Turkey heading for fascism and war

President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government are driving Turkey towards fascism and war. The 24 November 2015 shooting down of a Russian bomber was planned at the highest levels of the Turkish state. Since the AKP’s electoral victory on 1 November Kurdish towns and cities in Turkey’s south east have been put under curfew and military siege. Turkish jets daily bomb Kurds in Iraq and its army shells the People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) in Rojava, northern Syria. Scores of people have been arrested, imprisoned and killed across Turkey for opposing the murderous state. Erdogan and the AKP are a threat not just to the Kurdish and Turkish people – they are a danger to us all. Trevor Rayne reports.    

The election

On 1 November President Erdogan, leader of the AKP, presented the electorate with a choice: it is either me or it is chaos. Sufficient people were frightened enough to vote for the AKP, hoping for stability. Within hours of the result being known Erdogan said he would hold a referendum to install an executive presidency, granting himself dictatorial powers. The Turkish lira rose 3% against the US dollar and shares jumped 5.4% on the Turkish stock exchange. But if capitalists and AKP voters think they are getting stability they are seriously deluded.

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Turkey descending into chaos

Turkish President Erdogan ‘risks making the country ungovernable. Turkey is showing alarming signs of a descent into chaos’ (Financial Times 23 September 2015). With the failure of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to win a sufficient majority in the 7 June 2015 elections to form a new government and change the constitution from a parliamentary to a presidential system, Erdogan has unleashed war and repression against the country’s Kurdish people. Army commanders have control in Turkey’s south-eastern provinces. Kurdish communities have been placed under martial law; civilians have been murdered by soldiers. Turkish jets have been bombing Kurds in northern Iraq and Turkey wants to establish a military buffer zone in Syria.

When the Kurdish-led People’s Democratic Party (HDP) broke through the 10% general election threshold and gained 81 MPs, the AKP made no effort at forming a coalition government with any other party and the Turkish military began preparations for an assault on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish government agreed to US warplanes using Incirlik Air Base to attack Islamic State (IS) forces on 23 July 2015. Within a day it became clear that Turkey had made the concession to gain acquiescence from NATO for its relaunch of war on the PKK. Three bombing raids were mounted by Turkey’s army on IS, 300 on the PKK in northern Iraq. Thousands of HDP members and supporters were arrested across Turkey compared to a handful of known IS sympathisers.

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RCG condemns Ankara massacre

On Saturday 10 October at least 128 people died and over 500 were wounded when bombs exploded at a peace rally in Ankara organised and supported by Turkish trade union federations, the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and other left-wing Kurdish and Turkish organisations.

We condemn this barbaric act and send our condolences and solidarity to the families and organisations of those killed and wounded.

The rally was organised in the run-up to the Turkish general election on 1 November to call for peace and for an end to attacks by the AKP government on Kurdish areas in Turkey and Iraq and on Kurdish political representatives in the HDP. Since the previous election result on 7 June where the AKP failed to get the majority it hoped for, it has launched an all out war on the Kurdish people and their organisations (see FRFI 246).

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Turkey: Erdogan responds to election with war

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.

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Turkey heads for turbulent times

The 7 June 2015 parliamentary election in Turkey will be critical for the country’s future. President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) need at least 330 of the 550 seats in order to change the constitution from a parliamentary system into a presidential one. Erdogan scorns what he calls the ‘many-voiced’ parliament. The choice is between increased dictatorial powers, wielded by Erdogan and the state, and the democratic forces led by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Kurds.    

The HDP combines Kurdish, socialist and democratic elements and is primarily Kurdish led. It must get a minimum of 10% of the overall vote to win a seat. This 10% barrier was introduced following the 1980 military coup to stop Kurdish representation in parliament. If HDP gets 10% or more of the vote it will be difficult for the AKP to get the MPs it needs to change the constitution. If HDP fails to win 10% then many of the seats it would have otherwise won will go to the AKP.

Since the Gezi Park protests in 2013 that spread across Turkey, the state has increased repression and censorship. More journalists have been gaoled; when it was revealed that the Turkish state had armed jihadists in Syria the government response was to ban reporting of the matter. The police and intelligence agencies have been given increased powers while those of the judiciary have been reduced as government loyalists are appointed to key judicial positions. By mid-May the HDP had been subject to 126 attacks during the election campaign, including the bombing of party offices. The home of HDP leader Selahattin Demirtus in Diyarbakir was raided by police on the pretext of looking for a drug smuggler and HDP rallies have been banned.    

Combined with the repression against HDP has been the state’s and the government’s rejection of the attempt by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) to develop a peace process. The PKK declared a ceasefire to the 30-year armed struggle at Newroz (New Year) March 2013. On 28 February 2015 PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan presented a ten-point programme as the basis for negotiations with the government which, if agreements were achieved, would have resulted in a congress in April 2015 that would permanently end the armed struggle. The government has stopped all visits to Ocalan, placing him in isolation in the prison on Imrali island. Turkey’s armed forces have increased operations in Kurdish areas of Turkey and are preparing attacks on the PKK with reconnaissance flights and ambushes. In response the PKK Executive Committee has announced that the peace process is de-facto over.

The election takes place amidst a deteriorating economy. The Turkish lira has lost 40% of its value against the US dollar since May 2013 and is the world’s worst performing emerging currency in 2015. Corporate debt was $6.5bn in 2002 and is now $178bn. Erdogan called the central bank governor a traitor for maintaining what he considered to be high interest rates. With its currency falling and corporate debt growing Turkey faces the prospect of capital flight if foreign investors judge the country unstable. Youth unemployment is officially at 20%. Whether Erdogan gets the seats he needs or not, Turkey is heading for turbulent times.

Trevor Rayne