Opposing the government is not a crime: Why is Sendika.Org Editor Ali Ergin Demirhan being targeted?

Police broke down the door of Sendika.Org’s office in Istanbul’s Şişli district on 28 June to conduct a search despite the absence of any administrator, worker or lawyer from the news site. During the search, lawyers learned that a warrant had been issued for Sendika.Org Editor Ali Ergin Demirhan due to his “social media posts.” What did Demirhan write to become a target of the government?

On 28 June, four days after Turkey’s latest elections, police broke down the door of Sendika.Org’s office in Istanbul’s Şişli district, allegedly because they had a warrant for one of the site’s editors, Ali Ergin Demirhan.

Demirhan has been a government target – from both before and after the election – due to his social media posts. So what was in his posts?

“Those who don’t exercise their right to resist will lose against Erdoğan”

In a piece titled ”This isn’t an ‘election’: Those without a B plan will be left behind” published before the 24 June elections, Demirhan said, ”The thing we are confronting isn’t a regular election that we can respond to with mere ‘election politics’ but a new period of attack by [Turkish President Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan that he has launched to protect his government and which formally includes elections.”

Regardless of the results of the election, Erdoğan would likely seek to retain power, even if by illegitimate means, Demirhan said. “Those who don’t exercise their right to resist and don’t have a Plan B against Erdoğan are destined to lose, even though the AKP [Justice and Development Party] is actually entering this round in a very fragile and weak position,” he added.

”Erdoğan has lost the ability and the legitimacy to lead”

One day before the election, Demirhan shared 10 points on Twitter, noting that Erdoğan had lost the ability and the legitimacy to lead the country and that the ”wind that had filled the opposition’s sails” was the ”wind that Gezi had brought to the streets.”

This is what Demirhan shared:

A few notes on the eve of the election about the opposition’s dominance on the street, even if it is not reflected in polls results: 1. The one truth that no election result will change is that Erdoğan has lost the ability and legitimacy to lead the country. That’s what the street shows too.

2. In spite of all the pressure and lack of equality as a result of the state of emergency, the great sense of purpose in the rallies for the CHP [Republican People’s Party] and the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party], as well as the obvious weakness of the AKP at its rallies, show that the people are placing their hopes for a solution elsewhere.

3. The street can sometimes be deceptive and insufficient. During the Rallies for the Republic [2007] and Gezi [2013] there was a tremendous street movement, but this was not reflected at the ballot box, as Erdoğan was able to protect his government. Ahead of 24 June, however, one can point to two main differences.

4. The Rallies for the Republic were the last convulsions of the former powers that be and the sections of society that placed all their hope in them. They didn’t represent anything new but the old; they didn’t represent solutions but the accumulation of the problems of the past, as well as a limited cross section of society.

5. But Gezi showcased new societal dynamics representing the country’s future. But in subsequent elections, it was again largely the ”old hands” who were on the scene, rather than the dynamics produced by Gezi or the political subjects that they represented.

6. In the 24 June elections, there are renewed actors promising hope that all segments of society can comprehend … in the face of the outdated AKP.

7. Including the [Islamist] Felicity and [the nationalist] Good Party, all of the opposition is attempting to adhere to the new societal and political foundations altered by Gezi by using leftist language and promising root-and-branch change (even if their capacity to do so is limited amid internal contradictions).

8. The reality of the street might not be exactly reflected at the ballot box or it might not be happy with who it puts into power, but the wind that filled the opposition’s sails is the wind that Gezi brought to the streets.

9. Socialists who have not been able to open their sails to benefit from the winds from the street will [still] be the guarantee for the street. After the votes are cast, the roles of the street behind the ballot box will change, as will those of socialists behind parliamentary actors.

10. Whoever wins on election night, the street will again provide support to halt the the one who is illegitimate and protect the one who wins fairly. The masters of the street will adopt a stance based on this.

“The struggle continues”

Following the elections, Demirhan also shared Sendika.Org’s appraisal of the polls: “A summary of the results of 24 June: A continuation of illegitimate government, crises and struggle…

“Erdoğan won’t shy away from using ‘force’ to continue in power”

After the 24 June elections, Demirhan wrote a piece titled ”The opposition won with the left, the government won with force”, ”The lessons from 24 June are that we cannot reach an appropriate conclusion by simply saying we became intoxicated by the winds of change in our own neighborhoods or that we can give into fear by looking at the government’s capacity to use force.”

If the opposition is to advance in the new political environment, it has seen that it can do so from the left, said Demirhan, while noting that Erdoğan would not hesitate to use force to protect his power.

Having lost the ability and legitimacy to rule the country as he finds himself knee deep in crises, Erdoğan will clearly not hesitate to use force to protect his power. The lessons from 24 June are that we cannot reach an appropriate conclusion by simply saying we became intoxicated by the winds of change in our own neighborhoods or that we can give into fear by looking at the government’s capacity to use force. The left must organize the potential, but this struggle that will be undergirded by this leftist potential must be organized in such a way that it does not ignore the government’s force – that is, that it does not ignore the necessity of breaking down the barriers that have been erected between broad segments of society in an effort to restrict political action.

Detention in wake of 2017 referendum

Demirhan, meanwhile, was also detained four days after a 16 April 2017 referendum on charter changes that greatly expanded Erdoğan’s powers. Police detained Demirhan on allegations that ”he was attempting to depict the referendum results as illegitimate by organizing protests on social media, inciting enmity in the population and insulting a public servant on the basis of his official duties,” releasing him six days later.

Sendika.Org