You: Workers, peasants, government employees, students, small businessmen, houseives, intellectuals, artists…

Who knows how often you have encountered a news item such as this when reading this text:

“Still nothing has been heard of the four people who were arrested on March 31 in Izmir and have since ‘disappeared’.”

Perhaps you have not yet heard anything about such reports, perhaps you heard a little bit about them but did not take them seriously.

But there is no way you could have failed to hear about the Susurluk accident of November 1996, or have read or heard nothing about the developments since then. Since that time, much has been said, much has been written and brought to light. In the newspapers and TV channels, there were headlines such as “From now on things will not be like they were before”. People streamed out into the streets to demand “light”, to demand a democratic Turkey. And, as a result of the people’s reaction, so to speak, as a token of a “state under the rule of law”, various guilty parties, members of special units were arrested for being connected with the “Susurluk gangs”, and legal proceedings were even opened against some members of parliament and even ministers.

Well then, what has changed? Today, aren’t things indeed like they were before?

As for those who were arrested in Izmir on March 31 and who have “disappeared”…

What murderer, what torturer, what gang has been punished? How many gangs have been uncovered?

What “murders by unknown perpetrators” have been cleared up? Which of the “disappeared” have been found? Of those brought to trial over Susurluk, are any of them still in the dock?

Many more such questions can be asked, to your heart’s desire, but which ones can be given a positive answer?

What a shame that it is not possible to give a positive answer to even one of them.

“Neslihan Uslu, Metin Andas, Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal have disappeared since March 31.” First of all, they said that Metin Andas “had been released after he left the State Security Court”. Later, they retracted this statement. So, what has happened to these people, who had never “disappeared” until that day and who, incomprehensibly, have been seen by nobody since that day?

We ask: where are those four people?

In the past, when people talked of the “disappeared”, they spoke of purses, or an identity card, an umbrella, a bag or something similar.

Newspaper or radio notices about things that had been lost were mainly about items such as these.

Sometimes children would go missing in playgrounds or among crowds. Their names would be shouted. Most of these children would be found immediately, some perhaps a little later. If someone found an object or a child, he would take them back.

In the past, our people would say about something disappeared, “It has not gone up in smoke or flown off, of course it is somewhere and will eventually turn up.” In other words, what “disappeared” was something that would be found later on. Nobody was thinking about adults older than 20 or 30 disappearing and never appearing again.

But now one is afraid when one hears the word “disappeared”. Arrest, torture and death are what the word calls to mind. Dark cellars, infinitely deep wells, never seeing the light of day. People are afraid, the word “disappeared” is a gust of cold wind that chills people’s skin.

“Neslihan Uslu, Metin Andas, Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal have disappeared since March 31.”

We ask:

Where is Neslihan Uslu, who worked for years for the newspaper ‘Devrimci Genclik’, who fought for democracy in universities, the dissolution of the state’s Higher Education Council (YÖK) and for this reason was arrested countless times and was well known to the police?

One day you go to work, to school, or go for a walk or to your home and you are arrested… And your name is “disappeared”. And not like a disappeared purse or a child that has gone missing. You will never be found again. There will not even be a gravestone.

We ask:

Where is Metin Andas, who for years led an honourable struggle in the midst of our country against an imperialist firm Eurogold, which used cyanide, and Metin was arrested countless times but never, after his arrest, did he “disappear” but returned directly to his village, his house, alongside the people of Bergama, Metin Andas, who was approaching 50 and a grandfather?

According to science, nothing can disappear, but the police and the state attorneys still say, “away with you”. You make enquiries at all the state’s institutions but they all say, “We did not arrest them.”

The four people who were arrested in Izmir and have since “disappeared”…

How can this be, how can people disappear in front of everybody? And four at the same time. They did not go up in smoke, they did not fly away…

We ask:

Where are Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal?

In this land there is the reality of Susurluk. And whatever was the reality of Susurluk in the past is just as much the reality today.

You know the “Saturday Mothers”, in other words, the friends and family of the disappeared. They say in the meatime, “These days we do not ask any more where the disappeared are. Because we know where they are. We know those who made them disappear.”

You do not have to be blind or deaf to know and see nothing. To not know and see anything you merely have to distance yourself from human virtues, dignity and honour.

No, we cannot claim that after Susurluknothing had changed in this regard. Of course something has changed. For example they changed the government. The agenda has changed a lot. Fadime Sahin, Ali Kalkanci etc. (two well-known members of dervish orders) have for weeks argued about everyday events. And then there is the endless discussion about secularism versus the sharia. Parties are banned and newly formed, for example. Only the people’s agenda has not changed properly. Almost everything has stayed the same. Most announcements in the news are about people who have been beaten or arested while reading a press statement, or attending a rally or meeting or going to university.

Before, people were made to disappear one at a time. And today?

“Still nothing has been heard from Neslihan Uslu, Metin Andas, Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal, who were arrested on March 31 and have disappeared.”

They have not gone up in smoke and flown away!

The Susurluk state is continuing its “1,000 operations”.

Actually the gangs are attacking more savagely than before.

In the past, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz declared, “During our term in office there have been no ‘murders by persons unknown’ and not a single case of a disappearance.”

Is that really the case?

“Of the people arrested in Izmir and…”

It scares people, but painful though it is it brings them one step closer to the reality in Turkey.

On the one side are hundreds of mothers and fathers of people who disappeared or were murdered while under arrest, and the people, on the other side is the mendacious state with its refrain of “We don’t have them, we didn’t arrest them.”

Do the families and friends of the disappeared assemble every Saturday in front of Istanbul’s Galatasaray school just to have something to do?

What has been done by President Demirel, who declared, “If even one sheep goes missing in the meadows of Dice, come and ask me about it?” Has he found even one disappeared person?

Where are the hundreds of people? They have not gone up in smoke and flown away… Neslihan Uslu, Metin Andas, Hasan Aydogan and Mehmet Ali Mandal.

Four people… that is not a small number, four lives… four pairs of eyes… four hearts. Just like you or I. Until yesterday, they were still with us. Now they have been made to disappear. Only because they are revolutionaries and patriots. All of them dignified and honourable people.

What they are actually trying to make disappear are the youths, the workers, the government employees, all those who stand on the side of the workers and the people and their struggle.

That is why we must more strongly acknowledge them as ours. So that we are taking our own future in our hands. If we acknowledge them thus, they cannot be made to disappear. If we acknowledge them as our own, our future cannot be stolen from us.

With every disappearance we remain silent about, a piece of our own humanity disappears.

Naturally, one cannot tell an intellectual what the duties of an intellectual are. But one can remind him of them. For example, intellectuals among us have a mentality of knowing things but swiftly forgetting them.

We want you to be sensitive. This is not an expectation to be plucked from empty air. Anyway, is not sensitivity one of the criteria expected of an intellectual?

And if the people who disappear today in detention are numbered in hundreds and thousands, one of ther most important reasons for this is our insensitivity. You have not sufficiently claimed the disappeared as your own. This silence, this hanging on to the status quo must first of all be broken down among the intellectuals, artists, authors and sketch artists of our country.

“How can that be,” our intellectuals must ask, “How can four people disappear in front of everybody. They have not gone up in smoke and flown off, have they?…”

We must ask about them, look for them and find them. This is what the honour of being a person, an intellectual means.

“Arrested on March 31 in Izmir and…”

Let us not wait until it is our turn.

Let us not wait for a solution from those who gave diplomatic passports to people like Catli and Yesil (two well-known mafiosi and contra-guerrillas, who were given diplomatic passports by the Interior Ministry of Turkey), and set the gangs free but make people disappear. They cannot look for the disappeared, they cannot find them. Because they would find their own guilt.

Demirel, who answers questions from those close to the disappeared by saying, “What am I supposed to do, should I pull them out of my pocket? A state ruled by law cannot have anyone disappear, anyone be murdered” – he is one of the most guilty. Yilmaz, Ecevit, Baykal, Cindoruk, Erbakan, Muhin Yasicioglu, Devlet Bahceli (members of parliament, party chairmen and holders of high state office)… all the bourgeois parties, the military, the police, they are all guilty.

“About March 31 in Izmir…”

Whoever is silent is an accomplice. We must be on the side of those who fight before they come for us next.

Saying, “It will not happen to us” means the same as disappearing.

People are people, with their feelings, convictions, longings, dignity, honour and honesty.

To rise up against injustice and oppression is human behaviour, but not to do it is to “let yourself disappear”. Whoever is silent carries a share of the blame for everyone disappeared, everyone murdered.

What disappears, what is meant to disappear, is humanity. We are disappearing.

Remaining silent means confessing to having no dignity, losing one’s humanity. Have we not thought about the fact that we lose our humanity bit by bit with every one of our people who disappears, while we do nothing to strengthen the voices of his father, his mother, his or her wife or husband, children?

Have we not thought that with every disappeared, a little bit more of ourselves disappears?

Let us take care that we do not disappear!

“No information has been received about four people since they were arrested in Izmir on March 31 and then disappeared.”

Let us ask where they are. Ask, so that we do not disappear ourselves.

Source: Halk icin Kurtulus / Liberation for People /  magazine Nr 85 June 13, 1998