Political protesters in Turkey need urgent international support

Freedom For Nuriye and Semih Committee

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for nearly 120 days and need international support to highlight their struggle. They are among the more than 10,000 teachers, academics and others who were sacked from their posts by the viciously reactionary Turkish government as part of the repression which has been meted out ever since the failed coup of 15 July 2016.

Nuriye Gulmen is an academic and Semih Ozakca a primary school teacher. Following their dismissals by the AKP government under its state of emergency decrees, they began staging a public protest in central Ankara on 9 November 2016, protesting not only about their own personal cases, but in opposition to the state of emergency laws and for the rights of all dismissed workers.

On 9 March 2017, having been detained by the police, Semih and Nuriye began a hunger strike. This was one of several occasions on which they were arrested and this time they were released after five days. They then resumed their protest outside the human rights monument in Ankara but also continued with their hunger strike. On 22 May they were arrested again and the following day remanded in custody, on the basis of an indictment accusing them of belonging to and propagandising on behalf of a terrorist organisation. On 23 May, the court ruled to remand them in prison on the grounds that ‘despite their prosecution, they insisted on continuing their action on behalf of the terrorist group’. The group in question is the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which is banned in Turkey as it is in Britain. Since the state of emergency was introduced, the government has been using the pretext that they are a supporter of the Kurdish liberation movement the PKK, communist militant groups such as the DHKP-C, or FETO, the organisation of alleged coup leader Fethullah Gulen in order to attack its opponents and criminalise dissent.

Nuriye and Ozakca are continuing their protest from inside Sincan prison and their health is now seriously in danger. Nuriye’s supporters report that last time she met her solicitor, she had to end the visit half way through as she was unable to even speak. She is now struggling to take in fluids. Ozakca too is suffering serious pains in his bones. There are also fears that they may be forced to end their hunger strike against their will. Amnesty International has voiced concern that they will be force-fed as Turkish law allows the authorities to feed prisoners on hunger strike without consent, if authorised by a prison doctor.

Letters of protest can be sent to Minister of Justice Mr Bekir Bozdağ, Ministry of Justice, Adalet Bakanlığı 06659 Ankara, Turkey Fax: +90 (0)312 419 33 70. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For the background to the repression in Turkey see: Turkey’s referendum held in a climate of fear

The Freedom For Nuriye and Semih Committee London has been organising leafleting, publicity in the media, protests outside the Turkish embassy (which continue at 11am every Friday) and solidarity actions in north London. The Committee will be holding a march from Manor House to Wood Green at 6pm on 15 July, and supporters will also be joining the London protests organised by the Anti-Internment Group at the BBC on Saturday 8 July and Downing Street on Sunday 23 July.

Turkey’s referendum: resistance is coming

turkey referendum
'No' voters have protested against the referendum result

That the opposition No vote gained almost half the votes cast in Turkey’s 16 April 2017 constitutional referendum, under conditions of fierce repression and blatant ballot rigging, should serve as a warning to President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Yes vote to grant Erdogan dictatorial powers was 51.4% and the No vote 48.6%. Erdogan lost in the big cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Diyarbakir and in the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions and the predominantly Kurdish south east. The Financial Times commented: ‘The new constitution will turn the president into a modern-day sultan, allowing him ample opportunity to complete his subordination of Turkey’s institutions…This is a tragedy for the country. Mr Erdogan offers discord, not reform or development’ (18 April 2017). Erdogan threatens not only the Turkish and Kurdish people but the entire Middle East and he will be confronted and brought down.

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Turkey’s referendum held in a climate of fear

erdogan

Turkey’s President Erdogan is holding a constitutional referendum on 16 April 2017 in the midst of the most ferocious repression, in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation where anyone who dares to say ‘No’ to the proposed constitutional changes is branded a terrorist. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) want to change Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary system into a system that removes all checks and balances on the president’s powers and allows Erdogan to rule until 2029. The vote takes place as Turkish state forces are fighting a war against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The referendum is conducted after the United Nations reported that on 1 December 2016 ‘the [Turkish] authorities has detained or imprisoned more than a third of all journalists imprisoned worldwide on that day’.

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Erdogan is wrecking Turkey

Erdogan is wrecking Turkey
Turkish goverment temporarily bans all protest activities in capital Ankara.

On 21 January 2017, 339 out of 550 MPs voted in Turkey’s National Assembly for constitutional changes that are to be put to a referendum, to be held no later than the third week of April 2017. These changes are described as transforming the 94-year-old republic from a parliamentary to a presidential system; this misrepresents what will be the establishment of autocratic one-man rule.

The draft constitution, drawn up in secret by President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), removes all checks and balances on presidential power. If the electorate approves the changes, the president will be able to dissolve parliament at will, unilaterally declare states of emergency, appoint half of the top judges, all senior civil servants, heads of police, the military and university vice- chancellors. President Erdogan will be able to rule until 2029. The referendum will be held with ten opposition MPs from the Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in gaol on terrorism charges and 76 Kurdish co-mayors imprisoned. All critical media have been shut down or silenced by fear in Turkey. The referendum will take place against a background of the Turkish armed forces waging war against the country’s Kurdish population and conducting operations in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan and his allies will try and win support by accusing foreign powers of attempting to carve Turkey up and backing terrorist attacks. Turkey’s political and civil institutions are being hijacked. Meanwhile the British government gives Erdogan diplomatic and military support: Britain has sold Turkey £330m worth of weapons since 2015, including bombs, missiles, drones, helicopters and body armour. British Prime Minister Theresa May had no intention of raising his human rights abuses during her meeting with Erdogan in Ankara on 28 January; she agreed a new deal worth £100m for BAE Systems to design fighter jets for Turkey with Turkish Aerospace Industries, and May and Erdogan discussed future ‘security cooperation and counterterrorism’.

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Turkey turned into a war zone

turkey war zone

Turkey’s Kurdish areas have been turned into a war zone. Turkish jets are bombing Kurds and their allies in Syria. President Erdogan has claimed parts of Syria, Iraq and Greece for Turkey. Some 130,000 government workers, judges, soldiers, police, teachers and others have been dismissed from their jobs or arrested in Turkey since the failed coup of 15 July 2016; 37,000 people are detained without trial. In October, Erdogan extended the state of emergency, allowing him to rule by decree. Ten Kurdish MPs have been gaoled, over 30 mayors have been dismissed and gaoled. Thousands of Kurdish and Turkish members of political parties have been arrested. Torture and beatings are commonplace. Turkey holds more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. Scores of media outlets and hundreds of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been closed down. The scale of repression and warfare that the Turkish state is mounting threatens to escalate to the point that it over-reaches itself. Resistance is growing. Trevor Rayne reports.

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