My Heart Aches for Turkey – its people’s present and future

On 20 July 2012 by Carolien Geurtsen

Istanbul and Beyond is the name of the blog from Jeff Gibbs who describes himself as

“… a swamp cracker from rural Florida living in Istanbul where I’m trying to write a book comparing the South with Turkey. I also do stuff on the side. And sometimes things“.

His wife and therefore his in-laws are Kurdish and his father in law is currently, together with 139 others, on trial, being accused of terroristic activities. Jeff is keeping  an online diary of his observations and how he experiences the KCK trial in Silivri. I found Jeff’s blog with his record of Day One (July 2nd 2012) and am reading him ever since:

The KCK Trials

The courtroom is huge. The suspects sit up a front—one hundred and forty people from the prison including the famous professor Büşra Ersanlı and of course, my father-in-law, Kemal Seven. We run up the stairs to the back to get a better view. We can’t see him at first—he’s shorter than the others and everyone is so frantically waving to their families. I catch sight of him the middle, toward the back, clapping both hands up in the air. ‘I see him,’ I say. And then all the daugthers—my wife and sisters-in-law get anxious. ‘Where? Where?’ They rush up the steps for a better view and just then he pushes forward and, when he at the very back, hops up onto the back of a chair and shouts ‘Bi xer hatine!’ with arms thrown wide. This is ‘welcome all of you!’ in Kurmanci. This is the first time I’ve seen him in 9 months. (Jeff Biggs)

‘The rooms used for academic purposes at the building were normal. There were several photographs on the bulletin boards. Though I didn’t know these people personally, I guessed that they were members of a terrorist group, because they wore the sort of clothes that terrorists wear.’

The upper is part of a testimony in the process which Jeff tries to attend every time, together with his wife and his wifes family and relatives of the other accused persons. Jeff compares the process with the justice system in the South (USA) before the Civil Rights movement, as a witch hunt.

Istanbul and Beyond – more Jeff

I think I am getting a taste of what it must have been like to sit in a courtroom in the Old South. The overwhelming sense of unfairness, the verdict a foregone conclusion because of race, the whole weight of a century’s old benighted system that just won’t die. The evidence laughable to anyone looking in from the outside. 
…..Now if you sat through all that about the indictment, here is a more human switch—the only time the courtroom came to life during this monotonous reading was at the breaks when the prisoners filed in and out. This was the time when I saw the tragedy of all this most clearly—that wall of hopeful faces that rushed to the back row of the suspects’ section searching our faces for friends and loved ones. There was a big bosomed woman with a short haircut; she looked like she belonged in a commercial for frozen pizza playing an Italian grandma. There was the frizzy haired girl student and the skinny old man who wore a sky-blue suit way too big for him. There was Mamoste himself, sixty years old and adjusting his bifocals so as to see us better, and then the mother daughter team who blew kisses at a nine year old chubby girl to my left who kept calling out ‘Grandma! Grandma!’.  

Start of the KCK trial – Diyarbakir

** 13 January 2011.
Diyarbakir, a city with 1,2 million residents in south-east Turkey, will be witnessing a mass trial. In this trial, 151 persons are accused of links to the Kurdistan Communities Union, or KCK.

The prosecutors claim that the KCK is the urban wing of the banned Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (known as PKK with its Kurdish acronym) and accuse the suspects of membership of an outlawed (labelled as ‘terrorist’) organization, spreading terrorist propaganda, and undermining the state’s unity. Eleven Kurdish politicians could face life imprisonment, while the indictment calls for jail terms ranging from 15 to 36,5 years for the other 140 persons who stand accused. The trial is very controversial for several reasons. The evidence is obtained through statements of anonymous witnesses, and by using intercept evidence, such as wiretapping telephone conversations and eavesdropping in public buildings. Moreover, the trial does appear to be politically motivated. The accused are people who have been democratically elected to represent the DTP (Demokratik Toplun Partisi – Democratic People’s/*Society Party) and who were actively involved in promoting the Kurdish cultural and political rights. Among the accused are members of parliament, mayors and members of city council. The whole trial process gives the impression that it is an attempt to suppress the legally organized political movement of the Kurdish people in Turkey through the judicial system. From The International Association of People’s Lawyers   

Epilogue – Humane Rights

It is hurting to read the painful observations of Gibbs and the IAPL which make one only wonder where this will end, and foremost, íf and when.
One ofcourse has to make up his own mind but right now this seemingly incredible unfair process will continue keeping families apart, stigmatizing people and ending hopes for a better future – in freedom and togetherness with beloved ones – for so many people, and so many children and grandchildren will be affected.

In the mean time, professor Busra Ersanli, after being emprisoned 8,5 months has been set free. also one of the acused. She is a well known academic, so more in the public eye and can go home pending his courtcase. But not 90 something others, nor Kemal Seven, the father in law of Jeff Gibbs. They all have to remain in prison during the summer recess and await there the 9th day of the court case on the 1st of October.

Here it is lunchtime and I smell my breakfast on the table next to me, waiting for me since an hour or two.  I was too entangled in both reading Jeff”s last blog, day 6-7 of the KCK show trials and writing/compiling mine to start eating.
The delay being one completely of my own free will. I feel ever so lucky with my freedom but my heart goes out to all of them who are not, free.
I still love Turkey so very much, I still would want to spend many years to come in that wonderful country with so many wonderful people.
And yes I do have fond memories of dear friends who are Kurdish, are or where communists, Alevi (or gay for that matter).
And I cringe with the unfairness of the regime, the government not honoring human rights as they really should have done or start doing a long time ago.

Back to the Future

In Turkish Delight I write:

So many negative publicity about Turkey in the media,
some of it right, some of it wrong, a lot due to ignorance.
Without wanting to cover up what could be improved,
we love to share our love of the kindness, beauty and wonderful Turkey as we know it.

and that is exactly why today this blog has to be written, not wanting to cover up what could be improved and here that goes for the unfairness of Turkish justice system. Yes, justice needs to be done, so let it be Just in the nearest possible future.

* and let it be beyond any doubt that I do not agree with any act of violence, therefore also not with PKK or other terrorist actions.
But I do believe in democracy, and the KCK party was democratically formed and members on trial deserve a just trial, no matter what personal opinions are, its about actions and whether they are crimes or not.

Life in Istanbul | Mamostes Trial Day One | KCK Trial Independent Lawyers |  English site on Alevism | My connection with Turkey | Turkish Delight | release Prof Busra Ersanli

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