Other Forms of Resistance from Boğaziçi to Kobane
Other Forms of Resistance from Boğaziçi to Kobane
In this article, I will try to express the process of action in Boğaziçi University which has been experienced in the wake of the war against ISIS had spread over Kobane city centre. This process which began with class boycotts and aid campaigns has reached another level with the death of Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı (Paramaz Kızılbaş), who was a former Boğaziçi University student, sociologist and translator, died in Kobanê while fighting against ISIS. The remembrance on October 17 has turned Nejat’s death to be a part of Boğaziçi University students’ everyday life, not only as mourning, but also as a struggle point.
After hearing the news announcing that ISIS marched to Kobane city centre, the resistance movement in Turkey, particularly in cities where Kurdish people are highly populated, has spread over Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir in a very short time. In my opinion, ISIS attacks to Kobane had several implications for those who have attended resistance movements in cities and then, in Boğaziçi University. Firstly, those who fight and/or die in Kobane were neighbours, relatives, and friends for the Kurdish people who have attended resistance movements. Moreover, Rojava Revolution became a hope for both Kurdish people and other ethnic/national communities in Turkey who are longing for peace and democracy, and ISIS had the aim of sweeping this hope away. Other than all these ethnic and ideological reasons, there was a war on the other part of the border and people were dying, additionally this war had the potential of gaining ground inside of Turkey. Due to this kind of anxieties, many people took to the streets with diverse forms of movements of resistance. However, escalating police violence against this movement brought death along, especially in Kurdish cities; such that recent news announced 48 dead people in demonstrations.  Actions in Boğaziçi University flourished under these circumstances. Along with this essay, I would once again like to emphasize that we should attempt to find new ways for supporting these resistance movements, not only from Kurdish cities but also everywhere we live. As Boğaziçi University students, we have tried to find new ways for this resistance in university campuses with the help of diverse actions and activities that took part throughout the week. Alongside the solidarity with Rojava, Kobane, Şengal and with Kurdish, Turkmen, Arab, Ezidi, and all other peoples living there, we have laid claim to the hope for new life, which has burgeoned there, with our actions.
Especially after the news announcing that ISIS gained ground on Kobane city centre and resistance movement in cities in Turkey rapidly increased; we, as a group of friends, discussed on what we could do for all these at the night of October 7th, Wednesday. Then, we decided to organize a meeting at Boğaziçi Forum, which was established in the wake of Gezi Park Movement and became a significant platform for Boğaziçi University students, academics, and other constituents, in order to talk about what we could do as the components of the University. The day after, we made an agreement on class boycott and announced another meeting for broader participation. Despite our all day long efforts to call people for boycott with posters and class announcements in the first day, the level of participation remained low. When I think about previous years’ boycotts, for example boycotts for mine explosion in Soma and death of Berkin Elvan, this organization for boycott got lower participation comparing to them.3 4 Actually, former organization for action were organized by the same people who are positioning themselves in an oppositional ground. Nevertheless, this time the reaction of participants was somehow different. Fortunately, the forum meeting that we organized for the evening gathered more participants. We decided on some significant issues for the forthcoming days. Boycott would be sustained and more announcements would be made, both through written statements and poster announcements, to call more people for boycott. We would make another action by participating to the march of Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers’ Union) and academics in the North Square of Boğaziçi University. After all these, we planned to make another announcement for Forum meeting to discuss about solidarity with and participation to aid campaigns and about going to Suruç.5 We decided to organize a march from the campus in case of a call for action by other organizations in the city. The core element for all these decisions was to break apathy both in the campus and neighbourhood. We aimed to remind them of bloody war which in our proximity, and to invite them to take an action in order to prevent the war.
When we gathered in the morning of October 9th, the very same people were there. We were split up into two groups to each campus. While boycott was carrying on in the second day, academics had supported boycott by participating to the march organized by Eğitim-Sen and by going on strike. This necessarily increased the level of participation to the boycott. However, I am not clear whether those students whose classes were cancelled went to home or participated to the boycott. After marching with Eğitim-Sen, we were informed about the attack by a group named themselves as “Muslim Youth” toward activist students in Istanbul University. Then, we organized an urgent Forum meeting and decided to make a march that would begin in the university campus and involve the neighbourhood and release a public statement. After that we would go to Istanbul University to support our friends there. We marched with academics. By this way, we declared that we, as Boğaziçi University students and academics, are the supporters of Kobane Resistance and invited them not to remain unconcerned to the war. From the beginning to the end, the march was not interfered by anyone. We walked all together by shouting slogans and carrying banners in our hands. It is worthwhile to note that neighbours supported us by applauding and honking from their cars. Perhaps, they were not as passionate as they were in Gezi Resistance (they were making sounds with pots and pans during Gezi Protests), but there were still some residents who were making sound along with us in our neighbourhood. After the march and public statement at the gate of North Campus, some of our friends went to Istanbul University to show solidarity with them. After that we tried to organize another Forum meeting to decide on what we could do in the long run. At the same time, we tried to create a memory place for the people dying in Kurdish cities, but are being declared just as numbers. We wrote those people’s names on our banners in the memory of them. We did this, because Gezi Resistance taught us to be one body with each death and to flourish again with each death. Ali İsmail, Berkin, Medeni and the others… They became the memory and symbols of resistance. But now, Kurds were resisting “as always”, dying “naturally”, and we were only being informed on and counting numbers. Instead of misinformation at this process, we learned each people’s name and tried to make them symbols of the resistance.
At the afternoon meeting, Assist. Prof. Bülent Küçük and Prof. Nükhet Sirman from sociology department expressed their observations on Suruç. These observations were underlying some core needs: Money aid for medication and container, labour force for classification and distribution of the aid materials, English speaking people for communicating with international press at the border, and urgent need for the increase of international public awareness. We, as people in Forum meeting, took some decisions considering these urgent needs. We would create a tent for aid to Suruç and collect some materials, such as clothes, diaper, pad, etc., to send to Suruç. At the same time, people would come to this tent to write their names into the list of people who were volunteered to go to Suruç, as translators, labour force, and so on and so forth. We made a coordination group in order to fulfil these duties. We discussed about creating an international blog with some news translations on it and some of our friends took initiative to initiate such a web blog. The other issue at the Forum meeting was about “what we should do then”. A march was organized and made, but this march did not get sufficient participation. Meanwhile, state of emergency was declared in many parts of Turkey, and people were dying constantly while resisting. AKP government were insisting on not to open a corridor to Kobane and were still equalizing ISIS and PKK. Meanwhile, a big proportion of the population remained silent to all these or they were convinced by statements. 6 7 We were annoyed by the “normal course” of the everyday life and decided to march to Etiler, a neighbourhood which is known for its opulence, in order to interfere and break luxury and normal course of life. We started to walk from North campus with the slogans and banners on which the names of the people who died in resistance in Kurdistan were written. We were 50-60 people in the march. Throughout the march, which has taken 15-20 minutes till Akmerkez Shopping Mall, plain-clothes policemen followed us. When we were in front of Akmerkez, these policemen stopped us by claiming that we were preventing traffic run. With the pretext of prevention of traffic, policemen were governing the traffic run which in turn helping riot police to come. Because of this situation, we decided to stage a sit-in. Throughout the sit-in protest riot police surrounded us, and we told them that we were finishing our protest and going back and asked them to recede. We were thinking that we made a deal with them, but when we started to go back, they pounded some of our friends up. They detained eight of our friends and attacked us with the tear gas. Ones who achieved to escape and come back to school and wrote a statement on release of our friends. We stood sentry until our friends would be released and they were released at that night.
On October 13 we were informed that Boğaziçi University graduate, sociologist Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı (Paramaz Kızılbaş) had died while fighting against ISIS in Kobane. We were all shocked by his death. He was an activist when he used to be a student and most of us have known him and were friends of him. The tent had become in memory of him on Monday. His picture on posters and blueprints were put all over the campus. The name of the North Square has been changed to Nejat Ağırnaslı Square. In the following days, tent had two aims: collecting materials to send to Suruç and memorializing Nejat. Besides, because we could not collect money directly due to some bureaucratic conditions, we made an agreement with Tiyatro Boğaziçi, which consists of Boğaziçi University graduates, to perform a play of which revenues would be sent to Kobane and peoples of Şengal. In addition, we organized a charity sale. On October 17, lastly, a commemoration had been organized for Nejat with the participation of his family, friends, and professors. Participation to commemoration was perfectly high and lots of people, even those who did not personally know Nejat, had participated. We walked from North Campus to South Campus to plant a sapling in the memory of Nejat. I should note that while we were walking in South Campus, a person had shouted to crowd as “Separatists, Terrorists!” Even though a few people from the crowd started running toward that person, others in the crowd soothed them. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media declared this event as a lynch attempt. Those people, who were there in order to memorialize their friend and were provoked by someone and appeased themselves, were once more declared as terrorists like that provocateur shouted. There was no extreme event except the abovementioned one. After planting, the letter that Nejat had written before he had taken the hills was read. After that his family, friends and co-president of HDP Figen Yüksekdağ gave speeches. At last, we watched a cinevision which includes Nejat’s photos. Throughout this commemoration, Nejat’s death was opening a door of new forms of resistance in Boğaziçi University. In other saying, Nejat was a great loss for his family and friends, but at the same time he was embodying all the memories of our losses upon himself. As he said, he had made a simple choice as an ordinary human-being as well as he was enabling us question our own choices.
“Because of ordinary paradoxes, I have made a choice as an ordinary person. Above all, I have made this decision for myself. I did not start out for a lofty aim, I just wanted to bewitch the life of non-lofty people and the world which is unmagical and materialized. I have learned that my paradoxes cannot be overcome because they are societal and one should always make their paradoxes organized in order to try to make them societal in a much higher level. This is the closest point to the truth that I have ever reached in my life.”8
At the end of Friday, our friends who had written their names on the list went from Boğaziçi to Suruç in such atmosphere. They went to Suruç where they would be able to observe and experience different forms of resistance, and would be able to help people. As we have learned so far they were not stopped on the road and they are busy with classifications of materials. Now, they are staying in a frontier village. We will get detailed information when they come back. We will talk about what we can do in the forthcoming day in accordance with their observations. We will try to make Boğaziçi University a part of resistance with different actions.
For now, we are saying this once again from the letter of Nejat:
All hearts are revolutionist cubicles!
Imagination to the Power!
Ronay Bakan, Boğaziçi University
Please cite this publication as follows:
Bakan R. (November, 2014), “Other Forms of Resistance from Boğaziçi to Kobane”, Vol. III, Issue 11, pp.28-33, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=7202)
Cities in Eastern and South Eastern Anatolia are places where Kurdish people consist the majority of the population. From now on, these cities will be mentioned within the form of “Kurdish cities”.
“Number of Deaths Increased to 48 in Kobane Protests”, 19 October 2014. This was attained on October 20th, 2014. <http://www.imctv.com.tr/2014/10/19/kobani-eylemlerinde-olu-sayisi-48e-cikti/>
3“University Students are Standing for Berkin”, March 11 2014, this was attained in October 31st, 2014. <http://www.etha.com.tr/Haber/2014/03/11/guncel/universite-ogrencileri-berkin-icin-ayakta/>
4“Everywhere is Soma”, June 15 2014, this was attained in October 31 2014. <http://www.ozgur-gundem.com/index.php?haberID=107390&haberBaslik=Her%20yer%20Soma&categoryID=2&action=haber_detay&module=nuce>
5Suruç is a border district in Şanlıurfa and 38 km far to the Kobane border. After ISIS attacked to Kobane, the population of Suruç increased to 180.000 from 50.000.
6“President: ISIS and PKK are same for us”, 5 Ekim 2014, this was attained in October 31 2014. <http://www.zaman.com.tr/politika_cumhurbaskani-bizim-icin-isid-neyse-pkk-da-odur_2248663.html>
7“Davutoğlu Considers ISIS as a Front Consisting of Angry and Excluded Groups”, August 7 2014, this was attained in October 31st, 2014. <http://www.baskahaber.org/2014/08/davutoglu-isidi-ofkeli-ve-dslanms.html>
8“The Letter of Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı: ‘I Have Only Made a Simple Choice”, October 17 2014, this was attained in October 31 2014. <http://haber.sol.org.tr/devlet-ve-siyaset/suphi-nejat-agirnaslinin-mektubu-sadece-bir-tercihte-bulundum-haberi-98785>