Turkey: freedom, not more police!

Submitted by Matthew on 3 July, 2013 - 7:00

On Friday 28 June, Turkish government forces fired on people in the Kurdish town of Lice, in eastern Turkey, protesting at the construction of a new base for the gendarmerie, a militarised police force.

They killed a teenager and injured several other people.

According to Deutsche Welle, “Protests followed in Istanbul on Saturday [29th] at midday. Organized by the workers’ union KESK and the Kurdish BDP party, they chanted slogans including: ‘We don’t want a police station. We want freedom!’”

Generally, according to Turkish socialists, the protests which exploded at the end of May against Turkey’s AKP government have “subsided considerably”.

Prime minister Erdogan has carefully combined repression and concessions. In police action against the protests over June, four teenagers were killed, thousands of people were injured, and thousands were arrested, sometimes for being “members of a terrorist organisation”, or “damaging public property”.

On 25 June, however, police kept back their tear gas and water cannon, and allowed thousands of protesters to fill Taksim Square, in Istanbul. The demonstrators, for their part, were careful not to block the traffic.

According to the Financial Times: “officials say they are taking steps to meet the demands of the Alevi religious minority... and to speed up efforts to reach peace with Turkey’s ethnic Kurds”.

The protests, according to the Turkish socialists of Marksist Tutum, were “a democratic movement”, “against authoritarianism and widespread police terror”, “a useful experience” for those many taking part.

However, Marksist Tutum also write that it is “not correct to consider them in the same category” as the mass street movements in Tunisia and Egypt, or in Greece and Spain, because of the absence of demands based on the urgent material needs of the working class, “jobs, food, and social security”.

Many individual workers took part in the protests, and of course organised socialists did too, but there was no organised collective presence of the working class.

There are still forums in parks across Istanbul, but the socialists report that the turnout in the forums has decreased quite a lot after the first week.

The remaining small-scale forums and actions take place either in mainly Alevi [religious-cultural minority] neighbourhoods, or middle-class neighbourhoods dominated by Kemalists and supporters of the CHP [the successor of the old “state-party” which ruled Turkey under Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) and Inonu from 1923 to 1950].

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