When I last blogged here about the situation in Turkey the news was more of the same, if somewhat more hopeful. I posed the question of whether or not the election rallies called by the governing party over the weekend would result in more violence or not and again noted that I thought that the Turkish government and the governing party had nowhere to turn. I also noted the continuing resolve of the protesters and the refusal by protesters in Istanbul to accept a deal with the government which did include the liberation of those arrested, an end to police violence and holding those who have directed this violence accountable.
Resistance to the government continues even after what was a weekend of intensifying police violence and more threats. We should take note of the following:
1. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said, "What is required of us is to stop it if there is a protest against the law. There is the police, if that's not enough there's the gendarmerie, if that's not enough there is the TSK Turkish Armed Forces). These authorities exist in the laws." He added, “Demonstrations have gone out of a Gezi protest. They have gone out of being legal. These can continue on the streets, in districts. They will be immediately suppressed and legal process will be commenced about those responsible. I think the innocent demonstrations that began 20 days ago have completely ended." This promise to suppress demonstrations and the threat to use the army is no doubt real and dangerous. However, we are left wondering about the relative strength of the TSK at this point. The government has imprisoned and charged many leading military figures in recent years for their alleged involvement in plans to stage a coup and has replaced these officers and former officers with men sympathetic to the government and the governing party. Moves like this tend to undermine military morale and strength. More to the point, will short-term draftees be willing to intervene in political affairs and can they be counted on to take arms against citizens?
2. Members of five union confederations went on a mass one-day solidarity protest strike in Turkey today. Interior Minister Muammer Güler said, “I request public servants not participate in illegal actions. Otherwise you will have to bear the consequences.” This is another ominous threat. The government and the governing party are fully aware that the Turkish unions are not up to the challenges facing them so long as they struggle alone or in isolation. That said, they also understand that the Turkish rebellion needs to strengthen and broaden its working class base if it is to move forward. And they are no doubt sensitive to the decline in Turkish economic growth over the past three years.
The political nature of the solidarity strike is clear from the joint declaration issued by the unions. It says in part, "The ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] government has launched an offensive against the nation, who refuse to give up their rights and freedoms by staging an insistent resistance." and also calls for an "egalitarian, free and democratic Turkey."
The joint statement by the unions also said, “The AKP government preferred to respond to the dignified reaction of the people with state terror. People asking for their rights and justice were killed and thousands were wounded. The government blockaded the media and launched a smear campaign against the opposition of Turkey's peoples. After failing to break the strong resistance of the people, the government attempted to degrade this resistance into a matter of environmental conscience and to illegalize the public reaction against the widespread police terror and the despotic ruling of the country”.
The striking unions are the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Doctors' Union (TTB), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and the Turkish Dentists Union (TDHB).
3. I mentioned previously that one Turkish tv network has been closed down and some others have been fined for their coverage of the protests and that the government is especially alarmed over the protesters using social media. Interior Minister Muammer Güler has also said, "It is impossible to understand the stubbornness behind the continuation of violent acts. They are trying to push people out to streets by strikes, we will not let this happen.” He has added, “We are currently working on regulations on social media websites within our police forces.” and “We are working on a series of regulations for Facebook and Twitter against those who provoke the public, manipulate people with fake news, or forwards individuals to social turmoils and incidents jeopardizing property and human security.” and “We have had a similar work in Izmir. Now this will spread to other cities. Certainly, we also think that a regulation is needed as well. Justice Ministry will do that.” and “We believe that a regulation is required. We have seen how fake news spread across people. Our operations will resume.” These constitute additional and serious threats to the protesters, to the unions and to the use of social media and media.
4. Hundreds of people were arrested over the weekend. Prime Minister Edrogan has further threatened supporters of the protesters by saying, "We know very well who sent 30,000 packages of food to Taksim Square. We know very well who hosted those collaborating with terrorists in their hotels. Should they not be called to account for this? If we don't call them to account for this, the nation will do this." These remarks were made during an election rally. After one of the rallies supporters of the governing party attacked protesters and reporters.
A group of thugs also attacked the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) building in Şişhane (Istanbul), breaking the windows, while two CHP deputies were inside.
We need to point out that, even with these kinds of pronouncements and the encouragement of thug elements, the full weight of the reactionary forces has yet to be felt. The army has not intervened yet, attacks on demonstrators by right-wing thugs have been relatively minor and the most reactionary forces have yet to mobilize. For now, it seems, the arrests and beatings of protesters and attempts to silence the opposition are the outstanding problems.
5. A “Northern Kurdistan Conference for Solution and Unity” was held over the weekend. The conference concluded with the adoption of thirteen unity points. These points include a call for the freedom of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, national self-determination for Kurdistan, "the formation of a contemporary and democratic constitution and constitutional guarantee for Kurds' right of organization, for mother tongue education and for the recognition of Kurdish as official language," freedom for all political prisoners (and especially children and the infirmed), equality for all national and religious and ethnic minorities and additional demands as well.
6. Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has written a solidarity statement for the Turkish rebellion. The letter is as follows:
To the all citizens of the world,
Fellows, Sisters, Women, Men, Homeless People, Poor People,
They asked us how many people the Zapatas are and we told them there are hundreds of thousands out there who are fighting for their rights and freedoms. Now today, we hear that on the Anatolian lands, the land of Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Armenians, the Lazs, and many more than i can count, thousands of masked people who wants to live in honor are hailing for freedom. Like Kurdish fellows who were in an honorable fight. We knew that we were not alone, there were millions of us out there and we weren't alone since we have started fighting. Today, we see that we are increasing. We hear that people in Turkey shout out "Ya Basta!" and they are in a riot to defend their honor against to the oppressive ruling of Turkish government. The Great Istanbul, the capital of masters throughout history, is now the capital of riot, and it has become the voice of oppressed ones. We see that on the streets of the great Istanbul are now the capital of women, children, men, homosexuals, Kurds, Armenians, Christians and Muslims. The ones who have been humiliated, oppressed, ignored for decades by their government are now saying "We Are Here." We are thrilled!
We have never wanted a new governance, a new government or a new prime minister. We just asked for respect. We wanted the government to respect our requests of freedom, democracy and justice. People of Turkey are demanding for these and resisting for days: Now starting from the ingoing government, and all the governments who are going to be in charge, we want you to respect our requests of freedom, democracy and justice! And if you don't do that, we, who are the owners of rights and freedoms, will stand against you, we'll fight on the streets until you learn to respect. We don't want too much, we just want you to respect our rights. Because we know how we want to live, we know well how we want to govern and be governed. We want to govern ourself and decide about ourself.
And we are greeting people of Turkey who are fighting for an honorable life from here, and we want to tell that the fire of riot has warmed Chiapas. Solidarity with the ones who saved the history from past and future and moved to present.