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International webinar raises concern over “societal genocide” in Turkey

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Four very special guests from four corners of the world came together on Tuesday 25 August to talk about the Erdocide: Erdogan’s Neo-Modern Societal Genocide, on Advocate’s for Dignity’s second human rights themed webinar.

With four very different timezones in play, former Turkish Naval Officer, Huseyin Demirtas; former Head of Department of Public Management at Adiyaman University, Dr Bayram Erzurumluoglu; founder of Global Dialogue for Justice Dr Merj Hemp, and Australia’s very own, former executive producer of ABC Four Corners, Dr Peter Manning, led an eye-opening discussion on the meaning of societal genocide and its prevalence in modern day Turkey.

Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Turkey’s AKP government declared a state of emergency to purge more than 1 million of its citizens. Over one hundred thousand people were arrested on terrorism charges, with those dismissed from their jobs made to live in an open-air prison. The stigma made it difficult to find employment, leaving many in dire financial situations. Some chose to flee whilst others continue to live on family handouts without a job, a future and with withering optimism.

President of Advocates for Dignity, Mr Mehmet Saral, opened the webinar by stating that calling the unlawful crackdown in Turkey a genocide may appear too harsh, as the traditional definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a large number of people, particularly those of a particular race or ethnicity. As ethnic groups are not being murdered, how can we call what is happening in Turkey a genocide, he asked.

To answer this question, Dr Bayram explained the theory of ‘societal genocide’. He stated that genocide is the implementation of a massive and systematic plan of action intended to destroy all or part of a social group or groups, and is a process that requires preparation, legitimisation and consensus.

“Societal genocide is a form of crime against humanity. It is when you intend to destroy all or part of a social group, along with their friends, relatives, acquaintances or anyone who sympathises or empathises with them, as is happening in Turkey with the Gulenists, many Kurds and other dissidents of President Erdogan,” he said.

“Atrocities committed by political Islamists in Turkey, as part of Erdogan’s regime, is termed ‘societal genocide’ firstly because the regime planned, prepared, legitimised and socially engineered majority of the public’s consent to the atrocities committed as part of its political Islamist ideology, similar to ISIS and the Taliban,” he continued.

“Secondly, they have labelled, targeted, and victimised thousands of innocent people for crimes that either did not exist or were not committed, on the basis of government blacklists prepared weeks, months or years in advance. Targeted populations were so demonised or dehumanised that husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings, and friends could also be targeted or punished for simply being acquainted with labelled ‘criminals’ or ‘terrorists’.”

These steps, which form part of what Dr Bayram calls Turkey’s neo-patrimonial-sultanism regime, are tightly aligned with Gregory Stanton’s ‘10 Stages of Genocide’.

Huseyin Demirtas, who was unfairly dismissed by Erdogan’s bureaucracy after serving in the Turkish Navy for twenty-two years, authored the book ‘Erdocide: The Creepiest Human Trauma’, based on the concept of social genocide in Turkey.

He elaborated on this concept, stating, “First they produce a privileged clan, they produce blacklists to use as genocidal execution lists under the regime, then they silence the media and society. The privileged clan has absolute power in the state and decide the detainments, purges and dismissals that take place, whether the alleged terrorism crimes really took place or not.”

Erdocide is a symbolic name… They are killing socially, civilly, economically… they are blocking economic channels from reaching people to survive in society. They are using prisons as concentration camps. They are preventing medical care from reaching those in custody,” he continued.

Dr Merj Kemp, who joined the webinar from the Sunshine State of Florida, reflected on the political turbulence in Turkey based on her own experiences of growing up under a brutal, marshal law in the Philippines.

“Injustice is not new to me, in the Philippines and here in the USA… During the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, every sector of society said enough of dictatorship, killings and torture. People from all walks of life set aside their differences and said we have to topple this dictator,” she said.

“Nuns, farmers, students, and military officers… in the end they realised they need to side with the right side of justice and history and that happened only because they made that commitment to work together.”

She concluded the webinar with an encouraging message: “I think there is hope for Turkey. It is just a matter of time before the people of Turkey say enough is enough.”