Turkish government’s road to dictatorship

This video is called Turkey: Watch police unleash water cannon on anti-Islamic State protesters.

By Jean Shaoul:

Turkish government seeks new police state powers

21 October 2014

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is intent on giving sweeping new powers to Turkish security forces to clamp down on the pro-Kurdish protests sparked by its blockade of the Syrian border city of Kobani during its month-long siege by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In so doing, Erdogan has strengthened the security and military establishment whose power he has sought to curtail during the 12 years in office of his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

In addition, he has jeopardised relations with Turkey’s Kurdish community, who form 20 percent of the population, 19 months after initiating talks aimed at resolving the decades-long conflict. This is threatening Turkey’s domestic stability just as economic growth is grinding to a halt and unemployment is rising.

In 2013, the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan called for an end to the three decades-long civil war, abandoned his demand of Kurdish independence in favour of greater autonomy, and announced a ceasefire agreement with the government. But Öcalan has declared that the talks would be over without some progress in the negotiations by October 15 and if Kobani fell to ISIS.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, a proposed Homeland Security Reform Bill would “give the upper hand to the police” in the face of “widespread violence”, and “more space to resort to new tools and measures.” There will be harsher punishment for offenders damaging public property and demonstrators wearing masks to conceal their identities.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the new law treats the throwing of Molotov cocktails as a crime on a par with throwing bombs, since such weapons have been used to set ambulances and public buildings afire. He warned protesters against destroying water cannon trucks, a favourite tool of Turkish police in dispersing protests, saying, “We will buy five or 10 TOMAs [the Turkish acronym for water cannon trucks] for each TOMA destroyed.”

Opposition legislators denounced the new measures, saying they would turn Turkey into a police state. Pro-Kurdish MP Idris Baluken of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said, “This is like throwing gasoline on a fire… at a time when so many children are being killed by police on the streets.”

He added, “From now on, the police will resort to not only using shields but also guns, with an authority to kill.”

The new measures come in the wake of a week of nationwide “solidarity” protests by Turkey’s Kurdish population–called by the HDP and the PKK via social media–in which at least 35 people were killed and 360 wounded. … More than 1,000 people have been detained and curfews imposed in several cities.

While it was at first thought that protestors had died as a result of the security forces’ actions, it now appears that at least some of the deaths followed clashes between secular Kurds and the Sunni Islamist Kurdish group, Huda-Par, the successor organisation to Hezbollah (no relation to the Lebanese Hezbollah). Hezbollah was widely believed to have been trained and armed by the Turkish state, which unleashed them against the Kurds in south eastern Turkey, and to have been responsible for the unsolved murders of 500 Kurdish activists, writers, journalists and intellectuals in the 1990s.

Davutoglu said that Turkey will not allow its citizens to fight in Kobani whether they are pro-ISIS, supporters of the Syrian opposition, or pro-Kurdish groups. He attacked Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the HDP, for saying that “tens of thousands Kurdish youth” were ready to take on ISIS if the Turkish-Syrian border gates into Kobani were opened.

The fall of Kobani to ISIS would threaten the survival of the Syrian Kurdish autonomous region known as Rojava in the north and east of Syria, as it is located between two geographically isolated Kurdish areas along an east-west axis. The two remaining enclaves would find it difficult to resist ISIS, which would free up the Islamists to take the region north of Aleppo.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the YPG, which control Rojava, as an offshoot of the PKK. Having fought a 30 year war with the PKK over its demands for Kurdish independence, it fears that the PYD/YPG’s control of a relatively autonomous Syrian Kurdish region sets an example for the much larger Kurdish population in south eastern Turkey.

The AKP government had refused to relieve the blockade unless the PYD dissolves its self-ruling local governments in northern Syria, joins the largely ineffectual Free Syrian Army which has opposed minority rights in Syria and is under Turkish control, distances itself from the PKK, and becomes part of Turkey’s “buffer zone project” along the Syrian border.

The Davutoglu government now classifies both the PKK/YPG and ISIS as “terrorists,” after a recent shift, but it is, in effect, using ISIS against the Kurds. Indeed, one reason for Turkey’s previous sponsorship of ISIS as part of the military campaign to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad was to counter Rojava and Kurdish aspirations in Syria.

11 thoughts on “Turkish government’s road to dictatorship

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  3. Return to KCK operations?

    The “internal security reform” brought to parliament under the name of “freedom-security harmony” by the AKP regime raises concerns about the institutionalisation of the police-state, while the new wave of detentions and arrests of recent weeks has recalled the repression campaign that started in 2009.

    The “internal security reform” that was put on the agenda of the country by the AKP regime following the protests in solidarity with Kobane, has been harshly criticized by human rights activists. The so-called reform raises concerns about the possible threats that it creates for freedoms and the opposition forces.

    The government, on the other hand, claims that this “security” reform is to guarantee “basic rights and freedoms”.

    Meanwhile, the increasing detentions and arrests of the last weeks have been another source of concern. According to figures provided by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Efkan Ala, 1024 people were detained between 7 and 10 October alone, while 58 were formally arrested. Reports continued to come in the following days about detentions and arrests, while emergency law has de facto been imposed in many cities. These developments recall the KCK operations that started in 2009.

    On 30 March 2009, the then Kurdish party, DTP, had gained 100 municipalities in the local elections. Following the victory of the DTP, Turkey entered a new period. Two weeks after the elections the guerrilla movement declared a ceasefire once again. Immediately afterwards, even before 24 hours had passed, the most extensive wave of detentions in the history of the Turkish Republic was launched against the Kurdish movement.

    In the first wave of this repression campaign, which was claimed to be against the KCK, 72 people, including the vice chair of the DTP, were detained. 52 of them were arrested. On December 2009, the DTP was closed down.

    According to figures obtained from reports of human rights organisations and the Kurdish media, 603 of the 1 thousand 168 detained people were arrested in the KCK operations carried out in 2009 and 2010.

    In the same period, the “Oslo meetings” between the Turkish state and the Kurdish people’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, were also taking place for the resolution of the Kurdish problem. While the Oslo meetings were continuing, operations were also ceaselessly carried out.

    The meetings between the Turkish state and Abdullah Öcalan and the KCK lasted until the general elections in June 2011. Following the elections, the delegation of the state abandoned the meetings. The AKP, as the winner of the elections, broke off the Oslo meetings. Then came the full isolation of Öcalan. The lawyers of Öcalan were no longer allowed to visit him at Imralı.

    The witch hunt of the Ankara government against the Kurds and the failure of the Oslo meetings raised tensions. Thousands of people were put in prison after having been taken into custody in the raids carried out simultaneously in many places early in the morning.

    The new target was the Peace and Democracy Party, BDP, which was founded after the DTP had been closed down. On 4 October, 23 November and 8 December 2011, at least 366 people, including the executives of the BDP and many academics, were detained in operations against the BDP.

    Then, the same year, on 20 December, Kurdish journalists were targeted. The most massive detention operation against the press in the history of the Turkish Republic took place. 46 journalists were detained in one day, many of whom were later formally arrested.

    The list of the detained and the arrested in the repression campaign that started in 2009 was getting longer and longer. The mayors, deputies, journalists, trade unionists, academics, human rights activists, students and even children were sent to prison. Having eggs or books at home, wearing puşi (traditional Kurdish scarf), having dirty hands, having sweated or chanting a slogan were all accepted as sufficient evidence to be detained.

    According to the reports of human rights organisations, in the three years between 2009 and 2011, 27,503 people were detained on political grounds, and 6,444 of those were arrested. 2011, in which more than 12,600 people were detained, was defined by human rights organisations as the year of the institutionalisation of the police state.

    The ceasefire that the guerrilla movement had declared in April 2009 continued in all those years until the middle of 2011. The general elections in which Erdoğan again gained victory had taken place under the ceasefire. After the elections the ceasefire ended as the AKP regime that was becoming ever more authoritarian, continued the attacks. The first news of intense clashes came on 14 July. In a military operation in the rural area of Silvan against guerrilla forces maintaining ceasefire positions, 13 guerrillas were killed. While the witch hunt had continued against the Kurds and all oppositional segments of society in the urban regions, operations to destroy the guerrilla movement, called the “Tamil scenario”, was put into action. The Turkish state had made all its plans in order for the guerrillas not being able to come through the winter of 2011-2012.

    On the night of 28 December, Turkish aircraft massacred 34 children when they targeted the village of Roboski in the Uludere district of Şırnak. The attacks continued throughout the winter against civilians, politicians and the guerrilla forces. In the spring of 2012, the guerrilla movement launched the most extensive moves of the last 30 years against this campaign of repression and the operations aiming for liquidation.

    Within several months, the control of areas of some hundreds of square kilometres in the mountainous regions was taken by the guerrillas. The guerrillas changed their tactic of “hit-and- run” into “hit-and-stay”. The legend of the “undefeatable Turkish army” was left in tatters.

    This period of the repression campaign and the strong response of the guerrillas against it continued until the historic call by Öcalan in March 2013.

    Source: ANF – NEWS DESK 30-10-2014


  4. Russian citizen executed by ISIS
    ANF – MOSCOW 28-10-2014

    A Russian engineer Sergey Gorbunov was executed by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization, The New York Post reported.

    “Sergey Gorbunov was dragged out of his cell and shot to death this past spring,” the newspaper said.

    The last video with the Russian engineer was published by the extremists in October 2013. “They treat me well, give food, but if in five days I’m not exchanged for Khalid Suleiman from Saudi Arabia… then I will be killed. I appeal to the President of Syria, Russia, to the Red Cross … I am very afraid,” Gorbunov said in the video.

    The jihadi group has already released a number of videos showing the execution of foreign citizens. Among the IS victims are American reporter James Foley, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and British aid worker Alan Henning.

    Source: ANF – MOSCOW 28-10-2014


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