Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Speaking up against Erdogan's Violence

In the wake of the brutal evacuation of Gezi Park on PM Erdoğan’s orders, members of GIT working group continue to direct the spotlight on AKP government’s violent reaction to expressions of dissent. 

Jeffrey Gibbs debunks facile reports of Gezi Resistance and gives an account of the brutal police attack on June 15 in the Boston Review. Aslı Iğsız traces the connections between the repression of Gezi and Erdoğan government’s long-standing policies curtailing the freedoms of  students, faculty and academic institutions in her overview in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Below GIT North America also presents the English translation of the statement “Erdoğan’s Autocratic Vertigo” our colleagues in GIT France published in Libération.

Erdoğan’s Autocratic Vertigo

The night of June 15, 2013, when the police showed a raging violence against the many peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul, will go down in Turkey’s history as a tragic tipping point. The repeated scenes of tear gas clouds, thousands injured and numerous arrests, have now been added to recent law violations that would not be tolerated in a state of war: the bombardment of gas in enclosed spaces, such as private apartments and tourist hotels; hospitals and mobile medical centers attacked, in addition to injured and arrested doctors; journalists harassed; and many reported cases of skin burns following the use of chemical agents in water cannons.

Along with this massive and systematic state violence, peaceful demonstrations were threatened by armed supporters of the AKP party who engaged in street-fighting, thereby establishing an atmosphere of civil war in the most central districts of Istanbul. And yet, for 19 days, Gezi Park showed a remarkable experience of democracy where civil society was present in all its variety: organizations of architects and planners who were early opposers of the devastating urban politics of Prime Minister Erdoğan and the mayor of Istanbul rubbed shoulders with student associations, feminists, as well as working class people in the neighborhoods threatened with destruction. It is false to claim, as some press correspondents have done, that this large, unprecedented response by such a multitude of people is only a revolt of Kemalist and extreme nationalist groups, despite the fact that numerous opposition groups joined the cause.

Rather than hearing the citizens’ protest – a plea to participate in decisions regarding their space and way of life and a rejection of the government’s increasingly authoritarian way of ruling – Erdogan chose to disregard them and to force their hand. Since its last term, the AKP has continued to attack the scope of individual and social freedoms, and the Prime Minister has preferred to engage in provocation by calling the protesters thugs, drunks and terrorists. However, the civil society has established for weeks its indignation at the recurring violations of its rights: Gezi Park was the breaking point after a long period during which the citizens of Turkey have felt ignored, scorned and attacked by the current government with its Prime Minister at the head. Political demonstrations, especially the celebration of May 1st, were prohibited in Taksim Square under the pretext of renovation work, mass arrests have been carried out in order to criminalize any kind of opposition, the Uludere and Reyhanlı massacres have not been elucidated, major civil rights have been questioned (including the right to abortion), multiple damage to the environment, culture and diversity of lifestyle choices have created an atmosphere of legitimate indignation.

In a rejection of this climate of repression, the citizens of Turkey, unarmed, came out massively in the streets and confronted armored police. In response to the government’s reaction to this event, we ask: How does one legitimize a government who has launched in a period of two weeks more than 150,000 gas grenades on its own people, injuring more than 5,000 of them and killing at least three, and who is now stating that any demonstrator found in the Taksim Square will be held as a terrorist - as announced by Mr Egemen Bağış, Minister for European Affairs? How is a government legitimate with a new bill proposing to extend the scope of the secret services who are already authorized to make arrests without court approval, while the same government boasted about having removed the army’s security privileges? How does one continue to accept as a legitimate partner a government that openly declares that it no longer recognizes the decisions of the European Parliament and no longer complies with the international treaties it has signed? What kind of democracy exists in a country where the media are forced into silence – where journalists are fired or driven to self-censorship for fear of losing their jobs, and the Turkish people are forced to watch international news channels to monitor events taking place in their own country? In what lawful country do the police arrest lawyers protesting peacefully inside the courthouse and take into custody doctors treating men and women injured in clashes with the police? What legitimacy can this government still have when on Sunday, June 16, it prevents by extreme force the gathering of protesters in Taksim, while the mayor of Istanbul massively mobilizes free transport to get AKP supporters to the meeting of their leader?

Because of Erdoğan’s paranoia, where he sees foreign spies and international conspiracies wherever his people peacefully defend their rights (for example: the claim that beer vendors, Erasmus students, “International Finance”, the “Jewish lobby” and the Western media disseminating information on police violence, are all responsible for organizing the protests of hundreds of thousands of people) – the international community must act now. The government of Prime Minister Erdoğan loses legitimacy in every manifestation of police violence and in every violation of international conventions or treaties. All friends of a free and democratic Turkey must work alongside this country’s civil society so that Erdoğan’s vertiginous autocracy does not create another dictatorship in the Middle East.

Deniz Akagul, maître de conférences à l’Université de Lille ; Salih Akın, maître de conférences à l’Université de Rouen ; Samim Akgönül, maître de conférences à l’Université de Strasbourg ; Marc Aymes, chargé de cherchées au CNRS ; Faruk Bilici, professeur à l’INALCO ; Isabelle Backouche, maître de conférences à l’EHESS ; Hamit Bozarslan, directeur d’études à l’EHESS ; Etienne Copeaux, historien de Turquie ; Dominique Colas, professeur à l’IEP de Paris ; Pierre Dardot, philosophe ; Yves Déloye, professeur à l’Université Paris 1 ; Vincent Duclert, chercheur à l’EHESS (CESPRA) ; François Georgeon, directeur de recherches au CNRS ; Béatrice Giblin, professeure à l’Université Paris 8 ; Diana Gonzalez, enseignante au Science-Po Paris ; Ragip Ege, professeur à l’Université de Strasbourg ; Jean-Louis Fabiani, directeur d’études à l’EHESS ; Dalita Hacyan, maître de conférences à l’Université de Paris 1 ; Yasemin Inceoğlu, professeure à l’Université de Galatasaray; Christian Laval, professeur à l’Université Paris Ouest Nanterre ;  Monique de Saint-Martin, directrice d’études à l’EHESS ; Emine Sarikartal, éditrice ; Nora Seni, professeur à l’Université Paris 8 ; Hélène Piralian, psychanalyste ; Alican Tayla, chercheur à l’IRIS ; Ferhat Taylan, directeur de programme au CIPH ; Sezin Topçu, chargée de recherche au CNRS ; Murat Yıldızoğlu, professeur à l’Université de Bordeaux.