WHO ARE YOUNG CIVILIANS?

Why is “young civilians”? why do you name yourselves as such? What is the ideology of Young Civilians? What kind of Turkey do you want? Questions and our answers…

Why is “young civilians”? why do you name yourselves as such?

“Young Civilians” has appeared as our name by a manifest on the Kurd issue declared on 19th May, 2006. Young Civilians is an umbrella group executing the Political Vision Movement which most of us are members. It is the naughty boy inside us. However, civil society experience of the team creating Young Civilians is much older than it. We as a group of youths from various universities pioneered by METU (Middle East Technical University) Communication Society gathered together in Van on 19th May, 2000. We, youths the perception of state and political memorization collapsed by the earthquake of 1999 organized an alternative youth celebration of 19 May (originally a national youth festival day celebrated every year the same day). These gatherings have been carried on in different cities such as Istanbul, Rize, Konya and Ankara every year on 19th May since 2000. By these gatherings in which we brought together intellectuals and youths from very different social segments, we searched for the possibilities of constructing a new, creative and opposing discourse, and a local, honest, democratic position. The name of ‘Young Civilians Are Uncomfortable’ grounds on “Let’s Save the ‘19th May’s from Stadiums,” a manifest declared at a gathering on 19th May, 2003 in a salon of TBMM (the Parliament of Turkey). In summary, we declared at the gathering that ‘these stadium ceremonies existed only in totalitarian countries and they are old-fashion way of ceremony’. Our manifest was in the headlines of many newspapers the next day. we were subjected to scathing criticisms for two weeks afterwards. A newspaper, Cumhuriyet put the headline “Young Army Officers Are Uncomfortable” the next month following to our manifest while one of the five reasons of their discomfort as “Young Civilians are Uncomfortable” comes from a reference to that headline.
You prefer to use a sneaker as your symbol, what is the reason behind that?

We describe ourselves as private citizens of the Republic of Turkey who “were born at this country’s hospitals and educated at its schools, are the equal owners of this country not more or less than anyone, laugh at Cem Yılmaz’s jokes like anyone, cry at the movie, “Babam ve Oğlum”, do not wear uniforms of anyone, have no connection to violence at all and demand to have a long and healthy life. Sneaker refers to being civilian that we defined as roughly being “noone’s man” without wearing any uniforms of anyone, and being able to be intellectually and bodily flexible and free without being bound to any single ideology or identity with strong connections. Being non-uniformed gives us the freedom of following our conscience. In such country as Turkey where anyones are sensitive to only their problems and democrat to only them, we have come by a common impression in various political traditions that we can deal in politics in a fair and proper way if we emancipate our hearts. If we just become civilians in this meaning, then, we can have the virtue of talking for dissimilars to us and our “others”. There are all these at the baggage of meaning of this tattered snaker.
What kind of cuisine do your texts come from?

Our cuisine is the one ancient flavors and different cuisines are known but open to any fresh experiments as a merger cuisine. It is the work of a cook who is aware of the value of tradition and traditional flavors, and knows the taste of this society but strongly decided to go beyond it and create new tastes. There is a great diversity in the cook’s background from radical democracy theories, Hannah Arendth, Gramsci and Foucault to Democrat literature in today’s Turkey, Namık Kemal, Mehmet Akif and İdris Küçükömer. Somethings favourable come into the scene when we maybe add some everyday life knowledge to this diversity such as not breaking all bounds with the TV and the populer culture like being fan of Sezen Aksu, or lover of Orhan Gencebay.

In the manifest we declared in 2006, ‘if Kurds and Turks cannot live together in this world, then, go down with the world’ we said. In such countries as ours being dealed with the problems which there is no unvoiced word about, we have no chance except constructing a new, creative and popular language. Entire words of the language used by political polemics were polluted and occupied. It doesnt matter what you say in that language, it is impossible not to be held up by any codes, or sticked in a drawer in minds. Therefore, it is needed to say something new. To get free of all political accounts and to insert our conscience to it, it is needed to say something new and sincere. Futhermore we think that humor is a considerably important power and a very effective instrument taking the attributed messages to furthest points. Recently, in fact, the language of opposition has become festive and humorous around the world. It is quite important to get out of the clasical bothered, sullen and much serious face of the politics, to attain new positions, and to develop a new, original and creative language for making a new leap forward to the broad sections having kept themselves away from politics because of its distant and redundantly serious face.

What kind of Turkey do you want?

Actually, we dont have that big assertions. When we are asked, we only answer ironically by ‘we are coming to the power.’ We are doing some things by running away from big ideologies. We think that not power-focused but civil society-based politics is significant. We get up to following our consciences. We are engaged in conscientious politics. It is a quite hard job itself. It is not like saying “the end of the ideologies”. However, the problems in Turkey are so destructive. One doesn’t need to be a liberal, socialist or Islamist to demand Hrant Dink’s murderers being detected, to call for being removed the unjust treatment against Kurds, or to rise against treating women wearing headscarf as blacks. A poem of Tagore explains our utopia of Turkey and the world very well:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

What is the ideology of Young Civilians?

We are democrats. This is a big assertion. If you pipe up for the dissimilars to you when it is necessary, we know that is what the honest democrat is. It is, for example, not to say “neither AK Party nor coup d’etat” after 27th April. It is to say “neither coup d’etat nor coup d’etat”. The former one is as immoral as saying that “the violator is guilty but the woman shouldn’t have drived him by wearing miniskirt” in this situation. We are not worried about to ask ‘what is our ideology?’ We, all come together around a common discourse by following our consciences in the end. We are collectivized around this discourse by the situation of not feeling at home anywhere, of rootlessness and of discomfort. We claim that we put our consciences into play of politics. We are dissidents but our dissidency knows calling to account with the morality of insurrection and giving account with the morality of responsibility. There is an established system in Turkey surviving by pitting blacks against one another. We can destroy the balanced mechanisms this power block grounded on by attending to eachother’s rights diagonally, and by disconserting memorizations. A muslim should say “in 1915  action of  Boğazlayan’s governor was not represent me, but Boğazlıyan’s Muftu who was declared fetva against massacre could be represent me. It is needed Sunnies to see the Alevis’ problems first of any others and attend to them.  It is also needed Alevis not to construct Sunnies as “the other” by relying on the protection of secular sensitivities and power. It is necessary for a socialist to recognize the discrimination against headscarf turning into a kind of racism, and to speak in a strong and deep voice. Otherwise, by the effect of this deep distrust among social sections we cannot manage both living together and democracy.

What are the plans of Young Civilians for future?

Our aim of doing politics is not about to make our big projects real or to play the game of power. In deed we are doing politics as the same reason with Arendth, as an existential need. Young Civilians are really uncomfortable. They are honestly so. The issues we are acting on and constructing discourse make us feel sick in the stomach and disturb our psychology. We must say or do something to take it easy. We are doing politics just because of these very personal reasons. In other words it is vital to our being. It is a way of doing politics not having lost its spirituality. In addition, we, again inspired by Arendth, think that acting without thinking and thinking without acting are incomplete. That is why we are also carrying on organizing intellectual activities in Political Vision Movement about the debates on politics. Actually we say “packing on the way”. The only thing is not to miss our way in that desert.

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