We Face This Land

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Act NOW! Free jailed woman trade union leader

Act NOW!
Turkey:

Ms. Meryem Özsögüt, trade union leader and management board member of PSI’s affiliate SES in Turkey (the trade union of public employees in health and social services) was arrested on the morning of 8 January following her participation in a press conference on 14 December 2007 to denounce the killing by the police of activist Kevser Mizrak. Ms Özsögüt’s attendance at the press conference was the result of a fax message received by her trade union, requesting that the union participate in the press conference. PSI understands that at no time before or during this press conference did the police or other authorities issue a warning that such a gathering or activity was viewed as ‘illegal. Several other people who were arrested at or around the same time as Ms Özsögüt, ostensibly for the same reasons, have since been released.

However, Ms Özsögüt remains in custody and her trial has now been postponed several times. PSI remains convinced that the arrest of Ms Özsögüt was motivated solely by her activities as a trade union leader. Her continued detention in one of Turkey’s notorious “F-Type”, or small group isolation prisons, is further evidence of the Turkish Government’s hostility to trade unionists and its determination to use whatever means at its disposal to repress the legitimate activities of trade unions in Turkey. A response by the Turkish government to PSI’s letters of protest claims that Ms Özsögüt was arrested in connection with “being a member of a terrorist organisation” and “for making propaganda in favour of the terrorist organisation”. PSI calls on the Turkish government to secure the immediate release of Ms Özsögüt, to take any necessary steps to guarantee her safety and to abide by the international norms ratified by Turkey.

Please sign Petition etc here,
http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=394

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Ally Campbell and Kenny Livingstone scratch each others back’s..

Yesterday [Mon 30/6] I tuned in to London’s LBC to listen to the city’s former Mayor Ken Livingstone making his debut on his new radio show. To my horror his first guest was Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former press secretary and a man who played a major role in drawing up the ‘dodgy’ dossier that Blair used to justify taking Britain to war against the Iraqi people.

 

In the past Livingstone has on more than one occasion described this invasion as a war crime, yet here he was all pally with one of its main architects as far as taking Britain into this war was concerned. Did he storm into Campbell, did he rip the scum bags political heart out, not at all? The two men spent a large part of the program comparing notes on just how wicked the Journalist Andrew Gilligan is, it seems both men have suffered from Mr Gilligan’s pen and regard him as the devil incarnate, never mind that they were both major political players at the time thus fair game.

 

Once they had finished bad mouthing Gilligan, who I hold no brief for, I thought Red Ken would get onto the Iraq war, but no, all he did was allow Campbell make a self serving statement about back then he and Blair were responding to the information before them; and people should take into account that 9/11 had just occurred. Never mind that Campbell along with his pliable pals in the security services had a hand in drafting the very documents he now uses to absolve himself with. Rather than remind him of this fact Livingstone felt it was more important to tell his listeners that he and Campbell both enjoy Jack Breil, the singer, to end the interview he allowed Campbell to reinvent himself as a charity campaigner.

 

In an hour long program, which is billed as a phone in, only five calls were taken from members of the public, which to my mind tells me that most callers were hostile to Campbell and LBC researchers refused to put them on air, yet one caller did get put on air to tell Kenny and Ally how she too loves the music of Mr Breil.

 

Now I realize some readers of Organized Rage will be feeling smug and may not be able to resist telling me “I told you that Ken was an arsehole when you wrote that Londoners should vote for him.”  Whilst I do not regret doing the aforementioned I have to say I was shocked and sickened by his groveling behavior towards Campbell. 

 

But it goes further than that, for me what the broadcast once again highlighted was the incestuous nature of the UKs political elite, when push comes to shove their loyalty seems to be towards each other not the electorate. The media plays a part here, time and again we have seen failed, rejected or corrupt politicians, after their exposure or downfall being given a birth in the media to reinvent themselves. This is just what Campbell was doing on Livinstone’s Radio show as indeed was the latter himself. Michael Portilllo was another example, sent packing by the electorate who breathed a sigh of relief that they had seen the last of him, only to find the guy is back in their living room via the TV only weeks later.

This is how the British political system works, whilst in office brown envelopes are not prevalent, politicians do favors for powerful forces when in office and the payback comes when they are out. Whether it is former Prime Ministers being given millions of pounds dressed up as a book deal, or speaking tour, or those like Campbell and Livingstone who operated further down the food chain being given the chance to reinvent themselves as broadcaster or charity workers. What ever way you look at this it looks like corruption to me all be it corruption without the brown envelopes.

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A new start is needed for Europe: The European Left chart a way forward



Below is a Declaration of the Party of the European Left [EL] in which it charts a way forward for the EU after the Irish people rejected the Lisbon treaty, making it null and void. Member Parties of the EL are socialist, communist, red-green and other democratic left parties of the member states and associated states of the European Union. (EU) They work together and establish various forms of co-operation at all levels of political activity in Europe, based on the agreements, basic principles and political aims laid down in the EL Manifesto. Membership to the EL is open to any left party and political organisation in Europe that agrees with the aims and principles of the EL Manifesto and accepts the EL statutes.

MH

The victory of the NO in Ireland is a chance for Europe. It must be seized.

The treaty of Lisbon cannot, and will not, be implemented. It was to be ratified by the 27 countries and the Irish people decided that their country would not do it. The will of the leaders of the European Union, affirmed by the Council of June 19, to continue the ratification process, by pressuring Ireland until it changes opinion, does not have any sense. There is no outcome, neither legal nor political, for this treaty.

The question put today thus consists in an alternative: either stagnation in the crisis or a new departure for Europe, starting from the opinion expressed by its people.

Indeed we need to draw the conclusions owing to the fact that, all these last years, as soon as the possibility was offered to the European people to express themselves about the destiny of Europe, they, starting from their experiment, refused to ratify the policies and the design of the European Union as they are currently proposed to them.

The Irish people are not isolated. On the contrary, they became the interpreter of the other European people to which their governments refused the right to decide by referendum. Their vote confirmed and prolonged the French and Dutch NO of 2005 by rejecting once again the policies of precarisation, pressures on wages and social rights, of attacks against public services, and alignment on NATO. It is indeed a call to real changes in Europe. As the watchword of the opponents to the treaty affirmed: “Say NO to this treaty for a better treaty”. It is the question which is raised from now on.

The French Presidency will start on July 1. The European Left proposes that instead of continuing with the arrogant and the blind way of the leaders of the European Union, it is the occasion for the decisions be to the height of the reality which has just been created: to stop from now on the ratification process of a null and void treaty and to open at large the construction of a new treaty for the European Union.

So that it finally corresponds to the aspirations and needs of the people, this new treaty must rest on other bases than the neoliberal and militaristic ones that were at the heart of the rejections of the successive past treaties. It must be elaborated in a completely new way for the European Union, by a democratic and popular process, ratified by referendum in each and every country. The next elections for the European Parliament must also be a moment of clarification concerning the different positions on the future of Europe. A new text will have to be ratified through referendum in every country. We propose for this purpose, without waiting, initiatives to be taken in order to undertake the work on this treaty. It should be elaborated in association between the European Parliament and the National Parliaments, starting from consultations of the citizens to make their requirements known.

Immediately, deep changes in the social, economic, monetary, environmental, and defence policies are essential. In opposition to this necessity, Nicolas Sarkozy affirms his willingness to keep the course of the “four priorities” which he had himself fixed when imagining that the adoption of “his” Lisbon treaty would be just but a formality. The continuation of the energy and transport public services’ dumping in place of a coherent energy and climatic policy, the shame directive as immigration policy, alignment on NATO as defence policy, orientations compatible with the WTO as agricultural policy… All these decisions are going against the requirements for a social, democratic, ecological, feminist Europe, as factor of peace and solidarity in the world. A Europe of peace and solidarity is more than ever what is needed as an exit to the current crisis.

Together, with all the forces, all those that wish it, let us work to this new departure for Europe.

Paris, June 20, 2008.

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Islam and the left in Turkey.



Below is a first rate analyses written by Ron Marqulies of where the Turkish left stands as far as Islam is concerned and the rise of the AK Party. It highlights the similarities between the AKP and New Labour. Unlike NL, which has been the parliamentary vehicle for some of the most reactionary legislation to become law in the UK since the 19th century, the AKP whilst implementing a neo liberal economic program, has also passed a platform of progressive legislation through the Grand Assembly and in 2003 [finally] resisted G W Bush’s demands that Turkey be used as a bridgehead to invade Iraq.

Margulies clearly believes that a section of the Turkish left has come down on the wrong side of the argument over the AKP; and in doing so has ended up in the camp of the military and Turkish deep state. With the constitutional court due to give its judgment over whether to ban the AKP, and 71 of its leading members from active politics. Which will undoubtedly shake Turkish democracy, such as it is, the article gives the readers a fair idea of how we are where we are. *

MH

The General Elections, Islam and the left in Turkey.
By Ron Margulies

Are Islamist movements ‘radical’ or ‘ultra-conservative’? A so-called “Islamic” party has just been elected with nearly 50% of the vote in Turkey. It is in no way “ultra-conservative”. It is, of course, conservative on such issues as the economy, the family, social mores, etc., but no more so than Blair and less so than Bush. Because it comes from a non-Kemalist, non-nationalist, Islamist tradition and because a part of the Kemalist state machine (with the social democrats as its political voice and the westernised, urban middle class as its social base) uses the language of anti-imperialist nationalism to attack this party, the party has positioned itself as neither anti-imperialist nor nationalist. Moreover, because it is able to mobilise mass electoral support from the rural and urban lower classes (including the working class) on the basis of its relaxed and tolerant attitude to Islam (but no more than that), it is able to stare the Kemalist state down (while taking care not to provoke a military coup) and take steps which are perhaps not “radical” but certainly “progressive” in reforming the state: reducing the role of the military, resolving the Kurdish and Cyprus issues, allowing the issue of the Armenian genocide to be discussed, introducing less restrictive legislation in a range of areas (in part to meet the requirements of EU accession, but not just for that reason).

Further to complicate matters, the implementation of these reforms is the demand not of any mass movement from below, but of the bulk of the ruling class. Thus, we have an “Islamist” party implementing the neo-liberal package to the letter, while, as part of the same package, carrying out quite far-reaching reforms, and doing both with the support of big business. And it is, all the time, attacked by the military, the social democrats and much of the left as “reactionary”, “secretly fundamentalist” and “ultra-conservative”; not because of its neo-liberalism, but because of its imaginary Islamism.

This has had two crucially important effects over the past five years, since the AKP government was first elected in 2002.

Firstly, the government’s neo-liberal policies (privatisation, “reform” of the health and social security systems, etc.) have remained unopposed in parliament, where the only other party, the social democrats, have appointed themselves the guardians of “the secular republic” and brought this issue (laicism) to the fore at the expense of all others. Given that the government did nothing which could be construed as even vaguely Islamic, the social democrats’ shrill screams about the grave dangers posed by an “Islamic” government carried no weight at all with the population at large. If anything, in a country where a majority of the people consider themselves to be (not “Islamists”, but) Muslims, it created a perception of the government as being unjustly attacked and made people look upon it with more sympathy than they might have done. Add to this the fact that the economy has grown every single month for the past five years and that the industrial struggle has been practically non-existent (with trade union membership halved over the past 20 years), and there has effectively been no fightback against neo-liberalism either in parliament or in the workplace/street.

Secondly, the very fact that there is an “Islamic” government in power, the fact that this government has shown a willingness to resolve the Kurdish, Cyprus and Armenian issues, the fact that the EU is pushing for the political role of the military to be curtailed (among other things) and for minority (Greek, Armenian, Jewish, as well as Kurdish) rights to be recognised have all combined to act as a red rag to the bull of the Kemalist establishment. As a result, there has been a backlash, a concerted effort from the top to whip up nationalism and to portray all efforts to reform the state as “betraying Kemal’s legacy”, “destroying the indivisibility of the state and the country”, “selling the country out to the US and the EU”, “giving in to the US project for a new Middle East and/or going along with the US project of promoting moderate Islam”.

There have been a number of well-organised peaks to this backlash: the court cases against famous authors and journalists (most notably Orhan Pamuk) for “insulting Turkishness” (in Pamuk’s case this consisted of saying that 30.000 Kurds and one million Armenians had died in Turkey); the bombing of a bookshop in a Kurdish town, with two low-ranking army officers later charged; the assassination of Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink in broad daylight, with pictures later published of his assassin in the police headquarters where he was held, posing in front of a Turkish flag and a poster of Kemal Atatürk, next to two policemen, with a cigarette in his hand; the murder of a Catholic priest in the Black Sea town of Trabzon and three Turkish Protestants in a southern town (with an accompanying furore about “missionary activities” – a furore whipped up by nationalists, not Islamists!); several attacks on Kurds in Turkish towns; hugely hyped-up funerals for Turkish troops who die in the war with the PKK; endless pronouncements on political issues by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, including one where he said “Anyone who refuses to say ‘How happy is he who is a Turk’ (a saying by Kemal) is an enemy of the state and will remain so”; and finally the huge meetings to “Defend the Republic”, each of them a sea of Turkish flags, with barely disguised calls from the platform for a military takeover.

All of these things have been organised officially, semi-officially or official-but-clandestinely by what is widely called “the deep state” in Turkey. In fact, there is nothing “deep” about it. At one end it consists of murky organisations with links to both the secret services and the youth organisations of the two fascist parties, but at the other end it goes all the way to the very un-deep Chief of Staff.

What has been happening for the past five or more years, in a nutshell, is that the Kemalist state (with the military and the bureaucracy to the fore) and its appendages (the media, the academic establishment, etc.) have been defending themselves vigorously against what they rightly perceive (but exaggerate) as an attack on all the sacred cows of Kemalism and on their power.

They are fighting a losing battle, unless the military take power directly, which seems to be unlikely in the near future (it is unlikely – though it cannot be ruled out completely – because legitimising a coup against a government which has just got 47% of the vote would be well nigh impossible). Indeed, they are fighting a losing battle even if the military do take power directly, because the ruling class wants to join the EU (and is prepared to do the necessary to that end), and wants to see the Kurdish, Cyprus and Armenian issues resolved (the festering issues bring them no gain, their resolution would bring profits). The relationship between the ruling class and the military (and the state generally) is always mediated, and in Turkey it is more mediated than most, with the military sometimes acting as if its interests were completely separate from those of the ruling class. Never the less, the ruling class will, in the end, get its way.

However, in fighting this losing battle, and fighting it viciously, they have ensured that the fault line in Turkish politics is not neo-liberalism, and not the war in Iraq, but nationalism, racism, the role of the military, Islam and democracy. That is what exercises, excites and mobilises everyone; that is what the general election was fought over; that is what a military coup, if it happens, will happen over. The single most striking mass mobilisation ever in this country took place in January this year when 250,000 people marched behind Hrant Dink’s funeral hearse, carrying small placards which read “We are all Armenians”. No one even imagined that the march would be even one-tenth as big, and no greater blow could be dealt to the official ideology of the Turkish state.

The run-up to the general election

The elections were normally due in November. An early election was sparked off, however, when the government was prevented from getting its preferred candidate elected state president in April. Prime Minister Erdoğan had long said that he would be the next president. As the president is elected by parliament and Erdoğan enjoyed a comfortable parliamentary majority, he would have no trouble getting elected. This had been a simmering problem ever since Erdoğan announced his presidential intention. For two reasons: the presidential palace was seen by the Kemalists as their last bulwark unsullied by Islam (the president is not a simple figurehead, but enjoys considerable powers of veto and appointment of state officials), and Erdoğan’s wife wears a headscarf (“We will not have a woman wearing a headscarf in the presidential palace!” they screamed!).

When push came to shove, Erdoğan took a step back (as he has carefully done for five years) and put forward not himself but the Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. This was obviously a miscalculation or crossed wires in Erdoğan’s talks with the military. He thought Gül would be acceptable; he was wrong. Parliament voted for Gül’s presidency, the social democrats took the matter to the Constitutional Court (claiming that there was no quorum of two-thirds in the house during the vote), the military issued their e-memorandum warning about the dangers of Islam and threatening to act, and the Constitutional Court ruled Gül’s election invalid (although no previous president had had the two-thirds quorum!)

It is important to point out that both the memorandum and the Constitutional Court’s ruling were widely seen by the population (and even by much of the usually slavish media) as undemocratic, and unfair on Gül. As for the “threat” of headscarves in the presidential palace, this is a complete non-issue for the overwhelming majority of the population who either wear headscarves or cannot give a damn about who does and who doesn’t.

The failure to elect the president triggered off an early general election.

The general election of 22 July

The electoral system, a very democratic version of proportional representation, is rendered utterly undemocratic by a 10% national threshold designed to keep the Kurds out. In the last elections in 2002, the threshold kept out not only the Kurds, but all parties except for two, the AKP and the social democratic CHP. The fact that AKP had a huge parliamentary majority with only 34% of the national vote was a stick frequently used to beat it, although, of course, they were not the ones to introduce the threshold (it was brought in after the military coup of 1980).

The election campaign period was short and sharp, with the battle lines very clearly drawn. Three parties were expected to break through the threshold, and they did: AKP, CHP and the fascist MHP.

AKP, assured of its victory, ran a relatively low-key campaign based on its record. By contrast, CHP continued what it had been doing for the previous five years, running a rabidly nationalist, anti-Islam, alarmist, scare-mongering campaign. One of their full-page newspaper ads was typical: it showed Erdoğan with his hands up (he was saluting a crowd, but it also looked like the gesture for surrendering) and under his picture were the words “The government’s approach to the PKK”. Many leading CHP supporters, in the media and elsewhere, argued that people who did not want to vote for the “left” (meaning the CHP!) should vote for the fascists, so that the two parties could form a coalition to keep AKP out and “defend the republic, the nation and the state”.

None of this had any effect on a population which has repeatedly indicated that it does not see Islam as a threat of any kind at all, is sick and tired of the fighting in the Kurdish provinces, and does not approve of the military interfering in politics. This is not left-wing wishful thinking. It was proved once again when the combined vote of the four rabidly nationalistic parties (CHP, MHP and two smaller parties) went down slightly, while AKP’s went up from 34% to 47%. It should be noted that in the face of the nationalist assault on it, AKP largely resisted what must have been a strong temptation to play the nationalistic card itself and thus pull the rug from under its opponents’ feet.

The Kurds and the left

In the 2002 elections, the Kurdish Party (DTP) polled 6% of the vote nationally and, because of the 10% threshold, got no members of parliament in spite of the fact that it had a clear majority in many Kurdish areas. There was no doubt that they would get about the same vote this time, or even lose some votes to AKP. This is indeed what happened.

The parties of the left are ÖDP (the Freedom and Solidarity Party, a radical, centrist, non-marxist organisation with, of course, many marxists in it), EMEP (the Labour Party, ex-pro-Albanian, stalinist and somewhat Kemalist), the Workers Party (ex-pro-Peking, stalinist and rabidly Kemalist, frequently calling for a military coup to defend the “Republic” against Islam and Kurdish separatism), and TKP (the Communist Party, stalinist and rabidly Kemalist; their newspaper Communist was re-named Patriot a few months before the elections), and SDP (the Party of Socialist Democracy, which seems to have no politics other than to support the Kurds). In 2002, ÖDP, the Workers Party and TKP all got less than one half of 1%. EMEP and SDP joined an electoral pact with the Kurdish party and contributed next to nothing to the Kurdish vote. The rest of the left includes a large variety of stalinist groups arguing for armed struggle (rural or urban) but no longer able to put their theory into practice.

For many months before the election, the idea became widely discussed that the only way the 10% threshold could be circumvented was to put up independent candidates (the threshold only applies to parties). So, for example, the Kurdish party could put up its candidates not as party candidates but as “independents”, everyone would know who these were, DTP would publish a list saying “these are the candidates we support”, they would win in several Kurdish areas and go to parliament. If, on the other hand, they stood as party candidates, they would be ruled out even where they got the majority of the vote, because the party had not got 10% nationally. The same would apply to left candidates who stood not in the name of their party but as “independents”.

In the end, this is what happened:

The Kurdish party put up “independent” candidates, both in the Kurdish areas and in a number of big cities where there is a sizeable Kurdish migrant population. They needed to get 20 MPs elected in order to get a parliamentary ‘group’ (having such a ‘group’ gives you more frequent speaking rights, etc.). In spite of various shenanigans by the state, they succeeded in getting 22 Kurdish members of parliament elected. The 10% threshold is dead in the water.

The Kurdish party also put on the list of “the candidates we support” the chairmen of EMEP and ÖDP, and the honorary chairman of SDP. The EMEP leader was put up in Izmir (a Kemalist stronghold) and lost miserably, getting a smaller vote than the Kurds had in 2002. The SDP honorary chairman (in fact a semi-detached member of the party and former head of the Human Rights Association) was put up in Diyarbakir (where the Kurds could put up a tree trunk and win) and won. He is now part of the DTP ‘group’ in parliament.

The ÖDP chairman, Ufuk Uras, is a rather different story. He is also somewhat semi-detached, a member of the anti-war and social forum movements in spite of his party, strongly anti-nationalist in spite of his party, and deeply unpopular among a certain section of his party. Thus, while he was on the DTP list, he was widely and rightly perceived as being different from all the other DTP-list candidates, his campaign mobilised very many new, young and unaligned people. He won, with nearly 80,000 votes, on the Asian side of Istanbul. And he has not joined the DTP group in parliament.

There was one other truly independent candidate, Baskin Oran, a prominent, left-wing professor with a high profile and a broad appeal, who stood on the European side of Istanbul. He was put up by a group of people on the left, but mostly not members of any organisation, including trade unionists, lecturers, journalists, etc. These people shared the view that the candidate should have an appeal beyond the narrow socialist left, that support should be sought from the DTP but that the candidate should not be part of the DTP “list”, that an eye should be kept on the possibility of turning the election campaign (particularly if successful) into something more permanent.

The campaign for Baskin Oran galvanised and rejuvenated everyone on the left and beyond. Countless numbers of people new to active politics who wouldn’t touch the existing organisations with a barge pole took part in the campaign. Everyone was talking about what to do/create/build after the election.

After promising support for Oran, DTP broke their promise (for their own reasons) and stood their own “independent” candidate against him. As a result, neither Oran nor the DTP candidate won, but Oran got a very respectable 31,000 votes.

The Uras and Oran campaigns, one on each side of the Bosporus, were necessarily separate, but worked quite closely together, with the two men often appearing on each other’s platforms. The two candidates/campaigns were widely perceived as a “package” and seen not only in Istanbul but across the country as something new, different, exciting and promising. (The Baskin Oran website, for example, received as many messages of support from outside Istanbul as it did from his own electoral area). Nobody confused this package with any of the large variety of other “independent left” candidates put up by countless small organisations (all of whom got laughable votes).

With Uras now in parliament and the Oran campaign deciding to keep its election office and website open, the very real possibility has been created of a new political formation emerging from the two campaigns, perhaps very roughly along the lines of Respect in Britain or the Left Party in Germany. Both the people at the centre of the campaigns and the people on the ground are constantly discussing this possibility. It will not be immediate and it will not be easy, but it is now a realistic hope.

In the meantime, the government, strengthened by its thumping election victory, will proceed with its neo-liberal programme, making it even more necessary for a new left to emerge which can fight the government on the real issues rather than the imaginary threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

*This article first appeared on International Socialism web site—- http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=390

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Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, was a left alternative ever on the cards?

If ever there was a clearer example of why no politician should be allowed to serve more than eight years in office, it is Robert Mugabe, it was clear from his early days that this was a man upon whom power was never going to sit lightly. Never the less most of us on the left welcomed his victory in the election that followed the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement.[LHA] Sadly we were to be bitterly disappointed and watched helplessly as he gradually moved against all progressive opposition forces which had emerged from the national liberation struggle. Although in truth the signs were there from day one when the only other viable pole of political influence within ZANU, General Josiah Tongogara was killed in a mysterious car crash just four days after the LHA had been signed.

At first Mugabe moved against his opponents, real or imagined by either co-opting them into government or out maneuvering them into the political wilderness. However between 1983 and 1985 he ordered the Zimbabwean armies 5th Brigade into Matabeleland and the Midlands regions of Zimbabwe, resulting in the death of over 5000 people belonging to the Ndebele who had supported Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU during the liberation struggle. From that day on the die was cast.

Stephen O’Brien has an interesting article on the opposition forces within Zanu here http://links.org.au/node/481
whilst it is not perfect as it has some glaring gaps in the narrative it is worth a read.

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Turkish Diva Bulent Ersoy’s travails, highlights the contradictory and fascinating country that is modern Turkey.


Imagine that just after British troops had invaded Iraq, two of the juror’s on the hit UK TV show the X Factor had the following on air exchange,

Sharon Osborne –“Current wars are decided at tables and if I had been able to give birth, I would not send my son to fight in a war. These wars are not like ones in the past. It is all decided by people sitting at tables and deciding that some boys should die.”

Dannii Minogue — “I would be proud to be a soldier’s mother and if it were the boy’s destiny to die for his country, I would gladly pay that price.”

Sharon Osborne –”These are cliché words, but at the end of the day, boys go to the military and die and the tears follow. I don’t agree with you.”

I expect most readers would say such a thing could never happen in the UK as the plug would have been pulled; and in any case people like Sharon Osborne and Ms Minogue are picked to appear in these type of TV programs because they are a safe pair of hands, despite being portrayed as being near the edge in reality they are nothing of the sort.

Whilst such an exchange is unlikely ever to occur on live TV in the UK, it did happen in Turkey and one of the jurors involved is now before a Turkish court with a four year prison sentence hanging over her head.

It is worth looking at this matter in some detail as behind it lays much of what makes Turkey such a fascinating and contradictory country. By the 1980s, Bulent Ersoy, the lady who fills the Sharon Osborne role in the Turkish TV hit show Popstar Alaturka, was already one of Turkey most popular male singers and actors, his popularity could be compared with Cliff Richard in the UK, like Cliff, Ersoy also had his own TV show. Then in 1981 he had a full sex change operation, becoming Bulent Ersoy, female singer and actress.

This was shortly after the military coup led by General of Kenan Evren, in the crackdown that followed the General taking power, gay and transgender people where accused of “social deviance,” and Ersoy’s public performances were banned along with those of other openly gay, transsexual and transgendered people.

After failing to be legally recognized as a women Ersoy went to Germany to continue her career. Finally, in 1988, the Turkish civil code was revised and she returned to Turkey to claim her pink for female ID card. Ersoy soon returned to the Turkish stage to great acclaim, and her adoring fans seemed to love her all the more, she became more popular as a woman entertainer than she had been as a man. Her fans and the Turkish people as a whole even took to calling her affectionately “Abla,” elder sister in Turkish.

Semi retired by the turn of the century and regarded by many Turks as a great Diva, she became one of the judges on the hit TV show Popstar Alaturka, which is based on countless similar shows on European and US TV. It was during a live transmission of this show that she had the above quoted conversation with a fellow juror. That at the very same time the Turkish army was conducting a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq pushed her comments further into the public spotlight.

That some 40,000 people have died since the conflict with the PKK began in 1984 was not mentioned by her critics and after the Istanbul state prosecutor launched an enquiry, she has been charged with “making the public detest military service,” a crime under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and is due in court soon.

So there you have it, a macho male population, a defiant and brave woman who has triumphed over adversity, a much loved diva and artist, homophobic and transgenda prejudice, censorship, the secret state; and millions of Turk’s who simply love the woman as they believe she sings like an angel; and contradictions galore. As I said at the top of this piece, what a fascinating and contradictory country.

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