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This arti­cle is not an exhaus­tive analy­sis of con­tem­po­rary Turkey. Far from it. It is noth­ing but a series of pho­tographs, exposed or over-exposed. Putting words in order on dis­turb­ing real­i­ties helps in feel­ing bet­ter. Giv­ing them out to read, a relief.

Very freely inspired by notes appear­ing in Turkey on web­sites locat­ed out­side the coun­try. This col­umn will be fol­lowed by oth­ers… And does not in any way exon­er­ate Euro­pean States sweep­ing their doorsteps clean, so shut these days against “strangers”.


Crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions are not indis­pens­able for the first symp­toms of a society’s degra­da­tion and col­lapse to appear. Some­times, reac­tions and atti­tudes con­cern­ing per­fect­ly sim­ple and ordi­nary human prob­lems can serve as warn­ing signals.

Today, look­ing at any cap­i­tal­is­tic coun­try, we find mul­ti­ple exam­ples of such cas­es. As for Turkey, the country’s present sit­u­a­tion invites us to pay par­tic­u­lar atten­tion. Seen from over here, things are as self-evi­dent as the nose on a face, and all that’s need­ed is the intel­li­gence to look at it and real­ize the breadth of the human wastage gen­er­at­ed by a polit­i­cal regime… But we must remem­ber that, per­haps, what seems unac­cept­able over there, may not appear self-evi­dent here, because of a cer­tain type of orientalism.

In observ­ing the com­ments, the actions and the polit­i­cal meth­ods of its lead­ers, their rul­ing class pol­i­tics, the inter­ac­tions between the var­i­ous fac­tions and orga­ni­za­tions, and repres­sive machin­ery that is the State, the con­tent of the pop­ulist pro­pa­gan­da wide­ly dis­trib­uted by media and pseu­do cul­tur­al organs at the orders of the regime, and their com­bined effect on pop­u­la­tions, the extreme polar­iza­tion of soci­ety and the rup­ture of social ties indi­cate that Turkey is expe­ri­enc­ing a peri­od of social and polit­i­cal decom­po­si­tion of nov­el pro­por­tions in its his­to­ry. In addi­tion, the shift from a cul­tur­al to a polit­i­cal Islam has under­mined what only a few years ago brought sesame seeds to the grind­stone of Euro­pean orientalism.

Let’s take a sim­ple and very recent exam­ple : the de fac­to mur­der of two chil­dren by the police in Silopi.

Two chil­dren, Muham­met (7) and Furkan (6 ) were crushed to death in the mid­dle of the night while they slept, when an armored police vehi­cle entered their home, destroy­ing a wall. We’re not talk­ing here of a trag­ic acci­dent or of a blun­der, but of the per­pet­u­a­tion, even the pro­lon­ga­tion of State ter­ror­ism against the Kurds…

The police­men who com­mit­ted the mas­sacre con­tin­ue to per­form their duties, as if noth­ing had hap­pened. At the same time, the per­son who heads the State, the one who gives the orders, churns out speech­es imme­di­ate­ly relayed by the media at his ser­vice at every turn and wher­ev­er he goes, speak­ing of “the rights of the poor and the des­ti­tute”, and “dis­trib­ut­ing jus­tice”. The same media, whether allies or sub­mis­sive, repeat as one the scoop hand­ed to them by the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic, announc­ing that he called the father of a hand­i­capped lit­tle girl, reached out to the fam­i­ly and ordered that the lit­tle girl be fit­ted with an arti­fi­cial leg. Let’s not for­get the lit­tle girl from Alep­po he sat on his knee.

It would be sim­ple to make a long list of such exam­ples for there are tens of thou­sands of sim­i­lar ones…

Let’s talk about Berkin Elvan and Ali Ismail Kork­maz, killed by the police dur­ing the resis­tance in Gezi in 2013. The first, Berkin, wound­ed in the head by a tear gas grenade lobbed by the police, died after spend­ing 296 days in a coma. He was the youngest vic­tim in Gezi. The oth­er, Ali Ismail,
beat­en to death by the police in Eskişe­hir, spent 38 days in a coma, before dying at the age of 19. And there were oth­er vic­tims dur­ing demon­stra­tions in Gezi.

Or let’s recall Uğur Kurt killed by a police­man in May 2014. The police­man was chas­ing demon­stra­tors from a gath­er­ing close to a cemevi, a place of wor­ship for the Ale­vis, and shot at ran­dom in the court­yard even though he saw that there were peo­ple gath­ered for a funer­al. Uğur col­lapsed in the mid­dle of the court­yard. The mur­der­ous police­man was sen­tenced to a jail term of one year and eight months, quick­ly trans­formed into a penal­ty of 12 100 Turk­ish pound, the equiv­a­lent of 3000€. Uğur’s life wasn’t worth much, but the police­man refused to pay the fine and appealed the decision…

Okmey­danı Istan­bul, 22nd may 2014. Pho­to DHA

Or let’s men­tion all the civil­ians killed in Kur­dish towns, with­out dis­tinc­tion, be they chil­dren, youths, women, the elder­ly… Some­times burned alive in base­ment build­ings, leav­ing a few remain­ing bones hand­ed over to the fam­i­ly in a plas­tic bag con­tain­ing a few kilos : This is your father.

Or again, let’s look at the destruc­tion of neigh­bor­hoods and Kur­dish towns… And the silence of half of the West­ern coun­tries that car­ry on their dai­ly occu­pa­tions, as long as State repres­sion, fire and blood stay with the “oth­ers” in the East and that no one comes knock­ing at their door…

Prob­lems with express­ing empa­thy, lack of human­i­ty, fail­ure of con­science… When those who form a soci­ety no longer build bridges but walls, walk­ways are replaced by mine­fields. Fear, indif­fer­ence, hatred, all the way to denun­ci­a­tions out of zeal or oppor­tunism. At the dai­ly lev­el, we note that the indi­ca­tors of com­mu­nal liv­ing reg­is­ter putre­fac­tion. The news­pa­pers brim with it. The mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of these events is telling. Alter­ca­tions, dis­putes, fights, lynch­ings and mur­ders that start over noth­ing ; a side­ways glance, a word, or the wrong look, a skirt too short, or just for being “oth­er” — Kur­dish, Syr­i­an, LGBTI…

We won’t men­tion yet again the brain cram­ming that starts at the youngest age in school. It has been a con­stant for decades, be it in the teach­ing of “his­to­ry” itself, an ear­ly ini­ti­a­tion to Turk­ish­ness, or in the use and manip­u­la­tion of sym­bols. All this was already in place “before” what it is styl­ish to call the “drift”, for all this dirty water has been cours­ing through the same stream for centuries.

Let’s stick to the cur­rent. And let’s talk only of the media that still remain… The opin­ions and visions imposed on soci­ety through the mes­sages trans­mit­ted through the media monop­oly would suf­fice to dis­til­late the hatred for the “oth­er”… Let’s read noth­ing oth­er than the way the news­pa­pers and TVs cel­e­brate the Erdo­gan regime’s “vic­to­ry”, adding as illus­tra­tion of its “suc­cess”, the num­ber of youths killed almost every day in the Kur­dish urban and rur­al zones…for instance. These youths who have before them noth­ing but a bina­ry choice, sub­mis­sion and assim­i­la­tion or rebel­lion. When they refuse to sub­mit, how can we blame them for this choice, know­ing that they have all inher­it­ed fam­i­ly his­to­ries filled with mar­tyrs, and spent their child­hood as wit­ness­es of a State par­tic­u­lar­ly repres­sive against their elders, their par­ents, their grand­par­ents… Let’s talk about these youths, some whose very corpse is for­bid­den to their fam­i­lies. The dig­ni­ty of a tomb, denied.

Kemal Gün on hunger strike. He asks his son’s corpse. (Der­sim)

That’s not all… No.

A sweep­ing view over the cur­rent land­scape shows the same ills every­where, from the State sys­tem to the Jus­tice sys­tem, from the mech­a­nisms of pro­pa­gan­da to the behav­ior of the authorities.

Work-relat­ed acci­dents, for instance. Main­ly caused by con­di­tions of insuf­fi­cient safe­ty, yet denied. Work-relat­ed “acci­dents” are in fact noth­ing oth­er than “work-relat­ed assas­si­na­tions”. And this is how civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions call them… They rep­re­sent­ed 1970 deaths in 2016 ; for the first four months of 2017, they already stood at 586 deaths. This is with­out men­tion­ing work­ers hand­i­capped for life and thrown into mis­ery with their fam­i­lies. Turkey holds the Euro­pean record for work-relat­ed acci­dents. Faced with the real­i­ty of these “work-relat­ed assas­si­na­tions”, pre­tend­ing they don’t exist rais­es the social gauge lev­el to : man­i­fest decomposition.

This also holds true con­cern­ing vio­lence against women and chil­dren as can be illus­trat­ed by thou­sand of exam­ples where tri­bunals reduced sen­tences for authors of fem­i­ni­cide because they “pre­sent­ed well” when fac­ing the judge, or because they’d emp­tied their revolver in her chest, because they “loved their wife too much”, or because the judge decid­ed the child had “con­sent­ed” to the aggres­sion or the rape, even when these were chil­dren of a very young age, thus sign­ing with the hand of jus­tice the encour­age­ment to sim­i­lar acts in the future. The expo­nen­tial growth of vio­lence against women (by 1400% in 2016), the feel­ing of a qua­si pal­pa­ble vir­ile impuni­ty, the extreme­ly sex­ist and phal­lo­cen­tric com­ments by the State (eng­lish ver­sion here) and the whole thing inter­act­ing, trans­formed into a fire­ball… This is also an indi­ca­tor. And at that point the nee­dle on the counter goes wild.

Özge­can Aslan, mur­dred… (2015)

But there’s some­thing else still…

In a soci­ety where, in prin­ci­ple, lying and hypocrisy are clas­si­fied under the head­ing of “immoral­i­ty”, has lying become the habit­u­al prac­tice, and even an ele­ment of the regime’s policy ?

For exam­ple, when in the course of a ref­er­en­dum cam­paign, those in pow­er autho­rize accus­ing the adver­saries of “trea­son against the Home­land”, of being “the instru­ment of exter­nal forces” or again of “sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist organizations“while, at the same time declar­ing “We do not prac­tice a divi­sive pol­i­cy”, and when mil­lions of peo­ple who hear these con­tra­dic­to­ry state­ments don’t react… Can we talk of a “healthy” soci­ety, as they say ?

If these exam­ples have spread to the point of pen­e­trat­ing most cir­cles, whether orga­nized or not, if cor­rup­tion, bribes, the absence of jus­tice no longer cause reac­tions, if State assas­si­na­tions are con­sid­ered by the great­est part of soci­ety as legit­i­mate and nec­es­sary to the State’s sur­vival, if, when the ille­gal­i­ty of the ref­ere­dum is in ques­tion, the choice of the one who will be the sole leader is pre­sent­ed as essen­tial, if cer­tain counter-insur­rec­tion­al, anti-Kur­dish and anti-minor­i­ty Par­ties and orga­ni­za­tions move for­ward with Erdo­gan and the forces of the counter-gueril­la (mili­tias from the so-called deep State, the “ervices”) are vaunt­ed as ‘pro­gres­sive Left­ists’, and if nation­al­is­tic and anti-free­dom indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions are count­ed as “demo­c­ra­t­ic forces”… this means that the dimen­sions of the decom­po­si­tion are ter­ri­ble vast …


The ones respon­si­ble for this state of affairs are not the large mass­es of per­sons who con­sid­er them­selves nei­ther to the right nor to the left. What is decom­pos­ing is cap­i­tal­is­tic soci­ety itself, in this par­tic­u­lar con­text of the Turk­ish Nation-State. And the mass­es pay the price for fool­ing them­selves or for being fooled. This will con­tin­ue until the strug­gle against the sys­tem of tyran­ny and exploita­tion ris­es at last, takes root and spreads into new branch­es. In anoth­er time, a Yıl­maz Güney called on this with all his might, against anoth­er regime, in anoth­er peri­od of the Turk­ish Repub­lic, “unit­ed and indivisible”…

What we see are the results of prej­u­dices that have exist­ed for decades, cen­turies of back­ward edu­ca­tion, of the social effi­cien­cy of the dom­i­nant pro­pa­gan­da, of the orga­nized struc­ture of a State at the ser­vice of the rulers, and its hold on the struc­ture of society.

The forces that can fight against all that are native forces, even though they are depen­dant on the same social struc­ture. But they increase, from one cri­sis to anoth­er. Not only does his­to­ry demon­strate this, but also, the fact that the strug­gle and the resis­tance are fer­ment­ing and advanc­ing, as near­by Roja­va shows the same ills every­where con­firms this reality.

This soci­ety con­tains the germs of its insur­rec­tion and it doesn’t know it yet.


Sign­ing this chron­i­cle would be the same as sign­ing a statement…

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.