Erdogan’s Turkey: repression, authoritarianism and terror

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The suicide terrorist attack on January 13, 2016 claimed by Daech (the fourth in six months after those of Diyarbakır Suruç, Ankara), which killed 10 people in the middle of the tourist district of Sultan Ahmet in Istanbul, has not changed the policies of AKP’s government. On the opposite, the AKP’s government has continued without restraint its widespread repression against the Kurdish people, democrats and progressive…

The War against the Kurdish people

Since December 2015, the Turkish armed forces have intensified their campaigns of repression in the civilian areas of the south-eastern regions of the country, mainly populated by Kurdish people, in recent weeks, causing the forced departure of some 200,000 people.

10,000 men in total, supported by tanks, were mobilized for this offensive aimed at dislodging Kurdish activists in urban centers and they have focused on two cities close to the Iraqi and Syrian borders, Cizre and Silopi. The Turkish army has destroyed homes, schools and hospitals. The school year was abruptly interrupted just as health services, as a result of the lack of doctors.

On December 14, 2015, Ahmet Davutoglu, the Prime Minister of Turkey, promised that security forces would clean up “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street, house by house” south-eastern cities of “terrorist elements”. The military operations of the Turkish security forces against the local Kurdish resistance groups, including members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have led to many deadly clashes. Under the pretext of fighting against terrorism, Turkish security forces killed hundreds of civilians during these periods of sieges.

According to data released by the Association of Human Rights and the Foundation of Human Rights in Turkey, 173 civilians were victims of arbitrary executions and 226 others injured by the police or the army in Turkey during the year 2015. In addition to these civilian massacres, the Turkish authorities are trying to stifle the political will of the Kurdish people by arresting activists and political representatives. A recent report from the Association of Human Rights in Turkey stated that this political repression resulted in over 6,000 arrests of Kurdish activists in 2015, of which nearly 1,300 were imprisoned. From these 1,300, 17 included mayors and many other local elected officials.

Meanwhile, the blockades of the cities of Sûr / Diyarbakir, Nusaybin, Kerboran, Cizre and Sirnak continue until today. Repetitive sieges were imposed on these areas in which the police and the Turkish army have repeatedly committed human rights violations and arbitrary executions against civilians. The Kurdish areas are bombarded by tanks and helicopters. They are completely surrounded by heavily armed military units. All traffic, entering or leaving, is forbidden. The provision of water and electricity has been interrupted.

The army and the police are still conducting operations of repression against various groups and youth activists, including the Movement of the Revolutionary Patriotic Youth, which is the youth wing of the PKK. More than 200 000 people are living in the towns of Cizre and Sirnak, and Sur neighborhooud, in the city of Diyarbakir. Some have no access to food or care, in addition to serious water and electricity shortages. More than 150 civilians and at least 24 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the establishment of curfews in August 2015.

The repression of the AKP’s government is bloody. On January 4, 2016, Seve Demir, member of the Assembly of the Democratic Party of Regions (DBP), Pakize Nayir, co-president of the People’s Assembly of Silopi and Fatma Uyar, congressman of the Free Women (KJA) were executed in Silopi while they were in the custody of the security forces of the Turkish government.

On January 27, 2016, Turkish security forces killed 20 Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey while three Turkish soldiers died in a rebel attack. Following this event, Turkish authorities widened the siege in Diyarbakir.

The Turkish government also reiterated once more that the PKK and Daech were similar in its eyes. The Turkish Prime Minister also declared that Ankara would not hesitate to bomb the PYD (Syrian PKK) forces in Syria as it has bombed the PKK in northern Iraq. The Turkish state does not want to see the influence of the PKK in Syria extend all along the border with Turkey and therefore did not hesitate to support the coalition of the Army of the Conquest, dominated by Jabhat Al Nusra (Al-Qaeda branch in Syria) and Ahrar Sham (a Salafist jihadist group).

Faced with these violent repression campaigns, local populations in many Kurdish cities have attempted to establish local self-organisation structures to defend themselves against military repression of the army. Popular resistance in the regions under sieges also continue regardless of the repression.

Repression against intellectuals and academics

The President Erdogan and AKP government have also started to attack academics who signed the petition ” We will not be a Party to This Crime “, which collected more than 1,400 signatures from researchers and university teachers calling on state of Turkey to end state violence and prepare negotiation conditions. The signatories denounced the murderous policies of the Turkish state and demanded “the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region. We also demand the state to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage. For this purpose we demand that independent national and international observers to be given access to the region and that they be allowed to monitor and report on the incidents.. ”

In a speech delivered on January 15, President Erdogan said that the academics, who according to him fell into the camp of the worst darkness, “commit the same crime as those who commit massacres”. Earlier this week, the president denounced the petition as “treason” and called the academics a “fifth column” for terrorists. In addition, the Council for Higher Education, and later education authorities, have declared that the petition was unacceptable and that the necessary would be done vis-à-vis the signatories… Several academics have since then reported receiving threats on social networks, by telephone and via messages left at their universities. The leader of the far-right nationalst groups and big supporter of Erdogan, in addition of being a convicted criminal linked to the the mafia, Sedat Peker, said once again – as was the case just before the massacre of Suruç – that “blood would flow afloat” and that ” they were going to take a shower with the blood of these terrorists. ”

By attacking democrat academics and by criminalizing them, Erdogan seeks to destroy the cultural hegemony of the left in the university sector, one of the few areas that is not totally subservient to the AKP. These actions allow, while stoking nationalist hatred towards the Kurds, the left, and intellectuals, to conquer the largest popular sectors of the far right nationalists.

Resistance against these attacks have nevertheless developed among students, teachers and non-signatories of the petition, while various professional initiatives for the defence of freedom of expression have emerged. Petitions and actions of journalists, lawyers, filmmakers, publishers, “white collar” workers, writers, unions were organized to protest against the deliberate lynching on government orders, or directly in support for the demands of the academics.

Rapprochement of Turkey with Israel and Saudi Arabia

These repressive policies are also made on the background of reconciliation with Israel. “Israel needs a country like Turkey in the region,” Erdogan said on January 2, 2016. He added “We also need to accept (the fact) that we need Israel. It is a reality in the region”. Turkey and Israel have agreed on compensation for victims of the Israeli raid in 2010 against the Mavi Marmara ship, the return of the ambassadors in the two capitals, abandonment of prosecutions by Turkey against Israel and on the ban of the entry of Salah al-Arouri, senior official of Hamas, in Turkey. This rapprochement also allowed the opening of discussions on the construction of a gas pipeline linking the offshore gas fields of Israel and Turkey.

We must remember that despite diplomatic tensions between the two countries in these past years, economic and trade relations have continued to grow. According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) the volume of trade totalised $ 2.6 billion in 2009. Turkish exports to Israel jumped from $ 1.5 billion to $ 2.92 billion between 2009 and 2014, while imports from Israel increased by $ 1.1 billion to $ 2.7 billion during the same period. This meant a volume of $ 5.44 billion in the Turkish-Israeli trade in 2014.

Regionally, Turkey, which tried in these past years to play a role of mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia, has increasingly come closer to the Saudi kingdom, despite some still persisting differences. Since January 2015, with the change of leadership in Saudi Arabia, Erdogan visited the Saudi kingdom three times. At the end of 2015, the two countries decided to establish a “strategic cooperation council.” The AKP government has largely supported the Saudi military intervention in Yemen against the Houtistes, backed by Iran, and military groups linked to former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, which has resulted in the killing of more than 5,800 persons, including 2,800 civilians, and of more than 27,900 injured, while over 2.5 million people are displaced within the country. Ankara has also agreed to join the military alliance established by the Saudi kingdom in December 2015 and composed of more than 30 countries against Daech.

In early 2016, Erdogan rejected criticism directed against Ryad after the execution of the Saudi opponent Sheikh Nimr Nimr, describing it as “an internal legal issue.” The pro-government medias in Turkey have also followed the example of Turkish President Erdogan and openly supported Saudi Arabia in the conflict with Iran.

Early December, following a visit to Qatar, President Erdogan also announced that it has signed an agreement with Qatar for the supply of liquefied petroleum gas in addition to the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar.

The unconditional support of Iran in the Syrian revolutionary process to the criminal Assad regime has also brought Turkey closer to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies in supporting primarily Islamic fundamentalist groups and also promoting a sectarian religious discourse.

An authoritarianism no longer hiding

Erdogan at the beginning of the year had made comments in favour of greater executive powers by citing a striking example of an effective presidential system – Germany under Adolf Hitler. We must declare and bring our total solidarity with the popular resistance of the Kurdish people, democratic and progressive forces and individuals, and the various initiatives against authoritarianism and the bloody repression of the AKP government.

Joseph Daher

27-01-2016

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