YAVUZ BAYDAR

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YAVUZ BAYDAR
December 27, 2012, Thursday

2012 -- a year hijacked by Uludere’s ghosts

I was asked by a young colleague, a TV reporter with a camera, what the most powerful memories were of the year that is coming to an end.

Without hesitation some names came to mind, along with their astounding moments: Baumgartner, Carter/Frater/Blake/Bolt, and Rudisha… I was all smiles when I explained why.

Felix Baumgartner’s daredevil jump from outer space was simply beyond belief. Setting himself free from almost 40,000 meters, reaching a speed of 1.342 kilometers per hour, before landing safely on the planet again, he secured a bold place for himself in history.

I remember watching the amazing Jamaican sprint relay team, clocking 4x100 meters in 36.84 seconds in the London Olympics -- my jaw dropping over the superhuman races of Yohan Blake and Ussain Bolt.

But what gave me a memory for life was David Rudisha, running a flabbergasting 800 meters final, which we will probably never see matched in the future. When the Kenyan completed the first lap of the race under 50 seconds, I remember jumping up from the sofa, with goosebumps all over me. As he crossed the line at 1.40.91, breaking the world record, he looked as if he had just taken a stroll in the forest. His run was, to me, definitely the event of 2012 in the world.

When my colleague asked “what about Turkey?” my smile froze; returning to gloom, all I remembered was the tragedy in Uludere. “Yes, it happened just days before 2012, but we already knew that it would haunt us throughout the year,” I said. And indeed it did. This horrendous event, amounting to a massacre, with 34 Kurdish villagers bombed to death by Turkish fighter jets, has also set the tone of the events in general in the country. 2012 started with Uludere and is ending with it, an open wound that overshadowed 365 days.

The public was kept in the dark for about 15 hours. The so-called “freedom loving” media owners and managers had already delivered their orders to censor the newsrooms, and those few who tried to defy it while live on TV were strictly told to shut up through their earphones. They did. But the news was impossible to stop: Following a tweet, we all knew about it in a matter of minutes after the deadly action. Late that night, Twitter almost had a traffic jam over reactions and details.

The aftermath, in a state of shock, burying the entire Kurdish community into the depths of gloom and rage, was shaped by a shameful series of official reflexes, which many had then hoped had vanished with the “old Turkey”: an indifference at the top coupled with robot talk, meaningless excuses and pretexts at the governmental level and a refusal to apologize (to this day) and resign. Uludere in a matter of days showed the well-known, old face of the frightening state: The more it refused to be transparent about who, why and how had given those orders to kill civilians, the more it dragged its feet to be accountable, the more alienated the Kurds of Turkey have become and the more insulted in their intelligence the Turks have felt. An entire year, 365 days, have passed without a single, concrete official account at either the judicial, institutional (General Staff) or parliamentary level. Secrecy and ball-throwing into the others’ court only caused the questions to pile up. Meanwhile, the families of the victims, bitter and mistrustful, refuse to withdraw some TL 125,000 placed in their bank accounts. They seem more keen on repentance and justice.

As we approach 2013, many of us feel that the familiar feeling of a defensive state apparatus, telling us “something is again being covered up,” is becoming stronger. Uludere did just that: It harmed badly the dreams of reconciliation and mutual trust between Turks and Kurds, and between the citizens and the state.

The sense has also become more real, with the death of a grand figure in the Kurds’ struggle for rights and freedoms, Şerafettin Elçi, some days ago. His passing away, after a long battle with illness, should also be seen in a similar symbolism as Uludere, reminding us of the loss of hope, a sad note to end a dark year.

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