As democracy in Turkey has violently deteriorated over the last year, Congress agreed in an emergency motion on the last day of conference (September 14) to support progressive forces in Turkey, and in particular the beleaguered Kurdish people who have been subjected to vicious violence and discrimination.
Moving the motion was Unite delegate Tom Murphy who condemned the way in which“the wider world has kept disgracefully quiet in the hope that if we say nothing, then [Turkish] president [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan will stick to the deal and keep the Syrian refugees in Turkey to stop them disturbing us here in Europe.”
“The silence and lack of action is an outrage and it has got to stop,” Murphy added in a stirring polemic making the case for solidarity with the Kurdish people and other progressive Turkish forces.
“We’ve always known that Turkey has never been a fully fledged democracy,” he noted. “It has always been the case that being a trade unionist, a journalist or human rights activist could very well end up being locked up.”
Murphy noted that what isn’t often talked about is the repression against the Kurds, who make up a full quarter of the population in Turkey. They are discriminated against by not being able to use their language and also discriminated against in employment.
40,000 Kurdish people have been killed and 4m people displaced under the ongoing conflict between the Kurdish state and the government.
There was a time when a peace settlement was on the horizon, Murphy explained, but hopes were dashed once the situation in Syria developed and Erdoğan’s popularity declined.
Mass arrests of trade unionists, journalists and anyone who dares speak against his government have been widespread. And having abandoned a fleeting peace process, Erdoğan has now turned to violent military tactics.
Not only has he attacked Kurds in his own country, he is also using his own forces to attack Kurds in Syria by funding IS, Murphy noted.
Among the various measures that the emergency motion, which was overwhelmingly carried, called for included the TUC demanding that governments and international organisations put pressure on Erdoğan to change course and stop the oppression.
The motion also called on Congress to support campaigns for the immediate release of the Kurdish Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Öcalan.
He has spent 18 years in prison and it is widely recognised that his release is the only way to start a successful peace process, Murphy explained.
“The Kurds are one of the few secular and progressive forces in the whole Middle East region,” he noted. “And their record in promoting women and minority rights in such a difficult part of the world is second to none.
“It is vital we give our support — vital for them and for the future prospects of peace, democracy and tolerance in the wider world.”