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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Turkey invades Syria: escalating war on Kurds

Rojava february2014

On 24 August 2016 Turkey launched an invasion of Syria with tanks, several hundred Turkish soldiers and 1,500 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The invasion force entered the town of Jarablus with US drones in attendance, feeding information to the Turkish forces. Turkey’s defence minister, Fikri Isit, said the intention was to degrade Islamic State (IS) and ‘prevent the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from uniting Kurdish cantons’. IS had controlled Jarablus for three years; it left the town without a fight. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) executive member Murat Karayilan explained, ‘IS evacuated the area between Jarablus and Azaz, so what is happening is an exchange rather than a military operation’; IS and the Turkish government made a deal.

Locals reported IS fighters travelling from Jarablus across the border to Turkey and donning FSA uniforms. As Hisyar Ozsoy MP, from the predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, put it, ‘This is not an operation to rescue the town of Jarablus from IS…This is an operation to rescue IS from Kurdish forces, who last week captured the town of Manbij and defeated IS.’ In the name of fighting IS, Turkey has escalated its war against the Kurds. Trevor Rayne reports.

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Coup attempt in Turkey: war on Kurds continues

turk beat reuters

The failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 demonstrates the fragility of Turkish society and has accelerated its descent into fascism and war. President Erdogan said the coup attempt was ‘a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army’. At the latest count some 60,000 people have been detained or sacked; soldiers, academics, journalists, judges, civil servants, teachers, anyone who opposed Erdogan’s government, is at risk of being accused of backing the coup. Captives have been paraded before cameras showing signs of beatings. Under the state of emergency declared on 20 July all constitutional constraints on the president have been removed. With a third of Turkey’s generals and admirals arrested and 2,745 judges, a quarter of the judiciary, sacked, the military and the courts will have difficulty functioning. As the Financial Times put it, ‘Turkey faces a risk of institutional collapse’ (22 July 2016). Trevor Rayne reports.

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