Wednesday, 25 July 2007

The Turkish General Election and the situation in the Middle East

After the election of 2002, the Turkish army, whose proxies were humiliated at the ballot box, was forced to take a back seat in politics. The newly elected moderate islamist government instituted some welcome, though inadequate, human rights reforms, while privatising and attacking welfare rights as part of the process of applying for EU membership.
In this atmosphere, the anti-war movement in Turkey was able on 1 March 2003 to prevent the Turkish government allowing the US to attack Iraq from Turkish soil.
The growing chaos in Iraq gave both the motivation and the opportunity for Turkey's generals to reassert themselves. The generals launched a series of attacks and provocations against Turkey's Kurdish population.
Some attacks were open military operations, others were carried out through the dark forces of the "deep state"—gangs of ex-army officers and others, loosely connected to the army and the police.
Such provocations included a series of 17 bombings in Åžemdinli, near the Iraqi border. The perpetrators of the last bombing were caught by the local population.
Two army NCOs were arrested but have now been released without being prosecuted. Another attack included a bombing in
Diyarbak that killed 10 Kurds (mostly children) in a city park. No-one believes the attempts to blame these bombings on the Kurdish PKK movement.
The culmination of these attacks was the murder of Armenian human rights activist Hrant Dink in January 2007. Everyone involved in carrying out and planning this murder has turned out to have long standing links either with the police or the gendarmerie (part of the army).
But the generals did not get everything their own way. Without any national mobilisation, on a Tuesday afternoon, 250,000 people turned up to Hrant Dink's funeral, and shouted with one voice "We are all Armenians". This political earthquake set the generals back, but they responded by trying to build a civil base for their policies by mobilising a series of rallies against the alleged threat of islamist reaction, focussing on the election for a new president.
Even these rallies, which were enormous, did not really show support for the army. While many of those who took part were, indeed, convinced that the election of a president whose wife wears a headscarf would open the door to islamist reaction, many of them did not support the army's political ambitions or its expansionist military plans.
Trade unions and professional associations has supported the "secularist" campaign of the army in 1997. They pointedly did not support the army's campaign in 2007.
The Common Candidate Campaign was born out of the spirit of the response to Hrant Dink's murder. Its tasks became doubly urgent after the army's intervention on 27 April.
Building the campaign has been an essential part of rebuilding the spirit and unity that did such damage to Bush and Blair's attack on Iraq in 2003. Ensuring that this spirit continues will be part of the fight to stop Turkey's army intervening in Iraq or supporting any attack on Iran.

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