Turkey: elections fail to remove Erdogan

Election poster for Erdogan, 2023 - 'The right guy at the right time'

The results of the Turkish general election announced on 28 May 2023 once again confirmed the impotence of the Turkish left to challenge the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Despite the deepening economic crisis, devastating earthquakes that killed at least 60,000 people in February, and growing repression, Erdogan has secured another term as President. The main opposition party, the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), fielded the presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who failed to offer a credible alternative to Erdogan. Instead Kilicdaroglu formed a coalition, MILLET (the Nation Alliance), including left, liberal and right-wing groups including former AKP insiders, in a vain attempt to appeal to the same reactionary sentiments that sustain the AKP’s base.


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Turkey: Spreading the chaos

The Turkish state is attempting to buttress its position by exploiting the growing inter-imperialist rivalry expressed by the Ukraine conflict. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has ruled since 2003 and is determined to remain in power despite the creeping immiseration of large sections of the population, with Turkey’s official annual inflation rate reaching 78.6% in June, the highest in 24 years.


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Support political prisoners in Turkey!

Sibel Balaç and Gökhan Yildirim

Since 19 December 2021, socialist political prisonersSibel Balaç and Gökhan Yıldırım have been on Death Fast (hunger strike to the death) in protest both against the injustices they have faced personally and in order to highlight the general situation of the people of Turkey. 


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Turkey’s escalating war on the Kurds

On 23 April 2021 the Turkish state launched Operation Claw Lightning, a military attack on predominantly Kurdish areas in northern Iraq. The date chosen for the attack coincided with the anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide in 1915, when Ottoman forces killed 1.5 million men, women and children. It is clear that the Turkish government intends to annihilate the Kurds, using ground troops, heavy bombing and chemical weapons. Ominously, with Kurdish resistance unbroken, Turkey has increasingly resorted to chemicals, with no word of objection from the governments of the US, European Union or Britain, despite it being a war crime in international law. Cemil Bayik, co-chair of the Executive Council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), explained, ‘Why is there silence about this? Because NATO is behind the Turkish state. NATO has warned everyone so that no one raises their voice.’


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Turkey: IMF takes control

Turkish oil pipeline

FRFI 144 August/September 1998

On 8 May the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Turkey could become the next Indonesia. The Turkish state is exhausting its stock of credit. Action Is called for, yet the remedy will further destabilise the crisis-prone political system. TREVOR RAYNE reports.


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Crisis in Turkey

HDP rally in Turkey

The Turkish state is set to ban Turkey’s third largest political party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is backed by the Kurdish population. The Supreme Court opened investigations into alleged HDP links with terrorism and on 17 March 2021 the chief public prosecutor submitted a lawsuit for the closure of the HDP. In the June 2018 elections the HDP won 11.7% of the votes and 67 parliamentary seats. Currently, eight former HDP MPs are in gaol. The Turkish state is defying an order from European Court of Human Rights to free former HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned since November 2016, along with co-chair, Figen Yuksekdag. The HDP is accused of breaking democratic and universal laws, colluding with terrorists, and seeking to destroy the integrity of the Turkish state. HDP mayors have been imprisoned by the score and replaced with state appointees. Over 6,000 HDP members have been gaoled. On 15 February 2021, 700 HDP members and supporters were arrested and charged with terrorism-related offences. Since President Erdogan became leader of Turkey in 2003 the country’s prison population has risen five-fold to in excess of 282,000. The Supreme Court is set to codify what has become the government’s de facto policy. Current HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan said, ‘This is a coup to usurp the will of the people.’ 


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Turkey has a friend in Britain

Dominic Raab with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Following the Brexit trade agreement with the European Union, the British government’s first international trade deal was with Turkey. It came into effect on 1 January 2021, without parliamentary debate. Simon Tisdall, of The Guardian, commented, ‘the new trade deal ignores the Turkish government’s continuing human rights abuses, boosts its president and undermines ministerial pledges that “global Britain” will uphold international law and values’ (3 January 2021). The deal is worse than that: it encourages Turkey’s continuing war on the Kurds, threatens Turkey’s neighbours and demonstrates that British imperialism is prepared to endanger European security for the sake of profits. Turkey’s President Erdogan hailed the deal as the start of a ‘new era’ and a landmark for Turkey. Well might he express his gratitude; when the US and EU are turning against Turkey, Erdogan finds a friend in Britain. TREVOR RAYNE reports.      


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Turkey ‘playing with fire’

Turkish warship

On 14 August Greek and Turkish warships collided in the Aegean Sea. The Turkish government accused Greece of a ‘provocation’. Greek vessels had been shadowing their Turkish counterparts as they searched for natural gas reserves in territory claimed by Greece and Cyprus. German foreign minister Heiko Maas sounded the alarm: ‘The current situation in the eastern Mediterranean is … playing with fire, and any spark, however small, could lead to a disaster.’ With the US pivot to Asia and its reduced presence in the Middle East, Turkey is testing the limits to its reach as it seeks to become the dominant power in the region. The dispute with Greece over gas is enmeshed with conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya, where Turkey is probing; deploying military force to expand its scope. TREVOR RAYNE reports.


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Free Grup Yorum! Down with Turkish fascism!

Since the 1980s, socialist band Grup Yorum has been at the forefront of revolutionary battles in Turkey. Facing censorship, concert bans, imprisonment and right-wing attacks under successive governments, repression of the group’s music and political message has intensified under the ruling AKP party under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The April and May 2020 deaths on hunger strike of leading musicians Helin Bölek and İbrahim Gökçek have highlighted that Grup Yorum’s struggle is now a matter of survival against the forces of fascist barbarism.


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Turkey: provocation on many fronts

Refugees at the Turkey-Greece border

The Turkish state’s armed interventions in Syria and Libya, its attempts to get control of the oil and gas resources of the Eastern Mediterranean and its abuse of refugees, fleeing wars its own policies helped to create, demonstrate a volatile and dangerous element in the Middle East. As Erdogan’s government flounders in the quagmire of Northern Syria it resorts to threats and extortion against the European Union (EU). Seeking Russian acquiescence to its war against the Kurds, the Turkish government angers its US backers. Meanwhile, the EU describes Greece as its ‘shield’ for driving thousands of desperate people from its border, people encouraged to go there by Turkey. A catastrophe is unfolding along Turkey’s border with Greece and on the Greek islands holding refugees in camps. TREVOR RAYNE reports.


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Turkey’s brazen crimes against the Kurds and Rojava

‘The Kurdish people’s struggle for self-determination is critical for the future of the Middle East’

On 9 October Turkish armed forces and their mercenary auxiliaries invaded Rojava/northeast Syria. They used fighter jets, tanks and heavy artillery. President Trump had given the green light for the onslaught by withdrawing US troops from border positions. Within two weeks over 180,000 people, including around 80,000 children, had been driven from their homes. By 20 November nearly 300,000 people had been expelled and over 700 killed. Trump said that Turkey ‘had to have it cleaned out’, referring to the predominantly Kurdish area adjacent to Syria’s border with Turkey. Trevor Rayne examines the background to the invasion.


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Kurds defend Rojava - oppose Turkey’s invasion

Turkey’s armed forces began bombing towns and villages in Rojava/north-east Syria on 9 October. They swiftly followed up with a land invasion, accompanied by mercenary auxiliaries. Turkey’s President Erdogan is using military force to establish a so-called ‘safe-zone’ 30km deep and 480km long (19 miles by 300 miles) inside Syria. This land is home to over three-quarters of a million predominantly Kurdish people. These people are to be killed or evicted from their towns and villages and replaced with over a million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Such a plan, if carried out, violates international law and will result in enormous violence. Within three days of the attack, tens of thousands of people are reported to have fled their homes and many civilians, including children, have been killed.


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Amnesty International calls the police

Supporters of Abdullah Ocalan occupy Amnesty International's offices lobby in London

On 26 April Amnesty International called Metropolitan Police officers into its London offices to remove Kurdish protesters and their supporters who were demanding that Amnesty issue a statement condemning the Turkish state’s treatment of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan. Amnesty International refuses to do this, even though Ocalan has been held in total isolation since 2011, contrary to national and international laws and conventions on the treatment of prisoners.


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Turkey’s local elections

Istanbul high street with poster of Erdogan

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdogan have been desperately trying to stop the Turkish lira falling ahead of local elections on 31 March. The lira fell steeply in 2018, forcing Turkey to raise interest rates to 24% to try and stop the drop; the world’s fourth highest rates. With the lira tumbling, inflation is now over 20% and food prices are rising at 30%. Consumption dropped by almost 9% in the last quarter of 2018. The unemployment rate is 13.5% and that for youth is 24.5%. Against this deteriorating economic and social situation, Erdogan and his government have resorted to bizarre and racist tactics to win the elections.


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Statement on the hunger strikes to end Abdullah Ocalan’s isolation

Leyla Guven

On 8 November 2018 Leyla Guven, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy for Hakkari and Democratic Society Party (DTK) Co-chair, began a hunger strike demanding the end of the isolation of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan has been held in prison on Imrali Island by the Turkish state for over 20 years. The last time he had a visit from lawyers was on 27 July 2011. Since then all his communications with the outside world have been prohibited, except for two very brief ‘proof of life’ meetings with his brother.  Thousands of political prisoners have now joined the hunger strike with the same demand. Three hundred and thirty-five prisoners in 67 prisons joined the hunger strike on different days since 16 December 2018. Thousands more people, inside and outside prisons, in Turkey, across Europe and elsewhere have declared that they would start their own irreversible and indefinite hunger strike since 1 March 2019. Three members of the Kurdish community in London have started a hunger strike. In Wales Iman Sis has, at the time of writing, been on hunger strike in Newport for 103 days. We demand that the British government and the European Council intervene with the Turkish government to stop the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan and that they send representatives to meet with him.    


Turkey: stop the Junta's atrocities!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 16, February 1982

The veritable flood of angry and indignant protests by imperialist politicians and journalists against martial law in Poland have served imperialism in more ways than one. At a recent press conference, US Secretary of State Haig refused to answer a question about US support of fascistic dictatorships in El Salvador and Turkey. Haig had to refuse to answer the question. For hand in hand with imperialist attacks on socialist Poland disguised as 'support' for 'human rights' and 'freedom' is imperialist support for fascist regimes in the oppressed nations installed to crush and destroy democratic anti-imperialist and socialist forces. So while imperialism, in pursuit of counter-revolution in Poland raises the false flag of 'freedom' it remains silent about the murder, torture and concentration camps in Turkey. One cannot expect anything else from imperialism. The article below, submitted to FRFI by the Turkey Solidarity Campaign, exposes the extent of barbarism which imperialism and its lackeys are concealing with layer upon layer of anti-socialist propaganda about Poland.


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Hunger strikes in Turkey – Leyla Guven released

Leyla Guven is released

Leyla Guven, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP and co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, began an indefinite hunger strike in a Diyarbakir prison on 8 November 2018. She is demanding an end to the isolation of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned on Imrali Island in the Sea of Marmara, close to Istanbul.  Leyla was released from prison on 25 January after 79 days of hunger strike, with an international travel ban, but said that her protest will continue in her home until Ocalan is able to meet regularly with his family and lawyers. Leyla has been joined on hunger strike by 44 other women prisoners across Turkey, and there are now around 250 prisoners on indefinite hunger strike. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) prisoners issued a statement on 26 January saying that their hunger strikes, that began on 16 December 2018, will continue until Ocalan’s isolation is ended. 


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Letter: a personal account of the Turkish repression of Kurds

Turkish police mobilise in Istanbul in 2015 as thousands protest over the death of Tahir Elçi

A Kurdish comrade in Britain relates his family’s harrowing experience of Turkish state repression at a protest over the death of Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi in 2015.

The history of us Kurds is rather the history of sorrows than festivals. It is only the Newroz Festival all Kurds look forward to every year with excitement and enthusiasm and even its story is covered with sorrow and tyranny.


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Turkey: Currency crisis set to intensify

Turkey’s currency crisis threatens to become an economic crisis which could in turn produce a political crisis for the Er­dogan regime. The Turkish lira has fallen 40% against the US dollar since February 2018. Despite President Erdogan railing against high interest rates as ‘the mother and father of all evil’, and claiming that they cause inflation rather than cure it, Turkey’s central bank was forced to raise its basic lending rate to 24% on 15 September. Five days later, the finance minister, Er­dogan’s son-in-law, announced spend­ing cuts of nearly $10bn. Erdogan then declared a ban on using foreign currencies for a number of business contracts and gave Turkish companies 30 days to convert foreign currency agreements into lira, but he did not specify at what rate. Erdogan blamed an international conspiracy against Turkey for the lira’s fall and the consequent measures his government has had to take, but the problems are embedded in the economy and are not confined to Turkey.


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Turkey: Erdogan’s rule is built on quicksand

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Following his victory in the 24 June 2018 election, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was inaugurated as President of Turkey on 9 July for a second term. He will assume dictatorial powers in what is described as a new ‘Presidential Governance System’, with a new constitution which gives parliament a reduced role, and the position of prime minister is abolished. Erdogan will be both the head of state and of government. He will be able to hire and fire ministers, set the government budget, issue executive decrees that become law, appoint senior civil servants, senior judges and university heads, all without parliamentary approval, and he will be able to dissolve parliament. These powers were proposed in the April 2017 referendum, which Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won in a fraudulent ballot. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Turkey’s elections: Erdogan seeks to pre-empt crisis

Theresa May and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

President Erdogan called snap parliamentary and presidential elections for 24 June 2018, nearly 18 months ahead of schedule. He intended to benefit from a surge in chauvinist sentiment following the capture of Afrin in northern Syria from the Kurds in March. Erdogan also sought to pre-empt the economic and political crisis converging on Turkey that will erase the electoral support that has kept his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in power since 2002. He may be too late.


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Turkey’s attack on Afrin

photo by peter marshall
Photo by Peter Marshall

On 20 January 2018 Turkey launched an unprovoked attack on Afrin in northern Syria when 72 Turkish jets bombarded towns and villages. This was followed with a ground invasion by the Turkish army and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) auxiliaries. By 26 January over 50 civilians were reported killed by Turkish shelling and air strikes. However, the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) mounted fierce resistance, inflicting casualties on the Turkish forces. Cigdem Dogu, of the Kurdistan Women’s Communities, warned that the war on Afrin would be Turkey’s Vietnam and end President Erdogan’s rule: ‘He has ordered his own death. It will be the will of the peoples who will fight and who will prevail, not his advanced technology.’


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Turkish state: international pariah

Photo: Freedom Committee for Nuriye and Semih

Since the 15 July 2016 failed coup attempt, the Turkish government has arrested, fired or suspended from work some 190,000 people. Approximately 50,000 people have been gaoled, including 13 People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MPs. Central government has taken direct control of 82 municipalities in predominantly Kurdish areas of Turkey, suspended democratically elected co-mayors and gaoled 90 of them on terrorism charges. About 40% of top Turkish generals and admirals have been removed from military service and 400 personnel taken out of NATO postings. Nearly a quarter of Turkey’s judiciary have been dismissed or detained. 178 journalists are in Turkey’s prisons and over 150 media outlets have been shut down. President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have enforced a dictatorship on Turkey.


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Political protesters in Turkey need urgent international support

Freedom For Nuriye and Semih Committee

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for nearly 120 days and need international support to highlight their struggle. They are among the more than 10,000 teachers, academics and others who were sacked from their posts by the viciously reactionary Turkish government as part of the repression which has been meted out ever since the failed coup of 15 July 2016.


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Turkey’s referendum: resistance is coming

turkey referendum
'No' voters have protested against the referendum result

That the opposition No vote gained almost half the votes cast in Turkey’s 16 April 2017 constitutional referendum, under conditions of fierce repression and blatant ballot rigging, should serve as a warning to President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Yes vote to grant Erdogan dictatorial powers was 51.4% and the No vote 48.6%. Erdogan lost in the big cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Diyarbakir and in the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions and the predominantly Kurdish south east. The Financial Times commented: ‘The new constitution will turn the president into a modern-day sultan, allowing him ample opportunity to complete his subordination of Turkey’s institutions…This is a tragedy for the country. Mr Erdogan offers discord, not reform or development’ (18 April 2017). Erdogan threatens not only the Turkish and Kurdish people but the entire Middle East and he will be confronted and brought down.


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Turkey’s referendum held in a climate of fear


Turkey’s President Erdogan is holding a constitutional referendum on 16 April 2017 in the midst of the most ferocious repression, in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation where anyone who dares to say ‘No’ to the proposed constitutional changes is branded a terrorist. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) want to change Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary system into a system that removes all checks and balances on the president’s powers and allows Erdogan to rule until 2029. The vote takes place as Turkish state forces are fighting a war against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The referendum is conducted after the United Nations reported that on 1 December 2016 ‘the [Turkish] authorities has detained or imprisoned more than a third of all journalists imprisoned worldwide on that day’.


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Erdogan is wrecking Turkey

Erdogan is wrecking Turkey
Turkish goverment temporarily bans all protest activities in capital Ankara.

On 21 January 2017, 339 out of 550 MPs voted in Turkey’s National Assembly for constitutional changes that are to be put to a referendum, to be held no later than the third week of April 2017. These changes are described as transforming the 94-year-old republic from a parliamentary to a presidential system; this misrepresents what will be the establishment of autocratic one-man rule.

The draft constitution, drawn up in secret by President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), removes all checks and balances on presidential power. If the electorate approves the changes, the president will be able to dissolve parliament at will, unilaterally declare states of emergency, appoint half of the top judges, all senior civil servants, heads of police, the military and university vice- chancellors. President Erdogan will be able to rule until 2029. The referendum will be held with ten opposition MPs from the Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in gaol on terrorism charges and 76 Kurdish co-mayors imprisoned. All critical media have been shut down or silenced by fear in Turkey. The referendum will take place against a background of the Turkish armed forces waging war against the country’s Kurdish population and conducting operations in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan and his allies will try and win support by accusing foreign powers of attempting to carve Turkey up and backing terrorist attacks. Turkey’s political and civil institutions are being hijacked. Meanwhile the British government gives Erdogan diplomatic and military support: Britain has sold Turkey £330m worth of weapons since 2015, including bombs, missiles, drones, helicopters and body armour. British Prime Minister Theresa May had no intention of raising his human rights abuses during her meeting with Erdogan in Ankara on 28 January; she agreed a new deal worth £100m for BAE Systems to design fighter jets for Turkey with Turkish Aerospace Industries, and May and Erdogan discussed future ‘security cooperation and counterterrorism’.


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Turkey turned into a war zone

turkey war zone

Turkey’s Kurdish areas have been turned into a war zone. Turkish jets are bombing Kurds and their allies in Syria. President Erdogan has claimed parts of Syria, Iraq and Greece for Turkey. Some 130,000 government workers, judges, soldiers, police, teachers and others have been dismissed from their jobs or arrested in Turkey since the failed coup of 15 July 2016; 37,000 people are detained without trial. In October, Erdogan extended the state of emergency, allowing him to rule by decree. Ten Kurdish MPs have been gaoled, over 30 mayors have been dismissed and gaoled. Thousands of Kurdish and Turkish members of political parties have been arrested. Torture and beatings are commonplace. Turkey holds more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. Scores of media outlets and hundreds of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been closed down. The scale of repression and warfare that the Turkish state is mounting threatens to escalate to the point that it over-reaches itself. Resistance is growing. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Turkey invades Syria: escalating war on Kurds

Rojava february2014

On 24 August 2016 Turkey launched an invasion of Syria with tanks, several hundred Turkish soldiers and 1,500 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The invasion force entered the town of Jarablus with US drones in attendance, feeding information to the Turkish forces. Turkey’s defence minister, Fikri Isit, said the intention was to degrade Islamic State (IS) and ‘prevent the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from uniting Kurdish cantons’. IS had controlled Jarablus for three years; it left the town without a fight. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) executive member Murat Karayilan explained, ‘IS evacuated the area between Jarablus and Azaz, so what is happening is an exchange rather than a military operation’; IS and the Turkish government made a deal.

Locals reported IS fighters travelling from Jarablus across the border to Turkey and donning FSA uniforms. As Hisyar Ozsoy MP, from the predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, put it, ‘This is not an operation to rescue the town of Jarablus from IS…This is an operation to rescue IS from Kurdish forces, who last week captured the town of Manbij and defeated IS.’ In the name of fighting IS, Turkey has escalated its war against the Kurds. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Coup attempt in Turkey: war on Kurds continues

turk beat reuters

The failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 demonstrates the fragility of Turkish society and has accelerated its descent into fascism and war. President Erdogan said the coup attempt was ‘a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army’. At the latest count some 60,000 people have been detained or sacked; soldiers, academics, journalists, judges, civil servants, teachers, anyone who opposed Erdogan’s government, is at risk of being accused of backing the coup. Captives have been paraded before cameras showing signs of beatings. Under the state of emergency declared on 20 July all constitutional constraints on the president have been removed. With a third of Turkey’s generals and admirals arrested and 2,745 judges, a quarter of the judiciary, sacked, the military and the courts will have difficulty functioning. As the Financial Times put it, ‘Turkey faces a risk of institutional collapse’ (22 July 2016). Trevor Rayne reports.


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The Turkish state, the Turkish working class, and the Kurdish revolution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 105 - February/March 1992

Republished as Chapter 3.3 in The New Warlords: from the Gulf War to the recolonisation of the Middle East, ed. Eddie Abrahams, Larkin Publications, 1994.

The Turkish working class and Kurdish oppressed masses are facing very conflicting tasks and dangers. Any analysis of the political conditions resulting from the general election in October 1991, of the policies of the newly established liberal-social democratic coalition must begin with an examination of the revolutionary dynamic of the labour movement in Turkey and the Kurdish resistance. MURAD AKIN, a member of a revolutionary organisation in Turkey (Gelenek), evaluates the newly developing trends in the class struggle in Turkey.


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