New Upsurge of Struggle in Turkey's Dungeons
a prolonged period when the squabbling Turkish ruling classes were
unable to produce even a semblance of a government, the latest coalition
was immediately put to a severe test by an upsurge of struggle from
within Turkey's dungeons.
the spring 1995 storm of mass rebellions that shook working class
areas around Istanbul, like Gazi Mahallesi and others, a new spirit
of militant protest and struggle has been growing in Turkey. Struggle
also sharpened amongst the thousands of political prisoners against
the desperate "reform" programmes of the state.
prisoners in Buca Prison (Izmir) stood up to foil this attack in
September 1995, and three were martyred. A few months later, in
January 1996, prisoners at Umraniye in Istanbul courageously fought
the state's armed forces inside the prison in defence of their revolutionary
identity, and four more people were killed.
spring of 1996, the new Islamic-led government coalition sped up
the restructuring programmes to crush this growing resistance inside
(and outside) Turkey's dungeons under the guise of new "reforms".
response was swift and widespread. By 20 May 1996, about 1500 revolutionary
political prisoners had jointly launched an unlimited hunger strike
to beat back this new clampdown by the state. Some 41 prisons in
38 different cities were affected by the struggle.
On 3 July
1996, 159 political prisoners who had been on unlimited hunger
strike decided to go over to a hunger strike until death, demanding
that state tactics to create repenters and collaborators be abandoned,
that the "tabutluk" prisons (with tiny coffin-like single cells),
especially Eskis'ehir, be closed. They also demanded an end to all
attacks and intimidation against the prisoners' families and an
end to state torture, executions and "disappearing" of people, as
well as the right to legal defence and medical care. Their call
also included an end to state terror against the labouring people,
first and foremost the Kurdish people, and an end to all barbarism
in Erzurum and Diyarbakir prisons in the eastern part of the country,
July, 62 more prisoners joined the strike "until death", bringing
the total number participating to 221. Outside the prisons, support
began to grow in leaps. Street-fighting took place in several cities
as well as confrontations between prisoners' mothers and the police,
and the struggle spread quickly to student campuses. In Gazi, the
youth went on the offensive, attacking the police.
deaths of many impending and with the explosive support swelling
outside, the accelerating struggle amongst the prisoners forced
the Turkish Government to manoeuvre and retreat. After twelve hunger
strikers had died, the state backed down on some of its repressive
reforms, particularly the transfer of more political prisoners to
the hated Eskis'ehir "prison of death". (The martyrs were from
a range of revolutionary left groups, including the Communist Party
of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist, a participant of RIM.) Some 20 others
were critically ill and in mortal danger in the following days,
either in a coma or suffering from blindness and irreparable organ
it announced its agreement to some of the demands in order to calm
public opinion in Turkey and internationally, the Turkish regime
began to mistreat striking prisoners who were transferred to hospitals.
Police interfered with their medical treatment and used some forms
of torture. While forced to carry out some aspects of the 27 July
agreement in and around prisons in the big cities, the state stepped
up its reform clampdown in Turkey's smaller prisons, and meted out
especially harsh treatment in the eastern prisons of Kurdistan,
including in Diyarbakir and Erzurum.
end of September, the Turkish state carried out yet another massacre
in Kurdistan, as it tried to both bring the situation under its
control in the prisons and launch a new counter-insurgency operation
against the PKK and the Kurdish people, after the PKK ended its
cease-fire: 10 prisoners in Diyarbakir were killed and two dozen
more injured, while many others were transferred.