Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scientists Call Turkish Government to Obey International Law

In a correspondence published in Science, twenty-five scientists including four Nobel laureates, urged Turkish government to treat peaceful protesters according to international law.

A press conference held at New School University in NY City on July 18 that was initiated by Turkish Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights and GIT – NA announced the publication of this piece and provided a forum for discussing the background of Gezi protests as well as government’s violent reaction. A video excerpt from the press conference is available here.

As the organizers of the press conference made clear in a clarification note, the press statement released regarding the press conference was only binding  for the organizing entities and individuals of the press conference.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Escalation of Repression – Faculty of New School Calls upon AKP Government to Cease Measures Reminiscent of a “State of Emergency”

As İsmail Saymaz and Fatih Yağmur report in Turkish daily Radikal, members of the umbrella NGO Taksim Solidarity were on July 11 charged with belonging to an illegal organization, inciting the public to uprising, insulting the police, occupying Gezi Park and thereby preventing public use of the Park.  The charges specifically refer to presidents, secretaries and spokespersons of Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, Urban Planners’ Chamber, Istanbul Medical Association, as well as officials of trade unions, diverse NGOs and political parties. Police reports filed with the court also claim that Taksim Solidarity used Facebook, Twitter and news websites to call the population of Istanbul to Gezi Park for protests and thereby presented a grave threat to public order.

Gezi Park remains under police blockade since June 16 – albeit for a brief window of a few hours on July 8 during which the Park was officially opened before it was closed to prevent the public from entering Gezi. The charges directed at participants of Gezi protests and the growing number of arrests give an indication of the escalation of AKP government’s repression with extra-legal means. This escalation is only the latest stage of a uniform trend of violation of basic rights that is under way since the start of Gezi Resistance. 

Below we publish an open letter that Faculty of New School for Social Research sent to President Abdullah Gül on July 1.

Your Excellency,

We write to you to express our grave concern regarding the developments in Turkey in connection with the popular protests that began with the protection of trees in Gezi Park in Taksim. As a result of unexpectedly harsh police repression, these protests soon grew to encompass widespread grievances about government intrusion into different forms and values of life and to express the democratic demands of the masses. These demands include greater transparency and popular participation in processes of decision-making about urban restructuring plans and reforms, better accountability of political leaders and bureaucrats, the protection of fundamental rights, and the speedy and effective public prosecution of members of the security forces, whose use of excessive and targeted force on peaceful protestors has scandalized the global public.

As current faculty of the New School for Social Research, which was founded as a home for scholars who became refugees of Nazi rule in Europe and who were known to the world as the “University in Exile,” we are proud to maintain a sincere and ongoing commitment to fostering democracy around the world, the freedom of speech and protest, and the free exchange of ideas. We see this commitment as the constituent element of our history and identity as a research institution that cultivates the highest standards of scholarship as well as the ethos of public engagement and active citizenship.

In this light, we are deeply concerned about the news from Turkey regarding the violent suppression of protestors, the arbitrary detention of individuals on grounds such as participation in peaceful demonstrations, use of social media, provision of volunteer medical care to the wounded protestors, or exercise of legal representation or counsel, and the pre-emptive labelling of peaceful protestors as “terrorists” by members of the government. We consider the wave of arbitrary detentions, some of which remain incommunicado, as a serious violation of the constitutional right of citizens in a democratic country to express their grievances and opinions in a peaceful way. The real test of a democracy is not only how it builds consensus among a plurality of values, different opinions, and interests, but also, and more importantly, how it treats dissent.

As faculty of the New School, we condemn police brutality and ask that those responsible for giving the orders as well as those executing the orders for the use of excessive force be immediately brought to justice. We denounce in the strongest possible terms the making of threats and intimidations toward individuals who exercise or plan to exercise their right of civil disobedience and toward those who shelter protestors from pressured water, tear gas, and rubber bullets. We ask for an immediate end to the detention of individuals who have done nothing other than participate in peaceful demonstrations. We call upon the government to cease its polarizing and demonizing rhetoric and its resort to measures reminiscent of a “state of emergency” in which citizens are treated like enemies. We encourage the adoption of a conciliatory public discourse as well as the active promotion of measures that enhance democracy, both through the decrease of the 10 per cent national electoral threshold and the creation of new, local channels for direct participation.

We express our deepest condolences for the four citizens of Turkey who have lost their lives in the recent events and our sympathies for those who have lost their eyes, suffer broken limbs, and endure other serious injuries. We are saddened by the thousands of people who have reported human rights abuses and physical injuries, and we are worried about those who face legal persecution on the seriously dubitable charges of terrorism and organized crime. We trust that Turkey will emerge a better and more democratic country from this experience but see that such an outcome will be possible only if the current situation is considered to be an opportunity to affirm fundamental rights and liberties, the legitimacy of peaceful disagreement and organized dissent, and the illegitimacy of the deployment of arbitrary violence, detention, and intimidation tactics by the state upon its own people. We appeal to your office to support our call.

Best regards,

Faculty of the New School for Social Research
New York City, NY, USA

Signatures: Elaine Abelson, Zed Adams, Andrew Arato, Cinzia Arruzza, Banu Bargu, Tarak Barkawi, Jay M. Bernstein, Richard J. Bernstein, Omri Boehm, Chiara Bottici, Christopher Christian, Alice Crary, Simon Critchley, Stefania deKenessey, Oz Frankel, Nancy Fraser, Jeffrey Goldfarb, Orit Halpern, Lawrence A. Hirschfeld, Bill Hirst, Andreas Kalyvas, Paul Kottman, Benjamin Lee, Arien Mack, Elzbieta Matynia, Inessa Medzhibovskaya, William Milberg, Joan Miller, Dmitri Nikulin, Julia Ott, Timothy Pachirat, Ross Poole, Christian R. Proaño, Hugh Raffles, Janet Roitman, Lisa Rubin, Willi Semmler, Anwar Shaikh, Ann-Louise Shapiro, Rachel Sherman, Ann L. Stoler, Jenifer Tally, Miriam Ticktin, Kumaraswamy Velupillai, Ken Wark, Eli Zaretsky

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.