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At the root of a genocide there is “the other”, the one singled out by an X on the doors when his existence is singled out the better to eliminate it. When the “other” in included in a State policy born from the denial of a genocide, hatred and exclusion become instruments of power.
Hanna Arendt in her controversial writings on “the banality of evil” says : “… all governments, even the most autocratic, even tyrannies, rest on consent, and the error resides in equating consent and obedience. An adult consents whereas a child obeys…” Therefore, when the consent arises from a nationalist neurosis fed since childhood and revitalized every time power needs it, the neurosis cements an official national consent, that of Turkicity, in which the “other”, should he declare his right to exist, is fought and erased.
“In those rugged mountainous regions, rough-hewned men and women, advancing through the snow made a sound with those steps,” says the nationalist Turkish legend. “Qqqrrrttt, qqqrrrttt…And from this sound came the word Kurd.”
This has been going on for years. The Kurdish language does not exist. Eventually, for the more tolerant, Kurdish would be a Turkish dialect spoken in the mountains. As a matter of fact, the Kurd does not exist either. So how do you expect that a language called Kurdish should exist?
If the Peoples Democratic Party in Turkey (the HDP, incorrectly designated in our Western media in a reductionist way as “pro-Kurd”) places the mother tongue at the heart of its activities and demands, it is because, fundamentally, a human thinks and lives in his language before opening out on others and being able to excel in that also, while remaining himself. Negating his language amounts to condemning him or her to non-existence in every field.
No need to mention the names of the countless media and newspapers that were shut down, books forbidden, films censored, authors, filmakers, artists, intellectuals charged on the grounds of “language”, be it Kurdish or any other language than Turkish. No need to speak of of the associations, trade corporations and of the few schools that offered Kurdish instruction (during the brief time of the peace process), nor of the closing by administrators of the Kurdish language kindergartens opened by Kurdish city halls following the replacement of jailed Kurdish co-Mayors…
Racist aggressions against the Kurds have never ceased in Turkey and in the current nationalist climate, they are on the upsurge. Just a few recent examples…
On October 15 of this year in Çanakkale, a 74 year old man, Ekrem Yaşlı who was speaking with his hospitalized wife was attacked in the hospital because he was speaking in Kurdish. Another patient’s relative had told him he was in Turkey and had to speak Turkish. Feeling threatened, Ekrem Yaşlı tried to call security, and was hit over the the head with a bottle of soda water. After breaking the bottle over his victim’s head, the aggressor attacked him with the broken bottle. The family’s lawyer says he has yet to receive any information on the complaint and even news of some custody or questioning of the aggressor…Yesterday, his lawyer and President of the IHD – Association of Human Rights, Eren Keskin announced that the complaint had been filed with no further action taken.
In September of this year a young Kurdish man of 19 years, Şirin Tosun, who had gone to Adapazari with his family for the seasonal harvest of hazelnuts was attacked by six people. After remaining comatose for 50 days following a bullet wound to the head, he died on October 13. His lawyer, Eren Keskin announced that a file had been opened but that the prosecutor’s office has not prepared an accusation yet.
At the end of 2018 in Sakarya, Kadir Sakçı (43) and his 16 year old son were targeted. The father was killed, the son was seriously wounded. According to witnesses, H.U. the author of the crime had asked them if they were speaking together in Kurdish, “Are you Kurdish or Syrian?”. They answered “We are Kurdish”. Hearing those words, the aggressor pulled out his gun and shot them while yelling “I don’t like you!”. The declaration emanating from the Prefect’s office in Sakarya stated that “the incident was not of a racist character.” The matter has been brought to the attention of Justice.
In town, in the village, at work, outside or inside jail…
In the book “Diyarbakır prison” Bedran Sevgat writes:
“My mother who doesn not know a single word of Turkish had come to visit. A guard stood close to me, another close to her. If I said one word in Kurdish, the risk was great that they would beat me before my mother’s eyes, if she spoke Kurdish, they would put an end to the visit. We had already gone through this experience and knew it, so we exchanged looks, in silence. She was crying and I looked at her without saying a word.”
Zülfikar Tak who drew and recorded the methods of torture practiced in Diyarbakır prison in the eighties, also told us about the prohibition concerning the Kurdish language…
Although the “obligation to speak in Turkish” during prison visits was lifted in 2009, prisoners still regularly receive disciplinary sanctions such as the prohibition of correspondence for weeks on end, for example, “for having sung in Kurdish”, as Zehra Doğan, Kurdish artist and journalist relates in her book of prison correspondence “Nous aurons aussi de beaux jours” (We will also know some fine days).
During a visit to the hospital
On September 30th in the newspaper Duvar, İrfan Aktan published an article, exceptionally and symbolically in Kurdish, in order to share one of his recent experiences while accompanying Zehra, a sixty-year old women from Yüksekova who had come for treatment in town.
” The doctor tells us aunt Zehra needs treatment. Fine ! But she also says she cannot take the patient in at the hospital “because that one has no tongue” !!!
Leaving Zehra in the examination room where she’s writhing in pain, we move onto the next room where the assistants gather. I tell her: “Doctor, Zehra has a tongue, but you don’t know it.” At first she answers me: “Since she lives in Turkey, she is obliged to speak Turkish”.
Making a tremendous effort of self-control, I tell her she is a medical doctor and is duty-bound to exercise certain legal and ethical responsibilities, that Zehra could just as well be a mute woman with no family, and that would not be a reason for refusing to take her into the hospital. If I were to tell her I’m a journalist and that I will publish this, or if I made threats of denunciation, I would certainly frighten her, but I would also ruin all possibility for Zehra’s treatment…At best, Zehra would be hospitalized then sent home after a botched “treatment”…
I reiterate to her constantly repeated insistence that “that one has no tongue,” that Zehra has a tongue, that her “tongue” is called Kurdish, that she is under no obligation to know Turkish, and that the State should provide each hospital with translators in Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi and English.”
(Read “Aunt Zehra has a tongue“)
The breeding ground for nationalist, racist hatred of the other, has existed since the founding of the Turkish Republic, Turkicity being seen as a duty and nourished throughout the history of the young Republic, and becoming particularly visible and brandished like a flag in times of conflict. The conflict itself being built on these nationalist, militarist, xenophobic and macho-inspired foundations…Populations cradled since birth in the notion of the sacredness of the country, the national, the flag and a State religion to boot are ready to salute with pride at any warlike behavior conducted, supposedly, in their name.
Nothing surprising then in seeing Turkish soccer players giving the military salute at the France-Turkey match. Nothing surprising in seeing the wave of military salutes spreading across social media networks.
Who is giving the best salute of them all? Ministers, politicians, artists, talking heads, models, sportswomen or ordinary citizens, staff in private firms or those of Turkish Airlines, school children paying tribute to war with a military salute…In any number of mosques where the military operation is celebrated with the reading of the Al-Fath (evoking the victory of Mohamet’s tribe on his enemies, a victory attributed to their submission to Allah as much as to their adversaries being heathens), there is even one imam who conducted the prayer in camo mode, inviting the faithful to give the military salute…The alliance of nationalism with the prayer rug.
At the same time, across Turkey, dozens of social media accounts were investigated for sharing criticism of the “Source of Peace” operations. Some account owners were arrested. Only a few days ago, Fatih Gökhan Diler, editor of the information site diken.com.tr and Hakan Demir, responsible for the internet version of the daily Birgün, were both placed in custody, then freed under judicial control. Both editors are charged with “inciting hatred” and “terrorist propaganda”. On October 19, it was the turn of Nurcan Baysal, a Kurdish journalist and defendor of rights. She announced on Twitter: “This morning at 5 am 30-40 armed police officers raided my house and asked for me. I am currently abroad, therefore not detained, but my 2 kids terrified. There is no trace of human rights in Turkey. But whatever the cost, I will continue my struggle for human rights and peace!”
Luckily, there are still some people who call a war “a war” and dare demand “peace.” There are some left. “All of them terrorists”? But of course…
A familiar tune?
Looking at shows aimed at large audiences and function as propaganda tools, we see find complete consistency in this regard. The clip below was done with the participation of well-known artists who are called, ironically, the “Palace choir”. It is offered up to the glory of the Turkish army, in order to praise the invasion, known as “the Source of Peace”, ongoing in Syria.
The song says: “The mothers give birth to lions and knead them with love for the Country. Thus is the brave one formed, becoming the Nation’s rampart. My Mehmet strike on the front, make the world small for the enemy. For sadness not to fall on his heart, the Nation’s prayer is all he needs.”
It so happens that this song, announced as being a “composition” by İbrahim Kalın is, in fact, a traditional Kurdish song “Hozan Kawa Zeryam Nişan Kırın” (When they betrothed my sweeheart). It has been interpreted by a number of different artists including a version that figured, twenty years ago, in an album by the Kurdish singer Murat Bektaş…
It is a love song…“When they betrothed my sweetheart, they re-opened my wound. They filled it with salt, no remedy will suffice. It is the heart’s woe, what can I do? To hearts of stone, there is no remedy. What will become of us?”
A number of Kurdish songs like this one are redone with Turkish words and presented as original Turkish songs. Just as the songs from others peoples, other cultures, other confiscated languages reclaimed as Turkish…
Elected officials don’t exist either
The judge asked Remziye Yaşar, co-mayor of Yüksekova and taken into custody on October 15 for sharing a quote from Tolstoy on Twitter. “War is not a holiday to be celebrated with trumpets. Its landscape is blood, death” with the hashtag #SavaşaHayır (no to war): “What exactly did you mean? What is your opinion on the peace plan operation that our country’s security forces has launched? Express yourself.”
As for İrfan Sarı, he was taken into custory on the same day as his Co-Mayor Remziye Yaşar and his Twitter read “No matter who wins, each bullet will find a mother’s heart… No to war!”
The two Co-Mayors elected on March 31 with 66% of the vote were removed for office and replaced by administrators. On the same day, Cihan Karaman, Co-Mayor of Hakkari, Semire Nergiz and Ferhat Kut, the Co-Mayors of Nusaybin were also arrested and replaced by administrators. Just as was the case two months ago for the Co-Mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van.
Thus, the votes the population of these three towns placed in the urns on March 31 were only valid for 4 months. And those of Nusaybin and Yüksekova, for six…
While writing these lines, we learn that today, the HDP Co-mayors of four other localities with Kurdish majorities, Kayapınar, Bismil, Kocaköy and Erciş, have also been removed for office and arrested. Since the elections of 31 March, a total of 12 HDP mayorships have been placed in the hands of administrators.
Even Kurdish voices do not exist…