Şu dakika ölebilir.” As part of our efforts to inform the English speaking audience about male violence in Turkey, we attempted a free translation of this literary text.
Location: Bingöl, Turkey. Year: 2010. And a young girl: Ç.
She was 12 years old back then. Now she is 16. Still a kid. I’m saying this to those who still have a little bit of conscience left: she is still a kid. Each time we say Ç., please read it as “kid”. [“Kid” in Turkish language reads “çocuk”.]
In a village of 30 households, worthy of the Turkish phrase “a place even God has forgotten”, time goes very slow. But in the last week, suddenly it accelerates, starts shaking and falls apart. The villagers realize that 16 years old high school student Ç is pregnant since 8 months.
Recall that there are only 30 houses in the village. Look around you, how many people can be the perpetrator of this? They ask Ç, and she tells of the disaster that she hid to death in this tiny little part of the world:
Exactly 4 years ago, when Ç was 12 years old and shepherding, she gets raped in the middle of nowhere. The perpetrator is the youngster named K.T.
As all “penetrator” men do, he threatens the kid. Ç keeps her disaster in her heart, never says a single word. Every week, he finds Ç in solitude, and continues to rape her for three years, by all measures tens of times.
In August 2013, for one reason or another he lets Ç in peace. But this time, his brother, B.T., picks on Ç because “if my brother had some, I shall have a share too.” Then all the carrion crows of the village, E.B., N.G., K.G., T.M. …., gather around the girl to tear her from limb to limb.
The kid tries to resist with her small body and enormous fear but one of the carrion crows, T.M., forces her: “I have your video. I’ll put it in the Internet if you don’t sleep with me.” And the others follow lead. Spreading fear is their specialty… Ç gets scared of the threats, and, having nowhere to go, she cannot resist these thugs.
After Ç’s testimony, 7 suspected people get detained last week. So, what do you expect the first raper K.P, 19 years old, to say in court? “Yes, I am a piece of dog shit, I threatened the 12 years old girl.” is exactly not what he says. Especially seeing that the state embeds “woman” as an abstract object to “family” for her to fade away as an individual, and that its courts, following the same mentality, are extra “tolerant” in cases like this, why would he need to make such a confession?
He claims that Ç, a kid of 12, was “voluntary”, that she “consented”. Oh, he even gave money and cigarettes to this kid! He means to say “It’s a fair trade, both the buyer and the seller are willing, there is nothing to do here for a court.”
Furthermore, as a support to his claim, he puts as evidence that Ç had sex with N.G. from the neighboring village too. But N.G., 22 years old, defends that he “caressed her legs but didn’t have sex”. The rest of the 5 suspects reject the claims against them.
K.T. gets arrested by the Criminal Court of Erzincan, due to “qualified sexual abuse”. The other 6 suspects are released with juridical control because of “simple sexual abuse” by the Criminal Court of Karlıova. (Because, you see, it is a simple matter to caress the legs of the 12 years old kid.)
The verdict reads: “… while there are reasons for arrest, the discretion of the court was that it would suffice to apply the regulations of juridical control.”
The released 6 people (probably grinning like Cheshire cats) return to their villages.
Ç, who, according to her statement, carries K.T’s baby, gets allocated by the state to a house in a neighboring city.
But of course, nothing calms down… This village of 30 households is now attempting to put all the burden to this kid, who carries the disaster of that earthquake that turned everything upside down. The family rejects the girl. So the future of the baby to be born in a month is unknown.
Remember those who said “Let them bear the baby, the state would take care”? They now have better things to do, hiding their theft and corruption cases, and organizing rallies for the upcoming elections…
They wipe the blood of all the women who died with a piece of paper cloth and move on as if nothing happened.
But, enough of them.
At this moment, Ç’s lawyers Özlem Kaya and Selin Nakipoğlu have an emergency call: A young girl whose life fell apart is now being pushed to suicide by her family members! “Throw yourself from a high spot so that we all get rid of this!”, that’s what they are telling to this kid.
Now, I want to add my voice to the whispers and mournings of all those wounded women and those who want to keep them alive. Let us all shout and cry and even scream for this girl. What will we do in this land of dead, if the little body of Ç crashed to the floor today or tomorrow?
Please, speak out, write about it, talk about it, give her a hand… Please, do not let us let this kid die…
Possibilities for the Turkish Society While the Ruling Class Coalition Falls Apart
In the last weeks, Turkey has witnessed a rising trend of political strife that started with the arrest of dozens of people by the prosecutors due to allegations of corruption and bribery. The interrogation revealed an illicit chain of bribery and close relations between government officials and prominent businessmen.
While many foreign commentators are ready to view the operation as a backlash of democratic forces against the rising dictatorial tendencies of the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, we argue that Turkey is going through a clash of two big Islamist fractions which has been in grand alliance until 2010 inside the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In this regard, the outcome of this fight, let as it is, will not be the democratizations of the country’s political system. The outcome without the effect of the working class political organizations will point to the political economic dominance of one of the fractions. In this article, we will lay down the characteristics of the two opposing poles, analyze the current crisis as a result of their different political economic strategies and summarize the recent developments.
The AKP government is based on the alliance of two big political economic fractions of political Islam in Turkey. The first group is led by Tayyip Erdoğan and the other is the Gülen Movement, led by Fethullah Gülen. Their grand political alliance in the last decade paved the way for the dismantling of the ancient regime, which was more structured for the benefit of the big bourgeoisie represented by the business association, TUSIAD-Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association. Various legal cases (including the well-known Ergenekon case) against the military bureaucracy provided the way for the increasing influence of the Gülen movement in the Police Department and juridical institutions, whereas AKP strengthened its position in the executive and legislative branches through successive election victories. As will be shown below, the recent political fight is expressed through these four branches of the state. The important question here is why these ‘brother’ groups gradually decided to wage a ‘war of mutual destruction’ (a.k.a nuclear war) as they are well aware of a possible destructive outcome
To understand this, one needs to understand the various different patterns of political economic positions of each group. We argue for the primacy of this factor as defining the political positions of the two groups.
Gülen Movement has organized itself as a group with political and economic relations in Central Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. Their method of expansion in these regions is reminiscent of the 19th century colonialism with missionary schools and devoted Turkish teachers to disseminate a Calvinist version of Islam and Turkish culture. Through their missionary activities, they have formed local political alliances in those countries and utilized those networks for their trade relations in those countries. As Gülen movement embedded itself in networks of international trade, it has always remained acquiescent of the imperialist arrangements that affect the social setting in which they operate. Hence, they have always been against any arrangements that challenge the geo-politics of Israel-USA camp in the Middle East and Africa.
On the other hand, the AKP camp, represented by mostly the business association MUSIAD-Independent Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association and a handful of capitalists from TUSIAD in the business world, is hardly a national bourgeoisie group. Their strategy has manifested a certain contradiction with contending imperialist arrangements in the region which we will touch upon below. AKP adopted an accumulation strategy that demands the growing of the domestic purchasing power for the realization of the housing stock. This strategy demanded low interest rates and powerful national currency since the construction sector depends on imports and low interest rates are vital for the steady flow of credits. Umit Akçay argues that the construction-based macro economic policy challenged the possibility of the persistence of the political coalition of the two groups as Turkish economy was hit by 7% contraction in 2009 due to the global economic crisis . In other words, AKP’s import-based development became an impediment for the export based accumulation strategy of the Gülen group. While we argue that this difference comprises the leading economic basis of the dismantling of the political coalition, there is one area which further challenged the coalition.
AKP’s neo-ottomanist imperialist foreign policy, which has certain contradictions with the project of the NATO camp in the Middle East and Northern Africa, aggravated the relation between Erdoğan and Gülen. The first open clash took place in 2010 when the Israeli army killed 10 people in a Turkish fleet, Mavi Marmara, while going to Gaza. Fethullah Gülen openly criticized Tayyip Erdogan’s backing of the Gaza Mission and freezing of the diplomatic relations with Israel. After the social uprisings in North Africa and Middle East, AKP initiated an interventionist foreign policy in the region and Erdoğan openly supported the Muslim Brothers in Tunisia and Egypt, sometimes publicly condemning the policies of Israel and the US. The fact that MUSIAD and AKP participated in the formation of the Muslim Brothers’ business association in Egypt  demonstrates why, after the military coup d’état in Egypt, Erdoğan literally cried in front of the press. However, AKP’s neo-ottomanist policy also overrode the Gülen Movement’s local alliances in the region which was established in tandem with Israel and the US projects. Therefore, it caused a clear condemnation of the leader of the Gülen movement in many instances. This opposition may also be seen as the area in which the Gülen movement and Israel-USA group finds their common interest in removing AKP from power.
In addition to this, the Gezi uprising in June showed that Erdoğan was not able to govern the country anymore. His political power and legitimacy diminished drastically after the uprising. Erdoğan’s answer to this loss of legitimacy was to radicalize in order to consolidate its base in a smaller scale. His radical Islamist discourse accelerated to a degree that it raised doubts among his former supporters while Gülen pretended to support the protests, leaving Erdoğan at the target zone. Erdoğan answered by a campaign against private tutoring centers, one of the main sources of Gülen movement to recruit new members to the movement. And this dramatic move has lead to the initiation of an all out political war between the two fractions.
On December 16th, Hakan Şükür, a well-known ex-football player, member of Gülen movement and an AKP deputy, resigned from AKP due to this conflict. This resignation may be considered as a kick-off for the battle, the highlights of which we try to list below.
* December 17th welcomed an extensive “corruption” operation, in which a total of 49 people were detained, including the sons of three ministers (the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Economy and the Minister of Environment), advisors of four ministries, the construction billionaire Ali Ağaoğlu, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, a mayor and several business people. In the meanwhile, videos showing ministers accepting bribes were posted online.
* First counter-attack from AKP came on December 18th, when eleven chiefs in the police department were dismissed. In the meanwhile, it was reported that a total of 4,5 million dollars were found in shoe boxes during the investigations in the house of the CEO of Halkbank.
* On the following days, the Minister of EU Affairs was also included in the investigation, and many documents discovered in the investigations revealed that Tayyip Erdoğan himself gave finalizing orders for the involving trillions of Turkish Lira.
* The second battle took place on December 25th. The three Ministers whose names were involved in the case resigned. Some 400 people in the police department were reallocated. It was reported that the Police Department was “resisting” to the orders of public prosecutors by not carrying out the demanded investigations, as the son of Tayyip Erdoğan was mentioned for the next operation. At the same time, Erdoğan made essential revisions in the government and substituted ten ministers. Moreover, the public prosecutor working on the second wave was taken out from the case.
* Entering the second week of the crisis, more rats abandoned the sinking ship. Many more deputies resigned, many started criticizing the government (as if… well, anyway), and a huge counter-operation took place in the Police Department involving thousands of reallocations and investigations. In the meanwhile, a cautionary judgment was imposed on the belongings of seven important businessmen.
While this political war still continues as we write this article (December 30th, 2013), we want to emphasize that its basis is in the above-mentioned conflict of interests and its outcome will point to the political economic dominance of one of the fractions – unless the working class enters the stage, that is.
It’s not only us who think that way. Chapullers organized many protests in several cities since the investigation started. One of the leading slogans of Gezi, “Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance”, is adapted to describe the state apparatus: Everywhere bribery, everywhere corruption. As formulated wisely in the banners, the protesters insist that “only revolution can wash away this filth.”
The Middle East Technical University (METU) was founded in 1956 in an area of 4500 hectares. This huge region was said to consist of swamps and have a soil like white powder. The forestations were launched on 1961, when students, academics, Ankara citizens as well as some politicians participated in the festivals. More than 31 million trees were planted, creating a vast green area in the steppes of Ankara. These trees were considered as an heritage of METU laborers and academics. The METU forest contains 10 million coniferous and 23 million broad-leaved drought-tolerant trees, including black pine, yellow pine, taurus cedar, oak, poplar and almond trees. The forest encompasses a region of 3100 hectares and was declared a Natural and Archaeological Conservation Site in 1995 by the Ministry of Culture. According to the website of METU Forestation and Environment Directory, the forest accommodates 100 species under the threat of extinction in the Middle Anatolian flora and fauna. This natural ecosystem is home to many wild animals (including wolves, foxes, partridges, rabbits, snakes and turtles), some 140 bird species as well as various fish and other marine species living in the lakes and lagoons. The presence of the forest created a micro-climate effect in the region, made the urban climate milder and put a barrier to unplanned urbanization in the south of Ankara city. The METU Forestation Project won the International Aga Khan Architecture Award (1995) and the TEMA Foundation award (2003).
METU, Politics and the METU Policies
On the other hand, METU always had a strong left-wing tradition, witnessing the most impressive protests of the 60s and led many leftist movements. This tradition is still present as METU students take it as one the essential heritages of previous generations. Just to name one, Hüseyin İnan, executed in 1972 with Deniz Gezmiş and Yusuf Aslan for political reasons, was one of the students who burnt the car of the US ambassador Komer, also known as the Vietnam Butcher, on January 6th, 1969, in METU campus.
Because of its revolutionary stance, METU was always in the target of right-wing governments. Issues such as the construction of highways through the campus and taking over METU’s land were used as political propaganda that has symbolic importance in the oppression of opposition movements.
The Highway Project
The highway construction in METU entered the nation’s agenda in 1992. This road was supposed to connect the Anadolu Boulevard to Konya Road. The project was approved in 1994 and was of course responded by massive student demonstrations. In addition, METU was declared a protected area in 1995.
In 2008, the Metropolitan Municipality of Melih Gökçek (in power for 19 years, he is well-known for jumping to and fro right-wing parties that take part in the government in the given period) introduced a second road construction. This project initiated strong debate between the Municipality and METU. The Municipality claimed that the buildings of METU were illegal, and decided to destroy 45 buildings as well as to fine the university a total of 1,8 million TL. (approximately 600.000 Euros, or 900.00 USD) The issue was publicly known as “the road showdown”.
The METU administration brought the project to trial. The court decided, in 45 different lawsuits, that the destructions or the fines had no legal grounds and that they were against public interest. Following the objections of the Metropolitan Municipality, a team consisting of two academics from the Urban Planning Department and five academics from the Civil Engineering Department started working on a new plan. This new plan was called a “Reconstruction Project for Protection”. According to this plan, the essentials of the first highway route of 1994 would be kept as they were, with many additional crossroads proposals. The plan further stated that, in order to avoid damaging the environment, the second highway should be constructed as a tunnel.
The Occupation and the Resistance
Students, academics and laborers of METU think that this highway serves only for political and economic interests. As a matter of fact, if the intention was to relax the city traffic, the municipality should have finished the metro construction, which lasted for 11 years already. METU witnessed protests and forestation actions since years, opposing the destruction. METU students, together with the locals of 100. Yıl and Çiğdem neighborhoods organize protests, demonstrations, and, recently, camping in the site. The municipality responded to the protests with police violence, including tear gas and rubber bullets.
While METU administration tried all legal methods, the achievements in court were overruled in practice due to political interests. On October 18th, 2013, the last day of the religious holidays due to the Feast of Sacrifice, when the number of students inside the campus was in its minimum, the destruction workers entered the campus, accompanied with police forces. The next day, METU students, graduates and laborers united to protest the situation, and the neighbors from 100.Yıl and Çiğdem joined them in support. Police laid an ambush inside the forest, attacked the protesters with tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. While barricades were formed and police violence continued all night long, it was reported that policemen beat a student and threw him to the fire next to the barricades. The student is diagnosed to have second degree burns.
After the removal of 3000 trees, METU Presidency released a statement:
“We communicated to the Ministry, Municipality and State authorities on September 11th, 2013, that we were planning to object to their plans, and emphasized that irreversible practices should be avoided in the meanwhile. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality’s (AMM) Director of Techical Works and Director of Construction Affairs stated that no action will be taken without discussing with the university administration. On the same day, a written appeal was sent to AMM to declare that we do not assent to any actions until the legal suspension and objection periods finalize.
Despite of these meetings and correspondences, an abrupt night operation was executed on October 18th, 2013, without waiting for the suspension and objection periods to end. Construction machines, construction workers and many municipality employees intruded the university land on October 18th, 2013, Friday, at 21:15, without any permission, and by destroying the campus fences on the side of 100.Yıl district Öğretmenler Boulevard. Private security guards of the university tried to warn and stop the teams, as university land cannot be trespassed without permission from the administration. However, it turned impossible to prevent the numerous trucks, construction machines and municipality workers from entering the campus without permission.
In the morning of October 19th, 2013, an examination established that the road route inside the METU campus was completely cleaned and all the trees were removed. We are not informed about how 3000 trees (including more than 600 pine trees that were supposed to be transferred) were removed. Yet, it is impossible to transfer 600 trees in a single night.”
Melih Gökçek’s agenda is to incite provocation to consolidate his voters before local elections. In a local level, he aims at the exact same goal as Tayyip Erdoğan did in Gezi Park. Moreover, this is a direct attack to the integrity of METU as a university as well as the values METU represents in the society. METU students are still in resistance, struggling for ecology, as is exemplified by the amazing tree planting action where more than 3000 trees were planted in the same area.
Furthermore, hundreds of academics around the world released a statement, showing solidarity with the struggle and denouncing the policies of the municipality.
As the motto goes: “There is only one road passing through METU, and that is the road to revolution”.
 Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit of METU in 2012 accompanied by 2000 policemen forces. He was protested by hundreds of students and police used so much tear gas that became visible even from far distant areas.
 “The information presented in these paragraphs is mainly based on this
article [published in BCC Turkish”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/turkce/haberler/2013/08/130829_odtu_ormani_gecmis.shtml
I’m not saying “Don’t unionize.” Do it, but do it in your spare time.
The Turkish original of this article, “Sendikalı olma demiyorum hobi olarak yine ol!”, signed F.Serkan Öngel, was published on August 4th, 2013 in Birgün newspaper. For our English-speaking audience, we prepared a shortened translation of the article.
Permission to Collective Agreement and Strike
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security takes its power to violate labor rights from the laws and regulations introduced by the military intervention on September 12th, 1980. One of the most important of these regulations is the issue of syndicate thresholds, which gives the state a tremendous power to intervene in the relationship between employer and employees. The law issued after September 12th restricted the right to strike for the collective agreement process and prohibited any other type of strikes. And then introduced thresholds for competency to collective agreement. The labor unions that can make collective agreement would be decided by the Ministry. The AKP government enthusiastically welcomed this anti-democratic practice and adopted it with joy. This is the mentality underlying the recent Labor Unions and Collective Agreements Law, effective by November 7th, 2012.
The direct result of this law is the robbery of the right to collective agreement. By 2018, nearly half of the registered workers will not be able to make collective agreements, even if s/he became involved in a labor union. This new law is far beyond the 1980 policies.
Where are the Labor Unions?
By the Gezi Park protests, a public demand for general strike came out. Suddenly, everyone focused on labor unions. “Where are the labor unions?” This question was the reaction towards the unions. It is nice that people, who typically are not conscious that unions are the solidarity and unity organizations of the workers (ie. themselves), who see no other choice other than submission to their boss, who cannot dare to show solidarity to their fired colleagues, who prioritize competition over solidarity in their workplace, seek for unions all of a sudden. However, the problem is that in a society where 60% of the population takes part in the wage labor, unions are seen as an external agency. It is as if unions are some superheroes waiting somewhere for a public call. In fact, any place where unity and solidarity transform into struggle for rights is the real ground for unionization.
The basis of this ground has been destroyed by the organizational changes in the production and management strategies. While laws tied the hands of labor unions, the union movement imprisoned itself within legal boundaries. Labor unions regressed dramatically. Being a union member became an exception. The state tried to tame the unions so that they would be compatible with the interests of the capital and the state, so that they are broken off from the working class. This was mostly successful.
As a result, while around half of the registered workers were unionized before 1980, this number was reduced to 20% in the 80s, then to 10% in the 90s, and finally to one-digit numbers by 2000s. The new law mentioned above removes the notary requirements [see Labor Rights in Turkey] and thereby makes unionization easier, but makes the right to collective agreement completely out of question, therefore practically forbids strikes. Unionization becomes a pure hobby for workers after this reconstruction. The logic is to increase the number of members of labor unions (as a parameter of democratization) while at the same time making them ineffective. However, all these attempts will fail as can be seen clearly in the uprising of the non-unionized masses.
The portion of labor in the national income decreased from 52% to 30% in the period 1999-2012. In the same period, the numbers of workers who practiced collective agreement fell from 11% to 5.5%. It is obvious that there is a correlation.
This picture shows that the bells toll for the working class. It is possible to say the blue-collar workers are hardly kept in the factories1, and the June uprising is an indicator of this.
1 Reference to the statements of PM Tayyip Erdoğan who claimed that he hardly keeps his 50% [of the population] at home during the Gezi protests.
The original of this article, titled “L’alchimie de la Mayonnaise”, was published in French in Rouge & Vert, the newspaper of Les Alternatifs, on July 11th, 2013. It was written on June 23rd.
It starts with a camp to prevent the destruction of a public park in the middle of Istanbul which is attacked by the police. The number of protesters multiply, police attacks again. In a few days, one hundred thousand people are on the street, pushing police barricades at 2:00 am. In a few days, protests multiply once again; solidarity demonstrations are held in hundreds of towns.
How did this happen? How did hundreds of thousands of people started chanting “Pepper gas ! Hooray !” in front of water cannons? How did we manage to make a human line of 300 meters in İstiklal street, carrying stones and such to our barricades? (In fact, two parallel lines.)Did anyone of us imagine that it would be possible to hear hundreds of people in the ferry chanting “Our path is the path to revolution, come brothers and sisters, come ! Our country is filled with fascists now, charge brothers and sisters, charge !”
This article tries to give a partial answer to the above questions. It will be partial, because it will not include the real reasons behind people’s anger. It will not analyze the unlawful practices of the government that keeps thousands of political prisoners in jail waiting for their accusation documents to be prepared. It will not analyze the Kurdish issue, the Alawite issue or the Armenian issue. It will not analyze the imperialistic policies of the AKP government with respect to Syria. It will not analyze how AKP declared war on all ecosystems through an integrated strategy combining GMOs, coal power plants, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants and giant urban transformation projects. Neither will it analyze the Islamization of the society and of politics through an extensive transformation in the education system, through bans and restrictions on alcohol consumption, and through sexist and discriminative discourse against women and LGBT individuals. It will also not analyze the violations of labor rights, prohibitions on the 1stof May celebrations, the systematic introduction of precarious employment or privatizations.
We exclude all the above mentioned items, because we think there is one essential point that could inspire the socialists and/or revolutionaries around the world.
We will call it the mayonnaise phenomenon.
Wikipedia states “mayonnaise is made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil”. You should not add too much oil, because then you can spoil the mayonnaise. However, you should be very patient during whisking.
It is very curious to note that the best mayonnaise is obtained by patient repetition of a single act: slowly add oil while whisking.
As any experienced cook would testify, this is not the same as being stubborn. You are following a recipe, you are not just repeating a habit. Moreover, there is a clear way of realizing that you overdid it: it becomes butter, and a very bad quality of such.
We were protesting the nuclear power plant projects. We were arrested bec
ause we published articles criticizing the government’s oppressive policies. We were detained while speaking out against the strong introduction of religious discourse in elementary schools. We were attacked by gas bombs while blocking the highway in the direction of coal power plant construction areas. We were beaten by cops in our demonstrations against the government’s Syria policies.
Socialists, communists, revolutionaries in Turkey were determined to fight for the emancipation of the society, to fight for a better world. We were always there, confronting the state apparatus in the shape of riot police and gas bombs, fighting for the rights of the people. Sometimes we were a few hundred people, sometimes thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands. But mostly, hundreds.
But guess what ! The initial campers were also some hundred people. They were attacked by the police the first day of the camp, but returned the next day. They were then attacked by the police again, but returned the next day, multiplying their numbers. They were then attacked by the police again, this time burning their tents and all their material. Then, something not expected by the rulers happened: Everyone came ! Hundreds of thousands arrived to a cloud of tear gas in Istanbul. Some 250 cities witnessed solidarity protests.
A fascist state that cannot comprehend people’s demands, that does not have the concept of negotiating with the opposition, declared war to its citizens. By June 21, Turkish Medical Association reported that 4 people lost their lives, 7836 got injured of which 60 are heavily injured, 101 had head traumas and 5 are in serious condition. 11 people lost their eyes and 1 person had his spleen taken. Add to this thousands of detentions and tens of arrests, continuing via police raids while this article is being written.
Yet the country was shouting the slogan: “This is just the beginning. The struggle continues.” The Turkish society realized its power.
We showed how revolutionaries are always on the front lines for the rights of the working class. On the other hand, we saw how the people was right behind us, providing anti-acid liquids for our eyes, providing shelter in their houses during police chases, shouting “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism !”, and spreading the word via photos and videos.
It was the mayonnaise effect in action.
The wavelengths matched, and we became millions.
One may analyze the reasons, the dynamics and the consequences of the uprising in Turkey. One may try to figure out why the government never ever tried to soothe the protests, why the battle in Ankara still continues without a single day of cease fire since more than three weeks. One may indeed learn a lot about how fascism operates.
But if there is only one thing our comrades in France would learn from the uprising in Turkey, it is the mayonnaise phenomenon. If there is only one thing our comrades in France would learn from the uprising in Turkey, it is the importance of political determination. We were not as aware of it before the uprising as we are now.
If there is only one moral of this story, it is the following: We shall never give in, we shall never give up !