Skip to main content

Ayse Berktay

There is still no word of Ayse Berktay's release from prison in Turkey. Guardian online has just published this article by her friend, Ayça Çubukçu.

"There is a growing disjuncture between those who promote modern-day Turkey as a democracy and those who experience Turkey as a land of arbitrary detentions, political repression and military destruction.

In the past two years, the Turkish state has imprisoned thousands of its citizens under the sweeping rubric of counter-terrorism operations. The recent wave of arbitrary detentions known as the KCK operations has cast such a wide net that participation in a single protest or petition could constitute evidence of an intention to commit terrorism – if not directly, then certainly by association.

Today, even relatively privileged academic colleagues in Turkey face the prospect of sharing the fate of Professor Büşra Ersanlı of Marmara University, whose detention in October 2011 as an alleged terrorist was proudly defended by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development party (AKP).

Professor Ersanlı's imprisonment has received considerable attention in Turkey and beyond, prompting petitions, protests, and academic initiatives by her colleagues and others concerned with the deteriorating prospects of democratic politics in Turkey. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch have issued statements condemning Ersanlı's arrest as "part of a crackdown on people engaged in legal political activity with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party".

A political scientist by training, Professor Ersanlı is one among thousands of Peace and Democracy party (BDP) members – including elected parliamentarians, mayors, students and intellectuals – who have been imprisoned on account of their activism in support of the rights of Kurdish citizens in Turkey.

Some "progressive" commentators insist that Turkey, compared to many other states, at least in the Middle East, is an example of a successful democracy. Just observe, they suggest, the booming economy in the midst of a global recession, the popular wedding of "moderate Islam" and "secular" parliamentary politics and the emergence of an independent Turkish foreign policy critical of Israel and supportive of democratic forces in the Arab spring.

But is this the most that the peoples of Turkey, the Middle East and the world could hope for? Why should contemporary Turkey constitute the limit of our political imagination? Why should a state that parades its "development" through drones it purchases from the US, a state that imprisons professors, journalists, translators, lawyers, workers, and students and treats as terrorists the members of a political party representing millions of citizens – why should such a state be one to promote or follow?

Last summer, at a cafe near Istanbul's Taksim Square, I met a dear friend, Ayşe Berktay, a renowned translator, researcher and global peace and justice activist. Having not seen each other for months, we chatted as usual for a few hours about our families, lives and politics.

I am not sure when, if ever, Ayşe and I will meet at a cafe again. She is now imprisoned for an unknown period of time.

My colleague Professor Büşra Ersanlı and dear friend Ayşe Berktay are only two women among many other members and supporters of the BDP who were imprisoned as suspected terrorists in October. Another wave of arbitrary detentions followed in November, and yet others will certainly come. Whether one chooses to call them "ordinary citizens" or "activists", increasingly, politically engaged people in Turkey are expecting that strangely familiar, five o'clock in the morning knock on their doors.

This is only one reason why the widening gap between those who promote contemporary Turkey as an example to be followed by the democratic forces of the Arab spring, and those who experience the Republic of Turkey as a threatening agent of political repression, is increasingly troublesome.

At this historical moment, when daring political energies and creative imaginations are at work worldwide – from Tahrir to Taksim Square, from Damascus to Diyarbakir – we can demand much more than the example officially offered by Turkey. To do otherwise would risk betraying not only the future of democratic politics in Turkey and beyond, but all those who have already paid dearly for that future through the imprisonments, deaths, wounds and disappearances they have endured, even welcomed, during long periods of military rule and parliamentary politics alike."


Popular posts from this blog

'Not as dumb as he looks' - Muhammad Ali on Bertrand Russell

In his autobiography The Greatest: My Own Story, Muhammad Ali recounts how Bertrand Russell got in contact with him, and their ensuing correspondence:

For days I was talking to people from a whole new world. People who were not even interested in sports, especially prizefighting. One in particular I will never forget: a remarkable man, seventy years older than me but with a fresh outlook which seemed fairer than that of any white man I had ever met in America.
My brother Rahaman had handed me the phone, saying, ‘Operator says a Mr. Bertrand Russell is calling Mr. Muhammad Ali.’ I took it and heard the crisp accent of an Englishman: ‘Is this Muhammad Ali?’ When I said it was, he asked if I had been quoted correctly.
I acknowledged that I had been, but wondered out loud, ‘Why does everyone want to know what I think about Viet Nam? I’m no politician, no leader. I’m just an athlete.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘this is a war more barbaric than others, and because a mystique is built up around a cham…

Jeremy Corbyn: Internationalist at Work

Another featured article from the latest issue of The Spokesman comes from the 2011 edition of J. A. Hobson's Imperialism. Jeremy Corbyn penned the book's foreword, which we reprint here under the title 'Internationalist at Work'.
As a separate point of interest, we also include this comparative image of the logo of publication The Week, circa 1960s, and Corbyn's recent campaign logo. Cut from the same cloth? 

Internationalist at Work
J. A. Hobson wrote his great tome at a different age. His thoughts were dominated by the zenith of the British Empire and the Boer War. The outcome of the war demonstrated Britain’s then ability in sustaining global reach, since Elizabethan times, but also its extreme vulnerability. At home the poor physique of working class soldiers led to Haldane’s investigation into working class health and living conditions. The difficulty in containing the rebellious Boers, and the huge opposition to the war, encouraged further doubts about the whol…

Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980s Britain

Tate Liverpool: Exhibition 28 February – 11 May 2014
Adult £8.80 (without donation £8) Concession £6.60 (without donation £6)
Help Tate by including the voluntary donation to enable Gift Aid

Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980s Britain, is a new take on how the changes in the meaning of words reflect the cultural shifts in our society. This dynamic exhibition takes its name and focus from the seminal 1976 Raymond Williams book on the vocabulary of culture and society.
An academic and critic influenced by the New Left, Williams defined ‘Keywords’ as terms that repeatedly crop up in our discussion of culture and society. His book contains more than 130 short essays on words such as ‘violence’, ‘country’, ‘criticism’, ‘media’, ‘popular’ and ‘exploitation’ providing an account of the word’s current use, its origin and the range of meanings attached to it. Williams expressed the wish some other ‘form of presentation could be devised’ for his book, and this exhibition is one such int…