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Militourism in Turkey: Politics of Irony, Fun, Rebellion | <a href="http://canbaskent.net">Can Başkent</a>

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MILITOURISM IN TURKEY: POLITICS OF IRONY, FUN, REBELLION

CAN BAŞKENT - YAVUZ ATAN

Militourism festivals, as an important reflection of the anti-militarist struggle in Turkey, took place in three large cities; Istanbul in 2004, Izmir in 2005, and in Ankara in 2006. Members or non-members of several anti-militarists organizations from Turkey and other countries have participated in the activities which were an ironic combination of politics (or maybe anti-politics), tourism, and spectacle, as well as one of the best examples of an anti-militarist/anarchist line of politics. Activities including tours, protest, exhibitions, and entertainment were prepared and performed with an open collective work. Symbols and spaces of the state and the military were visited and introduced to the participants and people living in those areas. The infor- mation given was outside the general and widely known official history.

Here are some examples from the places that we have visited: Gulhane Military Medical Academy which owns one of the biggest gay porn archives since they ask for a visual documentation of homosexual intercourse in order to give disability or health certificates (we left a box of apple here for disability analysis, the policemen who accompanied us checked the apples to see if they contain hazardous substance), the Selimiye Barracks in which opponents were kept and heavily tortured during the mili- tary coup periods, Mamak Military Prison in Ankara and S ̧irinyer Military Prison in Izmir, big train stations in three big cities which were the departure points of mili- tourism (the importance of imperial and military elements in their constructions were told and concerts took place in stations), NATO barracks in three big cities, compa- nies providing military equipment for the army, companies that are owned by the army itself in Turkey (a can with a weapon inside is left in the can section of a company belonging to the army), cemeteries (one of these was in an area where Kurdish peo- ple who were forced to migrate due to the war were living), military museums, and the monuments of national heroes (the real identity of one of the figures depicted as a civilian national hero was revealed as an agent provocateur). With the participation of the anti-militarists and conscientious objectors from other countries, we destroyed the borders on world maps, organized street festivals including theater plays and per- formances questioning war, military, and organized violence. There was a “tour guide” in the bus who explained the history and the current situation of the visited places.

All three festival ended with conscientious objectors’ declarations and concerts. One of the significant consequences of these festivals was, although there is no obligation of military service for women in Turkey, there were several conscientious objector women. The reason was to protest the humiliation of women embedded in militarist point of view. Turkey became the only country where there are conscientious objector women while military service is not obligatory for women. This provides a new perspective for the struggle of women and the anti-militarist movement.

The most important feature of the festivals is the fact that they were clear civil dis- obedience actions against the existing regulation in Turkey necessitating permission from the government to gather and demonstrate. Several conscientious objectors who were being searched have participated in the activities which were announced with all clarity in advance. Therefore, militourism festivals turned out to be a part of the festival series that temporarily liberate the streets.

We know it since the Paris Commune: revolution is the festival of the oppressed!