Bosses get their wish: 2019 minimum wage has been set at 2,020 lira net

The minimum wage stays at the hunger level. The minimum wage, directly affecting ten million workers, has been set at 2,020 lira in 2019.

The Minimum Wage Determination Commission has convened for the fourth time to set the minimum wage effective in 2019.

The Minimum Wage Determination Commission has set the minimum wage, directly affecting ten million workers. The minimum wage has been set at 2,558 lira gross and 2,020 lira (381 dollars) net in 2019.

Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk announced that the decision had been taken unanimously.

Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions Chair Ergün Atalay said at the end of the meeting, “We had a threshold and our threshold was getting past two thousand lira. We wanted a wage that would support human existence. Doing so, we faced no end of accusations. With us forwarding our minimum wage demand, they said, ‘The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions Chair is calling people onto the street.’ What was I to do, then? Call them out onto the beach? When I have an issue, when I am concerned, I will articulate this within the bounds of the law without causing mayhem. I thank everyone who put in an effort, the president, minister, employers’ representatives and the colleagues on the commission. Is it a fantastic wage? No, but it is an acceptable wage. It is the poor and needy who are affected; perhaps we did not make them one hundred per cent happy but we did so by eighty per cent with this decision.”

According to an announcement made by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, the meeting chaired by Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk started at 10 o’ clock in the ministry building.

Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions Chair Arzu Çerkezoğlu commented to Gazete Duvar. Çerkezoğlu said, “It was announced to be 2,020 lira and for us, this is a low amount. We the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions say the minimum wage needs to be 2,800 lira to be a living wage. We call on the minimum wage to be adjusted for the loss in terms of inflation and national income. Considering the crisis conditions under which we are entering 2019, the amount of 2,020 is not an adequate amount in view of we working and salaried people’s working and living conditions as we embark on 2019. There is an increase in the rate of inflation but it is not only inflation that is important for us but the purchasing power of and share of national income obtained by the minimum wage. In a country where the hunger level is 1,900 lira and the poverty level is above 6,000 lira, it is impossible to consider 2,020 lira to be sufficient.”

With the new wage that has been set directly affecting ten million workers, it will also act as a benchmark for collective agreements to be made in 2019. The minimum wage is currently in force at 1,603 lira along with the minimum subsistence allowance.

A minimum-wage worker also participated for the first time at commission meetings this year.

The highest minimum wage in the world is in force in Australia at 28,768 dollars per year. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

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‘Everyone is being affected by the crisis but we are experiencing a problem in mounting a joint struggle’

We spoke to Gebze Trade Union Alliance Term Spokesperson Süleyman Akyüz about the minimum wage and struggle against the crisis.

We spoke to Gebze Trade Union Alliance Term Spokesperson Süleyman Akyüz about the minimum wage, crisis and struggle against the crisis. The key points from Süleyman Akyüz’s observations were as follow:

“Although the crisis started in the summer months, its effects are only just being felt. The power holders, though, were in denial about the crisis for a long time.

The crisis saw shift workers losing their overtime. Then shifts were cut out. Then people were made to take accrued leave. Now there is talk of unpaid leave.

Our aim in staging a march and making a press statement in opposition to the crisis on 23 October was to send a message to all the workers of the country: we said, “We will not pay the price for the crisis.”

They are trying to make the workers pay the price again today. Unionized workers are opposing this to a degree but the workers are being made to foot the bill at non-unionized workplaces.

Everyone is being affected by the crisis but we are experiencing a problem in countering it jointly.

Today, many unions do not even accept the existence of a crisis. These unions cosy up to either the employers or the government.

The movement we are waging here has affected some places locally but, unfortunately, has had no impact at a confederation level.

The crisis has seen impoverished in the range of 35-50%. Inflation is very high but they are also keeping inflation low to keep the minimum wage raise low.

We say the minimum wage should be above the hunger level. To this end, the minimum wage should be above 2,500 lira.

The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions is calling for the minimum wage to be increased to 2,000 lira over the year and then for the addition of inflation and share of national wealth.

Opposition has grown to separating the minimum wage. They want to do this separation trade by trade.

If the minimum wage is set at around or below 2,000 lira, serious problems will emerge.

If the minimum wage is set at 2,500 lira this will also boost development. If there is no money in the worker’s pocket, who will buy the goods that are produced?

I cannot get the wage I earned in January in December. There are both tax deductions and I lose through inflation.

No entity or company in Turkey pays the tax working people in the country pay. Companies get tax amnesties but workers don’t. This is taxation injustice.

We want a raising of tax bands and a reduction of the rates.

The pension entitlement rate has been reduced. This may enable those who retire in this period to scrape by, but people who retire in five to ten years will have to work.

We think the injustice suffered by those caught out by the increase in the retirement age should be rectified.

The Flormar workers are waging a class struggle. This struggle is not just the struggle of a handful of people there. Support coming for this struggle is worthy of praise. All unions and the working class need to continue to stand by this struggle. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

Translated by Tim Drayton

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Strike at Süperpak ends in workers’ victory after 186 days

The strike at Süperpak lasting 186 days against the imposition of a zero raise has ended in victory for the workers.

Metehan UD
İzmir

The 186-day strike at Süperpak has ended following the securing of a raise of 280 lira gross in the first year and, in the second year, 300 lira gross for the first six months and at the rate of inflation for the second six months.

The strike which started on 20 June following the breakdown of negotiations over the fourth-period collective labour agreement between the Austrian Mayr Melnhof (MM) Süperpak company and the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions-affiliated pulp, paper, and products workers’ union Selüloz-İş at the company’s factories in İzmir Torbalı, Karaman and Antep has ended.

Even if the company’s strike breaking tactic in Gaziantep bore fruit, the strike in İzmir and Karaman lasted 186 days. The strike, which broke out on 20 June against the imposition of a zero raise, ended with a meeting held on Saturday. Production will start at the factories on 2 January. The workers’ demands were accepted, spread out over two years.

The workers will get a gross raise of 280 lira under the new three-year agreement. They will receive a raise of 280 lira gross for 2018, 300 lira gross for the first six months of 2019 and a raise at the rate of inflation for the second six months, and at the rate of inflation for 2020. An increase in benefits close to the workers’ demands has also been obtained. With the lowest basic wage becoming 2,150 lira, the highest basic wage has become 3,700 lira. Süperpak management had proposed a zero raise and two years’ guaranteed employment.

SÜPERPAK WORKERS: RESISTANCE LEADS TO VICTORY

Süperpak Shop Steward İsmail Güderoğlu indicated that the agreement has been concluded with the workers’ approval. Noting that victory has come once more to resisting workers, Güderoğlu said, “This was also an important gain for us with an eye on the subsequent collective agreement. We greatly thank all those who until now have visited us to support our just struggle and showed material and moral support and solidarity. May greetings go out to all our worker brothers. Let greetings go out to all working people fighting to survive and the modern-minded working people who walked side-by-side in this strike, in short, to those fighting on the side of labour to take humanity one step forward and all those honourable and courageous souls who have given support from far and near, added their voices to ours and their strength to ours and have never left us alone.”

Evrensel Daily

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Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen released on judicial control terms

An investigation has launched into well-known actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen, who spoke critically of President Tayyip Erdoğan.

Actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen, who spoke critically of President Tayyip Erdoğan while appearing on a TV programme, came under fire from President Erdoğan following a roasting in the regime press. With them singled out, Istanbul Anatolian Republic Chief Prosecution launched an investigation into the two actors on charges of “incitement to civil war and coup.” Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen were taken to the judicial complex to make a statement by police officers who came to their homes on Sunday morning. The two actors, having completed their statement procedures, were brought before the court with judicial control terms sought. And the court released the two actors on judicial control terms.

Erdoğan had said of Akpınar and Gezen, “They are apologies for actors. Let them give account to the judiciary. They will pay the price for this. You are minded to swing this country’s president from a rope. Now go and pay the price before the judiciary.”

AKPINAR AND GEZEN TAKEN TO GIVE STATEMENT AND MAKE FIRST COMMENTS

A police team came to Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen’s homes in Kadıköy on Sunday morning.

Following entry by the police, Akpınar came outside on his own. Akpınar said, “There’s a summons from the learned prosecutor. We are going to make a statement.”

Akpınar was taken in a police vehicle to the Anatolian Judicial Complex. Müjdat Gezen was also taken to the Anatolian Judicial Complex to make a statement. Gezen, refusing to get into the police car, went to the judicial complex in his own car.

Speaking to Odatv, Müjdat Gezen said, “I am going to the prosecutor. I will make a statement. What I said is known. I will also shortly say it at the prosecution. I do not give anyone, not just Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the right to put my patriotism on trial.”

Gezen’s lawyer Celal Ülgen met Gezen at the judicial complex. With journalists asking Müjdat Gezen at the entrance to the judicial complex, “Did you expect to be arrested?” his lawyer Ülgen interrupted and said, “There is no arrest.” Asked by members of the press, “Did you expect an investigation?” Gezen said, “Nothing will come of this.”

MÜJDAT GEZEN’S STATEMENT

In his statement, Müjdat Gezen apparently said, “The words I spoke on the People’s Arena programme are true. I said it with humorous intent. I had no intention of defaming any president.” Gezen said, “At a group meeting, the President had said, ‘Those living in Kadıköy are the cream set. It is no concern of theirs if Turkey is destroyed.’ And I, since I live in Kadıköy, spoke those words with the aim of criticising this situation.”

Gezen commented, “As I said, I had no intention of defaming the president. These words I spoke are entirely correct, but they were not words spoken with the intent to defame. I am engaged in the theatre and I articulate this very sentence on stage because my theatre is in Kadıköy. I also speak these words there, in a comedy play at my theatre in Kadıköy and I speak them with humorous critical intent.” Gezen rejected Erdoğan’s accusation of defamation saying, “I had no intent to defame anybody. I had absolutely no intent, either, to defame the president. I do not accept the charges laid against me.”

STATEMENT FROM METİN AKPINAR’S LAWYERS

The statement made by actor Metin Akpınar’s lawyers Atilla Hekimoğlu, Burçin Hekimoğlu and İrem Hekimoğlu read, “A different spin was put on the matters discussed on the programme especially by certain media outlets and it was sought to engender the perception that the President of the Republic of Turkey was seemingly being targeted, with the result that the matter was thereby conveyed incorrectly to both the public and the President.”

The statement noted that the matters discussed on the People’s Arena programme broadcast on Halk TV on which Akpınar was a guest on 21 December had been greatly misunderstood and certain distressing, mistaken conclusions had been made, and read:

“A different spin was put on the matters discussed on the programme especially by certain media outlets and it was sought to engender the perception that the President of the Republic of Turkey was seemingly being targeted, with the result that the matter was thereby conveyed incorrectly to both the public and the President. While holding the desire for the matter not to be misunderstood by the public, we respectfully announce that we will resort to legal action against the said media organs which misled society with untruthful news, and their responsible persons.”

RELEASED ON JUDICIAL CONTROL TERMS

Former CHP parliamentarian Barış Yarkadaş, who was present at the Anatolian Judicial Complex, gave an account of the procedures on his social media account: “Following Metin Akpınar, Müjdat Gezen has also been brought to the judicial complex. Metin Akpınar and Gezen’s statements will be taken at the Organized Crime and Constitutional Crime Office. I have spoken to Metin Akpınar. He is in very good spirits. He sent his greetings to everyone. Metin is waiting for the prosecutor just now.” Yarkadaş noted in another of his posts, “At 11.20, actor Müjdat Gezen was also brought accompanied by police to the Constitutional Crime Office. Müjdat is also in good spirits. He is accompanied by lawyer Celal Ülgen. Müjdat also conveyed his greetings to those who inquired. The treatment deemed to befit eighty-year-old actors shows where the bar is set as far as our democracy goes.”

As Akpınar started making his statement, Yarkadaş also announced, “Actor Metin Akpınar has started to make a statement to the Investigating Prosecutor at 11.50 because of the thoughts he voiced on HALK TV. Metin had toast in the corridors of the judicial complex to which he was brought without even having had breakfast. The dark days in which Akpınar and Gezen are brought to the judicial complex…”

Having completed their statement procedures, the actors were brought before a court with judicial control terms sought. A ban was placed on Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen leaving the country and they were ordered to attend at a police station to sign once a week. Gezen’s lawyer Celal Ülgen announced the court’s decision.

WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT DID AKPINAR AND GEZEN SAY?

Akpınar drew attention to the polarization in the country while engaging in political criticism on the People’s Arena programme presented by Uğur Dündar on Halk TV. Akpınar commented as follows:

“The regime in which individuals can determine their futures with free will is the democracy. And I think that the sole remedy to enable us to escape this polarization, this chaos, is also democracy. If we can make it there, it will be fine and there will be no quarrelling and we will sort this business out. If we can’t, just like all versions of fascism, maybe they will hang up the leader from his feet, maybe he will die of poisoning in dungeons or maybe he will experience the bad ends that the other mentioned leaders have, but it will be a shame for us and we will be devastated.”

Müjdat Gezen, in turn, was singled out by media outlets close to the government for having said, “Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you cannot put our patriotism to the test. Know your limits.”

ERDOĞAN SAID ‘GO AND PAY THE PRICE FOR THIS BEFORE THE JUDICIARY’

On Sunday, at the 2018 Financial General Board of the Council of Foreign Economic Affairs, President and AKP General Chair Tayyip Erdoğan targeted Müjdat Gezen and Metin Akpınar without naming them, describing them as “apologies for actors.” Claiming that these people had gunned for him through the media, he said, “They are supposedly going to rope me up. What does it matter even if you are actors of wide acclaim? They will pay the price for this. Now go and pay the price before the judiciary.”

President Erdoğan again railed at the Gezi resistance in his speech. Saying the Gezi protests “erupted due to the transporting of twelve trees,” Erdoğan commented, “They looted our small business people’s shops, they left no shops on İstiklal Street, they fired bullets at our police and they burnt municipal buses.”

In his speech at a mass opening ceremony held in Arnavutköy, he also said the following, targeting Metin Akpınar and Uğur Dündar along with Müjdat Gezen:

“There are rabble-rousers garbed as actors and writers alongside the politicians with CHP badges on their lapels. Three of these railed against me and Turkey on a TV station that is the CHP’s official broadcasting outlet. They first set out insulting the people calling them a generation of rhinoceroses, and then said that everything was not to be solved at the ballot box. If you ask, they are democratic actors. But they have not the slightest respect for the people’s will. Supposedly, unless democracy is implemented in the manner they wish, maybe they will hang up the leader, that is me, by the feet. Even if the whole crowd of you are hangmen, what of it? I have testified to Islam and believe in it. But, you have no faith and let us talk about this. Let us recall past coups and see whose turn they wished for next. I will not name them; what is called for will be done before the judiciary. Apologies for actors, all of them will pay the price for this.”

Following their targeting by Erdoğan, an investigation was launched into the two actors.

CHARGED WITH ‘THREATENING COUP AND DEATH’

A written comment on the matter signed by Istanbul Anatolian Republic Chief Prosecutor İsmail Uçar read as follows:

“With it determined that reports had been obtained whereby Müjdat Gezen and Metin Akpınar, who appeared on the 21.12.2018 edition of the programme named the People’s Arena presented by Uğur Dündar on certain press outlets and social media accounts, targeted the Head of State of the Republic of Turkey making insult-laden comments and made threats of coup and death, an investigation was launched on 22.12.2018 pursuant to Article 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure number 5271 for the purpose of investigating the substance of the matter and bringing the necessary legal procedures to bear on the responsible parties, and both suspects were summoned to this Republic Chief Prosecution for the taking of their defences, and the matter is respectfully announced to all press/broadcasting outlets.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)

Translated by Tim Drayton

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Steve Sweeney: Solidarity with Evrensel vital for survival of a free press in Turkey

Steve Sweeney from the Morning Star wrote an article about the pressure on media in Turkey and called for solidarity with Evrensel.

Steve Sweeney

Fatih Polat gives me a warm welcome at Evrensel’s main offices in Istanbul.

I have met the newspaper’s editor-in-chief a number of times over the years and we have built a good relationship.

Broadly similar to the Morning Star in terms of its coverage of the workers’ movement, the current political situation means Evrensel plays an increasingly important role in Turkey.

Evrensel editor Fatih Polat in the paper’s Istanbul office

Followers of Turkish politics and readers of this newspaper will not be surprised to learn that Turkey remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with at least 160 behind bars.

While the figures are shocking, totalling a third of the world’s jailed journalists, the real number is likely to be higher, with press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) claiming that a fall in those detained compared to last year was “deceptive.”

RSF’s annual report for 2018 ranked Turkey 157 out of 180 in terms of press freedom, a fall of seven places since 2017.

This year has seen a marked deterioration in terms of press freedom in Turkey with the country’s largest news agency — the Dogan Media Company — being sold to a pro-Erdogan conglomerate and the takeover of the trustee board of the last mainstream opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet leading to the sacking of its editorial board.

Trials and the jailing of journalists continue at an alarming rate, with 84 taking place in one week alone this September.

Such is intensity of the attacks on journalists, Polat tells me, that barely a day passes without a media worker appearing in court.

“It’s almost like if there are no journalist trials in a day in Turkey it’s surprising — the lack of a trial would be something to report in itself,” he says.

Evrensel has come under intense pressure since it was first published in 1995. In one of the country’s most notorious incidents in 1996, photojournalist Metin Goktepe was tortured and killed in police custody in Istanbul.

Five police officers who were charged with his murder were acquitted while the others were released after one year and eight months following an amnesty.

Exiled journalist Sarya Tunc addresses an Aslef meeting

Under the state of emergency purges in 2016 Evrensel-affiliated TV station Hayatin Sesi was one of the hundreds of media organisations forced to close by presidential decree.

In a bizarre twist, three of the station’s owners have been sentenced to prison for continuing a live broadcast after the Isis bombing of Ankara in October 2015, an attack on a peace rally in which 109 people were killed.

Executives Mustafa Kara and Ismail Gokhan Bayram and general director Gokhan Cetin were sentenced to three years and nine months’ imprisonment with claims that they have been “aggregately spreading propaganda of Isis, PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] and TAK.”

Polat says: ”If this decision is approved it would be the first time that ownership of a TV channel was used as an excuse for arresting people.

“Ownership has never been an excuse, even in Turkey, for convicting people.”

According to RSF, “these Kafkaesque trials, in which journalists are accused of terrorism on the basis of a single word or a single phone contact, have helped to tighten the regime’s grip on Turkish society.”

Polat explains that Evrensel journalists feel constantly under threat of arrest and they are aware of the potential for the newspaper to be closed down by the government.

Such is the intense environment journalists work in, many self-censor with unions describing the country as an “open prison.”

“What we do is keep our reports based on real, concrete facts. We are more sensitive than ever in this matter,” Polat says. “We dig and see if it is a fact or a rumour.

“Other than our columns we don’t use propagandist or agitational language. We keep away from that. And we always have trials.”

“We are being really careful not to be closed. There is always a chance, but we are prepared psychologically,” he says.

“Evrensel was founded based on the needs and struggle of the working class in Turkey. So as long as they need such a newspaper and as long as they have struggles Evrensel will continue,” he says defiantly.

“Even if they close us we will build another newspaper to continue the news of the working class in Turkey.”

But the latest attack on Evrensel is the most serious it has faced. The newspaper faces court and a penalty of 100,000 TL (£14,885) with the heavy fine potentially enough to see the paper close.

Charges were brought after it published an article in July claiming the government’s economic programme was an attack on workers’ rights.

With a deepening economic crisis in Turkey causing prices to rocket as the lira plummets in value it is crucial that the decisions of the government are held to account and subject to scrutiny.

However, in an attempt to silence criticism and an attack on press freedom, lawyers for Turkey’s Finance Minister — and Erdogan’s son-in-law — Berat Albayrak accused the responsible editor of “defamation.”

Coupled with a paper crisis in Turkey, which has caused the cost of production to rocket, the future of the newspaper and of a free and independent press in Turkey hangs in the balance.

While Evrensel has reduced the size of the newspaper to 12 pages, it urgently needs international support and solidarity to ensure its survival.

Last month, following a motion raised through the Morning Star chapel, the NUJ London Central Branch launched a campaign in solidarity with journalists in Turkey and to raise funds to pay the Evrensel fine in order keep the newspaper going.

Polat stresses that “international solidarity and support is very valuable” and is hopeful that the situation in Turkey will change, with its history of workers’ struggle against oppressive regimes.

Solidarity is the cornerstone of the labour movement and goes hand in hand with the struggle for press freedom.

The Turkish regime is supported both politically and militarily by the British government, which creates the conditions for Erdogan to continue his persecution of all forms of opposition with impunity.

We have a duty to stand in solidarity with all those fighting for freedom and democracy.

Support has been received from rail workers’ union Aslef and we encourage unions and individuals to support Evrensel and raise the issue in their branches.

Solidarity subscriptions can also be taken out at www.evrensel.net/subscription.

First published on Morning Star Online.

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Is Trump’s withdrawal decision, Erdoğan’s victory?

How will Trump’s withdrawal decision from Syria and its potential consequences affect Turkey’s regional policies?

News of Trump’s decision to withdraw his troops from Syria following the phone call he made with Erdoğan seems to have created an atmosphere of a great victory on the ruling front and in its media. “Experts” strutting their stuff in the media speak of this decision being the result of Turkish decisiveness and of how Turkey showed its strength to the US. We will obviously be regaled by comments of this nature for a while more.

However, let me note straight away that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says the US notified them of this decision at the start of the week. That is, prior to the Trump-Erdoğan call held the other day. Moreover, Trump putting Erdoğan in the picture about the withdrawal plan can be attributed to, not as imagined Turkey’s strength or pressure, but if anything the regional role that Trump (the US) wishes to assign to Turkey in association with this plan. For, there is but one power that could play a decisive role in Trump taking such a decision and that is its rival in the struggle for domination in the region – Russia – and it was known that negotiations had been taking place for some while between the US and Russia over a political solution in Syria.

As such, let us recall the developments underlying this decision before turning to the possible effects on Turkey’s regional politics (the Middle East as whole and Syria in particular) of Trump’s decision to withdraw his Syria-based troops.

First of all, Trump has been speaking of a wish to withdraw his Syria-based troops since the day he came to office – and he reiterated in March this year that their withdrawal from Syria was imminent. However, coinciding with this statement, France sent troops to the region and a joint US-French-UK air strike targeting Syria was staged in April. For, on the heels of every one of Trump’s announcements about withdrawal from Syria, an announcement has come from the Pentagon that the business in Syria is not over yet. Following Trump’s most recent announcement, a similar statement emanated from the Pentagon. But this time, it was announced that Trump’s withdrawal plan had been put into action and the process of withdrawing from Syria would be completed in anything from sixty to one hundred days. A further important point here of which sight must not be lost is that the withdrawal by the US of two thousand troops stationed in the Kurdish region in Syria will not seriously alter the US’s capacity to intervene in the region, because the US’s interventions in this region are actually based on air operations anyhow and the US continues to keep in place military forces that can conduct such interventions in other locations (apart from İncirlik, Jordan, Iraq, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman).

On the other hand, statements made on the front between France and the UK, the US’s partners in the region, declaring this decision “premature” show that, in spite of this decision, other developments may be on the cards as dictated by Western imperialists’ regional calculations.

As I noted at the outset, the negotiations he conducted with Putin (Russia) played a pivotal role in enabling Trump to take this decision. It will be recalled that an announcement was made at the Trump-Putin summit held in Helsinki on 16 July that agreement had been reached on a political solution to the Syrian problem. But, not only were details of this agreement not forthcoming but inflammatory comments between the two countries, especially over Idlib and east of the Euphrates, continued.

However, limiting Iran’s military force here constitutes Trump’s priority in consenting to a political transition in Syria and ever since the Helsinki summit Russia is known to have taken/prompted various steps entailing Iran withdrawing its military presence from border regions including regions Israel was uncomfortable with (especially in the south of Syria). It can thus be said that Trump’s decision was not independent of the negotiations conducted and the steps taken to this end.

Well, how will the withdrawal decision and its potential consequences affect Turkey’s regional policies?

Let us start with the most burning issue. One of the interpretations most frequently offered is that no obstacle now remains to Turkey’s potential operations east of the Euphrates in the wake of the US’s withdrawal decision. However, it was the US presence here that inspired Russia to make statements that the fundamental threat in Syria was east of the Euphrates and to encourage Turkey to intervene. So, under conditions in which the US has withdrawn, Russia (and undoubtedly Iran and the Syrian regime) will not wish for Turkey to intervene here. Over and above this, it is certain that the status of the regions held until now by Turkey and the FSA groups that it supports from the Jarabulus-Azaz line to Afrin in order to use NATO-member Turkey to counter the US will come into debate under circumstances in which the US has withdrawn. It will furthermore come as no surprise if the Erdoğan regime is pressurized into activating the inactive process of the Turkish-facilitated liquidation of the jihadist groups in Idlib.

So, just as the US withdrawal will not as supposed make it easier for Turkey to intervene east of the Euphrates, it will also initiate a process in which Turkey’s military presence in Syria comes into greater debate.

As with limiting Iran’s forces, another matter over which agreement is said to have been reached at the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin relating to the political transition in Syria is that of Syrian Kurds having a political status in the new Syria. In fact, both the US and Russia, even if they occupy opposing positions, have for some time been saying that the Kurds are a force that cannot be discounted in determining Syria’s future. Hence, while its borders are currently a matter for debate, the attaining by the Kurds of an autonomous structure in the process of drafting a new constitution in Syria whose start is heralded for 2019 is a situation the US-Russia agreement can be expected to usher in.

It hardly defies prediction that the administration in Turkey will do all it takes to circumvent this. However, it should not be overlooked, either, that Turkey will be unable to find the room for manoeuvre it once had in the new process that accompanies the US’s withdrawal.

With reference to the withdrawal decision, it is finally necessary to touch on what Trump-the US may have in mind as concerns Turkey. The withdrawal decision will not stop at freeing the US’s hand in relation to the support the US has given the Kurds, the source for a considerable time of great tension between the US and Turkey, and may also give rise to a process through which Turkey comes into confrontation with Russia and Iran, at whose side it today stands in the field. It is thus no distant possibility that Trump is banking on this decision and associated developments making it easier to draw Turkey to its side as far as its strategy of encircling Iran goes.

I will continue to discuss the US’s troop withdrawal decision and potentially associated developments here. However, I can say here and now that, just as it is not an evident victory for the Erdoğan administration, the administration’s insistence on expansionist-interventionist policies in the region will continue to serve to place/keep Turkey in a position in which it is prone to use by imperialist forces even if there is a change of plan.

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SPOT Annual Conference 2019

Turkey: Fighting for democracy under authoritarian rule

Description

Our 3rd Annual SPOT Conference provides an opportunity to hear from those who have seen and experienced the reality of life under Erdogan’s authoritarian regime and invites you to find out more about what we are already doing to build international solidarity and call to account both the Turkish state and the complicity of our own government.

On the day we will be joined by the following speakers;

  • Deniz Yucel, Die Welt
  • Ben Hicks, The Guardian Foundation
  • Cagri Sari, Evrensel Newspaper
  • Mustafa Kuleli, TGS
  • Sarah Clarke, Article 19
  • Aidan White, Ethical Journalism Network
  • Mustafa Yalciner, Labour Party of Turkey
  • Kate Osamor, Labour Party MP
  • Ali Seker, CHP MP
  • Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
  • Bermal Aydin, Academic
  • Steve Sweeney, Morning Star
  • Aydin Cubukcu, Yeni E Editor
  • Arif Kosar, Journalist
  • HDP Rep / MP (TBC)
  • Mark Serwotka, Public & Commercial Services Union (TBC)
  • Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union (TBC)
  • Feray Aytekin Dogan, EgtimSen (TBC)

Turkey’s ruling powers are pushing the country towards a dictatorship and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attacks on democracy are impacting all sections of society. With this increasingly authoritarian regime, the state of emergency has become normalised and entrenched in law, an executive presidency created, independent media outlets shut down, academics and public-sector workers purged and criminalised, attacks on Kurdish regions intensified, opposition politicians arrested, violence against women on the rise, discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT increasing, the environment being destroyed and so the list goes on.

Meanwhile, world leaders watch unflinching, continuing to sell weapons and tip-toeing around Turkey’s human rights record. But the battle for democracy and workers’ rights in Turkey goes on and provides a ray of hope. And we know that democracy maybe denied but it is not yet lost.

Location
National Education Union
Hamilton House,
Mabledon Place
London
WC1H 9BD

Date and Time
Sat 9 February 2019
10:00 – 17:00 GMT

For more information about this event and/or to get involved contact us.

Facebook


Eventbrite

 

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Government fears another Gezi: we stand with the people’s artists, journalists and academics.

Government fears another Gezi: we stand with the people’s artists, journalists and academics.

Turkey has become a country where anybody that protests, refuses to obey and is not one of the ruling government is declared as an enemy. It has been over 5 years since the Gezi resistance but the Public Prosecutor of Ankara has begun an investigation into 63 people in relation to Gezi, and now the Public Prosecutor for Istanbul is also starting an investigation into a further 120 people. Arrest warrants have also been issued for actor Mehmet Ali Alabora and journalist Can Dundar in relation to the Gezi resistance. The investigations are being used to manipulate public opinion and rally support for Erdogan ahead of the local elections in March. Some of those being investigated including architect Mucella Yapici have already been tried and acquitted previously by the Turkish Courts, and no new evidence or charges have been brought.

Artists and journalists, who have supported millions of people by resisting encroachments on personal life and liberty, have been declared “terrorists” and courts that are aligned with the ruling political leadership are issuing warrants.

The messages from the Gezi resistance are clear: “stop interfering in my life style”, “stop the destruction of the environment by bloodsucking developers”, “stop interfering in my freedom of thought and expression” and “stop stealing the country’s resources”. And those fighting against corruption and injustice are calling for the resignation of the government and an end to AKP rule. Erdogan and the ruling AKP know that a resistance movement similar to Gezi will bring their fall from power. For this reason they cannot even tolerate theatre productions.

The “gilet jaunes” protests in France has reminded Erdogan of the power of the people. Erdogan remembers the masses in Turkey demanding his own resignation and the courts at his bidding have issued arrest warrants in response to this fear.

Peace campaigner and President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey facing prison sentence

Furthermore, this week the president of Humans Rights Foundation of Turkey (THIV) and Evrensel columnist Dr Sebnem Korur Fincanci was tried in Istanbul for claims that she was promoting “terrorist propaganda”. The court has refused to suspend the sentence.

Fincanci was one of the 1128 academics for peace who opposed the war on the Kurdish regions and published a leaflet titled “we will not be complicit in this war”. It is her involvement in this campaign and her interviews to newspapers, that prosecutors alleged amounted to terrorist propaganda that the courts sentenced Fincanci to 2 years and 6 months imprisonment. Fincanci is not just the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey but also a forensic medical expert and is being punished also for revealing footage of burned children’s bones that were found in the aftermath of the government’s bombardment of (the Kurdish region) of Cizre.

It is clear that campaigning for peace poses a threat to the Erdogan and AKP regime, and it has been a long time since the judiciary was able to act independently.

We reject this sentence against Sebnem Korur Fincanci and call for all investigations aimed at her to be ceased immediately. The judiciary must immediately stop prosecuting and punishing those that fall out of favour with the ruling government.

Mehmet Ali Alabora, Can Dündar, Dr Sebnem Korur Fincanci and other friends fighting for democracy in Turkey are not alone. We will continue to struggle against a regime which arbitrarily arrests and prosecutes its citizens and invite you to join us.

We call on all trade unions, artists, campaign groups, intellectuals, the British people and all those of Turkish, Kurdish origin in the UK to stand against Erdogan/AKP’s one-man regime.

We ask that our friends fulfil their historical responsibilities by supporting the people of Turkey and their struggle. There are many ways in which you can help, some examples include:

  • issuing press releases
  • writing articles/blogs on developments in Turkey
  • raising awareness through local political and campaign groups and work places
  • writing to your MPs and the Turkish Embassy to call for an end to the persecution of democratic opposition
  • actively observing/monitoring trials
  • passing motions in your local trade union branches
  • affiliating to SPOT

Our 3rd Annual SPOT conference also provides an opportunity to hear from those who have seen and experienced the reality of life under Erdogan’s regime and we invite you to find out more at our “Fighting for Democracy under Authoritarian Rule” annual conference on 9 February 2019 at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BD at 10-5.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)

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The full text of Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s statement to the court

We are publishing the text submitted to the court by Evrensel columnist Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment.

We are publishing the text submitted to the court by Evrensel columnist, academic & chair of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who was sentenced to thirty months’ imprisonment. Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı was charged for “terrorist organisation propaganda” for having signed the “We will not be party to this crime” declaration.

To İstanbul Serious Crime Court No 37,

I have given great thought to what I will say here today. I have done so because I was mindful of the humility with which I received the Albert Osswald Foundation’s Hessian Peace Prize just three weeks ago at the recommendation of academics from Leipzig University’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution for the efforts I have made in the fight for human rights to which I have devoted my life and in documenting torture. Your colleagues listened to Gülten Akın’s poem “Awaiting the War” from beloved Aslı Takanay, and, inspired by her, I, too, ended my speech at the prize ceremony with the same poem. I do not propose to read the poem again but there is merit in repeating its concluding words once more. Let me indulge myself by once again refreshing everyone’s memory: “A human is a responsibility!” So, I had in fact on 4 October 2018 in my statement to explain to your honours what crime we were not party to summarized the Cizre preliminary investigation report which you imagine yourselves to have found by googling me and you endeavour to portray as a crime component, and I had tried to convey through the photographs at which you have expressed your discomfort several times with references to the “corpse photographs,” including the photograph of the children’s bones I found in the course of investigations, what was going on in that period.

Those images that discomforted you so are part of my work, but also part of your work. This is how it should be! This is a Serious Crime Court and, hence, the presentation I made on 4 October should have been of the nature of a criminal complaint about you. I was thus able to feel joy on seeing the report and my interviews published in newspapers that you appended to the file at the last moment and following the recommendation on the merits. However, in place of the sense of humility engendered by the prize awarded to me for doing my job and hunting down the truth as both a doctor and forensic medicine expert, I am unfortunately filled with shame as I confront the effort on this occasion to criminalize the truth and our fight for human rights.

Bertold Brecht says:

“Justice is the bread of the people

Sometimes is plentiful, sometimes it is scarce

Sometimes it tastes good, sometimes it tastes bad.

When the bread is scarce, there is hunger.

When the bread is bad, there is discontent.

Throw away the bad justice

Baked without love, kneaded without knowledge!

Justice without flavour, with a grey crust

The stale justice which comes too late!”

and I am only capable of replying with Brecht when confronted with the endeavour to criminalize a scientific fact that should be treated as a criminal complaint and regarding which nobody has come forward and proved to the contrary that there were no children there, and thus our defence evidence.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrated its seventieth-anniversary last week. Noted in the preamble to the declaration is: “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” With it stated in Article 10 of the same declaration, “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him,” it is said in turn in Article 11, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.” The penalizing of the demand for peace and the documenting of human rights violations, which do not constitute penal offences under international law, in courts that I do not consider to be independent and impartial demonstrates to all of us here that the requirement to protect human rights by the rule of law is being treated with contempt.

My dear friend Eren Keskin, who addressed the Human Rights Panorama event that we staged as the Human Rights Association and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey said in his speech, quoting from Edward Said, “Intellectuals do not resolve crisis, they create crisis” Well, how does an intellectual create crisis? Of course, by asking questions and persistently pursuing the truth. Even if the answers will not be to anyone’s liking, they do not refrain from asking.

Personally, I make no claims to intellectualism. Let there be no misunderstanding. As a whole, what I have been referring to with every word uttered in Çağlayan over the course of a year is an extraordinary corpus that once more equates to the description by Edward Said, “Yes, an intellectual’s voice is lonely, but it has resonance only because it associates itself freely with the reality of a movement, the aspirations of a people, the common pursuit of a shared ideal.” This corpus has accumulated over the past year in trials brought under “copy and paste” indictments against 542 academics for wanting peace as, just as in what today is the 1009th hearing, they have continued to question evidence the courts have not researched, pursue the truth and pose discomforting questions. It is clear that we are referring to a whole that quite rightly creates crisis.

“The dreams of a child are peace” says Yannis Ritsos at the start of his poem “Peace.” It is a long poem. I will thus restrict myself to a few lines:

“Peace is the odour of food at evening

When an automobile stopping in the street does not mean fear

When a knock on the door means a friend

And the opening of a window every hour means sky

Feasting our eyes with the distant bells of its colours,

this is peace…

Peace is the clenched fist of men

it is warm bread on the world’s table”

I once more thank all my friends together with whom I have stood with fastened hands on our passage over a year. Wanting peace is not a crime. I do not accept your charges. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

 

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Campaign of solidarity with Evrensel launched in Germany

The German Federation of Journalists, the German Journalists Union and Reporters Without Borders have launched a campaign in support of Evrensel.

In a display of sensitivity over the repression of the press in Turkey, German journalism organizations and journalists have launched a campaign in support of Evrensel, an independent labour-movement-focussed daily and one of the few remaining opposition titles.

Renowned journalists working on the Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Neues Deutschland, Junge Welt and Freitag newspapers number among the champions of the campaign, which is also supported by representatives of Germany’s three largest journalist organizations, Frank Überall, President of the German Federation of Journalists (DJV), Peter Freitag, Vice-President of the Ver.di trade union-affiliated German Journalists Union (DJU), and Christian Mihr, Executive Director of Reporters Without Borders.

Daniela Dahn, one of Germany’s best-known authors, actor Rolf Becker, writer Werner Rügemer and Editor-in-Chief of the Melodie & Rhythmus magazine, Suzann Witt-Stahl, are also supporting the campaign.

PRESS FREEDOM KNOWS NO BORDERS

The declaration published under the title “Press freedom knows no borders. Call for practical solidarity with the Turkish daily Evrensel,” reads:

A living democracy needs a free and independent media like air to breathe. As to how critical current conditions are in Turkey, this can be gleaned in no small way from the way the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan treats critical journalistic voices.

Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, more than 170 newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, news agencies and publishers have been closed down for allegedly threatening “national security”. Well over 100 journalists have been arrested and more than 700 press cards have been annulled. Turkey currently ranks 157th among 180 in the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.

Working conditions have worsened dramatically for those colleagues who have not yet lost their freedom or jobs. Meanwhile, there are only very few media outlets in Turkey that still cannot be described as toeing the line. One of these is the daily Evrensel.

But its existence is also under acute threat. Individual issues of the left-wing, trade-union-aligned newspaper are regularly confiscated. There is an endeavour, through costly legal proceedings, to annihilate the paper economically. It is repeatedly given hefty fines for supposedly insubordinate articles. Editorial members are liable to arbitrary arrests. It is no easy task to withstand such tactics and it consumes a lot of energy. Our solidarity and support is all the more important just now.

Until July 2016, Evrensel’s Istanbul central editorial office shared premises with a TV station critical of the government, Hayatın Sesi TV. Alongside these, there was also the monthly cultural magazine Evrensel Kültür. However, both were among the media outlets that were shut down following the state of emergency in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt. Their assets were confiscated. So, now only Evrensel remains. The question, though, is for how much longer?

The daily, founded in 1995, is fighting for its survival. There are different ways of silencing inconvenient journalism in Turkey. Economic harassment can be just as effective as state bans. This is clearly what the autocratic Erdoğan regime is embarking on in the case of Evrensel. The financial situation of the paper is truly becoming ever more precarious due to the imposition of fines, an advertising boycott by public bodies and the drastic increase in the price of paper. However, the editorship continues to fight undaunted for democratic conditions in Turkey.

Let us help it not to run out of breath! We must not leave our colleagues in Turkey alone. The struggle for the freedom of press and opinion is international. We thus hereby appeal for financial support to Evrensel. Let us by these means ensure that this small, important newspaper can continue to withstand the enormous economic and political pressure.”

The number of journalists and organizations supporting the campaign is expected to increase in the days ahead. A website has also been set up for the campaign. (Cologne/EVRENSEL)

 

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