Who is Mahmut Konuk? Why is he on Street?

Mahmut Konuk was born on 01.01.1957 in Kurtalan. His father, Abdurrahman (originally Khosrof-Xosrof), is an Islamized, Kurdified Armenian, and his mother, Nefiye, is Kurdish. His grandfather’s name is Vartan, his grandmother’s is Nergis.

He had his elementary and secondary education in Kurtalan and completed the Health Sciences High School in Van. In 1975, he started to work as a sanitarian in Çukurca, Hakkari. He received his first exile in Hakkari: he was exiled from the County of Çukurca to the District of Bağışlı. In 1978, he found out that he and his family were pursued as “Armenians” by the Kurtalan “Political Police”.

He was detained for a total of 33 days in Sason and Siirt after the September 12, 1980 military fascist coup d’état. Compared to severe torture his friends were subjected to, he refrained from calling the abuse he experienced “torture.” In May 1981, he was exiled from Sason to the sub district of Fındık, Eruh.

He graduated from the Gazi School of Journalism.

He participated in the movement for the unionization of government employees. He became one of the founding members of Tüm Sağlık- Sen and worked in all its ranks. Because of a speech he made, he was sentenced to one year and a 100 million TL fine by the Istanbul State Security Court (DGM) No. 1 for “violating article 8/1 (separatism) of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713.”

He became one of the founders and the first central executive committee members of SES (Health and Social Workers’ Union). He wrote a book titled “TÜRKİYE YÜKSEK İHTİSAS HASTANESİNDE NELER OLUYOR?” (What is happening in Turkish Higher Specialist Hospital?) with the help and support of a group of union members.  He was incarcerated on October 21, 1997 in Ulucanlar prison and completed his sentence on October 21, 1998. He was subjected to more than 20 exiles during his working life. On 13 August 1993, the decision for his exile from the Higher Specialization Hospital to the Nallıhan State Hospital was made within one business day and he was notified within the same day by the ministry. Also, when he worked in the Municipality of Çankaya led by mayor Muzaffer Eryılmaz of CHP, he was “moved” 9 times within 5 months, because of his “struggle against privatization”.  In his statement on the day of Hrant Dink’s murder, he said: “from now on, I will continue from the point where Hrant has left, and talk about the Armenian Genocide…” A year later, as an activist and the spokesperson of “ANKARA DÜŞÜNCEYE ÖZGÜRLÜK GİRİŞİMİ” (Ankara Freedom of Thought Initiative), formed by a group of intellectuals, he took part in activities of solidarity with all opponents of the regime, who were being tried for their thoughts. He participated in many panels, forums, conferences, press releases and interviews about the taboo subject-matters, and also edited some of the booklets of the panels.   On April 24-25, 2010 he became one of the organizers of the international conference held in Ankara titled “FROM WHERE HRANT LEFT: BEFORE AND AFTER 1915, DENIAL AND CONFRONTATION,” and edited the conference book. He was also one of the organizers and editors of the conferences “İSMAİL BEŞİKÇİ AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION”, “LOOKING AT HRANT DİNK MURDER FROM 2015 PERSPECTIVE” and “RELIGION: THEORY-PRACTICE, YESTERDAY-TODAY.” He took part in various activities on issues like the Wealth Tax, 6-7 September Pogrom, Pontiac Genocide, Circassian Genocide. He has been a member of the Human Rights Association (IHD) for 25 years. He served on the board of directors of its Ankara branch for two terms. He founded “Peoples’ Commission” in IHD’s Ankara branch and worked in the “Prisons Commission.” There are 926 sick prisoners in the Turkish prisons and 330 of them are seriously ill. In order to draw attention to the plight of these prisoners, whose lifeless bodies are removed daily from the prisons, Mahmut Konuk has been actively involved in “FREEDOM TO SICK PRISONERS” initiative, which is in its 154th week as of 10.7.2017. Mahmut Konuk was fired from his job with a midnight ‘decree having force of law’ (KHK) numbered 677, published on November 22, 2016. Thus, his labor of 40 years was usurped. He has been fighting to go back to work by staging sit-ins and issuing press statements every Monday since February 27, 2017, in front of ÇANKAYA COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER situated in Dikmen Caddesi No: 390 Keklik Pınarı, Dikmen, ANKARA, where he had been dismissed. Although his companions, laborer friends and intellectuals have never left him alone in his struggle, he defines these sit-in actions “SINGLE AND FREE AS A TREE”. On other days, he participates in the activities of KESK and affiliated unions to support Cemal YILDIRIM in front of the Financial Accounting Department in Ulus (also joined by Zeynep YERLİ in the last 8 weeks) and to support ESM’s dismissed public servants who are protesting in front of the Ministry of Energy and the General Directorate of Renewable Energy and the hunger strike started 8 months ago by Semih ÖZAKÇA, Nuriye GÜLME, Veli SAÇILIK and Acun KARADAĞ, Esra ÖZAKÇA and Mehmet DERSULU in front of the Human Rights Monument on Yüksel Street. He defines these mutual activities as “BROTHERLY LIKE A FOREST.  He published a booklet titled “BİR ÇOBAN ATEŞİ YA DA OLYMPOS’TAN ÇALINMIŞ BİR TUTAM KÖZ” (A Sheppard’s Fire or Ambers stolen from Olympos) in which he told his struggles and expressed himself.  He looks at life from a “socialist” perspective, and believes that the most important problems in trade unions, non-governmental organizations and in political life are “corruption, bureaucratization, and alienation”. The clauses under the headings “MEASURES AGAINST BUREAUCRACY AND ALIENATION” and “MEASURES AGAINST FORMATION BY EMPLOYER STATE” of the regulations of the unions ‘Tüm Sağlık-Sen’ and ‘SES’ were formulated by him.

Mahmut Konuk opposes the division between “footwork” and “mind work” and thinks that this division of labor leads to alienation. He believes in the unity of theory and practice, i.e. praxis. He prepares the flyers and statements of the conference he is organizing, distributes them, as well as presents one of the seminars. He does not want to be only “a thinker” or only “an actant”, but prefers to be both. Therefore, he never underestimates the footwork on the streets. Finally, he believes that no idea can continue to exist if it does not pour out into the streets. He feels the most free on the street.

Freedom is on the street!

Translated by: Attila Tuygan, Rehan Nişanyan


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