TRADE UNIONS pledged solidarity with progressive forces in Turkey yesterday and vowed to build a mass campaign for the release of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Unite delegate Tommy Murphy told TUC delegates that the situation in Turkey has “dramatically deteriorated” since last year’s Congress passed an emergency motion following the failed military coup attempt.
“Further waves of mass arrests, detentions and dismissals of workers have taken place, more media outlets have been closed down and the brutal war on the Kurdish population has continued.
“I don’t think it is exaggerated to say that we are witnessing Turkey, a Nato member state, descending into fascism,” he warned.
Mr Murphy said it was vital to redouble efforts to build solidarity with the Kurds and all progressive forces in Turkey, pointing to the labour movement tradition of support for oppressed peoples including those in Cuba, Palestine, South Africa and Colombia.
“We demand that the Turkish state immediately end the state of emergency, restore democratic and press freedoms and restart the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK],” he said.
He told Congress that the freedom of jailed PKK leader Mr Ocalan was crucial to securing a peaceful settlement to the so-called Kurdish question.
“In less than two years, Abdullah Ocalan will have been in prison for 20 years and will be 70 years old,” Mr Murphy said, calling for “massive international pressure for his release.”
He predicted: “What happens in Turkey and the wider region will have huge implications for all of us in Europe.”
Mr Murphy also explained how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s war on the Kurds has extended to Syria.
“Turkey has sent its army in, but the Turkish army isn’t fighting Isis, it’s fighting the Kurds,” he said, branding this an “utter disgrace” and call for international bodies to demand that Turkey withdraw its troops from Syria.
GMB delegate Jo Pitchford said the complexities of the situation in the Middle East can make it difficult to separate “fact from fiction.”
But she added: “If we are to have any influence in helping to bring about a peaceful solution to conflict in Turkey and in the wider region, we must step up our support for the Kurdish people and their imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, because in them lies the hope for a more equitable and tolerant society.”