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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 July 2001

Solidarity with Turkish political prisoners

THE CURRENT economic crisis in Turkey adds to the horrific repression already suffered by the Turkish and Kurdish people.

Keith Pattenden

Turkey's 'civilian' government has a vicious record of repression against internal opposition and has continued its ruthless war against the Kurds.

Over 10,000 political prisoners, opposition activists, trade unionists and Kurdish freedom fighters are held in inhuman conditions.

Last December, the military crushed a protest by the prisoners against the introduction of 'F'-type prisons, which are portrayed as a modernisation of prison conditions.

In fact, the new prison regimes limit free association and include the routine use of solitary confinement and torture to break the prisoners. 30 prisoners were killed during this crackdown.

The prisoners are presently conducting a hunger strike, a 'death fast', against their conditions, in which over 50 have died to date. Some are serving 100-year sentences with no hope of remission.

Meanwhile, Turkish workers and poor peasants face an unremitting attack on their living standards as the economy goes into deeper crisis. Since the collapse of the currency in February over 500,000 jobs have been lost. The economy faces an even deeper recession than that after the crash of 1997. And this is before the effects of a more generalised world downturn are felt.

There was already widespread discontent among Turkish people before this latest turn of events. The government has been swallowing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'medicine' for some time and is also preparing for entry to the European Union. All of this has meant cuts in state spending, retrenchment and privatisation.

Workers' action

Anger against the measures led to mass protests by workers and rural labourers, but also by small businessmen and traders, shopkeepers and taxi-drivers. On 8 March (International Women's Day), there was a demo of 50,000 women workers against IMF budgetary cuts.

Turkey is already an embarrassment to the European Union leaders. As a candidate member it is pledged to improve its human rights record and to introduce democratic reforms.

However, a coalition which includes the extreme right MHP, (linked to the fascist Grey Wolves terrorist gangs), with the military always waiting in the wings, and faced with a mass opposition from its own people, is unlikely to be able to deliver.

Turkey's fragmented Left is faced with the opportunity of placing itself at the head of the anti-government movement. The solidarity campaign for the political prisoners has brought a limited unity in action by the various communist, socialist and workers' parties.

If the Left could unite around common political, social and economic demands, a movement could be forged to challenge the regime's austerity programme and fight for a democratic and socialist solution to the crisis.


Demonstration called by the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners

Saturday 14 July, 12.30pm

Assemble: Whitehall Place, London SW1. (near Embankment Tube)

March to Tothill Street, SW1 (Central Hall)

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In The Socialist 13 July 2001:

Unite Against Racism

Racist Match That Sparked Growing Anger

Support the Merseyside firefighters: Defend Public Services

Lilley The Pinko?

Northern Ireland 'peace process': Sliding Into Sectarian Conflict

Solidarity with Turkish political prisoners

Stop The Ilisu Dam!

Racism: Oppose The Bosses' Divide And Rule


 

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