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Lynching psychology thrives on Kurdish question and bad governance

22.09.06
Politicians seem to be blaming each other for the seemingly inexorable,
juggernaut-like lynching psychology currently spreading across the country.
The academics, civil society representatives, trade union presidents and
authors that TDN talked with seemed to agree that most of the recent
lynching initiatives have stemmed from the impasse over the Kurdish
question.

Academic and author Tanil Bora contends that the impasse in the Kurdish
Question and the comeback of repressive policies are the major reasons
behind the recent lynch epidemic. Psychiatrist Professor Selçuk Candansayar:
Lynching has never been a reaction emerging on its own at any period of
history. It is an act encouraged, approved and condoned by the rulers.

Tanil Bora: The impasse in the Kurdish Question is the essential problem:

Academic and author Tanil Bora, known for his compelling works on
nationalism, sees the unresolved Kurdish Question as the primary source of
the increasingly rate of lynching attempts over the past two years.
According to Bora [Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader] Abdullah Öcalan's
capture was followed by a three-to-five year period of stability and
silence. Mithat Sancar refers to this state as negative peace,' and rightly
so. This indeed was a negative peace process, only the guns were silent,
nothing positive was done to establish peace permanently and allow it to
take root. The period of silence which followed the period of what is in
official jargon referred to as low intensity conflict' or guerilla war' was
mistakenly taken as proof that the question was resolved. A serious
initiative to resolve the conflict was not taken.

According to Bora, those favoring hard-line policies play a major role in
increasing societal tension. He maintains: Wide reactionary sections of the
Turkish nationalist scene, on one side the state elite -- most prominently
the army -- unnerved by the blow to status quo that would be caused by
reforms undertaken in the European Union process, on the other a
compromising stance in the Kurdish question, increased the hard-line stance,
and consequently tension. The Justice and Development Party's (AKP) failure
to follow a consistent, determined and sound' policy on the issue as well as
the PKK's attitude of provocatively' ignoring Prime Minister Erdogan's
acknowledgement of the problem as the Kurdish Question' created a favorable
ground for them.

However, Bora underlines that the increasing rate of lynching attempts
cannot be entirely blamed on nationalism. If we do that, we would fall into
the trap of ethicizing the social. The fast paced modernization and
transition to capitalism created an overwhelming confusion. I'm not only
talking about increasing poverty and unemployment after the 2001 crisis, but
about the market penetrating every aspect of life, alienation of social
relations and the dissolution in community ties and belonging getting into
the highest gear. Along with large-scale unemployment and poverty came a
vast crisis in the sense of belonging. This gives way to an immense feeling
of panic. This is why nationalism, the easiest identity with a structure
favorable to mobilize rage in particular, is appealing in such a milieu.
However, at the source lie reasons which do not completely overlap with
national problems or with nationalism in the ideological sense. The blind
rage of masses who feel the ground beneath their feet is slipping, pushing
them in despair towards conflict with those deemed to be their enemies … is
a state of humanity which might be more correctly described as fascism.

As to Turkey's peculiarities feeding the lynching psychology, Bora asserts:
We cannot talk about a social structure unique to Turkey. Most certainly, we
can mention a few factors worthy of attention in the particular case of
Turkey. In addition to the atomizing atmosphere of the age, the
criminalization of social and political organizing after the Sept. 12 coup
-- and consequently the formation of an anonymous mass society open to
mobbish groupings and provocation by fueling its feelings, without a culture
of getting organized towards a goal and without a culture of ideology and
the male dominated society and growing aggression of men brought up in this
culture as they increasingly feel under threat, both stand out as factors
unique to Turkey that contribute to the formation of a lynching psychology.
Turkey, since the establishment of the Republic, has a tradition of mass
provocations and at the same time lynching. This is a part of our
administrative history,' such as the Sept. 6-7 incidents and there are also
civilian' examples suspected of having occurred in connection with
official-illegal elements, such as the Maras carnage, or the massacre in
Hotel Madimak in Sivas. In other words, there's a mentality of resorting to
such methods through the security bureaucracy's public relations' and
psychological war' tactics. There are also movements and cadres that
consider lynching a normal phenomenon. It would be extremely difficult to
overcome this tradition' without facing this state of things, without
sentencing these masters of provocation both in court and in the public's
conscience. In addition, the education system in Turkey makes a tremendous
contribution to lynching culture with authoritarian administrators and
teachers who at times resort to outright violence.

According to Bora, some TV serials and other elements of pop-culture
contribute to the lynching culture. Pop-culture per se is not by itself the
creator of lynching culture, however it does contribute to building up its
aesthetics, language and lore, contends Bora.

Professor Candansayar: An act encouraged, approved and condoned by hegemons:

Professor of Psychiatry at Gazi University Selçuk Candansayar contends that
lynching never occurs on its own, rather that it is an act supported by
hegemons in society.

According to Candansayar: Observations explaining the increasing rate of
lynching and lynching attempts with either the lack of confidence in justice
or backwardness indicate that what is going on in Turkey is not entirely
understood. He also says no society has a natural inclination towards
lynching. Lynching is not a product of the people taking the law into their
hands in periods where justice is malfunctioning. Asserting that people make
their own law when the law does not function is tantamount to viewing
society as a herd of savages' who can only be controlled or tamed by law.
Lynching is never a phenomenon which emerges on its own. It is an act
encouraged, approved and condoned by hegemons.

He also states that violence is encouraged by rulers: Lynching is a call
>from society to itself to homogenize. Encouraging expressions of violence on
the part of administrators is a result of efforts to create a disciplined
and violent herd' with all its members homogenized, with its friends and
foes divided by sharp lines. Turkey differs from other nations. There are no
variables other than religion and national identity as agents of
standardization. As such, one should see that the increasing rate of
lynching is nothing but the practice of a civil war or civil carnage
triggered by these two variables.

Mesut Yegen: Lower levels of public control are to blame:

Sociologist Mesut Yegen from the Middle East Technical University thinks
that in societies with laxer public control, the phenomenon might arise.
Lynching is only one of many states in the human condition, according to
Yegen, who does not think that it is ac part of cultural traditions like the
stoning punishment of recm in Islamic societies. I don't think lynching can
be simplified to a cultural state, for it might occur in all cultures.

DISK President: Perpetrators left unpunished:

Süleyman Çelebi, president of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers'
Unions (DISK), says the increase in lynching incidents is connected to the
obstruction of democratic expression. Furthermore, the perpetrators of
lynching incidents are not being punished.

Çelebi says: There are attacks against people expressing their reaction
democratically by people who consider themselves the owners of this country.
The lenience of governors, police chiefs and other local administrators
towards these incidents, [sometimes amounting to] even provocation, has led
to lynching increasingly becoming a way for people to express
dissatisfaction. Certainly it is only natural for the public to voice what
it is sensitive about, but it is not their job to give punishments. They do
not legally possess that right. This reaction is also canalized through
completely false associations. For example, people are very sensitive about
the increasing number of funerals for Turkish soldiers. Regardless of their
political views, the reaction of every individual to these funerals focuses
on PKK terrorism, and people include everyone in that category and carry out
lynching attempts. However, the perpetrators [of such acts] are never
punished. Let alone facing no penalty, they are being rewarded. If there are
any loopholes in the legal system they need to be corrected. Legal action
must be taken against individuals who participate in these incidents.

KESK President: Poverty and exclusion are also factors:

Ismail Hakki Tombul, president of the Confederation of Public Workers'
Unions (KESK), sees the primary reason for the increasing number of lynching
attempts in the formation of a society in line with the Turkish-Islam
synthesis as attempted by the Sept. 12 coup. According to Tombul, this
approach boils down to Not giving the right to live to those who do not
think like me. A second reason is the anger created by poverty and social
exclusion. The attitude of administrators, approving and encouraging such
attempts -- like Istanbul's Police Chief -- instead of punishing the
perpetrators, also contributes to the problem. The culture of living
together is being marred. We should defend living together in a free, equal
and democratic atmosphere and accepting our differences. I think this is a
result of psychological tendencies. It cannot be explained by lack of
authority, because they can demonstrate authority very well at times. For
instance, do you think that the Istanbul Police Chief's words reflect a lack
of authority? On the contrary, they show a conscious preference. These are
all caused by the systematic and structured way of thinking in Turkey which
has preventing different people living together, maintained Tombul.

MAZLUM-DER President: Those who condone such acts share responsibility:

Ayhan Bilgen, head of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for
Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER), says lynching within a state of law is
unacceptable. Bilgen elaborates: In particular the tendency of the society
to feel actively responsible for events and [able] to act as a judge and
give punishments accordingly cannot be accepted in a state of law. The
encouragement of this by public officials with such expressions as aware
citizens' is also worrisome. The reason behind these incidents is the
increase in societal anger and hatred. Rise of tension in the Turko-Kurdish
conflict and some sections of society being more actively involved in these
incidents -- as the case was in the Ismailaga mosque lynching -- are also
worrisome. The way to prevent these is to find the perpetrators and bring
them to justice. There are attempts to turn this into a civil conflict.
Those who make encouraging statements, expressions calling society to duty,
those who condone these events in any way are equally responsible.

In reply to a question about whether this is a systematic process or not,
Bilgen says: In my opinion, this indicates to the presence of a different
search as in the post-Sept. 12 period. It is a repetition of assigning
conflict-resolver' duty to some sections.

Ipek Çalislar: The state is apathetic:

Ipek Çalislar, central executive board member of the Association for
Educating and Supporting Women Candidates (KA-DER), researcher and author,
thinks that the state is insensitive to the problem. We are a society which
tends to see things as black and white, we always rush to punish. However,
we are not that keen on fighting for our rights. A person can think he has
the right to punish another who thinks differently, personally wanting to be
the executor, because he does not know where citizenship starts and where it
ends, and does not care to know. The state, on the other hand, is extremely
insensitive about such issues. It can even start promotional sales to get
rid of excess weapons in its inventory. Lynching attempts are the
consequences of tension and polarization. Lynching is the problem of
countries which are not well managed, where politics is not mature and where
the principle of the rule of law does not function correctly. We have to
change and we will change even if it is painful, insisted Çalislar.

Recent lynching attempts:

6 April, 2005 -- Crowd attempts to lynch four members of the Association for
Inmates' Families' Solidarity (TAYAD) as they are protesting, based on
rumors that the demonstrators had been seen burning the Turkish flag in
Trabzon. The demonstrators are arrested.

10 April, 2005 -- Angry mob attempts to lynch TAYAD members protesting in
defense of their arrested friends in Trabzon. The governor says Those who
hurt peace have to pay for it.

12 April, 2005 -- In Sakarya, five young people demonstrating against the
recent attacks on TAYAD members are attacked by a crowd of hundreds of
people.

22 Aug., 2005 -- Five people from the southeastern towns of Siirt and
Diyarbakir face the threat of a lynching at the hands of 1,500 people in
Izmir, where they were detained on suspicion of having links with the PKK.

6 Sept., 2005 -- Two busses driving to Gemlik to join demonstrators showing
support for Abdullah Öcalan are stoned in Bozüyük.

10 Oct., 2005 -- A group threatens that there will be bloodshed and beats up
15 members of the Socialist Platform of the Repressed while they are making
a press statement in Kayseri.

2 Nov., 2005 -- Members of TAYAD are stoned in Rize. Governor Enver
Salihoglu maintains that The citizens were provoked. Member of Parliament
Abdülkadir Kart said the people of the Black Sea had been taught the
necessary lesson. Mayor Halil Bakirci reported that TAYAD members tried to
unfurl banners. If I had known that it was them, I would have gone there and
hit them myself.

12 Dec., 2005 -- A lynching attempt against four members of the Fundamental
Rights Federation while they are handing out political flyers in Samsun.

31 Dec., 2005 -- Two young people from TAYAD protesting in the streets are
badly beaten. They are tried without an arrest.

28 Jan., 2006 -- Ultranationalists beat up Turkish Communist Party (TKP)
members selling newspapers in Ordu.

25 Feb., 2006 -- Members of the ultranationalist platform the Idealist Club
attempt to lynch an individual in Izmit, after they claimed he kicked the
Turkish flag.

30 March, 2006 -- Two students who put up posters of in Sakarya are almost
lynched by a group which later attacked the local branch of the Democratic
Society Party (DTP).

8 April, 2006 -- A right-wing group attacks 15 members of the Turkey Youth
Federation while they stage a sit-in protest.

8 April, 2006 -- A group tries to lynch university students in Isparta,
claiming that they are PKK members.

12 May, 2006 --Ten members of TAYAD are attacked by an ultranationalist
group while handing out flyers.

21 May, 2006 -- In Izmir a group of around 100 ultranationalists attack the
homes of families from the town of Bitlis, following the death of the
Idealist Club's vice-President Sami Ören in a clash with a group from the
town. Two families, numbering about 100 people, leave Izmir.

20 July, 2006 -- Members of the Federation of Fundamental Rights and
Freedoms Association in the Kiyiköy district of Kirklareli refuse to turn
over two members to gendarmerie forces. Angry crowds attempt to lynch 61
people brought to the district of Vize after rumors circulate that that they
are PKK members.

22 Aug., 2006 -- A student in Tokat is beaten up by a group claiming he
chanted pro-PKK slogans.

29 Aug., 2006 -- A thousand people try to lynch 25 workers of Kurdish origin
in the city of Bozkir, Konya. The victims are driven out of the district.

30 Aug., 2006 -- Four members protesting against sending troops to Lebanon
during Victory Day celebrations were attacked for unfurling banners.
Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah praised the reaction saying it was
correct.

3 Sept., 2006 -- Mustafa Erdal, who murdered Bayram Ali Öztürk, a leader of
the Naksibendi sect, is lynched by members of the sect in an Istanbul
mosque.

by Göksel Bozkurt - Baris Altintas

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