23 Eylül 2013 Pazartesi


Excerpts from the "Come in September" concert,
Kadıköy, Istanbul, September 15th 2013.
(Images from my own camera, except for the last two stills which are from the media.)


Whatever you may think about it, whatever you may feel about the performers and the words, you must acknowledge that Rock music is intrinsically the music of protest, of defiance, a faceoff with the established order. I enjoy Rock, even if I am not always in accordance with the thoughts and philosophies behind some of the words. "Sex and drugs and Rock and Roll" doesn't express my lifestyle, particularly the second element. 

But I can't accept the idea of sterilized Rock.

Turkey has a lively popular music scene; there are hundreds of performers covering a wide spectrum from the complaining and whining "Arabesk" through pop ballads to rap, but the subject matter has for years been confined to heartbreaks and ditched lovers.This would be all well and good in a society at peace with itself, but if performers dressed in studied nonconformity come up with no stronger stuff after ten years of AKP rule, waves of arrests, sham trials,  enforced fundamentalism, rapacious capitalisim and warmongering, then I would say there is something seriously amiss.

Half-shaven teen idols steer so clear of the very real issues of the country that they just have to look fake. Either raise your voice, or stop playing the non-conformist!

I hate the monotone drone of protest slogans, always with the same simplistic rythm that makes the crowd sound like a band of retards! Don't get me wrong, when I join a demonstration I shout myself hoarse, not that I like the sound we are producing, not that I enjoy demonstrating, but because the urge to do something-anything- is so strong. But I always felt we needed some good, motivating Rock music to drive the energy up and keep it there. And I believed it fell to our popular musicians, who had for so long reaped wealth and esteem from their audience, to do their bit! I was genuinely annoyed to see the image of the Rocker and the motorbike-riding groupie used to advertise a credit card.

Rocker and biker bimbo advertising a credit card.

With the Gezi uprising the young people took the cause and ran with it, enriching the anti-AKP resistance movement with humor and music. (See "A Musical Interlude", 27 June-Haziran 2012 and "Yet More Music", 6 July-Temmuz 2013) As the Gezi movement foundits voice, Turkish Rock found its cause. The amazing "Gasman" (Gazdan Adam) concert of July 7th was like a very welcome anti-AKP Woodstock (See "Gas Man", 8 July-Temmuz 2013). On September 15th the same lieu- the ferry landing at Istanbul's Kadıköy district- became the venue for the "Come in September" (Eylülde Gel) concert, free of charge, as was the "Gasman" concert. 

"Come in September."

This time the theme was the six youths who had died in clashes with security forces since the start of the Gezi events on March 31st. A seventh death connected with the clashes had occured just two days before, on the night of September 13th. when a young man with a heart problem named Serdar Kadakal was hospitalized apparently from the effects of gas and could not be revived. (See: "Kadıköy's First Victim", 14 September- Eylül 2013). Perhaps it was because the posters and placards were already in print, or perhaps because this victim was not actively participating in a protest action at the timebut was affected by the gas in a locale where he was working, Kadakal was not commemorated. The coroners' report refrained from connecting the death to the effects of gas.

The concert: a big banner with the images of the six "martyrs". From left to right they are: Abdullah Cömert, Ahmet Atakan, Ethem Sarısülük, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Medeni Yıldırım and Ali İsmail Korkmaz. The text reads: "The AKP will have to answer for our brothers killed by the police while giving life to the resistance."
(Image from my own camera.)

To be fair it should be noted that the six victims- called "martyrs" by the protesters, do not include police commissioner Mustafa Sarı who fell to his death while chasing protesters in Hatay in June is not included in the count because he was not a "martyr for the cause", though he certainly was a victim of the dictatorial attitude of Prime Minister Erdoğan and the AKP which pitted the police against a frustrated and indignant citizenry.

I must also point out that at least one of the six "martyrs", Medeni Yıldırım, cannot reasonably be linked to the Gezi protests. Whereas the Gezi protests united many opponents of the AKP, it had a predominantly a nationalist-Kemalist tone. The Kurdish-separatist faction was at a loss about how to react to the anti-AKP protests because the AKP was involved with direct negotiations with the paramilitary PKK insurgents and their imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan, opening the way to the separation of the southeast provinces as a new Kurdish state. Some MPs of the Kurdish-Seperatist BDP did give their personal support to the Gezi protests at the time- Sırrı Süreyya Önder was wounded and hospitalizedon May 31st- but the BDP was openly concerned about how the anti-government movement would affect the ongoing process of the creation of a seperate Kurdish state. While the AKP has been presenting its new Kurdish policy as a kind of federal solution for which the concept of the national state must be sacrificed, at least some of the local populations must have been led to believe that full seperation was already in effect so that military outposts in the region were seen as no longer legitimate. When the Gendarmerie undertook construction of a new outpost at Lice (pronounced "Lidjeh"; the Gendarmerie claims it was really only repair work) the population stormed the outpost. The 19 year old Medeni Yıldırım was among them protesters and was shot dead in the scuffle. 

The coffin of young Medeni Yıldırım, draped with the PKK flag- "rag" accoırding to the Labor Party, Ulusal, and Aydınlık.
(Image from the media.)

In the aftermath of the Gezi protests, which were silenced by making the Gezi park inaccessible to any potential protesters, the movement spread to park forums in other parks in Istanbul and other major cities. It was a laudable effort, with views expressed openly. The natural and inevitable outcome was that the movement became less focused. The movement would now have to resolve its differences, otherwise it would either dissolve or degenerate into mutual antagonism. The forums embraced the dissenters of Lice and the fallen Medeni Yıldırım and even the Kurdish cause as their own. So we have the unusual spectacle of nationalists glorifying a fallen seperatists.

There are two ways to look at this. One could say seperatists are hijacking the movement, turning a widespread popular action in defense of a threatened Republic into something that threatens that very same Republic. One could equally say that by embracing the Kurdish protesters, the Gezi movement has sought to defuse a threat from that direction. Probably, both are true.

When all is said and done, I think it is self evident that nothing can be solved by forcing the Kurdish populations to accept our premises. Nor is it healthy for the BDP and the PKK to make  their decisions for them- and the PKK style is to use force. I do not wish seperation. I don't particularly wish a federal solution and I am convinced we cannot carry out such an experiment at this stage; a federation will work only when the parts want to work with each other and have the capability of doing so. The AKP-BDP-PKK-US plan for a federation is manifestly a step towards total seperation. And if it absolutely must come to that- this is not something one can fairly decide until all the populations in the area are consulted- then hard negotiations are in order. After all, Turkey, as a sovereign state, is being asked to give up its possessions without suffering defeat in the field of battle, it should reserve the right exact conditions that are the least disfavorable to itself and to populations that choose to remain loyal to it. The way the AKP is handling the matter amounts to treason, the way the BDP is handling it is treachery.

The "Gasman" festival was sponsored by organizations that profess different shades of Kemalism like Labor Party (İşçi Partisi) organs Ulusal channel and the Aydınlık newspaper, the CHP's  Halk channel, the Internet newsite Oda TV, the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and the leftist Sol newsaper. The newspaper Bir Gün, supporting the PKK and Kurdish seperatism, had pulled out of sponsorship claiming the event was assuming a "chauvinistic" character. The "Come in September" concert of September 15th, on the other hand, was organized by the park forums, and while strongly anti-AKP and making references to the Gezi protests, did not have such a nationalist-Kemalist tone. 

The national flag and the image of Ataturk, so prominent in the Gezi uprising, were much harder to come by at the "Come in September" concert in Kadıköy, September 15th, 2013. The solitary example here is to the left. 
(Image from my own camera.)

The hand placards distributed to the participants had the slogans in Turkish on one side and Kurdish on the obverse. We weren't there fo the whole concert but I know that one group- Praksis- tipped a hat towards Kurdish seperatists during a patter between songs, implying the government was giving them less than what they wanted. ("...Kurds, mmmm, you can only have what we are willing to give you so don't ask for anything more...!") This is diametrically opposed to the Labor Party view that the government is surrendering everything. (The Labor Party and its organs embrace the Kurds as "our brothers" but do not recognize any independent sovereignity rights, claim such a state would be a puppet of the US, and call the Kurdish flag a "rag".) A song by the same group, Praksis, specifically name the TOMA and the F-16 as the government's instruments of oppression. (You can hear it in the videoclip.) The TOMA is an armored police vehicle equipped to squirt pressurized water on protesters, much used to quell protest actions against the AKP. The F-16 is a fighter plane, and fighter planes have been used against PKK insurgents, particularly after they have raided a military outpost.

There is no question that the AKP is finally reaping what it has been sowing for over ten years, the voices of opposition are growing ever louder and more daring. The movement against the AKP is either splitting up or joining forces- lt's hard to tell which- but perhaps it is best that the reckoning between the different factions comes before the AKP's inevitable downfall, and there will be a reconciled Turkish society ready to take over when Erdoğan and his party go the way of all tyrants. Either that, or it will be total chaos!

Meanwhile, Rock On!

Business as usual on the streets of Kadıköy after the concert: some concertgoers stayed on to play their regular game of tag with the police.
(Image from the media.)

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