read1 of 10

Those Voices – Diyarbakır: A City Under Siege

Nurcan Baysal
150 min

Some Notes for the Warmongers

3 min

In the last couple of weeks, İnsan Hakları Derneği (Human Rights Association) Diyarbakır Branch has published an important report on human rights violations between the dates July 24, 2015 and July 24, 2017, which attests to the atrocities faced by our society in numbers. 

According to this report, in the last 2 years: 

– 771 security personnel and 1307 armed militia died in armed clashes. 51 people were caught in crossfire and died. 

– 448 people were killed as a result of extrajudicial killings by soldiers, police or village guards (korucu). Most of these deaths took place during the curfews imposed. 75 of them were children. 

-14 people died as a result of armored cars hitting them. 

– As a result of armed groups actions, 129 people died all around Turkey, 64 of whom were living in Kurdish cities. In Kurdish region, 14 people died after being detained by armed militia or due to attacks committed by them. 

– 15 children died due to mines or residues from armed clashes. 56 people died due to fire opened at people near the borders. 

In total 2891 people died. 2891 lives lost, 2891 hearts stopped beating! Those injured can go up to 3000. 

The report also includes the curfews declared and special security regions designated in the past two years. A total of 4842 days under declaration of special security regions. Curfews declared were not even calculated in days. Today marks the 647th day of the declared curfew over Sur, where I come from. You can imagine the rest. In the “practices related to funerals of militia”, one reads about all those cemeteries destroyed, corpses that were never given to the family of the deceased, or those that were exposed naked to the public. 

When you add up the villages displaced, forests burned, people tortured, detentions, arrests, house raids; violations against the right to organize, the right of expression, economic and social rights- you can see the horrible mess we have been in for the past two years.

It is important to recognize that these violations and atrocities are just the ones identified. It is noted that this report should be considered as a MINIMUM since there can be cases out there that have not been identified yet. In the preparation of the report, only the formal counts were used. It is underlined that military and militia death numbers are actually higher than the reported numbers.  

This is the part of war that can be analyzed through statistics. What about the aspects that cannot be analyzed in numbers? Everything listed above causes a trauma, separates family members, destroys, causes anger and makes one weary of life, and lose aspirations of the future, struggling to stay alive amidst all the destruction…

These days warmongering is on the rise again and it is important to remind ourselves about these numbers and bring up the heavy consequences of war whenever we can. As I look at these numbers, I think about what a mother in Cizre told me after the curfews were lifted:

“If the Turks knew about what the war meant, they would never want to be engaged in war. But they don’t. They don’t know what their children are doing here. I wish they knew…”

Those warmongers are the cloaked ones, politicians, writers, and the media… Think for a minute about what war really means, do you really have a sense of what it means? It is clear that you are very eager to experience it, then go ahead and get in the frontlines and let the young live! 

The Year 2016, Turkey, the story of two dead bodies 

9 min

This is the story of İsa Oran and Mesut Seviktek, whose dead bodies were left lying on the ground for 29 days in Suriçi, Diyarbakır because they could not be retrieved. 

Let me first of all say this; I am writing this article so that what happened will go on the record; so that what has happened in the Turkey of 2016 will not be forgotten, in order to ensure history records it! 

I met İsa Oran’s father Mehmet Oran and Mesut Seviktek’s older brother İhsan Seviktek on December 30, 2015. I was organizing the program for Defenders of Peace in the city; 106 people from the initiative including intellectuals, artists and individuals from various vocational groups had come to Diyarbakır. A young woman came to me, she was crying. She said there were two dead bodies  on the street in Suriçi, and their families were devastated and asked for our help. Making an addition to the program, we organized for the families to talk about what happened at the Defenders of Peace meeting that day, and again the same day, we visited the Governor of Diyarbakır as a group of intellectuals to ask for his support to retrieve the remains. 

Let me summarize what happened afterwards: I met with the families almost every day, anyway just a few days later the families went on a hunger strike at the Diyarbakır branch office of Human Rights Association (İHD). In the meantime, while trying to bring the issue to the public agenda, we kept going from door to door for support with the President of İHD Diyarbakır, Raci Bilici. We rushed from pillar to post between institutions. We were told that the bodies were in the garden of Yavuz Sultan Selim School and security forces could not go inside, that it was behind the trenches. Finally, about ten days ago, we met with the Governor of Diyarbakır again, and agreed on a plan that the curfew be lifted for two hours, and the special ops to retreat for that period so that with the municipality’s funeral coach, the families and a group of civil society representatives could go and retrieve the remains. 

In the meantime, during our Ankara visit two weeks ago, we conveyed the situation to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Ministry of Interior Affairs Efkan Ala as well.  

You know what took place afterwards from the press anyway. On January 12, the curfew was lifted for two hours. Even though it was said that the special ops would retreat, when the group went to Suriçi there were hundreds of special ops around, then the conflict intensified, and families had to leave Suriçi without being able to get the bodies. Something the security forces told the family and the group that day surprised me and many people. It turns out there were special ops inside the school where the bodies lay anyway. That is to say, the remains were in a place where there were special ops  to begin with! 

While the families continued the hunger strike, two days ago, the prosecutor’s office calls Diyarbakır İHD and says that the bodies have been brought to the morgue and the families should come to the morgue to identify the bodies. 

Disintegrated bodies 

The father Mehmet Oran and brother İhsan Seviktek go to the morgue to identify the bodies. 

Let’s hear the rest in the father Mehmet Oran’s words:

“The prosecutor’s office said, ‘you shouldn’t go, don’t go in the morgue, you’ll faint’, and I said, ‘I’ll keep remain standing to see your cruelty.’ I went in the morgue. My son’s head wasn’t intact; it was burned, as if a chemical substance had been poured over it… His torso was carved out, his intestines hanging out, all in pieces, pieces of flesh had been torn off, as if an animal had bitten them off, I was able to recognize my son only from one of his arms, they had ripped my boy to shreds.”

There are hundreds of bullets on the body of the 25 year old Mesut Seviktek. His brother İhsan tells us about it:

“My brother is anyway martyred by the wound in his skull and chest. Then they shot hundreds of bullets at him. His face has become unrecognizable. What does it mean to do this to a dead person? Turkey’s problem can’t be resolved by doing this, the Kurdish problem can’t be resolved like this.” 

“Just like we had to leave Lice in 93 without even taking a spoon, that’s how we had to leave Sur in 2015” 

To tell you the truth, I am astonished, angry, enraged and in pain. I was personally involved in this, I still haven’t been able to make sense of why they made us struggle for days to get the remains if the security forces had them in the first place or if the bodies were somewhere they could get them; what their aim was in doing so. The families had anyway thought the state had the bodies from the outset, how naïve I was! How naïve I was as we were planning how and from which street they could be brought, how I was waiting with some shred of hope every day, thinking okay, they’ll be retrieved today! How naïve I was beating at the door of the state for days! 

Mr. İhsan says: 

“We told you from the outset, this state has the bodies. We knew from the first day the bodies lay there, because we live in Suriçi, we were talking on the phone with our neighbors, our friends, they were telling us, the bodies are in the school yard and the special ops have set up camp in the school.” 

Mr. Mehmet adds: 

“We knew from day one the state had these bodies, we know this state, we are the ones who know how dirty they are.” 

Mr. İhsan continues: 

“We were in prison together with my brother Mesut for three years, at the time I had gone on a hunger strike with my brother, now I am on a hunger strike with my mother to get my brother’s body.” 

I gasp. 

“It was a holiday in 1993, the state sent us away from the village. In that commotion, we had forgotten Mesut in the village, the next day, a neighbor who had stayed in the village called to inform us, we went and got Mesut. Mesut worked in construction, worked shining shoes on the streets, finally we opened a grocery store in Sur together. We built a life with great hardship. Now the store is also gone, it is demolished. Just like we had to leave Lice without even taking a spoon in 93, that’s how we had to leave Sur in 2015.”

“This is a political problem, it can’t be solved with arms, trenches, destruction” 

As we are talking there is movement on the walls of the hall in İHD where the families are on hunger strike. Two more pictures of young people are hung on the walls, photos of Turgay Girçek and Gündüz Akmeşe. They were actually killed four days ago but their families learned that they were killed only yesterday. I look at the photos of youth on the wall that increase by the day. Mr. İhsan, who notices I am shaken, holds my arm, sits me down, tries to give me strength despite his own state of agony: 

“Look, this is the outcome. For months the state bombed the martyrs’ graves, it did all in its power to the graves of Kurds, and then it boiled the problem down to the issue of trenches. What did you think would happen after you bombed so many graves, did you think the Kurdish youth would meekly accept all that was done? There were no trenches then, why did you bomb the graveyards? 

This is a political problem, it can’t be resolves with arms, trenches, destruction.” 

“I am calling out to the families of police and soldiers: Don’t say ‘all for the sake  of the homeland’!”

Mr. İhsan also has something to say to the families of soldiers and police: 

“The mothers of police and soldiers should see these sufferings too. Look I am saying this in my pained state. We are sad if soldiers die, we are sad if police die. I am calling out to the families of police and soldiers. Don’t say ‘all for the sake of the homeland’ over our children, if you are thinking about your dead child work for peace. Empathize. Mesut was my brother. They killed him, that wasn’t enough, they riddled him with over a hundred bullets. We are still saying let these be the last ones. Let our children be the last victims of the Kurdish people, of the Turkish people. Don’t let your children be sacrificed to this dirty war.   

The government should come out of this eclipse of reason immediately. The place to return to is the [negotiation] table. There is no place but the table.”

Mr. Mehmet, who joins in, says, “Everyone shot at Mesut, whoever came around shot at him, what religion, what humanity, in which God’s book does this exist?” 

I want to ask the officials, particularly Prime Minister Davutoğlu, who told us during our Ankara visit, “We will take care of all dead bodies, inform us”:  

Where were these bodies for one month? 

Who did this to these bodies? 

Will those who did these to these bodies be punished? 

Let history record this. The year 2016, the month of January. The dead bodies of the 21 year old İsa Oran and 25 year old Mesut Seviktek were left lying on the ground for 29 days in Suriçi, Diyarbakır, their families went on a hunger strike to retrieve the dead bodies of their children. When they were brought to the morgue on January 19, the bodies had been disintegrated… 

Nurcan Baysal, January 22, 2016 

Amr Ezzat

During the nights following the 28th of January, when the ‘popular committees’ took over the security of the Egyptian streets, each came up with a password which one needed to say in order to be let past. Astonishingly, the one chosen by the committee, which was securing my own street was “Do you know Amr Ezzat?” When I was asked this question on my way home for the first time from the Tahrir occupation to take a shower and change my clothes, I answered affirmatively, with a half-smile. But surely not every Amr Ezzat is the one I know. I didn’t know the neighbour whose name became synonymous with the street in a moment like that, but I knew very well the activist/writer/blogger/journalist who would become one of the figures of the betrayed Egyptian revolution, and, in my opinion, one of its most important torchbearers.

For Amr Ezzat to become the one I know, he had to diversify his education, starting with engineering, where he encountered the various existing (or  potential) intellectual and political currents in the Egyptian society at the turn of the century. Engineering wasn’t the last destination , since his calm reflection was thirsty for philosophy, which he ended up studying. His religious inclination in his early twenties pushed him towards learning jurisprudence and sharia through the religious “institution” formed outside the realm of the Egyptian State. 

For Amr Ezzat to become himself, he had to engage with the communication revolution of the early 2000s; he had to blog, and the title he chose for his blog had to be so personal, idiosyncratic, simple and free as it is: Ma Bada Li (What seemed to me). He only writes what seemed to him. Is writing anything but that? Despite all the masks the writers hide behind?

Yet another (parallel) link to ICT and social change: Having graduated from the Faculty of Engineering, he had to travel across the country – cities, towns and countryside – to follow up with the structural safety of mobile phone’s station’s facilities that ensured the communication between the people in this century’s mode. This face-to-face nationwide experience I went hand in hand with marking his technical and online presence at the heart of the contemporary communication revolution, a civil engineer at the helm of the then nascent Egyptian blog sphere–in which he was and still is one of the most active elements.

Wanting to write, another shift is made, this time a career shift, to the press, naturally enough, becoming quickly a prominent voice from a new generation of Egyptian journalists that took a special and fresh interest in observing the society at large and investigating its phenomena, breaking with the “conventional” press. His contributions to the  the “Colours of Life” page in the Shourouk daily were mainly long and in-depth stories that belonged to a new kind of journalism in Egypt that he explored further in other outlets–  Al Masry Al Yawm and Mada Masr for which he writes opinion pieces. 

For Amr Ezzat to become the one I know, he had to realize that one of the central questions in the Egyptian society is the social and political conflict around religion. He benefited from all the intellectual tools he acquired from jurisprudence, sharia, law and politics to become a religious freedoms defender, either by publishing reports and articles or moderating dialogues between the different conflict parties. He does all of that with the concern/thrust and endeavor of the researcher keen on – without falling into the indecent generalizations or structural illusions –  exploring the authoritarian fallacies,  debunking them on historical and logical grounds, and on observing the similarities between several small phenomena to come up with a general pattern that applies on many of them, reflecting the space-time stage in which it takes place.

For Amr to become Amr, he had to be both so ordinary and exceptional, able of seeing the whole and the parts without one dominating the other and without reductionism or vulgarizing. For example he spoke of the ‘conditional accessibility’ as a state’s way of dealing with the islamists and the ‘cowardly daring’ as the way a group of the Egyptian opposition deals with the state. Or take his beautiful neologism; Sondokratia (Ballotocracy, Muslim Brotherhood era) about the elections that look democratic and independent from the outside while they don’t give a damn about democracy and all they do is absolve the state’s obligations towards the society.

For Amr Ezzat to become the one I know, he had to be well-versed in logic, in the sense of the relations between concepts, and in syllogism, but also in argumentation and dialectic. He knows the art as it was founded by the great authors, namely the scholars of the seminal sources of jurisprudence, therefore becoming that argumentator, who doesn’t lose temper and doesn’t lose the thread of his argumentation. I refer here particularly – in addition to his writings – to the monthly “Forum of Religion and Freedoms”, which he organizes and moderates at the “Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights”. 

Amr is also well-versed in rhetorics. For me, the most beautiful thing in him/he does is perhaps his language, and its rhetoric, in the sense that it is highly contemporary, ridiculously lucid, and at the same time able to address the most complex theoretical subjects. The contemporary here doesn’t only mean catering to the cultural taste of a targeted reader as much as it means the creation of the rhetoric moment itself. 

I remember Amr Ezzat describing the prologue of the current Egyptian Constitution – full with all kinds of ”obsolete” figurative language pomp – as “idiotic”. What I understood from that description is the harsh sarcasm in favor of another style. He knows that sarcasm is the figure of speech which can provide a headline for the historical moment we are living–he calls for that, writes that way, and perhaps this is how he lives. Wasn’t it him, who kept the locks of the bathrooms of the Tahrir Square when the revolutionaries invaded it, without any of them, nor even myself, recognizing how significant that way of recording the historical moment was. Could it be more ironic?

Fadi Awad is a book editor, linguist and lecturer at Ecole Nationale Superieure in Paris 

Translated from Arabic by: Kenza Rady

Amr Ezzat is also columnist for Al-Masry Al-Youm and a human rights activist from Cairo. Amr participated in our Cairo Longform Workshop in 2015, whereof this longform “Room 304” evolved. 

The Istanbul Longform Workshop 2017

March 16-18, 2017 at Cezayir, Beyoglu
3 min

We came to Istanbul at a crucial moment. It was in March, a few weeks before the referendum that would give the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan new and unprecedented power, furthering his fierce grip on the country, a sort of elected semi-dictator of the kind that are changing the face of politics all over the world at this moment in the early 21st century, taking shape in front of our eyes.

Tensions were high between the German and the Turkish government at the time, our thoughts were with our friend Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist still in prison for doing his work on behalf of democracy and a free and open society, like to so many of his Turkish colleagues who are equally: locked up or threatened or pressured into silence. 

A sad encounter with a brave old city, that’s what we expected, Murat being originally from Istanbul and having talked to the officials at the German Foreign Ministry, sponsors of this project – but, rather surprisingly, the mood of the people we met, the writers, artists, activists we had invited to this workshop was different, they were open, unafraid, angry at times, but never despairing; giving in is not an option.  

We met in Galatasaray, not far from Taksim Square where the protests against the government had taken place in 2013, jolting a nation and a whole generation, and not far from the main shopping road where tanks were patrolling and police was everywhere – our host, Osman Kavala of the Anadolu Kültür Foundation had offered the lovely space of the Cezayir restaurant and conference space, an ideal place to focus on the power of stories, to listen and to learn.

These three days, like the 60pages workshop we did in Cairo in 2015, were among the most moving, memorable and, yes, important that you can imagine: The trust, the energy, the talent, the inspiration, the courage, the humanity that brought together these people around their ideas, their projects, their proposals was a gift to us and a promise to the world that they would never be silenced. 

Each participant had roughly half an hour to talk to the others about the story he or she wanted to write, to engage with the group in discussing this idea, in changing, working, insisting – and the stories shared created a sense of community and of meaning in a time where both is often cruelly absent, community and meaning.

All of the stories were great, we had to choose and commissioned eight. We will continue working with all of the writers and publish the eight longreads starting early in the fall. We will keep you updated on the progress and hope to engage you in our project.

by Georg Diez

Camera: Çağdaş Erdoğan
Post-Production: Çağdaş Erdoğan, Berkant Akarcan

Istanbul Longform Workshop 2017 - A Short Video Documentary

Amr Ezzat about three extraordinary days with 30 wonderful authors in Istanbul, at Cezayir/Beyoglu, March 16-18, 2017, edited by our friends from 140journos for 60pages
1 min

In March 2017 60pages hosted a three-day workshop with young journalists, writers and activists in Istanbul. We discussed the possibilities and the practice of long-form writing and identified five to eight relevant, surprising, necessary stories which could open up new perspectives on pressing political and societal questions.

It was a safe space, it was a pop-up editorial board, it was a first getting to know each other and the beginning of a longer connection. The writings will be published on soon.

Aylin Balboa

Aylin Balboa is an author living in Istanbul. Her short stories has been published under the name “Belki Bir Gün Uçarız (Maybe We Can Fly One Day)” by Iletisim Yayinevi. She writes for several periodicals.  She has a dog named Balık (Fish). 

Aylin partipated in our Istanbul Longform Workshop in March 2017. 

Yigit Karaahmet

Yiğit Karaahmet was born in the last years of disco, glitter and shoulder pads (aka 70s) in the small seaside town of Giresun where people live on agriculture and fishery. He believes his humor comes from the region, motherland of Laz jokes. As he passed the university entrance exam he moved to İstanbul, city of his dreams, where he would study journalism at Marmara University’s Faculty of Communication. And he threw himself to the parties, the nights and the arms of men. His articles and interviews about night life, popular culture, life style were published by daily newspapers like Milliyet, Akşam, Taraf; national magazines as Vogue Turkey, GQ Turkey, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, FHM, 212, Time Out; and international magazines such as Vice Germany. Yiğit uses his openly gay identity in his articles on purpose and believes the importance of personal fight against homophobia. For this reason, he has been targeted by the fundamentalist press many times. His articles have been collected and published as two books. He also has a novel, yet unpublished. He writes commercial texts and experiments with scripts too. Currently living in Istanbul, the author continues to work in all areas of literature.

Yiğit partipated in our Istanbul Longform Workshop in March 2017. 

Murat Mahmutyazicioglu

Oyuncu ve oyun yazarı, ne istanbul ona katacağı güzellikten haberdardı ne de murat. 80’lerdeki ve 90’lardaki tüm güzellikleri, gariplikleri, inişleri, çıkışları hayatına katarak büyüdü bilmiyordu ki her bir anı satır araları naifliklerle dolu nefes alabilen metinlere dönüşecekti. Önce “fü’yü ” yazdı sonra “şekersiz’i ” ilk “şekersizi ” sahneledi ikinci olarak ” fü ” sahnelendi ardından “sen istanbul’dan daha güzelsin’i “yazdı ve yönetti “sevmekten öldü desinler’i ” yazdı ve bu oyunu da durur mu o da sahnelendi oyunlar sahnelendikçe istanbul daha güzel bi yer olmaya başladı. Sadece isimlerine bakanlar dahi dedi ki Murat güzelliklerin en güzelini hak ediyor ve her gün dünyayı daha güzel bi yer yapmaya devam ediyor. (by Melis Öz)

Murat partipated in our Istanbul Longform Workshop in March 2017. 

Onur Burcak Belli

Onur Burçak Belli is a Turkish-Syrian journalist mainly covering political conflicts as well as its far-reaching outcomes both in Turkey and the broader region. She is now based in Ankara.

She has closely followed the war in Syria covering it as a reporter and a field producer. She was based in Damascus researching Syria’s reform plans and the Sunni-Alawite conflicts amongst the ruling elite regarding these plans, when the uprising started in March 2011.

She has 10 years of experience as a journalist working for different mainstream media outlets. She started her career as a journalist at the Turkish Daily News (now Hurriyet Daily News) at Turkey’s leading media conglomerate. She successively worked for Newsweek Turkey, HaberTurk TV, RTL, BBC World Service, Channel 4 News, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and more.

During her journalism career she has focused mainly on Kurdish conflict, war in Syria, refugees and migration matters, Turkish foreign policy, European Union policies and its broader affects, civil society movements, ethno-cultural and sectarian conflicts, studies and campaigns on sexual and bodily rights of women in Muslim societies, nature conservation and water policies as well as trans-boundary water conflicts in Turkey and the Middle East, urban transformation and gentrification, the socio-political and environmental policies in conflict zones in the Middle East.

She is fluent in English, Turkish, almost fluent in Arabic.

Burcak partipated in our Istanbul Longform Workshop in March 2017. 

Those Voices – Diyarbakır: A City Under Siege

Nurcan Baysal
150 min

Some Notes for the Warmongers

3 min

The Year 2016, Turkey, the story of two dead bodies 

9 min

Istanbul Longform Workshop 2017 - A Short Video Documentary

Amr Ezzat about three extraordinary days with 30 wonderful authors in Istanbul, at Cezayir/Beyoglu, March 16-18, 2017, edited by our friends from 140journos for 60pages
1 min