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Article by Gürkan Ozturan
Before the August 10 Presidential elections when Turkey voted on her president for the first time in history, the promise of President Erdoğan was “the New Turkey” where peace process would finally start blooming and bring a peaceful end to “Kurdish Question”, democratic rights would be granted and economic expansion would prevail. Looking at the first 50 days of the so-called New Turkey, one cannot observe anything new, except for a few new methods in violation of rights and liberties.
The New Turkey was promised to be one free from military presence on its streets; as the president had said “the military’s duty is at the borders, to protect the country against external enemies”, however not only did police forces become militarized, but tanks are also strolling the streets of several cities, while in Istanbul military gendarmerie forces are mobilising in order to prevent any kind of solidarity protest for Kobane. To be fair, protesters are under bigger threat from anti-protestor mobs attacking them with guns and the police have proven ineffective in preventing civilians from exchanging gun shots.
The Kobane in Syria’s Kurdish region has been resisting against ISIS for days and in the last days the situation has worsened due to ISIS advances. Civilians have fled and taken refuge in Turkey, hundreds of thousands have been walking to the Turkish border, leaving everything behind. Across Turkey, there have been solidarity-meetings with the participation of several political parties and civil society organisations. These rallies were organised mainly by the Kurdish party HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party). Rallies turned into protests and then turned violent. The result so far has been the setting of a curfew in 6 cities and -up until now- the death of over 15 civillians.
When ISIS started the offensive against Kobane, people used their right to defend themselves and resist against a possible massacre. Yet, many people had to flee from the region and run away from the marching IS gangs. In September, hundreds of thousands of people were mobilised. For over a week, Turkey did not allow the border to be crossed. In response to this, protests had started taking place. As civilians were not permitted to enter the country, there protests emerged in major metropolis and especially in the predominantly Kurdish cities. Finally on the 19th of September, Turkey opened the border to allow civilians fleeing from ISIS siege on Kobane to take refuge.
Permission to intervene
A week after the border was opened for controlled passes, there came the discussion to allow the Turkish military to intervene; at which stage the street-spirit changed form and turned into anti-war protests. On October 2nd, the Turkish parliament voted on giving permission to allow Turkish soldiers to intervene in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. By then the HDP refused to vote yes on the permission, along with the Republican People’s Party CHP.
The irony in the permission is that currently the sides seem to have changed. When HDP organises anti-ISIS protests and CHP silently seems to be approving of them, the Nationalist Movement Party MHP and ruling AKP have taken a stand against them, even though the latter two were the ones to approve of ground-forces military action against ISIS gangs.
Night of Clashes
The night of October 7 saw a long night of drifting back to darkness of 1980s and 1990s. Protests against ISIS started turning violent. Images and videos of cars and buildings being set on fire, Turkish flags being burned and Ataturk busts being torn down began to emerge. However these images simultaneously appearing on media gave the impression of being staged; also with the knowledge of prior cases when National Intelligence Agency MIT agents were caught throwing molotov cocktails and provoking protests to provoke violence.
Yet, violent images might have served a purpose, as several nationalist and islamist radical groups have taken to streets and started shooting at protesters; especially after a piece of fabricated news stating that “the protesters are burning the Quran on streets”.
Until the shootings, it was the police handling the situation badly, and when more sides started clashing, the curfew declarations followed and the military started marching into city centers in several cities in the east. This was not officially a declaration of martial law, or even state of emergency. Yet, when tanks are marching on streets, it does not take much to guess what it is, one does not need someone’s definition of the situation.
When anti-ISIS protesters clashed with police forces on the streets, pro-ISIS groups also took to the streets and started assaulting the other side. According to initial reports, around 15 people have been killed. And a dangerous declaration has been set in place, calling for retaliation on the islamist organisations in Turkey. In the 1990s, Hezbollah in Turkey had been used against the PKK and thousands of people had died in clashes. This time it started fast and Kurdish groups have declared they will resist.
The Turkish minister of interior affairs Efkan Ala also evaluated the protests and the violent surge. Ala declared that any type of violence would be met with multiplied violence. Ala also had the same method against the Gezi Park protests in 2013 when he was an adviser of the prime minister on security issues, after which he got appointed to minister without being elected into parliament.
The Turkish media has not surprised anyone yet again. While clashes unravelled, a curfew was being declared in half a dozen cities, the death toll was climbing amid widespread protests and counter-protest violent attacks, the Turkish TV channels were broadcasting entertainment shows, very much in line with the penguin patterns they have been carrying out during times of crises.
When there were protests in Egypt, Turkish television channels covered them live; when there was a coup, it was also broadcast live in Turkey. While Turkish audiences are allowed to be informed on all crisis situations and repression of rights abroad it seems they are denied this information when the country in question is their own.
If anything did happen to be shown however, it portrayed all the protests and protesters as “terrorists” that targeted Turkish national unity and sovereignty; with the media fueling the fire against the Kobane-solidarity protests, serving as a tool of consent manufacturing. Given the number of internet-literate people who critically receive news from social media and other outlets however, the media blackout seems to work in favor of those benefitting from violence on the treets of Turkey.
The Chaos Lobby
While they Turkish government explained everything previously with the word ‘lobby’, the most recent uprisings in Turkey have been blamed on a “Chaos Lobby”. All state officials and ministers who appear on TV place the blame on a shady non-existent organization that they call the Chaos Lobby, probably an advanced version of the interest-rate lobby, terror lobby, social media lobby, porn lobby, judiciary lobby, marginal lobby, parallel lobby we have heard about in the past.