On Feb­ru­ary 9th, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held his first meet­ing in Sivas pri­or to the upcom­ing local elec­tions. The fact that Sivas is my home town has noth­ing to do with my deci­sion to con­cen­trate on the speech he pro­nounced there.Some of the sen­tences he spoke haunt me. There is no way I can rid myself of the heav­i­ness of those words, unless I speak my own.

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Of course, the choice of Sivas was not accidental.

From the  onset of his speech, he declared: “In 1919, the first steps in our war of inde­pen­dence and for a Repub­lic were tak­en in Sivas.  This is where the man­i­festo was writ­ten and where our hori­zons were defined. So, today,  we shall repeat these prin­ci­ples, these deci­sions and these ideals by sig­nalling the “start” for the March 31 elec­tions from this place.”

Two points are worth men­tion­ing here. How can local elec­tions be trans­formed into an evo­ca­tion of a nation­al war of lib­er­a­tion? How did these elec­tions dur­ing which town may­ors and neigh­bor­hood and vil­lage muhtar will be elect­ed for 5 years become a war for the State’s per­pe­tu­ity? More­over, what are the rea­sons for this cen­ten­ni­al “return” to the foun­da­tion codes of the Republic?

Let’s take a look at these foun­da­tion­al codes of the Repub­lic. In tak­ing the road to Sivas, we say “the Home­land, in its nation­al and indi­vis­i­ble bor­ders.”  We say “Our Home­land, our flag, our State, our hon­or rests on Nation and Inde­pen­dence.”  The fact we dri­v­el on these same things today means that, one cen­tu­ry lat­er, and despite all the vio­lence, the per­se­cu­tions, the mas­sacres and assim­i­la­tions, we have not moved ahead by so much as one step.

Every suc­ceed­ing gov­ern­ment in the Repub­lic of Turkey has prac­ticed the same racist and mil­i­taris­tic poli­cies. The main objec­tive was to incul­cate in these State-inspired speech­es stuck in the “Home­land-Nation-flag” trip­tych, a mas­cu­line and mil­i­tary, Sun­ni, and Turk­ish struc­ture in which all peo­ples, creeds, iden­ti­ties and group mem­ber­ships dis­solve as if under a con­crete screed.

How­ev­er, let us hope that those who mock the prob­lem of Turkey’s per­pe­tu­ity, although this is at the very heart of their own dis­course, will receive a smack across the face from the peo­ple on March 31st.

Some­thing does­n’t give in this coun­try, despite the cli­mate of per­ma­nent vio­lence and all the monop­o­lis­tic tools of the State, still they can’t man­age to say “fine, the job is done now.“This is why they have to keep on fab­ri­cat­ing new ene­mies. “Son, take good heed of my words. Be a good Turk. Com­mu­nisme is a hos­tile trade for us. Remem­ber that. The Jews are the ene­my of all Nations. The Rus­sians, the Chi­nese, the Ajams ( the non Arab,s a des­ig­na­tion used main­ly for the Ira­ni­ans) and the Greeks are our his­tor­i­cal ene­mies. The Bul­gar­i­ans, the Ger­mans, the Ital­ians and also the Kurds, the Cir­cas­sians, the Abaza, the Bosni­ans, the Alba­ni­ans, the Polacs, the Lazes, Geor­gians, Chechens are our domes­tic ene­mies.“The list goes on.

The toma­to, the egg­plant and the green pepper

 Dur­ing the meet­ing in Sivas, the fol­low­ing were added to the list: the toma­to, the egg­plant and the green pep­per*.  In his usu­al style, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while enu­mer­at­ing Turkey’s progress and hero­ic strug­gles against ter­ror­ism said: “While we achieve all that, some peo­ple try to strike us down else­where. What do they say? They say   toma­to, egg­plant, green pep­per. Think about this, what is the price of a bul­let?” I admit I had trou­ble wrap­ping my brain around this sen­tence,  espe­cial­ly since it was pro­nounced as if it were a nor­mal sen­tence, spo­ken just when it need­ed to be said.  Here we find a con­cen­trate of the Repub­lic, based on prais­ing sac­ri­fi­cial deaths in this sin­gle ele­ment: “What is the price of a bullet?”

 (*) Transcript of Erdoğan’s speech arguing against the rise in discontent over the huge increase in the price of vegetable:
While we carry out the struggle against terrorism in Cudi, in Gabar, in Qandil, while we clean them out, annihilate them, look at what you are saying [you; he is adressing the enemies]… And this struggle goes on in all its gravity…While we are doing this, some try to strike us down elsewhere. What do they say?  They say “tomatoes”. They say “eggplants”. They say “potatoes”. What do they say? They say “green peppers”….Well, think for a bit, think…What is the price of a bullet? Think. What is the price to the fact my Memed gets dressed and the struggle must be led against the terrorists? Think. If the power does all that, if the power achieves all that,  and (that you) keep on saying this…They dare [say] “potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers…this is what they talk about. This means that Georges, Hans [from the outside] wish to reach us somewhere and those others [domestically] what do they do? They become Georges and Hans’ hands and feet.”
To summarize: those who can no longer afford to eat vegetable and complain are traitors to the Homeland, instruments of the outside enemy.

But on these lands many oth­er sen­tences are writ­ten and con­tin­ue being spoken.

For me, the human being is not a sacred crea­ture in a reli­gious sense. But with­out sanc­ti­fy­ing humans beings in this way, I con­sid­er each human life as sacred, at least as much as my own. This is why I do not want to be part of any struc­ture that tends toward killing.“These are the words of Vedat Zin­cir, one of Turkey’s first con­sci­en­tious objec­tors. The strug­gle for con­sci­en­tious objec­tion began in 1989 in Turkey and has con­tin­ued to spread like snow­drops, repro­duc­ing in mul­ti­ple expressions.

Uğur Yorul­maz wrote: “I see the dom­i­na­tion of human on human, States and the imag­i­nary bor­ders they have drawn as the great­est bar­ri­er. And the armies as struc­tures of vio­lence orga­nized by the State and Cap­i­tal in order to pro­tect their prof­its by force.“After him, dec­la­ra­tions of objec­tion have con­tin­ued. Only this past week, two new objec­tors declared them­selves. Rah­man Topçu ends his dec­la­ra­tion with these words: “War is planned by the cap­i­tal­ists, orga­nized by the weapons mer­chants, ‚launched by idiots and it is the inno­cents who die.”

I am present­ly work­ing on texts from con­sci­en­tious objectors.

There will always be peo­ple who, despite the back­ward move­ments in social life shut­ting in their exis­tence, will con­tin­ue to speak their mind in order to cause reflec­tion on this cul­ture of sub­mis­sion, on the plu­ral­i­ty of life, on the right to life and on an anti­mil­i­taris­tic lifestyle. And they will con­tin­ue to fight against the dom­i­nant pol­i­cy which, in Turkey, keeps on cre­at­ing ene­mies, and calls on dying and killing; against the edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions that attempt to shape per­sons who know noth­ing but obedience.

So I call upon all of you to read the texts of con­sci­en­tious objec­tion which, despite long years of per­se­cu­tion and vio­lence, speak the mul­ti­ple tongues of life.

I do not wish that mine or any oth­er per­son­’s, or any oth­er liv­ing or non liv­ing exis­tence be exploit­ed, oppressed, destroyed by the mil­i­tary, sex­ist, het­ero­sex­ist, hier­ar­chi­cal and prop­er­ty-based sys­tem exist­ing on our planet.

 I do not want to be the sub­ject or the object of the wars declared and con­duct­ed by the san­guinary sys­tem threat­en­ing the entire ecosystem.

 I do not want to be one of the authors of the anni­hi­la­tion of life, of the blood shed by the weapons of destruc­tion pro­duced every day in the hun­dreds, in the thousands.

 I do not want to be one of the mis­er­able peo­ple turned into a robot by the sys­tem, inte­grat­ed in the chain of order-exe­cu­tion, used until exhaus­tions and then thrown out.

 I do not want, under the pre­text that I am a woman, to be a prop­er­ty and the hon­or of one or anoth­er, and moti­vat­ed by this dis­tort­ed con­cept, to be closed in, beat­en, killed.

 I do not want to be direct­ed, ori­ent­ed and dis­possed of my right to prop­er­ty and expres­sion as applies to my own body by cer­tain men and a soci­ety that labels me as “moth­er”, “wife”, “daugh­ter”, sim­ply because I am a woman.

 I do not want the fact that  walk­ing down a street in the the mid­dle of the night my smile be “reward­ed”(!) by aggres­sions and rape and to be the vic­tim of an assas­si­na­tion. In the same man­ner, I do not want a sin­gle homo­sex­u­al, trans or oth­er human being to be oppressed, exploit­ed, attacked and killed because of his or her sex­u­al identity.

 I refuse all types of vio­lence, whether orga­nized or not.

 I do not want to die, or to kill in wars.

 I refuse to be “a ter­mi­na­tor”, an ele­ment threat­en­ing the life that will exist on this plan­et after us.

 I refuse

To oppress and to be oppressed,

To receive and give orders

To die and to kill

War, mil­i­tary ser­vice, mil­i­tarism that legit­i­mates and inte­grates vio­lence in all the spaces of our lives.

Nazan Askeryan

 This jour­ney will con­tin­ue until the result of all these words trans­forms into a man­i­festo for social peace…

This arti­cle was also pub­lished in Turk­ish in Gazete Duvar, Bir mer­minin fiy­atı nedir?

 Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

Cov­er pho­to: “See the strength of this State”. Wall of a house in Sil­van, among so many oth­ers. A pho­to of the “vic­to­ry” in 2015, shared on social net­works, dur­ing the mil­i­tary oper­a­tions con­duct­ed in Kur­dish towns by the Turk­ish army.

Ercan Aktaş is a Jour­nal­ist, con­sci­en­tious objec­tor, author and jour­nal­ist exiled in France.

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Ercan Jan Aktaş
Objecteur de con­science, auteur et jour­nal­iste exilé en France. Vic­dan retçisi, yazar, gazete­ci. Şu anda Fransa’da sürgünde bulunuy­or. Con­sci­en­tious objec­tor, author and jour­nal­ist exiled in France.