Government response is the same both in Artvin and Sur: violence – Pelin Cengiz

The level of democracy in a country is not measured by the government’s authority but by how it handles problems and opposition.

At the moment, Turkey is going through a period where you can make such a measurement. There is a serious crisis in the Kurdish region, and let’s take a look at what the government has been doing in the name of tackling the issue.

The latest report released by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) listed the troubles caused by the government while it is “solving” the problem. Nearly 300 civilians have been killed, dozens of burned bodies recovered from basements, bodies of dead women left naked on streets, racist and sexist slogans written on walls by police and the gendarmerie…

Today, we cannot separately analyze the government’s violence against Kurds in the districts of Cizre and Sur and its violence targeting those in Cerattepe, Artvin, protesting against the destruction of nature and protecting their habitat. There is a strong connection between these two.

Regardless of its motive, any resistance is perceived by the government as an attack on its sovereignty and authority. The government then controls the resistance either through politicians and bureaucrats or private companies. In the event it fails to succeed, it launches a crackdown on people using the police, the military or the gendarmerie.

Hence, without discriminating against geography, the government has a single answer to those battling for their right to live: violence, which is increasing more and more.

We can definitely criticize the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for digging trenches across the Southeast following the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) huge success in the June 7 general election. However, what has to be questioned is Turkey’s political climate, which led to the situation. Thus, it is necessary to question the origin of the process that led to the trenches, as well as question the trenches themselves. When we examine the past, we can see that Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments never took any steps to meet Kurds’ demands for equality. As it has now become obvious, the AKP used the settlement process as a tool for its political interests in consecutive elections, rather than for putting an end to the Kurdish issue.

What was observed both in the Southeast and Artvin is directly related to the government’s general policies. The ruling AKP gives itself the right to stage operations, impose curfews and shell people in Sur, Cizre, Silopi and Nusaybin. Likewise, the crackdown on the resistance in Artvin is a clear example of this attitude. We had the Artvin governor saying “This is beyond me,” while we saw Interior Minister Efkan Ala give orders to shoot. These offices are supposed to restore public peace. Why is the governor avoiding taking responsibility? On what grounds was the minister basing his order? The violation of authority set out in the Constitution is not legitimate; moreover it is unlawful.

Hence, the victim of state-sponsored violence is not only Kurds; it is basically anyone who stands up to government policies or demonstrates any dissidence.

Here is the question: When initiatives emerge against AKP policies that are responsible for the circumstances that create those initiatives, is the government able to develop further policies to address them?

Regardless of the location in Turkey, it is nothing but political despair to deploy soldiers or police officers on people who are seeking justice without first listening to their demands. Therefore, the government is the most culpable in this current era, where violence leads to more violence. And the state-sponsored violence, which is resorted to in every civil disturbance, is what connects Sur and Cerattepe.

In response to the many problems and terrorist attacks becoming widespread in the country, government spokesmen, in an incredibly brazen manner, say “This is not a time for polarization; this is a time for unity.” The AKP is now preaching “unity” when it is cornered after it used violence against every group dissenting against its will, discredited in every possible way any opposition since the 2013 Gezi Park protests, tried to deepen the dichotomy within society and almost adopted all these as a governing strategy.

Such speeches have been delivered by many governments up until now, but it has never sounded as phony as it does with the AKP. From terrorist attacks and assaults on women to attacks on those defending habitats in Cerattepe and the killing of dozens of civilians in Sur just because they refused to follow the government’s definition of well-behaved Kurds, violence has reached new highs in the country. We are compelled to determine the reasons behind this violence that covers pretty much every aspect of our daily lives and discuss it.

In a democratic country, the starting point of this discussion would be in the context of the domestic and foreign policies of those in power. And this is the exact fact which the AKP is trying to veil through demagogy.

This article was published by Today’s Zaman as well.

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