Turkey arrests Kurdish journalists and politicians and prepares to invade Syria

Sixteen of the 20 Kurdish journalists detained in Diyarbakir on June 8 were arrested and sent to prison on Thursday, as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan steps up attacks on press freedom.

The World Socialist Website condemns these attacks and demands the release of all journalists. Faced with ever-increasing inflation and poverty, as well as growing opposition and a strike movement within the working class, the Erdoğan government is trying to use militarism and chauvinism to suppress the class struggle and targeting fundamental democratic rights.

IMAGE: Kurdish press journalists arrested. [Credit: Mezopotamya Agency]

Among the journalists arrested are Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) co-chairman Serdar Altan, xwebun Editor Mehmet Ali Ertaş, JinNews Director Safiye Alagaş, JinNews Editor Gülşen Koçuk and Mezopotamya Agency (MA) Editor Aziz Oruç.

The journalists were arrested for “belonging” to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), a group that brings together the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, the Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). ) in Iran and the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PÇDK) in Iraq. This so-called accusation is a pretext that the Turkish state has used for decades to make arrests.

According to the Mezopotamya agency, the investigation, based on secret and public testimonies, alleges that journalists used interviews with KCK leaders as “instructions” to make television broadcasts. One of the charges brought against the arrested journalists is of having made programs for Kurdish television channels abroad.

One of the charges against Elif Üngür is that she made a television program about the campaign to free imprisoned Kurdish artist Nûdem Durak, who has been supported by artists such as Roger Waters internationally. Üngür is also accused of showing images of Qamışlo, a town in northeastern Syria held by Kurdish nationalist forces, in a television broadcast.

When JinNews editor-in-chief Gülşen Koçuk was asked if she follows the “Justice Watch” campaign for sick prisoners, journalist Lezgin Akdeniz was asked about her phone calls with news sources and her TV show about murders by JİTEM. An unofficial state intelligence agency, JİTEM was infamous for numerous unsolved civilian killings in the Kurdish region during the Turkish state’s war against the PKK in the 1990s.

The journalists’ arrest was justified on the grounds that their reporting “informed the group [KCK] on the action plan of the Turkish army, hailed and encouraged the group [KCK] acts of force and violence”. Resul Temur, one of the journalists’ lawyers, told the daily BirGün that the whole process was full of anarchy and irregularities.

Temur said that during the 8 days the journalists were in detention, they were not given any information about their case or even shown the detention and confidentiality order. He added: “The prosecutor’s office even said [a journalist during the interrogation:] “You mentioned the ‘Kurdish problem. What kind of problem do the Kurds have? But they didn’t put it in the record. There was 80 hour content in the investigation, but we couldn’t see it… In fact, we saw that there was no reason for them to be detained.

The arrests follow a series of raids on the legal Kurdish Nationalist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and associated parties in Turkey. Earlier this month, 29 leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), an umbrella organization of which the HDP is also a member, were arrested for “KCK membership” and “propaganda for the group” as part of a investigation by the Tekirdağ General Prosecutor’s Office.

On Thursday, 12 people, including journalist Saliha Aras from Demokratik Modernity magazine and executives and members of the HDP, were arrested during house searches in Istanbul.

Last week, the HDK and several other organizations tried to organize a march from different parts of the country to Gemlik, where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is being held on an island called İmralı, to protest the isolation imposed on him. . Öcalan has been in prison since 1999. The last time Öcalan was allowed to meet with his lawyers was August 2019, and the last time he was allowed to make phone calls was April 2020 .

While marches to Gemlik from cities like Istanbul, Diyarbakır and Van were not permitted, dozens of people were arrested in police attacks on the protests. Two of those detained in Kadıköy, Istanbul have been arrested.

The mass arrests of Kurdish journalists and increased crackdown on Kurdish politicians come as the Erdoğan government continues its operation against PKK forces in Iraq and prepares to attack PYD-linked and US-backed YPG militias in Syria .

On May 23, Erdoğan reported an invasion in Syria, saying, “We are soon starting to take further steps regarding the remaining parts of the works we have started to create 30-kilometre-deep safe areas along our southern borders.

Ankara has demanded that its NATO allies, particularly Washington, stop supporting the YPG as a proxy force in Syria, and has carried out numerous operations in Syria since 2016 to block the emergence of a Kurdish state in Syria. its southern borders. The Turkish armed forces and their Islamist proxies now control around 10% of Syria, where an estimated 4.4 million people live.

The latest military announcement came after Erdoğan threatened to veto Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO against Russia, on the grounds that they support the PKK and YPG.

In early June, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made clear Washington’s opposition to a Turkish invasion targeting its key proxies in Syria. He said: “Any escalation in northern Syria is something we would oppose, and we support maintaining the current ceasefire lines.

The Russian government has also criticized Erdogan‘s plans. “Such a decision, in the absence of the agreement of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic, would be a direct violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” said the spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs, María Zakharova, adding: “We hope that Ankara will refrain from actions that could lead to a dangerous deterioration of the already difficult situation in Syria.

Moreover, speaking to RT on June 9, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said: “If there is an invasion, there will be popular resistance in the first stage… Of course, in places where the Syrian army is positioned, and it is not deployed in all areas of Syria, and when military conditions allow confrontation, we will do so.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose backbone is the YPG, said it would respond to a possible Turkish invasion by seeking military support from the Syrian regime. However, the United States and Turkey have waged a regime war against Assad’s government since 2011, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and turning millions more into refugees.

On June 5, SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi said the Syrian government should use its air defense systems against Turkish aircraft and that the SDF was “open” to working with the Syrian military to fight Turkish forces.

This points to the potential for a dangerous escalation that could once again pit NATO member state Turkey against Russian-backed Syrian forces. Ankara’s preparations to invade Syria and the role of Kurdish nationalists as US proxies reveal the bankruptcy and reactionary character of Turkish and Kurdish nationalisms, both of which seek to make deals with imperialism.

The mass arrest of journalists underlines once again that democratic rights cannot be defended without opposing war. This requires uniting and mobilizing the growing movement of the working class, independent of all bourgeois parties, on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program against militarism and chauvinism.

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