After the beginning of the Gezi Park protests, many claims piled up on national media. They were mostly harsh comments about the protesters’ “real” intentions and very controversial allegations. These claims by government officials and media organizations aligned with the government almost never turned out to be true, however, they caused the pro-government people to go out in the streets and attack the peaceful protesters, police to shout “Allah Allah”* while beating up protesters, about eight thousand people injured, 7 young people dead. Let’s look at some significant examples.
- Interest Rate Lobby: while there is a great chance that this is a mistake in translation, many supporters of the government clinged to this one quite easily. The term “interest lobby” is probably what comes to your mind right now. How it got mixed up with “interest rates” is again fairly simple. Interest can mean something in English like, “I have your best interest in mind.” Here, the Turkish word is “çıkar”. Another meaning can be seen here: “We will have 10% interest on our money at the end of the year.” Here, the Turkish word is “faiz”. The term “faiz” is also indicating a form of “real interest” in the Islamic culture, and is forbidden by the religion.** This makes it quite easy to gain support from the conservative, vastly religious public. So, the interest lobby becomes the interest rate lobby.As to how it was uncovered, it was just wrong. Erdoğan, his consultants and supporters argued that a “lobby” is trying to increase interest rates, so that the rates can benefit the banks they own. This has a fundamental flow, as considering the banking system of Turkey, and general economic principles, banks benefit more from lower interest rates. Even if we assume banks benefit from higher interest rates, there is nothing, absolutely no evidence to suggest that some conspiracy is present. This point was made clear by the Capital Markets Board officials who launched an investigation to find out if there exists an interest rate lobby. They reported that there had been no unusual activity on this matter before the protests, so there is nothing to suggest that someone or someones planted a ticking bomb in Turkey’s financial means. The claimants yet still continue to mention this alleged lobby everywhere they go.
- “They drank beer in a mosque”: No, they didn’t. A few days into the protests, the police forces attacked a group of protesters at night, leaving many of them wounded. They took shelter at a local mosque to save their lives. Volunteers helped them clean and cover their wounds, and get a little bit of first aid. The day after this incident, some newspapers and websites came up with a few photographs from inside the mosque, featuring a beer can in different locations inside the mosque. I hope you noticed I didn’t say “beer can’s’ in different locations”, rather I said “a” beer can. Yes, a three-second look at different photos was enough to tell that it was the same beer can in every photo, suggesting that someone probably planted it after the incidents, and took photographs of it. At this point, there was not a single piece of information to suggest that the protesters “might have” drunk beer inside the mosque.That day, the Prime Minister and his many supporters launched campaigns to claim that the protesters showed great disrespect to the Muslim majority. The subtext here was that “they are not Muslims, WE are, not being Muslim is bad”. They repeated this claim over and over again for the following months, and there was another photo. The beer can previously photographed inside the mosque was that of a Tuborg Special, a 50 cl red can. The new photo showed a young man holding a red can inside the mosque. Tens, hundreds of websites, again, launched witch hunts. He later reported in interviews that he couldn’t look into the eyes of his parents and extended family, was constantly harassed in the neighborhood, his fiancee left him, etc. For what? I’ll explain. A simple, short observation again made it clear that the can in the new photo was a 33 cl Coca Cola can, which is also red. Fortunately, they didn’t cling on to this lie for long. It is now mostly forgotten that they lied, however, I am sure there are still millions of people who still believe that lie.
- “They attacked our sister wearing a headscarf”: This lie was completely solved yesterday. The relation of the lies to religious values might surprise a non-Turkish person, however, I can’t explain how “not surprised” I am. The degree of my familiarity with these issues would kill you, so, don’t even try to think about it. I will dedicate the rest of this article to this issue, and finish with a short comment section. The claim here is insane.
A relative of a mayor that is affiliated with the ruling political party issued a complaint to the police about an assault to herself and her baby in the next week of protests. She later gave an interview to a reporter of the daily Star. Star gave the “news” on the headline, and it covered almost all of the cover page. Her claim was this:
“I was waiting at a bus stop in Kabataş*** with my baby, and a group of 70-100 half-naked men came up to me. They had leather gloves and they were wearing bandannas. They verbally harassed me because I was wearing a headscarf. Then they started hitting me, and my baby. Some of them held me and some others urinated all over me” (not a direct quote, but a summary of the interviews).
The protesting/opposition side’s comments about the subject: the claim is really serious and very unlikely to be true, especially for a crowded area with so much surveillance, however, we would condemn any attempt of such nature for anyone, by anyone.
The government-aligned side’s comments about the subject: the protesters are immoral culprits who attack our values, and they must be punished.
While there was again no “published” footage about such an event, some journalists and columnists, some government officials claimed that they saw “the footage, the incident was very unfortunate, but the claim was, unfortunately, true.” When asked about proof, the officials claimed it would incite public distress, that is why they weren’t broadcasting such a footage. So, they claimed they wanted to protect public order and peace. Do you know what they did later to protect public order and peace? They organized rallies where they carried people free with political party buses, provided lunch to them, gathered them in large squares and told them about the incident over and over again. They have been repeating it everywhere they go.
Yesterday, the footage of the alleged attack was broadcast by the TV channel Kanal D. There is actually the woman waiting at a bus stop with her baby, but no sign of a BDSM crew. No sign of or anything related to anyone touching her or her baby. Later, her husband picks her up, and the end: it was a lie.
There are many of these lies and false accusations directed towards protesters. These were repeatedly published in newspapers and broadcast on television channels. It has been more than eight months, and almost all of the lies were exposed; however, no retraction was made by any news organization. No apology, nothing. So, for many people who are exposed to nothing but these news organizations, there is an evil organization called the “interest rate lobby” which is trying to ruin Turkey’s wonderful economy and is jealous of Turkey’s success and advancements in democracy. For those people, the protesters had an insulting, lively drinking-party at a mosque, some even performed sexual acts. For those people, an innocent young woman was harassed both verbally and sexually, the woman and her baby was beaten, and some half-naked BDSM guys with bandannas and leather gloves peed on the woman. The officials’ insistence on these lies caused the lives of 7 people, and brought injuries for about 8000 people.
They could have solved the “general” problem a thousand times during the last nine months, but they chose to incite hatred towards the remaining half of the country, calling people to go on the streets and “defend the existence of the New Turkey in this new version of an independence war” (direct quote). Maybe thousands of pro-government citizens went outside and attacked the protesters with knives, machetes, and sticks, alongside the police. Among them were registered members and low level administrators of the ruling political party. A 13-year-old child who went out to buy bread from a corner shop was shot by the police during the aggression created by the politicians. He is still in coma. A 19-year-old protester was literally “beaten to death” by policemen and local bakery workers. Just because they hated him, they beat him to death. The doctor he visited sent him home, not even checking him for potentially dangerous symptoms. Just because the doctor hated him, he is dead now. He is dead because many people, starting with the Prime Minister himself hated him, and those many people were systematically taught to hate him with the lies some of which I outlined above. Those lies were mostly exposed over and over again, but they will continue to hate him, as most of them do not even read or watch any news organizations other than the ones that claimed “they are gonna demolish the office of the Prime Minister”, or “they are gonna burn down government buildings tomorrow.” Of course, neither of these two happened; however, neither of these claims were retracted by the newspapers that claimed them. So, for more than 8 months, still, “the Gezi protesters are going to burn down government buildings tomorrow”, at least for about half of the citizens in the country.
They didn’t hate Ali İsmail Korkmaz, the 19-year-old “boy” beaten to death, just because he was involved in the protests. They hated him because his family members were alewites. They hated him because he was an atheist.
*: Members of the Turkish armed forces both during the Ottoman times and right around the Turkish Struggle for Independence used to chant “Allah Allah” while attacking the enemies who are “infidels” as implicated by the chant itself. Even knowing deep inside that he has done nothing wrong during the protests, except for just “being there”, the ones who saw his comments about atheism on Twitter started to claim: “it was good that he died” and “he deserved to die”. Think about it, this society -in majority- believes a young student, who probably didn’t even start to enjoy his life as a young man, deserved to die, just because he had an alewite family, and was an atheist. This issue is not content-specific, or incident-specific. Today, if you go and ask all the people in the country if they think “atheists don’t deserve to live”, you will be shocked by the answers. The people in this country hate everything that is different, colorful, enjoyable or beautiful. They hate educated people, they hate successful people, they hate it when people have fun, or enjoy their lives.
Ali İsmail Korkmaz is not among us anymore, because some woman who hates human life and societal/humanistic values falsely accused a community of people who have done nothing wrong but claiming their human rights. Korkmaz was not a student, or a young man, or a peaceful person who just happened to be there; he was a member of a group of people that drink in mosques, hate their country and want to destroy the people of that country, and sexually harass, beat, pee on women who wear headscarves.
I have seen or read about such unspeakable things in this country, so, as much as I continue to oppose them, I am not surprised anymore. I expect, and will continue to expect anything from the “guys at the top” of this dynasty. They made it their duty to lie, kill people, or get people killed in hate. What I get surprise about is the existence of their supporters in mainstream media. İsmet Berkan, for example, claimed that he saw the footage where the last incident was claimed to be recorded. What might he have thought about? What was in it for him? What did he achieve? Now he is the killer. The government will always lie to us, especially “this” government. I know this, because they have done nothing but lie to us, especially for the last few years. But… Why the journalists? Even while always knowing that “it” was a lie and it would be exposed sooner or later. I expect no ideological justifications, or specific political stances. Being a supporter of human life and dignity does not require courage, or any other “special” value, or a “special” way of thinking. Ali İsmail was among us, and now he is gone. It is THIS simple, and you killed him by supporting a lie that you know all along was a lie. You are the murderer now, how does it feel?
**: We might argue that the difference between real interest and nominal interest, (inflation), might be “alright” for Islam, however, this is not our concern now.
***: Kabataş is one of the most crowded towns in Istanbul that has a large traffic of passengers from the Asian side and other sides of the city, and is largely monitored with many, many cameras.