Turkey – repression and censorship

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On 10 September 2012, the biggest trial of pro-Kurdish and leftist journalists in Turkish history began.

36 of the 44 accused have been detained since nationwide police raids in December last year. They are charged under anti-terrorism legislation with being members of an illegal organisation, by which the Turkish government means the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK – Union of Communities in Kurdistan). The KCK is an umbrella organisation, which developed out of the banned Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK). Since 2009 8,000 people have been detained on charges of KCK membership, including Kurdish MPs and municipal politicians, as well as members of the executive committees of pro-Kurdish organisations, lawyers, human rights activists, trade unionists and, of course, journalists. The charges arise out of local political activities, simply for representing Abdullah Ocalan (Chairman of PKK, in gaol since 1999) or even for newspaper reports critical of the government – which are alleged to support the political aims of the PKK.

The trial of the journalists is the latest act of repression by the Turkish government against any kind of opposition. Recently the Turkish Interior Minister stated that: ‘There is no difference between the bullets fired in the [Kurdish] southeast and the articles written in Ankara.’ His words show how just how far Turkish democracy has developed since 2002, when the western imperialist powers welcomed the ruling AKP into power – not at all! From student demonstrations to the protests along the Black Sea coast against hydroelectric power plants, every act of opposition has met with a brutal police response, and hundreds of people have been arrested and incarcerated.

The accusations against the journalists are mainly based on statements from ‘secret witnesses’. In addition, newspaper articles and reports by the journalists aired on Kurdish satellite TV channels are being used as evidence of their ‘crimes’. Some of the accusations hinge on reports on fatalities after fights between Kurdish guerrillas and the Turkish army – casualty figures are notoriously manipulated by the Turkish media to minimise Turkish army losses and maximise those of the guerrillas. For example the Turkish army recently declared that in the last four months there have been 88 soldiers and policemen and 373 Kurdish rebels killed. The Kurdish guerrillas deny this, reporting 1,035 members of the Turkish army killed against 103 members if the Kurdish forces. Another journalist has been charged with denigrating the Turkish state after writing about sexual abuse at Turkish Airlines.

The trial begins just as the armed struggle of the PKK is at its peak. The latest developments in the Middle East, especially in Syria, have put new opportunities and challenges before the Kurdish struggle. The north of Syria is effectively controlled by PYD, the sister organisation of the PKK, which is a nightmare for the Turkish state as a few towns in the east, within the borders of Turkey, are now also controlled by Kurdish guerrillas. So far all attempts by Turkey to persuade its imperialist masters to build a buffer zone in northern Syria have been rejected. The Turkish state will do anything it can to prevent any autonomous Kurdish area in the north of Syria. 

Ali Demir

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

 

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