Siirt Province Director of Culture and Tourism, Cengizhan Başaran, said ‘our library was set on fire in unpermitted protests. Regarding our stock, nothing remained, our computers, our chairs and our tables burned. [İzinsiz gösterilerde kütüphanemiz ateşe verildi…. Demirbaşa ait hiçbir şey kalmadı, bilgisayarlarımız, sandalyelerimiz ve masalarımız yandı.]’
Allegedly, a number of other cultural sites ‘were both looted and burned by protesters [göstericiler tarafından hem yağmalandı hem de yakıldı]’. But the circumstantial evidence suggests that the protesters against the Islamic State’s assault on Kobani in Syria (and against the Turkish state’s inaction regarding the looming massacre on its border) were not responsible for the arson.
(I heard of Ömer Celik’s evidence and speculation @omerrcelik via İlhan Tanir @WashingtonPoint, via Haluk Savaş @drhaluksavas, via Hasan Karakaya @karakayahasan71.)
In a series of photographically-evidenced tweets, the Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ömer Çelik, stated,
In recent events, books, computers and furniture, which were thrown into the archive, the children’s section and the disabled section on the ground floor of Siirt Province Public Library [which had 58,000 books, of which they saved 80%], were burned with Molotov cocktails, and the library was left in an unusable condition. Within [these events], the Varto Cultural Centre, which has 190-seat multi-purpose rooms, library, exhibition hall, workshops and administrative and technical spaces, has been left in an unusable condition by burning.
As a result of the attack on Diyarbakır’s Ziya Gökalp Museum [in the house of his birth], the museum building has been completely destroyed, approximately 20 [historic] artefacts have been found stolen from the museum store, [and] many books have been burned. Barbarians, now too as it has been throughout history, attacked libraries, museums and books… The barbarians, incited by those who call themselves “politicians”, burned the children’s library. They destroyed the cultural centre.
[Son olaylarda, Siirt İl Halk Kütüphanesi‘nin zemin katında bulunan arşiv, çocuk bölümü ve engelliler bölümünde / kitaplar, bilgisayarlar, mobilyalar atılan molotof kokteyli sonucu yanmış, kütüphane kullanılamaz hale gelmiştir. / Bünyesinde 190 kişilik çok amaçlı salon, kütüphane, sergi salonu, atölyeler ile idari ve teknik mekanlar olan / Varto Kültür Merkezi yakılarak kullanılamaz hale getirilmiştir. /
Diyarbakır Ziya Gökalp Müzesi‘ne yapılan saldırı sonucunda müze binası tamamen tahrip edilmiş, müze envanterinde / bulunan yaklaşık 20 eser çalınmış, çok sayıda kitap da yanmıştır. / Barbarlar tarih boyunca olduğu gibi şimdi de kütüphaneye, müzeye ve kitaplara saldırdı… / Kendisine “siyasetçi” diyenlerin kışkırttığı barbarlar, çocukların kütüphanesini yaktılar. Kültür merkezini yıktılar.]
(I removed plus signs from any multi-tweet sentences and added slashes between every tweet.)
Other destruction [update (12th October 2014)]
The Public Education Centre (Halk Eğitim Merkezi) and the Evening Art School (Akşam Sanat Okulu) with a 300-person conference centre, next to Siirt Province Public Library, were ‘completely burned [tamamen yandı]’. The Youth and Study Centre (Gençlik ve Etüt Merkezi) in Yüksekova district (of Hakkari Province), too, was ‘set on fire and completely burned [ateşe verilerek tamamen yakıldı]’.
Amongst other targets, statues of Ataturk have been smashed and burned (and people have protested against the burnings); and governing Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) offices have been burned (as have opposition Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi (BDP)) offices (via Esin Efe)). The point is, destruction has been targeted.
Mehmed Ziya Gökalp was anti-Ottomanist and anti-Islamist. Naturally, the anti-Islamic State protesters, too, are anti-Ottomanist and anti-Islamist. The AKP is neo-Ottomanist and Islamist. So, some suspect that the Kurdish Sunni fundamentalist Free Cause Party (Hür Dava Partisi (Hüda Par)) – the successor political party to the local Hizbullah movement (which was unconnected to its Lebanese namesake) – burned the Ziya Gökalp Museum.
However, Gökalp was also a Kurd who identified as a Turk, a Turkist (Turanist) who sought Turkification of minorities. So, it is possible that the museum was burned as a symbol of Turkification rather than as a symbol of anti-Islamification.
[Update (12th October 2014): Still, the Mordem Cultural Centre (Mordem Kültür Merkezi (MKM)) in Varto was valued as a site of Kurdish culture and one of the ‘step[s] towards cultural autonomy [adım kültürel özerkliğe]’. It offered Kurdish (Kurmanji and Zazaki) language classes, and hosted cultural events where the Kurdish community hoped to ‘build democratic culture with liberated art [Özgür sanatla demokratik kültürü inşa ediyoruz]’.
The MKM was connected with the BDP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP)). It actively supported ‘the Kurdish people’s demand for democratic autonomy [Kürt halkının demokratik özerklik talebi]’. It would make no sense for Kurdish autonomists or Turkish anarchists to burn such a place.]
So, it seems most likely that the buildings were burned in order to defame and discredit the protesters – hence the government’s immediate, unevidenced allegations against ‘barbarians, incited by those who call themselves “politicians” [Kendisine “siyasetçi” diyenlerin kışkırttığı barbarlar]’. Such destruction would also serve to punish and disadvantage local communities for their disobedience.