After Erdoğan’s Victory, Movements in Turkey Must Fight Beyond the Ballot Box

Ten years in the past, in June 2013, I used to be tear-gassed and chased down metropolis streets by the riot police in Istanbul alongside tens of 1000’s of others collaborating in a nationwide rebellion in Turkey.

Our crime was to assemble for an indication in Taksim Sq. after the eviction of the occupation and the unfold of the rebellion that had begun at Gezi Park. Pushed again into the alleyways of Istiklal, we have been hunted by militarized Robocops aiming their canister weapons at our faces. That month in June, a few of us would survive — with blinded eyes, fractured skulls and paralyzed spines, whereas a few of us can be killed by state-sanctioned violence in broad daylight.

Nonetheless, that summer time, in tear gas-filled streets and at public boards in numerous cities, we exercised our freedom to disobey — our freedom to behave and to dwell, nonetheless briefly, one other manner. Our practices of mutual support, trials in direct democracy, confrontation with the state — this was our expertise of freedom no poll field might include.

In Could this 12 months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once more prevailed within the presidential election after a run-off with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu through which neither candidate secured greater than 50 p.c of the vote. Many observers considered the election as a referendum on Erdoğan’s greater than 20-year reign. He has since develop into the longest-serving chief in Turkish political historical past. Parliamentary elections have been held in affiliation with the primary spherical of voting, with the ruling Justice and Growth Celebration attaining a majority of seats in alliance with two smaller events.

Graffiti in Galata, Istanbul, in September 2013 that reads, “I can’t trust the ballot box.”
Graffiti in Galata, Istanbul, in September 2013 that reads, “I can’t belief the poll field.”

In September 2013, I noticed this graffiti across the Galata Tower of Istanbul, when the rebellion that just about toppled Erdoğan had begun to subside. The graffiti, “Sandığı gözüm kesmiyor,” or “I can’t belief the poll field,” humorously commented on electoral politics within the context of an authoritarianism that liberally prescribes — and concurrently wins — elections.

It’s tough to precise with one sentence the various senses of this script in English. “I can’t belief the poll field” partly conveys its that means, but one thing stays untranslatable in it. Nonetheless, we will see on this graffiti the highly effective expression of an expertise of freedom that, as soon as tasted, displaces electoral politics, which might neither include nor keep it. Unimaginable to clarify, our collective visceral and vitalizing expertise of freedom stays the valuable present of the Gezi rebellion.

If freedom is, as political thinker Hannah Arendt as soon as argued, “a state of being manifest in motion,” elections are incapable of producing and even greedy it. Freedom can’t be tied all the way down to the poll field. This, nonetheless, is exactly what occurred within the aftermath of the Gezi rebellion. The revolutionary energies of the second have been channeled into elections, obliging each the liberal and the authoritarian invitation alike to train freedom at scheduled instances, to measure the desire of the individuals by the poll field.

When the legislation is used to criminalize dissent so constantly, so completely, so inescapably, we’re left with only some choices.

The Gezi rebellion wrote different scripts on the streets — sandığı gözüm kesmiyor is just one. The motion marched and danced to the contagious pleasure, sensible humor and explosive creativity of a promising “starting.” From balconies and rooftops, we screamed: “Bu daha başlangıç. Mücadeleye devam!” “That is only the start. The battle continues!” Right this moment, a decade after the Gezi rebellion, who in phrase, deed or spirit is constant the battle?

True, now we have been criminalized, jailed, fired, threatened, wounded and exiled. For one, Turkish human rights defender and philanthropist Osman Kavala is now in jail serving an aggravated life sentence for “making an attempt to overthrow the federal government by power” in reference to the 2013 protests. If the Gezi rebellion was against the law, then tens of millions of individuals participated in it: “Hepimiz Gezi’deydik. Hepimiz oradaydık” “We have been all at Gezi. We have been all there.” I’ve argued elsewhere that we should now revise this slogan: “We have been all at Gezi. We have been all there. We’re all criminals.”

When the legislation is used to criminalize dissent so constantly, so completely, so inescapably, we’re left with only some choices. A defiant one is to declare our widespread motion felony certainly, to embrace criminality in accordance with the prevalent legislation of the land and to take action in acts of collective disobedience to the legislation. In Turkey at this time, and in “liberal democracies” like the UK the place “disruptive” demonstrations are more and more rendered criminal, we should have the ability to say: Sure, if that is the legislation, very effectively then, we’re all criminals.

Given the worldwide rise of authoritarianism, or a “new fascism” as described by thinker Judith Butler, the insistence that “nobody is against the law,” that we’re all “harmless” will make much less and fewer sense. Internationally, from Russia to the U.Okay., from Turkey to Hungary, from India to France and Egypt, we are going to all style criminality in the end, to the extent that we train our freedom to dissent, protest, stand up and transgress. On this scenario, our very criminality, precise and potential, can floor our solidarity inside and throughout nationwide borders.

Elections provoke what cultural critic Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism,” when one thing we want is definitely an impediment to our flourishing. Optimism is merciless, Berlant finds, when the scene that ignites a way of risk — say, the potential for releasing political prisoners like Selahattin Demirtaş, Çigdem Mater, and others in Turkey via elections — “makes it not possible to achieve the expansive transformation for which an individual or a individuals dangers striving.”

It’s the liberal attachment to legality and the corresponding captivation by electoral politics which facilitates such merciless optimism, enabling us to anticipate each time that this time issues will likely be completely different, that this time issues will enhance. Because the Gezi rebellion, is that this not what now we have skilled, one election to the following, courtroom case after courtroom case?

Activists rally during a “Feminist Night March,” on March 8, 2020, Istanbul.
Activists rally throughout a “Feminist Evening March,” on March 8, 2020,

What occurs when such optimism unravels, as is our scenario at this time? We return to the fundamentals and start as soon as once more. We manage on the streets, at workplaces, in theaters, faculties and universities, in collectives, boards, unions, actions — visibly and invisibly — we manage and battle for all times. As Feminist Evening March activists insisted on March 8 in Istanbul this 12 months: “Birbirimizden vazgeçmiyoruz.” “We’re not giving up on one another.”

This we, constituted in motion, is the place we the start begins once more.

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