otkökü devrimi = graswurzelrevolution = grassroots revolution: a Turkish and German-speaking voice for a nonviolent, anarchist society

IssueDecember 2003 - February 2004

"The periodical graswurzelrevolution is the main voice of grassroots democratic activists." - Ralf Vandamme, social scientist. 1

"The group that has most consistentlytried to build a social rhizome and that comes closest to anarchist ethics is ...Non-violent Action. It is not by coincidence that this group's newspaper, amagazine with a relatively wide distribution, is called graswurzelrevolution." HorstStowasser. 2

The first issue of graswurzelrevolution(GWR) was published in the summer of 1972 in Augsburg (Bavaria). The "monthly magazine for a non-violent, anarchist society" was inspired by Peace News (Lon-don), the German-speaking Direkte Aktion ("newspaper for anarchism and nonvio-lence"; published from 1965 to 1966 by Wolfgang Zucht and other nonviolentactivists in Hanover) and the Frenchspeaking Anarchisme et Nonviolence (pub-lished in Switzerland from 1964 to 1967).

Distributed throughout Germany,graswurzelrevolution describes itself as follows:"graswurzelrevolution means a fundamental social revolution which intends toabolish all forms of violence and domination by building up power from below.We fight for a world which no longer discriminates against people on thegrounds of their gender or sexual orientation, their language, origin, convictions,disabilities, or based on racist or antiSemitic prejudice. As far as possible, ouraims should be reflected and applied in our forms of struggle and organisation. Inorder to drive back and destroy structures of domination and violence, we use non-violent forms of action. This is the way in which the anarchist paper graswurzelrevo-lution has been striving to broaden and develop the theory and practice of nonvi-olent revolution since 1972."

Amongst other things, GWR organisesand participates in, solidarity campaigns for (radical) conscientious objectors such asOsman (Ossi) Murat U"lke, with whom GWR has maintained close links and towhose story it has given extensive coverage, thereby contributing to his situationbecoming known among a broader public.

In 1970, Ossi was born near the Ger-man town of Gummersbach. He spent his childhood and early youth in Germanyuntil he went to live in Turkey at the age of 15. At a press conference in May 1994,he publicly supported four conscientious objectors and in consequence was arrestedfor the first time. On 1 September, 1995, he destroyed his army passport andannounced his conscientious objection. In October 1996, he was arrested again and,with a few interruptions, was kept in prison until 9 March, 1999. Ossi is amember of the Izmir Association of War Resisters (ISKD) and a nonviolent anar-chist. Being a conscientious objector, he may be rearrested any time.

Otkökü (Turkish for "grassroots")

When the coordinating editor of GWR met Ossi in Izmir in summer 2000,together they developed the idea of initiating a joint Turkish-German newspaperproject. In December 2000, graswurzelrevolution published an interview withOsman titled Otkökü - Grassroots movement in Turkey 3. Following months of preparation and debates in the GWR circle of edi-tors, a donation enabled the publication of the first issue of Otkökü in March 2001, inthe format of a daily paper and with a circulation of 5,700 copies, featuring Turk-ish, Kurdish and German articles.

"From a legal point of view, Otkökü ispart of GWR and is published and edited in Germany. We are well aware of thedifficult living and working conditions for grassroots revolutionaries in Turkey.One of them is Osman Murat U"lke, who has taken on the position of Otkökü'scoordinating editor. (...) In order to support conscientious objectors, anti-mili-tarists, nonviolent activists, libertarians and other members of the non-dogmaticleft in Turkey, it is important to create an international counter-public. Otkökü ispart of this effort. Initially planned as a twelve-month newspaper project, Otköküstrives to inspire transnational solidarity. It is intended as a voice of the Turkish-speaking grassroots movement, broadening its basis and international network.We hope to organise a structure for distributing the paper in Turkey as well, asfar as this is viable for the groups in Turkey. (...) A large number of Otkökünewspapers will be distributed in places such as Turkish shops, internationalmeeting points, bookstores, cultural centres, universities, cafes, bars, etc." 4

Among other things, the first issue ofOtkökü covered the human rights situation in Turkey, the new F-type prisonsand the Ottoman genocide committed against 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.The responsibilities of Otkökü's Izmirbased coordinating editor include theselection of the topics to be covered, communication with the authors, decisions onarticles submitted, the structuring of the contributions and translation work. Layoutand proofreading are the responsibility of GWR's Mu"nster-based coordinating editor.

Repression: Otkökü is unaccept-able to the Turkish authorities

The GWR circle of editors, however, hadto face the fact that their hopes to distribute Otkökü in Turkey were crushed at anearly stage. A large proportion of the copies sent to Turkey were confiscated bythe Turkish customs authorities and could never be distributed. Otkökü No 1never reached its intended recipients; instead it ended up at the Turkish Min-istry of the Interior in Ankara.

Living and working in the militarystate of Turkey, the authors, as well as Ossi, the editor, are exposed to continu-ous threats. In view of this situation, we accepted that Otkökü's distribution inTurkey had to be limited to the small number of local GWR subscribers.

Public response

At the beginning, left-wing German dailies reported on the suppression of thepaper 5. In summer 2001, 6,700 copies of Otkökü were published, 3,000 of thembeing distributed as standalone newspapers in Germany, Switzerland and Aus-tria. In the following months, however, the number of people willing to distrib-ute the paper decreased.

In response to this development and tothe fact that most Turkish migrants in Germany are able to read German texts,Otkökü was transformed into an exclusively German-speaking supplement of GWR asfrom September 2002. The Turkish versions of the articles can now be found onthe GWR homepage.


The original Otkökü concept failed due to the repression in Turkey. Besides, the paperhas been unable to reach a wider audience beyond the GWR readership. Among the2.5 million Turkish migrants in Germany, Otkökü is relatively unknown and there isvery little interest in the nonviolent libertarian project among the Turkish and Kur-dish left-wing movements in this country. Many members of the Turkish diasporahave a Stalinist or Apoist (followers of Ocalan) background. To them, an anti-authoritarian paper is simply uninteresting.

In June 2002, Manfred Horn, a Bielefeld-based social scientist, published histhesis titled "German and Turkish-speaking print and broadcasting media in theFederal Republic of Germany: Between cultural mediation and linguistic pragma-tism", dealing, inter alia, with the subject of "Otkökü: A bilingual newspaper". Hestates: "Otkökü lives up to its claim, formulated by GWR editor Bernd Dru"cke, ofhighlighting suppressed topics such as sexual abuse and violations perpetrated byTurkish militaries and police, the opening of a gay-lesbian cultural centre, or anar-chism in Turkey."

Topics covered by Otkökü include theroot causes of refugee movements as well as militarism and human rights, Turkish-libertarian views on the EU and the resistance to the third Gulf War: "War, no!Potatoes, yes!"

"My feedback on Otkökü: a goOtköküod, inter-esting project. Keep it up! And do include articles about Turkish people inGermany and their political movements." (Letter to the editor, graswurzelrevolutionNo 281 (July 2003).

The end? A new beginning?

Otkökü No 8, published in June 2003, was the last issue enjoying financial sup-port from the Bildungswerk of DFG/VK Hessen, a German antimilitarist organisa-tion and WRI associate. Since then, there has been a freeze on the project. Providedwe can secure further funding, the paper will pick itself up by spring 2004. Inaddition, the GWR circle of editors would like to produce French and Eng-lish-speaking versions of Otkökü in cooperation with newspaper projects inFrance and Britain. Countering capitalist globalisationfrom above by globalising social movements from below? Otkökü is part of thisproject for change. For a nonviolent, anarchist society!