Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Latest KCK Trial at Silvri and Interview by Ezgi Başaran with Burhan Kuzu

This December, the third leg of the KCK trial and Silivri resumed. I took off work the first day to attend the opening day. Not much was going on. The overwhelming security forces were gone from outside the prison at least—no line of tanks this time only dead fields and a cold grey sea. Inside the prison, the security people at the front were happy to see me back. They shook my hand and asked me how things were going. Even the woman who ran the metal detector was smiley and helpful, as were the guys who worked the tea counter (one of whom looks remarkably like a Seinfeld character). The trial was uneventful—page after page of the TV anchorman reading through the indictment. Garbled phone calls, anonymous testimony, again the phrase ‘and then the organization showed its true ugly face’. The only point, really, was to see my father in law at the breaks. To make eye contact and wave at him across the shoulders of the young gendarmes—the first and only time I have seen him since the end of the hunger strike.

What was not publicized, in fact I have not yet seen it in any newspaper, was that all of these prisoners—all of whom went on hunger strike during the last leg of the movement—are now undergoing a second trial—kept very low key of course. Their crime? Insubordination. Banging on walls, shouting slogans, creating an uproar. For this, they want to punish my father-in-law with a year and a half without family visits. They began the week before the main one.

Toward the end of this trial—Judge Ali (whom I have profiled before) did something that I thought was very tellling. He insisted that they skip over the ‘philosophy lectures’that appeared in the indictment-(this had been a school after all). Page after page of expoundings on quantum mechanics, evolution, and the like. ‘It’s too hard,’ he complained. ‘Listening to it will give everyone a headache!’ The defense lawyers objected of course, ‘You clearly saw this as part of the crime because you are the ones who put it in the indictment in the first place,’ went the argument. ‘It should be read, too.’ Ali’s reaction, a sigh and ‘Let the torture begin!’ Poor little fellow—he reminds me of some of my own sixth graders. What does this show, though. An intolerance for ‘them anti-God theories like Evilution’ or that these people really aren’t all that smart and are just pawns for someone else behind the scenes or that they are all simply anxious to get to the prewritten ending? Or all three?

We met with a lawyer in one of the other KCK cases on Christmas day (Happy Holidays!) . They refer to these cases as ‘waves’—I think our trial belongs to the second or third wave and the lawyer has the fifth wave though there are so many, it’s hard to keep track. The prisons are swelling. Just today, January 1st there was a new wave of arrests. Anyway, the lawyer said that ‘my colleagues and I all understand there will be no acquittals.’ ‘At all?’ I asked. ‘You’re sure?’ He nodded.

I can’t explain how tiresome this all is—this charade of a fair trial, this game we play, pretending all of this is part of the process of justice when everyone knows that it is political persecution. It takes a huge emotional toll, and you aren’t even aware of the daily wear and tear. When the trial ended with only four releases (on bond only) and my father in law was not one of them, I burst into tears. Anger, Sorrow? Frustration? All of these at once? My inlaws say that the AKP is trying to wipe out all oppositon--permanently. It sounded extreme (how naive am I?) until I read this interview in the Radikal with Burhan Kuzu—a high official in the AKP.
The man himself

I translated this article myself. Ezgi Başaran wrote it in a series of interviews the Radikal is doing with AKP officials. If there are any mistakes or misrepresentations here—they are my own and not the fault of Ezgi Başaran. The article originally appeared in 24 December, 2012’s edition. I asked her permission to translate. It was written following a shocking police crackdown on students at the Middle East Technical University who came out to protest when the Prime Minister visited for the launching of the ‘Gokturk 2’ satellite and talks also of the PM’s push to punish the TV drama ‘Magnificent Century’ and a recent statement he made that the separation of power principle caused him some discomfort. This man Burhan Kuzu is the chairman of the commission to write Turkey's new constitution and during the height of the hunger strikes made the statement that 'education in Kurdish was yielding to the Devil's temptation.'

For an article on the protests—click here.

‘The Reason for all the Uproar about the Separation of Powers is Two Hospitals.’ By Ezgi Başaran, December 24th. RADIKAL

An AKP parlementarian and the chairman of the constitutional commission, Professor Burhan Kuzu served as a university lecturer for 30 straight years. After becoming a parlementarian, his relationship to students changed. He comments on the roll of police on university campus in light of two incidents; a conference last year in Ankara University’s Department of Political Science in which he was egged and the events this past week at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

The Rector at Middle East Technical University, in reference police intervention in the student protest, told Murat Yetkin from the Radikal newspaper ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ Have you?

As a man of science who has addressed students for over 30 years, I know their mentality well. They always react in a kneejerk faction against the established order because of their age and position. This is natural, but when they resort to brute force the police force must enter the fray. In the pre-1980 consitution, there was a law which states ‘The police cannot enter the universities.’ Then the law changed. If the adminstration calls, the police may enter. Depending on the ideology of the administration, the police were either called or not called. As a result, 5200 of our youth died, on the left and the right. It was a blood bath. The gendarmes began to enter schools the police couldn’t enter. Whenever I was giving a lecture, the gendarmes were there. If the students started to quarrel, a gendarme would come to me and ask,‘Do you want me to shoot him?’ If I had said ‘shoot’ he would have shot. However you look at it, all of this comes from these students not knowing the value of the freedoms they are given. There are over 200 ways to stage a legitimate protest in the name civil disobedience.

How do you know that the students at METU were not using one of these legitmate methods?

The Prime Minister, the Chairman of Parliament, the Chief of Staff, and many other high officials were there. It was a very important day. A celebration was to be held for a device we had sent into space. The students did not feel any joy in this.

Why didn’t they feel it?

This may be our fault. And I am speaking of ‘us’ as a nation. How did those children come to this? What is the source of the ideology behind this? Why would you protest sending a device into space?

Were they there to protest the spacecraft or the state officials?

But those state officials went there for the spacecraft! What did our great prime minister say? ‘They stoned us!’ This is unacceptable. Aside from that, if these students cannot feel joy at such a wondrous event, then other things come to my mind.

What other things?

That information shall remain with me.

Okay, but what I’ve been trying to ask from the start is the attitude of the police.

Let me give you a personal example. The Department of Political Science called me to a panel discussion. Süheyi Batum (from the opposition CHP party) was going to speak before me. They called me and said‘The students are going to protest’. I said, ‘Then cancel it! But cancel Süheyl Batum’s panel as well because I am in politics. If he speaks then I’ll go there even unto death.’ That was exactly the way I put it. They didn’t cancel Süheyl’s panel and they protested him. If you’ll remember, he also got angry and told the students ‘What you’re doing is called fascism!’ Then I entered the hall and they began raining eggs on us. We were a mess. We were of course forced to leave. Afterwards I called the dean and said ‘Where are you, most honorable Dean? How is the view from where you are? You weren’t here and none of your assistants were here! What is the meaning of this? Resign immediately!’

As someone with political power do you think saying something like that to a dean is normal?

Very normal! His own school’s student club asked me to come. Then they threw eggs at me. It’s not like I made them invite me.

You said ‘Then I’ll go there even unto death.’

I said if Süheyl goes on, then I’m going on. Don’t go off half-cocked and write just anything. Write everything I say.

You can be assured that I will write everything exactly as you say it.

Look, besides, they put Süheyl’s panel in classroom A and mine in classroom B, because A was the new one and they didn’t want the eggs to mess it up. If this dean won’t resign then who will?

Resigning is the dean’s decision

No! It’s my decision. That's not how it is at all. I must be able to say it.

You must not be able to say it. After all, a university dean isn’t dependent on you.

No, that's not how it is at all. Let’s put an end to this interview.

Let’s try to continue. I’m trying to understand you.

This is not a problem of autonomy. I don’t have the authority to remove him from office. If I did, I would already have done so. (Note: The deanship of Ankara University’s Political Science Department passed from Celal Göle to Professor Yalçın Karatepe in February 2012.) If a provincial governor or governor did such a thing would you tolerate it? But here universities are autonomous, you’ll say. It must not be so. And besides, despite all of this, I did not file a case against the students who threw eggs. I want to emphasize this. In other words, I too possess the virtue of tolerance.

Do the police possess it?

If this had happened in America, the American police would have crushed them like a bull dozer. I’m not saying that’s the right thing, I’m just saying this to all those who look to Europe and America as examples. Sometimes on the internet you can see a group of American police gathering around one of their fellow citizens and beating him. But every time my police do anything...

There was a video on the internet of 7 police in Turkey kicking a fellow citizen. Did you see that?

It’s happened, yes, but I’m not saying it’s right.

At the beginning of our discussion about the presence of security forces on campus, you went as far back as the days before the 80s when the gendarmes would come into your lectures. Has that presence changed much today?

It’s changed enormously. But whenever there is a danger to life and limb, the police will come. Naturally, the are going to be around. For things not to come to this point, our students must take care as well. If you say it was just eggs...in Switzerland a man’s retina was scratched and he went blind. What right do they have to blind me? Are they going to say ‘Let the eye of the AK party be blinded!’ afterwards?

Okay, are you saying that the reaction of the students was just a result of their being hot headed youth?

Students are the same everywhere. They have registration papers in hand, they go to Hopa, from there they go to Ankara, from there they go to Antalya...

Are you referring to the representatives of the organized student movements like the Student Collective and the Village Homes.

Yes, them! Like you said, there is no widespread student protest movement like there was before 1980. They are the same children. Those who conduct these movements on the street are seeking to foment chaos. The military has retreated to the barracks, the courts have been normalized, now all that’s left is the street. Only the movement on the street is hoping that they can do something to this government.

As you say that the courts have been completely normalized, why don’t we change the subject. The prime minister made clear that he feels uncomfortable with the separation of powers. I wonder if he is not of the same opinion about the courts?

The statement of the prime minister was taken too much at face value by the public. Your question is somewhat of the same ilk. Anyway, if the prime minister felt uncomfortable with the separation of powers, then he would not make such a fuss over the presidential system.

I was asking what was meant by the being ‘uncomfortable’ with the courts.

He’s not complaining about the courts in general but feels uncomfortable with certain decisions. In other words, the courts are normalized but there may be three to five decisions and these three to five decisions really hurt Turkey. No where in the world do politics and the courts get along. It’s natural. Ozal and Demirel both quarreled with the courts but this does not mean that they were against the separation of powers. That’s not what the prime minister is saying.

Which decisions make the prime minister uncomfortable?

For example, many of our citizens have acquired real estate in foreign countries. The Constititutional Court protests the law of reciprocity on principle in this case. Okay, am I going to ask you as the Parliament—never mind that there doesn’t have to be an equal exchange for everything--okay, let me designate what it is.

Is this not one of the channels for checks and balances in a democracy?

I understand that but it limits power. The issue of privatization is this way as well and in the end, as a country, we are suffer material loss. Moreover, the Constitutional Court does not stick to a decision. This uproar over separation of powers is ultimately about two hospitals. The prime minister wants to build two hospitals, one on the Asian side and one on the European. Enormous hospitals. The locations have been made clear. For example,( in hospitals of this size), it’s not taking a patient from one section to another by stretcher, but by rail system! That this plan was halted of course upsets him.

What was the reason the plan was halted?

I don’t know the details. Maybe a fellow citizen complained. We’ve seen this before in Marmaray. A few pots and broken ships surface during construction and all work stops. Who knows for how long? The matter goes to Natural and Cultural Heritage, let them research it, they say. For years, no report comes out of them. The oligarchic system you speak of is this very thing. Come on, just look at it and tell us—is this historical or not?

You’re saying this research eats up a lot of time then?

Of course! More than a decade. This is how matters of this nature are viewed, but they must not be. Everything needs to be quick.

But you know that investigations and trials take a long time. It’s been a year since Uludere for instance, but we still don’t know what happened.

It has been a year since Uludere but how many years for these ancient pots and pans? It remains to be seen whether these bones and ancient cookingware were put on the dig site after the fact. We don’t know. You are young, but we have seen some things in our time. For example, it came up once that a man’s fields were going to be made public property. Then he tossed a few bones into the fields and said, stop and work on that for a while. What makes the prime minister angry is the loss of time and the ideogical views of some judges. To reflect these views they misuse the power they possess and no sanction can be applied. You can’t ask ‘Why did you make this decision!’

Should the views of Turkey’s most powerful person affect a statue or a community, or even a TV series?

You are referring to the prime minister in a sneaky way, aren’t you? I get it. If a normal citizen can use his freedom of speech, then so can the prime minister! There are no mandate in his words.

But the statue was torn down...

There were other legal problems with that statue. That’s not why it was destroyed. And the Magnificent Century is still on the air. Only Hurrem (Roxelana) has started to do the Muslim prayer, that’s all that’s changed. In my opinion, it’s too little too late. That program does not show Sultan Suleyman properly. You watch it and all you see is sex! Even TV shows that speak about historical figures need to be careful.


Capenwray said...

Unbelievable stuff! Thanks for translating.

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