BWW Discussion Meeting: Thursday March 25th 2021

Brown War Watch meets online every Thursday at 7pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, tension amongst superpowers, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSIONProfessor Catherine Lutz

This week – Thursday March 25th at 7pm –  we are honored to be joined in discussion by Professor Catherine Lutz  – the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies, here at Brown University. Professor Lutz is also the co-Director of the COSTS OF WAR program, and on the board of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

.:sparkles::sparkles::sparkles:We couldn’t be more excited!!:sparkles::sparkles::sparkles: 

Professor Lutz a national authority on war and society and a critical voice for the power in restraint. She is also an incredibly generous and supportive scholar within the Brown community.

The Costs of War Project has produced dozens of papers in the past decade from a diverse and expansive group of experts. These papers aim to provide authoritative empirical evidence on the true costs of American militarism – blood, treasure, and so much more. In recent years, they have broken through the propaganda wall, and are receiving widespread coverage in the US media –  making a considerable and vitally important difference, adding balance to the conversation in our War on Terror era.

In just this past year they have highlighted the true depth and breadth of American interventions through “counterterrorism” operations, the human suffering of our endless war in Afghanistan, the extent of the militarization of the US police force, and the opportunity costs of war in our age of climate crisis.  This is just a fraction of their critical, conversation-changing, and eye-opening work – we strongly encourage you to explore more of it –  here.

As well as speaking with Prof. Lutz about the current state of U.S militarism and its myriad costs, we will also be talking to her about developing career and research skills that challenge the war machine, how we might stay engaged with the CoW project, and where she sees possibilities for change in the current paradigm (and how we can get involved with it!).

It will surely be a rich and informative discussion, while ensuring plenty of time for your questions. BWW Discussion meetings are never to be missed – but this one should be extra special – we hope you’ll join us on Thursday night.

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

SUPPORTING H 5755 : RESPECTFULLY URGING RHODE ISLAND’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO REDUCE MILITARY SPENDING AND PRIORITIZE CLIMATE ACTION

Resolution 5755 will appear before the State Government and Elections Committee on Wednesday March 24 at 4pm and the Peace & Anti-war community of RI need your help! 

**READ THROUGH TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR ACTION ITEMS TO HELP PRIORITIZE CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIANCE OVER MILITARY EXCESS – let’s get our priorities straight!**

Peace activists across Rhode Island, working with inspired legislators – including Representatives Brandon Potter, David Morales, Brianna Henries, and Senator Tiara Mack  are currently urging Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation to prioritize climate resilience for our communities over military spending.

RI House Resolution H5755 RESPECTFULLY URGING RHODE ISLAND’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO REDUCE MILITARY SPENDING AND PRIORITIZE CLIMATE ACTION – recognizes the egregious misallocation of our limited resources toward excess militarism at the dire expense of RI’s communities amid a global climate crisis.

Resolution 5755 will appear before the State Government and Elections Committee on Wednesday March 24 at 4pm and we need your help! 

FACTS

Please Consider the following: 

1) The military budget is off the charts:

  • The Department of Defense budget does not  include nuclear arsenal spending which is part of the Department of Energy budget. Nor does the Department of Defense include Veteran Affairs.  Add all such hidden costs to  the $741 billion 2021 Pentagon budget and the total military spending comes to $1.2 trillion;
  • That is more than $3,500 per year per person, young and old, about $275,000 over a lifetime; and
  • Rhode Island tax payers contributed $2.3 billion to the military in 2018.

2) Military spending crowds out spending on domestic needs:

  • 53% of federal discretionary spending goes to defense as opposed to 5% for education, 6% for health, 3% for transportation, 4% for energy and the environment and 1% for food and agriculture;
  • A 10% cut in the military budget could house a million homeless people or create a million good infrastructure jobs or a million well-paying green energy jobs or hire 900,000 new teachers or provide college education for two million students; and
  • In 2015, over 16,000 Rhode Island veterans, 23% of the state’s veteran population had  incomes below $35,000.

3) Funding the defense industry jobs is an inefficient way of creating jobs:

  • Compared to military spending, clean energy jobs provide 40% more bang for the buck; for health care it’s 70% more; for education it’s no less than 150%; and
  • The Pentagon has failed each of the three audits conducted since 2018. Weapons projects waste billions. It is predicted that it will take until the end of the decade before the Pentagon can pass an audit.
  • Weapons projects such as the F35,  waste trillions of dollars

4) The US global military presence is destabilizing:

  • We are on the verge of another nuclear arms race and the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange is greater than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis;
  • It has not made the world safer. Afghanistan is not closer to peace than it was in 2001. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon and Yemen and much of Africa are in chaos;
  • Surplus military equipment is given to local police forces, bringing the war military methods and training and military violence to our streets; and
  • From 2000 to 2014, RI law enforcement received at least $8.5 million in federal military equipment.

5) US military greenhouse gas pollution:

  • If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it—between Peru and Portugal—the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world; and
  • The United States insisted on an exemption for reporting military emissions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This loophole was closed by the Paris Accord; current status: unknown.

6) Military spending has not made us safe:

7) Intergenerational justice demands that we redirect federal military spending toward a Green New Deal;

  • In 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change repeated its 2018 warning that “We will only be able to keep global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels if we effect unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society, including energy, land and ecosystems, urban and infrastructure as well as industry.”
  • There must be a just transition for those employed in the war economy with special attention to vulnerable and marginalized communities.

ACTION ITEMS

1. Send a thank you email to the hardworking legislators:

Representative Potter: rep-potter@rilegislature.gov 

Representative Morale: rep-morales@rilegislature.gov  

Representative Henries:rep-henries@rilegislature.gov  

– who have sponsored this peace legislation. We believe it is essential for legislators to know that when they carry legislation forward for the peace and anti-war community we have their back and appreciate their work. 

Here is a Script that you are welcome to use:

Dear Representative [Insert Name],

I write with heartfelt thanks for the hard work and support you have lent to the General Assembly Resolution H5755 – RESPECTFULLY URGING RHODE ISLAND’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO REDUCE MILITARY SPENDING AND PRIORITIZE CLIMATE ACTION. 

As a member of the Rhode Island community I strongly believe in the power of this statement for peace. We must reverse overspending on the military and underspending on climate resilience! This shift in priorities will deliver important benefits for the people of RI and beyond. I look forward to working with you to see this initiative meet with success. 

Yours in Gratitude,

[Insert Your Name]  

2. Contact your local General Assembly representative and let them know you’d like them to support this initiative. 

We need to generate both a groundswell of support in the community and in the legislature to meet with success. The more Assembly reps we can get to sign on, sponsor and support this bill – the greater the chances of success. 

An information sheet on how to find who your representative is: HERE

Dear Representative [Insert Name],

I am a constituent of your district and I write seeking your support for an important RI General Assembly Resolution: H5755 – RESPECTFULLY URGING RHODE ISLAND’S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION TO REDUCE MILITARY SPENDING AND PRIORITIZE CLIMATE ACTION.

This resolution makes a clear and important statement for peace. Rhode Islanders see clearly how the military budget is crowding out investments in our communities and our social priorities including education, infrastructure, transportation, food and housing security. Amid a rapidly unfolding climate crisis we desperately need to prioritize investments in climate resilience. We know the impacts of climate change affect most those who can least afford it, compounding extant racial and social inequalities. Studies show conclusively that investing in industries such as health and education lead to far better employment outcomes for our state than military investment. This resolution addresses these facts.

For more information on this resolution, please see these three published Resolution Fact Sheets  put together by a concerned group of Rhode Island citizens.

We hope you can sponsor, support, and vote for this important bill.

Yours Sincerely

[Insert Your Name]  

3. Sign up for written or spoken testimony. 

**TIME SENSITIVE: Sign up for Verbal Testimony before 4:00 PM on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Submit Written Testimony before 1pm on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

To be successful we need citizens concerned about the out-of-control war industry to speak up and speak out. Reining in the military-industrial complex begins on the local level. Instructions for the State Government and Elections Committee are : here and below on how to register for both written and spoken testimony, and the specifics of Tuesday’s deadlines.  

Feel free to write something short – any and all statements help enormously. Above all we want to show that we have widespread support.These information sheets will help you to prepare a statement – we recommend cutting and pasting the part that speaks to you:

Resolution :

Talking Points & Supporting Facts  – here

Detailed Information – here

W/ Graphs – here

FURTHER INFORMATION ON HOW TO CONTRIBUTE WRITTEN and/or VERBAL TESTIMONY

The State House remains closed to in-person testimony. 

The meeting will be televised on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15, and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers.
It will also be live streamed at http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx

WRITTEN TESTIMONY 

Written testimony is strongly encouraged and may be submitted via 

HouseStateGovernmentandElections@rilegislature.gov 

Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message. Due to high volume, clerks are not screening this inbox for verbal testimony requests. This inbox is for written testimony only. 

DEADLINE: Written testimony should be submitted no later than three (3) hours prior to the posted meeting time. Every effort will be made to share written testimony submitted before the deadline with committee members prior to the hearing. Testimony received after deadline will be sent to committee members and posted to the website as soon as possible. 

For faster processing, it is recommended that testimony is submitted as a PDF file. Testimony will be posted on the General Assembly website, 

http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HSGE.aspx . 

VERBAL TESTIMONY 

Due to the extremely high volume of requests, and in order to accommodate as many constituents as possible, please take note of the revised procedure for verbal testimony:
*DEADLINE: Requests for verbal testimony must be submitted via the link, by 4:00 PM
on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. 

For verbal testimony requests, CLICK HERE
Verbal testimony accepted on any bill scheduled for “Hearing and/or Consideration” only 

The committee is unable to designate a specific time that you will be called. In the event you are unavailable when called, witnesses are urged to submit written testimony. 

Jill Cataldi
Committee Clerk
222-4435 HouseStateGovernmentandElections@rilegislature.gov 

A huge thank you to all engaged in this struggle to set our priorities straight!! We’ll win locally on our way to Washington!

BWW Discussion Meeting: Thursday March 18th 2021

Brown War Watch meets online every Thursday at 7pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, tension amongst superpowers, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

THIS WEEK’S TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION: KURDISTAN, ROJAVA, THE YAZIDI.

This week Brown War Watch welcomes to the discussion Mairéad Smith, PhD student in the Department of Anthropology, Brown University. Mairéad will discuss Middle Eastern conflict, giving special attention to the Kurdish and Yazidi peoples, the Rojava political project, and the role of women. This discussion will be of particular interest to those fascinated by the theory and practice of political projects unfolding in our time.

SOME RESOURCES TO AID AND ENRICH DISCUSSION:

Kurdish History : here

Basic Overview on scope of issues: here

Western Projections onto Kurdish Women: here

Kurdish Poetry: here

Rojava: here

We are looking forward to another compelling and rich discussion on topics that go largely ignored in the media.

We hope you’ll join us! Write to brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

RHODE ISLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY LEGISLATIVE BILL H6026 : DIVESTMENT OF STATE PENSION FUNDS FROM MILITARY CONTRACTORS

**PLEASE SEE THE ACTION ITEMS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR IMPORTANT & APPRECIATED WAYS THAT *YOU* CAN SUPPORT THIS CONCRETE, RARE, AND PROMISING LEGISLATIVE STEP TOWARD REINING IN THE WAR PROFITEERS**

Peace activists across Rhode Island, working with inspired legislators – including Representatives David Morales and Brianna Henries, and Senators Tiara Mack and Sam Bell – are currently moving to divest RI’s State Pension Funds from weapons corporations.

RI House Bill 6026  – for the DIVESTMENT OF STATE PENSION FUNDS FROM MILITARY CONTRACTORS – is a small but concrete step toward a more peaceful planet. 

Bill 6026 will appear before the Finance Committee on Thursday March 11 at 5.30pm and we need your help

FACTS

Every year the US spends approximately a third of its bloated $740 billion military budget on weapons systems, constantly adding to its world-ending arsenal (including 5,800 nuclear warheads). More spending only drives the global arms race, not improvements in national security.  

The weapons industry corrupts our democracy, leeches off our public purse, and sews misery across the globe – all financed by our tax dollars and retirement funds. 

The war profiteers constantly undermine our democracy. They pour their super-profits born from wasteful government contracts – back into the lobbying trough – chasing new contacts by influencing elected officials, academics, and the media. 

Lobbying for more weapons contracts re-enforces a continuing climate of insecurity, encourages wasted military capacity, and warps the economy away from productive activity. 

Our tax dollars enrich the war profiteers who specialize in the endless production of violence, death, destruction, and social chaos. The world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis, Yemen, is a prime example of American weapons companies (Raytheon in this case) at work.

Instead of footing the yearly bill for the multi-million dollar CEO bonuses at Death & Destruction Inc. – we can instead invest the retirement savings of RI’s hardworking people in social goods that build healthy, educated, climate resilient communities. 

 While Senator Jack Reed defends the bloated military budget – the people of RI are working tirelessly at the local level to end this waste and corruption. We’re fed up with being led around by the Weapons Trust.

What is more – Rhode Islanders do not have to sacrifice returns or take on more risk with their pension funds. Studies confirm that Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investment vehicles match or outperform the market over the long-term. In short: PEACE PAYS.

Diverting investment funds toward companies with positive environmental, social, and governance ratings can improve societal investment in sustainable energy, modernizing crumbling infrastructure, and supporting public transit.

Further – we know it can be done because there are encouraging precedents for divestment right here in Rhode Island. The state has divested from civilian assault-style gun manufacturers and private for-profit prisons. 

The effort to rein in the military machine begins in our local communities – with people-powered campaigns from the bottom up. 

Local volunteer peace activists wrote this legislation themselves – guided by the incredible work of larger, more established groups like Mass Peace Action and Code Pink.

These information sheets will also prove helpful in understanding and supporting this legislation:

Divestment Fact Sheet – here

Divestment Considerations: here

Please find below a list of actions you can take now to begin reclaiming our democracy from the War Merchants.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW IN SUPPORT OF H6026

1. SEND A THANK YOU EMAIL TO THE SPONSORS

Please email the hardworking Rhode Island legislators who have sponsored this peace legislation

Representative David Morales : rep-morales@rilegislature.gov

and

Representative Brianna Henries  : rep-henries@rilegislature.gov  

We believe it is essential for legislators to know that when they carry legislation forward for the peace and anti-war community we have their back and appreciate their work. 

Here is a Script You are welcome to use:

Dear Representative [Insert Name],

I write with heartfelt thanks for the hard work and support you have lent to the General Assembly legislative initiative H6026 – for the Divestment of State Pension Funds from Military Contractors.

As a member of the Rhode Island community I strongly believe in the power of this statement for peace, and the important benefits it will deliver for the people of RI and beyond. I look forward to working with you to see this initiative meet with success. 

Yours in Gratitude,

[Insert Your Name]  

2. RECRUIT YOUR LOCAL RI GENERAL ASSEMBLY REPRESENTATIVE TO SUPPORT H6026

Contact your local RI General Assembly representative and let them know you’d like them to support this initiative. We need to generate both a groundswell of support in the community and in the legislature to meet with success. The more RI Assembly reps we can get to sign on, sponsor and support this bill – the greater the chances of success. 

An information sheet on how to find *your* local representative is: HERE

Here is a Script You are welcome to use:

Dear Representative [Insert Name],

I am a constituent of your district and I write seeking your support for an important RI General Assembly legislative initiative: H6026 – for the Divestment of State Pension Funds from Military Contractors.

This bill makes a clear and important statement for peace. It shows that Rhode Islanders prioritize investments in the social good, and are willing to act to end support for military corporations who trouble our democracy with endless lobbying, and  produce violence, death, and destruction. Much research shows that investors, most importantly the hardworking people who contribute to RI State Pension Funds, need not forego returns or add risk, to invest their money with social outcomes in mind. In fact, RI legislators have a precedent for just such actions, divesting from civilian assault-style gun manufacturers and private for-profit prisons last year. This initiative continues that work.

For more information on this bill, please see this published Divestment Fact Sheet put together by a concerned group of Rhode Island citizens.

We hope you can sponsor, support, and vote for this important bill.

Yours Sincerely

[Insert Your Name]  

3. SIGN UP FOR WRITTEN AND/OR VERBAL TESTIMONY IN FAVOR OF H6026

Sign up for written or spoken testimony. To be successful we need citizens concerned about the out-of-control war industry to speak up and speak out. Reining in the military-industrial complex begins on the local level.

Instructions for the Finance Committee Statements are here and below. They include how to register for both written and spoken testimony, and the specifics of Thursday’s deadlines.  

Feel free to write something short – any and all statements help enormously. Above all we want to show that we have widespread support. These information sheets will help you to prepare a statement – we recommend simply cutting and pasting the part that speaks to you and for you.

Divestment: Fact Sheet – here

Considerations: here


FINANCE COMMITTEE HEARING DETAILS for H6026

The meeting will be televised live on Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox Channels 15, and 61, in high definition on Cox Channel 1061, on Full Channel on Channel 15 and on Channel 34 by Verizon subscribers. It will also be live streamed at  http://rilegislature.gov/CapTV/Pages/default.aspx

WRITTEN TESTIMONY
Written testimony is strongly encouraged and may be submitted via HouseFinance@rilegislature.gov 
Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message.  Due to high volume, clerks are not screening this inbox for verbal testimony requests. This inbox is for written testimony only
DEADLINE: Written testimony should be submitted no later than three (3) hours prior to the posted meeting time. Every effort will be made to share written testimony submitted before the deadline with committee members prior to the hearing. Testimony received after deadline will be sent to committee members and posted to the website as soon as possible.  For faster processing, it is recommended that testimony is submitted as a PDF file.
Testimony will be posted on the General Assembly website, http://www.rilegislature.gov/Special/comdoc/Pages/HFIN.aspx .

VERBAL TESTIMONY For verbal testimony requests, CLICK HERE Verbal testimony accepted on any bill scheduled for “Hearing and/or Consideration” only
DEADLINE: Requests for verbal testimony must be submitted via the link, by 11:00 AM on Thursday, March 11, 2021. The committee is unable to designate a specific time that you will be called. In the event you are unavailable when called, witnesses are urged to submit written testimony.

4. PLEASE FILL OUT THIS QUICK GOOGLE FORM LETTING US KNOW WHAT ACTION YOU TOOK

So that we can measure and celebrate our collective impact!! Let’s do this!

Google Form : HERE

Please feel free to reach out to brownwarwatch@brown.edu if you need help with any of the actions above, especially in registering for testimony or crafting your response. 

Dangerous Days for Turkey’s Democracy

The following article is contributed by Brown affiliate and Turkish citizen, Jesse Smith. We are extraordinarily grateful for the risks they are taking in writing this article for Brown War Watch. It highlights the incredible pressures democracy is currently under in Erdogan’s Turkey. 

It is past time for the international community to understand the full extent of the damage done, and the continuing dangers to democracy in Erdogan’s Turkey. The steady degradation of human rights, separation of powers, and freedom of speech and press in Turkey in recent years has accelerated in recent months. In December 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fined Turkey 60,400 Euros for detaining Selahattin Demirtas, former president of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)[1]. The next day, Turkish courts condemned journalist Can Dundar to 27 years in prison [2]. Although the men share no past relationship, they are united by their fight against the corruption of law, and the death of free speech in Turkey. To better appreciate the fate of these two men, it is best to trace the extent of the diminishment of the freedom of expression in Turkey, why and how it has devolved, and what might be the consequences and impacts of this trajectory. 

Understanding Dundar’s case begins by examining two challenging years for Turkey (2014 and 2015) following numerous terrorist attacks, primarily by Islamist jihadist groups [3]. One of these terrorist attacks, a bombing in Ankara was directed at people preparing to protest the government’s ineffective management of terrorism and to call for peace, killed more than 100 people and injured more [4,5]. During this time, Can Dundar, the general publishing coordinator of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, received videos from the Turkish-Syrian border [6]. The videos showed that the country’s intelligence agency carried munitions illegally to Syria. This news put Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in a tight spot. He claimed the guns were for Turkmen in Syria which they denied. Further, the disembarkation location for the weapons was not close to the Turkmen, but rather Islamic jihadist groups. Erdogan eventually acknowledged these claims but declared the munitions transport a state secret, and accused journalists of spying [6,7,8]. In 2014, after legal procedures, Dundar, and his colleague Erdem Gul were sent to Silivri prison,  known for hosting political detainees [9]. 

The infamous Silivri Prison in Turkey: home to Turkey’s political prisoners.

In the initial trial, the Constitutional Court, the highest legal body in Turkey, found Dundar innocent [12]. However, Erdogan believed the journalist to be guilty and asked the local court for Dundar’s imprisonment. The journalist left the country shortly afterwards, yet the prosecution proceeded. Dundar, the winner of numerous prestigious journalism awards including the CPJ International Press Freedom Award, PEN Hermann Kesten Award, ECPMF Press Freedom and the Future of Media Award , continued his work from Germany. The government subsequently used this as evidence of a “lack of regret regarding the crime.” The local court eventually complied with Erdogan’s demands, rather than the Turkish constitution[10,11]. They found Dundar guilty of “spying”, “collaborating with terrorist groups without being part of it”, and condemned him to more than a quarter-century-long prison term for doing his job. The decision aimed to intimidate individuals, in Turkey and abroad, who might dare to be critical of the government. Penalties were not given to those who acted illegally, but to those who revealed the illegality. The case has been exemplary of how the current government has abused the law to acquit those in power.

The attack on the legal system is profound. Utilizing referendums, Erdogan and the executive obtained the authority to appoint judges, bringing the judiciary under its heel. Those judges that preceded[1]  this maneuvering have felt the pressure from other departments under the executive branch including the police, gendarmeries, and ministries. With this broadened executive power and the majority of seats in the parliament, the Turkish president now has all the tools to[2] [RL3] control the media. Holding this power, Erdogan has increased impunity and dulled accountability. Dundar’s case is just one example. 

As Rousseau suggested, people sometimes compromise their rights in the quest for safety and peace – and so it is with Turkey. The government has used the specter of terrorism as a cudgel to augment its power, to the detriment of speech, press, and law. But freedom of expression and the press are critical to democracy. “The power of people”, is not only expressed through elections, but also via the ability to criticize, protest, publish dissent, and gather in public spaces. When the government takes wrong, unexpected, disapproved, illegitimate, or illegal actions, it is essential for people to voice concern without constraint and to exercise this democratic power. This mutual agreement between the state and the people necessitates a representative, an executor, and a feedback and commentary mechanism. For the mutual agreement to work, all three mechanisms need to be effective [13]. In Turkey today, the feedback mechanism is broken. No opposition is permitted without penalty. People who express or even imply disapproval about the government’s actions may be charged with financial, administrative, and more serious kinds of penalties. Abuse of the executive power, and prioritizing its[4] jurisdiction over the courts has paved the way to “legitimize” the government’s mistakes and to mute the press. 

Numerous journalist arrests after critical events (17/25 December Bribery Scandal, Gezi Protests, 15 July failed putsch attempt, etc.) show the government’s awareness of the power and importance of free expression [14]. The likely reason behind such powerful control measures resides in Erdogan’s fear of losing power. His political power is rooted in a base that deifies him: “If Erdogan says so, it is right” is the commonly-held view of his supporters. During his 18-year rule, he has inevitably made mistakes, often considerable ones. The right to freedom of expression is the most straightforward way to challenge these mistakes. Obviously critique challenges this political power based on his “excellent”, “half-god” image [16]. Ultimately, the result is Turkey’s reputation as “journalist prison” – the second to worst jailer of  journalists today [17]. 

The discretionary use of the state’s power to sue, penalize and imprison people turns the country into something reminiscent of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. A video posted on social media, a critical speech of the government’s pandemic policies, even doing one’s job are cited as “evidence” for collaborating with terrorist groups. In spring 2020, more than 310 people were arrested because of their social media posts criticizing the government’s pandemic management [18]. In the aftermath of the failed 15 July putsch attempt, even a malevolent notice to the police deeming someone a member of a terrorist group could be counted as sufficient evidence for condemning the person to prison. In the period following the putsch attempt, more than a quarter-million people were the victims of “Decree-Laws” [19]. Decree-Laws are usually issued in times of national and international emergency and instability like a war, an earthquake, or a pandemic for more effective and faster responses. Under these state-of-exception decrees, every critic of the AKP government risks the accusation of “collaborating with terrorist groups.” The explicit penalizing of opposition public figures has become all too common. 

Political detentions, such as the Demirtas’s case, are clearly aimed at[5]  deterring government criticisms and creating an atmosphere of fear. It has proven a successful method for the government. ECtHR decided twice that Demirtas’s imprisonment was political rather than legal. The Court also declared that the detainee’s human rights including the freedom of speech, and the right to be elected were violated [20,21]. President Erdogan simply declared he would not comply with the Court’s rule, and that ECtHR was “a hypocrite”, once again deeming Demirtas a “terrorist” [22].  

The aggressive use of the label “terrorist” taps into nationalist emotions and a real fear of terrorism among the Turkish people. By defining “patriotism” according to his personal values and interests, and pushing critique of the government outside of its parameters, Erdogan and his government have transformed journalism into a trade filled with fear and hesitation. In 2019, during a military operations in the northern Syrian Border, 839 social media users were accused of “criminal posting” prompting their investigation. Simply because they expressed their disapproval of Turkey’s intervention in Syria they were deemed “traitors to the country” [23].  Academics for Peace shared the same experience. More than 2000 academics signed a declaration critical of the state’s policies towards Kurdish people in 2016 and were sued. Afterward more than 200 of them were sentenced to prison. The first acquittal among these academics was in September 2020. The president at the time called the universities to “take the necessary actions.” After this call, universities and the local courts filed lawsuits against the academics; most lost their jobs and were banned from traveling abroad and getting jobs at other institutions [24].

 Although the people of Turkey are used to hearing academics, journalists, activists, and opposition parties and their leaders grouped with terrorist organizations; they fear that one day their name too will appear on a prosecution paper with the label “terrorist”. When this happens, even ECtHR rulings seem powerless to help. This constant fear renders living in peace impossible in Turkey. Something as innocuous as clicking on the “follow” button of opposition leaders on social media fills people with nervousness. During the Gezi protests, which arose to express the discontent for the then government in 2013, 85 to 250 journalists lost their jobs because of their coverage of the protests, and more than 5500 people were sued [25,26]. Known as “AKP Trolls”, the unknown people paid by the government to “transmit-trap” government critical posts, and even likes, create the feeling among Turkish people that Big Brother watches over them every second. Living with the constant fear of “Will liking this post make me visible to trolls?”, or “What if my neighbor heard my last speech about the pandemic management and I’m arrested tomorrow?” has dragged the people of Turkey down into a great despair [26]. With Erdogan exerting control over all of the branches of power in the country how can laypeople seek justice? 

This situation has badly eroded trust in legal institutions and the media. In a  poll held in late 2020, 53% of the participants stated that they do not trust, or have low trust, in the Turkish legal system –  29% abstained from responding. The same poll showed that the media is faring no better. Over sixty percent of poll participants stated that they have low, or no, trust in the media – 10% abstained from answering [27]. These results are not shocking when you consider the moves against the constitution and democratic norms that have become the standard in the country. Every day in Turkey brings new human rights violations, with widespread impunity encouraged by oppressing the press and personalizing the laws. It also comes as no surprise that Turkey is listed as “not free” by Freedom House [28]. No freedom of speech for critics, no freedom for publicly opposing the government, no freedom for journalism: democracy, meaning people’s power, has fallen under one-man’s power. The Erdogan regime, by eliminating the press and undermining the law, has transformed Ataturk’s democratic Turkey into an autocracy. 

REFERENCES

[1] www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-55455193

[2] www.evrensel.net/haber/421881/can-dundara-27-yil-6-ay-hapis-cezasi-verildi.

[3]www.dw.com/tr/t%C3%BCrkiyeyi-sarsan-be%C5%9F-ay-7-haziran-1-kas%C4%B1m-2015/a-50204527.

[4]www.dw.com/tr/ankara-katliam%C4%B1-5-y%C4%B1l%C4%B1n-sonunda-nereye-gelindi/a-55226703

[5]news.un.org/en/story/2015/10/512202-un-officials-condemn-terrorist-bombings-turkey

[6]www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/can-dundardan-tarihi-savunma-yarginin-bagimsizlik-davasi-504415.

[7] www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler/2015/11/151127_mit_tirlari_neler_olmustu

[8] t24.com.tr/haber/erdoganin-turkmenlere-yardim-dedigi-mit-tirlarindaki-muhimmat-cihatcilara-gitmis,287151

[9]www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/can-dundar-ve-erdem-gul-92-gun-sonra-serbest-40060550

[10] www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/can-dundara-27-yil-6-ay-hapis-1800782

[11]www.aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/can-dundar-mit-tirlari-davasinda-27-yil-6-ay-hapis-cezasina-carptirildi/2085926

[12] kararlarbilgibankasi.anayasa.gov.tr/BB/2015/18567

[13] Rousseau, J, & Ligaran 2015, Du Contrat Social, Ligaran Éditions.

[14] cpj.org/europe/turkey/

[15] www.tccb.gov.tr/assets/dosya/15Temmuz/onsorudafeto_tr_en.pdf

[16]onedio.com/haber/cumhurbaskani-erdogan-in-sozlerini-kilicdaroglu-soylemis-gibi-yaptilar-kilicdaroglu-sacmaliyor-ne-yaptigini-bilmiyor-ki-erdogan-soylediyse-dogrudur-943547.

[17]cpj.org/data/imprisoned/2020/?status=Imprisoned&start_year=2020&end_year=2020&group_by=location

[18] bianet.org/bianet/saglik/221834-316-kisiye-koronavirus-gozaltisi.

[19] ohalkomisyonu.tccb.gov.tr/.

[20] www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/19/turkey-opposition-politicians-detained-four-years

[21] www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-echr-demirtas-idUSKBN28W1PJ

[22]t24.com.tr/haber/erdogan-dan-aihm-in-selahattin-demirtas-hakkindaki-hak-ihlali-kararina-bizi-baglamaz,922303

[23]www.amnesty.org.tr/icerik/turkiye-suriyedeki-askeri-harekati-elestirenlere-yonelik-baski-ortaminda-yuzlerce-kisi-gozaltina-alindi.

[24] barisicinakademisyenler.net/node/1.

[25] www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/12000/eur440222013en.pdf.

[26]Deveci, Cem, and Burcu Nur Binbuğa Kınık. “Nationalist Bias in Turkish Official Discourse on Hate Speech: A Rawlsian Criticism.” Turkish Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 26–48. 

[27]www.makdanismanlik.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/MAK-DANISMANLIK-ARALIK-2020-TURKIYE-GUNDEMI-ARASTIRMASI-1-1.pdf

[28] www.freedomhouse.org/country/turkey/freedom-world/2020


Local Rhode Island Campaign in Support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Brown War Watch brings your attention to a promising campaign organized by local Rhode Island peace activists to build awareness around a groundbreaking UN Treaty that will come into force on January 22, 2021.

As ICAN notes on their website:

On October 24, 2020, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons reached the required 50 states parties for its entry into force, after Honduras ratified just one day after Jamaica and Nauru submitted their ratifications…the treaty will enter into force, cementing a categorical ban on nuclear weapons, 75 years after their first use.


Sadly the US has not ratified the treaty. Peace activists must now work tirelessly for US ratification so that we may take a bold step toward a future free from the horror of nuclear weapons. Imagine that!

The local campaign plans to place placards about the UN Treaty on local RIPTA buses, and they have created a Gofundme page to raise money for this important initiative: here.

In an announcement to local peace networks, Rhode Island Peace activists write:

We are seeking your support to place Nuclear Disarmament placards on RIPTA buses. On July 7, 2017,  the United Nations passed a landmark treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons worldwide. This Treaty will take effect on January 22, 2021. But unfortunately, the United States has not supported, promoted, or signed this nuclear disarmament treaty. In order to garner public support for the U.N. Treaty, a coalition of Rhode Island peace groups … wishes to place promotional placards on RIPTA buses. But first, we must raise the money to pay for the placards. Our goal is to raise $10,000 for this purpose on GoFundMe. …we are grateful for any and all donations to this critical cause. Any amount will help us to raise awareness about the most urgent existential threat that currently faces humankind. Video presentation:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/raise-awareness-of-treaty-to-ban-nuclear-weapons
Please click the “Read More” button in order to see/hear all the information on the video.

Please visit the site – and if you are able to – please make a donation.

BWW Discussion Meeting: Tuesday November 17th 2020

Brown War Watch meets online every Tuesday at 7pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

THIS WEEK’S TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

Ethiopia — NYT,  UNHCRUNNPRBBC

US Sanctions on Iran —   WSJMEE,  BBDN. And related: AXIOSNYTLWT

OPEN FLOOR DISCUSSION

Other Key Issues in focus: Political Crisis in Peru, the alarming end to the Western Sahara Ceasefire , Armenia-Azerbaijan resolution – and more.

BWW Film Screening & Discussion: No Vietnamese Ever Called Me N***** (1968)

A discussion of the film No Vietnamese Ever Called Me N—–, (1968) with Brown University Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, Françoise Hamlin, hosted by Les Robinson, Brown War Watch Co-President and PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Brown.

While we are unable to include the movie here, an unrestored copy of the film can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoYLR…

Brown University students can access the film here: https://brown.hosted.panopto.com/Pano…

Time Stamps Intro: 00:0006:53

Discussion: 07:3042:51

Summary of film: The unflinching 1968 documentary follows 400,000 protesters along their march from Harlem to the United Nations building as part of the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam’s April 15, 1967, New York City march. Interwoven through the protest footage is an intimate interview with Black Vietnam war veterans that provides a radical perspective on the plight of returning Black G.I.s – disproportionately sent to fight the war overseas, returning home to a “Thank You” of continued racial and economic discrimination. Director David L. Weiss’ use of verité results in an electrifying portrait of Black anti-war protesters and veterans as they speak out about social protest, life in Harlem, and the connections between racism and war. The film captures the inextricable link between Black liberation and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

BWW Discussion Meeting: Tuesday November 10th 2020

Brown War Watch meets online every Tuesday at 7pm to discuss ongoing conflicts, developments in the military industrial complex, and pathways to peace.

All political and spiritual beliefs welcome, united in the quest for a more peaceful planet. End the Endless Wars!

Please email brownwarwatch@brown.edu for the Zoom link.

THIS WEEK’S TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

The Global impact of the US election

The significance of Biden’s win for major countries.

Challenges Biden will face in foreign policy.

Russia’s stance on the election.

How US-Saudi relations may change.

Sanguine Defense Contractors

A return of Obama-era personnel – with extensive relations with The Blob

Other Key Issues: US-Saudi relations and the war in Yemen, Israel/Palestine, nuclear arms deals, climate change pressures, the shift from Trump’s approach of economic nationalism & unilateralism to one more grounded & supportive of international institutions & multilateralism, addressing strained alliances.

Increased hostilities within Ethiopia that threaten to destabilize the region
Links: NYTWSJAl Jazeera

Open floor discussion on topics of concern or interest.