Imperialist infighting in Syria and the fall of Afrin

Perhaps, I should start with what should be said at the end. Just as the start of the military operation in Afrin cannot be explained by the determination of Turkey, the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces from Afrin and the fall of Afrincannot be explained by the situation of the Kurds alone. The struggle for hegemony in Syria – between the US and Russia – is becoming clearer and the developments in cities such as Afrin, Gutha, Idlib and Deir er-Zor become meaningful within this struggle. For example, the Syrian regime, worried about Turkey controlling Afrin and being faced with a lasting problem similar to that of Israel’s occupation of Golan, wanted to send the military to the city and did end up sending a limited militia force. However, perceiving the US permanent presence as the real threat, Russia blocked the attempts of the Syrian regime and opened the path to the fall of Afrin.

It is important to remember some key points in order to better understand what has been happening in Afrin and Syrian today.

Afrin is one of the three regions the Kurds had seized in the summer of 2012 and established cantonal administration. In fact, it was one of Syria’s most peaceful regions and had taken continuous migration until Turkey’s military operation. On the other hand, Afrin was the only Kurdish canton to the west of the Euphrates river. Joining up of the Afrin with Kobane canton was obstructed by the “Euphrates Shield” with the support of the Russians, just as the Afrin operation was sanctioned. Therefore Afrin had been largely isolated from other Kurdish regions. To the east of Euphrates, despite objections from Turkey, Kurds have been collaborating with the US, starting with the resistance in Kobane. This collaboration has reached a new level during the Raqqa- Deir er-Zor operation; with US supplying heavy weapons to Democratic Syrian Forces (DSF) – the biggest component of which was the YPG. During this period, Russia in negotiation with the Kurds but also giving the ‘go ahead’ to operation Euphrates Shield, was trying to limit the strength of the Kurds and was forcing them to a solution under its own guardianship. On the other hand, in order to block a possible intervention in Afrin by Turkey, it had deployed soldiers to the Afrin borders.

During the Trump era, the United States shifted into an interventionist stance that escalates tension in contrast to the Obama era of protecting US interests through a reconciliation process throughout Syria and the region (the Middle East). This policy was declared by the US missile attack on the Shayrat Airbase in Homs in April 2017; supposedly in response to a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun near Idlib by the Syrian regime. At the end of 2017, Putin visited the Russian Hmeymim Airbase in Latakia where he met with Assad. Putin stated that Russia would withdraw a large part of its troops in Syria following this meeting; and made a call to other forces in Syria – of course, primarily to the US – to withdraw their military forces. TheUS response to this call was, “if Russia is withdrawing, it is their choice, but we will continue to maintain stability in the country with our allies”. In fact, Russia did not pull out at all because it had signed a new agreement with the Syrian regime on the use of airbases in Tartus and the sea in Latakia. In fact, this call was a call against the US efforts to be permanent in Syria.

At a time when the struggle for hegemony between Russia and the US were becoming increasingly visible, the Syrian regime stated – using a previously unseen tone – that “forces cooperating with the US are traitors”. These developments also mobilised the leadership in Turkey; they have been looking for an opportunity to start a military operation in Afrin. The army was sent to the border with Afrin. The statement by the US in January 2018, announcing the establishment of a 30-thousand-strong ‘border security’ force, which also included the DSG, almost became the statement that triggered the recent events. The US statement of intent to become permanent in Syria, through cooperation with the Kurds – the attempt to set up an army was significant in the attempts to set up a federal government, in which the US wanted to be the one help the Kurds achieve instead of Syrian regime and Russia – led to the ‘go ahead’ Turkey received from Russia to attack the Kurds. Following negotiations with Russia and the Russians opening the Syrian airspace to Turkish jets, the Afrin offensive started on 20 January.

Russia, giving Turkey the ‘go ahead’ once again following operation ‘Euphrates Shield’, wanted to further weaken the Kurds and to corner the US, using another member of NATO in Turkey. To nullify this plan, the US first stated that “Afrin is not an area we operate in”, followed by a statement of its readiness to cooperate with Turkey on the issue of Manbij, the next target for Turkey following Afrin; a joint commission to resolve this issue was agreed upon during the recent visit to Turkey by the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, now removed from his post. The concern for the US was not the Kurds but to make permanent its bases to the east of Euphrates. It was open to negotiations on other issues such as providing intelligence support for operations on the PKK forces in Kandil and Shengal.

At the end of the first month of the Afrin operation, it was reported that militia forces that support the regime, and supported by Iran, entered the city. As we pointed out at the beginning, the Syrian regime and its most important regional supporter Iran were concerned with Turkey becoming permanently established in Afrin and wanted to prevent its advance to the city centre; despite being small in numbers, the arrival of militia forces in Afrin were seen as a manifestation of this intent. What led to the failure of this attempt was the stance of their ally Russia. This attempt would mean the end of the cooperation established between Russia, Turkey and Iran in Astana and pit Russia and Iran against Turkey. Russia wanted to continue cooperation with Turkey to derail plans of the US.

What these developments meant for Afrin was that the US, making plans for the east of the Euphrates, had abandoned the Kurds and Russia, in an attempt to use the anti-Kurdish policies of Turkey against the US, opened the gates of Afrin to keep Turkey on its side. As a result, Kurds – abandoned by both the US and the Russian camps, fighting for dominance in Syria – had to adopt a tactic of withdrawal under the current conditions.

This is the “national victory” that Turkey achieved in Afrin in a nutshell; in cooperation with the FSA, which is made up of jihadist gangs. Another point that must be mentioned here: the fact that Afrin was taken over without being destroyed is said to be a proof of the Turkish sensitivity towards the civilian population. On the contrary, the reason for the take over of Afrin without destruction – unlike like Raqqa and other cities – is the fact that fighters had already left the city. Otherwise, never mind Syrian towns, today Cizre, Şırnak and Silopi [Kurdish towns in eastern Turkey] all lie in ruins!

Before we finish, let us make it clear that when the dust from the air of victory is settled, Turkey will have to face up to the reality in Syria. For, what is presented as a victory only means Turkey getting dragged further into the middle of a region where two imperialist powers have locked horns. Furthermore, Turkish government’s perception that Kurdish gains are a threat to its security only makes it more possible for these imperialist powers to use Turkish sensitivities to serve their own interests.

Hence, the perceived victory in Afrin makes it easier for the government to jeopardise Turkey more. Therefore, in contrast to the propaganda that is spread, the way to nullify imperialist plans is not intensified interventionist policies, intertwined with imperialist plans but the defence of peaceful policies that will serve the interests of regional peoples.

By Yusuf Karatas

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Erdogan and the AKP government claim victory in rigged referendum

Approximately 50 million voters headed over to the ballot boxes on 16 April to vote on the referendum for constitutional changes in Turkey.

The public were presented with manipulated figures, purporting to show a victory for the Yes vote, equivalent to 51.4% ‘yes’ and 48.6% ‘no’. All big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Mersin, Antalya and Diyarbakir voted against the constitutional changes.

Even so, while approximately 1 million votes were disregarded as unacceptable, 2.5 million ballot papers without official stamps were counted as legitimate. It clearly states in the election laws that ballot papers that are not stamped must not be accepted. This decision, which was approved by the Supreme Election Council (YSK), is being used to turn over the results with a ‘done and dusted’ attitude.

The will of the public is trampled on

In spite of referendum result showing a “No” majority in the referendum and the discovery of unsealed ballot papers in the ballot boxes, efforts are being made to announce an official “yes” victory. The two leaders of the main parties (AKP and MHP) who campaigned for a “yes” vote, made announcements thanking the nation whilst, ignoring the criticisms of numerous breaches of due process and concealing the fact that the “no” campaign won the referendum vote.

Despite the fact that the new constitutional changes have been rejected by the voters, the will of the public is trampled on and through cheating and lies a dictatorship is being imposed.

The AKP and Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to enforce the questionable results of the referendum in favour of the yes vote have resulted in mass protests in big cities and across the country. The main oppositional parties, CHP and HDP are calling for a revocation of the referendum result, which it says is the only way to settle the questionable status of the referendum.

OSCE critical of the referendum

The referendum was held under state of emergency and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Turkey is a member, stated that the conditions for the vote did not appear “fair”, and that the Supreme Electoral Council did not act in a transparent way.

We will not be silent

We therefore call upon all democratic forces of Britain to support the struggle of the people in Turkey against the undemocratic measures.

We call on Theresa May to refuse to recognise the outcome of the referendum, suspend all arms sales and pressure other bodies to do likewise. We urge the government to send a delegation of MPs to visit the country as a matter of urgency and meet the opposition and hear their voice. The government should strongly condemn the jailing of MPs, journalists and the lack of freedom of press, free speech and attacks on the opposition.

Finally, we urge you to inform the public, pressurise the UK government to take a stand on the basis of the concerns highlighted by OSCE and international observers.

Please send letters of protest to the Supreme Election Council of Turkey for its decision to validate illegally the 2.5 million votes cast without the official stamp to ensure a “yes” result is achieved.

Please email and / or tweet bilgiedinme@ysk.gov.tr /  @ysecimkurulu

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)

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Not even a Pyrrhic victory!

Ihsan Caralan (Evrensel, 17.4.17)

The referendum for a constitutional amendment that will take Turkey to a “one party, one man regime” was held last Sunday.

Initial reports show a 51.4 “yes” and 48.6 “no” vote. Both the close results and the fact that the two big parties of the “no” camp, People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), raising their objections to the irregularities of the referendum is a sign that the controversy surrounding the referendum will be on the political agenda in the coming days, if not months.

Under normal circumstances 50 per cent +1 would technically be considered to have won in a referendum on something that would not change the regime of the country. However, the constitutional amendment voted on recently is not an ordinary thing as it brings substantial changes to the regime. Therefore, a 51 per cent “yes” vote cannot unify a divided people or be considered “legitimate”, especially if there is extensive suspicion around the results.

Moreover, this constitutional amendment

  1. Was brought to the parliament disregarding its rules on many of the opposition’s rights and the procedures for secret voting, with use of brute force by the ruling AKP and the nationalist MHP representatives, and when the parliament’s third biggest pro-Kurdish HDP party is practically excluded from parliamentary activities, and its 13 MPs, including the co-leaders, are in prison.
  2. During the referendum campaign the “yes” camp

* mobilised and used everything at their disposal, including the state owned transport vehicles;

* used the state of emergency, government decrees and the anti-terror law to terrorise the political climate and intimidate the “no” camp;

* mobilised governors, prosecutors, local governments and security forces to ban the “no” rallies;

* used even the mafia related gangs and civil militia in addition to the security forces to intimidate the “no” vote;

* stigmatised the “no” camp by identifying it with the “coup” supporters and the so-called “Fethullah Gulen Terror Organisation – or FETO for short”, named after the self-exiled cleric who is said to be behind the failed coup;

* manipulated all nationalist, religious, moral and cultural values for their black propaganda;

* and dominated the whole referendum process in an unlawful and unjust way, knowing no limits in exploiting even the most sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues.

Despite all repression and obstruction, with a 51.4 percent “yes” and a 48.6 percent “no” vote the referendum result appears to be on a knife-edge.

Another important point is that the biggest cities of Turkey –Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana and Antalya – have scored a “no” vote. This is a sign that AKP is losing support in big cities.

Therefore, we can say that this referendum will

* pave the way to developments that will deteriorate the problems with regards to Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy;

* open the legitimacy of the referendum and of the constitutional amendments;

* and not even be a Pyrrhic victory with this “yes” vote.

The realities of the referendum indicates significant possibilities for the “no” camp, for Turkey’s progressive democratic forces and the working class party in the short term, as well as for political restructuring in Turkey and the advancement of the positions of the working class.

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Finding of the international observers. 

The 16 April constitutional referendum in Turkey was contested on an unlevel playing field, and the two sides in the campaign did not have equal opportunities, the international observers concluded in a statement released today. While the technical aspects of the process were well administered, voters were not provided with impartial information about key aspects of the reform, and limitations on fundamental freedoms had a negative effect, the statement says.

“On referendum day there were no major problems, except in some regions, however we can only regret the absence of civil society observers in polling stations,” said Cezar Florin Preda, Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “In general, the referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process.”

“The referendum took place in a political environment in which fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed under the state of emergency, and the two sides did not have equal opportunities to make their case to the voters,” said Tana de Zulueta, Head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission.  “Our monitoring showed the ‘Yes’ campaign dominated the media coverage and this, along with restrictions on the media, the arrests of journalists and the closure of media outlets, reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views.”

Although the Supreme Board of Elections (SBE) adopted regulations and instructions to address some aspects of the process, the legal framework, which is focused on elections, remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum, the observers said. Provincial governors used state-of-emergency powers to further restrict the freedom of assembly and expression.

“A state of emergency should never be used to undermine the rule of law,” Preda said.

The legal framework for the referendum neither sufficiently provides for impartial coverage nor guarantees eligible political parties equal access to public media, and gives preference to the ruling party and the president in the allocation of free airtime, while the SBE’s authority to sanction for biased coverage was repealed, the statement says.

The law limits full participation in the referendum to eligible political parties and does not regulate the involvement of other stakeholders, the statement says. Further, the SBE decided that civil society organizations and professional associations were not permitted to hold campaign events.

“The campaign framework was restrictive and the campaign imbalanced due to the active involvement of several leading national officials, as well as many local public officials, in the ‘Yes’ campaign,” de Zulueta said. “We observed the misuse of state resources, as well as the obstruction of ‘No’ campaign events. The campaign rhetoric was tarnished by some senior officials equating ‘No’ supporters with terrorist sympathizers, and in numerous cases ‘No’ supporters faced police interventions and violent scuffles at their events.”

Referendum day proceeded in an orderly and efficient manner in the limited number of polling stations visited by international observers. In some cases, access for ODIHR observers during the opening and voting in polling stations was either denied or limited. Police presence was widely reported both in and outside polling station and, in some cases, police were checking voters’ identification documents before granting access to the polls. The SBE issued instructions late in the day that significantly changed the ballot validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law.

For further information contact:

Thomas Rymer, ODIHR, +90 535 891 9998 or +48 609 522 266, thomas.rymer@odihr.pl

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We must stand in solidarity with the people of Turkey.

Steve Sweeney, SPOT Steering Committee member reports from Turkey on the aftermath of the referendum. 

I was part of the demonstrations in Besiktas last night where people were opposing the outcome of the referendum result. The result cannot be given any credibility and should not be legitimised.

Opposition CHP and HDP have announced they will challenge the outcome of the election.

The people of Turkey have accused president Erdogan of stealing their vote with reports of widespread corruption including 2.5 million contested votes counted as Yes, No votes going missing and AKP/Erdogan supporting AA news agency announcing results before ballot boxes had even left polling stations.

Erdogan would never have accepted defeat in the referendum. This was a long time in the planning. When the HDP election victory meant he could not command the majority needed to force the changes through parliament, he pushed through a law lifting immunity from prosecution for lawmakers and had 13 MPs thrown in jail.

It was only the failed coup last year which saw the ultra-nationalist/fascists of the MHP change their position to support the constitutional changes, however not all MPs or their supporters agreed.

The post-coup purges have seen opposition voices silenced. There is no freedom of the press, academics have been purged, journalists arrested, government workers sacked and everyone has become a suspect

In the south-east whole cities have been flattened with half a million people displaced. Many of those people cannot vote as they have no registered address due to their homes being destroyed and those that can are subject to military checkpoints, although many simply do not have the means to travel to vote. 

Independent observers were blocked from entering sensitive areas. 

Despite all of this, Erdogan could only muster 51% of the vote. It cannot under any circumstances be described as a free and fair election. 

I was stopped by the police at a polling station and they tried to take my phone from me and I have a serious suspicion that my laptop and social media have been hacked and tampered with and my internet access restricted.

But the people of Turkey are not accepting the result. A series of demonstrations spread across many districts in Istanbul last night and I expect will continue today as international bodies say they will assess the allegations of fraud and corruption.

However these same bodies have been responsible for giving Erdogan the free hand he needed to terrorise his own people. Who have offered mild rebukes which he has seen fit to ignore as they refuse to consider any serious response to what elsewhere would be described as war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The pots and pans heard across Istanbul last night stood as a reminder of the spirit of Gezi. It is to these people that the new Turkey belongs and the fight will continue.

We must stand in solidarity with the people of Turkey.

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SCF: Legitimacy Of Rigged Referendum’s Result In Turkey Widely Questioned By Turks, EU And US

Stockholm Centre for Freedom expressed concerns to do with the referendum election held in Turkey.                                                     As opposition groups have taken the streets of many Turkish cities to protest allegedly rigged referendum results, both the European Union (EU) and the US officials have refrained to comment over the announced voting results until seeing the OSCE findings.

The international observers monitoring the constitutional referendum in Turkey will present their preliminary post-referendum statement at a news conference on Monday in Ankara. The mission is a joint undertaking of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The statement will be delivered by Cezar Florin Preda, Head of the PACE delegation, and Tana de Zulueta, Head of the ODIHR Limited Referendum Observation Mission. The International Observation Mission comprises 63 observers from 26 countries, including 40 long-term observers and experts deployed by OSCE/ODIHR and 23 parliamentarians and staff from PACE.

Stefan Schennach, an Austrian member of a PACE team sent to Turkey to observe a referendum, has said on Sunday that the referendum on a constitutional amendment package to bring an executive presidency to the country was neither free nor fair.

“[A]fter our mission in Diyarbakir + Mardin we got deeply worried, referendum was neither fair nor free: police blocked 2x observation,” Schennach said in a Twitter message posted following the referendum.

PACE announced last Monday that it would send a 20-member delegation to Turkey to observe the conduct of the referendum on constitutional amendments, alongside observers from the OSCE/ODIHR. In January, the PACE Monitoring Committee expressed concern in a statement about the content of the proposed constitutional reforms and the conditions under which a referendum would be held in Turkey.

Limited Referendum Observation Mission of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR LROM) had stated in their interim report on April 7 that supporters of the ‘No’ campaign in Turkey faced campaign bans, police interventions, and violent scuffles at their events. According to interim report released by OSCE/ODIHR LROM over Turkey’s constitutional referendum, “the campaign is characterized by polarization and some restrictions.”

Meanwhile, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement on Sunday and stated that “We take note of the reported results of the referendum in Turkey on the amendments to the Constitution, adopted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 21 January 2017.  We are awaiting the assessment of the OSCE/ODIHR International Observation Mission, also with regard to alleged irregularities.”

The statement has continued: “The constitutional amendments, and especially their practical implementation, will be assessed in light of Turkey’s obligations as a EU candidate country and as a member of the Council of Europe. We encourage Turkey to address the Council of Europe’s concerns and recommendations, including with regards to the State of Emergency. In view of the close referendum result and the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments, we also call on the Turkish authorities to seek the broadest possible national consensus in their implementation.”

 US State Department Spokesperson has also refrained to make any comment on referendum before seeing the assessment of the OSCE/ODIHR International Observation Mission. The Spokesperson sent a statement to Washington Hattı news portal when asked whether they have any comment over the results of the elections results, and stated that “We are, of course, following the referendum voting outcome in Turkey. We will refrain from commenting until the results have been confirmed and OSCE/ODIHR has reported on its initial findings.”

Despite both Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, together with Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the head of Supreme Board of Election (YSK) have announced that “yes” vote won the majority in the referendum, allegations on the widespread and systematic election frauds have marked and overshadowed the historic voting.

Over 55 million Turkish citizens voted across the country on Sunday in a historic referendum proposing constitutional changes. Citizens cast their ballots at 167,000 polling stations nationwide. Over 1 million of them were first-time voters who recently turned 18.

As irregularities with regards to procedures during the polling for a historic referendum were revealed opposition groups reacted. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said it will object to the referendum results on grounds that the vote for the constitutional amendment were manipulated in terms of content and method, a party senior has said.

“Since the morning there has been a serious chaos all over Turkey. The Supreme Board of Elections [YSK] has declared that the board will deem voting papers without official seals as valid. They cancelled voting papers without seals in the ballots abroad. It was the same board that did this,” CHP deputy leader Erdal Aksünger said. He also stated that the opposition party will make necessary appeals to object.

“In eastern and southeastern cities, the election observers from the ‘no’ groups were removed from their ballots. There were many violations in terms of the form of the elections. There were people who voted outside booths, violating the secret ballot rule. There were people who went to the ballot boxes with their village governors; these are all violations,” he added.

The YSK, however, stated on its website that unless there was no proof that ballot papers and envelopes were brought from outside, they will be accepted as valid.

Pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has also announced that the party will object to the results. “Irrespective of the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ victory, we will object to two thirds of the ballots. The information we have received indicates a 3 to 4 percent manipulation,” the HDP announced through their official Twitter account on late April 16.

Former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Meral Akşener, who renegaded from her party months ahead of the vote to campaign for the “No” vote, also criticized the YSK decisions.

“About the voting papers without the YSK seals; it is a scandal! It is a scandal that the YSK has announced that they will deem it valid. Two of our lawmaker friends are making the necessary appeals,” Akşener said in a televised interview on private broadcaster Fox TV late April 16.

Akşener also stated that the state-run agency’s results indicated a manipulation. “According to the official results received by the YSK, the ‘No’ votes lead by 52 percent,” she added. “On the other hand, the information we have received from YSK indicates that the entire results were not registered by the YSK yet. Anadolu Agency is making the manipulation,” she said.

While chair of the CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, called on his party to hold an emergency meeting, in many cities people have gathered on streets and rallied to protest rigged and manipulated referendum results.  CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu has said that his party would object to the results of Sunday’s referendum on the grounds that the vote for the constitutional amendments was manipulated by the YSK in terms of content and method. 

“Due to YSK interference, the referendum results have become questionable. Now, I am asking: Why would you make such a decision? Rules cannot be changed in the middle of the game. The YSK literally cast a shadow over the decision made by this nation. We will be checking this closely,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Hours before the unofficial results were announced late on Sunday night the YSK declared that the board would deem voting papers without official seals to be valid. The board also declared on its website that unless there was proof that ballot papers and envelopes were brought from outside the polling place, they would be accepted as valid. The announcement reportedly came after a board meeting following a high number of complaints regarding unsealed ballot papers.

Citizens of Turkey cast their votes on Sunday in a historic referendum on whether to switch the system of governance to an executive presidency amid reports of alleged voter fraud across the country. The state-run Anadolu news agency said 99.9 percent of the votes had been counted, leading to a “yes” win with a 51.23 percent majority.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan on Sunday said he would immediately discuss reinstating the death penalty with the government and the opposition while addressing a crowd celebrating the results of a Sunday referendum in front of Huber Palace in the Sarıyer district of İstanbul.

“I will say ‘I have always encountered this in the field.’ (MHP leader) Bahçeli already said, ‘I will support it’ and (Prime Minister) Yıldırım likewise. But [Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal ] Kılıçdaroğlu also said he would support it. If he really supports it and it comes to me, I will approve it. Otherwise what will we do? We will have another referendum on that, too,” Erdoğan added.

The issue of reinstating capital punishment in Turkey has strained ties with the European Union after Erdoğan and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suggested its reintroduction following a failed coup attempt last summer.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on March 19 that reinstatement of capital punishment in Turkey would “lead to the end of negotiations” with Ankara for its membership in the EU.

“Executing the death penalty is incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe,” said Daniel Holtgen, director of communications at the Council of Europe and spokesperson for Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland, in reaction to the Turkish government plan to introduce the death penalty.

Responding to criticism from the EU, Erdoğan said during a rally in Antalya on March 25: “They say that if the death penalty is reinstated, Turkey will not have a place in Europe. We do not need that place.”

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as a part of reforms to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the death penalty has not been used since 1984. (SCF with turkishminute.com) April 17, 2017

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We will continue our struggle!

Press release and public announcement on the outcome of the referendum in Turkey

We will continue our struggle against the shady referendum outcome and one-man rule!

This was a referendum held under a state of emergency and oppressive policies.

This was a campaign full of inequalities and injustices.

As if this was not enough, the Supreme Electoral Council made a scandalous decision and breached its own rules.  

The facts speak for itself. We face a shady and illegitimate referendum result.

President Erdogan, along with his government and owners of capital who stand behind him, will work hard to enforce the illegitimate referendum outcome upon the people. 
The people have not consented to the “One-man one-party dictatorship” rule, but (the ruling government and president) they will try and take advantage of the current situation.

Despite all this (unequal election campaign and breaches), people have made their views clear and said No.

We will continue our struggle against the shady referendum outcome and “one-man rule”.

Selma Gurkan

General Secretary, Labour Party of Turkey

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Why Should We Support The “No” Vote In Turkey’s April Referendum?

As you know tomorrow is a hugely significant day for Turkey, where citizens are being asked to make a significant decision about the future of their country. The people of Turkey will tomorrow vote on a new constitution which, if passed, will result in the granting of ultimate executive powers to the President and will create a totalitarian regime.

There is no doubt that the effects of an increasingly undemocratic, indeed dictatorial regime in Turkey will have far reaching consequences for equality and human rights – not just for those living in Turkey but also for peace and democracy across the Middle East and Europe.

Citizens of Turkey living in Britain had the opportunity to exercise their voting rights in London last week, between 6 and 9 April. 43 thousand people exercised that right out of a total of approx. 90 thousand and a strong No vote is expected in Britain.

Electorates living in Turkey will have their say tomorrow and the opinion polls suggests that a No vote is likely. However, the supporters of the yes campaign are both the referees and presiding officers at this referendum. There is concern that the lack of checks and balances mean that results could be manipulated. Therefore, a large majority is necessary at the ballot box for the No side to be sure of a victory.

As SPOT we have campaigned in favour of the No vote because we believe in peace, democracy and better working conditions for all in Turkey.

Many thanks to Jamie Grant and our young friends who have produced an introductory video on the referendum, which can be viewed here:

We will continue our efforts and hope that tomorrow’s poll will be the beginning of a brighter and more democratic future for Turkey.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)

Follow us on spotturkey.co.uk, @spotturkey

https://youtu.be/KP8E8pY7Eb4

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CONFERENCE: ACADEMIC FREEDOM, AUTHORITARIANISM AND TURKEY

In the face of rising authoritarianism and right-wing populism, academic freedom is under severe threat in contemporary Turkey. Governmental repression on academics became all too apparent when the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, instigated a campaign of persecution against academics – Academics for Peace (BAK) – who signed a peace petition in January 2016. The petition, which called on the Turkish government to bring a halt to the destruction and civilian killings being carried out in Kurdish cities and towns, was signed by more than 2000 academics.

As of 2017, more than 700 BAK academics have been subject to dismissal, disciplinary actions, criminal prosecution, or even detention. The repression has escalated beyond BAK academics in the aftermath of the failed military coup in July 2016, with thousands of academics being fired, or forced to resign, and hundreds being legally detained. More than 20 universities have been closed, and their students forced to find alternative places. In addition, since January 2016, hundreds of academics and scholars have been displaced, either forced to leave Turkey or choosing it as the only viable option.
This half-day conference will address the current threats to academic freedom in Turkey, in the context of the current global political climate. We aim to start an urgent conversation about academic freedom and freedom of speech, increasingly stifled due to neoliberalism, authoritarianism, and the so-called “war on terror” in many parts of the world, from the US to India, Latin America to Egypt. We invite the university community, journalists, activists, politicians, and all concerned individuals to join us in this effort to defend academic freedom and freedom of speech and think about ways to organise solidarity to support scholars and journalists at risk. 

PROGRAM

Panel I – 12:30 – 14:30.                               Academic Freedom, Authoritarianism and Turkey

Chair: Noémi Levy-Aksu, Boğaziçi University/Birkbeck College

Étienne Balibar, Emeritus Professor at Paris X Nanterre and Anniversary Chair of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University London
Naif Bezwan, dismissed Lecturer from Mardin Artuklu University
Nilgün Toker Kılınç, dismissed Professor from Aegean University (via Skype)
Break – 14:30-14:45

Panel II – 14:45-17:00
Round Table Discussion: Building Solidarity with Academics in Turkey
Chair: Janroj Yilmaz Keles, Middlesex University

Jean Lambert, MEP, Green Party  
Rop Copeland, Policy Officer, UCU

Caroline Stockford, Chair of the Translation, Linguistic Rights and Writers in Prison Committee, Wales PEN Cymru
Maria Chichtchenkova, Protection Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, Front Line Defenders
This event is organised by BAK-UK (Academics for Peace, United Kingdom) with the support of Birkbeck School of Law.
For more information go to the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1392490894125441??ti=ia


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Urgent Call for Xerabê Bava by Academics for Peace- Germany & Academics for Peace- UK

As Turkey’s constitutional referendum is approaching, we are, once again, witnessing an intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey. For more than a week, there has been no communication with the people of Xerabê Bava (Koruköy), a village in Mardin-Nusaybin. The village is under round-the-clock military curfew and there have been claims that villagers are being tortured and executed. Visitors, including journalists, MPs and human rights observers were denied entry to the village. 
We are concerned that what is going on in Xerabê Bava might be a harbinger of approaching larger scale state violence against the Kurdish population and other minority populations in Turkey. Since the violence exercised on Kurdish population has become a strategy for the government in order to consolidate a nationalistic
support for the referendum, it is crucial to raise an urgent reaction to this violence at its very beginning. 

We, therefore, urge international human rights organizations, journalists, and peace coalitions to pay attention to Xerabê Bava and take the necessary steps to investigate the allegations of rights violations in the village.

Academics for Peace- Germany

Academics for Peace- UK

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