The mourning period after the terrorist event is often depoliticized. Scrutiny of the processes which made America vulnerable to 9/11 were sidelined, as Derrida argues, because of the spectacle of mourning that followed the devastation.
The spectre of cold war complicities with mujahideen in Afghanistan, the ineptness of our spy agencies under Bush, the banal regularity of terrorism across the world since at least the 1970s, the “home-grownness” of the terrorists using our own training facilities and aircraft –none of these complications circulated within public discourse like the emotional imagery: the cloying praise of civilian heroes in the face of evil and the characterization of Islamist demons wanted dead or alive.
Instead of critical reflection, the media and the government use the mourning period to simplify 9/11 to an empty abstraction, which became a metonymy for all kinds of evilness. The lazy equation of 9/11 with WMDs and Saddam Hussein propelled us into the ongoing humanitarian catastrophes that are the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions.
After 9/11, London, Mumbai, Oslo, and now after Ankara there is the mourning period. It is the time for CNN to transmit any firsthand footage on repeat as many times as possible. It is the time for politicians to tweet their condolences and pray for guidance in 140 characters or less. It is the time for heads of state to agree: something must be done.
After the bombings in Ankara, interim AKP President Davutoğlu suspended his election campaign for three days. In the same speech where he called for the three day mourning period and for unity between parties, Davutoğlu asserted the opposition facilitated the attack by refusing to form a coalition government with his own party, leading to weakened security.
Between and the state-mandated social media blackout, there has been a flurry of speculation and finger pointing about who not only perpetrated the attack, but also who is more generally responsible. While leftist parties like the HDP blamed the government, the AKP asserted An amnesic accusation, given the bombing was that of a peace rally run by the HDP –the party the AKP government has repeatedly accused of being tied to the PKK.
The mourning period –far from being an apolitical time for grieving–increasingly resembles a carefully constructed AKP governmentality, wherein the people are meant to be suspended by shock while the state asserts its parliamentary ambitions. Yet the proclaimed mourning period is not going as planned for the state. The people are refusing the silent detachment that is meant to follow such mass atrocity. They are refusing the government the capacity to use the bombing to rally support for the party for the November 1st elections. Almost immediately, leftist organizations and labor unions led anti-government protests across the country, brandishing signs that proclaimed, “We are in mourning, we are in protest, we are on strike.”
Activists, academics, students, union organizers, and journalists have used the mourning period to launch a layered anti-government critique. They argue that the state has gone too far in conflating the HDP with terrorists, even though the party has proven its legitimacy with its recent electoral success, winning 80 of 550 seats in parliament. They argue that the state at best turned a blind eye to security during the bombing and at worst facilitated it by encouraging militant nationalists. They argue the less-covered violent attack against HDP offices in Ankara only a few days earlier proves the increasingly destructive state-sponsored nationalist threat. They argue that the state doesn’t care about IS, but is using the issue to gain support for its neverending war against the Kurds –the war which perpetually generates support for the establishment.
Burial ceremonies are being held one by one as bodies of the victims of the Ankara bombings are sent to their hometowns, with many funerals becoming impromptu anti-government rallies with mourners and protesters repeatedly chanting “Chief and Murderer Erdoğan” and “The murderous state will pay.”
The state mandated spectacle of mourning is being reappropriated by the people. In Spring 2013, the world became witness to the Turkish state’s systematic violence against dissenters during the Gezi Park protests and the ensuing police violence. Whether through the jailing of journalists, the wanton broadening of the definition of “terrorists,” or renewed violence in the southeast as an attempt to regain complete control of the government, the AKP government maintains a vested interest in stripping away the rights and citizenship of non-supporters.
Notably, mass arrests and detention have become commonplace as the government is swept of dissent. Journalists and non-compliant police officers are systematically jailed. The AKP justifies its censorship and hate-speech through fluid appeals to tradition, nationalism, Islam, and gender norms, resulting in an unmappable patchwork of antagonisms within the country.
As the state fosters social divisions within Turkish society, hate speech will continue to be normalized, terrorism will be applied without reflection, and the body count will continue to rise. Now we are seeing the funeral as site of protest in response –an emerging counter to the daily necropolitics of the state. When the population is systematically rendered into dead bodies, dead bodies will be the new means of resistance.
Paul Gordon Kramer is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland. He’s currently writing his thesis about sexuality and spaces of protest in Turkey.
Photo sourced from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/Ankara_Views.jpg