Fightback in Istanbul

LAST WEEKEND witnessed yet another attack on the Alevi community and workers living in the Gazi district of Istanbul.

After the uprisings in March (see Weekly Worker 86) state repression of leading activists was massive. A local teacher, Hasan Ocak, was detained by the political police in the presence of many witnesses. Two who witnessed his torture submitted depositions, but the police claimed that they did not detain him at all. A campaign under the slogan, “He was detained alive - we want him back alive”, was launched.

In many cities in Turkey and abroad, including London, week-long hunger strikes were staged to gather international support and put pressure on the Turkish government. Under internal and international pressure the Ministry of Interior was obliged to initiate an ‘investigation’. However this delaying ploy did not come to anything. During protest demonstrations many people, including Ocak’s mother, were arrested and detained.

After 55 days of campaigning his tortured body, strangled by a wire loop, was found buried as an unidentified corpse in Istanbul’s paupers’ cemetery.

There was a big funeral march displaying the defiance and determination of the people. After the march cars full of rightwing activists came to Gazi and a neighbouring district and used pump-action shotguns to fire into Alevi community centres.

This time the local people were prepared. They chased the assailants and captured a few. Immediately thousands of people filled the streets and erected barricades. The police and other officials, seeing the determination of the people, decided to defuse the situation.

After a few hours of demonstrations and negotiations the locals handed over the fascists - a little bit beaten, but safe and sound - to the police, on condition that the event was broadcast on TV. The barricades were staffed until dawn.

The situation remains tense in all gecekondu (shanty) districts of Istanbul. The left forces are trying to build defence organisations based on cooperation between different political groups. Sadly, however, this intention broke down several times due to the petty bourgeois rivalries and politicking displayed by these groups. Some also attach an over-emphasis to the importance of these events, as if they were heralding immediate revolution.

Meanwhile the Islamic political movement is seeking to move forward the weekend to include Islamic Friday. It is seeking new legislation to inaugurate the sessions of parliament by prayers. The weak coalition government, which contains the social democrats, is flirting with these ideas. On top of this the military is threatening a new onslaught on the Kurds.

On the other hand the instincts and determination of the working class are becoming more apparent. The working class is preparing for a hot summer.

Aziz Demir