Derya Koca was part of the leadership of the student movement in METU (Middle East Technical University -ODTU in Turkish- Ankara, Turkey) last december. We talked with her in Ankara, after the "June Days", the uprising in Turkey. Also, Derya is member of the Central Committee of theSürekli Devrim Hareketi (Movement for the Permanent Revolution).
By Lionel Zivals,
of the International Comission of the TPR (Argentina)
LZ: Could you tell us how did the movement started? which were the claims and its development?
DK: A great anger against the dictatorship of AKP government was accumulated year by year. Hundreds of opponent student were imprisoned, high education costs push the poor students out of the universities, conservative politics had been trying to limit secular life and impose society an Islamic life style. Erdogan watch for any opportunity to banning abortion or dictate women to give at least three children! Besides Kurdish movement, even the social democrats and nationalists had got their share from the oppression of the AKP dictatorship. AKP is unrivaled in the arena of the neoliberal politics because it had sustained a strong stabilization of bourgeois politics through high rate of votes and high rate of growth. Great support of the bourgeois of Turkey to AKP unified large scales of the society under a strong leadership of Erdogan.In whole Middle East, the aggressiveness of AKPgovernment turned into an imperialist violence under the service of USA, together with the enthusiasm of neo-Ottoman politics. After the Arab Spring, Erdogan and AKP had been pointed out as a model for the Arab countries in order to cut the radicalization of the masses. Popularity of Erdogan had suddenly increased. Then, AKP had become a part of the imperialist intervention in the Middle East firstly in Libya, secondly in Syria. AKP government had give a huge active support to the Syrian civil war; armed the Jihadist brigands in Turkey then sent them to Syria. Since the war has been started, border cities were effected from the process directly; hundreds of cannons or ballots hit the houses many Turkish citizens was killed, thousands of Syrian people escaped from their country to this border cities. Especially in Hatay( which has a Arab population) showed a great reaction to the imperialist intervention of Turkey to Syria. During the demonstrations, thousands of people clashed police. In addition, in Roboski, 36 Kurdish villagers were brutally killed in Roboski, as they do smuggling, hit by Herons. Media was banned to inform the society. After a while a huge campaign on the media has started against the villagers while defending the army. Because of this general outlook of Turkey could not found its opponent reflection on the streets yet. An organized social opposition could not be organized for long years. In addition, there was not an organized massive student movement except reflexive spontaneous demonstrations. One of that spontaneous demonstration in METU (Middle East Technical University) suddenly changed all agenda of the country . Of course there had been kind of demonstrations and clashes in universities but this time it had spreaded to the other universities that as the very first signals of a future rebellion.
On the 18th of December, TayyipErdogan came to the TÜBITAK located in the METU campus for a satellite would send to space in cooperation with China. The satellite was intended to use for also militaristic intentions in the Middle East. Erdogan came to the ceremony together with some ministers and Chief of the General Staff. After we had learnt their program in the campus, we immediately called for a demonstration. in the same day, we informed thousands of students via leaflets, posters. We entered each classroom. Until the program we had already contacted with the professors, the union in the university, the students, media, and laborers. We, the students, prepared a banner ; “Science Seller and Booster of Imperalist War Tayyip; Go Out of METU!” (BilimisatanemperyalistsavasçigirtkaniTayyipODTÜ’dendefol!) Then we started our demonstration from Physics department marching to the TÜBITAK. 3600 police and 10 water cannons plus many civil police had already located in the campus and waited for us. We had expected to walk somewhere near the police barricade and after the announcement of the police usually clashes starts. However, this time while hundreds of students were walking in the campus to the TÜBITAK building, on a far away point to the police barricades suddenly had started to attack with tear gas. This attack created a great anger in the common sense. The clashes had continued for eight hours. Sound bombs, hundreds of tear gas, rubber bullet, and water cannon terrorized whole campus that glasses of the classrooms and laboratories had been broken by tear gas capsules. Most of the lectures were cancelled. Brutal police violence could not end the resistance so the level of police violence increased. Some more police came to the campus. Tear gas capsules were used like bullets and police directly targeted the bodies of the students. One of the students was hit by tear gas capsule caused cerebral hemorrhage. After midnight, police forces encircled the students, trapping them, and beat the ones they could catch. During the final attack I was also caught. As far as I remember about ten police hit me for minutes. I was hearing the screams of the demonstrators and an announcement of the police chief spreading from radio-set: “Do not take under custody. Just beat!” At the end of the attack all police forces left the campus. That enrages a wave of student protest against AKP government.
LZ: Which was the importance of the movement? How did it preced the Gezi uprisings?
DK: The importance of the movement was that the resistance againstErdogan and police gave a hope everybody. METU is a prestigious university. Its revolutionary history is known by everybody. So, METU is also famous for its political standing. In its history Commer’s car was burned in 1974, many of its students were killed by the state, Gorbachov was protested, and in addition to the continuous opponent activities inside and outside of the campus METU has a power to take the support of the commonsense. When Erdogan comes to METU, it exactly knows what he will face with. In 2010, when Erdogan came to METU, again to TÜBITAK, fist time a similar resistance was supported by masses. After it, for free and scientific education had spread other universities. This time, the anger youth accumulated appeared through radical protests. The day after the clashes in the campus academicians declared boycott against the police violence. Thousands of student and plenty of academicians attented the boycott that made Erdogan anger. He continued attacking academicians and students of METU in the media. In addition, he sent a reproach message about METU to his supporter university rectors told them to sign under it. The university rectors who had signed under that message was protested by student. Especially in Istanbul in many universities Deans offices was occupied by students and forced them apologize. This coordinative and energetic protest wave was the first after the coup d’état of 1980 in Turkey. Many actor,artist, musician and thinker declared their support for the youth while liberals and AKP partisans declare protestors as terrorist.
In METU, four political organization decided to organize a huge demonstration and a concerts of the famous opponent bands and musicians in our stadium called “DEVRIM” (REVOLUTION) . Before this huge demonstration, we arranged meetings, panel discussions, film and theatre hours in an auditorium we occupied for three days together with the student clubs, academicians, trade union and independent students. With the slogan of “METU Rised Up, Resisting Against AKP! (“ODTÜ AyaktaAKP’yeDireniyor”) Five thousands of METU students attended this gorgeous demonstration in the campus. The meeting in the stadium was so vigorous that gave a great hope the other universities. In Turkey, the resistance took to the occupied of the country for weeks.
Before Geziuprising we said that the demonstations started in METU is the signal of the anger accumulated in the society. As the police appeared its brutality, as Erdogan and AKP government repeat their aggressive discourses on the media everyday masses were politicized and gain self-confidence. And we saw the dare of this masses in June.
LZ: which was the position of the government
DK: The government, in addition to the things above, used its every tool to blacken the struggle. On 21th of December, thirty three of the protestors were arrested at 4 a.m in their homes. The court claimed their membership to illegal organizations but there were no proof for it. After interrogation court had to release them. Then, the university administration was forced to start investigation about the students to punish them. At the same time, as the rector of METU , who is a liberal professor in the department of Bussiness defended students against the brutal police attack was accused by Erdogan for all the things happened. After Geziresistence, AKP government knows that in METU and other universities the opposition will continue to resist. The new generation which gained all the experiences of the street during the uprising is a potential threat for them . So they are now trying to bring police stations in the campuses.
LZ: Could you tell us which were the positions of the others left parties and organizations?
DK: All of the leftist organizations had took part in the resistance. However in the second demonstration the organization was done by only four organization as some organizations hich have no say about reel politics did not accepted an anti AKP position. Their depoliticized discourses about the daily politics is very limited that they do not took aanti government position under the name of being anti capitalist. Their suggestion for the demonstration was that a direct anti- capital slogan. However, they have no alternative suggestion for gaining the masses under this banner. Thus they withdrew from the organizer committee. Altough the Kurdish MP’s anf leaders supported the resistance, among the kurdish organizations there were not so happy with the growing wave as their agenda about Roboski massacre was coincided with the date of massacre. So their own program had to be cancelled. Although throughout the meeting in the stadium we also had propaganda about the massacre of Roboski, some militants do not want that any other subject other than Kurdish movement be an actor. Generally they do not like their hegemony broken by another new discourse of movement. This is due to the fact that the leadership tries to divide the national liberation and the social liberation of the kurdish oppressed people and also due to the nationalist-stalinist orientation of a big part of the left in Turkey, as TKP. The duty of revolutionaries should be overcome this split, unifying the movement against AKP. Also it is good to remember that during Gezi resistance Kurdish leadership did not called for action as they was negotiating about PKK with AKP.
Besides, CHP strongly supported the resistance in METU against police violence from an anti AKP perspective, but you have to understand that CHP has no effect on or in the youth movement. They don’t have a youth organization in the campuses. So, just on the level of the leadership and for the benefit of their bourgeois ‘opposition’ they criticized the police attack and declared their support for the universities. A couple of Kemalist student visited Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (chairman of CHP) and they tried to manipulate the character of the movement; as if the movement was a Kemalist and nationalist one. So, of course CHP had a bourgeois position, took not revolutionary position. They just tried to use the popularity of METU and the student movement. CHP’s right wing MP’s use the jargon of Kemalist elitism; they interpreted the movement and the conflict between the METU’s rector and Erdoğan is the conflict between the ‘enlightened secular universities’ and religious reactionism; so some of the media groups and AKP members labeled the struggle as ‘Kemalist nationalist”. In this way they harmed the movement. But their effect was weaker then the support for youth movement.
LZ: How did it ends? how are you now prepearing for the next struggles, for instance facing the police that Tayyip wants to send to the universities?
DK: After the meeting in the stadium, “ODTÜ AYAKTA”, the final exams had started and semester had ended. It was not turned into an organized student movement, it was fade away when the semester had ended. However, I believe that the resistance caused the youth see the limitless violence of AKP and the inevitability of the struggle against it on the streets. We are now prepare for the new semester. AKP threats the youth on the media everyday for not to go to the streets again. Police do also its preparations in the campuses and streets. Police stations will be placed in the campuses if the legislation process is completed. Furthermore, the students attended in uprising was banned from scholarship, student credits and dormitories. We will see this threats and ‘precautions’ of the government will be useful or not in the very near future. In September we expect a new wave of protest after schools is started. they had already killed five of us on the streets but the resistance continues. I believe that the freedom and future will be won on the street and Erdogan’s dictatorship will be ended by the new youth generation. The Syrian war, oppression on the society, neoliberal politics and oppression over the Kurdish people will be ended by this generation. The Revolutionary Marxists have historical mission about achievement of this goals and gathering the new generations under the red flag.