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.
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.
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.
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?
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.