From the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement

Support the Heroic Resistance of Turkey’s Political Prisoners!

Revolutionary Worker #1070, September 17, 2000

We received the following statement from the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (CoRIM).

A dramatic confrontation brewing in Turkey’s prison system has now begun to burst out. Turkey’s prisons have long been bastions of opposition to the dictatorial regime ruling the country. Now the government is preparing to implement what is known as F-type prisons to try to break the spirit of the many thousands of political prisoners.

The F-type prison system forces the political prisoners into small isolated cells containing at most six prisoners. There is no natural light in the cells, meals are delivered under or through the cell door, and prisoners in one cell are not allowed any contact with those in other cells. Apart from a half-hour weekly visit with family, the prisoners are locked down 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no social or even visual contact with anyone outside their cell. The government has already remodelled or is now remodelling as many as a dozen prisons around Turkey along these lines. The Turkish ruling class hopes that this regime of psychological torture will help subdue the political prisoners and lead to an era of social peace throughout the country. Human rights groups regularly report that torture is rife throughout the justice system.

The Turkish rulers have big ambitions. The discovery of major oil reserves in the Caspian Sea region and plans to transport the oil through Turkey have led to expanding U.S. military aid to the country. Turkey has also strengthened its relations with the U.S. police state Israel in recent years. Encouraged by the Western imperialists and fuelled by memories of the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish rulers are nurturing reactionary fantasies of being an even bigger regional gendarme for the imperialists, offering up Turkey’s youth as "cheap" cannonfodder in imperialism’s future wars in the region. They have been going all-out to crush the Kurdish rebellion, and, spurred by the capture of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Oçalan, they now dream that they can stamp out the fire of resistance in the prisons as a key step towards smothering the social rebellion that simmers constantly throughout the country and fuels the ranks of the peasants and workers taking up the gun under the leadership of the Communist Party of Turkey (Marxist-Leninist).

This fantasy will prove as idle as it is ugly. In taking on Turkey’s political prisoners, the regime has bit off more than it can chew. Indeed, the government has already shown its hesitation at entering into open conflict with the political prisoners: while proceeding pell-mell with its programme to physically remodel the prisons, it has refused any public statements about the F-type prisons, even to a visiting European Union human rights delegation. And with good reason: when the government tried to impose the F-type isolation system in 1991, the prisoners met this with mass, courageous resistance. Seventeen prisoners, by official count, lost their lives in the unequal struggle, but the prisoners’ cause inspired broad support, and the government, exposed and humiliated, was forced to back down. In 1996, when the government next tried to implement the system, they got no further than issuing a ministerial circular before massive resistance arose, including a hunger strike that swept through the prisons. Twelve prisoners lost their lives, and once again the government had to back down. On 8 July 2000, battles have broken out yet again, this time in Burdur prison, where state forces attacked the prisoners in an initial foray to test their morale to see how difficult it would be to force them into F-type prisons. The political prisoners resisted fiercely, 19 were wounded, and one prisoner lost his arm.

The political prisoners know there are deep reservoirs of support they can draw on in this battle, first of all from the masses of Turkey itself. The political prisoners number among the best daughters and sons of the oppressed of Turkey, of every nationality, and millions feel their cause is just. Many prisoners are Maoist supporters of the Communist Party of Turkey (Marxist-Leninist); most are incarcerated under the hated anti-terrorism law, which allows the government to imprison revolutionaries for many years for nothing more than membership in any one of many banned organisations, which can be proved by mere possession of a flyer. Moreover, their cause is known throughout the world—they have repeatedly shown their unstinting internationalism, such as in their militant support for the People’s War in Peru and their defence of imprisoned Chairman Gonzalo and Comrade Feliciano of the Communist Party of Peru, which inspired millions.

As the political prisoners enter this dangerous battle, the eyes of millions will be on them, and the hearts of the oppressed the world over will beat with theirs. Much is at stake. In pre-revolutionary Russia, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party led the political prisoners to turn every effort of the reactionary government to contain the political prisoners into an advance for the revolution—dispersing the prisoners only created more schools of revolution in new areas, while concentrating them only turned the existing prisons into mighty fortresses of resistance. So too in Turkey, the government will learn—only too late—that its vicious suppression of the prisoners, instead of leading to social peace, will prove to be a spark igniting even greater battles to come.

The Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement calls upon the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist and other revolutionary and progressive forces to support the heroic struggle in Turkey’s prisons.

Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
24 July 2000

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