Posts tagged ‘resistance’


Turkish and Kurdish, secularist and Islamist sites burned. Anti-massacre (“pro-Kurdish”) protesters unjustly blamed.

Hyperallergic have published my look at the targets of political violence in unrest over Kobani in Turkey. While anti-massacre protesters – who were presented as pro-Kurdish or Kurdish nationalist protesters – were blamed, some of their communities’ own buildings were burned.

Apart from the buildings that were selectively (and incompetently) exploited in government propaganda (such as Ziya Gökalp Museum, Siirt Province Public Library and Varto Cultural Centre), I argue that ‘a disparate range of violent groups variously burned statues of the secularist founder of the Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, offices of the Islamist-rooted governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), offices of the Kurdish opposition Democratic Regions Party (DBP) – which is still known by its old name, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – offices of the minority opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and offices of the Sunni Islamist Free Cause Party (Hür Dava)’.


I did report the allegation that Kurdish nationalists had burned the Ziya Gökalp Museum. But I did not accept it.

‘Kurdish nationalists are alleged to have been involved in the looting and arson of the Ziya Göklap Museum [Ziya Gökalp Museum] and other cultural sites during widespread unrest throughout Turkey, Conflict Antiquities reports’ (artnet news reports). To be crystal clear, I did report the allegation, but I did not accept it. As I noted in the title, ‘the Ziya Gökalp Museum might have been burned by Kurdish anti-Turkish nationalists, but not the Mordem Cultural Centre’.

As I concluded, while we need more evidence to know what really happened, while Kurdish protesters against persecution may have burned these buildings in their outraged protests against the Islamic State, while activists from both sides may have burned these buildings, it seemed most likely that the buildings were burned by Islamists in order to defame and discredit the [anti-IS] protesters‘ and ‘to punish and disadvantage local communities for their disobedience’.


Destruction during Kobani unrest in Turkey: the Ziya Gökalp Museum might have been burned by Kurdish anti-Turkish nationalists, but not the Mordem Cultural Centre…

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.

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the material culture of labour exploitation and resistance in Soma

For reasons that I’ll reveal tomorrow, this is the last of this kind of post that I’ll be doing, I think. I’m sure that all a few of them will still be too long to read, and that all a few of them will spend as much time discussing the background as documenting people’s struggles, but there won’t be (m)any regarding struggles over and through archaeology and history. They will (primarily) be about the looting and smuggling of antiquities from conflict zones…

So, here, I want to consider a place that the archaeology of life became the archaeology of death, and everyday objects became political symbols in an extraordinary struggle: Soma.

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earthmovers’ revolution: Ukraine

I still remember a Ukrainian journalist friend telling me (and others in our circle) that the 2004-2005 Orange leaders were not trusted and the revolution was not expected to be a success in and of itself. The real democracy movement hoped to create just enough breathing space, just long enough, to be able to prepare itself for the next push (which would involve protecting the people from the rulers they had supported).

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earthmovers’ revolution: Turkey

Just as Serbia’s Excavator Joe is ‘always in the opposition‘, so Turkey’s radically-democratic Beşiktaş football fan club Çarşı is ‘against everything’, even itself. Like Joe became acclimatised to clouds of tear gas, pepper gas became ‘the Besiktas fan’s perfume‘ (long before the revolution). And unconsciously echoing Joe’s Bulldozer Revolution, Çarşı too used a mechanical excavator in battle with the state.

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earthmovers’ revolution: Serbia

Beyond the destruction of civilian property in crises and conflicts, I’m interested in the archaeology of struggle in general – how authorities control, how people resist, how resistance evolves, what evidence survives, what institutions and individuals remember… (Maybe it just gives me an excuse to shoot ruin porn and talk about revolution.)

Since British cultural heritage activists are pessimistic about the potential for positive social change, and since Ukraine has just joined Serbia and Turkey in being a bulldozer revolution, I thought I would look at the role of earthmovers in these social movements.

I’m not (yet) suggesting that we should use earthmovers, but they should remind us of the potential for resistance and change in much worse circumstances.

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Greece: anti-mafia law is used to suppress civil resistance to destruction of the historic and natural environment

A while ago, I reviewed a ‘corrupt deal’ over the Skouries gold mine in Greece, which was ‘financially as well as socially, economically, environmentally and culturally bad for both the community and the country’, and the consequent community resistance and police repression. Now, exploiting the public distraction of the anti-mafia crackdown on neo-Nazis, the state is using the same anti-mafia legislation to crack down on (historic and natural) environmentalists…

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