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Solidarity delegation to observe as

Turkey puts progressives on trial

Published Jul 6, 2012 6:23 PM

Ayşe Berktay coordinated worldwide mobilizations in 2002 and 2003 trying to stop the U.S.-British war of aggression against Iraq. This writer met her at the European Social Forum in Paris in November 2003. She was representing the Turkish peace movement; I was representing the International Action Center as part of the U.S. anti-war movement.

Ayşe Berktay

We had been unable to stop the imperialists from launching the war and occupying Iraq. We would at least make sure their media weren’t the only ones writing the war’s history. The movement organized a series of people’s tribunals pointing to the governments and generals of the U.S., Britain and their allies as the top war criminals of the 21st century.

Berktay came across during the Social Forum as someone who would defend her ideas, but would also be aware that a united front of organizations would be needed to carry out the actions. And she would make sure to hold it together. One imagined she might play that role also in Turkey, where the last of the tribunals found George W. Bush, Tony Blair and the others guilty of war crimes.

Thus, it was with anger and dismay that we learned that Berktay was one of many political activists that the Turkish authorities arrested in October 2011. That the Turkish government is repressive is no surprise; there must be thousands unjustly arrested and imprisoned in that NATO country. Remember, the Turkish regime is right now threatening its neighbor, Syria, in collaboration with its imperialist senior partners in Western Europe and North America.

Below are excerpts from a statement issued by those who participated in the 2004-2005 tribunals. We fully support their effort to send a delegation to Turkey to observe the trial of Berktay and others and to show their solidarity with the political prisoners:

“During the past three years, the Turkish state has imprisoned some 8,000 citizens under the guise of fighting terrorism. In a wave of detentions known as the ‘KCK operations,’ it has targeted activists, academics, journalists, lawyers, students, elected officials, translators and publishers on account of their democratic activities in support of the rights demanded by Kurdish citizens in Turkey.

“In particular, numerous members and supporters of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) — which has 36 elected representatives in the Turkish Parliament — have been criminalized and imprisoned on the pretext that they are alleged members of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), a group which the Turkish state claims to be the urban branch of an armed organization known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Professor Busra Ersanli is the best known of those who were thus imprisoned in 2011, together with the publisher Ragip Zarakolu, who has since been released.

“We now wish to focus public attention on Ayşe Berktay (Hacimirzaoglu), a respected translator, researcher and global peace and justice activist. Since her arrest in October 2011 during the ‘KCK operations,’ she has been held in pre-trial detention in Bakirkoy Women’s Prison in Istanbul. Nine months after her initial incarceration, Ayşe Berktay’s trial, along with others, is scheduled to run from July 2 to July 13 in Silivri, near Istanbul.

“As participants in the former World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) network, we have now formed an international delegation to observe the trial of Ayşe Berktay. She helped found the World Tribunal on Iraq in 2003, and was a principal organizer of its culminating session in Istanbul. We know Ayşe Berktay to be a person of great integrity and honesty. She is not a terrorist, but an idealist who is committed to peace and democracy.

“We will return to Istanbul to register our solidarity with Ayşe Berktay and others who have been targeted as alleged terrorists for democratically challenging the Turkish state’s violent handling of the ‘Kurdish issue’ in Turkey. We recognize that the ‘KCK operations’ are used to spread fear among activists, silence public dissent, and normalize the arbitrary arrest of citizens.

“We urge the Turkish government to stop suppressing democratic efforts in support of rights demanded by Kurdish citizens in Turkey. We urge the Turkish government to stop criminalizing activism under the guise of counter-terrorism. We demand the immediate release of Ayşe Berktay and all political prisoners in Turkey!

“The delegation includes Italian attorney Fabio Marcelli, International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Spanish attorney Maria Louisa Martin Abia, IADL member; Lieven De Cauter, professor at Leuven University, Belgium, president of the BRussells Tribunal, co-founder of the WTI; Tony Simpson, director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation; Paloma Valverde, coordinator of the Spanish antiwar organization CEOSI; Pedro Rojo, coordinator of CEOSI; Ayça Çubukçu, assistant professor in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science; and Patrick Deboosere, co-founder of the BRussells Tribunal and the WTI.”

See the petition at ipetitions.com/petition/detentionsinturkey. See Ayşe Berktay’s letter from prison at tinyurl.com/72r5lq6.