Turkish left resists prison massacre


David Morgan reports on an appeal from Turkish revolutionaries not to forget the recent massacre of prisoners in Ankara


Comrades in Turkey are calling for our support following the massacre and savage repression of detained revolutionaries in Ankara’s Ulucanlar Central Prison at the end of September.

Ten inmates were killed outright and many more were brutally attacked when prison authorities and soldiers stormed the jail under instructions from the State Justice Department.

Men and women alike were beaten and tortured in a most brutal fashion with inmates stripped, dragged along the ground, raped and bodies mutilated and left for dead. One soldier who objected to the treatment meted out was himself beaten and tortured according to reports coming out about the incident, which is only the latest in a long history of abuses in Turkey’s notorious prison system.

Prior to the storming of the prison, tensions in the cells had been high with inmates protesting about inhumane conditions and overcrowding. Some 120 prisoners had been locked up in a cell designed for less than 60 and conditions were becoming intolerable.

The immediate pretext for the attack was allegations that prisoners, who had occupied a ward, were armed and in the process of digging a tunnel to escape. Evidence has yet to be brought to light and properly examined to show whether this was actually the case. Supporters of the prisoners believe that these stories were planted in the media simply as an excuse used by the state to justify its repression.

The prisoners themselves, members of Turkish left groups mainly DHKP-C and TKP-ML, are described by the regime as “terrorists” meaning that they are fair game for any measure the state chooses to employ against them, no matter how extreme.

Halkin Hakuk Burosu (People’s Lawyers Office) in Istanbul, which is representing the prisoners, has described the condition some of the bodies were left in:

“According to the physicians, some prisoners had been killed by bullets, several others were tortured to death, or severely wounded. The doctors also stated that many prisoners had knife wounds in the neck and arms””

Some 30 victims remain wounded from the attacks and to date no investigation has been launched into what really happened. A catalogue detailing the current medical condition of the victims and photographs showing the horrific state some of the bodies were left in have now been released.

The democratisation of Turkey is now placed on the international agenda following the Helsinki summit when it was accepted as a candidate member of the European Union. Turkey itself is embarking on a rapid and full-blown privatisation programme and seeking investment from its allies in the West.

To facilitate this a propaganda offensive is being waged to suggest that Turkey is in the process of transformation from a fascistic dictatorship, with scant regard for human and civil rights, into a liberal democracy where these rights are allegedly enshrined in law. One aspect of this is the attempt to dispel the notorious image of Turkish prisons made famous by the 1970s film ‘Midnight Express’.

A recent report in the

Financial Times

(11.12.99) sought to suggest that this image was just

“Western prejudices”

and in fact prison reform was well under way. The report said prisoners

“enjoy a range of rights unfamiliar in the West. Not only are female inmates allowed to keep children up to the age of seven with them, but all prisoners can circulate freely 24 hours a day…”.

The Turkish state wants us to forget about the massacre of 26 September 1999. We cannot let this happen. The left in Britain has a duty of solidarity not to forget any of these prisoners and to give their continuing plight the widest possible publicity.

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