Protests and strikes spread across Turkey after two bombs tore through an Oct. 10 rally in the capital Ankara opposing government attacks against Kurds. More than 100 demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded.
Kurds, an oppressed nationality throughout the region, make up about one-fifth of the population in Turkey. Kurdish fighters have driven the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad out of Kurdish regions and have been the only effective force pushing back Islamic State and other reactionary Islamist forces in Iraq as well as Syria. Since July, the Turkish government, fearful of the growing confidence Kurds in Turkey have gained from this struggle, has intensified attacks against them with the tacit support of Washington.
The Oct. 10 protest, which attracted thousands, was backed by the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK), Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB).
These unions called a two-day strike Oct. 12-13 in response to the massacre.
“The blasts were at the two sides of the exit of the main train station in the city where the People’s Democratic Party [HDP] supporters were gathering,” reported Hurriyet Daily News. The HDP, a sponsor of the action, is a Kurdish-based party whose substantial gains in June elections, including beyond Kurdish areas, won over 10 percent of the vote, gained seats in parliament for the first time, and denied President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a majority.
“I believe the state organized the explosion,” Ali Sogut, 32, a former Soma miner who was at the protest, told the Militant. “Every time we have gone to a rally the police stopped the buses and asked for IDs, and did body searches when we entered the rally area. This time there was not a single policeman and the buses were never stopped on the way to Ankara.”
So far no group has taken credit for the bombing. Government officials at first floated the outlandish claim that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) could have been involved, but now say that Islamic State is the prime suspect.
The blast occurred 20 days before Nov. 1 elections, in which Erdogan seeks to regain a majority for his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Police teams showed up soon after the blast, as if they had already been prepared in advance,” Nursel Demir, district co-chair of the HDP in Mezitli, told Firat News. “Many of the wounded lost their lives due to the police attack.”
Within hours hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Istanbul, condemning Erdogan and the AKP for the massacre. Another march and rally three days later involving unionists and others was banned by Istanbul authorities, but hundreds showed up anyway.
On Oct. 11 thousands chanting anti-government slogans who marched again to the train station area where the blasts took place, were met with police attack.
As bodies of those killed were brought back to cities and towns throughout the country, protesters joined those carrying the coffins in anti-government demonstrations. “About 10,000 participated in the funeral ceremony in Izmir province for two women killed in the blast,” Cafer Alp, an electrician and member of the DISK union who attended the Oct. 12 event, told the Militant. “Many then joined a demonstration that afternoon.”
Thousands marched through the southeastern city of Diyarbakir the same day; nearly 1,000 in Mersin in the south; 500 in Bursa in the west. Other solidarity rallies included 1,000 in Toronto and 500 in Paris.
Turkish gov’t deal with WashingtonThe Turkish government’s attacks on the Kurdish people in both Iraq and southeastern Turkey have accelerated since July, when Washington and Ankara announced a deal to allow U.S. warplanes to use Turkey’s Incirlik air base to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. The government said it was joining Washington’s “coalition,” but its focus has been on targeting Kurds. About 15 million Kurds live in Turkey, with millions more in Syria, Iraq and Iran. They have a long history of fighting for a homeland and against national oppression.
The attacks are carried out under the pretext of fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), branded terrorist both by Ankara and Washington.
Erdogan’s government and the PKK, which had fought Ankara’s oppression for decades, reached a cease-fire agreement in 2013. The president abrogated it in July. Since then the PKK has targeted government troops and police while the government has opened up a broader assault. On Oct. 10 the PKK announced a pre-election cease-fire, saying it would only respond if attacked.
In the Kurdish region, 113 people have been killed since the government offensive began, the great majority of them civilians, Turkey’s Human Rights Association reported Oct. 9. Hundreds have been arrested, curfews imposed on entire cities, and HDP offices attacked.
Day- and weeklong curfews have also been imposed in a number of cities, with phone and electricity services cut out. The highest number of civilian deaths have occurred in these towns, including many who were denied access to medical care, Human Rights Association President Ozturk Turkdogan told Firat News.
Erdogan hopes these attacks and acts of intimidation against Kurds will result in the AKP winning an outright majority in the November elections, enabling him to expand the executive powers of the presidency.
Meanwhile, the Kurds have been continuing protest actions against the government’s discriminatory practices. More than 80 percent of teachers and students across the Kurdish provinces boycotted Turkish schools on opening day demanding the right to education in the Kurdish language.
Yasemin Aydinoglu contributed to this article.
Russian airstrikes, Syrian ground offensive back Assad dictatorship
Printer-friendly version of this article