Interview with Hüseyin Aygün: The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Challenges of Today – Part II
Interview with Hüseyin Aygün: The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Challenges of Today
Political Dynamics of the State and the Government in Turkey, Transformations in Leftist Movements, Retrospective on Societal Mobility and Slaughters
As Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), we conducted a long interview with lawyer and jurist Hüseyin Aygün who is a deputy elected from Tunceli, in his own words Dersim deputy of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP). Hüseyin Aygün has been one of the most hardworking deputies of the CHP since 2011 when he was elected to Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (Grand National Assembly of Turkey) (TBMM). On one hand, Aygün, as a deputy, has tried to be the voice of people in the region from which he is elected. He also attempted to be the spokesman of their rights, their pain and their demands. On the other hand, he has supported any oppressed and aggrieved people, groups, and classes all over Turkey and he has become a part in their struggle. He has been on the side of the identities that were oppressed and that wish to express the injustices that they have faced, –primarily the Alevis and Kurds who compose the majority of his constituency.
Regardless of the any political party, including his own party, organization or group that his discourse bothers, he has continued to defend bravely the rights of people he believes in. He fought to unveil the perpetrator of countless deaths due to torture and unsolved murders such as murders of Ayten Öztürk and Mehmet Ceren, and the losses of Mirik in the dark history of Turkish politics. He tried to uncover all dark murders, tortures and discriminations from Dersim massacre to military coups, from the hidden operations led by the state and various deep organisations to recent persecutions of the state. He opposed to the cross-border operation in 2011 and stood for the peace. He supported legal fights for rights on behalf of each part of the population from arrested students to the aggrieved citizens after Van earthquake; from the deaths of Uludere massacre to the children who experienced torture and rape in Pozantı Prison; from the aggrieved people due to recent political cases such as Ergenekon, Balyoz, Askeri Casusluk (Military Espionage) and Odatv; to the resistance for the sake of environmental causes as well as workers’ rights. He was in the frontline for the ongoing cases of young people who were killed and injured during the Gezi protests in 2013.
Moreover, Hüseyin Aygün is the writer of important books such as Dersim 1938 ve Zorlu İskan (Dersim 1938 and the Forced Resettlement); 0.0.1938 Resmiyet ve Hakikat (0.0.1938 Formality and Reality); Dersim 1938 ve Hacı Hıdır Ataç’ın Defteri (Dersim 1938 and the Notebook of Hacı Hıdır Ataç); Fişlemenin Kısa Tarihi (The Brief History of Tagging) and his book in Zazaki language Eve tarixe ho teri Amaene.
In the second part of our interview with Hüseyin Aygün, we have discussed the criminal complaint he has filed against the top-level authorities of the state, allegations of war crime, the Charlie Hebdo attack, Syria and political Islam, Kobane, the conflict between the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) and cemaat –the community referring to the Gülen movement, corruption allegations and the operations that followed, dissolution of socialism and the transformation of leftists movements in Turkey, Gezi Resistance, LGBT movement and naturally the Alevis and Dersim. We present below the synopsis and the uncensored full text of the second part of our long interview to our readers.
Synopsis of the Interview
“Some official reports regarding the trucks that were stopped in Adana on the way to Syria have been published on various web sites. These reports claimed that the Turkish General Staff transferred arms to Al-Qaeda by the order of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, instead of pursuing these claims, prosecutors and the police have solely shut these web sites down. No official statement of denial or claim of forgery has been made by the authorities.”
“I filed a criminal complaint against the president, the prime minister, chief of the staff and counsellor of the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (National Intelligence Organization) (MİT). If there is such thing called judicial institution, it should investigate these allegations, because the situation is extremely serious. Türk Ceza Kanunu (Turkish Criminal Law) (TCK) regards recruitment to be used against another country and arms accumulation as a major war crime.”
“One of the published documents was referring to an instruction signed by Erdoğan who personally ordered the Turkish Chief of Staff to give the weapons that are registered in Turkey’s inventory to Al-Qaeda and the reactionary groups in Syria. This is a terrible thing.”
“A tape recording was published in March 2014 and the officials could not deny it. In that recording Hakan Fidan is confessing in person that they have sent 2000 trucks full of weapons to Syria. Likewise he himself was saying that he could send four people to Syria to fire eight missiles to Turkey in order to create a false flag. This is the crime of starting a war.”
“First of all, Charlie Hebdo attacks once again disproved the Western Countries’ Syrian policies. Secondly, it showed that terror cannot be differentiated as ‘my terror/’your terror’. Those who resort to violence may eventually attack those who have created, nourished and put them to the front-line.”
“The Western world has a big sin in the emergence of both radical and political Islam because even the French Press writes about how six million Muslims were deprived of healthcare and educational rights in France. I believe there are such reciprocal problems.”
“The resistance in Kobane has busted Turkey’s Rojava policy and showed its failure to us all. I can only salute that resistance and say nothing else.”
“The fight between the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) and the Gülen Movement was a fight for rent-seeking which popped over private teaching institutions and became irreconcilable. It went as far as arresting the police officers and imprisoning some journalists. It became very severe.”
“Very robust evidences came forth on the 17-25 December operations manifesting the flagrancy of stealing and bribery. It is impossible that these remain unaccounted or untried.”
“The MİT is responsible for every drop of blood that will be shed in Turkey because the MİT is the financer, coordinator and the choir conductor of the war in Syria. Now, everybody understands that every bomb to go off in Turkey is within Erdoğan’s knowledge.”
“I can express my understanding of leftism as the ruling of labour. I dream of a regime where the workers, labourers and those who live off their labours taking place in the cabinet.”
“I am against the capitalism and I believe it should not exist. It is so obvious that it is a bankrupted regime which depletes all the resources and ruins the environment.”
“Socialism too needs to be reformed. We need a more inclusive socialism which respects various minorities, faiths and groups with different sexual orientations.”
“The socialist movement in which I took place did nothing about this issue asserting that they will discuss Dersim 38 once the socialist revolution is realized. They had condemned me when I wrote a book in Zazaki language. Then I thought that the socialist movement that I was aligned with also had some red lines too and went through a deep reckoning.”
“There is no problem in the identity issues as long as we defend the rights of the abnegated, oppressed and repudiated identities. But when these differences and issues are over exaggerated there is no chance for the society to stay together. Let aside a country, even a neighbourhood has no chance to live together.”
“Upon my inquiry, the police departments confirmed that an aid campaign was organized for Ahmet Şahbaz, the police officer who had killed Ethem Sarısülük. We see that the government both remained unresponsive to Ethem’s murder and repudiated his right to life while giving the police officer, who received a judicial punishment and his being the least half-guilty was known now, a back.”
“I think that Gezi is a revolution. I say revolution and I deliberately overrate it because it tore down entire thought system. In June 2013, millions of people experienced that AKP can be defeated.”
“The United June Movement should not become a party. I believe it is more right that Gezi movement stays as a phantom like formation which does not have an office, but intervenes to the problems and represents the public conscious.”
“The emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT movement is very important and a very positive development. Some of them had become candidates and been elected to municipal councils. I see that the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) is moving towards a more liberal stance on this issue.”
“Islamists are always imposing a formalistic Islam like five times prayer, Friday prayers and 30 days of fasting. When political Islam recognises the cemevi as the house of worship, that day there would be a great reform in Islam.”
“I believe that the recognition of cemevi presents an opportunity particularly for Islamists to face themselves and to be reformed.”
“I do not see any Alevi initiative. Thus far, there has been no initiative responding to the Alevi requests. The government merely makes balance adjustments such as Alevi initiative and Roman initiatives every time it gets stalemated.”
“They see nice-year old children as sexual objects and insist that they should be veiled. In my opinion regarding a nine-year old like this is perversion.”
“I do not think making an apology for Dersim on a TV program is right. In a democratic country, it should either be made in the parliament or there should be ceremony led by the president. But of course presently we are not a democratic country but under the pressure of a clearly repressive regime.”
“In regard to Dersim the course of action is obvious. An apology has to be made and then it should be asked to the public about what to do. The public has to decide on this subject. In my opinion, the AKP does not have a free hand in Dersim anymore.”
“I have never used the word genocide for Dersim. I called it massacre. These are difficult arguments, genocide is a politicized discourse. I stand with the solution, not with the endless polemics.”
“Dersim is an agricultural community, they are sharecroppers. 50 years ago even the wealthiest person owned no more than a few hundred sheep. It’s the same in the politics as well. The voters of the Türkiye Komünist Partisi (Communist Party of Turkey) (TKP), CHP, AKP and Halkların Demokrasi Partisi (People’s Democracy Party) (HDP) are sociologically identical. It is a communist society. The AKP could not win the elections for years. This is Dersim.”
Full Text of the Interview
Political Dynamics of the State and the Government in Turkey, Transformations in Leftist Movements, Retrospective on Societal Mobility and Slaughters
We continue our conversation. It looks like, after the big capital, you waged war against the current state authorities as well. You made a very critical allegation. We’ve read that you filed criminal complaints about the president, the prime minister, chief of the staff and the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (National Intelligence Unit) MİT Counsellor for sending weapons with trucks to various countries. What were your claims there and why did you make such a denunciation?
Yes, I filed a criminal complaint against the president, the prime minister, chief of the staff and the MİT counsellor. Some official reports regarding the trucks that were stopped in Adana on their way to Syria have been published on various web sites. These reports claimed that Turkish chief of staff had transferred arms to Al-Qaeda by the order of Tayyip Erdoğan. However, instead of pursuing these claims, the prosecutors interfered severely and the police shut these websites down. No official statement or claim of forgery has been made by the authorities. It was again smoothed over the cracks in Turkey’s rapidly changing agenda. There were also other serious assertions made earlier especially in American press about the sarin gas that it was sent through government bodies in Turkey. I had made a denunciation for genocide allegation at that time as well. What I did was just to ask for the judicial investigation of a truth that millions of people knew and believed. If there is such thing called judicial institution, it should investigate these allegations, because the situation is extremely serious. Türk Ceza Kanunu (Turkish Criminal Law) (TCK) regards recruitment and arms accumulation to be used against another country as a major war crime. In the TCK, these crimes are prescribed under the caption of war crimes. All these claims, documents, proceedings were flying around but prosecutors were suspended from duties, litigated for lifetime imprison. Nevertheless, not a single prosecutor took any action about these offenses, about this arms transfer. This is very interesting. The reason I am filing these criminal files is, even though today’s judicial system cannot do anything about it, it will be put on the record, the files will be created. In the future when this government is called to account, when a revolutionary upheaval takes place, these entire files gather at one place and all of them will be put on trial. I find it important in this respect.
“Documents demonstrating that the government had committed a war-crime in Turkey were disclosed and they are not denied by any official sources”
Which do you think was the most attention grabbing part among the alleged issues in these published documents?
For instance, one of the published documents was referring to an instruction signed by Tayyip Erdoğan giving order to the Chief of Staff that the weapons which are in Turkey’s inventory and weapons that will be brought from Europe to be sent to Al-Qaeda. It was written in this document that those weapons will be delivered beyond our borders, to the reactionary groups resisting in Syria by the order of Erdoğan. This is a terrible thing.
Claims such as war crimes or international terror crimes were being committed started to be expressed frequently. Could you please explain with your jurist identity what is precisely considered as a war crime? Also there are claims asserting that a lot of incidents aside from Uludere should be regarded as war crime as well. There is an information pollution which seems to cast a cloud over correct discussion of the matters.
Uludere can be considered not as a war crime but mass murder crime, killing 34 people one by one, taking their right to live out of their hands. War crimes rather comprise the claims such as facilitating the death of people or killing them with certain instruments which are outlawed by international agreements. For instance, sending sarin gas is a genocide or crime against humanity because use of that gas in a civil or frontal war was banned by international conventions. But the matter is not only sending the gas. The TCK already defines the war crimes, genocides and crimes against humanities. These are regulated in TCK’s articles starting from 76. In the activities of Erdoğan and his team, there is more than one breach of several articles’ several paragraphs. A tape recording was published in March 2014 on the internet and the officials could not deny it. In that recording Hakan Fidan is confessing in person that they have sent 2000 trucks full of weapons to Syria. Likewise, he himself was saying that he could send four people to Syria to fire eight missiles to Turkey in order to create a false flag. To wit, he was also naming the war crime: crime of starting a war.
“Western World has great sin in the emergence of political Islam, radical Islam”
How do you evaluate recent Charlie Hebdo attack? What do you think was the message of these attacks to the Western World, Turkey, and the Middle East and to political Islam?
First of all, Charlie Hebdo attacks once again disproved the Western Countries’ Syrian policies. Because the assailants were the members of the Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda and had arrived to Paris a short while ago. They were Kouchahi brothers. They participated in the Syrian civil war and they had learned there to use all these weapons. First of all, I think that Western World’s Syrian policy had failed. This is the first thing I see. Secondly, terror cannot be differentiated as ‘my terror or your terror.’ Those who resort to violence may eventually attack those who have created, nourished and put them to the front-line. This incident also proved the wrongness of the Western World’s policies against terrorism. There are two mistakes both on Syria and terrorism basis. Surely the Western world also has a big sin in the emergence of both radical and political Islam. As a matter of fact, the French press itself writes about how 6 million Muslims were deprived of healthcare and educational rights in France. I believe there are such reciprocal problems and this leads us to see and think about it again. But surely this is not an issue to be underrated as Islamophobia as Davutoğlu did.
What exactly was the Syria policy of the Western world that you criticize? Can you elaborate it?
That is to say, it was trying to overthrow Assad, to sustain the Arab Spring in Syria and to put Muslim Brotherhood into power. In their opinion, there was something called moderate Islam and through moderate Islam, they would govern in the Middle East easily. Meanwhile their economic interest would continue. But when all the Islamic movements that they considered moderate had turned into armed and violent movements, I suppose they came within an ace of a new accounting on their behalf.
How do you evaluate Turkey’s Rojava and Kobane policies? Do you think Turkey could be more supportive to the Kurds, Yazidis etc. in Kobane?
The whole world salutes the resistance in Kobane. Although the coalition forces provided a vital contribution to Kobane’s standing but the people in Kobane stopped the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) by resisting, fighting and by paying a price. In fact, Turkey was the ally of ISIS in there against the people of Kobane. It was written in many Middle East newspapers that Turkish military officers had fought on ISIS’s side. In this respect, resistance in Kobane busted Turkey’s Rojava policy, and showed its failure to us all. I can only salute that resistance and say nothing else.
“Very robust evidences came forth on the 17-25 December operations manifesting the flagrancy of stealing and bribery. It is impossible that these remain unaccounted or untried”
How do you see the December 17 investigations, corruption allegations and the current situation? In your opinion, was this a coup against the government? How do you evaluate the fight between the cemaat (Gülen Movement) and Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP/AK Parti)?
The fight between the AKP and the Gülen Movement was a fight for rent-seeking which popped over private teaching institutions issue and became irreconcilable. It went as far as arresting the police officers and imprisoning some journalists. It became very severe. But very robust evidences came forth on the 17-25 December operations. It is obvious that there was stealing, bribing and sums amounting to 100 million, 150 million dollars were given and taken. It is impossible that these remain unaccounted or untried. Even though the files are closed today, sooner or later they will be unveiled again. The accounts will eventually be settled. It just requires a little time.
Do you think that there are adequate evidences clearly proving the misuse of authority and the money laundering?
I definitely think so, because some of the wiretappings were made by the court decision and there were very clear statements and images. Some of the evidences were unlawful but then again, the authority which will assess these is the judiciary. For the time being the parliament is blocking these files to go to the court. The judiciary should take the matter at hand and absolve if it had to be absolved. In fact, in my opinion not sending it to the judiciary further proves that there are hard evidences and how scared they are.
What are your commentaries about the new MİT law? Considering MİT’s getting the authorization to gang up against, giving way to arresting everyone on the pretext of ‘reasonable doubt.’ Where is the society heading to? The MİT counsellor is famous than ever before and seems like he is being publicized extensively. When a rescue operation is realized, it is being publicized emphatically that it is performed by the MİT. Or the MİT counsellor personally shows up and declares that lots of attacks and terrorist actions are expected in 2015. What are your comments about these?
Yes, the MİT President himself said that there will be attacks it Turkey. Since they are working with the ISIS, and they were partners they know all their cells and they see what a deadly trouble we are facing with. By such announcements they try to show that they give us a heads up they have done their job but the MİT is responsible for every drop of blood that will be shed in Turkey because the MİT is the financer, coordinator and choir conductor of the war in Syria.
“MİT and the government are responsible for every drop of blood shed in Turkey”
What should people do? They have manipulated the society to such extent that they are constantly shocking and confusing everyone. For example, someone who is considered to be a representative of cemaat stands out and says that the MİT will organize attacks and put the blame on cemaat. Later on, the AK Party representative comes out and says that the Gülen Movement will organize attacks and put the blame on them in order to wear them out. We watch this everyday as a society. How do you evaluate this?
They can call out again on covert operations but they will extensively be harmed by these operations. Everybody understands that every bomb to go off in Turkey is within Tayyip Erdoğan’s knowledge. Gülen Movement’s base is warning the religious segments. My guess is that Gülen Movement’s armed apparatus is yet to be proved. If there are any attacks or bombings, the government and the intelligence agency under its control are responsible. That’s how I view the subject. It is too soon to say anything about the Gülen Movement because there is no hard evidence.
These are very serious claims. I also want to talk about socialism and the left in Turkey with you. We will continue later with questions about Gezi, Alevis, various identities and Dersim. How do you define yourself with the end of Cold War? Are you still a revolutionist? Do you still see yourself as a socialist or a communist? Or are you a liberal leftist? Are you a social democrat or a radical democrat? What is your understanding of left? How should left be?
I can express my understanding of leftism as the ruling of labour. I dream of a regime where the workers, labourers and those who live off their labours taking place in the cabinet. That’s why I cannot draw my imagined society with bold lines. However, it is obvious that major changes should be made in defining socialism. For a long period of time socialism’s theory was mainly concentrated on establishing a single party, executing a single party dictatorship and the rulership of a single class. I believe it is clear that these also have to be reshaped in accordance with the needs of 21st century. We need a more inclusive socialism which respects various minorities, faiths and groups with different sexual orientations. Capitalism is bad, political Islam is also bad but socialism needs to be reformed as well.
“Capitalism should not exist but socialism needs to be reformed as well. We need a more inclusive socialism which respects various minorities, faiths and groups with different sexual orientations”
Should the left criticize neoliberalism and capitalism entirely or should it remain in the system and concentrate on gaining certain acquisitions? Or should it confront them completely? How should the priorities be set?
I am against capitalism, and I believe it should not exist but I think we should be a little bit more flexible about what’s going to replace it because the current experience proved us all that stuff has been falsified. It is so obvious that capitalism is a bankrupted regime which depletes all the resources and ruins the environment. The problems we have endured in Beşiktaş, Sarıyer and Şişli Municipalities were actually caused by capitalism’s crisis.
I want to ask this because the identity politics have really developed with neoliberalism, you have once said that you prefer defining yourself as a socialist rather than an Alevi. What’s the reason?
There is no problem with the identity issues as long as we defend the rights of the abnegated, oppressed and repudiated identities. It is crystal clear. Nevertheless, if these distinctions and problems are exaggerated and constantly mentioned, there is no chance for any society to stay together. Let aside a country, even a neighbourhood has no chance to live together. That’s why I believe identity politics are reasonable and essential in defending the rights but are very dangerous if exaggerated. That’s why I feel it is more appropriate to express myself within the notions of labour, capital and class. Additionally my dream is not to live in a district which is only composed of Alevis, Kurds or other oppressed identities.
Nation state has created serious problems upon identities and minorities. These also had to be discussed. On the other hand, identity politics are breaking societies into pieces. You have to underline the importance of class and labour struggles but also have to mention, without overstating, the necessity of identity politics. However, in Turkey they do not really go hand in hand in practice. Certain groups which define themselves on the left of the political scale concentrate on identity politics whereas others refer to class struggle and accuse the others of being integrated into the capitalist system by serving it. People used to believe that these identity issues would be resolved within socialism but this idea is no longer sought after with the collapse of socialism. How do you evaluate this situation?
I believe that the dissolution of socialism is a defining ring of the apparition of identities. All sub-identities have been revitalized since socialism has collapsed. It also had some positive results as well. For example, the world got to know these small identity groups and their cultures, which is really good. But there is nothing left in this world that we can define as ‘us.’ Even in Europe we discuss Islam and Christianity. The issue is this even for large parties in Germany, religion is on the forefront. This is really dangerous and obscures the class struggle. Our issue is not with religion nor with beliefs, these are irrelevant matters. In reality, it is a matter between classes but honestly, even socialist movements which represent the oppressed classes became strangers to these identity issues. For example, the socialist movement in which I took place did nothing about the issue asserting that they will discuss Dersim 38 once the socialist revolution is realised, maybe that’s why they’ve never done anything about it. When I investigated the subject in detail, the first reaction of the socialist movement I was affiliated with was to silence me. They told me why you are investigating these matters go work on the issues in factories.
Was the claim that none of these issues would have happened if socialism was established and that socialism would have solved these oppressed and often-ignored identities’ problems, nothing more than mere empty rhetoric?
Yes. I think it is an empty promise and was only aimed at suppressing the possible dissent regarding the matter. A sensible political movement should have understood that these identities may die until socialism comes by and it should have said that women’s, feminism’s and children’s problems are all severe issues regardless of the success of the movement and that tactics aimed at solving these issues should be developed alongside the main struggle. For instance when I first wrote in Zazaki language, one of the first reactions I received was from my own political movement as they criticized me by asking why I was spending my intellectual capacity on writing in a language which was only spoken by so few people in Turkey. That was the first time I realized that the socialist movement I was aligned with also had some red lines and I went through a deep reckoning. My separation from the socialist community is also related to this internal conflict. I did not depart intellectually but I got separated physically from the socialist movement as these issues of identity were never received understandingly, our roads were separated.
“I think that Gezi is a revolution. I say revolution; I deliberately overrate it because it tore down entire thought system”
We have discussed the dissolution of socialism and the transformations on the left side of the political scale conjunctively with your personal story; let’s talk about Gezi to return back to contemporary developments. I am not going to ask about deaths and murders again but I particularly want to ask a question concerning Ethem. You have presented a parliamentary question to the Speakership of Parliament regarding Şanlıurfa Police Department’s financial aid campaign to police officer Ahmet Şahbaz, the killer of Ethem Sarısülük. Can you give us a little bit more information about this?
Upon my inquiry, the police department has made a confirming statement. They claimed that it was professional solidarity and stated that Şahbaz’s trial was still an ongoing process and the verdict was not validated, implying that he was innocent. Ankara Police Department decided in an official investigation that the police Şahbaz was faultless. In a word claimed that he defended himself and fired his gun in self-defence. In this respect, it is seen that the Police Department both remained unresponsive to Ethem’s murder and repudiated his right to live, while giving the police officer, who received a judicial punishment and his being the least half-guilty was known now, a back. I believe this is very detrimental to any police department as such police department’s respectability and trustworthiness may be harmed.
Starting from this point of view, how do you perceive Gezi? Has Gezi created a radical transformation in Turkey?
Of course, of course, I think that Gezi is a revolution. I say revolution and I deliberately overrate it because it pulled down all the thought system of AKP. In June 2013, millions of people have experienced that AKP can be defeated. According to police reports 13 million people have hit the streets, whom I believe were whole lot more. Demonstrations were held in every cities of Turkey except only two, that’s why it had unimaginable impacts on every aspect of the society from the daily life to the politics. I believe that we have to wait at least ten to twenty years and see what will happen afterwards to really understand Gezi.
What do you think of contemporary social movements such as the Unified June Movement?
I really am in their favour. This was created by Gezi; it brought all these groups together. Numerous leftist parties and milieus are included. My fear is that this energy will be wasted if they indulge themselves into ballot box calculations.
You have previously asked the Unified June Movement on Twitter not to establish a party. You have also published a fourteen point declaration, what has changed since Gezi, why did you ask them not to establish a party?
There are 30-40 political parties in Turkey. I believe it is more right that it stays as a phantom like formation which does not have an office, but intervenes to the problems and represents the public conscious. For example, staying as a movement which marches in İstanbul when Charlie Hebdo is hit by terrorists is better than adding a new uninfluential party to the list. I would not have asked anybody not to establish a party before, as parties were tools of obtaining rights and of resistance in our political culture but I do not advise them to do so because there are already a bunch of socialist parties which cannot constitute a major power, there is no need for a new one.
Gezi does not have a leader or a political party, actually those who have participated to Gezi may very well not be on the same page regarding specific political issues, so they have only agreed upon defending certain values and rights. In this context do you think that’s why they should not establish a party? Is this character what is so special about Gezi?
Absolutely true, if they establish a party, let me put it this way: When they have created the Turkish Assembly, some friends have criticized it for not sufficiently underlining the importance of Kobane or mother tongue based education. As the movement is constituted of very different point of views you cannot declare your views on every matter because if you do so, those who defend another point of view regarding the matter are excluded. For example Unified June did not have to say anything about Kobane because Kobane is almost cleared of the ISIS. American, European and Moroccan Air Forces are constantly bombing the region and they have at least contained the spread of the ISIS. It does not need to say anything about Kobane. As Unified June is getting organized primarily in the west of Turkey, mother tongue based education is not an urgent matter. Kurds, Arabs, Zazas and other ethnic groups, living in the west of Turkey, are concentrated in certain regions. There should be schools which teach in mother tongue as well in these regions. Unified June should also voice out these demands however due to the lack of a forceful main body in respect to the population it represents, it cannot ardently voice out these concerns. Not saying anything regarding these controversial topics allows them to reunite the largest mass possible.
Various different identities have become apparent during Gezi Protests. For example LGBT’s have attracted a great attention. How do you evaluate the sudden fade in of the LGBT movement during Gezi Protests as a party right in the middle of social politics? What’s the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi’hs (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) standpoint on LGBTs?
The emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT movement is very important and a very positive development. Some of them had become candidates and been elected to the municipal councils. I see that CHP is moving towards a more liberal stance on this issue because our female deputies such as Binnaz Toprak and Melda Onur have made an enormous effort in this domain. Frankly, as a person who has spent 40 years of his life in Dersim, I am newly acquainted with this field but I endeavour in CHP for freedoms as much as I can.
“LGBT rights should be constitutionally guaranteed”
The Red Crescent’s President’s statements concerning LGBTs and blood donation created a lot of controversy. Do you believe that LGBT rights should be constitutionally guaranteed?
Undoubtedly. This problem exists for centuries. It is just recently discussed. Humanity just newly accepted that this is not a disease but a natural orientation. Societies change and I believe that we should keep up with this change and with what is compatible with the mind and science. If you talked about this issue 50 years ago with me or with anybody else, he-she probably would not say these. He-she would probably say that this is a disease that needs to be cured etc. But science teaches us that this is not a disease but a natural orientation.
Lastly, let’s talk about Alevis and Dersim. You have substantially studied these subjects. First of all the government launched an Alevi Initiative alongside a Kurdish Initiative. There were even discussions concerning the recognition of cemevis’ status as houses of worship but there is not any progress. How do you evaluate the Alevi Initiative? What are your expectations?
If political Islam ever recognizes cemevi as a house of worship, that day it will no longer be Political Islam. Therefore it will be a huge reform; actually it will be a reform in Islam as well since Islamists are always imposing a formalistic Islam like five times prayer in a mosque, Friday prayers and 30 days of fasting. Directorate of Religious Affairs dictates it to the society every hour of the day with fatwas. If cemevi is recognized as a house of worship it would also be the recognition of the multiplicity of houses of worship in Islam and it may initiate a period of reform and moderation. I believe that the recognition of Alevis presents an opportunity especially for Islamists to face themselves and to be reformed because Alevis already go to cemevi and build cemevis with their own money even if the state does not recognize it as a house of worship.
“AKP has no Alevi Initiative. I believe that the recognition of cemevi presents an opportunity especially for Islamists to face themselves and to be reformed”
Do you believe that this Alevi Initiative is a Sunnification project as some people claim? Is there such danger?
I do not see any Alevi initiative. Thus far, there has been no initiative responding to the Alevi requests. The government merely makes balance adjustments such as Alevi initiative and Roman initiatives every time it gets stalemated. There is no initiative whatsoever.
You have stated on Twitter in September that you have never respected and still do not respect turban. Do you think you have been misunderstood? What are your views on turban?
No, I actually did not mean turban. I was actually referring to those who defend a political ideology in pretext of turban. I do not have any problem with the headscarf or with those who veil themselves naturally, apart from political implications, in accordance with their religious believes or as they have seen from their ancestors. Everybody should be allowed to dress as they see fit. However the turban issue is not a respectable one, it is one of the reasons why Turkey reached to this awful situation. They used to claim that only those who are over 18 should be allowed to decide for their own, and that they could not interfere with them however now turban is even legalized in primary school. They can even force nine-year olds to veil themselves. There are numerous children especially in Anatolia who go to school with veil. Imams and religious authorities overtly declare this. They see nine-year old children as sexual objects and insist that they should be veiled. In my opinion regarding a nine-year old like this is perversion.
In an article of yours, you have written that the citizens of Dersim define themselves as Alevi and Kızılbaş instead of Kurdish, Zaza or Armenian. Are religious identities predominant? You have also clearly mentioned that you have not met any Armenian identity. Do they have to underline those identities even more?
That’s true, beliefs are at the forefront. The pains they have suffered for centuries since Yavuz Sultan Selim also plays their part. What I wanted to emphasize in regard to the Armenian identity was that these identities actually exist but they keep these identities as secret due to the horrible calamity they have suffered. In a sense, ethnic identities are not one the forefront, it is as if religion is unifying everyone there. Ethnic identities have become of secondary importance, that’s what I meant. Declaring that they are Alevis is a test of courage from their point of view; they express themselves from that angle as they believe the oppression is directed towards their religious beliefs.
CHP Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu mentioned the necessity of an official Dersim apology in the parliament following Prime Minister Erdoğan’s apology. A legislation regarding Dersim was also on the agenda; do you have any expectations concerning the subject?
I do not think making an apology for Dersim on a TV program is right. Neither Mr. Sezgin’s timing nor the fact that he made this statement on a TV show are appropriate for the weight and seriousness of the matter. In a democratic country, it should either be made in the parliament with the presence of every political figure or there should be ceremony led by the president. But of course we are not in a democratic country but under the pressure of a clearly repressive regime. Therefore my proposition is inapplicable.
You stated that there should be an official state apology regarding Dersim. Why do you think the government did not present its condolences even though the Prime Minister has made such appeal from the lectern? Is there anything else to be done afterwards, if an official apology is made?
There has been so many debates concerning Dersim but no one made stride so far. Thus, now 100.000 people living in Dersim feel that the issue should not be discussed anymore since their wounds restart bleeding and yet nothing’s done. That’s why I believe AKP will not have a free hand on that matter anymore. In regard to Dersim the course of action is obvious. An apology has to be made and then it should be asked to the public about what to do. People should decide whether compensations should be paid, as a section of the society does not want any compensation for their deceased, or the areas of massacre will be reopened to the society alongside the announcement of the lists of the exiled. The main demands are pretty apparent however the demands of the public should be asked and the legislations should be made in accordance. Otherwise it’s just a talk of the town and the entire discussion loses its value.
“There should be an official apology for Dersim. State should apologize and then ask to the local public about what needs to be done. People should decide”
How do you describe what happened in Dersim, massacre or genocide?
I have never used the word genocide as people are offended by it. I called it a massacre because these are difficult discussions as the word genocide is a politicized discourse due to the Armenian issue. It’s called a massacre since everyone recognizes the Dersim Massacre. It is more or less accepted. I believe it will be better to advance in this direction without offending or hurting anyone. I stand with the solution not with endless polemics.
Finally, you describe yourself as a Deputy of Dersim. Should we refer to you as a deputy of Dersim or of Tunceli?
Dersim of course.
Why Dersim then?
Because Tunceli is a name that is given unknown to the people. Deputy of Dersim is not quite accurate either as Dersim is a vast region. Bingöl, Erzincan, Elazığ some parts of Sivas and few counties etc. are also included. When we use the term Dersim it refers to a larger region and I overestimate myself that’s why it is incorrect. I prefer Dersim nevertheless.
Final question; How do you evaluate the Türkiye Komünist Partisi’s (Communist Party of Turkey) (TKP) first municipal victory in Tunceli?
Dersim community is an agricultural community, they are sharecroppers, and fifty years ago even the wealthiest person owned no more than a few hundred sheep. It’s the same in politics as well. The voters of TKP, CHP, AKP and Halkların Demokrasi Partisi (People’s Democracy Party) (HDP) are sociologically identical. It is a communist society. TKP or Kaypakkayacılar may win municipalities or send deputies to the parliament as long as the right candidates run for the offices. AKP could not win the elections for years. This is Dersim.
We thank you so much for this long interview and conversation. We wish you a lot of success and kind regards.
You are welcome, I thank you too. There were a lot of challenging questions and we also made serious theoretical discussions. It was a solid conversation. I wish you success as well.
© 2015 Research Turkey. All rights reserved. This publication cannot be printed, reproduced, or copied without referencing the original source.
Please cite this publication as follows:
Research Turkey (March, 2015), “Interview with Hüseyin Aygün: The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Challenges of Today (Part II): Political Dynamics of the State and the Government in Turkey, Transformations in Leftist Movements, Retrospective on Societal Mobility and Slaughters”, Vol. IV, Issue 3, pp.34-55, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=8347)