Shut up already, as men!

Shut up already, as men!

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç sparked uproar when he told an opposition deputy to be quiet as a woman during a parliamentary session. (Photo: Today’s Zaman, Mustafa Kirazlı)

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) doesn’t like women.

In a range of anti-women statements made over many years, the AKP’s major representatives have managed to attack every aspect of womanhood, with each remark being more scandalous than the next.

The latest such assault came from deputy prime minister and government spokesperson Bülent Arınç, who recently told a female deputy to “Shut up as a woman” in Parliament. When faced with criticism, he was unapologetic. He said he was only maintaining discipline in Parliament. He said he would have apologized if he had said, “Shut up, woman!”

If one was to compile a complete list of the AKP and company’s anti-women assertions, this post would never end, but here is a quick look at some of the highlights.

This was not the first time Arınç stated that women should shut up. He once said they should not only shut up, but also not let out so much as a giggle in public, unless they want us to think them loose.

For the AKP, men are inherently better than women. Even rapists are better than women. It would be unfair to the rest of this male-supremacist group to state that AKP deputy Ayhan Sefer Üstün was only speaking for himself when he said “a rapist is more innocent than a rape victim who has an abortion.” On the same subject, the AKP’s Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek said instead of having abortions, women should kill themselves.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said women and men can never be equals and it is against nature to argue that they can.

Women’s place in the workforce has also been a source of dismay for the AKP. Its Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek once famously attributed Turkey’s high unemployment rate to “women who are looking for jobs.” Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs Veysel Eroğlu, is remembered for his remark, “Don’t you have enough to do at home?” to a female voter who had asked the minister to help with finding her a job.

The AKP’s Tokat deputy Zeyid Aslan, who once was photographed by a journalist as he dozed off in Parliament, told female journalists, “Would you like it if I took a picture of your crotch and published it in the newspaper?”

And so on…

In keeping with this mentality, the AKP government has repeatedly and consistently undermined women, imposed policies geared towards keeping them at home and has done little to fight Turkey’s epidemic of female murders.

In 2014, according to data from the official statistics agency, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TURKSTAT), the participation rate of women in the workforce was 30 percent, considerably below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 69 percent.

Many organizations claim that the AKP, through its policies, has actually caused the murders of women to increase in number; and that claim is credible: According to figures provided by the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), the number of incidents of violence and murders targeting women has gone up by 1400 percent under the AKP’s rule over the past decade.

Leaving Turkey’s women in an abysmal condition through archaic social policies is not our choice as a nation. The results of the June 7 elections have left the AKP without a parliamentary majority. Although both President Erdoğan and Arınç must understand the inevitable end is near, with or without snap elections.

My recommendation as a woman would be that they simply shut up as men. Their 10-plus years in power have hurt more women in Turkey (and possibly elsewhere) than one could believe.

The AKP cadres, now in their lame-duck state, should simply shut up as men. If they don’t, the onus is on us voters to make sure that happens in early elections. It is a shame that they are making the endgame uglier than it could have been.

 

This post originally appeared at Today’s Zaman blog section http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/shut-up-already-as-men_395711.html

Revenge of the pigs

Revenge of the pigs
Wild boards swimming in the Sea of Marmara across the Bosporus.

Possibly the cutest and at the same time saddest image in newspapers last week was that of a family of wild boars swimming in the Sea of Marmara across the Bosporus.

The animals, which appeared in Sarıyer and were photographed by fishermen in their boats, were relocating from the European side to what they hoped would be friendlier skies on the Anatolian side. They were victims of human encroachment, and judging by the location from which they had disembarked, they were specifically victims of the newest construction of a highway and a third bridge over İstanbul’s Bosporus, which is causing large-scale destruction of İstanbul’s northern forests.

News stories about the boars, not surprisingly, given the Turkish media’s dutifully servile support for the Turkish government, did not mention the highway or the bridge. Almost all papers reported the news as if it was just a surprising occurrence, a rare phenomenon, an interesting thing to witness in one’s lifetime. Most readers’ comments, though, lamented the ongoing deforestation; many also criticized the blatant dismissal of the environmental factor by the media.

Media stories on the boars also matter-of-factly reported that the village head of the Rumeli Kavağı neighborhood, from which the boars had taken off, had found a solution to this problem: Kill the pigs! The boars in the photo successfully made it to the Anatolian side — whose forests are also rapidly shrinking in size — according to what the fishermen said, but the village head’s commentary does not bode well for others that might follow.

That the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is wreaking havoc in İstanbul’s last remaining forests — although well documented by aerial images of the city of İstanbul and the increasing levels of air pollution over the past few years as well as by countless academics and articles, or as can be observed by simply taking a car ride through the concrete jungle of her ugliness — was not mentioned in much of the mainstream media. This is not surprising. Anybody who speaks of sustainable and environmentally friendly development is publicly shamed and accused of treason, labeled a traitor who does not want Turkey to move forward.

And the swimming boars are only the start. To the horror of environmentalists, and in fact to anyone who is concerned about the relentless urbanization in the already-too-gray city, the government is planning a new waterway to connect the Marmara to the Black Sea through the European part of the city west of the Bosporus; a third airport that will be built atop the city’s only remaining and extensive forestland; and the third bridge with a new highway connecting the bridge to the inner roads of the city. These are collectively called the Northern Marmara Projects, and a few brave souls, such as Zaman’s Gürhan Savgı and Radikal’s Serkan Ocak, have written extensively about the scale of destruction they will bring according to environmental scientists and urban planners.

The ominous swim of the wild boars is only an immediate result of the catastrophe in store for the city over the long haul. Every construction project will be followed by newer and larger projects around it, causing a rapid decline in the number of trees in İstanbul’s last remaining forestlands. The airport alone will cause 70 lakes and ponds to dry out (in violation of Turkey’s wetlands directives) and will also be the end of dozens of migratory bird species’ and other animals. (But it is a $30 billion project.) The result will be an unlivable city; arid, covered in heavy smog and ugly as hell. Or, to put it in clearer terms for the less environmentally conscious among us, it will be a city with no chance of hosting the Olympic Games. Ever.

And this is only what we know will happen.

What about the part we don’t know? In an article titled “The Beautiful Law of Unintended Consequences,” published in John Brockman’s “This Explains Everything,” Robert Kurzban, an associate professor of evolutionary psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, explains, “The idea is that when people intervene in systems with a lot of moving parts — especially ecologies and economies — the intervention, because of the complex interrelationships among the system’s parts, will have effects beyond those intended, including many that were unforeseen or unforeseeable.” Elsewhere in the same article, he reminds us, “Intervention in any sufficiently complicated system is bound to produce unintended effects.” He concludes his article: “People will find substitutes for banned or taxed products; removing one species in an ecology typically penalizes populations that prey on them and aids species that compete with them; and so on. So whereas there will probably always be unintended consequences, they needn’t be completely unanticipated.”

The ongoing destruction of İstanbul’s last forests is clearly a case in which we have had our warnings about what to anticipate in terms of consequences and how disastrous they are likely to be. The tragedy is that although these likely consequences certainly are not the target of these projects, it is hard to say they are “unintended” in any sense of the word. Deforestation at such a scale cannot possibly be carried out without intent.

Ultimately, though, “The Beautiful Law of Unintended Consequences” also tells us that the revenge of the pigs will not be small or merciful. And an entire nation will have to suffer its results, all because of the greed, corruption and complacency of a few.

This post was originally posted as a blog post on Today’s Zaman http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/revenge-of-the-pigs_328968.html

Berkin

Berkin               The photo of Berkin Elvan who is one of the victims of last year’s Gezi protests.

The tall man ordered his men to kill. And they did. They killed many. They also killed a boy. He was 14. child to the world, baby to his mother, joy to his father.

What child? asked the tall man. He was a terrorist. His toys were weapons that could have destroyed my empire.

One man found himself thinking about the boy often, although he hadn’t known him before his death. He said: We shall not forget him. And they held a vigil. And the tall man’s men killed another man at the vigil. The tall man said: I shall not let you remember.

The boy’s mother said: It is the tall man I would go after if I wasn’t so heartbroken, if I had the strength. It is the tall man who killed my boy.

The tall man laughed. She says I killed the boy, he sneered. The applause of his minions temporarily drowned out his fear. The tall man was happy; he grinned and said merrily: They shall not remember.

There was another boy. This one said: But I remember. He told the whole world about it. The tall man’s men said: Don’t let this young one succeed. Cancel his diplomas, throw away his degrees. The tall man smiled and said: I do not want you to remember. I will not let you.

The tall man also found himself thinking about the dead boy, often. He was furious people wanted to remember. He scratched his head and said to his aide — the aide with the slicked back hair: How can we make them forget? Master, this is rather simple. Just punish them every time they remember. It is also good for them! said the aide with the slicked-back hair. The aide had a past he didn’t want to remember. Those were the days when he wasn’t yet the voice of his master. It would be good to think about those things, maybe later?

Another man, a doctor, caught himself thinking about the boy often. But I remember, he said. There were other men and women who remembered. They joined him, they gathered in the streets. They showed the world they still remembered. Sack that doctor, don’t let him work, said a man who worked for the tall man. Our master will not like this, we have to make life difficult for him. The doctor said: Do what you do, I don’t care. I do and always will remember.

The tall man’s heart grew darker with fear. And he felt rage towards this boy who was no longer here. Make them lose their jobs, I want them to starve. Throw them in prison, make sure they rot in jail. They shall not remember the boy who could have brought down my empire with his toys.

There was a woman, who hadn’t known the boy before. She found herself thinking about the boy often. She said she will remember. She said she will not let the tall man forget.

She looked up at the screen where the tall man could always be seen. She said: We remember, and we always will.

This post originally appeared at Today’s Zaman’s blogs section http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/berkin_360508.html

Do we really need Twitter?

Do we really need Twitter?

(Illustration: Cem Kızıltuğ)

Last week I took a taxi, and when you take a taxi in İstanbul distances are greatly increased thanks to the magnifying effect of traffic jams and nightmarish gridlocks. This makes it inevitable that you will have a simple but lengthy exchange over how nice the weather is, an existential polemical discussion, a deep philosophical question or, most commonly, politics with the cabbie.

I really don’t want to be yet another blogger who ruminates on his or her conversations with taxi-drivers, but my cabbie, an avid Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporter, really asked me a good question. He loved the government. He said he was simply in awe of all the bridges, buildings, roads and other forest-killing activities the government has carried out to share the lucre with its allies and reward its minions and sycophantic cronies. He also said he didn’t understand all the fuss about Internet censorship. Our nation, he said, used to be a great society until the founding of the republic in 1923, but then we started to degenerate as a result of Western influence. He said YouTube and Twitter have been particularly instrumental in this mission to degenerate our society. Please understand that I am not trying to infantilize the cabbie, nor am I trying to be sarcastic because I don’t agree with his politics. I am writing down the exact opinions he stated during our not-so-brief conversation. And I am no stranger to the mindset of the AK Party voter (although, yes, we parted ways long ago with its supporters; everyone in the country has deleted each other from their friend lists on Facebook based on the very simple divide of whether they support the AK Party or not), so the conversation didn’t really surprise me, although certainly I found the discourse annoying.

But I couldn’t help but jump from my seat when he turned to me (and yes he did, but I didn’t jump because he wasn’t looking at the road) and said, “Can’t you have the Internet without YouTube and Twitter? Who needs those?” I was more than shocked, although in retrospect I can see very well that this assertion is part of a very consistent and coherent argument, and I shouldn’t have been taken aback like that. I found myself, in a panicky way, explaining, “No, no you can’t have the Internet without YouTube or Twitter. That’s not the Internet. Without those, you won’t know what anybody is up to, and you will fall into mediocrity.”

I spoke of friends who relied on YouTube to play lullabies for their children, I spoke of people like me, who need YouTube to watch videos on how to chop onions (or tomatoes and other fundamentals of the alien planet of all things culinary), I spoke of people who need to watch stand-up bits or sketches on YouTube to cheer up and others. I was trying to explain to him that YouTube is now part of our daily lives, and it is a part of the Internet (at least for now) and you can’t have one without the other.

Speaker after speaker at the Internet Ungovernance Forum (IUF) held last week in İstanbul showed that neither Google, the owner of YouTube, nor Twitter — whose top leadership was more than happy to hop on the first plane to Turkey when the microblogging site was shut down under orders from our Supreme Leader and work with our government to make sure that it stays open — or Facebook or any other major social media platform we use daily really love us, or care about our privacy. But they are there, and we use them, and we know what’s up, but we are not going to stop using them overnight. (If we ever will.)

The cabbie said his daughter will have a baby in 20 days; his first grandchild. He will most likely use YouTube extensively to play songs for the baby. (Like, how can you raise a child without YouTube?)

Yaşar Adanalı, a speaker at last week’s IUF and an urban rights activist, who is also one of the great people behind the Networks of Dispossession, which uses interactive maps to show the connections between all the people (government, media, corporations, et al.) who are stealing our future by killing our forests and drying our waters, said the government is not against the Internet. It just wants a gentrified Internet. The cabbie I talked with thought banning YouTube and Twitter would be enough to gentrify the Internet, and he knew that our Supreme Leader hates those two platforms, that’s why he tried to argue that we don’t need them.

Internet activists at the IUF, at least in one panel, discussed how to bridge the communication gap between rights activists and the not-insignificant majority who believe that the activists are really terrorists or coup-plotters, as governments like ours often claim . This is the major problem of all activism, of course. “No no, we are really the good guys.” How can you explain? I don’t know.

My own individual effort with the cabbie didn’t work too well. I said without following what the world is up to on social media sites like Twitter or on YouTube, our country would fall behind, and I really was not trying to be political, I really think it is a valid argument. The cabbie? He wasn’t impressed.

This post originally appeared at TZ Blog Section http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/do-we-really-need-twitter_357995.html

Life after Snowden

Life after Snowden

Edward Snowden appears on NBC on May 27, 2014. His revelations haven’t given much food for thought to government supporters in the increasingly Orwellian new Turkey. (Photo: AP)
In April, Turkey passed a new law regarding the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), giving extensive powers to the agency to spy on our lives. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the new law opens the door to abuse “as it greatly increases the intelligence agency’s surveillance powers” while threatening journalists who expose its abuses with prison terms.“The law would decrease state accountability, media freedom and the right to privacy,” it said.

On June 14, Turkey’s government-controlled Yeni Şafak daily ran an interview with former model Tuğçe Kazaz, whose phone lines were allegedly wiretapped without a warrant by mean people who are trying to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government. Of course, this is the narrative of none other than Our Great Leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the raison d’étre of the government-controlled media is to promote Erdoğan’s discourse. Not surprisingly, this former model, who is known best for changing her religion a couple of times (though, it turns out, she is not the questioning mind she appears to be), offered an analysis of Turkey’s current dynamics, saying that a corruption operation against the government was in fact part of a coup plot against our government. This is what anyone who speaks to the government-controlled media says, whether they are a former model or a soccer player or a political analyst. Many of us here in the real world (i.e. non-government media) suspect that the same person (possibly our Great Leader) writes up the entire text for many of these interviews in a true politburo spirit. Their reporting would put the Pravda and Izvestia of the Soviet times (though not that much has changed in Russia today) to shame. It is no secret that the AK Party has a major propaganda machine now, but since this has not really been covered in the English-language press, I want to translate a comment by Kazaz (or whoever the ghostwriter was). “I am a transparent person and my goal, as a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, is to perform what I do in the best way I can. Other than that [my goal] is to act in accordance with the interests of the country. The related official agencies of the Republic of Turkey can eavesdrop on me when they deem necessary. As long as they keep out of my personal life.” (Yes, I wasn’t kidding about the Pravda thing).

I don’t remember reading anything as dangerous as Kazaz’s words in a long time, not even about the new MİT law. We don’t know how many people would take this seriously, because it reads and sounds laughably ridiculous, but Kazaz’s words — well, the government’s words — are supposed to explain to us the new narrative. It means our government really wants the citizenry to think that way. And unfortunately, their supporters often follow the government narrative blindly.

Here is an excerpt from Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State”: “Initially, it is always the country’s dissidents and marginalized who bear the brunt of the surveillance, leading those who support the government or are merely apathetic to mistakenly believe they are immune. And history shows that the mere existence of a mass surveillance apparatus, regardless of how it is used, is in itself sufficient to stifle dissent.”

Edward Snowden risked his entire future, even his life, to bring out the truth about NSA surveillance. And I think it paid off. People know what is going on, and both the NSA leaks and history have shown time and again that any unscrupulous power with the ability to monitor people’s communications (with hardly any oversight as per the latest MİT law) will have dire consequences for all of us eventually, including the defenders of the government.

It is our responsibility as citizens of this world to at least think about what Snowden’s revelations mean in terms of the relationship between governments and the governed, although it appears that what he did hasn’t changed much in our government-controlled media.

This is a reminder to all my colleagues in the government media. Things look great today, but unconditional support for warrantless wiretapping and state surveillance and government intrusion into personal lives will have consequences for you one day. Maybe not today, but one day.

This post originally appeared as a Today’s Zaman blog post at http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/life-after-snowden_351079.html

Erdoğan’s new paramilitary force

Erdoğan’s new paramilitary forceThe Trust Force, with their baseball caps, batons and backpacks, actively contributed to efforts to block the Gezi anniversary protests on May 31.
Our banana republic, it turns out, now has a team of regime guards, which Turkish columnists (for some reason very few have written about this), have likened to Iran’s Basij. Ours are called Güven Timi, which can be translated as the “Trust Force.” We saw them actively intervene in the Gezi anniversary protests last Saturday and beat up protesters.

They appear to be plainclothes officers, but with a twist. They are mostly bearded men. On Saturday, they were all sporting blue baseball caps, the same type of backpacks (black with vertical white stripes in front) and wielding (the same) batons. They did not have any insignia or any other official indicator suggesting that they work for the police force.


According to Wikipedia, Basij in Iran “consists of young Iranians who have volunteered, often in exchange for official benefits.” Although the Trust Force in Turkey was founded in 2009 as part of the Police Department, anything can happen here as we live in one of the least transparent countries in the world. These teams were, according to a quote from the Public Safety Unit’s Deputy Director Dursun Güneş in 2009 [featured in a post by T24 blogger Aram Ekin Duran], set up to “not look like cops,” and their primary target was to catch pickpockets red-handed.


But on May 31, Saturday, they were beating up young people instead of chasing pickpockets in Taksim in addition to 25,000 riot police and 50 water cannon trucks deployed in the area to stop the protesters.


Hopefully, we will know more about them if and when the opposition submits a parliamentary query about our own mysterious Basij.


Also during the protests, CNN’s Ivan Watson was detained live on camera while reporting from Taksim. One commentator said this was a clear message to the rest of the world that our government really doesn’t care about what the rest of the world really thinks about Turkey. (I am not trying to hide the commentator’s name, I just don’t remember who it was). Disturbing as it is, I think this is the only logical explanation behind the detention of Watson and his crew.


On June 2, Monday, the lifeless body of a young man  was found in the Gezi Park — where the Turkish government doesn’t allow access to anyone who is not on the police force. The dead man was not a police officer. He was identified as 27-year-old Tuğrul Turnalı. The cause of his death wasn’t clear at the time of my writing this blog post, but there were reports suggesting that he died at the end of an epileptic seizure; asphyxiated by his own tongue. One cannot help but think that this was another protest related death. Maybe it was just a coincidence, or a seizure triggered by tear gas, but it is highly unlikely for anyone to die as a result of a coincidence at a park where no civilians are allowed.


Just last week, the police shot a man dead as he waited outside a cemevi (an Alevi place of worship) to attend a funeral. Seven people were killed in the Gezi protests of last year, most of them due to police brutality. Now the Trust Force is out on the streets, freely beating people.


Could it really be that, Erdoğan’s exit plan out of the corruption charges he is facing is to start a civil war? Only time will show. For now, with a higher number of cops on the streets and the latest addition — the Trust Force –, all we can be sure is that the country has never been more dangerous.
This blog was originally published in Today’s Zaman’s Blogs section.

Tough country

Tough country

The daughter of a miner who died in Soma cries over her father’s coffin. Prime Minister Erdoğan has said dying is in the nature of the mining profession; it is the fate of miners.” (Photo: Cihan)
On Thursday, a 34-year-old man in İstanbul’s Okmeydanı area was shot in the head by the police. As I write this blog post, it is not clear whether he’ll make it. He is currently in surgery.

In the moments when Uğur Kurt, the police’s victim, fell Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking at a meeting of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB). He was telling the business world how offended he is that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) keeps calling him a dictator.

Uğur Kurt was in Okmeydanı to attend a funeral for the mother of a friend. He was also a worker, employed at the Beyoğlu Municipality. Underpaid and overworked, possibly with no social security as most municipalities now recruit through subcontractors — an unnamed privatization scheme in municipal service — he was just trying to make ends meet. Just like the 301 workers who died in Soma.

There was a protest in Okmeydanı that day to commemorate Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old who died after a long coma after being hit by a gas canister in the head, shot by the police while he was out to buy bread for dinner during last year’s Gezi events. The same police of whom Prime Minister Erdoğan had said he was extremely proud for the way the force handled the Gezi incidents. Seven people, including Berkin, died in the protests. Most of them were Alevis, if not all.

Uğur Kurt was not among the protesters on Thursday. Furthermore, he was an Alevi. He was attending a funeral in a Cemevi — a worship place for Alevis, although the prime minister has on many occasions expressed his opinion that Alevis should worship in mosques just like everyone else.

Uğur Kurt was shot with a real bullet.

Many say it is not unusual for the police to use real bullets in Alevi neighborhoods. Some have claimed this has happened before in Alevi-dominated areas such as the Gazi neighborhood. Based on my years of experience as a journalist in Turkey, I can confidently say that the police officer who shot Uğur Kurt will walk away freely. It is this guaranteed impunity that makes them shoot people to disperse protesters; the comfort that comes with knowing that the police force are the prime minister’s heroes; they can do anything they want with no accountability.

The prime minister said in his initial speech after the disaster in Soma that accidents are an act of God, that they happen and there is nothing one can do about that.

If you question his narrative, you are a traitor. An agent of foreign powers, an Israeli spy (or “Jewish spawn,” his latest anti-Semitic gem).

Turkey’s workers die. Its nouveau riche don’t even pay taxes. It is fate.

We know that the police officer who shot Uğur Kurt dead will get away with what he’s done.

It is fate.

This post was originally published by TZ at http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/tough-country_348466.html