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Canceled: Whither Turkey? Struggles, Setbacks, Possibilities A Forum

Saturday, April 04, 2020
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Event Type:
Panel Discussion
UCB Sociology Dep.
Location Details:
102 Wurster Hall
UC Berkeley

Whither Turkey?
Struggles, Setbacks, Possibilities

A Forum

March 4 (Wednesday) 2020 7:00 - 9:00 PM
102 Wurster Hall
UC Berkeley

Turkey has recently been in the news with its increasingly authoritarian government, its role of hosting nearly four million war refugees from Syria, its collapsing economy, and its ambitious military interventions in Syria and Libya.

The poster child of the marriage of “liberal democracy” and conserva- tive Islam less than a decade ago, the country is now laden with severe social tensions and impending disasters (possibly including a genocidal attempt against the Kurds).

At the crossroads of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, Turkey has major impacts and is impacted by the current major social upheavals in three regions. Understanding this country is there- fore a major key in understanding global developments.

Join us for a panel of speakers with their unique points of view and insights into the history of Turkey to understand how the country came to the brink of social collapse and to discuss the possibilities for a more egalitarian future.


Professor Cihan Tuğal (moderator): America and Turkey as “Pioneer Nations”: Leaders of Extermi- nation and Populist Revolution in World History; Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley; author of numerous books and articles about religious conservatism, Islamic politics, and social movements and unrests in the MENA region and the US.

Halil İbrahim Yenigün, PhD: Whatever Happened to Turkey’s “Model Muslim Democracy”: The Barren Marriage of Islam and Liberalism in Turkey and the Arab World; Lecturer of History at Stanford University and UC Berkeley; author of numerous articles about Islamic liberalism and Ottoman history; member of the Academics for Peace Platform.

Mehmet Bayram: Cross-Atlantic Fascism? The Rise of Erdoğan’s One-Man Rule in Historical and Global Context ; Journalist, videographer and photographer for labor channels; has given reports on Venezuela, Turkey, Kurdistan, and People’s Republic of Korea.

Deellan S. K. Khanaka: Chaw Hawar: The Kurdish People’s Quest and Struggle for Dignity Activist of numerous social justice and Kurdish organizations; independent researcher.

Ali Coşkun: Imperial Grandeur on Rotten Grounds: The Expansionist Ambitions and Anti-Labor Policies of the AKP; Student and independent researcher; activist for various labor and immigrant rights platforms in Turkey and the US.

For more information: contactberkturkey(at)

Sponsored by UCB Sociology Department

A frontal attack on journalism is underway in Turkey
25 Ocak 2020 01:58
Journalists from Evrensel were surprised, when they inquired about their press passes, to find out that they no longer had any press credentials. Their press cards had been cancelled by the government

A frontal attack on journalism is underway in Turkey

There are only a few opposition papers and media left in Turkey. This is the result of a well-planned, top-down assault of the government to silence all opposition.

Media organizations and papers that try to keep their independence from government are struggling under harsh measures that keep mounting each day in Turkey.

Papers like Evrensel, Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Sözcü, or Yeni Yaşam and others are keeping their heads above the water only by sacrificing a lot and mostly by loyal reader support. In a land where the entire mainstream has been forced to toe the government line and have become government mouth-pieces, the remaining few independent media have become the only source of real information.

In a coordinated move, even the mainstream papers that occasionally published soft criticisms of the government were attacked. Using the weapon of “tax audits” and financial measures some papers were disciplined then sold to pro-government businessmen. From that point on the mildest of criticisms of the government ceased in the mainstream.

It was already the norm in the east where any/all opposition media was banned. Raids to newspaper stands, distribution centers, the trucks who transported the papers took a toll. Having an opposition paper in possession, albeit being completely legal, became a crime that could land someone behind bars for years. A legal publication is being treated as proof, especially in the east where the population is mostly Kurdish, of one’s involvement in separationist terrorism. Due to this intimidation, many people avoid buying dissident papers resulting in reduced sales which triggers yet another reason for the distributors or stands not to carry the papers. It is a downward spiral for and independent media.

Buying off and blackmailing the mainstream was easy. The real opposition on the other hand had to be dealt differently. Government watchdogs started scanning the internet. The government agency in charge of ensuring “moral and decent” publications turned their focus on opposition. The sites that reported on corruption and absurdities of the government or its allies were cut from access one by one.

Then came the inside jobs. If the opposition papers were too harsh, and did not budge after regular intimidations, internal contradictions were used. Administrative tricks and external support to those closer to the government or its ideology came into play to change the boards of some papers that resulted in turn to changing the paper’s policies and guidelines.

If this wasn’t enough to silence the opposition, recently came a decision by the government that the paid government announcements and advertising would not be given to the opposition papers. This is as good as a death sentence to papers that stay alive on reader subscriptions, sales and paid government announcements alone. These papers do not get much private advertising because of their political position of being against corruption, capitalism and privatization of social services. The government announcements may be the only substantial income in the face of falling sales, official banning and intimidations.

Paid government ads and announcements, while starving the opposition, has become the source of corruption on how the government launders money to allies. Newspapers spewing out ruling AKP party propaganda but selling hardly a hundred or two copies are gifted with huge government bank advertising and paid announcements. These papers are nearly always owned by business people who also have other contracts and relationships to AKP officials. The government provided funds to the allied media are shared among both givers and receivers. The important part is that when these “newspapers” that only exist to praise the government and gobble up the majority of the government funds, the rest are starved and left to die.

Just when everyone thought the government in Turkey hit rock bottom in its assault against the opposition in known methods, a new preventive measure was revealed yesterday. Journalists from Evrensel were surprised, when they inquired about their press passes, to find out that they no longer had any press credentials. Their press cards had been cancelled by the government.

This actually should not come as a surprise since the whole plan was in effect when the agency that gives the press credentials was moved to function under the Presidential Communications Administration. Since then all new applications for press credentials had been effectively frozen.

Then it came out that the cancellation of press credentials was not limited to the Evrensel newspaper. Other opposition papers, Cumhuriyet and Birgün were also facing the same issue. Journalists working for these papers no longer had a press id.

The attack against the journalists was even bigger than originally thought. It wasn’t only those reporters out on the street, but administrators, page designers, editors, redactors, and even those working for the journalists’ unions had had their cards cancelled.

The journalists are inquiring about the reason for the revocation of their cards, however, the government refuses to answer. Questions have been completely ignored with no acknowledgment, explanation, owning, refusing, denying or announcing the decision by the government.

The journalist union Basın-İş which is a part of the labor confederation DİSK, published a condemnation of this method of silencing dissent in the media. In a tweet, the union said, “We are reminding again. The press card given by the government is not a license of journalism.” The union is advocating the formation of a joint commission by the press organizations to administer and give press credentials.

Sendika.Org News

Education unions join in solidarity with Turkish teachers

Text by: Education International Published: 06.03.2019 Last edited: 27.03.2019
Topics in this post:democracyHuman and Trade Union RightsHuman Rightstrade union rightsTurkey
Education trade unionists from around the world meet in Ankara on 6 and 7 March for the “Education Trade Unions, Rights, Freedoms and Governments International Symposium”, in solidarity with embattled Turkish education unionists struggling for the respect of their rights, their profession and for education as a whole.

Education International (EI) General Secretary David Edwards, in opening remarks to the symposium, organised by EI member organisation Eğitim Sen, recalled that “last year EI celebrated its anniversary. We looked at the many changes that took place in that quarter century; progress and setbacks.” He regretted that “one thing that has not changed, unfortunately, is the danger and threats to teacher trade unionists and their leaders in Turkey.”

Eğitim Sen and its global union, EI, have a “long joint history”. He mentioned issues of the right to organise and bargain, the fight to teach and learn in one’s mother tongue, overcoming the attempted ban on the union, imprisonment of teacher leaders without due process, mass dismissal of teachers and other workers in the public services following the failed coup d’état, ongoing, interminable trials, attacks on academic freedom and attempts to transform education into indoctrination.

Ongoing dangers and challenges

Edwards suggested that among the lessons to be learned from our common experience in Turkey are:

“Democracy is fragile. It must be fought for every day;
“All human rights are linked, and repressive governments are not likely to pick one out of the pack for abuse and leave the others intact, at least not for long;
“Fighting for rights and justice means that you are never alone; and
“Trade unionists and their leaders with courage, determination, and solidarity may be defeated, but they will never be destroyed.”
Democracy needs trade unions

Edwards stressed that the fight for trade union freedom in Turkey is part of larger picture; a global battle for human rights and democracy, saying, “although workers struggle to form trade unions in very undemocratic situations, for them to thrive, there needs to be the oxygen of democracy. That is one of the reasons that the existence of democracy is so fundamental to our own existence. Businesses prospered in Pinochet’s Chile and are doing quite well today in China and Saudi Arabia. But, trade unions only prosper in freedom.”

Emphasising that “just as trade unions need democracy, democracy needs trade unions,” he also said that “it is not an accident that autocratic governments fear trade unions. Even in repressive systems, independent unions are islands of democracy and, as such, provide hope. Hope is the enemy of tyrants.”

To have hope, one must have vision; for trade unions, it is a vision of freedom, social justice, and peace, Edwards affirmed that, “being here today and witnessing your courage and commitment and solidarity comforts and reaffirms both that vision and that hope. Together education trade unionists are a tough, resilient bunch. And, they hold a lever to move the world”.

In her remarks to the symposium, Susan Flocken, Director of the EI European Region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), said, “Freedom of expression, the right to organise and to bargain collectively along with fundamental human rights, including women’s rights, are not a reality for many of our colleagues in Turkey”.

She added that “through our participation in the symposium, we express our solidarity with our colleagues, teachers and unionists, who remain victims of a repressive regime and of the derailing of education policy in the country.”

Flocken observed that, “It is clear from this symposium that you continue your high commitment to trade union values and quality education and the future of Turkey. Being here with you today and the visit to the EU delegation later is a sign that we deliver concrete actions together.

An EI delegation asked for a meeting with Turkey’s Minister of National Education, Prof. Ziya Selçuk to discuss trade union and education issues. There was no response to the request for dialogue from the Government of Turkey.

The purpose of the symposium

The international symposium organised by Eğitim Sen features discussions of Turkish trade unionists with their colleagues from Europe and other regions. Sessions cover trade union rights violations, including country cases, the role of unions on education policy and their relations with governments, issues of academic freedom and the roles of trade unions and governments, and furthering gender equality through trade union action and education policy.

In the opening session, Eğitim Sen General Secretary Velat Kara set the stage for the discussions by describing the overall trade union situation in Turkey. He said that conditions, “are still very serious and the pressure on our trade union is still going on.” .

He informed the gathering that “more than 1,600 of our members were dismissed by law decrees and are still waiting to get their jobs back. A commission was formed after the state of emergency for dealing with the applications of those dismissed for legal remedy. The process takes too long and it seems that our members have to wait for a very long time for a real remedy. International solidarity is crucial for us and our members.”

The symposium is part of the ongoing struggle to defend the rights of teachers to have free, independent unions and the collective power to protect freedom and basic human dignity. It deepens the international understanding and unity in defence of common trade union values.

Members of the international delegation present at the symposium to show support for Turkish colleagues are, among others: DAÜ-SEN, KTOEOS and KTÖS/Cyprus, FNEC FP-FO, SNES-FSU and SNESUP-FSU/France, GEW/Germany, DOE and OLME/Greece, NASUWT and UCU/UK, and NEA/USA.
Added to the calendar on Thu, Feb 27, 2020 3:46PM
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