Turkey: The State and the Systematic Use of Mob Violence

Turkey: The State and the Systematic Use of Mob Violence, Clarion Project, William Reed, August 7, 2016

Turkey-Mob-Beating-Mustafa-Turan-Caliskan-HPTurkish victim of a mob attack Mustafa Turan Caliskan (Photo: Video screenshot)

Following the July 15 failed coup in Turkey, pro-Erdogan mobs across the country have attempted lynching not only against surrendering soldiers who took place in the coup attempt, but also against civilians just walking down the streets who they decide are anti-government.

The latest victims were in Ankara and Istanbul.


Ankara: Turks beat fellow Turk for “not holding Turkish flag”

In Ankara, a young was beaten on the night of July 30 by three assailants for not holding a Turkish flag. A video (see below) of the assault has gone viral.

The initial reports and social media accounts that shared the video said the victim was a French tourist. But the Turkish newspaper Birgun discovered that the victim, Mustafa Turan Caliskan, was an ethnic Turk from Yozgat, a central Anatolian city in Turkey.

In the video, the attackers are heard laughing and saying, “We gave you a Turkish flag but you did not accept it. If you do not accept the Turkish flag, you will be punched. You have to be a man. If we give this to you, you have to hold it.”

The attackers kept interrogating Caliskan, all the while filming the attack. “Did you betray the Turkish flag?” asked one of the perpetrators. “Do you really love Turkey after this moment? Say you love Turkey! You have to love the flag, bastard!”

“We have turned the guy into wreckage in 10 seconds,” proclaimed another assailant joyfully. “Now go home, fuck off!” shouted another to the victim.  “Say you are Turkish! You are Turkish, right?”

The video was then proudly uploaded by one of the perpetrators .

Caliskan, 29, said that the incident occurred after he approached some men in a car to ask to use their lighter. Instead of responding, they attacked him.

“I got the first punch as I leaned towards the car. I partly lost my consciousness after being punched, so I could not speak while being filmed on the camera. That is why the viewers must have thought I was not Turkish,” he said.

Warning: Garphic Images

Caliskan said that his life has been very difficult since the incident.  “I do not want to go outside because I feel everybody is looking at me.” He filed a complaint about the attackers at a police station.

“I collapsed after the first punch in my eye,” said Caliskan. “There was no dialogue between us except for me asking for their lighter to light my cigarette. Then they filmed me. I do not remember what was spoken in the video. But I remember thinking that I could be murdered. I remembered Ali Ismail Korkmaz.”

Ali Ismail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old Alevi university student, was one of the many victims of mob and police violence in Turkey. He was savagely beaten on June 2, 2013 in the city of Eskisehir during the Gezi Protests.

In a statement to authorities before he died, Korkmaz described the attack: “Five or six people came up to me, they beat me with clubs on my head, back, shoulder and legs. I fell to the ground….Yesterday I didn’t have difficulty in speaking, but today I can’t remember. One of my teeth is loose because of the incident. My head hurts, I have difficulty speaking. I don’t know who beat me or why. They were wearing civilian clothes. I want to make a complaint.”

Korkmaz was admitted to a hospital after making his statement, but soon fell into a coma. He died on July 10, 2013.


Istanbul: Pregnant woman attacked for ‘wearing revealing clothes, supporting coup’

Hazal Olmez, who works as a secretary at the Turkish left-wing dailyEvrensel, was attacked by a group of people who accused her of “wearing revealing clothes and supporting the July 15 failed coup attempt” on August 2 in Istanbul.

Olmez, who is six and a half months pregnant, said two of the attackers were burqa-wearing women.

“Why are you wearing revealing clothes? You are a coup supporter and a Gulenist,” the group reportedly yelled at Olmez, while calling for people nearby to join them in beating her.

“You won’t get dressed this way anymore, you will get dressed the way we want you to and you will obey us,” one of the three attackers said.

Olmez reported, “They called for others to attack me. They wanted to lynch me there.”

The group continued to beat Olmez after she fell to the ground, as other people standing nearby watched the incident and did not offer any help, according to the report.


‘Turkey’s Lynching Regime’

Political violence, lynching – even pogroms — are not new or a rare phenomenon in Turkey. The victims have mostly been minorities.

“In Turkey’s near history,” writes columnist Fehim Tastekin, “mobs targeted mainly Armenians, Syriacs, Jews, Greeks, Alevis and Kurds.

“As Tanil Bora, author of the book Turkey’s Lynching Regime, puts it, “When it comes to Alevis and Kurds, this has always been a ‘free shot’ area. The ‘lynching’ of leftists has always been permissible. Police and ‘sensitive citizens’ act on the basis of this knowledge.”

“Despite hundreds of mob violence attempts,” added Tastekin, “the security forces have detained only a handful of people, only to release them after questioning. And almost always, they have found a reason to investigate the victims.”

Violence – be it political or not – is widespread in many parts of the world. What matters in the cases of violence, however, is the reaction of the state institutions and how they handle justice.

If the state protects the victims and punishes the perpetrators, and tries to take precautions to reduce the attacks, the violence could be blamed on just the criminals or “extremists” and interpreted as “isolated incidents” that take place outside of the control of the state.

But in Turkey, most attacks are state-sponsored and intentionally target minorities – such as the 1955 anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul in which the Turkish government unleashed Turkish mobs on the Greek community.

According to the researcher Speros Vryonis Jr., “[The attacks] resulted in the ultimate destruction of Turkey’s oldest historical community, about 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians who were the heirs of Byzantium.”

Due to such systematic attacks, the minorities in Turkey have mostly been exterminated and dissidents are silenced. Many victims have been murdered. If they are “lucky,” they manage to flee the country. If they have to stay, they most probably live the rest of their lives with fear of violence.

Meanwhile, extremists continue taking the law into their hands, looking for new victims in the streets to punish – for wearing “revealing” clothes, for not “holding the Turkish flag,” for speaking Kurdish or any other non-Turkish language, for being non-Muslim or not Islamic enough, for doing anything the extremists consider “unacceptablem” or for doing nothing at all.

These mobs know that they will never be held accountable no matter what they do and the state institutions will always be on their side and not of the victims.

The Turkish state apparently uses the mobs to shape the society as it wishes. Through these attacks, minorities and dissidents who dare think differently are ordered to “know their place” or just leave.

And so far, this policy seems to have worked well. Only 0.2 % of the remaining population  of Turkey is non-Muslim (Christians and Jews) and there is not a strong political opposition in the country to challenge the anti-democratic government policies.

Turkey, a European Union applicant, has totally turned EU standards and any other civilized code of conduct upside down.

Explore posts in the same categories: Mob violence, Turkey and human rights, Turkey post-coup

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