The Osman Kavala incident and the state of Turkey’s bourgeoisie

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Translated by: Cansu Şafak, Mert Erinç, Oğul Tuna, Edgar Şar, Alphan Telek, Aylin Yardımcı
Subtitles: Elif Akbıyık
Edited by: Melissa Clissold

Hello, good day. Istanbul deputy of CHP, Enis Berberoğlu, was released yesterday. The fact that Enis was on trial was already not right, that he was sentenced was wrong all together, and the fact that he was not released although he was chosen as a deputy was also wrong. Finally, the high court interestingly decided on his release due to the fact that he is a deputy – because of his parliamentary immunity – but after his deputy term, he will still pay the penalty –so, he has been released from prison. I am addressing him as Enis because we worked together for a long time during CNN Turk’s establishment process.
And our acquaintance, friendship and us being collegues within the same sector has lasted since then. What was done to him is totally wrong. It seems as if it was wrong from the beginning. Why? The thing that first comes to mind is Turkey’s decision to lean towards Europe one more time, President Erdoğan’s visit to Germany and therefore some normalization in the field of human rights and liberties in the atmosphere of the currency crisis and the crisis with the USA.
Some say that there is more. It shows that there is no judiciary independence and objectivity, that Turkey is far away from rule of law, that the judiciary is under the control of political rule and finally that the judiciary has been transformed into an institution acting in compliance with the interests of political rule. As a matter of fact, Enis’ release is pleasing. He was not supposed to be in prison but anyway we are in a situation in which we are even satisfied with this consequence. Now, everybody waits for the release of Osman Kavala. Kavala has been in prison for 320 days. He was taken into custody on 18 October 2017 and he was arrested on the 1 November 2017. Since then, the reason of his arrestment is still not clear.
As far as we can understand from the pro-government press, there are some Gezi-related accusations against Osman Kavala. One accusation is related to his acquaintance with Henri Barkey, and he is also facing some other accusations related with the Kurdish issue and PKK. However these are very vague and flimsy accusations. They are not even fictitious, just flimsy. There is no reason that can possibly explain why Osman Kavala has been under arrest for the last 330 days.
The most important reason of his arrest was the fact that he had carried out many praiseworthy things in the domains of fundamental rights and freedoms, culture and the Kurdish issue, and at the same time maintaining friendly relationships with Turkey’s Western allies – especially with the European Union (EU) – as a well-known activist highly recognized by the Western civil society organizations. Of course his economist academic wife, Prof. Ayşe Buğra from Boğazici University, also has a reputable and prestigious name in the world. All of these taken together make Osman Kavala one of the most salient symbolic names of Turkey’s outright departure from democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, and the rule of law.
Osman Kavala and Osman Kavala’s family are one of Turkey’s most establish entrepreneurs and capital groups. After his father died, he took over the family business but he has always been different from the typical capitalists that we have known. He is more of a leftist. Especially after September 12th, during a time where those seeking liberty was prominent, he was a man who took several risks and initiatives. İletişim Yayınları (book publishing company) is an example of one of these risks. Later on, he took role in establishing important civil society organizations in Turkey and he is still doing this. He dedicated most of his life to these causes through his not-for-profit institution Anadolu Kültür. His work is a true example for what is called “altruism” in English (and it’s translated to Turkish as “diğerkâm”) – in other words, despite being well off himself, he is someone that is troubled by others’ troubles and worries.
Because he sets a good example, and because no act of kindness goes unpunished in Turkey, Osman Kavala of course got his share of the state’s anger and violence. President Erdoğan mentioned Osman Kavala’s name a couple of times, in fact he humiliated him – or thought he humiliated him, rather, as I don’t think he was indeed able to. He called him the “Soros” of Turkey due to his connection with George Soros. And his supporters say similar things as well.
During this period, there weren’t many who stood up for Osman Kavala. I think one of the most important reasons why is that he has a modest character, doesn’t want to be under the spotlight for his activities, doesn’t like media attention, and generally speaking, he is someone who talks less and works more. As such, he is not known by many people other than those concerned with his work.
But another point is the following: it’s very obvious that Osman Kavala’s sudden arrest with made-up excuses is a full-fledged government operation. Therefore, standing by his side and supporting him in any way is quite risky.  Nevertheless, we see that there is some support for him. If you visit the website made for him, you see that his friends, colleagues, high school friends from Robert College, artists, academics and international organizations are showing support, and even going to Silivri and carrying banners in his name.
Among those who don’t support him are of course Turkey’s capitalists. The Turkish capitalists, the Turkish bourgeoisie are playing the ostrich once again like they have done many times in the case of Osman Kavala. I want to emphasize that the Turkish bourgeoisie, which already has a shameful track record in this sense, has stained its reputation once again. After all, we live in a capitalist society. I am someone who sees himself as a leftist.
Therefore, I stand with the working classes, but the reality is that there is a capitalist system in Turkey and it is the investors that run this business. The most important foundation for these investors is the presence of a rule of law in the country. This is the case all around the world. Investors will not back businesses in countries where there isn’t a rule of law, they get scared of what might happen to them.
All aside, here is an entirely unlawful implementation on one of their own. Even if he is very different to the other investors in the country with his stance and activities, he is nevertheless one of them. He is one of the principal names in a well-established investment group, and family; and yet they have said nothing. Why haven’t they said anything? Because they thought they might get in trouble too. But, they did not want to see that, as the famous slogan goes, keeping silent would soon make it their turn. They have a terrible record.
Of course Osman Kavala does not depend on them, but Turkey’s capital owners do depend on people like Osman Kavala. They depend on the freedom of such people. Because they themselves can’t be free in a place where others aren’t. As long they stay silent, no one will stand up for them, when eventually something happens to them too. This isn’t just about Osman Kavala.
We are seeing the complete apathy that the capital owners in Turkey are in, faced with the various events that have taken place in recent times. One of the foremost reasons for this is that their wealth has multiplied whilst the AKP has been in government. This is something Erdoğan makes clear at every opportunity, both openly and in private meetings from what we can tell. The AKP era in Turkey is truly an interesting period. On the one hand we’ve seen help extended to the most impoverished segments of society from the government (which more recently has declined significantly) and on the other we have seen the richest segments enjoy even greater wealth and prosperity.
Of course, one of the most important ways to make it happen is the loss of middle class. I saw a recent research on this subject which shows that the highest and the lowest are growing while the middle class is seriously damaged… Especially very recently, with the latest currency crisis, this situation is becoming more significant. In such a period, major capital owners are very content.
They were also content with the state of emergency. President Erdoğan mentioned this often. Because even striking action was forbidden. The capital owners should see that if they limit their business to the prevention of the rights of employees, then they could see that their rights can be usurped with insignificant reasons on the next day. But they didn’t want to see it, and they do not.
One or other day, Turkey will get over this all. I am sure that Turkey will again be a free and democratic country, under the rule of law. And then we will listen to the stories the people of this time, the capital owners of this period in which how they are actually disturbed and troubled. There are such people in every occupation. We have already started to see them in journalism for a while now. There are those who say that what has been done is actually wrong. The capital owners would do the same thing. But I frankly wonder if they could tell all of these to Osman Kavala’s face, when he is set free, becomes free.
I hope that Osman Kavala – I know him , although he is not my close friend, we know each other and he is a person whom I like and admire– will be set free soon, obtain his freedom, and continue modestly to pursue his altruistic actions. He will have a chance of speaking in the eyes of all of us, but I don’t think people who are not in solidarity with him today will not have a chance at speaking in the eyes of him and others. They are failing such a test. They do not actually fail, they do not even pay attention to such problem. This is already shameful for them.
Yes, that is all I want to say, have a good day.

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