June 24, 2013

Turkey: The Struggle Continues!

There is a media blackout on what is happening in Turkey but the struggle begun there in May continues. We offer a few points to consider when assessing the situation there.

1. Bianet English reports that at least 114 workers were killed on the job in May in Turkey. Many of these deaths have occurred in the seasonal agricultural industry. The Bianet English report quotes from a report released by Worker Health and Work Security Assembly as follows:

“Seasonal agriculture workers provide the need for cheap agriculture labor. The distribution of Kurdish people among these workers reached to a considerable level. The distribution of seasonal working (between May and October mostly) according to region, city and products listed as follows: Urfa and Adana provinces (cotton), Mediterranean and Aegean Regions (fresh vegetables, grapes, olives, tobacco), Marmara Region (fresh vegetables and fruits, hazelnut), Black Sea Region (hazelnut, tea leaves, tobacco), Central Anatolia Region (Fruit picking).

“Those are the same workers who are transported in minivans or tractors, get poisoned from pasticines or bad food, suffer from health problems due to bad accommodation issues and get deprived from access to education.”

2. Bianet English also reports that a group of artists has issued a call for an LGBT Pride March on June 30. This year’s theme for LGBT Pride Week became “Resistance!” Workshops are being planned dealing with  law, education, union rights, feminism, LGBT refugees, resistance, veganism, clashing feminisms and transphobia, work life, union movements, student reunions and queer pedagogy. A trans agenda meeting is also being planned.

3. A police officer charged with shooting a protester in the early days of the demonstrations has been released by the courts and the prosecutor in charge of the investigation has said that the killing was “within the limits of self-defense.” The dead protester, Ethem Sarısülük, was a 26-year old blue collar worker. His family has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for justice. The release of the police officer triggered a mass demonstration.

4. On July 1-2, 1993 a mob attacked a meeting of Alevi intellectuals in Sivas and 35 Alevis died. The case was later dropped by the courts. Thousands of people have gathered in Istanbul to commemorate the massacre and this year's commemoration was joined by unions and Taksim Solidarity Platform. A Platform representative spoke at the rally and said that their demands have still not been met.

The Alevis are an oppressed minority in Turkey. Ethem Sarısülük, referred to above, was Alevi. The government and the ruling party are both intent upon papering over the discrimination faced by Alevis and the controversies surrounding the 1993 pogrom. Still, the government hopes to build a new bridge in Istanbul and name it after Yavuz Sultan Selim, who is remembered for slaughtering Alevis. In the early days of the protests some Alevi leaders sought to distance themselves and their community from the protest movement. Masses of people are in sympathy with the Alevis, however, and commemorations of the events in 1993 will continue.

The Communist Party of Turkey has published the following:

Tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul to commemorate the killing of 35 people o...n July 2, 1993 in an arson attack against Alevis and progressive intellectuals in Sivas, known as “Sivas massacre”. In the demonstration marking the 20th annivarsary of the massacre there was outrage against the AKP government’s discriminatory policies as well as the crackdown of the Gezi Park demonstrations.

The Communist Party of Turkey joined the demonstration in Kadıköy. The TKP carried banners saying “Who set the fire in Sivas has drown us into tear gas” referring to the Islamist reactionarism shared by the AKP government and the mob that carried out the massacre. Besides, the government has not only refrained from condemning the massacre but also protected those taking part in the massacre. Thus, the political authority is seen responsible for the ruling of the Ankara court, which dropped the case in March 2012 saying that the charges against the suspects exceeded the statute of limitations.

The demonstrators also criticized the decision of the government to name the future third bridge over the Bosphorus after “Yavuz Sultan Selim”, the Ottoman Sultan who is known for slaughtering ten of thousands Alevis.

5 soL Daily News also reports the following incident:

Six Arabic speaking-men dressed in the uniforms of Turkish police got caught on cameras at the Rixos Hotel in Ankara. soL Daily Newspaper reported that the group was speaking Arabic in the Syrian accent. Responding to the soL’s report, the hotel declared that the six men were not Syrians but Libyans and were hosted by the Turkish President.

The owner of the Rixos Hotel chain, Fettah Tamimce, is known for his close ties with Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic leader that lives in the United States. The followers of Fethullah Gülen hold key positions in the government and the bureaucracy.

Members of the Free Syrian Army were previously reported staying at this hotel. 

So it would seem that the Turkish regime, with nowhere to turn, is perhaps turning in some small way to what are essentially mercenary forces.

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