Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cypriot society, Turkish politics: Afrika

Now, I just want to present a basic account of two days of nationalist rallies in northern Cyprus, including nationalists' redirection of popular feeling against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK)) against the pro-democracy voice of Afrika newspaper.

Cyprus Indymedia Collective reported that:
In Cyprus there were pro-war demonstrations by right-wingers and Grey Wolves (a State-sponsored Fascist organization) in Ammohostos /Famagusta (Magusa), Kyrenia (Girne) and Lefkosia (Nicosia).

In Lefkosia the nationalists attacked the offices of pro-democracy opposition newspaper "Afrika" (formely known as "Avrupa") where the mob attempted to enter in order to lynch the occupants - they were repelled by Police officers of the occupation regime....

In this terrible climate, where every progressive voice for Peace is targeted as being that of a "traitor", it takes monumental courage and determination to speak out against the impending war.
Famagusta to northern Nicosia

23rd to 24th October 2007

'Protests [in Famagusta] in occupied Cyprus to condemn the PKK attacks against Turkish soldiers', were followed the next day by a '[d]emonstration against the PKK in occupied Nicosia [that] was turned into a demonstration against Afrika newspaper'.

I watched the nationalist march-cum-rally-cum-commemoration in Famagusta, which Kıbrıslı said about five thousand people attended(1). It was run by older activists, quite possibly associated with one of the Turkish state or para-state organisations.

I heard them gathering and followed the sound to Sakarya Çemberi, upon which stands an absurd, building-height bronze sculpture, crowned by the head of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

First, they marshalled their followers at the roundabout, which is next to the temporary Museum of Genocide (geçici Soykırım Müzesi); there (I think speeches and) chants, etc. enthused the crowd.

Second, they marched them into and through the old town.

On the way, the youths were shouting the typical catchphrases about the Kurdish problem, like, "Kürt Türk kardeştir [Turks and Kurds are siblings]", sometimes adding, "ayrım yapan kalleştir [creating difference is treacherous]"; and "kahrolsun PKK [damn the PKK]", or "kahrolsun PKK, işbirlikçi ABD [damn the PKK, the collaborator USA]"; less common ones included, "giderken dönmeyi düşünmediler, bayrağı sancağı indirtmediler [on going, they didn't think about returning, the flag, the standard was not lowered]".(1)

There were lots of variations upon the theme "hepimiz askeriz [we are all soldiers]" - "hepimiz askeriz PKK’ya yeteriz [we are all soldiers, enough to the PKK]", "hepimiz askeriz emanet isteriz [we are all soldiers, we want security]" and ("Mehmet" being a generic name for "a soldier"), "hepimiz kardeşiz, hepimiz Mehmetiz [we are all siblings, we are all Mehmets]", "hepimiz Mehmetiz, hepimiz Türküz [we are all Mehmets, we are all Turks]" and "hepimiz Mehmetiz, savaşa hazırız [we are all Mehmets, prepared for battle]".(1) In addition, there was the ubiquitous "vatan bölünmez, şehit ölmez [the homeland will not be divided, martyrs do not die]!"

As Serhat İncirli countered, 'hepiniz Mehmet değilsiniz [you're not all Mehmets]!'
Fakir, yoksul Mehmetler, doğrudur asker ve gerekirse şehit olur. Saygıyla selamlarım görevde şehit düşen Mehmetleri.

Ama zengin Mehmetler, Ray Ban gözlükler, siyah takım elbiseler ve kravatsız beyaz bağrı açık gömleklerle yürüyüşlerde bozkurt işareti yaparlar!

.... Türkiye'de hiçbir ünlünün, zenginin oğlunun şehit olduğunu duydunuz mu?

.... Zengin Mehmetler şehit olmaz. Onlar bozkurtculuk yaparlar.(2)

[Poor, destitute Mehmets, it is true become soldiers and, if necessary, martyrs. My respectful regards are for the Mehmets falling as martyrs in the line of duty.

But rich Mehmets, with Ray Ban sunglasses, black suits and tieless, open, white shirts in the marches, indicate Grey Wolves!

.... Have you ever heard of a well-known, rich person's son becoming a martyr in Turkey?
My translation of the concluding line is, if I'm lucky, imprecise, but, in the first, İncirli plays on the slogan, "martyrs do not die":
Rich Mehmets do not become martyrs. They become Grey Wolves.]
Third, on arrival at Lala Mustafa Paşa Camii (formerly the Latin Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas), however, the leaders took a particular line of invective, sloganeering about Kurds, Greeks and Armenians in a manner very reminiscent of the Siirt secret policemen's front organisation, the Federation of Associations of Families of Veterans and Martyrs (Gazi ve Şehit Aileleri Dernekler Federasyonu).

Fourth, they continued chanting en route to the Victory Monument (Zafer Anıtı); as it came into view, most fell silent and those who did not were quickly shouted down. There, they sang the national anthem.

After that, they dispersed, chanting their favourite slogans as they walked back through the town.

I had been truly disturbed watching it, the embodiment of the Two Minutes Hate and Hate Week of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:
The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. (Orwell, 1949: 18)

Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. (Orwell, 1949: 20)
On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns - after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces - at just this moment
it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. (Orwell, 1949: 247)
At the demonstration in Nicosia on the 24th of October, slogans included, 'Unutmadık Unutmayacağız [we haven't forgotten, we will not forget]", "Herşey Vatan İçin [everything for the homeland]", "Bayrağı Uzanan Eller Kırılsın [let the hands of those reaching out for the flag be broken]" and "Türkiye Burada Hainler Nerede [Turkey is here, where are the traitors][?]" ().

Unfortunately, the protesters ignorantly believed they knew where the traitors were, targeting pro-democracy Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Afrika, telling it, "Afrika, yerin bura değil! Kandil Dağıdır! [Afrika, your place is not here! It is in Kandil Mountain]!" The protesters suggested that "Afrika PKK elele [Afrika and the PKK are hand-in-hand]"(4), that "PKK'nin sözcüsü Afrika [the PKK's spokesperson is Afrika]!" Afrika characterised it as a 'lynching madness [linç cinneti]'(3).

This was expressed very clearly when 'a black wreath was found, left on the front of Afrika newspaper's building.... With difficulty the police blocked the crowd wanting to enter Afrika newspaper. [Afrika Gazetesi'nin bulunduğu binanın önüne siyah çelenk bıraktı.... Afrika gazetesine girmek isteyen kalabalık polis engeliyle karşılaştı.]'(3)
  1. Kıbrıslı, 23/10/07: "Hepimiz askeriz PKK'ya yeteriz".
  2. Serhat İncirli, Afrika, 25/10/07ö 6: "Hepiniz Mehmet değilsiniz".
  3. Afrika, 25/10/07, 1-3: "Linç cinneti".
  4. Faize Özdemirciler, Afrika, 25/10/07, 3: "301 kere kahrolsun, 301 kere bravo".

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