Macheted democracy in Turkey
BELGİN AKALTAN - firstname.lastname@example.orgThere is so much sorrow going on for a “normal” person in Turkey right now that it is difficult to stay “normal.” I have to wipe the tears from my eyes every now and then because it is not possible to write this piece without crying.
This is not cheap sentimentality to attract more readers. This is genuine pain. This is too much sorrow, too much weight. I want to shout, hold some people by the collar and ask them “What are you doing? What are you doing to this country?”
I am a mother and the picture of the mother of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Emel Korkmaz, in the papers is just too painful to look at. So is the image of his father Şahap Korkmaz… His other family members… His friends…
Sorry, I need to cry some more before I can continue…
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Yes, every death is sad, painful; but when the deceased is so young the sorrow is unbearable, multiplied. If your son is beaten to death by a few monsters in a dark alley while he was trying to run away from tear gas and police brutality, and also if your son has been refused treatment at hospital for this or that reason, then it is agonizing, excruciating, intolerable; words fail here…
Ali’s mother was crying, “Ali, why did you not resist more?” at the hospital court. He was beaten on June 2, he was able to resist death for as long as 38 days in the intensive care unit… Mother Korkmaz cried and called him “kuzu,” meaning “lamb” in Turkish. It is one of those commonly used affectionate words many Turkish mothers use for their children; I also use it. She said, “We were not supposed to leave Eskişehir like this Ali, kuzum, [my lamb]. You had dreams...”
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Ali İsmail Korkmaz is the fifth death in the Gezi Park incidents. He was a first year student at Eskişehir Anadolu University, Faculty of Education, Department of English Language Teaching. He was 19-years-old when he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on July 10.
A writer of the popular online forum “ekşi sözlük” happens to have witnessed the incident when Ali İsmail Korkmaz was beaten. He wrote what he witnessed a few hours after the incident, which can be read here: http://eksisozluk.com/entry/34287297. The writer is “eses taraftari porsuk canavari.” Eses is the local football team, and Porsuk is the river running through the Central Anatolian city of Eskişehir.
Here is a shortened version of the entry:
“I will try to keep cool and not swear, while I try to explain what I saw on Yunus Emre Street on June 2. Demonstrations in front of Espark were beautiful. I left Espark at around 11:30 p.m. I walked a friend home and then I was on Yunus Emre Street. At the end of the street there were clashes between demonstrators and riot police.”
The narrator took shelter at a bread bakery with others, waiting for things to calm down. They were all affected by tear gas. He saw plain clothes policemen with batons in their hands.
“One demonstrator walked into the street; police attacked him brutally. A few others grabbed some firewood in front of the bakery. They all hit him. I was frozen. I just stood there. I could not do anything. One of the wood holding vandals started kicking the injured activist lying on the ground. That activist, thank God, got up to his feet in a sudden movement and ran away. They cursed after him and started waiting for new victims.”
“For 15 minutes nothing happened. I decided to take off but the gas started coming again and demonstrators ran away. This time, two of them entered the street where the bakery was. I wanted to yell to them with all my might ‘Don’t come here,’ but I couldn’t. If I had done so, they would have beaten me to death too.”
“Those two people who entered the street were ambushed by the riot police and the wood holding villain. The one behind was beaten brutally by the police. The demonstrator in front (Ali İsmail Korkmaz) was pushed to the ground by the workers of the bakery, together with the wood holding vandal (all together five or six people). That guy fell just in front of me. He was kicked many times in front of me. He was hit at his head, waist and back numerous times. He hit his head on the pavement and lost consciousness. He slowly got up a few minutes later. I saw his back, it was covered in bruises.”
“I could not even approach and help him out of my own fear. I was extremely scared. If I had helped him they would have beaten me too.”
“That worker and that wood holding villain insulted the young guy lying on the ground, ‘Are you still here s.o.b.? F… off” they said. The guy got up and started running to the end of the street. While he was running to the end of the street, he was stopped and beaten again by plainclothes policemen who had laid an ambush over there. After that beating the demonstrator ran for his life.”
“That bakery, that vandal with a wood stick in his hand… I cannot forget the bitter noises that came out while they were hitting victims… Worst was the disgusting laughter of the police and the shopkeepers while watching them run away… This happened one or one-and-a-half hours ago…”
Then the writer said that something was torn from inside him because he could not help the victims.
The news website T24 later interviewed this writer. In the interview, he said the following: “I knew that young guy was Ali İsmail Korkmaz because I saw his face clearly when he fell to the ground. When I later saw his pictures on the Internet, I immediately recognized him.” When the reporter, Alaz Kuseyri, asked him how he was sure the police were among the attackers, he said: “They were beating him with batons. Other civilians had normal bats or sticks. There were others beating him without any bats. They kicked his head and waist very hard.”
Eskişehir Governor Güngör Azim Tuna said the following on the day of the funeral, on a live TV show: “It is definitely not the Turkish police who did this.” He also said: “Some groups tried to provoke things, and we even heard that there were groups who hit their own friends and reported that ‘the police did it.’”
I am not able to cry anymore. I am just frozen. I might leave this country. And ask for asylum in Egypt.
PS: The secret witness’ last letter to Ali İsmail Korkmaz is at (https://eksisozluk.com/entry/35150308) and its translation will be at (belgin.akaltan.com).