Category Archives: Turkey

Act NOW! Free jailed woman trade union leader

Act NOW!

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.

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Leyla Zana; A woman with an indomitable spirit sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Leyla Zana, a well know political advocate for the Turkish Kurds has been sentenced to two years imprisonment by a Turkish Court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir. The courts judgment said she violated Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law by making a speech at a Kurdish Nevruz Festival which took place in 2007, in which she said that Kurdish people had three leaders, the Iraqi Kurds Jalal Talbani and Massoud Barzani and the imprisoned leader of the PKK Abdullah Ocalan.*

Leyla Zana, a former member of the Turkish parliament for the mainly Kurdish, Democracy Party (DEP), said during her court hearing that she was being tried for her thoughts, which was something that brought shame on Turkish democracy. “It is a shame in the name of Turkish democracy that I have appeared before the judge for my thoughts.” The court, upon hearing Ms Zana’s five-page defense, ruled in favor of a two-year prison sentence in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Counter-terrorism Act for “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization.”

In 1994, after the DEP was banned under the same law that is now being used against Turkeys governing party the AK Party, her parliamentary immunity was lifted and she was sentenced with four other Democracy Party MPs to 15 years in prison, even though the prosecution relied on witness statements allegedly obtained under torture. She was recognized as a “Prisoner of Conscience” by Amnesty International and in 2002 a judgement in the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Turkey after a review of her trial. Despite this judgement it was not until 2004 that the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals eventually ordered that Leyla and her Co-accused be released from prison, and by that time she had served ten years in Jail.

Her indomitable spirit unbroken by her ten years of confinement as a political prisoner, on being released she immediately threw herself into human rights and political work. She became one of the founders of the Democratic Society Party, (DTP) which was a successor to a long list of banned Turkish/Kurdish political party’s.

* It is illegal in Turkey to mention favorably the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, (PKK) its leader and display flags and logos of that organization.


Filed under human-rights democratic-accountability, Kurds, Organized Rage, Turkey

Retired General Challenges Journalist To A Duel.

A retired Turkish Army General who disagreed with how a journalist has been reporting events has come up with a novel way of dealing with press criticism, although the action he decided upon does epitomizes a certain lack of tolerance within some circles of the Turkish establishment. After supporting in print the governments investigation into a ‘deep state’ organization which went by the name of the Ergenekon Group, Turkish Journalist Şamil Tayyar, who works for the Star newspaper and is based in Ankara came under a barrage of criticism from secular forces.

However for a recently retired army General by the name of Eslen, simply firing off a few critical words in an email would not give him the satisfaction he demanded, so he challenged Tayyar to fight a duel, Tayyar takes up the story.
“As soon as he mentioned a duel I thought he was out of his mind. Some close friends said that Eslen Pasha walks around carrying two weapons and challenges anyone who angers him to a duel; yet I assumed someone like that couldn’t possibly be a General, so I did not reply to him. But he then repeated his call the next day and said: ‘Are you scared? I asked you for a duel. My offer is still valid if you have the courage.’
“You see where the situation in the country is going and how people’s thoughts are poisoned. You talk about deep State gangs and you become a target,” Tayyar commented.

Indeed, or perhaps this is just another sign of the 19th Century mindset that I mentioned in yesterdays article? Mind you it is a novel way to remove ones critics and political opponents, if you are a good shot that is. Perhaps Ken Livingstone should challenge Boris Johnston to a duel as the sun comes up on London’s Hampstead Heath rather than trust his political fate to the electorate come May 1.

Or over in Ireland, where Squinter aka Robin Livingstone a columnist on Belfast’s Anderson Town News recently wrote a piece that took the smile of Gerry Adams face. Instead of sending his close advisers round to demand an immediate retraction and apology, perhaps Mr Adams should have sent his second Martin McGuinness along, glove in hand to gently slap the cheek of ATN publisher Máirtin O’Muilleoir and both men could have settled their differences at twelve paces pistols in hand, although I am not sure what John de Chastelain of the Arms Monitoring Commission might make of that.

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Filed under army, Deep-State, duel, Jean De Menezes, journalist, Organized Rage, Turkey

The ‘deep state’ and the Military’s acolytes have struck at the heart of Turkish democracy.

The Turkish ‘deep state’ and the country’s secular establishment, which includes the military’s officer corp, have struck back with some vigor after the Government led by Recip Erdogan, vowed to root out the ‘deep state;’ and passed legislation against the wishes of the Military which will enable pious young women to wear headscarfs when attending university. The chief prosecutor of the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals, Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, has applied to the Constitutional Court to have Erdogan’s Governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) closed down on charges of anti-secular activities. He described the AK Party as a “being a hotbed of anti-secular activities.” He has also asked the Constitutional Court to impose a five-year ban from involvement in politics on 71 senior AK Party members, including Prime Minister Erdoğan and the President of the Turkish Republic Abdullah Gül, plus a number of other AKP Parliamentarians.

What is happening in Turkey is a rerun of what became known as the ‘post modern coup’ of 1997, when the military and its close political allies removed the government and in the process used the Constitutional Court to ban the Welfare Party, [Refah] the forerunner of the AK Party and banned its then leader Necmettin Erbakan from all political offices and activities.

According to the Turkish daily newspaper Zaman, “AK Party members with backgrounds in law say their party differs radically from the RP [Refah] and the FP,[Islamic political party] which were both shut down over the same charges. They think the prosecutor’s indictment — which references to a speech by Prime Minister Erdoğan stating that the headscarf should not be banned in universities even if it is a political symbol and alcohol bans imposed by some AK Party municipalities as evidence for its anti-secularism allegations — does not make a strong case. These deputies say Yalçınkaya has made some serious legal errors in his indictment.

The indictment also lists amendments made to two articles in the Constitution to put an end to a nearly two-decade-old ban against the headscarf on university campuses. However, the two articles are being challenged legally at the Constitutional Court by the opposition. AK Party lawyers state that it would be impossible, technically, to shut down a party over articles about which a legal process is still under way. They also point out that the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which backed the constitutional amendments concerning the headscarf is not facing any charges; making their defense case even stronger.”

The latter point is very interesting as the right-wing MHP reached to an agreement with the AK Party over the headscarf ban so that it could pass through parliament, yet neither the party nor its leader Devlet Bahceli has been indicted before the Constitutional Court.

Any thought of banning the AKP should be opposed by all democrats; and we should not over look the fact that the legislation that is being used in this attempt to ban AK was first introduced by the government which came to power due to the brutal military coup of 1980. The AKP gained their mandate from the Turkish people just last year, when in the July General Election they received 46.6% of the vote, which gave the party 341 seats out of a total of 550 which are available in the Turkish Parliament.

To say it would be catastrophic for Turkey and its people were the Constitutional Court to ban the party would be an understatement, the very fact that the military and deep state have considered a rerun of the ‘post modern coup’ shows how much they fear democratic change and the opening up of the political process. Whilst most of us on the left believe the AKP government has been far to conservative, especially fiscally, there is little doubt it has been the most open and honest government that Turkey has seen for decades.

When undemocratic forces act in the aforementioned manner, the poem attributed to Martin Niemöller is well worth revisiting.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.


Filed under AKP., coup, democracy, EU, Europe, military, Organized Rage, Turkey

Turk’s must ask why so many young Kurds went into the mountains.

One of the more unpalatable things about the western world today, is the way mainstream politicians and the media turn into villain’s, people who in the second half of the twentieth century had the temerity to resist the inequality and oppression they faced in countries like Turkey, Ireland, Palestine and Lebanon. This is partially done by the refusal of both politicians and media to place these people and the organizations they belong to in their true historical context. There could not be a better example of this than the way the members of the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) are currently being portrayed, after the Turkish armed forces sent into northern Iraq two battalions of infantry, backed by air cover to hunt and kill PKK Peshmerga.*

No one expects leading western politicians to condemn their NATO allies the Turkish military, that is not the nature of the beast, but to simply blanket the PKK as psychotic terrorists as the European Union and the western media has done, hardly helps solve the problems of the inequality that the Kurds in Turkey have historically faced. Indeed it is almost implying that the Kurds who live within Turkey are responsible for there own oppression, if only they would break from the PKK and allow the Turkish army to remove it from the equation all would be well for the Turkish Kurds.

The reality of the situation is far more complex, for God did not ask one of his angels to swoop down in the night on the city of Diyarbakir and the surrounding region of Eastern Anatolia, whilst the people were asleep and sprinkle the place with looney dust; and the next morning when they awoke thousand of young Kurds walked into the mountains to become blood thirsty PKK terrorists.

The PKK was founded in 1984 and was able to recruit from the Kurdish working classes and peasantry because as a people they suffered great injustices and oppression; and saw the PKK as the means which would enable them to fight back. The Turkish State refused to recognize their ethnicity to such a degree that in government documents the Kurds were termed ‘mountain people’ and banned all Kurds from using their own language in all Turkish State institutions. Kurdish was banned in the schools, universities and the military and it is only in the last few years that these harsh laws were gradually being removed from the statute book.

Thus for a young Kurd who had experienced a boot on his/her neck, it was perfectly logical, if not patriotic to go into the mountains with the PKK, as they saw no viable means or democratic avenues open to them which would enable them to fight for their rights democratically. It was hard to argue against this fact, as time and again the various incarnations of the main Kurdish political party within Turkey have been closed down by the State, at the instigation of the military and right-wing politicians.

In recent times, change and democratic avenues were beginning to open up and blossom, the current Turkish government looked like it was prepared to go the extra mile in an attempt to bring the Kurds down from the mountain and into the democratic arena. At the last Turkish general election the Kurdish, Democratic Society Party, (DTP) by standing their candidates as independents was able to break through the 10% threshold which has for many years kept them out of the Turkish parliament, in the process gaining twenty-five MPs. Who then regrouped as the DTP’s parliamentary faction.

Most Kurds who live in Turkey, are war weary and welcomed the recent reforms and are willing to recognize and live in peace within the Turkish State, as long as they are given full equality within it; and allowed to express their ethnicity and cultural traditions openly without fear or sanction. The AK Party government in Ankara, who gained a sizable share of the Kurdish vote in the last general election was willing to go down this road, if cautiously, progress was being made.

This did not please many on the Turkish right and those within the military establishment who appear to be caught in a cold war time warp; and still view the Kurds as being in hoc to a communist devil incarnate the PKK. For a host of differing reasons the current crises exploded and brought the whole process to a stop. The Kurds and many on the Turkish left quite correctly understand that it is not enough to remove the contentious anti Kurd legislation, as welcome as that is. The PKK militants must be reintegrated back into Turkish society, after all it was the democratic deficit and misdeeds of the Turkish State which made them go into the mountains in the first place.

An amnesty of sorts has been offered in the past, but most Kurdish militants felt it was not worth the paper it was written on and few members of the PKK were willing to risk their future on it. In any-case to amnesty PKK militants as individuals will not solve the problem. What is needed is for the Turkish State to amnesty all those who are or have been members of the PKK and allow them to return to their homes as full citizens of the Turkish State. Those Kurdish militants who are currently within the Turkish prison system should also be released and allowed to return to their homes. In return for this over time the PKK should stand down and abolish all of it’s Peshmerga units and agree to commit in the future to solely democratic means.

* We are also seeing this in Ireland where almost daily Irish republicans are condemned in the Irish [and British] media for having refused to bend the knee to those who governed the sectarian northern Statelet in the 1960s. In Palestine and Lebanon, Hamas and Hezbullah are besmirched by western politicians, when their only real crimes has been to fight back against Israeli occupation and aggression and support the economically poor.


Filed under EU, Ireland, Kurds, Lebanon, media, Organized Rage, Palestine, resisting-oppression, Turkey

Turkish Army launches ground offensive in northern Iraq against Kurdish PKK.

Yet another unwelcome spin off from GW Bush and Tony Blair’s disastrous decision to invade and occupy Iraq began last night, when the Turkish Armed Forces began to move into northern Iraq in large numbers in search and destroy operations against the Kurdish PKK, who have been engaged in an armed insurgency against the Turkish State since 1984.

A military spokesman issued a statement on behalf of the Turkish General Staff, “A ground operation backed by the Air Force was launched at 1900, [1700 GMT on Thursday] the offensive began on Thursday evening, following shelling and aerial assaults against PKK targets in the region. After the successful bombing, a cross-border ground incursion backed by the Air Force started at 1900” (1700 GMT). The spokesman went on to say, “Two divisions of the Turkish Army, 10,000 troops had been sent into northern Iraq overnight as part of the land operation.

With this invasion of northern Iraq it seems the will of the Turkish military has finally prevailed over that of the AK Party led democratically elected government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who were hoping to avoid a military incursion with land forces across the Iraqi border. The rank and file of the AK Party along with many Turks have been taken by surprise by the General Staffs decision to invade northern Iraq at this time, as earlier this week Government Ministers were telling the media that due to the weather there would be no invasion until the early spring. Which they hoped would give Erdoğan enough time to reach and agreement with the PKK to come down from the mountains.

It is not the first time the Turkish military have launched a major land-force into northern Iraq with the aim of destroying the PKK, seven divisions of the Turkish army were sent into northern Iraq in 1995 and six in 1997, neither were successful in destroying the PKK. Most military analysts doubt the Turkish military will be any more successful this time, at best they can hope to disrupt the PKK chain of command and supply.

Not least because it is thought following recent Turkish military air strikes the PKK has withdrawn its fighters from their bases in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains and moved them across the eastern Iraqi border into Iran, whilst setting up small bases in the Sincar Mountains in northern Iraq. Unless the Turkish military has made some sort of agreement with their Iranian counterparts to expel the PKK fighters back across the Iraqi border, it is difficult to see how the current invasion will be any more successful than the previous two I mention above. Indeed for the Turkish Government it can only make a bad situation worse as past history has shown that any military incursion to attack the PKK in Iraq has acted as a recruiting sergeant for that organization.*

Photos above are of
1/ Map of where the Kurds live in the region.
2/PKK fighters
3/ Turkish troops in northern Iraq.


Filed under Democracy/Elections/democratic accountability/Turkey/Is, equality, GWBush, Northern-Iraq, PKK, Turkey, Turkish-army, war-crimes

Turkish Government lift ban on wearing headscarfs in universities

For the last two decades the Turkish State has come under attack from Civil Liberties Groups and NGOs for banning the wearing of headscarves on university campuses, within Parliament and other State institutions. These groups all saw this ban as a flagrant abuse of the human rights of Turkish women. However after the attacks on the twin towers within New York City the attitude towards the worlds Muslims has changed somewhat and hardly for the better. So when on Saturday last the Turkish Parliament withdrew from the statute book the law which enabled the banning of the wearing of headscarves in some of these State institution, far from there being universal acclaim much of the British and US media saw it as a cunning plot by the Turkish AK Party government to bring Islam into the classroom and on to the campus.

The constitutional reform package [which included the lifting of the headscarf ban] proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) passed into law, receiving 411 “yes” votes in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament. The new legislation was backed by one of the opposition parties who had previously opposed it, the right wing Nationalist Movement Party(MHP) and needed 367 votes to pass into law. Although the main opposition party the Republican People’s Party(CHP) voted against the legislation and according to Turkish media reports is expected to go to the Constitutional Court to challenge the vote of Turkeys elected parliamentarians to allow the wearing of headscarves on university campuses. The consensus amongst legal analysts is its unlikely that the court will nullify Saturday’s vote, as such a ruling would deal a harsh blow to the country’s democracy.

Whilst many of those who criticize Islam will claim the lifting of this headscarf ban is a step backwards, not an extension of women’s democratic rights, I am not convinced of their case, for as elsewhere in the Islamic world, the wearing of headscarfs in Turkey is more of a traditional and cultural matter and their banning undoubtedly restricted the ability of many young women, especially from the eastern part of the country to attend university.

It will be interesting to see if now that young women have been granted the right to attend university wearing a headscarf whether they continue to wear it. Or will the pull of their less religious or culturally contained peers pull them in another direction. What ever the outcome Turkey can hardly be condemned for allow a practice that is perfectly legal in all western nations.*

* The photos above are of a young Turkish woman and US movie actress Jennifer Lopez.


Filed under banning, headscarfs, Islam, Organized Rage, progressive politics, Turkey, women-liberation