From the Editors
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Shortly after the news of the Ankara massacre started circulating on social media, a video surfaced, showing the very moment of the first explosion, foregrounded by a group of young peace rally participants on a line of halay. The protesters were singing and dancing to prominent ozan Ruhi Su’s “Ellerinde Pankartlar,” composed to commemorate the bloody May 1 Labor Day celebrations in Taksim Square in 1977—when at least 42 people were massacred and more than 120 people were injured. When the first bomb goes off in the video, the halay group is about to utter those famous lines “this Meydan is a bloody meydan.” The bombs don’t allow that elegy to continue. The police who come after them don’t allow that elegy to continue. The press releases after them don’t allow that elegy to continue. As Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-president of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) maintains, the Ankara Massacre perpetuators, by commission and omission, will be brought to justice, and Erdoğan’s state will be declared a criminal serial killer, as it already conducts itself domestically as well as regionally. And that Ruhi Su elegy will be sung to completion here, from the top:
Ellerinde Pankartlar Banners in their Hands
Gidiyor Bu Çocuklar These youth, off they go
Kalkın Ayağa, Kalkın Get on your feet, Stand up
Gidiyor Bu Çocuklar These youth, off they go
Bu Pazar, Kanlı Pazar This Sunday, the Bloody Sunday
Dert Yazar, Derman Yazar It afflicts grievance, it provides remedy
Kalkın Ayağa, Kalkın Get on your feet, Stand up
Gidiyor Bu Çocuklar These youth, off they go
Bu Meydan Kanlı Meydan This Square, the Bloody Square
Ok Fırladı Çıktı Yaydan The arrow has sprung out of the bow
Kalkın Ayağa, Kalkın Get up on your feet, Stand up
Biz Şehirden, Siz Köyden We from the city, you from the village
With the imposition of a media blackout on all reporting about the Ankara Massacre, Erdoğan and his puppet Davutoğlu administration might be devising another crafty plan to manage this atrocity. I simply join tens of thousands of people in streets of Turkey as they demand that Erdoğan and his entourage be held accountable for the biggest massacre targeting a group of peaceful demonstrators in the modern history of Turkey. It is precisely the ordinary people of Turkey who are hurting, and they demand justice in the face of lawless mafia executions of Kurds, Alevis, leftists, and any other self-identified dissident factions that stand together in opposition to an increasingly callous and criminal authoritarian regime. And against all odds they want peace. If these people are calling for peace despite everything that has transpired, this call deserves a reply of solidarity and critical coverage, particularly in English-language media. And the Turkish state needs to be exposed for what it is in light of six massacres of massive proportions over the course of their “rule”: a criminal serial killer. Since the June 7 Elections, the total death toll in Turkey: 694 people.
First and foremost, with this piece I want to report on the Ankara Massacre in Turkey as immediately as possible. My second aim here is an analytical one—taking seriously Selahattin Demirtaş’ apt description, I approach the state in Erdoğan’s Turkey as a serial killer, which most aptly captures another subcontracted part of the Turkish state. I have previously explored the corporate-state and its outsourcing and subcontracting capitalism in Turkey in the context of the Soma Massacre. In light of Suruç and now Ankara, here I want to insist that the corporate-state under Erdoğan relies on not only taseron capitalism, but also taseron governance and sovereignty—as it subcontracts the very practice of violence itself to third-party groups within its own territory and logistically supporting them outside it, be they nationalist-fascists or Islamist fascists. Committing such massacres on such a massive scale and creating the conditions of direct targeting of its ordinary citizens, while using their basic rights of assembly to call for peace (!), cannot be a method of rule for Erdoğan’s Turkey anymore. This taseron state must cease its rogue practices and the deregulation of not only labor safety in the economy, but also public security for all of its citizenry. It is the twin fabrication and violent enforcement of precarity within the realm of the economy and marginality within that of politics that fuel Erdoğan’s state of atrocities. This is why the deployment of “fascist” as a qualifier of this state in its current conjuncture is not an exaggeration.
As I write this piece in the immediate aftermath of the Ankara Massacre, more than 500 civilians remain wounded, some in critical condition. The numbers of casualties have risen from 86 when the news first broke out on Saturday to 128 on Sunday during the drafting of this piece. They had gathered, on the initiative of a number of workers’ syndicates (KESK and DISK), trade unions, and labor organizations, calling for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the armed wing of the Kurdish Liberation movement and the Turkish state. They had gathered for “Labor, Peace and Democracy,” as called for by the title of the gathering. They were calling for an immediate end to the systematic state violence that put entire villages and towns under military curfew in Turkey’s Kurdistan for the past two months. The explosions came just hours before the news spread that the PKK-KCK was finalizing a plan of inaction (“eylemsizlik” in Turkish), which effectively amounted to a ceasefire.
Yet another day punctuated by yet another massacre in Turkey. 10 October 2015: synchronized twin bombs, smuggled into a peace rally by suicide bombers, next to the central train station in its capital, claimed more than 128 lives. They were 128 lives of the most courageous and selfless of workers, labor organizers and university students, HDP representatives and supporters, who wanted to stand in solidarity and call for peace and political engagement in the face of the rhetorical and visceral war-mongering that has in recently months taken Turkey’s Kurdistan and the rest of the country hostage. Despite the lethal environment of lynching and pogroms that have once again become everyday acts for Turkey’s Kurdish citizens, they were there to call for peace, not more violence. As much, let me reiterate what has already become one of the slogans of protest in the immediate aftermath of the Ankara massacre: “We know the murderers. We will resist against fascist attacks and massacres!”
Witnesses have reported that police forces, absent at the time of the explosion, arrived immediately after the explosions. They got there before the ambulances. Instead of helping the victims, however, the police chose to attack those helping the wounded, using tear gas and pressurized water, and refusing to create a corridor for health workers to enter the scene of the massacre and help those who needed medical attention the most. That is the primary reason why the numbers of the deceased are expected to rise in the coming hours and days.
Just to be clear, there is a critical mass in Turkey that makes these connections themselves. The way that the testimony of a survivor of the Ankara massacre has been circulating and taken up by others might be a case in point. Ayhan Benli, the survivor, writes on his social media account, “today we survived [the massacre] only ten meters from the explosion. I don’t know whether to be thankful for my survival or be mourning for those who died. But I do know one thing. The way the police shot gas canisters at us while I was pressing against a wound to stop the bleeding of a wounded person lying beside me, and the way the police hit the woman comrade next to me with his baton… Those I know I will not forget. You too, don’t forget.” As the slogan had surfaced in the immediate aftermath of the Roboski massacre, those enraged by the Ankara Massacre, calling for holding those responsible accountable, responded by saying, “If we forget, let our hearts dry up.”
As if to add insult to injury, the Davutoğlu administration released a thirty-minute press statement after the attacks—which was devoted to threats leveled against the HDP leadership and its base. No condemnation of ISIS-affiliated cells was part of the statement. Instead, Prime Minister Davutoğlu made it public that the government had issued a court order to ban the production, dissemination, and circulation of any news about, reporting on, or analysis of the Ankara massacre in Turkish visual, print, and social media while it remained under criminal investigation. It is against the backdrop of this state-sanctioned and aggressively pursued media blackout on the Ankara massacre that this piece is written. It is simply an ifsha piece, one that calls out the real criminals: the profoundly incompetent Davutoğlu administration under the sultanic control of President Erdoğan. The Turkish state and its criminal acts have to be accounted for immediately. And the responsible parties have to be held accountable.
During his visit to the KESK headquarters to offer his condolences to those who have lost their loved ones, comrades, friends, and family members, HDP Co-President Selahattin Demirtaş declared that there will be a concerted effort to proceed with a collective funeral and burials for those who have been martyred in Ankara as soon as possible. This declaration came after his description of the massacre in the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet. If one constitutive element of Erdoğan’s state is the speculative, subcontracted and deregulated modality of managing the “economy,” the other is intensification of violence directed at Kurds and other oppositional forces inside and outside its borders, while domestically the political security itself is deregulated, rendering some political gatherings as open targets for fascist attacks like the one in Ankara. Demirtaş’ historic speech, accessible with English subtitles here, testifies to the fact that Erdoğan is not very far from Assad himself by allowing extremists kill peace rally participants in their very own city, in front of the central train station:
We will not allow you to become time and time again murders of our people. Everyday we die. We are dying: we are the soldiers. We are the police. Both Kurds and Turks are us. It’s the sons and daughters of the poor folk who are dying. You are not dying. We watch every day where your sons and daughters are and what they are up to, we are dying. You and yours are not dying. Hence it is you and not us who need to be held accountable. The state is under your control, and you govern this country. You are responsible for every death. And you will account for this. Our struggle won’t cease until we bring you to justice, under an independent judiciary. We will not allow you to commit massacres in this country so freely.
Despite the historical connections with longer trajectories of state violence directed against the others of the Turkish state, Erdoğan’s “operational” mistakes in Roboski, “work accidents” in Soma, are now more shamelessly unapologetic and defiantly dehumanizing. And the state under his rule not only rents mines like in Soma, but also the Syria-Turkey and Iraq-Turkey borders as in Reyhanli and Roboski and town squares like in Suruç and Ankara to acts of violence as well as to capital accumulation. It is labor and public safety both that are being under-regulated and opened up for further negotiation. These political de-regulations of security and protection are the reason behind the deaths of our 128 people in Ankara, adding to an already horrifying number of deaths Turkey had to endure under the Erdoğan administration. From Roboski to Soma, Gezi to Reyhanli, and now from Suruç to Ankara, the Erdoğan administration’s list of atrocities re-described as passive calamities that befall the nation keeps growing and it doesn’t seem to stop at Ankara for good. As Demirtaş maintained above, no form of taseron state practices should be allowed to continue. State responsibility for corporate and criminal commission and omission cannot remain shielded from view anymore. The serial killer cannot kill with such ease anymore because again, only we are dying…
I. I am grateful for the generous feedback I have received from Anthony Alessandrini, Aslı Bâli, and Elif Sari on earlier drafts of this piece.
If you prefer, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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