16 November 2008
Nobody knows what the real motive of the furious crowd was, although sociologist Tanil Bora and psychiatrist Professor Selçuk Candansayar have some educated guesses. Documentation from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) about the country’s rapidly evolving culture of lynching can give some clues, too. Despite police questioning, Okmeydani residents continue to stay silent, though many of them witnessed what happened. Cirit cannot provide any information, either. After he fell from his motorcycle due to the wound in his leg, he was beaten to death by a group of approximately 50 people. His father says there was not a single bone in his son’s body that was not broken.
Nobody knows what the real motive of the furious crowd was, although sociologist Tanil Bora and psychiatrist Professor Selçuk Candansayar have some educated guesses. Documentation from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) about the country’s rapidly evolving culture of lynching can give some clues, too. Despite police questioning, Okmeydani residents continue to stay silent, though many of them witnessed what happened. Cirit cannot provide any information, either. After he fell from his motorcycle due to the wound in his leg, he was beaten to death by a group of approximately 50 people. His father says there was not a single bone in his son’s body that was not broken.
According to media reports, a student in Okmeydani told her mother that someone with a motorcycle had harassed her. Suddenly a rumor about Cirit started to circulate in the neighborhood. Even today it is not known whether this rumor had any relation to reality, but it was enough to stir up the anger that led to Cirit’s murder.
Turkish society has been more sensitive than usual on the issue of child molestation lately, as two different cases of sexual abuse have been in the newspaper headlines recently. Anger spread across the country when Hüseyin Üzmez, a newspaper columnist accused of sexually abusing a minor, was released from prison pending trial. Upon his release, he defended himself by using religious arguments on different TV channels; a move that put fuel on an already strong fire of anger. Also, just a few days before Üzmez’s release, a serial rapist in Ankara, known as the "helmet rapist" because he was identified by victims as a man wearing a dark-colored motorcycle helmet, was arrested after he confessed to raping 10 girls between the ages of 10 and 15 in various Ankara neighborhoods. His DNA also matched samples taken from other rape cases in Istanbul.
According to Candansayar and Bora, on top of this anger toward child molesters, most likely there was another factor in Cirit’s murder: He was a Kurd.
"These kinds of things do not develop within a day. The social conscience has to be prepared for it. Most likely, in this case, the residents of this neighborhood talked about the child molestation incident while sitting in the café houses and looked for a suspect. They probably thought this young man was the assailant because he was a stranger to the neighborhood. When this was combined with the recent political discussions being held in the cafés all the time, their suspicions increased. The political atmosphere in recent days has been based on anger toward Kurds in many places and in the public’s daily conversations," Candansayar says.
Bora underlines that it is not possible to know what exactly happened, but says that most likely Cirit’s roots in Bingöl caused problems in the neighborhood. According to him, a tendency toward lynching against Kurds is already strong in Turkish society. There have been many examples of it, even to such an extent that lynching is about to become a "routine" occurrence. Bora also points out that the male youth of the society are the ones who are affected by this atmosphere most. "Male adolescents, if they are unable to cope with their strong emotions, which is the case in Turkey, and if they are unable to develop a sense of empathy, which is also very difficult in Turkey due to the curriculum of national education — based on enemy images and possible threats — it is normal to expect that they will tend to go wild. TV series in Turkey contribute to this mood even further," he explains.
According to a report published in the Radikal daily, a resident of the neighborhood who asked to remain anonymous confirms Bora’s educated guess. According to this source, everybody in the neighborhood knows each other and the youth in the area had been following Cirit for a long time and had planned to beat him up at least 10 days ago.
According to Cirit’s father they only learned that their son had been beaten to death four days after the fact. Neither the police nor any other officials informed his family about the murder. He adds that the police arrived while his son was being attacked, but that the crowd attacked them, too. The security cameras on the street had been sabotaged. Cirit’s mobile telephone, motorcycle, money and other valuables were taken away by the attackers, as well.
Bora, who has written several articles about the developing lynch culture in Turkey, claims that during recent lynching attempts the attitude of the security forces has been one of "toleration" for mobs.
"When the ‘threat perception’ is on the rise, the state apparatuses extend the violence they are applying. Also, the public starts to implement violence, and these two feed each other," Bora explains. Candansayar defends a similar view, arguing that certain politicians are encouraging such violence. Candansayar points to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s defense of an Istanbul resident who fired a rifle at pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) demonstrators last weekend. He also cites a court verdict declaring that incitement to kill Kurds falls within the scope of freedom of speech. He says such developments are preparing the grounds for further killings.
In the latter case cited by Candansayar, a columnist with the Bolu Express local newspaper had written an article calling on Turks to murder one person from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) for every member of the Turkish security forces killed by the PKK. A high criminal court dismissed a complaint submitted by DTP lawyers and ruled that calling for the murder of Kurds fell within the scope of freedom of speech.
Candansayar points out that lynching emerges when the sovereign powers of a country encourage it and when these powers choose to act outside of the law. "Lynching is not just a punishment. To engage in violence does not target just the individual but the whole society. Although it looks like an attempt to punish the ‘guilty,’ it contains a double message. It is a call to society demanding unity. It helps those who are participating in the lynching or supporting it to strengthen their feelings of belonging and their common identity. The lynching is also a show of power to enemies and friends," Candansayar explains.
According to him the only way to stop lynching is for the country’s authorities to confirm and assure the rule of law. "The sovereign powers should send the message that the law remains in force and that if there is a crime it will be punished and that any attempt to use force independent of the state will be punished, too."
Bora agrees, saying if the perpetrators of such attacks are not punished and if the state continues to show "understanding" in such incidents, more attacks are inevitable. If these two policies are not implemented effectively, things can get out of control at any moment. "Even the Nazis were disturbed by the national anger of the people toward Jews because this anger started to damage their authority in the end."
The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) has kept a very detailed list of lynchings in Turkey since 2002. Here are some examples:
2002
Nov. 8: Mehmet Canbolat, 18, taken out from a bus and beaten to death on the pretext that he had a fight with a group that was supporting ongoing hunger strikes at that time.
2003
March 12: A group participating in a picnic organized by the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) was assaulted in Izmir.
2004
May 2: A mentally disabled person who was detained for insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Bodrum was beaten up upon his release from the police station.
Oct. 1: Two workers were beaten up in Ankara on the pretext that they were speaking in Kurdish.
2005
Aug. 3: After the funeral of a soldier in Bursa a DEHAP official was assaulted in front of his home.
Aug. 21: In Izmir several people were assaulted because they were suspected of being members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Sept. 6: Agricultural workers from Sirnak were attacked on the pretext that they were PKK members. One person was killed.
April 6: In Trabzon a group that was protesting prison conditions was attacked because of a rumor that the group had burned a Turkish flag.
April 15: In Rize a group of people visiting the graves of two people who died in a hunger strike were attacked.
2006
Nov. 13: DEHAP officials’ in Ayvalik were attacked.
2007
April 2: A group of people from the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) was attacked while collecting signatures for their anti-American petition.
2008
Feb. 24: A group of people from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Malatya were attacked while reading a press statement.
June 14: In Kocaeli Kurdish workers were attacked because they had been accused of bothering the women in the neighborhood.
June 15: Kurdish construction workers in Adana were attacked.
 
16.11.2008

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