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.  


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Crucial times in Turkey

Abdullah Ocalan

The coming weeks leading up to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly elections in June could prove crucial for Turkey. Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have offered the government the possibility of ending the armed conflict with the Turkish state. In response the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may split and President Erdogan is trying to establish dictatorial powers.


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Turkey: Soma mining disaster was murder

On 13 May, 787 miners were underground at Soma coal mine in western Turkey, when an explosion propelled toxic carbon monoxide into the tunnels, at the same time knocking out the ventilation and lift system. 301 men are now known to have died. For Soma’s mining community, responsibility for the tragedy – Turkey’s worst-ever mining disaster – has been laid squarely at the feet of the Turkish government and the mining company, Soma Holdings. On the demonstrations that have taken place almost daily since then, not only in Soma but in nearby Izmir, in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara, banners proclaim: ‘It was not an accident – it was murder!’


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May Day in Turkey: Protestors resist police violence

Once again Istanbul has been the scene of police repression during the May Day demonstrations. Demonstrators tried to reach Taksim Square, historically important for the working class movement in Turkey, and were brutally attacked by police. The reactionary AKP government could only prevent the workers and revolutionaries entering the square with extraordinary measures (which are actually quite ordinary these days in Turkey against any kind of mass demonstration).


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People’s resistance against the police terror in Turkey

June 2013 saw the most militant and spontaneous mass resistance of people against police terror and state repression in Turkey. Within days a peaceful demonstration of a relatively small number of environmental activists to save a park in central Istanbul from development had turned into a nationwide act of resistance. It became a major crisis of the political system - unprecedented for decades. The inspiring mass actions of the people have been the greatest challenge so far to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was, after winning the elections for the third consecutive time in 2011, confident and arrogant. Ali Erkaslan reports.


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Turkey: people’s resistance against police terror

Since the end of May, the most militant and spontaneous mass resistance against police terror and state repression has emerged in Turkey. Within days, a peaceful demonstration by environmental activists to save a public park in central Istanbul from demolition has developed into a major crisis of the political system.


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PKK killings

Fidan Dogan, Leyla Soylemez and Sakine Cansiz were assassinated in Paris on 9 January. Tens of thousands of people took to the Parisian streets to salute the three women’s coffins, draped in the flag of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Many thousands more followed them in Diyarbakir, in south east Turkey. Cansiz was a founding member of the PKK and is likely to have been central to discussions that were underway between the PKK and the Turkish state, seeking an end to the armed conflict between them that has been waged since 1984. Over 40,000 people have been killed in this conflict, some 500 in 2012. The PKK suspects that the assassination is the work of a faction within the Turkish state that wants to sabotage the discussions. Omer Guney was charged with the murders by the French police on 21 January; the PKK say he was not a member of their organisation.


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Turkey – repression and censorship

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.


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Turkish state condemns Israel but attacks Kurds

Turkish state condemns Israel but attacks Kurds

As a result of the Israeli attack on the Flotilla to Gaza, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists and injuries to many more, there were protests throughout the region and the rest of world, and Turkish flags were carried alongside Palestinian flags as a symbol of resistance and freedom.


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Turkey: Middle Eastern revolution under siege

Middle Eastern revolution faces the prospect of being liquidated at its pivotal point in Anatolia/ Kurdistan. This attack is the third of its kind and the most serious; the previous crises being the fascist coup of 1980 and the counter-revolutionary climate which followed the collapse of the socialist countries in the early 1990s. The weakening of the Middle Eastern revolution, following the imperialist Gulf War, is essentially rooted in the isolation of the Kurdish national liberation struggle.

Over the last eight years, the isolation of the Kurdish freedom movement has gradually led to the abandonment of its initial strategy and aims. These included, for example, a pledge to bring about 'the October Revolution of the Middle East'.


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Turkey: Prison massacre

FRFI 159 February / March 2001

Between 19 and 22 December 2000 the Turkish military and police carried out a massive and brutal operation against revolutionary prisoners. The prisoners were protesting against plans to change the structure of the prison system from one where prisoners are able to freely associate within the confines of their dormitories to a cellular system, whereby they will be subject to lengthy periods of solitary confinement. 20,000 grenades, gas and incendiary bombs were dropped on 20 prisons and 10,000 military and police personnel deployed. Thirty-three people were killed and hundreds wounded. There has been no international outcry and the story barely flickered across British TV screens over the Christmas period.

A visit to Turkish prisons by the UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture had just concluded on 19 December when the security forces began bombarding the prisons, breaking through the walls with bombs and power tools, and then throwing in grenade after grenade. After the fashion of the most murderous NATO operations, the massacre was named Hayata Donus which means Return to Life, with the state claiming its aim was to 'rescue' prisoners who had been forced against their will to participate in a protest hunger-strike. The real aim was to break the prisoners' resistance and move them by force to the new cellular prisons.


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Turkish troops out of Kurdistan!

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

On 4 July, US troops detained some Turkish soldiers in Suleymaniya, a city in northern Iraq, opening a rift between old friends. The US raid targeted a building of the Turkman Front and a nearby Turkish government liaison office. 24 people were arrested, including 11 members of the Turkish Special Forces. US troops beat up the Special Forces soldiers when they tried to talk to them, put plastic bags over their heads, threw them into the street and then onto some trucks. The mighty Turkish army has never been humiliated like this before.

In reprisal for the detentions, Turkey shut the Habur frontier gate, the only crossing between Turkey and Iraq, to lorries carrying supply materials to US troops. It remained open to other traffic, such as lorries carrying United Nations humanitarian aid. The Turkish Special Force was on its way to assassinate the Kurdish Mayor in the oil rich city of Kirkuk and to bomb Iranian and Syrian interests in the region. The aim was to stir up the region as a pretext for sending more troops into south Kurdistan to pursue Turkish interests.


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No extradition to Turkey

On 30 January British police arrested 28-year-old Turkish refugee Onder Dolutas at his home in London, following a request from the Turkish authorities for his extradition. The following day Bow Street Magistrates court released him on conditional bail. FRFI has been participating in the campaign against his extradition; at the first hearing of his case on 14 March over 50 people staged a lively demonstration in solidarity with Onder and opposition to British collaboration with Turkish fascism. The case has now been adjourned for a review on 11 April. The main hearing will take place on 8 May.

Onder was arrested on charges unrelated to any activity in this country. His arrest was carried out by British authorities on the request of the Turkish government. From 1995 to 2000 Onder Dolutas was a student of maritime engineering at the University of Istanbul, where he participated in the democratic activities of the students’ union. He arrived in Britain in May 2001 and was granted refugee status in January 2003.


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Turkish state attacks Kurdish freedom fighters

First, it was Winston Churchill in 1924, then it was Saddam Hussein in 1988, and most recently it has been Turkey in 2006 that used chemical weapons on the Kurdish people. Unlike Saddam Hussein, the Turkish Republic has yet to be punished and has not been condemned by the West for possessing ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ or using them against Kurdish freedom fighters.

The Turkish army staged an operation against the Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Kurdistan between 24 and 26 March 2006. On the last day of the operation 14 guerrillas were massacred with chemical weapons after the army had failed to eliminate them using conventional weapons. This has in fact been the pattern since 1992: the Turkish army has intermittently utilised chemical weapons against members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) when it fails to stop their advance by conventional methods.

In an attempt to cover up this atrocity, the Turkish state approved legislation overnight that enabled the army to bury the guerrillas in the rural spot where they were killed. However, six of them were citizens of Syria, Iran and Iraq, and their bodies were not handed over to the guerrillas’ families in order to ensure that they were not subjected to an independent post-mortem in another country. This was all done by the pro-Islamic government even though Islamic traditions and rules order otherwise.


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