Yeldana Kaharman was a 21 year old communications student from Kyrgyzstan. She worked at a local television station in in the eastern city of Elazığ. On March 27, 2019, she interviewed the parliamentary deputy Tolga Ağar in the latter’s house. Ağar is the Elazığ deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the son of the former police chief and Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar, whose name is associated closely with the “deep state”.
The next day, Kaharman was found in her house dead, hanged. The incident was registered as suicide and the case closed. Recently though some allegations have been made concerning the circumstances of her death. It has been alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Ağar during the interview and left the house to report the assault to the local gendarme station. It was after this complaint that she was found dead. It is also claimed that Ağar was taken away from his house by a helicopter sent by his father. While these details are said to have been the talk of the town in Elazığ, this talk did not lead to the launching of an investigation into Kaharman’s death.
Nadira Kadirova was a 23 year old refugee from Uzbekistan. She was a domestic worker in the Ankara house of AKP deputy Şirin Ünal, a retired army general with some alleged “deep” connections. Kadirova allegedly committed suicide when Ünal was in the house on Sept. 23, 2019. When he was asked about this incident in the parliament, Ünal said, “I was going to send her anyway; she sent her by herself.” He also said to Nadira’s brother that she was a “maniac”. The general insisted that there is nothing to be gained by illuminating this incident. The prosecutor agreed and the case was pronounced a suicide.
After the autopsy, her brother took Nadira’s body back to Uzbekistan for burial. He says that there were bruises on his sister’s body. According to the official version, Nadira shot herself twice in the chest with the general’s pistol. It is also revealed that shortly before her demise, Nadira told one of her confidents that she had been sexually assaulted by the general.
Lawyer Eren Keskin: “Immunity is official policy”
A full investigation into the circumstances of Kadirova’s death is apparently on hold. Her lawyer dropped the case shortly after the incident, whereupon the renowned rights lawyer Eren Keskin of Istanbul Bar declared that she was taking over the case. According to Keskin, Kadirova case raises numerous questions.
Keskin says that she and the Human Rights Association (İHD) have pursued some 600 cases of alleged sexual assault on women and trans women by perpetrators with official positions and duties (including army and police officers, village guards, school masters, bureaucrats and parliamentary deputies), and her conclusion is that there is a definite policy of immunity.
“Turkey is a signatory to the European Commission’s Istanbul Convention of 2011 which rules for the legal protection of women against violence,” she said. “But the judges and prosecutors systematically ignore the clauses of this convention.”
Keskin also says that judicial authorities are restricting legal access to the Kadirova file, while Kaharman file remains closed.
Lawyer Hülya Gülbahar: “Politics, law and sexuality are deeply linked”
These “suicides” are only two among hundreds of alleged incidents of femicide and immunity. In 2019 there were a total of 474 femicides in Turkey, a new record for a twelve month period. Lawyers observe that court convictions of male perpetrators do not match these figures, and nor do punishments fit the crime. If trials do not result in acquittals, there are often significant discounts in penalties when the victims of the murder, sexual assault or violence are women, which operate as a de facto incentive.
In cases of Kadirova and Kaharman, if the allegations are taken into account, a pattern of sexual assault by influential male parliamentary deputies leading to the death of female victims followed by lack of judicial investigation can beseen. Moreover, in both cases the victims are foreign national women.
“Young foreign women are the targets because they are the most vulnerable,” says rights lawyer Hülya Gülbahar. Gülbahar points out that between politics, law and sexuality there is a deep and sophisticated link: “We should stop being naive about the state’s chasing its prey.”
Gülbahar says that the myth of the innocence of rich and powerful men should be destroyed and that they should be treated as presumed guilty, because their power makes it easier for them to commit crimes.
“They know that power, respectability and money will serve to their interests,” she says. “Beyond sexuality, the abuse of power itself becomes a source of enjoyment. They do it because they can.”
According to Gülbahar, immunity in femicide cases is the rule and it is conducted systematically. She believes that, along with political authority, social class is a factor in immunity. An example is the case of Şule Çet, a 23 year old student who “fell” from a 20th floor apartment in a building in Ankara in May 2018. Initially ruled a suicide, it was only after extensive social pressure that two wealthy men who were in the apartment at the time of her death were tried on charges of her murder.
In Gülbahar’s description women are preyed upon by violent men and this is made possible by the official soft approach and immunity towards perpetrators. “Femicide is an organized crime which involves not only a male perpetrator, but the collaboration of authorities in the cover up together with judicial unwillingness to investigate these cases”. Moreover, the real femicide figures, she claims, are much higher than those officially disclosed.
Gülbahar also says the sustainability of these patterns of assault, murder and immunity may indicate a comprehensive disciplinary practice of authorities towards women. “The steady increase in femicide since 2002 when AKP came to power is no coincidence.”
The data pointing to the escalating incidence of femicide; the soft approach by the police and judicial authorities towards male perpetrators; and the sustained immunity of men with political or financial power and influence all indicate some rather disquieting trends in Turkey’s social life: a safe haven for misogynists where women live in permanent insecurity. That or an official disciplinary policy aiming to push women back from social life to the domestic sphere, in compliance with conservative Islamic norms.
There may have been changes in the relations between the underworld and politics in Turkey but nevertheless the relations between criminal chiefs and the politicians and bureaucrats can still overwhelm the political agenda. As politics is criminalized, mafia is further politicized.
The Diyanet was originally designed by the republican regime as a tool of “de-Islamization”, but it has ironically turned into an instrument of “re-Islamization” of society under the AKP regime. It has become a supersized government bureaucracy for the promotion of Sunni Islam.
April 23 marks the first sitting of the Grand National Assembly in 1920, the nucleus of republican Turkey. It is also celebrated as “Children’s Day”. This year is the centenary of the April 23 national day and it is rather unfortunate that the coronavirus outbreak will not allow public ceremonies and festivities on this important day. In compensation, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will address the nation by reciting the verse of Turkish national anthem live.
The problem is what Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls 'the danger of transition into a continual state of exception' in which the exception is no longer the exception but the norm.
Over the past week, a political row over an animated cartoon shown to schoolchildren has become the second item on the Turkish news agenda after the coronavirus outbreak. It depicts the 1961 execution of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. The importance of this sixty year old affair, why it was chosen to be presented to schoolchildren at a critical moment can only be understood through reference to the narrative of the ruling AKP government.
This year, Newroz and the accompanying neurotic symptoms of the Turkish psyche may pass silently around the country due to the coronavirus emergency. The importance of this day, March 21, however, as all the signs indicate, will never diminish, on the contrary, it will continue to determine the future of the Kurdish and Turkish people in the country and region.
Last week, a chain of arrests and the subsequent court decisions to imprison six journalists hit the headlines in Turkey. Two of the imprisoned journalists are the co-authors of the 2019 book “Metastaz” (Metastasis) in which they investigate how, in the post-15 July 2016 environment, different religious sects have gained positions in the state structure by filling the void that resulted from the purging of the Gülenists.
The current engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces and their proxy Sunni troops in Idlib province is with the Syrian military. Behind the thin windows of this showroom, pro-AKP pundits have been carrying out a comprehensive ideological operation with a series of arguments. The intra-Muslim sectarian character of the violence in Syria inevitably enters into the picture.
With his newly acquired profile of a repentant political Islamist, Abdullah Gül may this time have the courage to meet the challenge from the palace but there is much more that requires self-criticism, since he was by no means an outsider of the AKP circle of power.
A number of allegations have recently surfaced over Adnan Tanrıverdi, a former security aide to President Erdoğan. Tanrıverdi is said to oversee SADAT, a shadowy paramilitary group close to the President. Allegations of the company’s involvement in the combat training of the jihadist paramilitary groups loyal to Turkey go further to suggest that SADAT pushed for the current escalation in Idlib. Can it be compared to Iran's Revolutionary Guards?
Başbuğ’s imprisonment was a turning moment in AKP’s consolidation of power. His release was also the symbol of a dramatic shift in AKP’s and Erdoğan’s stance against their former Gülenist allies. And now, as İlker Başbuğ is again on the stage, there is all the more reason to suspect that we are on the brink of a substantial turn in the state and society.
Despite being a novelist and a painter, Rahşan Ecevit’s name is mostly associated with politics. She was not merely the wife of a politician but a top politician in her own right, whose stance determined Turkish society’s fate at certain critical moments. With all its rights and wrongs, Mrs Ecevit’s legacy will occupy an exceptional place in Turkish public’s collective memory.
Why Hrant Dink among all the anti-establishment journalists and all the prominent figures of Armenian community? What is the specific reason that made him the target of this fatal hate crime? Fatih Akın’s 2015 film “The Cut” may provide an answer to this question.
At the economic foundations of society, Erdoğan has imposed new rules over conventional business elites, similar to Putin’s coercion of the Russian tycoons to obey his authority. Overall, the deeper, structural dimension of the Putin-Erdoğan rapprochement probably indicates that the Russian experience of transition to post-Soviet capitalism provides the blue print for post-Kemalist Turkey.
He served as the national police chief, Minister of Interior and Minister of Justice in the centre-right True Path Party (DYP) cabinets back in the 1990s, but had to resign after the Susurluk scandal in November 1996, which uncovered links between senior state figures and organised crime. Since then, Ağar does not have any official titles. Yet, his statements imply that he speaks on behalf of “the state”, that is, what is otherwise known as the voice of “the deep state”.
With a court ruling against his release from detention last Tuesday, businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala has been sentenced to welcome a third new year in jail. Following his arrest in October 2017, Kavala was put in a Kafkaesque position of more than a year of imprisonment without a charge. The indictment, when it […]
Eurasianists, as championed by their self-styled leader, Doğu Perinçek – head of the left leaning nationalist Homeland Party – argue that since 2016 the AKP has been transformed to adopt their strategic position. Perinçek argues that he is the main architect of this transformation. In turn the Eurasianist/Nationalists have also compromised their hard-line secularism to recognize religious affiliations as part of national unity.
Davutoğlu aims to turn a new page in his political career with the launch of a new party, which, his spokepersons declare, is grounded on a revival of the “real AKP,” promising a resurrection of the original equilibrium sought to be achieved through the ‘Turkish model’ of moderate Islam. This appeal is expected to inflict damage on the AKP’s organizational structure and a haemorrhage in the electoral base.
The collective memory of Turkey’s Alevi communities consists of dark layers of trauma. Although in its early years in office the AKP government launched an Alevi initiative to open dialogue with the community, it was shelved after some discussion along with the breakdown of the Kurdish rapprochement in 2015. Moreover, the Islamist character of the AKP government resulted in a tangible decrease in the number of Alevi civil servants, particularly among the ranks of the police, military and in the education system.
Turkey's former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt died at the age of 79. Being one of the most controversial figures in Turkish political and military history, Büyükanıt is known with two significant events, with one leading Turkey into a political turmoil and forcing early elections.