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5 min read

Resistance under a regime of rancor

”The most valuable resistance of the Witness lies in his collection of pure fact.”

Credits Text: Sema Kaygusuz Translation from Turkish: Merve Pehlivan September 21 2017
In an increasingly cruel totalitarian state, how do you tell a different story than the one the regime wants told? Turkish novelist and short-story writer, Sema Kaygusuz, reflects on the extra-ordinary personality that is required by those that keep fighting for the truth.
What is the likelihood of establishing a calm and even-tempered climate of thought in a country if all governmental machinery, within an ever-deepening tyranny, has lost function under a single authority while the entire legal system is abolished and the whole country put under police control “by courtesy of” an attempted coup d’état which the international community doesn’t find very convincing; the very heart of its cities are bombed by ISIS while elsewhere a civil war is fought for nearly four decades; where violence against women is rampant due to misogyny propagated by narrow-minded men close to the ruling power; language of opposition is enfeebled with the imprisonment of the country’s most valuable democrats, journalists, human rights activists and elected members of parliament; meanwhile the beautiful forests in Dersim are burned down in military operations; historical landscapes and archeological sites are greedily destroyed for profit; where Syrian refugees who left behind a country in ruins only to be employed as cheap labor and Kurdish people expelled from their homeland under extraordinary circumstances are dragged from place to place? In the face of an organized violence/power-collaboration that has established an economic order to its own benefit, standardized its own power rituals and rites of passage and trained its own militia, how can one create an original language of opposition, especially with the frustration of knowing that all of this is a part of an imperial project? Is it possible for a totally new political person to emerge, someone so pure that he can level-headedly evaluate this inconceivably well-organized system of vices, where one vice removed is immediately replaced by another?
First and foremost, that person today would not be just an ordinary person but a Witness with a capital W. This Witness is one who is terrified by violence and involuntarily shuts his eyes. To protect his soul from the tragedy that could tear it asunder, he withdraws into a darkness as fine as onion skin paper. Speechless with fear, petrified, unable to believe what he hears and able to bear violence in his consciousness only by filtering it through such astonishment, The Witness winnows pure fact out of the pornography of life and stamps it into his mind. This is because amid all that darkness, he is compelled to create a language lean and plural enough to speak on the behalf of victims and sufferers in his mind. The Witness also knows that there is no more darkness for the real victims. While during Suruç Massacre, moments of death forever unable to speak fell on the ground as mere secrets, speaking about violence will rest with the one who bears witness. This powerful Witness does not have time to feel guilty for having been an onlooker. Because he is aware that this very sense of guilt, which becomes a habit, has turned into an egocentric distraction through which he creates much of himself in a new way. Instead of becoming utterly passive, feeling maddeningly helpless as a mere onlooker the ruling powers would capture without effort, a self-censoring, compliant human being, the incarnation of the country’s fate, he makes a choice for his future.
Active human beings like Nuriye Gülmen and Smih Özakça, who through hunger strike challenge the state for responsibility of life, stand up to despotism while being on the verge of death. Meanwhile, the powerful Witness is obliged to maintain this determined tone that is anything but astonished. That’s why he continues to do his job even if he is fired from established media, writes in fanzines, publishes magazines and falls into debt to printing houses, broadcasts online television, starts a radio station in the backroom of his house, builds upon existing opposition by transforming social media into a fee broadcasting network. Ahmet Şık, during his trial in court, preferred to accuse the courthouse instead of entering a plea and cried “Down with despotism, long live freedom!”, and circulated his words on his own blog, in WhatsApp groups, on Facebook and in Twitter feeds. Against countless threats by partisans of the ruling power, the strongest buttress thereof who act as though they were policemen, prosecutors or officers, the Witness finds endurance in a deep-rooted sense of freedom. The Witness with a capital W is not as uninhibited as a political hitman, but is free to a degree that arouses envy.
Grievance, malediction and leaving his own person idle are not for the Witness. It is evident that under a regime of rancor that tries to destroy today’s memory by keeping the society in constant shock, the Witness has to stay awake at all times. And he does not even need effective eloquence, extravagant rhetoric, charisma or fame. The most valuable resistance of the Witness lies in his collection of pure fact. There is no doubt that the effective political language of the future will be produced by this passionate chronicler who nobody took into account. That language will write not the history of the despot, but the history of struggle. As long as there is a resolute Witness who will stand a guarantor of truth, new politics will surely be born in its own language

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