HİLAL KÖSE / HAZAL OCAK
No sooner was CHP Istanbul Province Chair Canan Kaftancıoglu elected than she got stuck into her job heedless of the attacks and threats. Her aim is to secure for Istanbul the administration it deserves. She is decisive and full of conviction. This demeanour alone suffices to make the holders of power shudder. She says, “In a Turkey in which people in the rights’ struggle have been murdered, what has been done to me came as no surprise.” She is simultaneously being targeted by those in the highest office of state and being protected by the state. Despite having no wish whatsoever for this, the police have assigned her a police bodyguard. We met up with Kaftancıoğlu. We mulled over Istanbul, the elections and many other issues.
- How about we start with your work?
We have been working breathlessly since taking office. I said on the first day I staked my claim, “From here on, we’ll do what we say. And we will not say things we cannot do.” So, we must continue to work breathlessly to this end. What are we doing? We have re-examined our internal mechanisms. We have made appointments to work in a more planned and programmed manner. We started an overhaul of our province building. We have also finished our congress. We, the Istanbul organisation, are continuing our efforts in terms of where we need to be and what we need to do.
- What time do you start the day?
I am a pretty early riser anyway. The day starts for me at 6.30 every day. Since taking office, my sleeping time has become a little shorter. I manage to keep on top of the work to an extent with an average of four hours’ sleep per day. There is no knowing what time the day will end.
- Does your family think they have lost Canan until 2019?
Yes, you are absolutely right. Even if they are not very happy, they say, “If Turkey is going to win, we accept things being this way for the country.” At least for the time being. I have no way of knowing how they will feel going forward.
- Was it your dream to occupy the provincial chair’s seat?
I have not until now had the dream of occupying or not occupying any position. I had no notion of standing at the time the Istanbul Province Congress was drawing close, either. I have also never staked a claim in places where people who I think can do the job better than me have staked claims. Over the congress proceedings, my friends from the organisation - people I have been involved in politics with, I am mutually acquainted with and I have united in struggle with - persuaded me. With them saying, “This is a duty and you cannot shirk this duty,” I came to the decision, actually shortly before the congress.
- And the events after winning the election?
Given the fact that people in the rights’ struggle in Turkey have undergone attack and been murdered both in the past and today, the attacks launched against me came as no surprise. Unfortunately, these attacks were fabricated out of a number of lies. It gradually descended into vulgarity. Had it not been for those Tweets, I am sure and believe that something else would have been found to attack. A woman, a new woman politician, emerging and issuing a challenge, saying, “I, too, have a presence,” is bound to disturb the male hegemonic viewpoint. So, I arrived noisily, but, as I have said in all places, I am extremely happy about the ripples I have raised.
- President Erdoğan mounted the biggest reaction. Did this anger you?
I take him to be the AKP general chair. He is most likely the AKP’s Istanbul provincial chair, too. It is up to him. He did not make me at all angry. I will say quite frankly that we see from Erdoğan the state those who conduct politics with anger end up in. I do not conduct politics with anger. Since he gets angry with everyone in all ways, I just laugh at him getting angry with me as well.
- You also got some splendid support.
Thanks go to the president. There is now a feeling both in our organisation and among our non-member CHP-supporting volunteers that says let us all work together. And my task is to organise this feeling. As our general chair has also said, to explain what we are going to do house by house, street by street. When we have done this, we will in fact have succeeded with the tough part of the job. Our job is actually also easy in one sense, because there is a hope and conviction. It is our job to organise that conviction.
- Was any action taken over the threatening messages?
I received very serious threatening messages. There are messages that are still continuing. Even more hurtful, messages came referring to my family. And we know how in this land people have been murdered following threatening messages. I knew what I was getting into. I have made a single application over all the threatening messages. A significant portion of the messages are made up of those coming from Ak trolls.
ENGAGED IN LEGAL STRUGGLE
- At what stage is the investigation that was brought against you?
There are several investigations. When the HDP’s co-chairs were detained we issued a party assembly statement. For this there is an investigation into “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” and “insulting the President.” After becoming province chair, the investigations are stacking up. There is also a lawsuit for damages. The legal proceedings are continuing.
- Why was the damages suit filed?
Most tragicomic things. To do with my tweets. For example, I posted the following tweet about Fethullah Gülen in 2012: “But, you got a schizophrenic lunatic who has only finished elementary school to govern nothing less than the country.” I said back then when they were walking side by side, arm in arm what they are now trying to say and the AKP ruling body that today is supposedly fighting FETO has brought a claim for 50,000 lira in damages over this. I say that these tweets are invaluable. For example, in one tweet, I said, “RTE has said that they will raise a vengeful, not pious, generation. Their latest actions have testifed to that.” Up comes another 50,000 lira claim. I then said in another tweet, “Constitutional crimes have been committed with what has been done recently between 2012 and 2014. Those who commit constitutional crimes should be prosecuted.” Up comes another 50,000 lira claim. It keeps mounting up until it comes to 700,000. These suits have not intimidated me. There have been many people from many parts of Turkey who have phoned and said they want to send me part of their salaries. The support of these people is very important to me.
- Some people just follow you and get investigation mechanisms moving.
Undoubtedly. Certain hatchet men I cannot call journalists because this would be to insult you who act as the ruling body’s henchmen and scribes using the ruling body’s language are pretty adept, bless them, at raking through this and finding things.
- Twitter has been turned into a vehicle for committing crime. People hesitate to write the word “peace.”
This is unfortunately the case with the operations staged against the Turkish Medical Association and the arresting of People’s Houses administrators simply for composing sentences about this. The ruling body and palace says, “Whatever comes out of our mouth is the law and statute.” They perhaps do not know what the law and statute is, but, since we do, we will continue to say what we know to be correct.
- Are people afraid?
The fear is readily understandable. To speak of not being afraid in such an environment is heroism. It is the duty and responsibility of us all to break down the fear or instil a lack of fear into the environment of fear. If we do not speak the truth out of fear, this is precisely when we will have granted full reign to fear. It is a known and visible fact that for all of history tyrants are the ones to have feared the most. As tyrants’ fear increases so does their tyranny. We must show that we are not afraid in spite of all the intimidation and tyranny, make the ones who are basically afraid face up to their fear and enhance our courage and hope all together in the face of fear.
- Cumhuriyet newspaper has been targeted for its headline about the fallen.
Those in power have borders they draw. Whatever we say or do not say, they will pin labels on us. I think we will escape this when we position ourselves on the side of the truth.
FROM HUMBLE ORIGINS
- For those who are not or not very well acquainted with her, who and what kind of person is Canan Kaftancıoğlu?
A child born in want and poverty of a father who worked for years as a teacher in a village in Anatolia and a mother who completed elementary school. Thanks to the attainments of the Republic, despite the absolute lack of facilities, she saw education as being the only road out of that poverty, completed university and became a medical doctor. Over the long years she worked as a doctor, she tried on the other hand to wage the struggle in which she believed in student associations, the medical chamber and other democratic mass organisations. Having completed her specialisation in her much-loved Forensic Medicine, she had to work in the private sector on being unable to find a university appointment. She was one of the founders of a private health institution. She is somebody who for nearly twenty years put working as a doctor to one side and acted as a professional manager. I am married to my colleague, pediatrician Ali Naki Kaftancıoğlu. I have one fifteen-year-old daughter, born 2 November 2002. Why do I mention her birthday? There were elections on 3 November. So, one day before the election my daughter named Çağım Işık, who lightens my path, too, entered the world. And, I say most emphatically that I am the mother of a four-legged son named Rocky.
- How did you take up politics in the CHP?
After Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu became CHP General Chair, I said I had to be there to realise the truths I was thinking and the ideals I believed. I began to wage the political struggle I had previously waged since 2009 in the CHP. I held posts as sub-province administrator and party assembly member.
- We have read that you like riding a motorbike.
True. I used to ride one for a time in my daily life. You first need to get yourself ready to ride a motorbike. You need to dress and make your programme. It is time-consuming for people who ride the way I do. I cannot do it these days because things are so busy. I think I am one of the few women in Istanbul who use the sport engine we call a racing. My husband was not too keen on it. He became a biker, too, out of my interest. He now rides more often than me. When we as the family get the chance, we make fun and safe trips on our bikes and relish taking joy from life.
- Are the Social Memory Platform activities continuing?
Let me start with a sentence that I do not find to be correct. There is talk of various things like Canan Kaftancıoğlu founded-did not found the platform. I facilitated the coming together of the Social Memory Platform families. Whoever murdered intellectuals or was instrumental in their murder from the past until now, it was sadly this mentality and this structure that founded the platform. There have always been families whose relatives have been murdered. They were engaged separately in legal struggles. This union was formed in 2009 through coming together and giving the message, “These people even risked death for you.” We saw that the families were not alone. We became a large family among ourselves. But, we never wanted this large family to grow. We kept on saying let it just be from Sabahattin Ali to Hrant Dink. We said we hoped new individuals would not join our family after Hrant Dink. But, unfortunately, murders by unknown perpetrators continued. We maintain our unity as a platform.
- Murders by unknown perpetrators have sometimes been the stuff of politics.
We said as a platform that we would experience our pain among ourselves and did not want tears from anybody. Let the state just do its duty and let these deaths no longer happen. Let legal processes function properly. Unfortunately, those governing the state try to draw distinctions between our dead. We as a platform reject this from the outset. Plenty could have been done in the AKP’s time in government were it wished, but, for this to be done, the political will and mechanism that enabled Sivas massacre lawyers to become ministers had to be absent. Nothing politically or legally is to be expected of power holders who come from within a mechanism that politically maintains the perpetrators of many events such as the Sivas trial, those who are legally accountable, in post. There is a need for a ruling body and system of governance that will come to terms with our history and display the will for the truth to come out.
I AM HAPPY IN ISTANBUL
- How do you see Istanbul as the CHP Istanbul Province Chair? Are you happy living in Istanbul?
I am used to Istanbul. When I go outside Istanbul, I mostly love the return to Istanbul. I am happy living in Istanbul. How do I see the city? Let me reply in the President’s words. They indeed betrayed the city. They betrayed its nature, its fabric, its environment, its people and its future generations. When the betrayal ends, this will be a better city to live in when it is the people’s Istanbul.
- Which part of it do you like the best? Does it have corners that are special for you?
I am from the Black Sea, a daughter of the sea. And I love Istanbul’s sea. I love it because I see all cultures, peoples and differences capable of being side by side. For me, Istanbul means difference, means excitement, means birds coming out in front of you all of a sudden, means being able all of a sudden to get to know somebody from a culture that was totally unknown to you, means energy and means production. I greatly love all parts of Istanbul that are in flux.
- What is your take on such “crazy” projects as the Istanbul Canal?
If you cannot run a municipality along social democratic lines and do not believe in this, you have to make everything you are going to do mega. This is a policy based somewhat in populism. For example, we have very large judicial complexes. Well, does justice exist in Istanbul or Turkey? No. You have got to tout megaprojects while destroying Istanbul’s fabric, city and nature and that is if you can conceal the destruction and degeneration behind it. Istanbul does not need such flashy megaprojects. Istanbul needs very plain, tiny touches and changes. Then, be sure that Istanbul will be Istanbul.
- Trees were ripped up for the tunnel under Maçka Park.
When are tunnels normally made? Of course, they are made for the traffic to flow freely, but tunnels are made to protect the greenery and nature. A tunnel is being made in Istanbul by destroying a park. What are they saying? They will make the traffic flow freely. It is technically and scientifically impossible to make the traffic flow freely in Istanbul with crossings for tyred vehicles. The tunnel exit at Maçka Park will cause further traffic congestion. Şişli is one of our sub-provinces with the fewest green spaces. What is the tunnel for? It involves plenty of construction and constructors’ progress payments, that is what for. It is being done for the one percent clique who get rich on these easy earnings not the ninety-nine per cent of Istanbulians. They cannot at all prove that it is otherwise. Our people have also now woken up to this. I see this most clearly.
- Can you speak about your efforts in relation to Istanbul?
I became chair to take the 2019 local elections from the Palace and give them to the people. In the days to come, we are starting our initiative on “Istanbul under the state of emergency” with our 39 sub-province chairs. We will use Istanbul to give visibility to both our initiatives and Turkey under state of emergency conditions. We have fourteen municipalities in Istanbul. And they are all serving as great examples of municipalities run along social democratic lines to a degree that leaves AKP municipalities in the shade. In the shortest space of time we will present our exemplary efforts to all of Istanbul and Turkey and explain the extent to which life in CHP municipalities has made people’s lives easier. We as the CHP will give Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality back to the people. We have never been closer to this. We will not permit populist politics for easy earnings in Istanbul or Istanbul to be betrayed. We will govern Istanbul from Istanbul, not from Ankara as a certain person does.
- Do people continue to have concerns over polling integrity?
These continue but it is our duty to spare people from this thought. While I was making appointments I set up new categories. I separated legal and electoral affairs. I have assistants charged with polling and ballot-box integrity in three regions. We saw in the last referendum that election results could be changed through the intervention of Supreme Election Council. Despite the Supreme Election Council and negative factors of all kinds, I promise that we will stand by our votes until the end. But, this responsibility is not only the CHP’s, but that of all of our citizens. Let our people not be without hope. We have serious infrastructural and methodological initiatives. The vote that goes into that ballot box will most certainly be counted correctly.
- There is an expectation of the opposition in the presidential elections. As to uniting over shared principles. And there are those who think it early to be talking about a candidate. Do you agree with these views?
I am one of those who consider it right for the CHP General Chair to be the candidate in the presidential elections. I think it is most wrong for comments to be made based on the votes the CHP has obtained in past elections. It is a mathematical calculation aimed at deceiving our people. On the other hand, I do not find it correct for everyone who is going to fight on the common denominator of re-establishing a secular, democratic, welfare, law-based state to align themselves and for this to be openly referred to as an alliance. What is the ruling body doing? It has established an alliance with the MHP and is seeking ways to terrorise everyone remaining on the outside. We saw in the referendum, despite intimidation of all kinds and use of the state’s resources of all kinds, that the people pulled off a result in excess of 50%. We see that advocates of the democratic, parliamentary system will prevail at the ballot box by a pretty hefty margin. Single-man rule by making the illegitimate state of emergency regime legitimate, or a democratic parliamentary system and defence of the Republic? This is what we will vote for.
WOMEN WILL BRING ABOUT CHANGE AT THE TOP
- 8 March is approaching. Where do women stand?
It is a fact that women have lost more in the period of AKP rule. If it goes on like this, they will lose even more. If we look at history, it has been women who changed the world. This is also one of the reasons why I am making so much noise. A ruling body that fears the women’s struggle has a male hegemonic outlook. This sexist outlook opens up an area of struggle for us. I attach importance to 8 March World Working Women’s Day. We will make the women’s struggle visible once more. In a place where women are not transformative the male hegemonic outlook takes power. The way to demolish this is to intensify this struggle in the face of negative factors of all kinds.
- Why are women facing this kind of bad treatment?
The ruling body is meting out this bad treatment to the whole of society. It is doing this to make its own ideological outlook prevail. Just think. If it does not say, “It is a sin for a woman to go out into the street,” if it does not attribute unemployment in Turkey to women working and it does not say, “Women are butterflies, they are mothers,” do you think today’s rulers would continue to be rulers? No. The ruling body knows that the way to stay in power is to make the male hegemonic outlook prevail. They are doing things that fit in with their ideological policies. Women being strong spells the end for the male hegemonic outlook. The end of the male hegemonic outlook means no war for self-seeking ends in the world. Women being in the workforce means everyone getting their fair share in production and means equal distribution in both education and the economy as well as in all spheres of life. Those in power know that, if all this happens, they cannot stay there. We are faced with a very stiff task, but all together we will bring about a change of power. Trust me, women will do this. That is why the ruling body fears women.
- Do you have a final message?
Each of us, wherever we are, will, without fearing or being cowed, performing our duties as our beliefs dictate, in solidarity and giving account to society, somehow or other rid Turkey of the single-man dictatorship. We will meet up all together once more in an enlightened Turkey. I say this in the hope of once more being side by side and embracing in an enlightened Turkey as I send comradely greetings to our friends who have been unlawfully and unjustly detained and taken prisoner and who continue to pay the price, as personified by our detained friends from Cumhuriyet newspaper.
CHP’s Kaftancıoğlu: As their fear increases so does their tyranny
HİLAL KÖSE / HAZAL OCAK