Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where is this Kurdish problem that people are speaking of, I can’t see it!

The Kurdish problem comprises first pigeonholing young children as “stone-throwers,” and then putting them in jail to exert sexual and psychological violence on them. 

Ezgi Başaran [1]
A publicity event for a 3.15 million-Euro-budget project was held at one of Ankara’s five-star hotels. Minister of Justice Sadullah Ergin introduced the project with the following words: “Children who had been dragged into criminal behavior and ended up in our system of criminal execution are in need of special care, help and legal protection for their physical, mental, social and psychological development. Their development is crucial especially considering the effects of their unfavorable past experiences.” The project was entitled “Justice for Children.” How ironic…

No later than 2 days after the 5-star-flamboyance and the charming words of justice we all realized what the government actually meant by “justice for children.” 3.15 million Euros is peanuts after all! We heard about what the Kurdish children, most of whom were randomly picked from political protests, were being put through in the Pozantı Prison of Adana. We heard how they were hit on their hands with pieces of PVC joinery… How they were threatened with batons… How they were forced to kiss flags… How the knot on the rope tied around the neck could be tightened narrower and narrower when ‘necessary’… How they were forced to share cells with non-political prisoners and petty offenders… How their pants were pulled down by the various ‘representatives’ in these cells… How the representatives were forced into their beds… How they were raped and sexually abused… We heard about these -- with shame, with rage, with disgust.

Foul-smelling fumes had been leaking out of Pozantı Prison for some time now, and yet we had not been able to measure the exact depth of the cesspit. It is true that they trained their citizens to get used to thinking in a certain way: Lives of children who throw stones will be ruined; maltreatment in prison is customary; if you get ill you die, there is no way for you to claim right to treatment. So we got used to hunger strikes, and cries of political prisoners. They made us get used to them. You know how your nose, if exposed to the same foul smell over an extended period of time, will cultivate a mechanism to feel numb against that smell. But that numbness is also proof that you have started smelling foul yourself.

Another incident you may not have heard about is that of Rıdvan. He is a sportsman –of the smart and agile kind.[2] He was a junior at Dicle University’s Physical Education Department. He became the national champion three times, and came third in an international tournament in the Balkans in 2008. He was one of our national athletes, so to speak. I speak in the past tense, because Rıdvan has been in prison for almost a year now. Why? Because he attended the May Day celebrations organized by BDP,[3] because he chanted slogans, because he sang along to songs and marches, and clapped… And so he is accused of propagating a political organization and committing crime for a political organization… Evidence? The fact that Rıdvan’s mouth is seen open in the photographs taken during the [May Day] march… And in turn, he has been committed to prison for 14 years and 7 months.

The journalists working for Özgür Gündem, Birgün and DİHA news agencies are arrested for their alleged relationship to KCK.[4] The voices of female journalists are silenced --they are the ones to, in usual contrast to their colleagues of the opposite sex, rigorously work through the Kurdish problem and speak coherently and candidly about it. Columnists Nuray Mert and Ece Temelkuran no longer have their columns; Banu Güven is told to stay aside; Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, during a live interview, gets told off by a minister, who says “It doesn’t escape me that you are acting like a BDP-advocate” and the following week her program is gets cancelled. All of these are relatively reasonable in comparison to the potential prospect of detention. It was in this spirit that… A new expression was invented for the occasion: “Thank God we are only laid off.” 

“What is this Kurdish problem that people are speaking of… There is even a new TV channel that broadcasts in Kurdish, with a series and everything! What more do they want? I look hard to understand the problem but can’t see it.” Those who share such sentiments and spawl, here is my special summary section for you:

This is precisely what the Kurdish problem is, my dears. It is turning little children into ‘stone-throwers,’ and then putting them in jail for having thrown stones only to abuse them sexually and psychologically. It is penalizing a young national athlete, who is Kurdish, with 14 years in jail because he attended the May Day and clapped his hands, instead of supporting his outstanding success. The two questions, “How a baby grows to become a murderer?” and “Why is the Kurdish problem unresolved/Why are these young people still headed to [join the guerrilla forces in] the mountains?” share the same answer, in a way. Just look at Pozantı or Rıdvan; look at how, the discussions on the Kurdish problem, which are said to have been freed from previous taboos, are pushed to stay within the boundaries imposed by the state; look at the way in which these discussion are strategically reshaped and the curtailment of the rights of association thereof. And see it, already! I don’t know what more to say.

[1] This article is a translation by the GIT- North America blog editors from its Turkish original written by Ezgi Başaran and originally published in the newspaper Radikal. The title is a quote from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Idris Naim Şahin, whose perplexing views on freedom and chilling new definitions of terrorism GIT had previously denounced. To access the original article visit here.
[2] Translator’s note: The author, here, is making a reference to the famous quote by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: “I like a sportsman who is also smart, agile and wholesome.”
[3] Translator’s note: The author’s referring to the Pro-KurdishPeace and Democracy Party
[4] Translator’s note: The author’s referring to the Kurdish umbrella organization, Kurdistan Communities Union