HURRIYET

Turkey’s Failed Coup And The Rise Of A "Lynching Culture"

Recounting and reflections of the failed Friday night coup, and the mob mentality left in its wake.

Anger on the streets of Istanbul
Anger on the streets of Istanbul
Melis Alphan

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL â€" On the night of July 15, we were at a friend’s house when we heard the first rumbles that silenced the normal sounds of seagulls: they were F-16 planes and explosions.

Soon afterward we got news that both bridges in Istanbul were closed to traffic, and that tanks were starting to fill the streets of Ankara. Those of us in our 40s had a shared sentiment at such a military initiative: “How many coups can you fit in a lifetime?” we asked.

I was baffled. I couldn’t form sentences, mumbling instead: “It can’t be… It’s probably not that. It’s something else.”

We were scattered in different corners of the house: one watching F-16 planes from the balcony, another zapping through the television channels, a mother who couldn’t go back to her 8-month-old baby was trying to find a safe way to return home. “I pity this country,” she said. I kept calling my husband who was trying to go to CNN Turkey where he worked, but I failed to reach him. I was terrified when I saw soldiers raid the CNN studio. He would wind up unharmed, though the real risk came later when he stopped to fill up his car at a gas station in the Bagcilar neighborhood. A group of men arrived in minibuses and started pounding the cars with sticks and investigating the drivers. Meanwhile my husband quickly removed the gas pump and escaped. I was horrified, thinking what could have happened to him if he wasn’t quick to react.

As the night went on, I saw photos of the badly beaten face of Selcuk Samiloglu, a photographer at Hurriyet. Later, we learned that vandals had attacked Selcuk on the Bosphorous bridge. The mob was trying to decide whether or not to throw him off the bridge. It was such a ritual of violence that even the police couldn’t intervene to protect Selcuk.

That night and the day after felt like they would never end.

On the bridge, a tank blew up a civilian motorcyclist… "How could this be happening? We didn’t see this much violence even during the infamous (1980) Turkish coup on September 12." And while we couldn’t believe what we were witnessing, we get news that the Turkish parliament had been bombed!

An image of a bloodied soldier whose throat was cut by a violent mob dominated social media. As we watched videos of the mob, a vandal said, "We killed four of them, the last one remains. Let me shoot him to ease my mind."

The police shared videos of their interrogations. They labeled the soldiers: "Degenerates, nationless dogs," and called the people to the streets.

So we survived the coup attempt, but so quickly an atmosphere of lynching and its Islamic formations scare me. I’m afraid how mob psychology can take over the law and ethics of civic life, and how this is being tolerated.

While I celebrate the failure of the coup attempt for the sake of democracy, I’m shocked in the face of those who are not saddened by this flourishing lynching culture. We know how in a place where lynching is commonplace, labeling leads to murders. The fear of being lynched pushes people to take precautions in order to protect themselves. This means arming oneself autonomously, which means more blood, which means more deaths.

As Tanil Bora, author of the book, "Turkey’s Lynching Regime," puts it: "Lynching and threat of lynching, are more than criminal offenses on the legal level; they represent the loss of civilization. Among those celebrating the victory of a "unified nation," where are the condemnations of the dissolution of society and humanity?"

I am still waiting to hear it from the people who remain in charge in Turkey.

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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