"Troops have destroyed over 4,000 villages and driven three million Kurds from their homes"


Lynch mob or trial?

KURDISH national leader Abdullah Ocalan went on trial for his life in Turkey this week. Turkey is a member of NATO. The trial is a mockery of justice:

Primary school children in the town nearest the island where the trial is taking place were given the day off and told to make placards accusing Ocalan of being a "baby killer". The Turkish military, which intervenes heavily in politics, wants to hang Ocalan. International observers say there is little doubt that the court will hand out the death penalty.

But if anyone should be in the dock it should be the Turkish state itself. It has fought a vicious war against the 13 million Kurdish people in Turkey for the last 15 years. The Turkish army has killed over 25,000 Kurds in the south east of the country, and in the so called safe havens the West set up for the Kurds in northern Iraq. Troops have destroyed over 4,000 villages and driven three million Kurds from their homes in a campaign every bit as brutal as the Serbian onslaught against the Kosovo Liberation Army. The Kurds have been prevented from speaking their own language-it is still illegal in Turkey to broadcast or teach in Kurdish.

Picture: JESS HURD

FIFTEEN HUNDRED protesters demonstrated outside the foreign office, central London, on Monday in solidarity with Ocalan at the start of his trial

The Turkish state has systematically oppressed the Kurds and other minorities for six decades. Law 2510, passed in June 1934, chillingly divided Turkey into three areas- "(1) localities to be reserved for the habitation of persons possessing Turkish culture; (2) regions to which persons of non-Turkish culture could be moved for assimilation into Turkish culture; (3) regions for complete evacuation."

In 1936 the army invaded the Kurdish area of Dersim, murdering 40,000 people. Kurdistan remained a military zone closed to foreigners until 1966. The security forces terrorised the area and broke up demonstrations for national rights. Such repression and attacks by fascist gangs, the Grey Wolves, continued during the 1970s.

Abdullah Ocalan founded the PKK guerilla movement in the early 1980s against this background and in the face of a military coup which the US had encouraged in Turkey in 1980. The PKK set about an armed struggle against the Turkish state and the vigilante Village Guards it deployed to cow the Kurdish population.

The PKK has killed civilians, but, as the independent Minority Rights Group reports, "Kurdish society was profoundly shocked by the PKK violence...but soon discovered that the state easily outmatched PKK excesses. Military sweeps, degrading treatment, beatings, widespread and arbitrary arrest and the wholesale use of torture drove thousands of the impoverished and exploited rural population into the arms of the PKK."

The Turkish state is responsible for the violence in Kurdistan because it perpetuates against the Kurdish people one of the worst cases of national oppression in the world. That oppression was there before the PKK was founded and will continue even if Ocalan is executed.

At each stage the Western powers have backed Turkey. It has been a member of NATO since 1952 despite the human rights abuses and three military coups. In February of this year the US helped Turkey kidnap Ocalan from Kenya, where the CIA has its largest station in Africa. Clinton and Blair welcome Turkish planes bombing Serbia, even though the same airforce is bombing Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.

Everyone should back the protests Kurdish organisations are calling to pressurise US and European governments to condemn Turkey's plan to lynch Ocalan.

Fascists enter the government

A COALITION government of Bulent Ecevit's nationalist social democrats, the fascist National Action Party and the Tory Motherland Party was formed in Turkey last week. The fascists have got 12 ministerial posts and are the second largest party in a parliament which will vote on whether to carry out the death penalty on Ocalan.

There has been a wave of anti-Kurdish chauvinism in Turkey since Ocalan's capture. But there is also a strong desire for workers' unity to kick the fascists out of government. A left wing candidate for the leadership of the smaller social democratic party, the Republican People's Party, came within 12 votes of winning at its national conference last week. Hasan Fehmi Gunes's vote soared as he came out for a united front of workers' parties against the fascists. Every protest in Britain against Ocalan's trial strengthens those in Turkey who want to beat the fascists back and show an alternative to the murderous nationalism of the Turkish state.