“Berkin was our heart, our brother, our comrade.”

AntiNote: The following interview was conducted by phone in the final hour of last month’s hostage situation in Istanbul by Ahmet Şik, a prominent Turkish opposition journalist who has been jailed for his writing in the past, with the two hostage-takers themselves.

Earlier in the day, a photo began circulating in social media showing one of the two hostage-takers, Bahtiyar Doğruyol and Şafak Yayla, posing in front of their group’s hammer-and-sickle insignias with a pistol to the head of their hostage, state prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. It was a disturbing photo, and spread quickly without much benefit of context or explanation in most cases. For those unfamiliar with the history and current landscape of militant left politics and conflict in Turkey, the photo was a cipher and prompted much speculation.

At any rate, there was not much time for this kind of social media speculation, much less for real information-gathering, since the Turkish authorities immediately forbade the broadcast media from reporting on the hostage situation, the violence that ended it, or the public outcry that followed. Alternative and opposition print and online outlets insufficient in their condemnation of the act were tarred as supporters of terrorism, a pretext the Turkish authorities have used in the past to harass, intimidate, imprison, and incite violence against journalists. And a few days later, the Turkish government imposed a short-lived ban on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the country.

The still ongoing campaign of censorship around this ordeal has reached beyond Turkey’s borders as well, as the government there also persuaded Facebook to shut down a list of pages it deemed in violation of their gag order. One such page was that of our comrades at Lower Class Magazine, which had published a German translation of Şik’s interview with Bahtiyar Doğruyol and Şafak Yayla along with a short foreword, all of which we present here in English.

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Fighting the Violent Patriarchy in Turkey

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Note from the LeftEast editors: The attempted rape, murder, and burning of 20-year-old university student Özgecan Aslan on Feb. 11th touched a nerve in a society where male-on-female violence has been a chronic problem. Massive demonstrations throughout Turkey followed soon after, but what will it take to stem the surge in femicide over the last decade or so?

(And an AntiNote: in a characteristic attempt to draw connections between issues and interests across movements and contexts, we would also like to emphasize evident ideological and geographical overlap between radical feminism in Turkey and the Kurdish women’s movement, which has found such striking expression in Rojava and the fight against ISIS in particular. We thus invite our hungrier readers to a second helping of Anatolian feminism, from Kurdish revolutionary scholar Dilar Dirik.)

“Women face the most extreme cases of violence when they attempt to become independent of men. The religious-conservative ideological imposition that women should behave according to their purpose of creation is the discourse that perpetuates violence against women because it encourages men to “punish” women who step outside the confines of patriarchal family.”

Mattia Gallo: Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said that women are not equal to men. This public statement is only one piece of a policy pursued by his party of conservative neoliberalism, a policy that increases precarity and poverty for men and women, and which tries to control and subordinate the role of women. What have been the effects of this policy on Turkish society since 2002, the year that brought Erdoğan’s party, AKP, to power? What are the issues that feminists have faced?

Selin Cagatay: This is not the first time that Erdoğan has stated his disagreement with gender equality. In 2010, when he was prime minister, he said, “I do not believe in the equality of men and women. I believe in equal opportunities. Men and women are different and complementary.” More strikingly, he said this at a consultation meeting with women’s NGOs, which included long-standing feminist organizations, during which he addressed women exclusively as mothers.

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The False Friends of Rojava

AntiNote: This article first appeared in Jacobin Magazine. Reprinted with permission.

All parties to the collaboration which brought this article to English-language readers were conscious and wary of the anti-imperialist/anti-anti-imperialist sideshow currently preoccupying parts of the Western Left, and we expected to hear from these quarters. We were not disappointed. Some of the article’s critics, who complained that Babacan and Çakır do not make concrete proposals, can be dismissed immediately for reasons apparent to anyone that reads the article in its entirety. In more urgent need of response are allegations of propagandizing—that the social structures in Rojava are described too glowingly and that the righteousness of the PYD and PKK is not sufficiently interrogated.

Fair enough. The AWC’s initial reaction to these jabs (and the authors surely have their own) is that in situations as complex, fluid, and violent as either the Syrian civil war or the Kurdish struggle for self-determination—which happen to overlap here, wonderful—accusations of propagandizing can be leveled at any of the information flowing from any source with an obvious stake in the conflict. More specifically, the equally propagandistic claims that the PYD is guilty of repressing Rojava’s population or that the Kurdish Movement is ‘on Assad’s side,’ have not been substantiated to the extent that Babacan and Çakır’s contrary claims have been, and certainly not to our satisfaction at the AWC.

(To deflate this entire argument, though, we suggest turning our critical attention to this week’s article by Syrian revolutionary-in-exile Yassin al-Haj Saleh, and thus on ourselves.)

Finally, in the month since this article’s publication in English the situation in Kobanê has continued to evolve. We have updated the language in a few places to reflect this, though a full appreciation of the ultimate liberation of the city, confirmed only last week, is necessarily absent. Babacan and Çakır’s calls—especially for the opening of an aid corridor through Turkey—are, however, no less relevant as the city rebuilds and its inhabitants begin to return.

We have also not reproduced Jacobin’s link citations or, regrettably, their accompanying photo essay. Both can be found and enjoyed in the original.

The False Friends of Kobanê

by Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır

The significance of the struggle in Kobanê cannot be overstated. But real international solidarity won’t come in the form of military intervention.Continue Reading

After Gezi: Erdoğan And Political Struggle In Turkey

Political struggles over the future of Turkey have left the country profoundly divided. Former Prime Minister, now President, Tayyip Erdogan, has fueled growing polarization through his authoritarian response to protests, his large-scale urban development projects, his religious social conservatism, and most recently, through his complicity in the Islamic State’s war against the Kurdish people in Northern Syria.

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The Woman in Red Speaks

translatingtaksim

Using the influence of a symbolic photograph is not a sign of justice

The woman in red (Ceyda Sungur) is not satisfied that the police officer who sprayed her is being prosecuted (http://translatingtaksim.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/policeman-who-sprayed-tear-gas-to-woman-in-red-faces-three-years-in-jail/)

woman in red

In an article she wrote in Radikal (http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/kirmizili_kadin_radikal_icin_yazdi_o_polisin_yargilanmasi_yetmez-1171207), she says:

I didn’t want to speak till now as I didn’t want to change the symbolic value of ‘the woman in red’ and I didn’t want to make an individual more important than the movement itself. But now I feel I owe an explanation especially to the families of those who were killed during Gezi. No one should talk of justice until the killers and those responsible for the killings are punished. Prosecuting a 23 years old police officer for acting alone yet still under the orders of his superiors is not sufficient compensation for the violence incited by a government who described the police…

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