Solidarity targeted by IS bomber
The Suruç massacre marks a change in Turkish politics, writes Esen Uslu
In response to the call of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations, hundreds of young men and women have joined the campaign to rebuild war-devastated Kobanê in Syria, whose slogan is: “We defended together. We will rebuild together.” Especially inspired by the participation of young Kurdish women, they were internationalists supporting the revolution taking place in Rojava (the Kurdish lands in northern Syria) and displaying international solidarity with the just cause of the Kurds.
They were particularly concerned with the needs of the very young, collecting baby care items, together with toys and books. They also planned to build a children’s clinic, a library and a play area. These supplies were to be delivered by a group of 200 who travelled to the town of Suruç in Urfa province, just north of the Turkish border with Syria. They were met by local supporters, as well as other groups participating in solidarity activities and providing assistance to Kobanê.
Some of them were very young, but others had been in the thick of the struggle to support Kobanê during the fight against Islamic State. Some had been detained as a result of various actions they organised all over Turkey. Their solidarity activities met with the disdain of the Islamist-nationalist officialdom. Even when they were on their way to Suruç, they were stopped and subjected to an extended ID check. Two were detained under warrants issued by the courts, while the rest were allowed to proceed into Suruç town.
However, they were told that by the command of the governor of Urfa province they would not be allowed to proceed into Kobanê as a single group. Only 20 would be allowed to cross into Syria. The rest could not even approach the border.
Their local hosts had already arranged for all 200 to stay in a cultural centre, but the police harassment continued and they were escorted right to the door of their rooms. Of course, as young revolutionaries they were accustomed to such treatment at the hands of the authorities and their spirits remained high. Even their short experience of Turkish politics was sufficient to teach them some basic facts: undertaking internationalist action, and in particular supporting the Kurds, will be met by the wrath of the state.
The next morning, on July 20, they had a communal breakfast at the tables laid out in the garden of the cultural centre, after which they gathered to make a statement to the press, protesting against police actions and the governor’s decision, and stressing that despite such repressive measures they were determined to carry out what they had come to achieve. They invited journalists as well as other onlookers into the garden.
As they stood under their banner following a short speech and the chanting of slogans, the explosion happened. Most are blaming an Islamic State suicide bomber. The bomb killed 32 comrades and wounded around 70 others. Eight of those wounded are still in a critical condition, and 11 have undergone surgery. About 40 of the wounded were later discharged from hospital. Among the dead are also some older members of the ESP (Socialist Party of the Oppressed), including a comrade whose son was killed fighting in Kobanê. Supporters of the leftwing, pro-Kurd HDP (People’s Democratic Party) were also among the victims. Many of the young comrades killed had been active participants in the Gezi Park protests in 2013.
On July 21, 28 bodies were returned to families after post-mortem examinations, while others are still undergoing laboratory tests to confirm their identity. The photos of those killed are available on a memorial album on Facebook, including some that admirably capture their spirit during the solidarity trip: a poignant exhibition.1
The recent history of Turkey is full of incidents where dozens of Kurds have been killed in a single day. For example, 34 young Kurdish villagers were bombed by the Turkish airforce in December 2011. However, the ‘peace process’ initiated by the unilateral ceasefire declared by comrade Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), reduced the number of such incidents.
The negotiations that saw HDP parliamentarians as message carriers between comrade Öcalan, who is incarcerated in the İmralı island prison, and the Qandil mountain headquarters of the PKK, paved the way for further negotiations with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict.
The high point of the negotiations was the joint Dolmabahçe declaration of February 28 2015. Ministers of the government and HDP MPs held a press conference on the declaration, which included a new democratic constitution based on equal citizenship, as well as enhanced local government, and the call for the permanent renunciation of armed struggle to be agreed by a PKK congress.
Since then the process has been turned upside-down. During the election campaign in June, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) machine, at the urging of the president of the republic, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, repudiated the agreement, and returned to the old rhetoric in the hope of maintaining their hold over deeply religious sections of the Kurdish population. During the acrimonious election campaign the HDP was subjected to violent attacks, and two provincial offices were bombed. Two explosions rocked a mass rally in Diyarbakır, killing and maiming scores.
Unsurprisingly, the animosity between the Kurds and the AKP increased. Following the election results, the constitution requires the formation of a government - if necessary a coalition - and, if such attempts fail, there must be a new election, so the caretaker AKP government was quite pleased to string out the negotiations as long as possible, and carry on in office until a late-autumn election. The HDP, however, is keen to regain the initiative in the peace process, and therefore called for the formation of a coalition government as soon as possible. It has urged the recall of parliament from its summer recess to deal with the urgent issues, to no avail.
The probable coalition partner of the AKP is the MHP - the Nationalist Action Party of the infamous Grey Wolves. Its present rhetoric seems against such a government, but during the election of the speaker of the parliament it supported the AKP candidate. Merging two reactionary strands of the Turkish right seems a better option for Erdoğan to stop any progress in the peace process, since the MHP is dead against any such negotiated settlement.
Up to last week the AKP was flirting with the CHP (Republican People’s Party). However, the Suruç atrocity has to all intents and purposes put an end to that.
The IS factor
The Turkish and international press is full of comments claiming that the bombing was an IS action ‘against Turkey’. That is a profoundly mistaken, and actually a misleading, assessment.
It is true that the man who planted the two bombs in Diyarbakır in May 2015 was found to be an IS member from Turkey. However, the strangely benign treatment of the IS was much in evidence. Earlier he had been arrested and then released by the police. That despite his suspected links to IS. His family reported him as a missing person and feared that he had gone to fight for IS in Syria.
And it would not be a surprise to find the alleged Suruç suicide bomber is an IS member. Six weeks ago a reliable source on social media wrote that the Turkish intelligence services knew that six or eight suicide bombers had infiltrated back into Turkey with a view of causing mayhem. This news was reported and much discussed in the Turkish press.
However, since the AKP changed its attitude to the peace process, IS actions were clearly serving their short-term aims in targeting Kurds, the left and the HDP - a similar atrocity could perhaps also be committed against an Alevi mass event. Such actions play into the hands of those seeking the formation of a temporary rightwing coalition and then the winning of a majority in a snap general election.
The AKP government is also planning unilateral military action in Syria under the pretext of the ‘hot pursuit of terrorists’. It has already put in place troops and equipment for such an action. Its international partners, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are keen to put pressure on Iran through Syria. Money and equipment is pouring into Salafist Islamist groups in Syria via Turkey.
So the future of Rojava and northern Syria, as well as the peace process in Turkey, seems quite bleak. At present the AKP is changing tack and attempting to carry the entire right with it towards a dangerous precipice. Realising this clear and present danger, the HDP has called on all parliamentarians who oppose the atrocities to support their motion to recall parliament - they will need nearly double the number of their MPs to table such a motion.
Combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary action, the HDP has called on people to take part in the funeral processions of the comrades killed and to make the ceremonies “worthy of revolutionaries”. It has also asked its partners in the anti-AKP Peace Bloc to organise a massive rally in Istanbul against Islamist terrorism .