Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mamoste Update--No Friends But the Mountains means....? PART 1

Outside Antakya
   (This is a two parter--I'm told that these folks reading blogs can't handle longer things and it would be a bit disjointed anyway. I will explain some the apology blog I posted recently--a bit here and in the second part which I will hopefully post next week)
         We were on vacation in Antakya, walking through the old market when we got the phonecall.  ‘15 people were just released with Ragıp Zarakolu. Was your dad one of them?’ How would we know? We ran to the nearest internet cafe and surfed the news channels. No one was saying any name but ‘Zarakolu’. Then finally prints the list of people released with the famous Nobel Prize nominated publisher, and Kemal Seven was not one of them. The disappointment was like something invisible sitting on my chest. I can’t imagine what Delal felt.

                Outside, we returned to the old bazaar and walked mostly in silence. We found a courtyard garden filled with teahouses. In the middle was an old sycamore tree surrounded by a fence. Exotic birds (peacocks and a rainbow feathered parrot like bird I could not place) pranced behind the wire and a little boy about two years old was struggling to explain them to us—though we couldn’t understand a word. Delal smiled down at him and nodded at each toddler sentence.

                ‘It’s a positive sign for us, too,’ she said at last.

                One piece of good news was that Mamoste’s cellmate, Muhsin, was released. He had been in and out of the hospital ever since he was incarcerated and reportedly his heart was operating at less than 20% of it’s capacity. (Most of the men thrown into prison after the October 2011 round-up are nearing or in their 60s—despite their supposedly training work for a guerilla army). Thank God for small mercies. But the release—with no real justification or rationale—begged the question. Either the government was deliberately releasing fifteen men they thought were terrorists (can you imagine such a thing anywhere else?) or else, they had known they were innocent all along.

                The newspapers said this, ‘They have been released by the specially authorized courts in light of the time already served and the probability that the criteria for prosecuting them will be changed.’


                Now even that positive sign looks grim—the lawyers say they’re not that hopeful.  (How could they be?  With thousands in jail, each one is handling upwards of a hundred clients) A few weeks before our vacation, the indictment was released. Over 2000 pages of surveillance, phone calls and lectures given in bugged rooms. To our utter horror, Mamoste’s name appears in 700 of those pages. Everything he does is suspicious apparently, and they seem to especially targeting him, placing his crimes on the same level as the more famous, and Turkish, prisoner Professor Buşra Ersanlı.

But this is a pattern followed in every other political show trial in Turkey—an indictment filled with surveillance, specially authorized prosecutors, round ups without warrants or bail, made up evidence. I can’t even keep up with the political trials any more—there’s the Ergenekon trial against the Kemalists, the Balyoz trial against the militarists, the KCK trials against the Kurds, the match fixing trial against Fenerbahçe (a trial which seemed trivial at first but is growing in scope and reach with each passing day.)  There are waves of arrests for the trial of the February 28th (1997) coup leaders as well as for the September 12th (1980) ones—these last two would be a good thing if the previous four trials were not full of faked evidence, coerced testimonies, forgeries, and violations of all manner of due process of law. If there were not newspaper firings every week of reporters who speak out against the trials.

                Turkey seems to be going mad these days.  This week there is a raging debate on abortion as the government prepares to force through a law completely banning it—last week the word ‘abortion’ wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow (see here). The government created the debate all within a few days.  This issue has never been a central issue for Turkey like it has in the states. Even strict Muslim law doesn’t believe a fetus has a soul till the fourth month of pregnancy so not even they put up much of a fuss—but this week it fills the TV channels, newspapers and websites. The government manufactured a controversy and now is passing a law in answer to it. ‘Raped woman must have their babies,’ a (male) AKP parliamentarian said tonight. ‘To not do so would be murder. The state will look after it.’

The same happened with education reform—within a very short time last month the need for education reform was raised, a plan was suggested by the AKP and then forced through into law—and no there was no debate or gradual introduction of change. It all happens immediately—a complete restructuring of the school system.  Now my school is scrambling now to find contractors to tear down the necessary old buildings and put up the new ones. We have no idea what the new curriculum will look like and may not it until the day before school starts next year. All done so the AKP could introduce two new elective classes into the school system—the Kuran and the Life of Mohammed.  Now the word ‘elective’ is deceptive—yes, you may choose to take these courses. But you MUST take an elective, and in the bulk of public schools they simply won’t have the resources to offer anything but what the state provides—which means most every student will be taking the life of Mohammed or The Kuran.

What else? Characters on TV shows are being forced to marry because it ‘offends the government’.  One of our favorite shows, ‘A Woman and A Man’ featured an unmarried couple, Zeynep and Ozan, that live together—it was quite witty. Zeynep’s insistence on a wedding and her man’s (Ozan’s) fear of it has been a running joke for years—now thanks to the government, Zeynep gets her wish.  It’s not the first TV program with characters forcibly married by the government—a crime show called Behzat C had the privelege of being first.

Turkish Airlines went on strike two days ago to protest a proposed law that would take away their right to strike.  Within a day, the government forced through the law and over 300 people were fired.

The government announced yesterday that they will take the only green area anywhere near us—Çamlıca where my mom, Delal, and I had tea last year—and turn it into a giant mosque that was visible from all around the city. It never came up as to whether it would look good—just that it would be big. A phallic symbol for the AKP, I suppose.

I don’t know how to explain how frightening this is to friends overseas.  The government sticks its fingers in whatever it wants and within a day, they can irrevocably alter everything from an old TV program to a country’s school structure. If there is a law within their way, they change it. If a reporter writes anything negative about what they’re doing, they have him fired. Can you imagine Obama or any other head of state forcing the characters on Friends to marry and then having the reporter of a newspaper in, say, Cleveland, fired and blackballed for writing a column saying it was silly?

Worst for us—the position on the Kurds is worsening. Arrests continue weekly (28 more today). The ruling party, the AKP, has recently made an alliance with the fascist party, the MHP--(see here though the site was blocked the last time I tried) They say they now agree on the Kurdish issue.  The massacre of 34 teenagers in the town of Uludere by the army, said the prime minister, was fine because they were probably working for terrorists or allies of terrorists anyway. A case has been opened—as of today—to ‘investigate’ the last of the BDP members of parliament—including our rep here in Kadıköy, Sabahat Tüncel. They’ve arrested the intellectuals, the journalists, the writers, and minor politicians—now it’s time to cut off the head. Leyla Zana--the woman jailed in the 90s for speaking Kurdish in Parliament was once again sentenced for free expression--10 years in prison for speeches she made urging talks between the government and the PKK (this equals supporting terrorism). It seems like an all out political attack on Kurds again--and the BBC article I plucked that last link from is of course obligated to remind us--after the bit about Zana's rights being violated--that the PKK is a terrorist group recognized by the US.  I am sick of seeing that phrase in every single article about the grotesque rights violations now inflicted en masse upon thousands of people here. It's insulting. No friends but the mountains indeed.
That is a phrase the Kurds are known by--and though I find campaigns in support of Professor Ersanlı among the general public here--the less famous thousands of Kurds also in prison get far less attention--almost as if their arrest is justified. (The PKK is a terrorist organization recognized by the...)
The case that was swallowed my father-in-law is if anything, getting larger, the mouth set to gobble and devour absolutely everyone that opposes it. As our trial approaches I am filled with this growing sense of dread.

Our trial is coming up on July 2 and will take place in Silivri—most likely it will just involve them reading out loud the 2500 page indictment before they take their summer recess. Everyone here is looking toward this trial with a terrible knot of anxiety and probably a whole host of suppressed feelings. It could ruin the lives of so many people—not just those of the prisoners but their families and friends. I learned a bit of what awaits us from the book Hrant but have been chastised for feeling that way by the author herself—which I will write about in the 2nd installment of this piece.....

I get so angry sometimes--I go out on the balcony feeling so much rage.  And that's probably just a fraction of what Delal and my inlaws feel. There is this tendency among me and my foreign friends to always make excuses, 'Well, you know, this happens in America, too' as if to make up for all the stupid and prejudiced comments we here from other westerners around us--but you know, it doesn't.  This doesn't happen in the US or in any civilized country. And I guess I will soon have to eat my own words when I told Kemalists friends here back in 2008 that I thought their fear of a religious dictatorship coming to Turkey was paranoid.

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