835) So-called nationalist coalition takes the stage at TESEV meeting

Apparently, the issue of internally displaced persons in Turkey riles the sensitivities of famous nationalist lawyer Kerinçsiz . . .

An absurd drama staged last week by a “nationalist lawyer” and his cohort disrupted a press conference on research by the Istanbul-based Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) on forced migration in Turkey, as the group led by Kemal Kerinçsiz created a noisy disturbance at the press conference venue -- a commotion described by Etyen Mahçupyan, director of TESEV's democratization program, as a “circus.”

The purpose of the conference, if it had taken place as planned, was the launch of a TESEV publication titled “Confronting Forced Migration: The Construction of Citizenship in the Aftermath of Internal Displacement in Turkey,” co-authored by Dilek Kurban, Deniz Yükseker, Ayse Betül Çelik, Turgay Ünalan and A. Tamer Aker. The book, which is part of TESEV's democratization project, “The Restitution of Citizenship Rights and Social Rehabilitation in the Aftermath of Internal Displacement,” takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of internal displacement in Turkey.

A senior U.N. envoy at the time described the problem of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Turkey as “one of the saddest legacies of the country's recent past.”

Nationalists interested in IDP matter:

During the conference at the Tarık Zafer Tunaya Cultural Center in Beyoğlu, it was very apparent that the issue riled Kerinçsiz's sensitivities; however, initially he just followed the incidents silently.

Yet unlike Kerinçsiz, his friends were unable to retain their calm, slapping researcher Dilek Kurban's father, a director of TESEV and someone else from the audience.

One of those who resorted to violence to indicate a difference of opinion from TESEV on the issue of IDPs was Muammer Kocadağlı, who became a public figure late last month when he slapped an old non-Muslim woman on Heybeliada.

The reason he was on Heybeliada was because the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, was visiting the island's currently closed Greek Orthodox seminary. Kocadağlı slapped the woman when she told him not to annoy the inhabitants of the island.

Kerinçsiz, president of the Turkish Lawyers' Union -- which describes itself as a “nationalist” organization -- was also on the island leading the group of demonstrators protesting the Armenian religious leader.

Kerinçsiz, who previously led a legal campaign against Turkey's internationally acclaimed author Orhan Pamuk, later petitioned prosecutors to bring Karekin to trial for “insulting Turkishness” since he had said while in Turkey that the Turks committed “genocide” against the Armenians.

He was also among the crowd at an Istanbul courthouse late last month. The crowd, comprising veterans, families of soldiers killed in fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and members of the Turkish Lawyers' Union, attempted to lynch author Perihan Mağden, who was on trial for allegedly turning people against military service after she defended the rights of a conscientious objector in a weekly magazine column.

It would take many paragraphs -- inappropriate for a newspaper article of this size -- to list all such nationalist activities by Kerinçsiz.

An imaginary nationalist coalition:

Yet during a brief telephone conversation with the Turkish Daily News, Mahçupyan briefly summarized his observations about this unique, so-called nationalist movement.

“Now it seems like there is a tactical change in their movement as they are trying to bring together different individuals who apparently have different sensitivities on separate issues. What they are trying to do with this tactic in my opinion is to give an image of ‘a societal nationalist coalition',” Mahçupyan said.

Radikal and Bugün dailies reported the incident in detail on Friday with front-page coverage detailing the facts leading to Mahçupyan's comment. Radikal asked in its headline, “Who will tell these tyrants to stop?” while Bugün called the incident a “nationalist beating” in its headline.

A demonstrator interrupted the opening speech by Can Paker, the head of TESEV, as he was explaining how Turkish citizens -- mostly Kurds -- were evicted from their villages during the armed conflict between Turkish security forces and the PKK between 1984 and 1999, and asked Paker, instead of explaining about the problems of Kurds, to explain about the problems of Turks living in Karabakh and Greece.

Another demonstrator interrupted Mahçupyan and wanted to talk about the rights of the Yörük, who have been living primarily in the mountains of southern Anatolia, particularly around the Taurus Mountains. Mahçupyan had asked the group to calm down and hold a proper debate instead of shouting and interrupting the others' speeches.

“The Yörüks are not a minority, they are the majority,” said the demonstrator.

Eventually, two plainclothes policemen removed the demonstrators from the hall and two of them were taken into custody, which led to another incident in which Kerinçsiz and other protestors argued with security forces.

Kerinçsiz avoided telling reporters why he was at the conference.


Mahçupyan described the whole incident as “ridiculous” and said he didn't believe this group of demonstrators was really nationalist. “The incident reminded me of a circus,” he said.

Public opinion in Turkey has become well acquainted with this “nationalist” lawyer Kerinçsiz as he has been a co-plaintiff in almost all cases opened against journalists, academics and authors under articles 301 and 216 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which went into effect in June 2005. Article 301 covers the offense of “insulting Turkishness,” while Article 216 covers the offense of “inciting people to hatred.”

TESEV will host a debate tomorrow in Ankara concerning the IDP issue and to discuss the findings of an earlier report jointly drawn up by TESEV and the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

It is now a matter of curiosity whether Kerinçsiz and his band will show up during the debate on the report, titled “Overcoming a Legacy of Mistrust: Towards Reconciliation between the State and the Displaced.”

Sunday, July 9, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News


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