Turkey

Can we Try to Become Healers of these Souls?

“Peace at home and peace in the world" was a motto of Turkey´s founder Atatürk. The present situation in the country is full of aggression and violence. Ali and Inci Gökmen, GEN-Europe council member, share about the events that led to the Ankara Massacre.

The elections this year in June were utmost important for the president of Turkey. According to the present Turkish Constitution the parliament has the power and the president should be neutral, but he has never been neutral. He wanted the majority vote for his party (AKP) to change the constitution which will allow him to get hold of the remaining power he could not get. 

In Turkey in order to enter the parliament one party should get at least 10% of the votes. In 2002 AKP got 34% of the votes, but had 363 seats out of total of 550 (66%). It was actually a one-man party. During 13 years of ruling Erdogan changed almost every institution in Turkey, he got hold of the power over the education system, the judiciary system, press, police, military and many other institutions. Turkey is the only secular islamic country in the region. Yet he is changing the education system towards islamic education. The freedoms are limited, some press is captured and others are under heavy pressure. 

In the last 35 years nearly 40.000 people were killed in bombings and the fights between armed Kurdish people and Turkish army and police. In 2009 negotiations started between the Kurdish people and the governmet for peace. Shortly before the elections the negotiations were ended by the government. In 2007 and 2011 elections Kurdish people entered the parliament as independent deputies. 
However, on June 7th elections a new party, HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) representing most of the Kurdish people entered the elections. HDP worked very hard during the campaign to make it a party for all the people and not just of Kurdish people. Two days before the elections, on June 5th, at HDP meeting at Diyarbakır (a city in southeast Turkey) there was a bombing, 3 people were killed and 402 were injured. There were no retaliation against this bombing. 

Elections were held on June 7th, without any major incidence. After the past 4-5 elections there were a great suspicion among opponets about the manipulation of votes and the election outcome. During this election thousands of volunteers worked all around the Turkey as observers for the safety of voting. All our family members and several friends worked at the election sites as observers. The results of the June 7th election were a big disappoinment for the President. In order to change the constitution 330 votes are needed. For the first time in 13 years, AKP lost the majority of seats in the parliament and got 40.9 % of the votes with 258 seats. A lot of non Kurdish people voted for HDP and they got 13 % of the votes and had 80 seats in the parliament. Leaders of AKP and the major opposition party, CHP, had  negotiations for days to form a coalition government, in the end they could not. Then a temporary “election government” was formed. 

After the elections Turkish army started to bomb PKK sites in Iraq. Then PKK responded to this in Turkey and  about 10 people were killed from both sides on each day. The ceremonies for the dead soldiers and policeman put the nation in a deep pain and anger. The party buildings of HDP were sabotaged all over Turkey and aggressors never found by police.  

All this has created a big fear in the people including Kurdish people. President Erdogan said to the public, “if you had voted for AKP and we got 400 deputies, none of this violence would happen”. 

Meanwhile on July 20th, a group of young university students with toys and books were on their way to Kobane (Kurdish state 15 km from the Turkish border) to help children and to start a library there. In a town close to Syrian border, Suruç, 34 of them were killed by a suicide bomber and several were injured. No serious police investigations took place after the incidence. 
 

On September the banners were hanging all around Turkey inviting people to come for a peace meeting in Ankara:
LABOR, PEACE AND DEMOCRACY MEETING
LET’S PROTECT THE PEACE AND BRODERHOOD TOGETHER
WE INVITE EVERYBODY WITH  HEARTS BEATING FOR PEACE TO GIVE A VOICE FOR PEACE TO ANKARA ON OCTOBER 10TH

The meeting was organized by several unions and NGO’s. These unions, chambers and confederations have thousands of members all around Turkey. On October 10th thousands of people came from all around Turkey by busses to Ankara to join the meeting. There were teachers, students, workers, some with their family members, some with their children. At the railway station there was a big crowd, young people were singing and dancing together while getting ready to join the meeting place. The whether was very nice with sun shining. Yet there were no police around. All of a sudden a bomb blasted, just 3 seconds later another one was blasted. All of the area was filled with dead and injured bodies. While people were trying to help the wounded, the police appeared with their tear gas and pressurised water. Ambulances could came after a while. There were 102 death, and hundreds wounded, some heavily wounded. This is called “Ankara Massacre”. All they wanted was peace!!

Later the government banned all the news related to this incident, but some of the newpapers did not obey the ban. One of the suicide bombers was the brother of the suicide bomber who was responsible from the death of 34 young people in Suruç. They had relations with ISIS. Earlier the father of the bombers asked the police to arrest their sons, but the police did not do anything. Yet, police put people in jail if they write massages on internet or twitter about the president. 

On November 1st the elections were repeated and more than 60.000 volunteers worked on the voting sites. We were at one of the voting sites. Before the elections most of the public polls estimated AKP might get maximum of 44% of votes. However, on November 1st, AKP received 49.5% of votes, about 8.5 % increase in 5 months, which was beyond the expectation of even AKP. A big shock and despair for us. At the night of election supporters of AKP celebrated this with a great joy all across the country. On the other side the opponents suffered greatly with the big defeat they felt. The whole country is now divided between “us and them”.  

There were studies showing how the popularity of AKP is increasing after each violence. According to Vamık Volkan, a professor of political psychology, the unexpected victory of AKP was based on the fear of people from the increased violence after June 7th elections. He claims after September 11th, the popularity of Bush increased to 80%. During the 5 months period between the two elections nearly 700 people were killed, mostly young civilian people, soldiers, policemen and members of PKK. Some of the towns in southeast Anatolia seized by military and the local people were not allowed to go out of their homes for long periods. Although the Ankara Massacre was done by two suicide bombers, AKP blamed PKK and HDP for these killings. Opposition parties could not do any election campaigns as they were afraid of more killings. Yet AKP used all the benefit of using media and open-air meetings. 

Another threat was on the economy, most financial activities were standing still after the June election. AKP used the feelings of people effectively with propaganda and convinced the people in great extend to vote for them for their safety and for the benefit and stability of economy. 

Turkey will have a single party AKP government for the next four years. President Erdogan wants to change parliamentary system to a presidential system. He wants to be the only decision maker without any high court supervision system. All judges and prosecutors are arranged for critical court cases and all basic human rights were severely violated. Besides, a devastating environmental destruction is all around the country, on a wide scale. The forests were destroyed everywhere for building large highways, bridges, airports, high tower buildings, hydroelectric dams, mining excavations. Court decision to stop such actions undermined by government. There was corruption at the highest level, yet it had almost no effect on the results of election. There is a strong shift to convert country towards Islam, each day Turkey is shifting away from secularism. 

The AKP government has contributed to the current crisis in Syria. They supported the opposition forces against Syrian government and sent many truck loads of weapons in illegal ways. Although these should be considered to be an international crime, no action was taken by the western countries. Inspite of all pressure on media this was published on only one of the Turkish newspapers. There are nearly 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and most of them are living in very bad conditions. Some are dying on the way to europe. As a human being we feel desperate!!! In this time of the history we can not do anything for others who are in need. 

We met two young women who decided to go hunger strike to draw attention of the public on events taking place on eastern Anatolia. They said in the eastern Turkey everybody lost their hope about having peace. We told them to believe in peace ever stronger now. Turkey needs to go through a period of healing the wounds of deep polarization which is generated over several years. The experiences of EU countries to make a new constitution or a law in a democratic way are much value. 

How the minorities and opposition parties may be involved in the decision-making processes? All the experiences of GEN on the issues of decision making, conflict resolution, deep democracy trainings and many social sustainability issues may be reflected to Turkey by appropriate channels that we will find together. Turkey is a member of EU Parliament, but not a member of EU. We would like to draw the attention of all international organizations, parliaments to follow the actions of Turkish government closely when they are not in accordance with the international laws. 

While we are struggling with the violation of human rights, various conflicts, Syrian refugee problem, terrorism in Turkey, it made us desperate to hear about the violence that occured in Paris, and Beirut resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths.  It is time to look closely what has created ISIS violence. Why they are killing themselves and many others? Bombing them will not be a solution and may generate new evil. Can we try to become healers of these souls as much as we can? We all should ask our parliaments to stop sending arms to Middle East and other problem areas. Nobody needs arms, people need peace, food, home, job, rights and similar. Priority must be given to peace negotiations in Turkey and in Syria. It is time to say “we are one, one human community".

Inci Gökmen, GEN-Europe council member

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07.01.2016