Lawyership, as a profession, is under attack, more seriously than ever in Turkey.  

While the glory of the bourgeois democracy is fading all over the world, the bourgeoisie is stripping the lawyer profession of its holy veil day by day, turning lawyers into its wage workers, as was described in the Communist Manifesto.

As a result, the conflict in law is the point where the wave breaks in the war between ruling and working classes, and where the contradictions become the most visible. This war is happening worldwide, but certainly one of the most remarkable battles is taking place in Turkey. This is seen in how out of the three elements of judgement, the chair of defense, with the lawyers and their organisations, are made the target.

On 22 June 2020, bar associations from across the country marched to the capital Ankara to protest the new legislation that foresees the division of bar associations, thereby weakening the last castle in the formal judicial system that is independent of the political power. Their march with the slogan of “Justice Marching” encountered a brutal suppression of the police, all the lawyers, including bar association presidents, were subject to violence no matter their title or position. This was a public acknowledgement that now the police, with the fascism of AKP behind, has superiority over the justice system, and the law is merely a lie: it’s an “idol out of halva” that the rulers make to worship and then eat when they are hungry.

“We haven’t been silence since 1974 and we will not be!” Association of Progressive Lawyers, from 2013

Prosecutors that operate upon directives, judges that learn how to decide from the news, cases that don’t require evidence, indictments that criminalise daily life, secret witnesses manufactured by the law enforcement… While these corrode the ‘constitutional state’ from the inside, the lawyer profession and its organisations, the last independent element of justice out of this corruption, is attempted to be seized by both threats of torture and prison, and the kind of legislation that is proposed today.

How did we get to this point? What is the ‘judicial system’, what are its constituents, how does it work, what are its relations to the politics and how are those relations institutionalised?

‘The Defense’ answers these questions exactly. This literary masterpiece written in 2013, in the court where the lawyers were put on the defendant chair by unlawful operations, and published as a book in 2015, it predicts the future of the power’s conquest of law in Turkey, based on a thorough analysis of its history. 

Upon this defense, with the spirit of resistance raised by the June (Gezi) Uprising in 2013, the lawyers were released. However, in the September of 2017, a new series of operations started and 18 lawyers were arrested again. They were kept in prison for one full year, after which they were finally brought to court and decided to be released.

They were out of prison by the morning, only to learn 10 hours later that the arrest of 12 of the lawyers was warranted upon intense pressure on the same committee of judges. That same day, 6 of the lawyers were arrested again.

This committee of judges paid the cost of the releasing the People’s Lawyers, whom AKP had openly declared to be its enemy, with the punishment of demotion to lower rank courts only two days later.

Reasons for this extreme change of decision was never explained, and the lawyers got sentenced to a total of 159 years of prison.

Among the imprisoned lawyers, Aytaç Ünsal and Ebru Timtik started deathfasting for exactly these reasons, and now they are in their 170th and 200th days. Özgür Karakaya and Didem Akman, who were imprisoned by the same unjust procedures, have also been deathfasting for 150 days. All of them have a single demand: JUSTICE. They want justice, they want to be judged fairly. They are resisting for this, putting their lives at stake. It’s clear that their demand concerns us all. This resistance is ours.

Let’s at least hear their message, their warnings, and be the voice of this message as loud as we can, and make them live!

[You can download the original pdf of the full book ‘Savunmalar’ (The Defense) in Turkish here. On this page, we are displaying only a part of it that serves as a good reference book on history of the constitutional state. As we believe that the book serves as a warning for the lawyer profession worldwide, we have initiated a campaign to translate it to English by a team of volunteers. We had to prepare and publish this specific part of the book with limited resources and a serious time pressure, therefore we are sure that we have left many mistakes in the text. Please don’t hesitate to write us for even a smallest typo. We are planning to publish the full translation as a book very soon. You can e-mail us to pre-order the book, or re-visit this page for the full pdf when its ready. We hope that the warnings of our lawyers become a worldwide call to defend the lawyer profession.]
[The Defense, pages 113-228]

Before declaring the State of Law as our sacred cow, a thorough assessment is needed. In fact, this was an unfair analogy: Hindus don’t eat their cows when they are hungry.  If we really need a religious analogy, yours is more likely to Mecca Polytheists’ making idols out of halva.  Because, no matter how you idolise it, you eat your “sacred” when you need it.

What this instructive parable, for sure, purposely and tactfully overlooks is that choosing halva as a raw material of the idol is actually quite obscene from the very beginning.  In other words, the idea of “eating it when you are hungry” is immanent in choice of making idols out of halva.  Just like your State of Law, with all its exceptions, which make them actually exist by devouring and thinking nothing of its rules.


Even the “universitality” of this simplification cannot be mentioned. Ruling by law (act) has never been the unique and most common model.

Thomas B. Stephens, in his research about The Shanghai Mixed Court which existed from 1911 to 1927, concluded that there wasn’t “China Legal System” that was based on predetermined, universal and transcendent rules of law and that would make independent and objective judgements on issues it handled.[3] Especially, Mencius[4], who was one of the important followers of Confucius in respect to maintaining order of law, is remarkable for his pessimism: “If the emperor tried to rule by issuing laws, then the people would soon discover the nature of the laws and find ways around them.[5] According to this view, enactment doesn’t put in order, but only leads people to be more combative and more contentious. Of course, without discussing great historical/social tradition behind it and knowing the authoritarian/paternal hierarchy that superseded the law, the meaning of this sentence cannot be comprehended. But there is still something it can teach us: the generalization of universality and the claim of transcendence about the law is not true, nor does it solve our problems!


Let’s keep going into the rule of law issue.

For example, should we make Gezi Park into the Hotel of Topçu Kışlası (Artillery Barracks) or leave it as a park? How can we make a decision that fits with the famous State of Law?


Let’s improve on our modest definition.

The state is a constitutional state where there are somehow generalisable and stable rules, and although the interpretation may have nuances due to the values and experiences of the interpreter, a reasonable estimation of the inference is possible.


Let’s continue to work with our list of the ‘content’ of a state of law. Before looking at the claims of the list, there is a need of general evaluation: we need to have a real idea about the ‘State of Law’, ‘Liberal Democracy’ and ‘Human Rights’.

We need to ask which are the group, denomination and class values so as the mentality hiding behind these concepts. There is a social class which created the concepts of ‘state of law’ and ‘human rights’ and this social class is the bourgeoisie who adopted liberalism as its ideology. This means that taking the ‘state of law’ and the ‘human rights’ as separated from the liberal utopia, the liberal worldview, the liberal mentality and the liberal ideology, to isolate those concepts is not possible.


The ideology of the bourgeois law is not a way, a mean ‘to reach justice’; it never have been and will never be. On this level there is no difference between you or a land registration court or a family court. The law is the first between all the persuasion activities aiming to fool by intimidating the poor and oppressed.


Why does “the separation of powers” nonsense, which symbolizes the balance of a historical period, is presented as an important judicial value today? What is indispensable about it? It should be taken into consideration that where Montesquieu mentions separation of powers, he refers to real historical and political powers. His claim about the power division between the King, nobles, and the people considers the historical balance, which should also be borne in mind. In these circumstances, the separation of powers represents the judicial and institutional balance of the battle between aristocracy and the bourgeois. In other words, the nature of separation of powers exists upon the contradiction in the social base shaped by the circumstances of the period. And what maintains it as a political configuration is the balance that it gives to the rulership crisis between two powers.”[137]


Even in the most “developed” democratic societies, what is behind the act of legislation is not (and has never been) the ability for representation. As Emma Goldman argues, “if voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.” Bourgeoise parliamentarian democracy, of course, carries periodic, strategic or political meaning for the poor who have struggled for the right to vote for a long time. But we have never been trapped by this: “a state that has a class-based foundation can only advance by means of that are closed to negotiation. It is no coincidence that bourgeoise states that allow constitutional rule or democratic means are still defined as dictatorship (bourgeoise dictatorship) despite everything…”[139]


The state oppresses and the laws deceive

Taxes sucks the blood of the unfortunate

No duty is imposed on the rich.

It’s enough to languish in tutelage.

Equality wants other laws;

No rights without duties, it says,

And no duties without rights!


We have explained why we do not believe in the rule of law. Now let us explain why we do not turn away from any kind of struggle for rights.

Lenin, who got upset at a tyrant merchant that holds people captive in Samarra, sued in the local court and got the man sentenced by always closely following the case. Pashukanis, who cites from Elizarov explains:

“Could the courts of the tsardom be applied to? Was this even possible? The orthodox intellectual way of thinking, the fear of soiling the clean image of the revolutionaries, the anarchist and indifferent attitude towards the courts and most importantly the ignorance and the lack of knowledge on how any of it works stood as obstacles in front of such an act. Lenin had criticized all of these open and implied reasonings ‘… I am on the side of applying to the courts. There is no need to be a show-off. It would be something unforgivable to be emotional about this. Socialists are not against the courts of the crown in any shape or form. We support the laws being enforced. Marx and Bebel had applied to courts themselves despite their socialist standings. It is essential to know how it is done and use it when necessary…”


In the Program that the Social Democratic Workers´ Party of Germany, accepted in the Congress of Eisenach (1869); the autonomy of the courts, trials with public hearings, a judiciary without profit were demanded. In the Erfurt Program (1891) of the Social Democratic Party of Germany the principles of “having the judiciary function without money, free judicial aid, the right to sue for indemnities for those accused, arrested and convicted, the right to appeal in criminal trials and the election of the judges by the people were advocated for.


Now we can talk about the demands of rights of the poor and the “big” promises of the second part of the list. John Locke´s, who is still considered to be a founding father of liberalism, proposal in 1696 is striking; Locke proposed that the tax obligations of the poor of the villages that are collected as work, should be distributed proportionally by the taxes that they pay. It is generally accepted that we be unaware of the slave owner, racist, sectarian and sexist tendencies of the big liberators in history due to “small deficiencies” in our education system. However, this situation is not very personal or secret. The law of 1547 had already criminalised poverty. It ordered that a person who does not wish to work do slave work for the one who report him as lazy and a vagabond.


The transfer of lands in Izmir´s Menderes Efemçukuru village to a mining company under the name of “immediate expropriation” in 2008 is one such primitive accumulation. When the villagers do not want the sell, the land is seized through the order of the Council of Ministers. One more examples is the expropriation of the arable farmlands of the villages of Kandira, which you hold some of us in, for an organized industrial zone. There is no public benefit, its is all being gone for private gains and the façade of doing them in the public interest is not even bothered to be put up. Urban renewal is disguised as the renewal of buildings that are safer in case of earthquakes or the clean-up of unregistered slums from the lands of the treasury all the while the truth reveals itself in an unmistakable manner. You are being forcefully evicted out of your houses, or your properties in a more straightforward way, that have no zoning problems, are registered and safe against earthquakes. Because just like in primitive accumulation, small capital is being purged to be added to a bigger capital and will continue to be so.


It had been a common, impressive prosecution procedure in the 11th and 12th centuries. The right hand of a person was tied to his left foot and thrown into the water.


The experience in the world after September 11 is more of a “management” than the “legal scope” of the Anti-Terrorism Laws. Otherwise, we cannot explain the “Anti-Terror Law” which has become quickly the most important “export property” in the world. Turkey is one of the countries in the sphere of influence of this trend. Rather than a concrete experience, a concrete threat or an incident, we are faced with a political modelling. Likewise, the process of generating this new terrorist exception has been the result of the narrowing or destruction of the basic tools and structures of politics.


Let us first give an idea of how every area of everyday life has turned into the field of this private law. We talked about the “clan principle” of the accusation of attending İbrahim Çuhadar’s funeral and calling for collective responsibility. Now we can talk about a stranger connection with Ibrahim.


In Turkey, the creation of an exceptional threat perception starts since the late 1960s with the concept of terrorism. The unlawful/political precautions of the political power are transferred to an integral political/legal structure by the political power, and a new political order begins as of 1970s…


Before mentioning the terror law and exceptions in Turkey, it’s necessary to look at the extraordinary regime inside which this exception was created. After all, all these judicial-political processes are strongly interlinked.


At this point it will be good to open a parenthesis on the unlawful area. The development of this area with acts such as massacre, kidnapping, execution, disappearing etc., would be impossible to represent with a complete list but at least to get an idea:


There is a rather rich amount of legislation in Turkey, regarding the extraordinary methods of governing, which are the martial law and state of emergency. This can be seen as another proof of how the extraordinary methods became the ordinary way of governing.

So, what is the legislative story of the martial law and state of emergency in Turkey?


The legal basis of the state of emergency in Turkey is:

– Law of State of Emergency, with number 2935, dated 25 October 1983

– Decree Regarding Guidance of State of Emergency Region Governorship, with number 285, dated 10 July 1987

– Decree Regarding Additional Precautions During Continuation of State of Emergency, with number 430, dated 15 December 1990

– Decree Regarding Additional Precautions During Continuation of State of Emergency Due to Increase in Violence and Disturbance in Social Order, with number 424, dated 9 May 1990

The first thing that catches the eye here is that, although the arrangements regarding the extraordinary regime of state of emergency is only allowed to be arranged by legislation according to the constitution, the use of  decrees have violated this constraint as they bypassed the legislature, leaving it obsolete. Even though the subject was brought to the attention of the Constitutional Court for cancellation, a new decree has followed and the regime is maintained despite the constitution.


We mentioned how the extraordinary regimes of martial law and state of emergency brought the precautions that limited fundamental rights and liberties. This regime continued until 2002.

Law Against Terror with number 3713, that created a permanent exception of terror in the judicial system, has been active as of 8 April 1991. Therefore a part of the country was subject to a double exception between 1991-2002. It was particularly harming due to the doubly extraordinary situation.


Recently there is a new type of scam going on in the courthouses. People are being called on the phone and receive the warning that their numbers and bank accounts are seized and used by the terror organisation. Then they are asked for phone credits or money in order to be saved from prosecution or help the operation.

This kind of scam is presented to us as entertainment in the news or third pages of newspapers. Everyone reading or watching this talk about how naive the victims are; “how can one be so naive!”.

This approach is now obsolete as of the latest example of the of scam, as it is the famous professor Canan Karatay who got scammed. The Prof. Dr. Canan Karatay whose books have been the top in bestseller lists, with a diet program named after her, the popular figure of TV and newspapers…


‘Terror Law’ denotes a permanent area within the judicial system where Fundamental Rights and Liberties are suspended with the excuse of ‘the threat of terrorism’. 

While the list of the suspended rights is rather long, one of the most important among those is the right to defense. This is due to the key role that the right to defense plays in terms of the criminal procedure. Furthermore, this right is of vital importance during the execution of the sanctions and limitations on the other rights.


The accusation against us in the indictment, without presenting any concrete reason, is that we are ‘the lawyers of the organisation’.

With no other functionalities than approving the law enforcement’s operations, asserts that we are lawyers of the DHKP-C, due to the democratic rallies of masses we participate, the journals and books in our offices and the cases we defend.

The democratic rallies of the masses are always open to everyone, including lawyers. The only people who are devoid of this right are the ‘military personnel’, and since we are certainly not that, there is no legal obstacle for practicing our right of freedom of opinion and expression in public space. 


Related to the murder of Engin ÇEBER under torture, the decision given by the 14th High Criminal Court in Bakirköy was confirmed partially by the 8th criminal division of the Supreme Court in November 2013. This decision is characteristic for being the most heavy imprisonment for a torture crime in the history of jurisdiction in Turkey. But the jurisdiction can‘t chalk up a success or pride story upon this decision.


It is a scientific fact; that law and state occured in a certain stage of the development of humankind, around ten thousand years ago, along with the disintegration of societal interests into social classes, who are in conflict with each other, in order to reconciliate or suppress these conflicts and to  bring order to the societal production life. 

The fact that, despite of all claims of the liberal democracy, the action of the jurisdiction as the legal organ of the state will, can be neither independent nor neutral, is because it‘s the outbreak of the will of the ruling class in a society that has been divided in classes.


‘Less or more conscious, the jurisdiction has become a technique towards the approach of certain political goals in a legal cover.‘

Hereby, the politics as the secret force of each jurisdiction, has announced itself as the only sovereign and has generated the ‚political jurisdiction‘.


With the dethronement and death of Sultan Aziz In 1876, an opposition with democratic/revolutionary potential occured within the Ottoman society. This opposition, which represented the longong for freedom and equality in that period, gathered around Mithat Pasha.

Mithat Pasha and the forces who are represented by him, aimed to establish a power, based on laicism and equality among the Muslim and Christian population in Ottoman‘s Europe.


First Imperialist War ended up with the defeat of Central Powers, including Ottoman Empire. Defeated powers continued paying the price of the War. They were issued demands to submit to invasions and treaties with heavy economic and political burdens.

In this period, Ottoman country was also experiencing similar issues. Even though, people of Anatolia was paying the real price of the War and the defeat, Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) were wanted to be the ones who were facing with the political cost of events. In the end, CUP was the responsible for Ottoman entry to War in accordance with period’s Realpolitik. Hence, they bear the responsibility for failure and defeat, making public to demand justice. Also Allied Powers were pressuring both to government and Vahideddin for punishment of CUP.


The first years of the Second Imperialist War were a period when the war continued with the major conquests of Nazi Germany and its allies. During this period, the fascist movement in Turkey experienced its golden age. They took advantage of the propaganda opportunities provided to them in the Turkish Nationalist Associations of the state. Nihal Atsız, R. Oğuz Türkkan, Z. Velidi Togan, who were the leaders of the movement, had a very large sympathizer group including pro-German generals and ministerial state officials.

After 1943, when Nazi Germany started to decline, this golden age would end. İsmet İnönü in his speech dated 19 May 1944 said; “We are Turkish nationalists. But we are the enemy of the racism principle in our country… Of course, we will use all the measures of the republic in order not to lose the destiny of the Turkish nation to the depiction of such unconscious and unscrupulous opportunists… My citizens! You can be sure that we will defend our homeland against these new mischiefs with great power”.


In the provisional Constitution adopted by the National Unity Committee after the May 27 1960 coup, it was envisaged to establish an extraordinary court named the Supreme Court of Justice for the trial of former members of the government, including the Prime Minister.

The Supreme Court of Justice is composed of high judges, all of whom come from judicial levels. The defendants to be tried here are also determined by the High Investigation Board.

Lawsuits filed against the Democratic Party (DP) members; 3 serious criminal cases, the subjects of which were murder, instigating an uprising, and intentionally harming property / life, 6 political cases and 9 corruption cases evaluated within the scope of violation of the constitution.


In the 12 March 1971 period the “fraternal fighting” between the Chief of General Staff Memduh Tağmaç, Commander of the Land Forces, Faruk Gürler, Commander of the Navy Celal Eyicioğlu and Commander of the Air Force Muhsin Batur, has become a note in the diary because it put the future of the Republic of Turkey into a heavy danger.

Immediately after the coup, martial law was declared in 11 provinces (Istanbul, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Zonguldak, Izmir, Eskisehir, Ankara, Adana, Hatay, Diyarbakir and Siirt).


On September 12, 1980, Chief of General Staff Kenan Evren and the Force Commanders (Gang of 5) confiscated the administration by making a coup. The rising social opposition, the crisis of the bourgeoisie’s failure to rule, are the main reasons for the coup with imperialist support.

The National Security Council took over the administration. This council declared martial law throughout the country with Declaration No. 1.


These courts were or are in force with following names in following periods:

between 16.06.1983 – 16.06.2004 State Security Court (DGM),

between 16.06.2004 – 04.12.2004 Competent court under law no. 5190,

between 04.12.2004 – 02.07.2012 Competent court under art. 250 of the code of criminal procedure,

in the period after 02.07.2012 Regional High Criminal Court, competent with Art. 10 of the Anti-Terror-Law (TMK)


Lawyers have achieved their historical prestige with the title „intellectual“.

It is the „neutral“ intellectual, which was mentioned in a famous poem.

„…I‘m a lawyer

instead of crudeness,

I put grace, justice, rightness.

It was me, who taught the humankind

respect before the right, the property and freedom of others;

who taught conscience, freedom of opinion and assembly.

I‘m the spokesperson of just matters;

the defender of the poor, the oppressed, the widow and orphan

I pursue the honour at the store and market…“

It is at the same time the „independent“ intellectual, at its was stressed in the definition, best known to lawyers;

„While carrying out our duty, we‘re;

neither tied to client, nor to judge and above all not to the power.

We do not claim the existence of people below us

but we do not also recognize any hierarchy above us…“


“The bourgeoisie has eliminated all professions that have been respected and have been regarded with fearful respect so far. It made his doctors, lawyers, priests, poets and scientists to his own wage worker…”

The crossroads we are facing are therefore very sharp. 


Today we are prisoners. 

What we understand much better and completely now; is if lawyers all over the world and in each period are sent to jail, they are the guarantee and chance of improving prison conditions. 

Therefore, it is not possible for a lawyer to maintain self-respect and the respect for his profession, if he considers it as a burden to go at least to prisons in the city where he works and where people still get tortured, isolated and killed. 


We are in the geographical region where the open occupation policies of imperialism are the most intense. The Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus are under constant open occupation, war or constant military threat.

The aggression towards Latin America, the threat of war never ends, the higher the people’s movements, the greater the danger and the possibility of attack. Europe is buried up to its chin in pressure and aggression from ‘Hate to the Immigrants’ to the ‘Terrorist Law’.

We live in an age where even the smallest resistance against imperialist interests is not accepted, where a person who resists is seen as a ‘terrorist’ and their rights which has been won are taken away; these are unperson days where we are threatened with losing citizenship and even the status of humanity.


Socrates explained that he did not escape from the punishment he knew was wrong, but that he was afraid of the damage that the ‘meanings’ of the site and the law could see. Even if it was unfair, he was disgusted with the “uncertainty” and “irregularity” that the impunity would result in the value of the law and the life of the site. His name lived a lot from his site.

However, we are not disgusted from this so-called value of the law, we disgust its epitome; in other words, we are disgusted at the same time of this grinning and sullen being, of this hypocritical head like this janus. Not only your State of Law, but also of what your existence is necessary for what you have, we do not believe it. So, don’t expect the same Socratic gesture from us.

You and your bosses need stability, we are never in the same boat and we have never been. “Oh, no harm to law, judgment, damage to the state, shake the state of the state, or the stock market to fall, interest will not increase!”, because the good words that have been said about nonsense like this has already been told before us, let us be reminded of only one;

“Seyl-i bîdâd-i sitemdir münşiy-i Tufan-ı Nuh

Olmasın gâfil belâdan ehl-i bidâd-ü sitem

Hâne-yi zalim gider seylâba mânend-i hubâb

Tutsa tufan âlemi mazluma tufandan ne gam”

So, the great poet says; The cause of the flood of Noah was the flood of cruelty and evil, the owners of these cruelty and evil should not be saved from trouble. (They could not save themselves anyway) The houses of the oppressors, like foam, (mane-i hubab), will flow away in the flood they created, but if the earth floods, the oppressed would have no problem, no harm from this. He said it very well. So, if their world was to go up in flames, it has no “quilt” in it for us.

As for the demand of power of the oppressed; it’s the same matter, but this time the opportunity is different! In other words, we are not afraid of the flood again, we do not stand still. As in a Chinese Proverb that President Mao enjoys repeating (and which he repeats frequently): “In chaos, God is with the poor!”. Of course, we have a claim to power and we will definitely take it.

Constitution, law, right, judiciary, police, rule, security, stability, government, parliament … Don’t hide anything you rotted anymore; whether you eat and vomit, or burn and smoke it into your lungs. All of it is useless for us, the number of days where it’s useful for you is numbered. Instead, we are looking for ‘Bread, Justice and Freedom’. All will be found and, if not, will be created one by one in this march.

Our story is the story of the transition from ordinary attorneyship to political criminal lawyer advocacy, and from this continuing to the “Attorney of the Revolutionaries”, and now today “Revolutionary Attorneyship” which we defend and carry out by enjoying and believing. This tradition is the name of the thirty-year struggle that deserves to be shared, reproduced and massified. Hasn’t anything changed in these thirty years? Doesn’t it change? Do the same costs have to be paid, similar problems have to be suffered: Yes!

“The crocus can stand pain, it’s used to its own green

Its rightful, neglected, the day of the rain constantly changes

All these flowers gives and takes should be blessed

The rose goes quiet, crocus awake, rifle starts, subject changes

It is believed that this roses story will always continue like this.

It always goes like this, but one day the end will change ”

Of course, the end of the roses story will one day change.”

For now, let’s finish by repeating the most meaningful word ever made at the end of a text:

“Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!

Workers of the world, unite!”

We are right and we will definitely win!

24–25–26 December 2013,