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-- Stan Iverson Anarchist Archives: THE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT IN TURKEY: 2001


In 2001 Turkish anarchists worked within many independent groups and around particular individuals. The Anarchist Platform has organized several demonstrations in Istanbul: aside from this group, the anarchists of the city have formed a new group, TSK-I (Istanbul Initiative against War and Domination). This group includes ex-members of IAMI (Istanbul Antimilitarist Initiative) and people connected to Kara MecmuA (the Black Review), as well as other individuals. Anarchists from Istanbul participated in First of May demonstrations and in the events in Genoa. The TSK-I organized an anti-war demonstration and several meetings. The campaign against MERNIS (a computerized system of identity card numbers) was also one of their initiatives.

     In Ankara, anarchists have their own meeting room: the Workshop of the Art of the Black Pen, which was created in the city centre in August 2001. Far from being exclusively concerned with art, this is also a meeting place for all kinds of activities. Last year an antimilitarist festival was organized there, and a press conference for the right to conscientious objection. Some members of the Ankaka anarchist milieu also publish fanzines, including AN kara.

     In Izmir, the country's third city, there are two main groups: the Anarchist Federation of Izmir and Black Agenda, which drew in other anarchists after the First of May and the Genoa events. The Izmir Association of War Resistors (ISKD) should also be noted: it is an important anti-militarist organization. This group hosted an international conference in September 2001 on 'Antimilitarism and Feminism in Turkey'. It includes a women's group: Antimilitarist Feminists.

     In 2002, many independent groups were created in different cities, including Autonomous Anarchist Groups (in Ushah and Samsun) and Anarchist Initiatives (in Antalaya, Mersin and elsewhere). Black flags were paraded in Antalaya for the First of May.

     On 10 February 2002, a group of five or six people viciously attacked a well-known anarchist conscientious objector in Istanbul, during a meeting concerning non-violent methods of struggle. This attack was obviously a reaction to this person's criticisms: it was almost predictable that the attackers would respond in this manner. The aggression was immediately condemned by anarchist, antimilitarist and libertarian groups, including MecmuA, IAMA, ISKD, Kaos GL (anarchist homosexuals) and the Ankara anarchists.

     Antimilitarist activities are mainly based in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Many meetings were organized for the international day of conscientious objection (15 May): there was a three-day festival in Ankara. On 27 October 2001, two people from Ankara declared their refusal of military service. This was more than a simple conscientious objection: this was a 'total' refusal, rejecting all collaboration with the State and Army. One objector was a homosexual for the Kaos GL group. As the first openly gay objector, he denounced the State's and Army's repression of homosexuals. On the same day, the Ankara anarchists organized an illegal demonstration against the Afghan war and in support of the objectors. There were similar demonstrations and protests in many cities and universities, principally against the war in Afghanistan.

     On 1 December 2001, two anarchists were arrested by the police of Ushak (in western Anatolia), after they had distributed 'illegal' leaflets at a trade union meeting. Later, another three were arrested, and all were charged with 'membership of an illegal organization' - in this case, the Autonomous Anarchists of Ankara. In reality, they had done no more than distributing leaflets. However, for this terrorist state, this is enough for them to be accused of seeking to 'destroy and divide', even though there is not the slightest evidence of any violence or terrorist activities among them. Their trial will take place at the Izmir High Court, and they will probably be sent to Nazilli prison. At the moment they are held in Ushak: unusually, they are kept in separate cells. They have been severely beaten and tortured by the Ushak police, and have been denied access to a lawyer. This is the first time that anarchists have been judged to constitute an 'illegal organization' in Turkey, and the trial will reveal the state's attitudes to anarchists and their organizations.

     During the last months of 2000 and in 2001, prisoners from revolutionary left-wing groups began hunger strikes in protest against 'Type F' prisons and against Turkish state terror. Some anarchist prisoners and groups supported the protest, while seeking to avoid being used by Marxist-Leninist groups. These hunger-strikers suffer oppression by the prison authorities and the state, but also oppression from Marxist-Leninist groups. Such groups can even carry out executions, as happened three years ago in Bursa prison, when an anti-militarist and anti-authoritarian prisoner, Mehmet Cakar, was assassinated by a group of which he had previously been a member: the TIKKO (the Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Army of Liberation).

     Some anarchist prisoners participated in a symbolic hunger strike which lasted for a few days. One of them, Dervish Orhan, went on hunger strike for more than 150 days, with a few weeks break. He was not supported by the organization of which he had been a member: the PKK (Workers' Party of Kurdistan). Anarchists across Turkey organized a campaign for his liberation. They raised money to pay for his transfer from Mersin prison to Istanbul hospital. Finally, following some legal proceedings initiated by a new lawyer, he was released on 31 October for six months for medical reasons. A section of the Anarchist Black Cross has been created in Ankara, under the name of the Anarchist Black Crescent.

     Kaos GL is the only libertarian group of gays and lesbians in Turkey. It opened the first homosexual cultural centre in Ankara - the Caos Cultural Centre - in September 2000. The Kaos GL magazine is published every three months: a project to create a bi-monthly failed. Unwittingly, this group became more 'popular' among the general public following its participation in the First of May demonstration.

     Women's groups were more active throughout 2001, particularly in Istanbul and Izmir.

     Anarcho-syndicalists and other unionized Turkish anarchists have not been able to create an organization. This is, in part, due to the absence of an anarcho-syndicalist tradition within Turkish trade-unionism. Furthermore, Turkish law makes the creation of new trade unions difficult. As a result, anarchists have usually chosen to work within newer unions, to affiliate as members, and even sometimes to take official positions. While, at the moment, they are few in number, they are growing day by day in some particular unions, such as the KASK (Public Service Workers' Union). Most are ex-Marxists.

     The first number of Kara MecmuA appeared in February 2001, and by January 2002 five editions had been published. Kara MecmuA draws in writers from almost all the previous anarchist reviews: Kara (Black - the first Turkish anarchist review, dating from 1984), Efendisiz, Amargi, Atesh Hirizi (the Fire Thief), Apolitika, Efendrsizler, etc. Each edition of Kara MecmuA presents a different theme to debate. It is published every two months, and is based in Istanbul. Kara MecmuA is distributed across Turkey, and has a circulation of more than a thousand. Kaos editions, run by the same team as Kara MecmuA, are the only anarchist publishers in Turkey.

     Many anarchist and anarcho-punk fanzines have been created. Of them, AN kara is the closest to a 'proper' magazine, both due to the number of people who contribute to it and because of its format. Its editorial team includes many anarchists from Ankara, and their publications are distributed in many cities. There have been three editions since May 2001. Apart from AN kara, there are many other fanzines: Oldsletter, KatrAn (fire), Veganarsi, Kontra Atak, Twilight Zone, Ictepi (impulse), Afanzin, etc. This counter-cultural style has influenced anarchist theory and practice in Turkey.

     Lastly, Varlik, a well-run Turkish historical review, widely recognized in both cultural and literary circles, is open to the diffusion of anarchist ideas.



Translator's Note: This article was published by Tierre y Libertad in April 2002 []. It struck me as being extremely interesting, and so I have translated it. I have no direct knowledge of conditions or events in Turkey; I am unable to confirm any of the information contained; and I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies.



This translation first appeared May 2002 on The Research on Anarchism List (RA-L), an international forum which was started on January 1, 1996, and is devoted to book reviews, research and discussion of the theories, histories and cultures of world anarchist movements and to other topics related to anarchism.


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