Turkey: Erdogan responds to election with war

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Protest in London after the murder of 32 young Kurdish and Turkish socialist by IS

President Erdogan and the Turkish state have responded to the electoral success of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on 7 June 2015 with war and repression. By achieving 13.1% of the vote and 80 MPs in Turkey’s general election, President Erdogan’s plan to change Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary into a presidential system was thwarted by the HDP. The HDP combines socialist and democratic forces and is primarily Kurdish-led. Immediately after the election increased Turkish military activity was accompanied by murder and arrests of Kurdish activists and their supporters. The peace process, underway since March 2013, was effectively over and unilaterally ended by the Turkish state with the all-out bombardment of Kurdish areas beginning on 24 July. Trevor Rayne reports.

On 23 July the Turkish government agreed to US warplanes using Incirlik airbase, 60 miles from the Syria-Turkey border, to attack Islamic State (IS). The following day Turkish jet fighters targeted IS. This was timed to coincide with the attack on the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. The Turkish state intends to use the Incirlik agreement to gain US and European Union acquiescence in its war on the Kurds and its efforts to undermine the revolutionary developments in Rojava (northern Syria/west Kurdistan).

Turkey’s election took place in a context of nearly half the population living below or close to the poverty line, rising unemployment, particularly among women, and growing inequality. Personal and corporate debt has accelerated since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002 and Turkey is now vulnerable to interest rate rises. Disenchantment with the AKP grew as the economy unravelled.

HDP won 11 seats in Istanbul with 12.6% of the vote and in predominantly Kurdish cities it won over 70%. The AKP’s share of the national vote dropped from nearly 50% in 2011 to 41%. In Kurdish areas it was frequently halved. In the new parliament AKP has 258 seats, the centrist Republican People’s Party (CHP) has 132, Nationalist Movement Party (the fascist MKP, also known as the Grey Wolves) has 80 seats and the HDP 80 seats. The AKP needed 276 seats to have a majority and must find a partner to form a new government with. If no government is created the president can dismiss parliament and call a new election for the autumn. Erdogan is the long-time leader of the AKP. He will no doubt call a new election in a situation of war and tension.

Prior to the election, Erdogan accused the HDP of taking orders from terrorists, meaning the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and the HDP recorded over 250 attacks on their personnel and offices in two months. The election result challenges the Turkish state’s complicity in attempts to overthrow the government in Syria, reflects popular opposition to Erdogan’s foreign policy and shows the strength of the demand for Kurdish people’s rights. It was an endorsement of the peace process initiated by PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in March 2013. Ocalan has been isolated in a Turkish prison since 1999 and allowed no visitors since April 2015.

Two days before the election a bomb explosion at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir killed three people and wounded over 300. Kurdish organisations blamed IS and the AKP government for the attack. Immediately after the election five civilians were killed in predominantly Kurdish Diyarbakir, including three HDP members. Turkish army operations in Kurdish areas were increased with drone, helicopter gunship and fighter jet flights, troop deployments and construction of military outposts and dams. Kurds say the dams are intended for forced population removal. Kurdish politicians, including HDP members, have been arrested and accused of belonging to terrorist organisations and spreading terrorist propaganda.

Tel Abayad

Tel Abayad in eastern Syria is on the Turkish border. It provided the main border crossing for weapons and fighters from Turkey en route to the IS capital Raqqa. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) and Free Syrian Army forces evicted IS from Tel Abayad on 15 June 2015. Approximately 50 IS jihadists fled across the border into Turkey. The British Royal United Services Institute said that the YPG/YPJ had proved themselves to be the most effective force on the ground fighting IS. Turkish President Erdogan could not contain his fury at the development; making his first appearance since the election results he described the YPG and PKK in Tel Abayad ‘terror organisations’ and said of the Coalition bombing of IS, ‘How can we look upon the West favourably bombing Arabs and Turkmen?’

Kobane and Suruc

The IS responded to its loss of Tel Abayad with gangs entering Kobane in Rojava (northern Syria) on 25 June killing civilians randomly. 231 people were killed, many of them children. IS arrived from two directions, one of them being from Turkey disguised in Turkish military uniforms. President Erdogan’s statement on 26 June showed where he stood, saying ‘I am talking to the whole world, regardless of the price we might have to pay we will not allow a Kurdish state in North Syria, to the south of Turkey.’ YPG/YPJ guerrillas and their supporters drove IS out of Kobane.

On 19 June a suicide bomber killed 32 young members of the Socialist Youth Associations Federation and wounded over one hundred others in Suruc, Turkey, six miles from Kobane. They had travelled from Istanbul and were going to help reconstruct Kobane. The PKK accused the AKP of carrying out the massacre, using IS as a cover. The PKK called upon people to organise their own self-defence.

There is a dossier of evidence of Turkish state collaboration with IS and other jihadist groups in Syria. IS sold oil through Turkey and imported weapons and fighters from that country; some 5,000 Turks have joined IS. Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT has shipped weapons and ammunition into Syria. Turkey has jammed Syrian government radio communications. Since April, Turkey has increased its coordination with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply IS and other groups in Syria with advanced weaponry. Turkey has permitted the sale of materials for making car bombs to IS. The Turkish state has arrested and charged military officers and regional prosecutors for insisting on inspecting military trucks heading from Turkey into Syria. After the election Erdogan called for a life sentence to be passed on the editor of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet after it published video evidence of Turkish trucks, supposedly full of humanitarian aid, carrying weapons to jihadists fighting in Syria. The trucks were operated by MIT.

On 26 June, 38 holidaymakers, including 30 British citizens, were killed on a beach in Tunisia by an IS-inspired gunman. The British government denies that Turkey is collaborating with IS when it is. This denial contributed to the slaughter in Kobane and in Tunisia. On 19 June the British Royal Air Force concluded the NATO exercise Anatolian Eagle with the Turkish army, but to maintain this NATO alliance Britain is turning a blind eye to Turkey’s complicity with IS – this cannot continue.

As we go press the Turkish state is rounding up hundreds of Kurdish and HDP activists across Turkey and the governor of Istanbul has banned a Great Peace March against the war policies of the AKP and fascist terror of IS. The risen Kurdish people’s struggle for liberation will not be put down and democratic forces throughout Turkey will confront Erdogan and his warmongers.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 246 August/September 2015

 

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