Thoughts as inspired by Çiğdem Su (@cigdemsu11)
“What is important is not to be fixated on their excuses especially a hundred hours after the massacre. We have seen and know what happened via social media, and whatever they claim their intentions and events are obvious under the sun. Their intent is to annihilate a people, and plans include domination of social media as well. And they are in a way aware of the nature of this medium; they let us express our anxiety here, and they give us another subject immediately after to let the mysteries of memory to work their ways and let us forget the previous events. And just for this reason, we shall not forget and not let them be forgotten. It is utmost important to say what we say here (social media), and it serves as a note to history, I accept that. But if all that is to be said is limited to social media, it would remain just that, a note to history.”
They were dozens of young men. They were poor not by trade, but by location. South-eastern Turkey, with its social unrest for over 30 years, disabled almost every legal trade or industry especially in the rural hinterland. To survive many turned to smuggling. Smuggling of petroleum products, of cigarettes, even weapons sometimes. Tormented northern Iraq was a good source for all goods prohibitive for the poor in Turkey due to World record-breaking taxation. So they visit Iraq and Syria, even Iran with mules and carry as much as they can during the dark hours through a land inhabited by only guerrillas, soldiers and lost souls. Neither the dead of the heat of summer nor the freezing cold of the winter make big difference: it is the only mode of living available to youngsters who need money to pay for their schooling if they’d have any chance of a future.
They were dozens of young men who loaded gasoline to their mules last week from Iraq. They were originally from two different villages and consisted of relatives from a few families. The area they had to pass was deserted by the military to act freely against the PKK guerrillas. They knew it. But normally the military let the smugglers to pass and turn a blind eye to them for they also knew it was the people’s last resort to survive.
On that particular night, as they approached their respective villages two groups separated to take the closest route. One group safely made it to their village. The other was caught by military’s unmanned Heron flying objects alerting the command in Malatya and Ankara. Orders were passed and F-16 aircraft was sent to bomb “suspected guerrilla activity.” After the first sortie, one of the boys still alive called on his cell one of the elders of his village to inquire if they can stop the raids since they had nothing to do with PKK. The elder of the village calls the command in Diyarbakir and told immediately that nothing can be done since the operation is handled by headquarters in Malatya and Ankara. Remaining raids kill 36 kids in total. In fact air bombing destroyed their bodies so bad that they could be identified only by their clothing after they were recovered the next day.
The oldest of the dead was 20 years old. They were simple children trying to make a few dollars for their livelihood in one of the most secluded regions of this world. Their own state annihilated them as it annihilated many of their brethren for more than three decades now. This was the first massacre.
The second started immediately after the events. The bombing took place around 23:00 hours on December 28th. There were no news in the conventional Turkish media until 10:00 hours December 29th. First tweets started to appear on Twitter around 03:00 hours of the morning. But media silence continued until a talk show host in CNNTurk mentioned the events against editorial intervention live on air. Only after Turkish Military issued a statement on the events stating that because of a “wrong intelligence” report some smugglers were dead at Uludere, even without an official apology to the families, the press started to mention it on the news. “What would you expect, they were smugglers anyways…”
The government kept silent over 30 hours.
No official was present in the funerals.
While a few journalists traveled immediately to the region, most turned a blind eye to this human tragedy.
Kurdish BDP co-leader Demirtas who is known for his patience and valor cried out loud: “This country is divided as of today. If this is only our pain, there is no reason to live together.”
And then one of my tweeps wrote the above sentences on Twitter. Which made me think that this massacre was not the first. And it unfortunately will not be the last. After such an event, powers to be in Turkey throw another bone, then another bone to public attention and erase the effects of tragedies in a society that lacks the concept of historical memory to start with.
As the popularity of the governing Ak Party (AKP) increased among the electorate, their self-confidence in doing whatever they deem went above all roofs. They became authoritarian not only in their ways to deal with the opposition but also their pressure towards the media increased. In 2011 it reached a point where the press is so afraid of broadcasting anything that might be considered against the government that self-censorship became a fact of everyday life among media managers.
But finally this is a mix made in hell for Turkish Republic. The level of oppression towards the public opinion is in the neighborhood of a junta regime, not of a democracy. And as the oppression continues, silence becomes a common asset of survival. Social Media so far seems to be the only exception for the time being. Although censorship towards free Internet is increasing with each bill on communications approved in the Parliament, so far Twitter and Facebook are widely used by any and all opponents of the regime. But as my friend Çiğdem mentioned in the above quote, Social Media is becoming a relief effort for many intellectuals in Turkey. If the opposition will not be carried over to more traditional means, it is bound to be self-serving and without any widespread consequences.
Resistance or upheaval should rise above these intellectual levels. Must be brought into the attention of Worldwide community. I accept that Social Media is a great means to start the action, but the actions need to be cumulative and speak many languages and travel many lands to produce results.
So I agree: “But if all that is to be said is limited to social media, it would remain just that, a note to history.”
(* The story of December 28 events were summarized from eye-witness accounts as told by AFP, AP and Ajans Amed)