US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC : http://boston.indymedia.org/
Boston.Indymedia
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Testimonies
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this feature | View comments | Email this feature | Printer-friendly version
News :: Human Rights
The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights addresses the Suffolk/Foxman/Armenian issue
19 May 2014
Armenian Americans await the ADL’s full withdrawal of its deceitful August 21, 2007 statement; its unequivocal and unambiguous acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide; and, to begin to make amends for the injuries it has inflicted in lobbying against the recognition of the Genocide, the ADL must actively and sincerely lobby for the passage of the Armenian genocide resolution. If the ADL is truly composed of advocates for universal human rights and genocide prevention, it will do these things.
455px-Plenty_of_Room_for_Hypocrisy.jpg
A cartoon response to the ADL's purported anti-bias program, "No Place For Hate"
At the May 17, 2014 Suffolk Law School commencement at the Wang Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, the Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights distributed 1000 flyers (please see the attached document) to the graduates and their families and guests.

The flyer protested Suffolk University President James McCarthy’s invitation to Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, to be its keynote speaker and receive an honorary law degree.

The main reasons cited by the flyer were Mr. Foxman’s and the ADL’s long-standing collusion with Turkey, a major human rights violator, in refusing to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915 – 1923, making misleading statements on it, and in working to defeat U.S. Congressional resolutions on that genocide.

The protest against Mr. Foxman’s appearance was initiated in early April by Suffolk’s student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The chapter cited, among several reasons, Mr. Foxman’s stance against Armenian Americans (see over 1000 signatures at Change.org, “Remove ADL Director Abe Foxman as Suffolk Law's 2014 Commencement Speaker”).

The law school’s invitation to Mr. Foxman came just one month after the Massachusetts Governor’s Council’s widely publicized rejection of attorney and ADL National Commissioner Joseph Berman to be a Superior Court judge.

We understand that Mr. Foxman’s commencement speech mentioned the Armenian “genocide.” We must reject his remarks as disingenuous and a clumsy attempt to mislead his audience. The ADL’s only formal and definitive statement on the Armenian issue was issued on August 21, 2007. As explained in the flyer and in NoPlaceForDenial.com’s Q & A, the ADL statement was deliberately and deceptively worded so as to sidestep applicable international law, namely the United Nations 1948 Convention on Genocide. As a result, from 2007 – 2008 the Massachusetts Municipal Association and over a dozen Massachusetts cities and towns severed their ties with the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” program.

The ADL’s infamous 2007 statement has never been withdrawn, nor have Mr. Foxman and his ADL ever apologized to Armenians.

Moreover, the ADL’s continued lobbying against an Armenian genocide resolution is hypocritical and disgraceful, particularly given that the organization claims to uphold the human rights of all ethnic groups and has successfully lobbied for numerous Holocaust resolutions in the U.S. and at the United Nations (see ADL Press Release, “ADL to Uncommitted U.N. Ambassadors: Support Holocaust Denial Resolution,” January 23, 2007).

Armenian Americans await the ADL’s full withdrawal of its deceitful August 21, 2007 statement; its unequivocal and unambiguous acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide; and, to begin to make amends for the injuries it has inflicted in lobbying against the recognition of the Genocide, the ADL must actively and sincerely lobby for the passage of the Armenian genocide resolution. If the ADL is truly composed of advocates for universal human rights and genocide prevention, it will do these things.

The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights takes special notice that some media continue to omit or misrepresent the above facts and the Armenian American position.

FLYER:

Congratulations to Suffolk Law School’s 2014 Graduates & Their Families
The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights joins in protesting Suffolk Law’s invitation to Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s National Director since 1987, to be its keynote speaker and receive an honorary law degree. The National Lawyers Guild’s Suffolk chapter initiated the protest, and over 1000 people have signed its Change.org petition [archive] protesting Foxman. Hundreds have written to Suffolk President James McCarthy and commencement invitee US Senator Edward Markey.

Q: Why are Foxman and the ADL not deserving of being honored by Suffolk Law School?

A: A major example: Foxman and his ADL have for many years worked with Turkey, a major human rights violator, to prevent formal US recognition of the genocide committed by Turkey against 1.5 million Christian Armenians from 1915–23. This is hypocritical and contrary to the ADL’s stated mission of upholding the human rights of all people. Foxman has also tried to sidestep international law and diminish the Armenian genocide in his disingenuous, legalistically worded statement of August 21, 2007.

Q: How did Foxman’s statement sidestep international law?

A: To be genocide, the 1948 “United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” requires “intent” by the perpetrator. Foxman wrote, in part: “… the consequences of those actions [by Turkey] were indeed tantamount to genocide.” The word “consequences” is, in effect, the very opposite of the “intent” required by the Genocide Convention. And note that “tantamount to genocide” is not the same as genocide. Foxman has never withdrawn that statement or apologized.

Q: What had brought about Foxman’s statement?

A: In the summer of 2007, major protests arose in Massachusetts and the nation over the ADL’s long-time cooperation with Turkey to defeat Congressional resolutions on the Armenian genocide & the ADL’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. It made international news: NoPlaceForDenial.com.

Q: Was Foxman’s August 21, 2007 statement rejected by human rights activists and others?

A: Yes. From 2007 to 2008, the human rights commissions and city councils of Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Lexington, Medford, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Northampton, Peabody, Somerville, Watertown, and Westwood stopped sponsoring the ADL’s alleged anti-bias program “No Place for Hate.” The Massachusetts Municipal Association, representing all cities and towns, also dropped “No Place for Hate.” They realized that the ADL – one of whose major concerns is the Holocaust – was acting immorally and hypocritically. They knew that Foxman’s August 21 statement skirted international law. Human rights advocates and media excoriated Foxman and the ADL.

Q: Has Foxman ever punished anyone in the ADL for acknowledging the Armenian genocide?

A: Yes. When local New England ADL Director Andrew Tarsy suddenly acknowledged the Armenian genocide in 2007, Foxman immediately fired him. Jewish Americans condemned the firing. Foxman was forced to rehire Tarsy under terms never made public. Soon after, however, Tarsy resigned. He was later replaced by Derek Shulman, a political director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which had similarly helped Turkey to cover up the Armenian genocide.

Q: Was the Armenian Genocide truly a genocide?

A: Yes. Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer, coined the word “genocide” in 1944 and authored much of the 1948 Genocide Convention. In a 1949 CBS-TV interview (see YouTube), Lemkin said he became interested in genocide because “it happened to the Armenians.” A 1951 World Court (ICJ) filing by the US cited the Armenian “genocide.” Nearly 20 countries, including Canada, France, Sweden, and Argentina, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the European Union Parliament, the Parliament of the Council of Europe, a U.N. subcommittee, Massachusetts, and many others recognize the Armenian “genocide.” An Armenian genocide resolution is pending in the Senate. Senator Edward Markey, speaking today, is co-sponsoring it. Foxman and his ADL oppose the resolution.

Q: Why are Foxman and his ADL so against recognition of the Armenian genocide?

A: Jewish and Israeli analysts and media confirm that an agreement was initiated long ago among Turkey, Israel, and the ADL (and other organizations such as AIPAC, AJC, and JINSA). Turkey wanted Jewish American groups to lobby for Turkish interests. Though Turkish – Israeli relations have become strained, the agreement remains in force. See documentation in “A History of Lobbying against Genocide Recognition” at NoPlaceforDenial.com.


Q: Who has favored the US Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide?

A: Scores of organizations of diverse orientations including American Values, National Council of Churches, NAACP, National Organization of Women, Sons of Italy, American Jewish World Service, and Jewish War Veterans of the USA. 126 Holocaust scholars signed a petition appearing in the New York Times (June 9, 2000) urging acknowledgement of the Armenian genocide.


Q: In view of all this, why would Suffolk University still honor Foxman and the ADL?

A: It’s inexplicable. President McCarthy claims that Foxman is being honored for his “body of work.” Such as the ADL’s sidestepping the Genocide Convention? Or the ADL’s efforts to stop recognition of the Armenian genocide while demanding commemoration and legislation on the Holocaust? Would a true human rights organization conspire with a human rights violator such as Turkey to cover up the murder of 1.5 million human beings? In 1993, authorities in San Francisco raided ADL headquarters. They discovered “evidence of a nationwide intelligence network accused of keeping files on more than 950 political groups, newspapers, and labor unions and as many as 12,000 people” (L.A. Times, April 9, 1993). The ADL paid an out-of-court settlement. In 2007, the police chief of Arlington, MA said his department could get information from the ADL that it could not legally acquire on its own. So is the ADL an organization that truly upholds civil & human rights and follows the law?

The Suffolk leadership’s divisive actions have not honored its graduates, their families, and the law.

The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights wishes graduates long and successful careers.
Add a quick comment
Title
Your name Your email

Comment

Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.

Comments

Re: Human Rights Foxman
21 Jun 2014
Click on image for a larger version

presbyterian-church_si.jpg
The Presbyterian Church has narrowly voted to move forward with divestment in various companies in protest of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. The group has now become the most prominent in the US to endorse some form of divestment.

The top US policymaking body for the Presbyterian denomination has opted to sell its stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions by a vote of 310 to 303, ratifying a move that had failed two years prior. All three companies have been identified as making products used by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories.

During the General Assembly’s vote Caterpillar was identified as having provided the IDF with equipment used to demolish homes in the West Bank, as well as used in the construction of Israeli settler-only roads in the territory, reported Daily Kos. Meanwhile, Motorola was linked to surveillance systems used by Israeli settlements, while HP has provided biometric scanning technology used on Palestinians at checkpoints.

Though Friday’s vote suggests that the divestment movement may be making inroads into mainstream groups, even those who advocated for divestment by the Presbyterians insisted they were not linked to the broader BDS push -- or boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Frank Allen of the Central Florida Presbytery led an effort to strike down the move for divestment, arguing that "divestment is not a good tool for peace-making," and would alienate Presbyterians from the Jewish community.

“Divestment will create dissension. Dialogue and relationship building will lay the ground work for true peace," said Allen.

The measure adopted by the Presbyterian Church meanwhile reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist. Prior to Friday’s vote, PC (USA) distanced itself from a publication by its Israel/Palestine Mission entitled “Zionism Unsettled,” which criticizes the ideological basis of Zionism and emphasizes human rights abuses. Jewish leaders have branded that publication as anti-Semitic. In response, PC (USA) voted for a resolution stating that the paper did not represent the wider views of the denomination.

The vote itself is considered to be largely symbolic, as the Presbyterian holdings in all three companies is estimated at $21 million and does not represent a significant financial impact.

Still, the narrow vote in favor of divestment was made in spite of a concerted effort by the largest American Jewish organizations. According to the New York Times, more than 1,700 rabbis from all 50 states had signed an open letter to sway Presbyterian voters, stating that “placing all the blame on one party, when both bear responsibility, increases conflict and division instead of promoting peace.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the leader of the Jewish Reform movement, had also offered to broker a meeting between top Presbyterian leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so they could voice their concerns regarding territorial occupation, but only if divestment was discarded.

For its part, Motorola Solutions has said that it complies with the law and its own internal policies on human rights. Hewlett-Packard responded by stating that its involvement in checkpoints for Palestinians were developed to allow passage “in a secure environment, enabling people to get to their place of work or to carry out their business in a faster and safer way.” Caterpillar, meanwhile, has previously stated that it sells its equipment directly to the US government

http://rt.com/usa/167448-presbyterian-church-divestment-vote-israel/
Turkey's Islamic Rebel Problem
25 Jun 2014
Modified: 05:23:24 PM
Click on image for a larger version

TURKEY-master675.jpg
Click on image for a larger version

TURKEY-2-articleLarge.jpg
Click on image for a larger version

TURKEY-1-articleLarge.jpg
HABUR BORDER GATE, Turkey — In normal times, hauling 50,000 pounds of frozen chicken into Iraq is a routine job for Turfan Aydin, a Turkish trucker who has been working the route for years. But the cross-border trade has suddenly all but halted, locked up by the insurgent offensive in Iraq and the kidnapping of 80 Turkish citizens.

Once this border was wide open, as Turkey allowed rebel groups of any stripe easy access to the battlefields in Syria in an effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. But that created fertile ground in Syria for the development of the Sunni militant group that launched a blitzkrieg in Iraq this month, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“For three years, we have seen ISIS flags in Syria, and that is because of Turkey,” Mr. Aydin said, eyeing hundreds of Iraq-bound trucks that snaked in a line over the horizon. “Turkey let them in.”

Now, with the rise of ISIS, the Turkish government is paying a steep price for the chaos it helped create.


“The fall of Mosul was the epitome of the failure of Turkish foreign policy over the last four years,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “I can’t disassociate what happened in Mosul from what happened in Syria, and Turkish foreign policy toward Syria has been unrealistic, hubristic, ideological and stubborn.”

For years, a “zero problems with neighbors” policy helped make Turkey a much-admired example of Islamic democracy and economic growth. It benefited heavily from the opening of Iraq’s market, exporting $12 billion worth of goods last year, second only to Turkey’s exports to Germany. That number could drop by one-quarter, or even more if the fighting spreads, said Atilla Yesilada, a Turkey analyst at GlobalSource Partners.

These losses came after the civil war in Syria destroyed that country’s ability to buy Turkish goods and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming across the border. Turkey has spent $1.5 billion caring for them, with no end in sight.



The new strife in Iraq is just another in a series of domestic and foreign policy setbacks for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party.

The brilliant success Mr. Erdogan enjoyed for years after coming to power more than a decade ago has been tarnished recently by street protests, a devastating mine disaster and a lengthy corruption scandal. The government’s support for Arab uprisings further isolated it from former allies.

Many here are now blaming the Turkish government for facilitating the rise of extremists in Syria.

Turkish leaders have expressed concern about the rise of jihadists near their borders, and say they have stepped up efforts to track extremists. But they have said little about the militant surge in Iraq, and a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on how it would affect Turkish policy.


Lately, however, Ankara has given some indications that it is adjusting to the shifts in its region.

month, it classified the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, as a terrorist organization — a year and half after the United States did so. In Ankara on Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan called on European nations to stop jihadis from traveling to Turkey. And Turkish officials have remained quiet about the takeover of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk by the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, a show of assertiveness that would have prompted instant condemnation a few years ago.

That silence could mean that Turkey sees Iraq’s Kurds as the only reliable partners in a country on the edge of a new civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, said Sinan Ulgen, a Turkey scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels.

The hardest blow from Iraq’s new strife, however, has hit Turkey’s southeastern corner, which gained the most from the expanded trade with Iraq and has the most to lose if it collapses.

This change is clear at the Habur Border Gate, which just weeks ago channeled more than 2,000 trucks of Turkish goods into Iraq each day. Now, fewer than half that number make the trip because of a drop in demand and the risk of transporting goods.

Highlighting that danger is the plight of about 80 Turkish citizens who were kidnapped by ISIS when it seized Mosul. They include the consul general, three children and 31 truck drivers. None have been seen since.

The kidnappings have terrified communities that rely on cross-border trade. Doruklu, a village of 1,300 people where some residents still live in mud-brick homes and most men become truckers as soon as they reach adulthood, counts four men among the captive truckers.


“This is all we talk about day and night, but there is nothing we can do,” said Mehmet Turgut, who leads prayer in the village mosque

Nearby, Nihal Simsek, whose husband and eldest son are being held by ISIS, showed a framed photo of the two men to visitors to her simple concrete-block home, then collapsed on the porch, hugging the photo as tears dripped from her chin.

“They just went to bring back money, just to make a living,” she said. “We can live without money, but we can’t live without them.”

The truckers have managed to keep a few cellphones hidden and occasionally call to reassure their relatives, their families said. They are being fed and say they have not been mistreated, though they have no idea when they will be released.

Mehmet Kizil, who owns the company the truckers work for, said that ISIS members first demanded $5 million to $10 million for the men’s release, but that he had not been involved since the government took over the negotiations.

Turkish officials have said they are working to release the captives but have also banned the news media from reporting on the issue.

The danger still has not dissuaded most truckers from going to Iraq, as was clear from the long line of rigs waiting for their turn. Many truckers had waited in line for more than 24 hours, passing the time listening to music, playing games on their phones, making tea on small gas stoves and sleeping.

“If things were functioning the way they were supposed to, you couldn’t even stand here and talk,” said Abdul Hafur, a gray-haired trucker who said it had taken him a week of calling to find a load to take into Iraq.





Like many of his colleagues, he had gone into deep debt to buy his truck and now feared he would fall short on his payments. To shore up the family’s finances, he had sent three of his children to work picking tomatoes and cleaning rooms in a tourist hotel, he said.

Nearby, Mr. Aydin, whose truck held the frozen chicken, said he owed $47,000 on his truck and had to pay $2,700 a month. But business had slowed so much he was unsure he would earn enough to pay.

“We have to go to Iraq,” he said. “We have no other choice.”



http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/world/europe/after-opening-way-to-rebe

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xsb5nx_watching-you-go-crazy-is-driving
Turkey Sells 200 Tons of Secret Gold to Iran
26 Jun 2014
Modified: 07:51:39 AM
Click on image for a larger version

turkey.jpg
Bling for Minister Mastermind Greased Secret Turkey Gold Trade

By Mehul Srivastava and Isobel Finkel Jun 25, 2014 4:00 PM ET

As the minister in charge of Turkey’s $800 billion economy in 2013, Zafer Caglayan was facing a series of numbers that didn’t bode well for coming elections. Inflation was up, growth was slowing and the lira was weakening. One key measure of financial health was particularly worrisome: the country was importing far more goods, services and capital than it was sending abroad. By October, when he was interviewed by a local CNBC affiliate, Caglayan described the gap as unsustainable and said the government would take steps to improve it.

What he didn’t mention was a clandestine export-boosting operation started up more than a year before that was helping to solve the trade imbalance. At the time of the television appearance, it was still underway. Three weeks before, Caglayan had been secretly taped by national-police investigators telling his collaborators to find a way to increase exports by at least $1 billion a month. His orders came from the top in a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he told an associate.

The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes. His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. How a team that included Turkey’s economy minister sought to manage the current account deficit, as the gap is called, by juicing exports to Iran is laid out in a 300-page document prepared by Turkish investigators in 2013. Caglayan and his collaborators also came away with tens of millions of dollars in bribes, according to the document, which has been cited in parliament by opposition lawmakers.

Stalled Investigation

Caglayan’s parliamentary aide, Erdinc Karakilic, asked for questions to be sent to him and then didn’t respond to e-mailed and mailed queries. Caglayan, who resigned on Dec. 25 as economy minister after the investigation became public, is immune from prosecution as a member of parliament. The investigation itself, part of a long-running inquiry into activities including bribery, gold-smuggling and illegal collusion, stalled in January. That month, Erdogan’s government reassigned Muammer Akkas, an Istanbul prosecutor who had said authorities were interfering with the probe, along with hundreds of other prosecutors and police officers.

In the run-up to March municipal elections this year, the prime minister decried the inquiry as an attempted coup. Erdogan’s press secretary, Lutfullah Goktas, didn’t respond to questions sent by e-mail and confirmed-receipt package delivery.

Trade Distortion

What the inquiry found makes life harder for those who try to read the tea leaves of the Turkish economy. The surge in exports was so rapid and so extensive -- gold transfers to Iran jumped from $53 million in 2011 to $6.5 billion in 2012 -- that it distorted Turkish trade figures, making the economy appear superficially stronger than it really was, said Atilla Yesilada, Turkey adviser at New York-based GlobalSource Partners Inc., an economic advisory firm.

“I don’t know what Caglayan’s motivations were, but he was a huge supporter of the gold trade with Iran,” said Yesilada in a phone interview from Istanbul. “It never made any economic sense. This is not the kind of export that’s associated with a strong economy. What was the purpose of the gold trade with Iran? We’ve never gotten an explanation.”

Bloomberg News has been reporting for six months on the stalled corruption investigation in Turkey, with stories ranging from the government ties of the Iranian businessman, Riza Sarraf, to leaked documents showing how Erdogan’s government moved to keep Time Warner Inc. and News Corp. from buying a Turkish newspaper and its television partner. This article shows how Sarraf wasn’t simply a canny businessman using his connections and influence to earn millions of dollars but instead operated as an agent of government policy.

Wiretap Charges

Erdogan says the evidence was prepared by people in the police and judiciary who follow U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen and are trying to overthrow his government. The prime minister also says he, his family and government officials were wiretapped illegally by Gulen followers, and that leaked audio recordings were a “montage” of different conversations spliced together.

The covert efforts that Caglayan and his associates undertook eventually swelled to a multi-billion dollar enterprise that reached from Ghana to China, according to the investigation. Tons of gold flowed from Turkey to Iran, much of it via Dubai. That freed up Iranian money trapped in Turkish banks, in turn boosting Turkish exports. When the gold trade was foiled by tightening American sanctions starting in July 2013, Sarraf and his collaborators kept exporting. They sent thousands of tons of overpriced -- and sometimes fictitious -- food onto ships steaming between Dubai and Iran, according to the document.

Diamond Gifts

Smoothing out the complications of this shadowy and complex trade were bribes to Turkish government ministers: multimillion-dollar diamonds, and millions of dollars stuffed into suit bags, chocolate boxes and even shoe boxes, the investigation document says. While the gold transfers boosted overall exports by almost 13 percent in 2012, to $153 billion, from the previous year, they failed to offset the Turkish appetite for imports, which Caglayan himself once described as an “addiction.” The country ended 2013 with a $65 billion current account gap, almost $20 billion more than in 2012.

That was almost 8 percent of gross domestic product, and almost nine times the number from a decade ago. The issue persisted into this year, when in February Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the current account deficit was “ultimately unsustainable.”

Widening Gap

That number tallies the gap between everything a country exports -- goods, services, overseas loans -- and everything that it imports. When it widens, the currency can grow weaker and foreign reserves can be drained. “All these ploys to demonstrate ever-higher export numbers have no relevance for the real economy,” said Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul. “If you concentrate too much on absolute numbers and don’t think about what those exports actually are and what they mean for the Turkish economy, then you tend to be too complacent about making the right policy choices.”

For Erdogan, the buoyancy and reliability of the economy goes to the heart of his promise to Turkish voters. As Turkey has grown richer since he took office in 2003, he has grown more popular. He is now considering a run for the presidency after exhausting his party’s term limits as prime minister. In municipal elections in March, Erdogan increased his Justice and Development Party’s hold with a higher margin than in 2009.

Investigation Summary

The document, released on the Internet by an anonymous user, is the summary of an investigation into alleged bribes paid to Caglayan and three other cabinet ministers. Parts of it have been read into the parliamentary record by opposition leaders. Its conclusions closely match those of a related inquiry into Sarraf, the Iranian businessman, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News earlier this year. Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapici, who was promoted from a municipal court in the wake of the January purges, emphasized that the leak of the document was illegal.

“Even if I had time to go through all of this line by line it wouldn’t be right for me to confirm whether or not this is the original document,” he said in an interview. “But I can confirm that there is an investigation against these people and these resemble some of the charges, and that these people may have mounted defenses against these charges that this document makes no note of.”

Meeting Notes

The document, prepared by the Turkish National Police, shows that investigators probed the activities of a cast of characters that was both powerful and dependent upon each other for favors. Officers followed the subjects as they met in posh Istanbul hotels such as the Conrad Hotel Istanbul and the Swissotel, listening in while they spoke on the phone arranging money handoffs, and videotaping and photographing them coming and going to the meetings. The first target was Sarraf, the Iranian businessman, who changed his name from Reza Zarrab after he took Turkish citizenship in 2007. He and Erdogan were photographed on stage together at one public function, and met at a wedding in Ankara. After Sarraf was arrested in December, Erdogan told reporters that his gold-dealing had “contributed to the country.”

‘Serious Benefit’

In an interview this April with television channel A Haber, Sarraf estimated he had facilitated the transfer of about $12 billion in gold -- about 200 tons -- to Iran. That represented “about 15 percent-15.5 percent of the current account deficit that I closed by myself,” he said. He didn’t say what period he was referencing. “There’s a serious benefit to the Turkish economy with profit that’s gone into state coffers,” he told the interviewer.

Sarraf didn’t respond to requests for an interview through his lawyer, Seyda Yildirim. She initially agreed to an interview and then didn’t respond to messages. In a January interview, Yildirim said her client was innocent of the charges against him, which at the time included bribery, forging official documents, gold-smuggling and running a criminal organization. The second participant was Caglayan, an engineer-turned-industrialist who won election to parliament in 2007. The investigators said he received at least $50 million from Sarraf, some of which he then distributed to others, according to the document. He also received diamonds, a $343,000 watch and a $37,000 piano, according to the document.

Fake Papers

In exchange, he had his personal secretary run interference for Sarraf in tasks ranging from arranging visas to setting appointments. Caglayan himself provided guidance on the Iran trade, smoothed customs snags, blocked media reports on Sarraf and turned a blind eye to phantom trade using falsified documents, according to investigators. The minister also exerted pressure to reduce bank commissions for Sarraf’s transactions and introduced the gold trader to senior government officials, the document said. “It’s because of him that we can go everywhere like this and make appointments and do this and that,” Sarraf associate Abdullah Happani is quoted as saying in the document.

Caglayan spoke of gold publicly, telling reporters in September 2012 in response to a question about gold exports that Turkey would continue sending the metal abroad. “Anyone can look for any reason they like behind this trade, but Turkey’s going to continue it,” he said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.”

Bank Executive

According to the document, he was receiving bribes from Sarraf at the time. The last member of this group was a man familiar to foreign investors: Suleyman Aslan, then-chief executive officer of Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS. Halkbank, as the country’s state-owned bank is known, was where the Iranian government parked payments for natural gas and oil.

Investigators concluded that Aslan helped Sarraf fake documents to manage exports to Iran, lowered the commissions for his bank transactions and helped him fend off competition for the export business by demanding extra paperwork from other traders, according to the document. He also served as an intermediary for instructions from Caglayan to Sarraf, the investigators said. In the Oct. 3 taped conversation, Caglayan asked Aslan how the “export thing” was going.

“The exports aren’t bad, we’ve done a certain amount, we got together today and talked about how we can increase it,” Aslan responded. “There’s a lot of pressure on us.”

Rolling Suitcases

“There will be, there will be, but this is the prime minister’s order,” Caglayan replied. “Turkey right now needs at least $3 billion-$4 billion of exports.” He went on to say: “Last night we did a two-hour meeting with the prime minister in Istanbul and I explained to him that there is this pressure.” The document says Aslan was to receive $2.7 million in cash from Sarraf. Dropped off in rolling suitcases and stuffed into backpacks, the bribes were code-named “visitors” by Aslan and his wife in text messages.

In one exchange intercepted by investigators, Aslan wrote to his wife that he had “hosted five guests. They looked green, green.” The money was discovered in Aslan’s house during a series of coordinated early-morning raids on Dec. 17, 2013, when Turkish authorities detained dozens of people, including Sarraf and Aslan.

No Innocents

The charges against Aslan, who was released from custody on Feb. 14, have all been “accounted for” and none of his actions constituted a crime, said Ersan Sen, Aslan’s lawyer. His duties as the Halkbank CEO didn’t involve reviewing documents for accuracy, and he never provided Sarraf with unsecured loans. “No one is innocent in this situation. In Turkey, unfortunately, people’s lives have been mortgaged through techniques of surveillance,” said Sen in an interview in his office this month, referring to the taping and release of private conversations. “The government was complicit: It never spoke out against these things, and it let them happen.”

The cash found hidden in shoeboxes in Aslan’s house was for the construction of a school in Macedonia, and only part of it was from Sarraf, Sen said, adding: “We defy them to produce evidence linking this money to bribery.”

China Curbs

To get around restrictions on banking with Iran, Sarraf looked to China. He and his associates obtained letters of introduction in Turkey and used four front companies in China, which then used Chinese banks as intermediaries in money transfers between Iran and Turkey, according to the document. One, Beijing-based Bank of Kunlun Co. Ltd., was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in July 2012 for sending as much as $100 million to blacklisted banks in Iran. The document also shows an effort to push through as much gold as possible before July 2013. The U.S. that month added precious metals to the list of items that couldn’t be sold to Iran as part of an effort to curtail that country’s nuclear enrichment program.

“The Istanbul prosecutor’s report leaked on March 14 is a damning document that reveals one of the most complex illicit finance schemes I have seen,” said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury and now research director at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington policy institute focused on national security. “The networks spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran. It included the classic money-laundering techniques of over-invoicing and false invoicing.”

Bank Payments

Because the sanctions walled Iran off from the international banking system, the gold trade was a way for Iran to repatriate the earnings from oil and gas sold to India, Turkey and other major buyers.

The business was certainly lucrative. Sarraf earned a 1.7 percent commission on the exports, according to a person familiar with his finances. He spent it on a lavish lifestyle.

Since setting up his gold-trading firm, registered to an office near the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, he had married a Turkish pop star and bought a villa on the Bosphorus. He drove a Range Rover, a Rolls Royce and a BMW, and flew around the country in a leased Challenger 300 private jet.

He was also well-informed. On March 26, less than two months before the tightening of the sanctions became public, he walked out of a meeting and called Happani, his associate.

A Little Food

“In a month and a half, they’re going to stop the gold,” he said, according to a transcript. “Let’s do a little food. Send it from Moscow, send it from Azerbaijan, wherever you can get a document from -- start right away this week.”

Substituting food for gold, and using Dubai as a hub to ship to Iran, proved an ineffective way to make up for the stalled high-value gold exports.

On July 2, investigators say they recorded Sarraf conversing with a deputy general manager at Halkbank.

“Let’s talk about this wheat issue,” said Mehmet Hakan Atilla, according to the document. “This is a 140,000-ton order. I think it’s a little difficult for a 5,000-ton thing to carry a 140,000-150,000 ton order.”

Then he pointed out another difficulty.

“The document you sent has the origin of the wheat as Dubai,” said Atilla. “You know, because it’s impossible for wheat to have the origin of Dubai.” Dubai is in a desert.

‘Routine Job’

Reached by phone, Atilla, whose responsibilities include international banking, said Halkbank’s role was legal and in line with U.S. sanctions.

“Reducing the current account deficit is not part of our aims,” he said. “We stick to our routine job as a bank. We checked all documentation of the companies that we were dealing with and found that they were compliant. The bank itself was also externally audited and everything was found to be above board.” There are no charges against the bank or Atilla.

Even as the new sanctions were looming, Sarraf didn’t stop exporting gold. On the morning of May 22, he drove to the Conrad hotel and met with Aslan, the document said.

A few days later, Sarraf called an associate and ordered him to ramp up the gold trade. “How are your gold stocks?” he asked, according to a transcript of the May 28 call. “Pump it up so exports rise. Keep doing it like that so that exports rise a little. Exports are needed until the election.”

More Demands

On Sept. 16, Aslan called Sarraf with further orders, referring to instructions he had received.

“We met last week after I spoke to you,” he said, according to the document. “That was their request -- last year, they did $11 billion in exports.”

“They say do that again, don’t they?” asked Sarraf.

“Yes,” said Aslan. “Do something, whatever the method is, but they say, help out, get this job done.”

Sarraf conveyed the instructions to his associates three days later.

“We need to find $3 billion by year end,” he said.

“$3 billion until the end of the year?” asked Happani. “We’re in the ninth month! There are three months left. $1 billion a month is a tough figure.”

No arrests have been made since January. Aslan was replaced as Halkbank CEO, the bank said on Feb. 7, a week before he was released from prison. He remained on the board until March 31, then joined the board of another state-owned bank, TC Ziraat Bankasi AS. Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan called the appointment a result of “the political will.” On May 9, Aslan resigned.

Parliament Member

Sarraf was released on Feb. 28. His access to $18 million in liquid assets that had been frozen was restored after the prosecutor said there was no evidence to probe the charge. He still awaits trial.

Caglayan remains a member of parliament. A commission established to probe corruption allegations against him and three other lawmakers stumbled when Erdogan’s party failed to nominate anyone to sit on it.

Turkey’s trade balance continues to fluctuate unpredictably as gold stocks flow out of the country in bursts. In March, unidentified exporters sent $1.3 billion of gold to Switzerland, making the country Turkey’s top export destination. The following month the trade practically disappeared, with exports dropping 96 percent to $52 million.





http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-25/turkey-sells-200-tons-of-secret
Women's Liberation in Turkey
26 Jun 2014
Click on image for a larger version

revolution w.jpg
For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

Turkey: Women and the Permanent Revolution

Down With Islamic Reaction! Down With Turkish Nationalism!

(Women and Revolution pages)

The following article is reprinted from Spartakist No. 170 (March 2008), newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

In the novel Snow, by acclaimed Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, a local official tells Ka, a returning political exile investigating a wave of suicides among young women and girls, “What is certain is that these girls were driven to suicide because they were extremely unhappy.... But if unhappiness were a genuine reason for suicide, half the women in Turkey would be killing themselves.” Pamuk’s novel is set in Kars, in northeastern Turkey. In the southeastern Anatolian town of Batman, a real epidemic of suicides, forced and otherwise, has seen hundreds of young women attempt to take their own lives, and dozens have succeeded. The great 19th-century French utopian socialist Charles Fourier explained that the status of women in any given society reflects that society’s general level of human emancipation. These deaths throw into stark relief the terrible oppression of women in Turkey, revealing a society marked by profound religious and social reaction that is reinforced and deepened by imperialist domination.

The status of women has become a battleground in the political struggles that have been rocking Turkey for some time. The re-election in July 2007 of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his reactionary Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) followed massive protests last April in defense of the espoused secularism of the Kemalist Turkish bourgeoisie and against the AKP’s plan to appoint Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, whose wife wears a headscarf, to the presidency. Some Turkish commentators called these protests in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir a “women’s revolution.” Millions of women, frightened by the danger Islamic fundamentalism poses, were said to have taken part.

On February 9, in spite of mass nationalist protests in Ankara and Istanbul, the Turkish parliament voted in favor of an amendment to the constitution allowing headscarves to be worn at Turkish universities. An article in junge Welt (9 February) described how the Erdogan regime secured, for now, the generals’ acquiescence:

“Less than a year ago the Turkish generals threatened a putsch if Erdogan continued advancing the Islamization of the country. But all of a sudden there’s no objection to be heard. The MP Aysel Tugluk of the DTP [pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party] recently revealed in a speech in parliament that the reason for this was a deal between the government and the armed forces. Erdogan gave the military men free rein on the Kurdish question—and in return he got free rein on the headscarf question.”

On 22 February, at the same time that the Turkish army’s ground offensive against the Kurds in northern Iraq was taking place, President Gül confirmed the lifting of the headscarf ban. There are already calls by the Kemalists and “Non-Governmental Organizations” for mass protests in Izmir and Ankara on March 7, for International Women’s Day, against the constitutional amendment.

The motor force behind the mobilizations was a de facto coalition of the army, the bourgeois Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the constitutional court, presenting themselves as guardians of the “secular legacy” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nationalist founder of modern Turkey. The election itself was sparked when in May 2007 the constitutional court, emboldened by the military’s threats against the government, ruled Gül’s appointment unconstitutional. The Ankara protest in 2007 was organized by the Association for Atatürkist Thought, headed by a former military commander currently under investigation for plotting a coup in 2003-2004. Looking to the blood-drenched military as an ally in the struggle for women’s liberation is deadly.

For Permanent Revolution!

Subjugated by imperialism, straddling Europe and Asia Minor, Turkey is a country of massive social and political contradictions. Leon Trotsky, who with V.I. Lenin was co-leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, termed such contradictions “combined and uneven development.” Unique among Islamic countries in that it is officially secular, modern Turkey arose not from a bourgeois revolution, but from the subordination of the clerical Ottoman state to the nationalist forces led by Atatürk. Rising Turkish nationalism also meant the ruthless suppression of national minorities, in particular the slaughter of Armenians and Kurds. To this day, uneven social development is seen in every aspect of Turkish society. A sizable industrial proletariat exists alongside the mass of peasants in the Anatolian heartland still subject to precapitalist forms of exploitation. Behind Istanbul’s pubs, chic cafés, bright malls and unveiled women in jeans or miniskirts, stands a vast country locked in barbaric, centuries-old anti-woman practices, stamped by dire unemployment and poverty.

The forces of political Islam now vie with those of the “secular,” military-backed bourgeoisie over who shall shape Turkey’s destiny and reap the profits. We revolutionary Marxists reject this framework, for these are the “choices” posed by a bankrupt capitalist ruling class incapable of modernizing this country. We look instead to the revolutionary mobilization of Turkey’s powerful multiethnic working class, standing at the head of all the oppressed, which alone can shatter the chains of backwardness.

With its enormous social contradictions, Turkey presents a powerful argument for Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which found living confirmation in the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s theory provides the program for resolving the fundamental democratic questions posed by combined and uneven development in countries like Turkey that came to capitalist development in the epoch of imperialism. In such economically backward countries, the weak national bourgeoisie, dependent on its imperialist masters and fearing its “own” proletariat, is incapable of taking up the democratic tasks formerly associated with the European bourgeois revolutions: separation of the state from religion, agrarian revolution, national liberation. To assure the completion of these tasks it is necessary for the proletariat to come to power through socialist revolution. Having already divided the world for exploitation, a handful of the most powerful imperialists economically strangles the masses of semicolonial countries. In such countries, Trotsky wrote,

“the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”

—The Permanent Revolution (1930)

In power, the proletariat will expropriate the bourgeoisie and the holdings of its imperialist masters in order to establish a collectivized, planned economy where production is based on social need rather than profit. But short of international extension of the revolution, especially to the advanced capitalist countries, the development of the social revolution will be arrested and ultimately reversed.

The struggles of the Turkish working class have been repeatedly wrecked by Stalinist reformists who, pushing the class-collaborationist program of “two-stage revolution,” have fostered illusions in the supposed “progressives” of the deeply anti-communist CHP. The program of fighting for a “democratic” revolution in league with a mythical “progressive” and “anti-imperialist” wing of the bourgeoisie, relegating the struggle for socialism to an indefinite future, has brought defeat after bloody defeat. From the massacres of Indonesian Communists by Suharto in 1965 to Pinochet’s 1973 reign of terror against the Chilean masses, history has repeatedly demonstrated that the first “stage” of “two-stage revolution” ends in the blood of the workers and oppressed. The second stage never comes. As we wrote in our “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program” (1998):

“Trotsky’s program of permanent revolution is the alternative to placing confidence in fantasies resting upon the backward, imperialist-dependent bourgeoisie of one’s own oppressed country as the vehicle for liberation.”

In Turkey, as in other backward countries, the oppression of women is deeply rooted in religious obscurantism and precapitalist “customs” that are manipulated and buttressed by imperialism. Above all, it is the institution of the family that is central to upholding the subjugation of women everywhere.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, developing capitalism spawned social and political revolutions against the aristocracies, monarchies and churches that propped up the old feudal order, to the great benefit of women. The elementary rights that most Western women take for granted—to choose your marriage partner, birth control, divorce, access to education, the right to vote—do not exist for women in the tradition-bound, priest-ridden countries of the East. Christianity and Judaism had to conform with rising industrial capitalism and the bourgeois nation-states, but Islam did not have to adapt, largely because it remains rooted in those parts of the world where imperialism has reinforced social backwardness as a prop to its domination. Bourgeois-democratic gains do not eliminate the fundamental oppression of women in the institution of the family.

In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels explained that the monogamous patrilineal family arose “to make the man supreme in the family, and to propagate, as the future heirs to his wealth, children indisputably his own.” Along with the state and organized religion, the family is a mainstay of social reaction, regimenting the population, instilling subservience to authority and reinforcing the hold of religion. To the rulers, poor and working-class women serve the purpose of raising a new generation of exploited toilers. Women in the home are isolated from the centers of production. But working-class women, along with working-class men, have great potential social power to overthrow the capitalist system. Only a socialist revolution can lay the material basis for the replacement of the family and for women’s social independence from its confines through collective childcare, laundries and dining halls.

As the demonstrations over the last year headed by the Kemalist bourgeoisie and military show, if women are not mobilized as part of the proletarian class struggle they can be mobilized by other forces for reactionary ends. The fate of women and their struggle for emancipation is a strategic question. Because the oppression of women is integral to capitalist property relations and is bolstered ideologically by religion, women’s oppression cannot be eradicated in capitalist society. At the same time, without a struggle to end women’s oppression, which reinforces all forms of social backwardness, there will be no proletarian revolution.

To unleash the enormous revolutionary potential of the proletariat requires the leadership of a genuinely communist workers party—drawing in women as part of its leadership—armed with a program for the political independence of the working class and for the fight for socialist revolution, as well as a broad vision of a social order of equality and freedom. Such a party will champion full equality for women and their integration into the workforce, where they will acquire social power. Such a party will stand for equal pay for equal work and will lead the fight to end all backward practices, such as “honor” killings, polygamy and bride price. The fight for basic needs and democratic rights—an end to arranged and forced marriages and the seclusion of the veil, freedom from poverty and legal subjugation, the right to education and free health care, including free and safe abortion on demand—is an attack on the foundations of the imperialist-dominated capitalist social order and poses nothing less than a socialist revolution.

The “Headscarf Wars” and Women’s Oppression

The imperialists welcomed the AKP’s re-election last July. A European Union (EU) spokesman declared, “Gül is appreciated in Europe,” and financial analysts in the U.S. were similarly bullish on the AKP. In its prior five years in power, the AKP carried out privatizations, attacked Turkey’s unions and followed the IMF’s dictates to the letter in most cases. As long as Erdogan delivers stability and profits for the imperialists, his goal of resolving Turkey’s contradictions in favor of Islam will not unduly trouble his European and American masters.

In the wake of its victory, the AKP wasted no time in this regard. New constitutional amendments were announced scrapping the longstanding ban on the headscarf in colleges and public institutions and replacing a clause in the current constitution that obliges the government to “ensure equality for both men and women” with one that describes women as a “vulnerable group in need of special protection.” Meanwhile, the emboldened forces of Islamic reaction are starting to change the political and social landscape of Turkey, including in cities like Istanbul. Some government offices are organizing work schedules according to prayer times, and boys and girls are being separated in high schools, a wholly reactionary measure. During the month of Ramadan last fall, which is holy to Muslims, most restaurants stopped serving alcohol and the police brutally beat people for smoking and drinking. The effect of more than two decades of rising political Islam in the Near East is apparent in Istanbul, where the veil and headscarf are increasingly prevalent. Today, some form of veiling is worn by more than 60 percent of Turkish women.

The ban on the veil harks back to the early days of the republic when Atatürk, in his drive to modernize the country at gunpoint, campaigned vigorously against religious symbols and issued decrees banning all forms of religious dress in schools and public institutions. The current “headscarf war” dates back to the early 1980s, when the military, self-appointed guardians of “secular order,” reinforced the ban after their 1980 coup. The rising forces of Islamic fundamentalism naturally opposed it.

When the Islamic Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan surged to power in 1996 and allowed veiling in government offices, the military again tightened the ban on the veil as part of its effort to stem the tide of “Islamic subversive activities.” Erbakan was forced out of power by the military in 1997, and in 1998 his Welfare Party was banned. It was in this context that a medical student, Leyla Sahin, expelled from Istanbul University in 1998 for refusing to remove her headscarf, launched a legal challenge to the ban. In November 2005, the bourgeois European Court of Human Rights ruled on her case, upholding Turkey’s ban on women wearing headscarves in universities.

We are opposed to the veil, no matter what its form, as both a symbol and instrument of women’s oppression, but we are equally unambiguous in our opposition to state bans or restrictions on it. As Marxists we uphold the democratic principle of separation of religion and state and oppose both state funding of religious schools and religious instruction within public educational institutions. We are for free, secular education for all. Islamic fundamentalists will use any easing of the ban on the headscarf to exert social pressure on women to cover themselves. Nonetheless, we oppose state interference in private religious practices, which paves the way for the state to meddle in the lives of religious minorities and to repress workers and leftist organizations.

We also oppose the bans against veiled Muslim girls and women that have spread across West Europe. These bans are simply racist and have seen girls expelled from school and women driven from jobs and public places. The oppressed Muslim minority in Europe suffers the daily humiliations of racism, segregation and police violence. The anti-veil hysteria also serves as an extension of the racist “war on terror” directed in the main against Muslims.

In Turkey, as in West Europe, barring religious women from education and universities because they refuse to remove their headscarves can only deepen their isolation from secular currents, increasing the hold of religious reaction and family domination. Moreover, cases like Sahin’s, or Erdogan’s daughters, who were sent to study in the U.S. where they could wear the headscarf, become lightning rods for religious reaction in the name of “democratic” rights. The mass of Turkish women, who are mostly poor, have no options such as those available to Erdogan’s daughters. Their fate will continue to be forced marriages, stultifying household drudgery and successive pregnancies.

Contrary to Erdogan and Islamic women’s groups, the veil is not an exercise in “religious freedom” or a sign of submission to a deity. Nor is it simply a reactionary symbol of religious affiliation like the Christian cross or Jewish yarmulke. The veil is the physical symbol of the submission of women to men, the permanent, imposed affirmation of their inferior status. It represents the extension outside the home of the seclusion imposed on women by reactionary sharia law (Islamic law).

To depict the covering of a woman’s body as a quaint cultural attribute or merely a “choice” of dress is liberal nonsense. Such “cultural relativism” prettifies hideous oppression and Marxists reject it. The headscarf might be less onerous than the chador or niqab, prisons for the body beneath which the wearer suffocates, but they all reflect the view of women as property, less than fully human. The veil is the glaring manifestation of the social program of the reactionary Islamist forces operating in Iran, Saudi Arabia and beyond, and it means nothing less than total servitude for women.

Atatürk and the Limits of Bourgeois Nationalism

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its defeat in World War I, the Near East was carved up between the British and French imperialists. The rapacious Treaty of Sèvres saw the Ottoman Empire dismembered and driven out of the Balkans. However, the imperialists did not reckon with the Bolsheviks. The 1917 Russian Revolution—and its extension to largely Muslim Central Asia in the course of the bloody three-year Civil War against the imperialist-backed counterrevolutionary White armies—triggered a series of national revolts and popular uprisings in the broad swath occupied by British forces from Egypt through the Fertile Crescent to Iran. In Turkey, a 1919 peasant revolt gave mass backing to Atatürk and his bourgeois-nationalist forces. Emerging from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish republic was founded in 1923 following a fierce war that drove out the imperialist forces, notably Britain, which was pushing to assert its domination over Turkey. The defeat of the British-sponsored military offensive was achieved through extended economic and military support from Soviet Russia under Lenin.

Atatürk and his Republican People’s Party inherited an economically retarded country lacking a concentration of modern industry. Insofar as a small capitalist class existed, it was Armenian and Greek, with a smaller Jewish component. To build the national capitalist state, the Kemalist movement used Turkish nationalism as a weapon. The Armenians—victims of a genocidal campaign in World War I—were driven from the country, as were the Greeks, and the Jews were subjected to pogromist violence.

Acting as the vanguard of the nascent Turkish bourgeoisie, the Kemalists embarked on a program of reforms aimed at removing all obstacles to the development of a modern capitalist nation-state. Dismantling the strongholds of institutionalized Islam, they proclaimed the country a “secular” republic and abolished the caliphate (office of Islamic ruler). Islam, which does not recognize national boundaries, was in contradiction to the Kemalist aim of constructing a Turkish nation-state, and it ceased to be the state religion. Sharia law was replaced by a constitution based on the Swiss Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code, polygamy was prohibited, and religious orders and brotherhoods were outlawed. Religious symbols—the veil in schools and public institutions, and the fez everywhere—were banned. The Latin alphabet was introduced and the Western calendar was adopted.

The social position of women also changed. The huge loss of men in the imperialist carnage of World War I and in the Turkish War of Independence created a labor shortage. As a result, women were drawn into the labor force. They were granted the right to vote in the 1930 local elections. In 1934, they won the right to vote and run for office in parliamentary elections, well before women in many European countries. In the 1937 elections, 18 women deputies were elected to parliament (a result never again equaled).

Atatürk saw himself as a modernizer who could, with a few strokes of his pen, drag the country from the medieval age into the 20th century. Grafted onto a backward society, 80 percent of which was rural and dominated by feudal relations, his reforms were necessarily partial and prone to challenge and reversal. Turkey lacked not only a national bourgeoisie but also a significant proletariat, which alone could transform the country and lay the basis for continued social progress. As Trotsky wrote in The Permanent Revolution:

“Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses.”

In the first instance, the results in Turkey were directed against the fledgling Communists. Although Atatürk had lifted the ban on the Communist Party following the Soviet-Turkish Treaty, once the British-backed Greek military was defeated in 1922-23, Atatürk crushed the Communists, murdering their leaders. The young Soviet state and the Communist International had sought to advance the cause of socialist revolution in Turkey, and the Comintern denounced “these new crimes of the ruling classes in Turkey.”

Atatürk’s reforms could not resolve the basic democratic questions. There were no attempts at land reform or expropriation of the landlords. Far from resolving the question of national minorities, especially the Kurdish question, Atatürk unleashed a bloody assault against the Kurds in the name of fighting religious backwardness. By the late 1930s, 1.5 million people were either massacred or forcibly transferred. Public use and teaching of the Kurdish language was prohibited. The caliphate was abolished, but genuine separation of mosque and state was never carried out. Rather, the religious hierarchy was brought under the control of the state through the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Today, with a staff of 80,000 imams (Muslim religious leaders), this institution controls a network of nearly 77,000 mosques, religious education, foundations and charities and even dictates the content of the Friday sermons.

Urban women, especially those of the ruling class, certainly benefited from the Kemalist reforms. But the lives of the overwhelming majority of women, especially in the backward, conservative countryside, changed little. The headscarf ban, instead of a liberating measure, deepened women’s exclusion from school, government service and public life. The gulf between the secular, educated bourgeoisie and the illiterate masses, between city and countryside, widened. Indeed, nothing is more cynical than the Kemalist elite’s posture as partisans of women’s rights. The same Turkish state that banned the veil in schools in the guise of liberating women, for years forced virginity tests on schoolgirls, women in police custody and girls in state-run foster homes, a practice banned only after five girls attempted suicide in 1999. Women’s inferior status is reinforced by textbooks pounding children with the message, “The father is the head of the family, and the wife, who does the cooking and looks after the children, is his assistant and companion.”

For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

The social transformations in Soviet Russia, especially in Central Asia, stood in powerful contrast to the Turkey of Kemal Atatürk. Between Kemalism and Bolshevism lay the gigantic achievement of a thoroughgoing proletarian revolution. Having expropriated the bourgeoisie, nationalized the land and collectivized industry, the Bolshevik Revolution gave national rights to the myriad oppressed peoples in the tsarist “prison house of peoples” and abolished the estates of the landed nobility. The first steps taken by the workers state toward planning the economy in the interests of the toilers brought enormous gains to working women.

The Marxist understanding of women’s oppression as linked to private property and especially to the oppressive institution of the family was integral to the Bolshevik program and strategy for building socialism internationally. The Russian Revolution sought to bring women into full participation in economic, social and political life (see “The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 59, Spring 2006). But the Bolsheviks were keenly aware that they could not overcome the backwardness and poverty of Russia simply by decree—they knew that without qualitative economic development that would lay the material basis for replacing the social functions of the family, the full liberation of women was a utopian fantasy. That is why they built the Communist International and fought for the international extension of the revolution to the advanced industrialized countries.

In the historically Muslim regions of Central Asia, the Bolsheviks undertook the enormous task of trying to liberate women. When they spoke of “martyrs fallen on the women’s liberation front,” they were talking about the dedicated and heroic activists from the Department for Work Among Women (Zhenotdel), who put on the veil to bring to the women of the Muslim East news of the new Soviet laws and programs that would change their lives. In Central Asia, where a small but significant proletariat held state power, the workers state was able to invest some of the economic surplus from the more advanced urban areas of the Soviet Union. It took a couple of decades before the productive capacity of the planned economy had developed sufficiently to provide jobs, education, medical care and social services on a scale wide enough to undercut primitive Islamic traditions. But by this time, the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary program had been supplanted by Stalinism’s nationalist ideology of building “socialism in one country” and its counterrevolutionary glorification of the family. Notwithstanding the degeneration of the Soviet workers state, the planned economy demonstrated its superiority in the great advances achieved for women and the historically Muslim peoples in Soviet Central Asia, where conditions before the Bolshevik Revolution had been as backward and benighted as in Afghanistan today.

It is the oppressive institution of the family that is at the heart of the increasing number of “namus,” or “honor” killings, in Turkey, a barbaric practice steeped in the backwardness of rural societies. In 1983 we reviewed Yilmaz Güney’s film Yol, in which a husband murders his wife as punishment for adultery, and a young couple, forced to flee to get married because the parents disapprove, is hunted down and killed by the bride’s family (Women and Revolution No. 27, Winter 1983-84). Twenty-four years later, at least 200 girls and young women are thought to be murdered each year by their families. The real number is likely far higher, as most “honor” murders are hushed up and go unreported or take the form of “forced suicides.” A UN report puts these barbaric killings worldwide at over 5,000 a year, a number that surely understates reality.

Young girls have been strangled, buried alive or stoned to death for such “crimes” as having a consensual sexual relationship outside marriage, rejecting an arranged marriage, wearing a short skirt, dating, stealing a glance at a boy or being raped by a stranger or relative. Malicious neighborhood gossip can incur a death sentence. Until recently, murderers received lenient sentences, as the law provides “unjust provocation” as an available defense.

In impoverished rural Turkey, where a woman’s “honor” is a measurable commodity, young brides are humiliated by having to display a bloody sheet after their wedding night. Anatolian girls are often married off at a very young age to men they have never seen, treated little better than cattle to be purchased at the proper price. Divorce, considered a social taboo, is extremely rare; only 2.6 percent of Turkish women over 30 are single. Interethnic and interfaith marriages are not allowed. Crossing these lines can mean a death sentence for women (and the men who marry them).

The travails of Turkish and Kurdish women do not end when they emigrate to Europe. In the segregated immigrant communities, all the reactionary, oppressive traditions are preserved through ties to the homeland. Young immigrant and minority women are trapped between the racism of these societies and oppressive, rigid family strictures. Unable to find jobs that provide financial independence, life for them is an endless saga of miseries. The 2005 murder by her brothers of Hatun Sürücü, a young Kurdish mother in Germany, shows that women may pay with their lives. Her “crime” was to leave an arranged marriage, seek an independent life with her child and choose a Western lifestyle. As we explained in “‘Honor’ Killings in Germany” (Workers Vanguard No. 850, 10 June 2005):

“The concept of ‘family honor,’ i.e., control of the sexuality of women by their family, is not exclusively Islamic, but rather connected to a mode of production where a clan—a series of related extended families—holds and works the land in common.”

Indeed, “honor” killings in the Near East take place in Christian families as well as Muslim ones. Engels put it trenchantly: “In order to make certain of the wife’s fidelity and therefore of the paternity of the children, she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband; if he kills her, he is only exercising his rights.”

Islam Rising, Women Falling

Erdogan has taken pains to show that he is not a Turkish version of the Iranian fundamentalist mullahs, and there is some truth to that. But he and the AKP have always been open about their goal of breaking down all barriers to Islamic domination of social life. “Thank God Almighty, I am a servant of the Shariah” (Wall Street Journal, 19 October 2006), Erdogan once boasted. After his election as mayor of Istanbul in 1994, he proclaimed himself the city’s imam, opened public meetings with prayers and banned alcohol in municipal restaurants, a ban now extended to 61 of Turkey’s 81 provinces. Erdogan opposes abortion and contraception and he tried, without success, to criminalize adultery. He would not shake a woman’s hand. He has rejected any suggestion that Turkey is a “moderate” Islamic state, declaring, “Islam is Islam” (Today’s Zaman, 10 October 2007).

This reactionary climate, in which religious violence vies with nationalism, is a deadly danger. A 92-year-old professor of Sumerian history was put on trial for publishing a book linking the origin of the veil to prostitutes in Sumerian times. In the 1990s, secular writers, academics, feminists and journalists were killed in a spate of attacks by fundamentalists as well as by nationalists and circles close to the military. More recently, several intellectuals and writers were put on trial for “insulting Turkishness.” Among them was Orhan Pamuk. The charges against him were dropped after an international outcry. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, an advocate of exposing the mass killings of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, was less fortunate. His murder by a Turkish nationalist was the direct result of his conviction for “insulting Turkish identity.”

As in much of the Near East in the last two decades, Islamic fundamentalism as a mass political force in Turkey is a reactionary outcome of disenchantment with the ineptitude, corruption and bankruptcy of bourgeois nationalism, Stalinist betrayal and, above all, the absence of a viable communist alternative. The frustration, anger and despair of the masses that grew out of their dire misery and degradation have provided fertile ground for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Not only is religion the opium of the people, as Marx said, but also:

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.”

The millions of dispossessed peasants, unemployed youth and low-wage migrant workers in the shantytowns ringing Turkey’s major cities find a comforting retreat in religion. They direct their hopes not only to heaven, but more so to its earthly representation in the Islamic solidarity networks of clinics, schools, charities, cooperatives and other free personal and social services that have become a vitally necessary alternative to scant government services gutted by IMF-imposed austerity measures. They have provided a bottomless pool for recruitment to the ranks of Islamic fundamentalists who pose as anti-imperialists, saviors from mass poverty and promoters of social justice.

It was under the rule of the “secular” military generals in the early 1980s that Islamic fundamentalism began to flourish. Islam was viewed as a potential bulwark against communism and trade-union militancy. The generals’ constitution made religious instruction compulsory at all pre-university levels. The religious schools set up for the imams were seedbeds for Islamic ideology and provided activists and leaders for the Islamic fundamentalist movement. The number of religious school graduates increased fourteen-fold, compared with a tripling of those from the secular state schools, during the military’s rule.

The watershed for the Islamic fundamentalist movement was the 1979 Iranian “revolution.” In the minds of many impoverished Muslims, this mass upheaval, which overthrew one of the most oppressive, Western-backed regimes in the region, redefined (falsely) Islamic reaction as an anti-imperialist ideology of liberation. While most of the left around the world tailed the Iranian mullahs, the International Communist League (then the international Spartacist tendency) declared: “Down with the Shah! Down with Khomeini! For workers revolution in Iran!” Once in power, the mullahs enslaved women under the veil, slaughtered thousands of workers, leftists and homosexuals, and intensified murderous repression against Kurds and other minorities.

The growth of Islamic fundamentalism was further augmented in the 1980s by U.S. imperialism’s massive arming and organizing of the Afghan mujahedin holy warriors against the Soviet Union’s 1979 intervention in Afghanistan. This was the CIA’s largest covert operation ever, and it turned Afghanistan into the front line of the imperialists’ relentless drive to destroy the Soviet Union through capitalist counterrevolution. We hailed the Red Army intervention, for it opened the way to the liberation of the Afghan peoples, especially the horribly oppressed women, and we called to extend the gains of the October 1917 Revolution to the Afghan peoples. In the first war in modern history in which women’s emancipation was a central issue, the Red Army battled the murderous imperialist-armed and -financed Islamic fundamentalists, who threw acid in the faces of unveiled women and killed schoolteachers who taught young girls to read. We denounced the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan as a betrayal of women and the oppressed Afghan peoples. The Red Army pullout was a pivotal event directly linked to the final collapse of the USSR itself, which was a historic defeat not only for the peoples of the Soviet Union, but for the whole of the international working class.

We Trotskyists fought until the last barricade to defend the Soviet Union and, earlier, the deformed workers states in East Europe. We were guided by our Trotskyist program of unconditional military defense of these states against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution and of proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies. During 1989-92, the International Communist League intervened uniquely, first in East Germany and then in the Soviet Union, fighting in defense of the gains of the 1917 October Revolution. Despite the victory of counterrevolution in East Europe and the Soviet Union, about a quarter of the world’s population still lives in countries over which the capitalist exploiters do not rule. Today, we fight to defend the remaining deformed workers states—China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. Capitalist counterrevolution would be devastating and embolden the capitalists internationally to launch more savage attacks on workers, rural toilers, women, minorities and immigrants.

The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union has enormously fueled the growth of religious obscurantism worldwide: Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world, Protestant fundamentalism in the United States, Orthodox Jewish fundamentalism in Israel and the ever-expanding reach of the Catholic church. In the Near East, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialism is seen as at best a failed experiment, not as a viable alternative. In a region where allegiance to communism once flourished, today the masses widely perceive the nationalists on the one hand or the Islamists on the other as the only two credible alternatives.

It is the task of the working class in Turkey, leading all the oppressed behind it, to overthrow the rule of the Turkish bourgeoisie. Key to this perspective is the forging of a Marxist workers party. Such parties must be built throughout the Near East to unite the diverse proletariats in struggle against imperialism and against their own capitalist rulers. The fight for workers rule in the Near East includes shattering Turkey’s ally, the Zionist garrison state of Israel, through Arab/Hebrew workers revolution. The Stalinized Communist parties of the Near East—which made a mockery of this revolutionary perspective through their subordination of the proletariat to mythical “progressive” bourgeois forces—share responsibility for the growth of Islamic fundamentalism among the working and oppressed masses. The construction of revolutionary workers parties is essential to implant genuine Marxism and break the Near Eastern proletariat from nationalism and fundamentalism in the struggle for socialist revolution.

Turkey and the Imperialist Order: From the Cold War to the EU

For more than one hundred years, since the late years of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has been both a pawn and a prize for the imperialists. With the largest NATO army in Europe, during the Cold War Turkey served as a strategic bulwark in the anti-Soviet imperialist military alliance. Today, Turkey is under the military thumb of the U.S. and economically beholden to German imperialism. It provides a strategic center offering a crucial energy route into Europe, preserving and extending imperialist interests in the Near East. In 1991, Turkey served the U.S. imperialists as a launching pad for their bloody war against Iraq.

The army generals, who are the self-conscious custodians of Atatürk’s legacy, combine bonapartist bourgeois nationalism with pro-Western “secularism” and fierce anti-communism. Acting as agents of Western imperialism and the domestic national bourgeoisie, they have staged three bloody imperialist-backed coups to quell popular unrest, in 1960, 1971 and 1980. The generals are sworn enemies of labor and the left, and the “path of Atatürk’s legacy” is strewn with the corpses of thousands of Kurds, Communists and labor-union leaders. According to a leaked parliamentary report, security forces and the fascistic Gray Wolves death squads were responsible for many of the 14,000 unsolved murders and disappearances during the 1990s. On May Day 2007, workers demonstrating in Istanbul were brutally attacked by police; close to 600 were arrested.

The issue of Turkey’s admission to the EU colors all aspects of political life in the country. For years, the Turkish ruling class has been campaigning to join the European Union and has come under pressure to clean up their “human rights” record as the price of admission. While prospects of EU membership are dimming, many Turks think or hope that the EU will bring “democracy” and “prosperity” to the country. Some Kurds think the EU will put an end to their oppression, and many women believe the same. Nothing could be more mistaken.

We are against the EU, a cartel of the main European imperialist powers centered on improving their competitiveness against their American and Japanese rivals and deepening imperialist exploitation of the weaker member states. Such an alliance can only be at the expense of the multiethnic proletariat in Europe and those under the boot of neocolonialism.

For the Right of Self-Determination for the Kurds

The Kurdish question is pivotal in Turkey. The 25 to 30 million Kurdish people in the Near East constitute the largest nation in the world without a state. Kurds make up a fifth of Turkey’s population. Kurdistan extends from eastern Turkey through a portion of Syria, across northern Iraq and into Iran. Since the mid 1980s the Turkish army, backed and armed by the U.S. and Germany, has been waging a bloody war against the oppressed Kurdish minority in which some 37,000 people have been killed and several thousand villages have been burned. So intent has been the Turkish bourgeoisie on stamping out any hint of Kurdish separatism that for years speaking Kurdish in public and the use of Kurdish names were outlawed. Kurdish people were referred to as “mountain Turks.”

In recent years, the Turkish bourgeoisie introduced cosmetic reforms intended to appease the EU. They cynically allowed Kurdish-language classes in private schools, which few impoverished Kurds can afford to attend. Kurdish radio broadcasts were limited to four hours per week and television broadcasts to two hours. None of this interfered with the AKP government’s incessant attacks on Kurds. In March 2007, Ahmet Turk, a Kurdish leader of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was sentenced to six months in prison for giving Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the Kurdish-nationalist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a respectful title by calling him the “Sayin,” meaning “esteemed” or “Mister.” He was also sentenced, along with a DTP deputy leader, to 18 months in prison for distributing party literature in the Kurdish language. We demand: Freedom for Öcalan! Hands off Ahmet Turk and the DTP!

The situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey has sharply deteriorated in recent months. On 21 October 2007, during a Turkish military anti-Kurdish offensive near the Iraq border, PKK guerrilla fighters attacked a military convoy, killing 12 Turkish soldiers. In response, Erdogan declared, “Our anger, our hatred is great.” This signaled a massive outburst of Turkish nationalism that saw 300,000 marching on October 27 in the Anatolian city of Kayseri. Thousands of runners in Istanbul’s Eurasian Marathon carried Turkish flags and chanted anti-PKK slogans. Mob attacks on Kurdish businesses went largely unreported in the press, while many Kurds sought to allay pogromist violence by hanging Turkish flags on their homes and workplaces.

On February 22, with the blatant aid of the U.S. imperialists and after having launched massive air raids into Iraq in December, the Turkish military sent ten thousand troops over the border to “hunt down” Kurdish PKK fighters. Already last December, the military bragged that they had killed “hundreds of terrorists” in attacks that hit villages, schools and hospitals, forcing some 1,800 people to flee their homes, according to a UN report. While we give the PKK no political support, we say that the Turkish regime’s bloody terror attacks must be condemned by the international workers movement—including in Turkey—which must stand for the military defense of the PKK against the Turkish state. By mobilizing against these attacks, linking this to opposition to the U.S. imperialist occupation of Iraq and defense of Kurdish national rights, the powerful Turkish proletariat could strike a blow in the interests of all the oppressed. U.S., NATO, Germany out of Afghanistan! Turkey—Hands off the PKK! U.S. out of Iraq! Turkish army out of Kurdistan!

The struggle for independence for the Kurdish people not only intersects powerfully the struggle for women’s liberation, but is also a crucial measure of revolutionary integrity of any party claiming to lead the working class. It is integral to the struggle for proletarian power, requiring the overthrow of bourgeois rule in Turkey, Iran and Syria and an end to the American imperialist occupation of Iraq. But the Kurdish nationalist leaders actively and militarily collaborated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and today act as pawns of the U.S. occupiers. As we wrote in “The U.S. Occupation and the Kurdish Question,” (WV No. 871, 26 May 2006):

“This is a cynical parody of self-determination for the Kurdish people, who have endured generations of oppression at the hands of various colonialist and nationalist regimes. The Kurdish nationalist leaders in Iraq have subordinated themselves to the American-led occupation forces. And many Iraqi Kurds mistakenly look with favor on the occupation as a guarantor against Arab conquest. Any fight for Kurdish independence that does not take as its starting point opposition to the occupation and to the nationalist parties that serve it will necessarily be subordinated to the occupation….

“As part of the multinational proletariat of the Near East, Kurdish workers can play a leading role in bringing down the rotten structure set up to serve the imperialist overlords. Kurdish and Turkish workers in Europe, especially in Germany, can serve as a living bridge linking the Kurdish struggle for independence to the fight for socialist revolution in the Near East and the advanced capitalist countries of West Europe. This struggle requires the leadership of internationalist workers parties, which will inscribe on their banner the call for a Socialist Republic of United Kurdistan, part of a socialist federation of the Near East.”

For the Communism of Lenin and Trotsky!

IMF-imposed austerity measures generated mass workers strikes that shook the country throughout the 1990s. In 2003, amid large trade-union dominated protests in cities across Turkey, the government denied the U.S. use of Turkish territory for deployment of troops, preventing the opening of a northern front in the Iraq war. In recent years, however, because of cyclical economic crises, a series of natural disasters, massive unemployment following the brutal IMF and EU austerity and privatization measures, and decades of betrayal and disorientation by the Stalinists, the working class has taken significant defeats.

Though presently beleaguered, the integrated Turkish/Kurdish proletariat has not ceased its struggles. On International Women’s Day in March 2007, thousands of women, joined by workers unions, demonstrated in Istanbul. Their banners read: “Do Not Interfere with My Body and My Honor,” “Our Body Is Ours” and “No Honor Killings.” They demanded equality and nurseries for children of working women. They called for an end to IMF interference and an end to the occupation of Iraq. Kurdish women joined the demonstrations, demanding peace, and courageous gay and lesbian activists protested their oppression. These demonstrations touched on many of the burning questions that confront revolutionaries seeking the road to the overthrow of capitalist class rule in imperialist-dependent Turkey.

Among the demonstrators, in T-shirts and baseball caps, were striking women workers from the German- and Italian-owned Novamed factory, in an Anatolian export zone. The strike of these women workers, which ended after 16 months, put a spotlight on the brutal conditions of women workers. Company abuse, which included a “pregnancy list” to regulate when women would be “allowed” to become pregnant, was supplemented by grinding social oppression. The Novamed strikers had to win the support of their husbands and families before even launching the union. This strike sparked widespread solidarity and won a collective agreement and wage increases. A strike in late 2007 by 27,000 workers at Turk Telekom against union-busting and for a new collective agreement had an impact in towns and cities across Turkey.

In the Near East, the struggle against imperialism and its neocolonial surrogate regimes cannot be resolved within the confines of a single country. Justice for the Palestinian people, national emancipation for the Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities, freedom for women from the veil and Islamic law require sweeping away the capitalist regimes from Iran to Egypt to the shores of the Bosphorus and establishing a socialist federation of the Near East. The struggle for proletarian power in the Near East must be linked to the fight for workers rule in the advanced capitalist countries, and it demands the forging of internationalist workers parties to win the working masses of the region to the communism of Lenin and Trotsky and fight intransigently for working-class power.

The way out of the Turkish impasse lies in forging a revolutionary leadership of the proletariat at the head of the peasant masses, on the model of Lenin’s Bolsheviks and based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution and the political independence of the proletariat. Like the Bolsheviks, such a party will recognize that the struggle for the liberation of women is a motor force for revolution. As Trotsky wrote of the Muslim women of Central Asia in 1924 (reprinted in “Communism and Women of the East” in Spartacist No. 60 [English-language edition], Autumn 2007):

“The Eastern woman who is the most paralysed in life, in her habits and in creativity, the slave of slaves, that she, having at the demand of the new economic relations taken off her cloak will at once feel herself lacking any sort of religious buttress; she will have a passionate thirst to gain new ideas, a new consciousness which will permit her to appreciate her new position in society. And there will be no better communist in the East, no better fighter for the ideas of the revolution and for the ideas of communism than the awakened woman worker.”

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/916/turkey-women.html
There is no future for Apartheid Israel....
07 Jul 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Is 000.jpg
Click on image for a larger version

Is 001.jpg
Click on image for a larger version

Is 002.jpg
The latest round of repression against a relatively defenseless subject population of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by the state of Israel has by now assumed the air of tired routine.

But for those on the receiving end what a largely desensitized world considers “tired” and “routine” bespeaks terror and brutality. Given the lack of intervention on the part of the international community whenever an Israeli security crackdown occurs, it is evident by now that a tacit acceptance has taken root to the effect that massacring Palestinians has been elevated to the level of bloodsport within Israeli society.


"No one people has a monopoly on human suffering and every ethnic tragedy stands on its own.

If I were a Jew or Gypsy, Nazi barbarity would be the most atrocious event in history. If I were a Black African, it would be slavery and apartheid. If I were a Native American, it would be the discovery of the New World by European explorers and settlers that resulted in near-total extermination. If I were an Armenian, it would be the Ottoman massacres.

I happen to be a Palestinian, and for me it is the Nakba.

Humanity should consider all the above repugnant. I do not consider it advisable to debate hierarchies of suffering. I do not know how to quantify pain or measure suffering. I do know that we are not children of a lesser God."

Afif Safieh – Palestinian diplomat

For those of us who still care about the plight of a people whose only crime is that they exist on land coveted by a settler colonial state, the latest manifestation of Israel’s disregard for international law and human rights is as good a reason as any for closer examination. In so doing, we must call upon the greatest teacher of them all: history.

Most empires and colonial projects fall under the weight of their own contradictions, but usually over a protracted period of resistance, both passive and active, on the part of its victims. At the same time the material privileges gained from the exploitation and expropriation of a colonized people acts as a slow-acting corrosive on the society of the colonizing state, poisoning it with racism and hatred for those it has colonized as it seeks to justify the material privileges and psychological sense of supremacy and national pride that accrues from that colonization. This moral decay is commonly reflected in the degeneration that takes place in the armed forces of the state in question, where the emphasis of the troops shifts from self-sacrifice and heroism in support of a just and galvanizing cause to personal survival as demoralization sets in.

In other words, the day-to-day reality of perpetuating oppression and injustice overcomes any amount of national propaganda in support of that oppression. In this, the case of American troops in Vietnam is a prime example.

There, the reality on the ground of killing and being killed in a country thousands of miles from home in an ignoble war eventually proved stronger than the propaganda the troops had been fed that they were fighting in the cause of freedom. This resulted in a widespread and growing breakdown in discipline, almost to the point where the US military effort in Vietnam was in danger of complete collapse. It might even be argued that on a certain level atrocities like My Lai were informed by a projection of the self-loathing experienced by more and more American troops in the field as the reality of the injustices they were committing took hold.

Another and contemporary example of this moral degeneration is the case of the Orwellian-named Israel Defense Forces. More than any other, the IDF is a product of the constructed mythology that has sustained Israel since its creation in 1948. It is a mythology which combines both a biblical and political justification for the state’s existence. On the one hand it constitutes the realization of an ancient covenant in which the land of historic Palestine was promised by God to the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, over 2,000 years ago, while on the other hand it is the fulfillment of the Zionist postulate that in a world that is irredeemably anti-Semitic the Jewish people, hitherto stateless, would never find peace and security until they had a state of their own.

While the former can instantly be dismissed as obscurantist poppycock, it must be said that the second of the aforementioned philosophical arguments in support of Israel’s existence reflects a concrete historical reality in the shape of the wave of anti-Semitism that swept across Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, and which gave rise to the emergence of Zionism.

If anyone was still in any doubt as to the power behind the early proponents of calls for a Jewish state, as the vast majority of Jews around the world were for decades, the inimitable horrors of the Holocaust in the Second World War instantly dispelled them. Indeed, the psychological impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people cannot be underestimated even today, despite it proving fertile ground for the extreme nationalism that has taken root within a significant section of Israeli society.

No matter the impact of the Holocaust on Israel, however, it can never justify the decades of injustice suffered by the Palestinian people as a consequence, else we describe a world in which the only answer to oppression is oppression. Moreover, the victims of the Nazi Holocaust share a bond of humanity with victims of every other genocide and state sanctioned crimes against humanity throughout history. It is a bond that transcends ethnicity, religion and/or nationality, and which embraces the many thousands of Palestinian victims of the Nakba and the millions more subsequently rendered stateless and refugees as a consequence.

Desperate propaganda

The romantic ideals attached to the pioneering spirit of the founders of Israel, along with international sympathy for a people who’d suffered such grotesque brutality at the hands of the Nazis, imbued the nascent state with a sense of purpose and destiny that helped mask the atrocities being carried out in its name.

A mythology of heroism and bravery was already well on the way to being constructed in 1948 when it came to Zionist militia organizations like the Haganah and Irgun. It was a mythology that continued on into the ranks of IDF when Israel was founded in 1948, embodied in the adoption of the state’s guiding “purity of arms” ethos, one designed to give romantic flavor to the militarism that sits at its heart. Yet in truth the ranks of the Haganah, Irgun and various other militia groups were filled with racist killers massacring men, women and children in order to fulfill the biblical and national destinies previously mentioned.

This toxic mix of racism and exceptionalism has led to the existence of a state that since its formation has viewed its repeated violations of international law and its crimes against humanity entirely justified. So deeply ingrained is the biblical and historical justification for Israel’s continued depredations against the Palestinians that when it comes to international condemnation of its crimes, rather than a cause for reflection and introspection within Israeli society, for many it merely serves to reaffirm Israel’s view of itself as the last bastion of defense of the Jewish people in a hostile world.

The day-to-day reality of this corrosive outlook involves young Israeli soldiers, mostly conscripts, humiliating, intimidating and brutalizing civilians at checkpoints, or killing Palestinians and Arabs in general in the knowledge they are able to do so with relative impunity.

But when those same soldiers come up against a determined and dogged resistance on the ground, such as they did in 2006 during the brief war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, their resolve crumbles and they are defeated. This is key to understanding why Israel, just like its chief sponsor the US when it comes to its own military operations, has come to rely on an advanced arsenal of missiles, aircraft, helicopter gunships, drones and tanks in its continuing conflict with the entire population of Gaza for the crime of exercising its right to elect a government of its own choosing.

Such would be the demoralizing effect not only on the troops but also and more importantly on Israeli society at large. Israel knows it cannot afford to sustain heavy casualties during its repeated military operations against a largely unarmed population.

To put it another way, while Israeli troops are more than willing to kill to maintain the material privileges attached to living in a settler colonial state, one in which their consumer lifestyles are subsidized by the West, they have consistently demonstrated a reluctance to die for those privileges. Evidence of the increased pressure that Israel is under is reflected in the growing desperation of its propaganda in painting the motivation of its growing number of critics and opponents as being founded in anti-Semitism. But where previously such calumniation would have been suffice to silence dissenting voices, now it merely discredits Israel’s supporters and apologists further.

Throughout history, humanity has been locked in struggle between oppressor and oppressed. It is a struggle that has posed the same question to each succeeding generation: Whose side are you on?

Israel as an apartheid state has no future. Only as a state which embraces the concept of universal human rights, justice and dignity for all who share the same land can it ensure the peace and security of its people. More than any other this is the abiding lesson of history.

http://rt.com/op-edge/170912-israel-no-furute-apartheid/
Re: The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights addresses the Suffolk/Foxman/Armenian issue
07 Jul 2014
For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

Turkey: Women and the Permanent Revolution

Down With Islamic Reaction! Down With Turkish Nationalism!

(Women and Revolution pages)

The following article is reprinted from Spartakist No. 170 (March 2008), newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

In the novel Snow, by acclaimed Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, a local official tells Ka, a returning political exile investigating a wave of suicides among young women and girls, “What is certain is that these girls were driven to suicide because they were extremely unhappy.... But if unhappiness were a genuine reason for suicide, half the women in Turkey would be killing themselves.” Pamuk’s novel is set in Kars, in northeastern Turkey. In the southeastern Anatolian town of Batman, a real epidemic of suicides, forced and otherwise, has seen hundreds of young women attempt to take their own lives, and dozens have succeeded. The great 19th-century French utopian socialist Charles Fourier explained that the status of women in any given society reflects that society’s general level of human emancipation. These deaths throw into stark relief the terrible oppression of women in Turkey, revealing a society marked by profound religious and social reaction that is reinforced and deepened by imperialist domination.

The status of women has become a battleground in the political struggles that have been rocking Turkey for some time. The re-election in July 2007 of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his reactionary Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) followed massive protests last April in defense of the espoused secularism of the Kemalist Turkish bourgeoisie and against the AKP’s plan to appoint Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, whose wife wears a headscarf, to the presidency. Some Turkish commentators called these protests in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir a “women’s revolution.” Millions of women, frightened by the danger Islamic fundamentalism poses, were said to have taken part.

On February 9, in spite of mass nationalist protests in Ankara and Istanbul, the Turkish parliament voted in favor of an amendment to the constitution allowing headscarves to be worn at Turkish universities. An article in junge Welt (9 February) described how the Erdogan regime secured, for now, the generals’ acquiescence:

“Less than a year ago the Turkish generals threatened a putsch if Erdogan continued advancing the Islamization of the country. But all of a sudden there’s no objection to be heard. The MP Aysel Tugluk of the DTP [pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party] recently revealed in a speech in parliament that the reason for this was a deal between the government and the armed forces. Erdogan gave the military men free rein on the Kurdish question—and in return he got free rein on the headscarf question.”

On 22 February, at the same time that the Turkish army’s ground offensive against the Kurds in northern Iraq was taking place, President Gül confirmed the lifting of the headscarf ban. There are already calls by the Kemalists and “Non-Governmental Organizations” for mass protests in Izmir and Ankara on March 7, for International Women’s Day, against the constitutional amendment.

The motor force behind the mobilizations was a de facto coalition of the army, the bourgeois Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the constitutional court, presenting themselves as guardians of the “secular legacy” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nationalist founder of modern Turkey. The election itself was sparked when in May 2007 the constitutional court, emboldened by the military’s threats against the government, ruled Gül’s appointment unconstitutional. The Ankara protest in 2007 was organized by the Association for Atatürkist Thought, headed by a former military commander currently under investigation for plotting a coup in 2003-2004. Looking to the blood-drenched military as an ally in the struggle for women’s liberation is deadly.

For Permanent Revolution!

Subjugated by imperialism, straddling Europe and Asia Minor, Turkey is a country of massive social and political contradictions. Leon Trotsky, who with V.I. Lenin was co-leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, termed such contradictions “combined and uneven development.” Unique among Islamic countries in that it is officially secular, modern Turkey arose not from a bourgeois revolution, but from the subordination of the clerical Ottoman state to the nationalist forces led by Atatürk. Rising Turkish nationalism also meant the ruthless suppression of national minorities, in particular the slaughter of Armenians and Kurds. To this day, uneven social development is seen in every aspect of Turkish society. A sizable industrial proletariat exists alongside the mass of peasants in the Anatolian heartland still subject to precapitalist forms of exploitation. Behind Istanbul’s pubs, chic cafés, bright malls and unveiled women in jeans or miniskirts, stands a vast country locked in barbaric, centuries-old anti-woman practices, stamped by dire unemployment and poverty.

The forces of political Islam now vie with those of the “secular,” military-backed bourgeoisie over who shall shape Turkey’s destiny and reap the profits. We revolutionary Marxists reject this framework, for these are the “choices” posed by a bankrupt capitalist ruling class incapable of modernizing this country. We look instead to the revolutionary mobilization of Turkey’s powerful multiethnic working class, standing at the head of all the oppressed, which alone can shatter the chains of backwardness.

With its enormous social contradictions, Turkey presents a powerful argument for Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which found living confirmation in the Bolshevik Revolution. Trotsky’s theory provides the program for resolving the fundamental democratic questions posed by combined and uneven development in countries like Turkey that came to capitalist development in the epoch of imperialism. In such economically backward countries, the weak national bourgeoisie, dependent on its imperialist masters and fearing its “own” proletariat, is incapable of taking up the democratic tasks formerly associated with the European bourgeois revolutions: separation of the state from religion, agrarian revolution, national liberation. To assure the completion of these tasks it is necessary for the proletariat to come to power through socialist revolution. Having already divided the world for exploitation, a handful of the most powerful imperialists economically strangles the masses of semicolonial countries. In such countries, Trotsky wrote,

“the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”

—The Permanent Revolution (1930)

In power, the proletariat will expropriate the bourgeoisie and the holdings of its imperialist masters in order to establish a collectivized, planned economy where production is based on social need rather than profit. But short of international extension of the revolution, especially to the advanced capitalist countries, the development of the social revolution will be arrested and ultimately reversed.

The struggles of the Turkish working class have been repeatedly wrecked by Stalinist reformists who, pushing the class-collaborationist program of “two-stage revolution,” have fostered illusions in the supposed “progressives” of the deeply anti-communist CHP. The program of fighting for a “democratic” revolution in league with a mythical “progressive” and “anti-imperialist” wing of the bourgeoisie, relegating the struggle for socialism to an indefinite future, has brought defeat after bloody defeat. From the massacres of Indonesian Communists by Suharto in 1965 to Pinochet’s 1973 reign of terror against the Chilean masses, history has repeatedly demonstrated that the first “stage” of “two-stage revolution” ends in the blood of the workers and oppressed. The second stage never comes. As we wrote in our “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program” (1998):

“Trotsky’s program of permanent revolution is the alternative to placing confidence in fantasies resting upon the backward, imperialist-dependent bourgeoisie of one’s own oppressed country as the vehicle for liberation.”

In Turkey, as in other backward countries, the oppression of women is deeply rooted in religious obscurantism and precapitalist “customs” that are manipulated and buttressed by imperialism. Above all, it is the institution of the family that is central to upholding the subjugation of women everywhere.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, developing capitalism spawned social and political revolutions against the aristocracies, monarchies and churches that propped up the old feudal order, to the great benefit of women. The elementary rights that most Western women take for granted—to choose your marriage partner, birth control, divorce, access to education, the right to vote—do not exist for women in the tradition-bound, priest-ridden countries of the East. Christianity and Judaism had to conform with rising industrial capitalism and the bourgeois nation-states, but Islam did not have to adapt, largely because it remains rooted in those parts of the world where imperialism has reinforced social backwardness as a prop to its domination. Bourgeois-democratic gains do not eliminate the fundamental oppression of women in the institution of the family.

In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels explained that the monogamous patrilineal family arose “to make the man supreme in the family, and to propagate, as the future heirs to his wealth, children indisputably his own.” Along with the state and organized religion, the family is a mainstay of social reaction, regimenting the population, instilling subservience to authority and reinforcing the hold of religion. To the rulers, poor and working-class women serve the purpose of raising a new generation of exploited toilers. Women in the home are isolated from the centers of production. But working-class women, along with working-class men, have great potential social power to overthrow the capitalist system. Only a socialist revolution can lay the material basis for the replacement of the family and for women’s social independence from its confines through collective childcare, laundries and dining halls.

As the demonstrations over the last year headed by the Kemalist bourgeoisie and military show, if women are not mobilized as part of the proletarian class struggle they can be mobilized by other forces for reactionary ends. The fate of women and their struggle for emancipation is a strategic question. Because the oppression of women is integral to capitalist property relations and is bolstered ideologically by religion, women’s oppression cannot be eradicated in capitalist society. At the same time, without a struggle to end women’s oppression, which reinforces all forms of social backwardness, there will be no proletarian revolution.

To unleash the enormous revolutionary potential of the proletariat requires the leadership of a genuinely communist workers party—drawing in women as part of its leadership—armed with a program for the political independence of the working class and for the fight for socialist revolution, as well as a broad vision of a social order of equality and freedom. Such a party will champion full equality for women and their integration into the workforce, where they will acquire social power. Such a party will stand for equal pay for equal work and will lead the fight to end all backward practices, such as “honor” killings, polygamy and bride price. The fight for basic needs and democratic rights—an end to arranged and forced marriages and the seclusion of the veil, freedom from poverty and legal subjugation, the right to education and free health care, including free and safe abortion on demand—is an attack on the foundations of the imperialist-dominated capitalist social order and poses nothing less than a socialist revolution.

The “Headscarf Wars” and Women’s Oppression

The imperialists welcomed the AKP’s re-election last July. A European Union (EU) spokesman declared, “Gül is appreciated in Europe,” and financial analysts in the U.S. were similarly bullish on the AKP. In its prior five years in power, the AKP carried out privatizations, attacked Turkey’s unions and followed the IMF’s dictates to the letter in most cases. As long as Erdogan delivers stability and profits for the imperialists, his goal of resolving Turkey’s contradictions in favor of Islam will not unduly trouble his European and American masters.

In the wake of its victory, the AKP wasted no time in this regard. New constitutional amendments were announced scrapping the longstanding ban on the headscarf in colleges and public institutions and replacing a clause in the current constitution that obliges the government to “ensure equality for both men and women” with one that describes women as a “vulnerable group in need of special protection.” Meanwhile, the emboldened forces of Islamic reaction are starting to change the political and social landscape of Turkey, including in cities like Istanbul. Some government offices are organizing work schedules according to prayer times, and boys and girls are being separated in high schools, a wholly reactionary measure. During the month of Ramadan last fall, which is holy to Muslims, most restaurants stopped serving alcohol and the police brutally beat people for smoking and drinking. The effect of more than two decades of rising political Islam in the Near East is apparent in Istanbul, where the veil and headscarf are increasingly prevalent. Today, some form of veiling is worn by more than 60 percent of Turkish women.

The ban on the veil harks back to the early days of the republic when Atatürk, in his drive to modernize the country at gunpoint, campaigned vigorously against religious symbols and issued decrees banning all forms of religious dress in schools and public institutions. The current “headscarf war” dates back to the early 1980s, when the military, self-appointed guardians of “secular order,” reinforced the ban after their 1980 coup. The rising forces of Islamic fundamentalism naturally opposed it.

When the Islamic Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan surged to power in 1996 and allowed veiling in government offices, the military again tightened the ban on the veil as part of its effort to stem the tide of “Islamic subversive activities.” Erbakan was forced out of power by the military in 1997, and in 1998 his Welfare Party was banned. It was in this context that a medical student, Leyla Sahin, expelled from Istanbul University in 1998 for refusing to remove her headscarf, launched a legal challenge to the ban. In November 2005, the bourgeois European Court of Human Rights ruled on her case, upholding Turkey’s ban on women wearing headscarves in universities.

We are opposed to the veil, no matter what its form, as both a symbol and instrument of women’s oppression, but we are equally unambiguous in our opposition to state bans or restrictions on it. As Marxists we uphold the democratic principle of separation of religion and state and oppose both state funding of religious schools and religious instruction within public educational institutions. We are for free, secular education for all. Islamic fundamentalists will use any easing of the ban on the headscarf to exert social pressure on women to cover themselves. Nonetheless, we oppose state interference in private religious practices, which paves the way for the state to meddle in the lives of religious minorities and to repress workers and leftist organizations.

We also oppose the bans against veiled Muslim girls and women that have spread across West Europe. These bans are simply racist and have seen girls expelled from school and women driven from jobs and public places. The oppressed Muslim minority in Europe suffers the daily humiliations of racism, segregation and police violence. The anti-veil hysteria also serves as an extension of the racist “war on terror” directed in the main against Muslims.

In Turkey, as in West Europe, barring religious women from education and universities because they refuse to remove their headscarves can only deepen their isolation from secular currents, increasing the hold of religious reaction and family domination. Moreover, cases like Sahin’s, or Erdogan’s daughters, who were sent to study in the U.S. where they could wear the headscarf, become lightning rods for religious reaction in the name of “democratic” rights. The mass of Turkish women, who are mostly poor, have no options such as those available to Erdogan’s daughters. Their fate will continue to be forced marriages, stultifying household drudgery and successive pregnancies.

Contrary to Erdogan and Islamic women’s groups, the veil is not an exercise in “religious freedom” or a sign of submission to a deity. Nor is it simply a reactionary symbol of religious affiliation like the Christian cross or Jewish yarmulke. The veil is the physical symbol of the submission of women to men, the permanent, imposed affirmation of their inferior status. It represents the extension outside the home of the seclusion imposed on women by reactionary sharia law (Islamic law).

To depict the covering of a woman’s body as a quaint cultural attribute or merely a “choice” of dress is liberal nonsense. Such “cultural relativism” prettifies hideous oppression and Marxists reject it. The headscarf might be less onerous than the chador or niqab, prisons for the body beneath which the wearer suffocates, but they all reflect the view of women as property, less than fully human. The veil is the glaring manifestation of the social program of the reactionary Islamist forces operating in Iran, Saudi Arabia and beyond, and it means nothing less than total servitude for women.

Atatürk and the Limits of Bourgeois Nationalism

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its defeat in World War I, the Near East was carved up between the British and French imperialists. The rapacious Treaty of Sèvres saw the Ottoman Empire dismembered and driven out of the Balkans. However, the imperialists did not reckon with the Bolsheviks. The 1917 Russian Revolution—and its extension to largely Muslim Central Asia in the course of the bloody three-year Civil War against the imperialist-backed counterrevolutionary White armies—triggered a series of national revolts and popular uprisings in the broad swath occupied by British forces from Egypt through the Fertile Crescent to Iran. In Turkey, a 1919 peasant revolt gave mass backing to Atatürk and his bourgeois-nationalist forces. Emerging from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish republic was founded in 1923 following a fierce war that drove out the imperialist forces, notably Britain, which was pushing to assert its domination over Turkey. The defeat of the British-sponsored military offensive was achieved through extended economic and military support from Soviet Russia under Lenin.

Atatürk and his Republican People’s Party inherited an economically retarded country lacking a concentration of modern industry. Insofar as a small capitalist class existed, it was Armenian and Greek, with a smaller Jewish component. To build the national capitalist state, the Kemalist movement used Turkish nationalism as a weapon. The Armenians—victims of a genocidal campaign in World War I—were driven from the country, as were the Greeks, and the Jews were subjected to pogromist violence.

Acting as the vanguard of the nascent Turkish bourgeoisie, the Kemalists embarked on a program of reforms aimed at removing all obstacles to the development of a modern capitalist nation-state. Dismantling the strongholds of institutionalized Islam, they proclaimed the country a “secular” republic and abolished the caliphate (office of Islamic ruler). Islam, which does not recognize national boundaries, was in contradiction to the Kemalist aim of constructing a Turkish nation-state, and it ceased to be the state religion. Sharia law was replaced by a constitution based on the Swiss Civil Code and the Italian Penal Code, polygamy was prohibited, and religious orders and brotherhoods were outlawed. Religious symbols—the veil in schools and public institutions, and the fez everywhere—were banned. The Latin alphabet was introduced and the Western calendar was adopted.

The social position of women also changed. The huge loss of men in the imperialist carnage of World War I and in the Turkish War of Independence created a labor shortage. As a result, women were drawn into the labor force. They were granted the right to vote in the 1930 local elections. In 1934, they won the right to vote and run for office in parliamentary elections, well before women in many European countries. In the 1937 elections, 18 women deputies were elected to parliament (a result never again equaled).

Atatürk saw himself as a modernizer who could, with a few strokes of his pen, drag the country from the medieval age into the 20th century. Grafted onto a backward society, 80 percent of which was rural and dominated by feudal relations, his reforms were necessarily partial and prone to challenge and reversal. Turkey lacked not only a national bourgeoisie but also a significant proletariat, which alone could transform the country and lay the basis for continued social progress. As Trotsky wrote in The Permanent Revolution:

“Under the conditions of the imperialist epoch the national democratic revolution can be carried through to a victorious end only when the social and political relationships of the country are mature for putting the proletariat in power as the leader of the masses of the people. And if this is not yet the case? Then the struggle for national liberation will produce only very partial results, results directed entirely against the working masses.”

In the first instance, the results in Turkey were directed against the fledgling Communists. Although Atatürk had lifted the ban on the Communist Party following the Soviet-Turkish Treaty, once the British-backed Greek military was defeated in 1922-23, Atatürk crushed the Communists, murdering their leaders. The young Soviet state and the Communist International had sought to advance the cause of socialist revolution in Turkey, and the Comintern denounced “these new crimes of the ruling classes in Turkey.”

Atatürk’s reforms could not resolve the basic democratic questions. There were no attempts at land reform or expropriation of the landlords. Far from resolving the question of national minorities, especially the Kurdish question, Atatürk unleashed a bloody assault against the Kurds in the name of fighting religious backwardness. By the late 1930s, 1.5 million people were either massacred or forcibly transferred. Public use and teaching of the Kurdish language was prohibited. The caliphate was abolished, but genuine separation of mosque and state was never carried out. Rather, the religious hierarchy was brought under the control of the state through the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Today, with a staff of 80,000 imams (Muslim religious leaders), this institution controls a network of nearly 77,000 mosques, religious education, foundations and charities and even dictates the content of the Friday sermons.

Urban women, especially those of the ruling class, certainly benefited from the Kemalist reforms. But the lives of the overwhelming majority of women, especially in the backward, conservative countryside, changed little. The headscarf ban, instead of a liberating measure, deepened women’s exclusion from school, government service and public life. The gulf between the secular, educated bourgeoisie and the illiterate masses, between city and countryside, widened. Indeed, nothing is more cynical than the Kemalist elite’s posture as partisans of women’s rights. The same Turkish state that banned the veil in schools in the guise of liberating women, for years forced virginity tests on schoolgirls, women in police custody and girls in state-run foster homes, a practice banned only after five girls attempted suicide in 1999. Women’s inferior status is reinforced by textbooks pounding children with the message, “The father is the head of the family, and the wife, who does the cooking and looks after the children, is his assistant and companion.”

For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

The social transformations in Soviet Russia, especially in Central Asia, stood in powerful contrast to the Turkey of Kemal Atatürk. Between Kemalism and Bolshevism lay the gigantic achievement of a thoroughgoing proletarian revolution. Having expropriated the bourgeoisie, nationalized the land and collectivized industry, the Bolshevik Revolution gave national rights to the myriad oppressed peoples in the tsarist “prison house of peoples” and abolished the estates of the landed nobility. The first steps taken by the workers state toward planning the economy in the interests of the toilers brought enormous gains to working women.

The Marxist understanding of women’s oppression as linked to private property and especially to the oppressive institution of the family was integral to the Bolshevik program and strategy for building socialism internationally. The Russian Revolution sought to bring women into full participation in economic, social and political life (see “The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 59, Spring 2006). But the Bolsheviks were keenly aware that they could not overcome the backwardness and poverty of Russia simply by decree—they knew that without qualitative economic development that would lay the material basis for replacing the social functions of the family, the full liberation of women was a utopian fantasy. That is why they built the Communist International and fought for the international extension of the revolution to the advanced industrialized countries.

In the historically Muslim regions of Central Asia, the Bolsheviks undertook the enormous task of trying to liberate women. When they spoke of “martyrs fallen on the women’s liberation front,” they were talking about the dedicated and heroic activists from the Department for Work Among Women (Zhenotdel), who put on the veil to bring to the women of the Muslim East news of the new Soviet laws and programs that would change their lives. In Central Asia, where a small but significant proletariat held state power, the workers state was able to invest some of the economic surplus from the more advanced urban areas of the Soviet Union. It took a couple of decades before the productive capacity of the planned economy had developed sufficiently to provide jobs, education, medical care and social services on a scale wide enough to undercut primitive Islamic traditions. But by this time, the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary program had been supplanted by Stalinism’s nationalist ideology of building “socialism in one country” and its counterrevolutionary glorification of the family. Notwithstanding the degeneration of the Soviet workers state, the planned economy demonstrated its superiority in the great advances achieved for women and the historically Muslim peoples in Soviet Central Asia, where conditions before the Bolshevik Revolution had been as backward and benighted as in Afghanistan today.

It is the oppressive institution of the family that is at the heart of the increasing number of “namus,” or “honor” killings, in Turkey, a barbaric practice steeped in the backwardness of rural societies. In 1983 we reviewed Yilmaz Güney’s film Yol, in which a husband murders his wife as punishment for adultery, and a young couple, forced to flee to get married because the parents disapprove, is hunted down and killed by the bride’s family (Women and Revolution No. 27, Winter 1983-84). Twenty-four years later, at least 200 girls and young women are thought to be murdered each year by their families. The real number is likely far higher, as most “honor” murders are hushed up and go unreported or take the form of “forced suicides.” A UN report puts these barbaric killings worldwide at over 5,000 a year, a number that surely understates reality.

Young girls have been strangled, buried alive or stoned to death for such “crimes” as having a consensual sexual relationship outside marriage, rejecting an arranged marriage, wearing a short skirt, dating, stealing a glance at a boy or being raped by a stranger or relative. Malicious neighborhood gossip can incur a death sentence. Until recently, murderers received lenient sentences, as the law provides “unjust provocation” as an available defense.

In impoverished rural Turkey, where a woman’s “honor” is a measurable commodity, young brides are humiliated by having to display a bloody sheet after their wedding night. Anatolian girls are often married off at a very young age to men they have never seen, treated little better than cattle to be purchased at the proper price. Divorce, considered a social taboo, is extremely rare; only 2.6 percent of Turkish women over 30 are single. Interethnic and interfaith marriages are not allowed. Crossing these lines can mean a death sentence for women (and the men who marry them).

The travails of Turkish and Kurdish women do not end when they emigrate to Europe. In the segregated immigrant communities, all the reactionary, oppressive traditions are preserved through ties to the homeland. Young immigrant and minority women are trapped between the racism of these societies and oppressive, rigid family strictures. Unable to find jobs that provide financial independence, life for them is an endless saga of miseries. The 2005 murder by her brothers of Hatun Sürücü, a young Kurdish mother in Germany, shows that women may pay with their lives. Her “crime” was to leave an arranged marriage, seek an independent life with her child and choose a Western lifestyle. As we explained in “‘Honor’ Killings in Germany” (Workers Vanguard No. 850, 10 June 2005):

“The concept of ‘family honor,’ i.e., control of the sexuality of women by their family, is not exclusively Islamic, but rather connected to a mode of production where a clan—a series of related extended families—holds and works the land in common.”

Indeed, “honor” killings in the Near East take place in Christian families as well as Muslim ones. Engels put it trenchantly: “In order to make certain of the wife’s fidelity and therefore of the paternity of the children, she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband; if he kills her, he is only exercising his rights.”

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/916/turkey-women.html
Re: The Ad Hoc Greater Boston Committee for Human Rights addresses the Suffolk/Foxman/Armenian issue
09 Jul 2014
Turkey's Kurds prefer peace prospects at home to perilous statehood in Iraq

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - What has long been a dream for the Middle East's Kurds, an independent state, is within reach in Iraq, but Turkey's Kurds, wearied by a 30-year conflict with Ankara, see a brighter future at home, where negotiations could deliver the rights they have fought for.

At Istanbul's Kurdish Institute, where 400 students are learning Kurdish, they are riveted by events across the border in Iraqi Kurdistan, which appears to be hurtling toward independence as state forces retreat and Sunni militants, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda offshoot, seize parts of northern Iraq.

Events are not, for now at least, stirring separatist sentiment in Turkey, where many Kurds prefer to put their faith in greater autonomy within the established borders of a booming economy than in the vagaries of a new nation state surrounded by hostile neighbors.

That might not always have been the case, when Kurds and the Turkish state appeared beyond reconciliation after more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, were killed in an armed struggle led by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since 1984.

When linguist Zana Farqini began work at the Kurdish Institute two decades ago, he faced terrorism charges just for performing a song in his native language at a political rally.

Police regularly raided the institute, which published a magazine and offered workshops, as the separatist insurgency raged in Turkey's southeast.

Now, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to negotiate an end to the 30-year conflict have included lifting strict curbs on Kurdish political and cultural expression, long unthinkable in a country with strong nationalist sentiment.

"We finally see it is possible to solve our problems without spilling blood, through democratic means," said Farqini, now 47. "With the peace process, Kurds are declaring they want to live with Turks. They're saying, 'We do not want to break away.'"

NATION WITHOUT A STATE

Kurds are considered the largest ethnic group without a state - more than half of them living in Turkey - and their fate in Iraq will reverberate across the region. Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), long locked in a dispute with the central government in Baghdad over oil revenues, is planning a referendum on independence. [ID:nL6N0PH19K]

Iraqi Kurds, who have governed themselves since the 1990s, have responded to the ISIL crisis by taking over areas left undefended by the Iraqi military, adding as much as 40 percent to their own territory.

Officially, Turkey remains committed to Iraq's territorial unity. But Ankara has largely welcomed the KRG's empowerment in recent years, partly out of its own economic concerns, seeking access to Kurdish oil and gas and with its construction firms leading a building boom there.

There is strong mutual interest. Iraqi Kurdistan serves as a buffer against the chaos in the rest of Iraq, while Turkey is the only viable export outlet for Kurdish hydrocarbons en route to lucrative markets in Europe.

Relations with the Shi'ite-dominated government in Baghdad have meanwhile soured. Erdogan, who is like most Turks a Sunni, has accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of sectarian policies that have led to Iraq's current crisis.

"Because Kurds in Iraq are not getting their needs met by the central government, Kurdish aspirations for independence have gained more legitimacy and justification," said Yasin Aktay, who heads the ruling AK Party's foreign affairs office.

That is a lesson the government will have learned from events at home, where the PKK has scaled back demands for full-fledged independence in favor of local administration and more cultural rights, including Kurdish-language education.

Violence largely subsided after talks began with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012.

SHIFTING LINES

Kurds inhabit a mostly mountainous arc from Turkey and Syria into Iraq and Iran. Denied a land of their own in the break-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War One, the turmoil in Iraq puts the dream of statehood within their grasp.

These shifting lines have lent a fresh sense of urgency to the Kurdish peace process in Turkey. In late June, parliament began work on legislation to resolve the conflict, formalizing the process for the first time. [ID:nL6N0P74RN]

The advances have helped quell fears of Turkey fracturing along ethnic lines, according to Idris Kardas, coordinator of the Platform for Global Challenges at Istanbul Bilgi University.

"The PKK and its supporters have accepted that remaining in Turkey is more realistic, as long as they have more autonomy, cultural rights and a say in governing themselves," he said.

An August election, in which Erdogan aims to become Turkey's first directly elected president, is also driving the impetus, given that no politician can ignore a community that makes up about a fifth of the population.

In a sign of Kurds' commitment to mainstream politics, one of Erdogan's two competitors in the August presidential race is a Kurd: Selahattin Demirtas, head of parliament's Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish alliance of left parties that now wants to be a broader, Turkey-wide organization.

The HDP itself is opposed to an independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq, lest it imperil the fledgling peace in Turkey.

Idris Baluken, an HDP lawmaker and mediator in the talks, said Kurds exert more clout within the countries where they reside than they would in any new nation, surrounded by neighbors opposed to its very existence.

"Our model is a democratic confederacy that is based on living within borders, together in pluralism," he said.

Demographic movement has also blunted the urge for independence; after decades of migration from the poverty-stricken Kurdish southeast, Istanbul, with an estimated 2 million Kurds out of a population of 14 million, is now the world's biggest Kurdish city.

"Despite everything, Turkey is home," said Farqini at the Kurdish Institute, on a broad boulevard in Istanbul's ancient quarter of Fatih. "We want unity, but it cannot be forced. It must be of our own accord."

If negotiations fail, the influence of events in Iraq, where former PKK militants remain in mountain hideouts, can only grow.

"My friends in the mountains are a guarantee for the peace process. If it doesn't work, we will of course defend ourselves once again," said Umut, a 17-year old villager sitting with his father and uncle near the town of Silopi, close to the Iraq border.


http://news.yahoo.com/turkeys-kurds-prefer-peace-prospects-home-perilous