Istanbul under siege


Report of the delegation of the Anti-imperialist on the mobilisations against the ANTO summit

One day before the beginning of the NATO summit in Turkey a broad alliance of leftist and some Islamic forces staged a great protest demonstration. About some 50,000 people took to the streets although the authorities did their best to obstruct the mobilisation.

Some of the slogans shouted were "Bush go home", "Down with American imperialism" and "Turkey will be your grave". Also to be heard was "Freedom for Palestine and Iraq".

While the NATO conference will take place on the European side of the 15 million metropolis, the demonstration was only allowed on the Asian side tens of kilometres away. All the main streets including the bridge over the Bosporus were closed. Also the ferry traffic was shut down in order that the demonstrators could not reach the rallying place. The public bus transport was reduced to a minimum and dozen of self-organised buses from the popular quarters were prevented from leaving.

All day helicopter gunships hovered overhead and the streets saw a massive police presence including police tanks and other armoured vehicles. All in all a undeclared state of emergency massively violated the democratic rights despite the fact that the demonstration was not attacked and could conclude peacefully.

Two alliances

After the US and its allies have been occupying Iraq, the Turkish anti-war movement split into two parts - namely a more radical anti-imperialist one and a pacifist civil society one. While the leadership of the labour unions support the moderates, some important local branches joined the radical forces.

In the weeks preceding the demonstration the leftist alliance insisted to stage the protest on the European side close to the conference centre. But only a few days before the date some components backed down to the pressure and decided to join the moderates starting a chain reaction which finally led to the total transfer to the other side of the Bosporus.

For the day of the inauguration of the NATO summit the left coalitions calls for a mass turn-out in the zone around the conference hall declared a no-go area. Al ready today a park in the a popular quarter half way to the conference was occupied by some hundred militants of different organisations. While the police did not interfere on the ground a helicopter did not cease to fly overhead.

Clashes are to be expected for the two conference days.

Arrests and torture

On April 1 the Turkish police launched an attack on the left movement and especially on the forces preparing the mobilisation against the NATO summit. Declared target is the Revolutionary People`s Liberation Front (DHKC).

This operation reached several European countries striking also against the Anti-imperialist Camp. Three of its Italian leaders were arrested and accused of terrorism for having defended the struggle against the Turkish military oligarchy.

Since April 1 some 90 activists of democratic organisations for example Tayad, the association of the families of the political prisoners, progressive journalists and even lawyers defending them have been arrested. The selective repressions have been stepped up in the last days leading to new arrests. Most of them are accused of being leaders, members and helpers of the DHKC which is outlawed. As no serious evidence is provided, it amounts to a blatant violation of the elementary right of free political expression which the AKP government claims to have restored. On the contrary they are about to create new political prisoners en masse.

There have been also several cases of torture affecting several organisations driving the mobilisation against the NATO summit. Most prominent the case of Elisabeth Brunner, an Austrian citizen and militant of the International League of Peoples` Struggle (ILPS) who was maltreated by extinguishing cigarettes on her body in order to bully her.

International delegations

Some hundred people from Europe and especially Greece participated in the mobilisation including a delegation of the Anti-imperialist Camp.

Istanbul, June 27