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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Organise! #78 - Special section on Turkey and Syria

Date Wed, 05 Sep 2012 10:32:33 +0300

The development of a relationship between Syria and Turkey had its foundations before the accession of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) party to power in Turkey, but it was certainly deepened under the AKP with the chief foreign policy agent of the new regime inviting President Assad to Turkey in 2004. This was followed by a free trade agreement which led to a deepening of the arrangement with a visa-free travel set-up between the two states and an unprecedented joint military exercise. Turkey, in its moves to increase its power in the region, announced the setting up of an economic council to create a free-trade zone between itself, Turkey and Lebanon. ---- Turkey wishes to increase its economic interests in the regions, with increased military cooperation as a corollary. Turkey saw Syria as a valuable market for its products.

As a result Turkish exports to Syria shot
from $266 million in 2002 to $1.6 bil-
lion in 2010. The relaxing of border
restrictions led to an increasing num-
ber of Syrians crossing the border,
especially to shop for Turkish goods,
with an increase of Syrians visiting
Turkey going from 122,000 in 2002 to
just under 900,000 in 2011.

Alongside this is the need for Turkey
to compete with the other major
local power Iran and to wrest influ-
ence away from it in Syria. They told
their sceptical American allies that
an alliance with Assad would weaken
Iranian influence in the region.
The Turkish state is now deeply con-
cerned about the situation in Syria.
It cannot completely cut itself off
from the Assad regime, as Iran would
then fill the gap. It also fears another
regional rival, Saudi Arabia, which
would like to see the end of the Ala-
wi Assad regime and its replacement
by a Sunni administration favourable
to and heavily influenced by Saudi
Arabia. Certainly an old nostalgia for
the whole region as an historic area
of influence for the Ottoman Empire
influences the policies of the AKP.

The Turkish state is worried that it
will lose Syria as a profitable mar-
ket and as a transition belt to other
parts of the Middle East. As equally
important are the Turkish state’s con-
cerns about the Kurdish “problem”.
Any unrest among the Kurds of Syria
would have a knock-on effect on the
Kurds within the Turkish state, with
an unstable Syria providing a useful
base for activity of Kurdish inde-
pendentists organised in the Kurdish
Workers Party (PKK).

The Turkish state would prefer that
a rapid collapse of the Assad regime
did not happen. It feels that such
a collapse might lead to the devel-
opment of a Kurdish autonomous
zone right beside the Turkish border,
similar to developments in northern
Iraq. As a result it has combined
the massing of its forces on Syria’s
borders with diplomacy to persuade
the Assad regime to push through a
number of reforms.

However, diplomatic pressure has
proved futile and this explains Tur-
key’s increasingly bellicose attitudes,
coupled with threats of sanctions to
increase pressure. As the situation
develops in Syria, the Turkish state
risks being robbed of an important
ally and an important market and
having to stand helplessly by. Equally
none of this rules out the possibility
of Turkish intervention in the “dan-
gerous” border area populated by

Turkey: Islamists Attack Evolution

Turkey is now governed by the AKP
which professes a ‘moderate’ Islam.
However, this ‘moderation’ can be
demonstrated in the attacks on the
ideas of Charles Darwin which began
in November 2011. The Turkish
Council of the Communication and
Information Technologies, a gov-
ernmental agency, pushed through
measures governing the use of com-
puters in the country. All computers
equipped with a parental filter, used
usually to block pornographic and
paedophile sites if a minor is using
a computer linked to the Internet,
must now include blocking to sights
that favour the ideas of evolution,
including sites concerned with
Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins.
This would include key words like
“evolution” “Darwin” etc. In addi-
tion key words like “gay” faced a
similar ban in line with the reaction-
ary assimilation of homosexuality to
paedophilia. Sites related to Kurdish
autonomy and independence were
also blocked. Creationist sites which
posit the view that the universe and
humanity have been created by the
conscious actions of a God are per-
fectly accessible.

Fortunately a wave of indignation
against these measures forced the
Council to back down. However this
demonstrates the offensive led by
the AKP government to criminalise
evolutionism and legitimise creation-
ism. In 2009, on the 200th anniversa-
ry of the birth of Charles Darwin, the
chief editor of a magazine of popular
science, rather like the New Scientist,
Bilim ve Teknik, since 2008 under
government control, was sacked
because she wanted to publish a
tribute to Charles Darwin in the form
of a section of fifteen pages.

The attack against the theories of
evolution has been led by Harun
Yahya (real name Adnan Oktar, a
Sunni Muslim conspiracy theorist)
who attempts to assimilate the ideas
of Darwinism and materialism to Hit-
ler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot,
and to colonialism and racism. This
is in tandem by the campaign led in
the United States by fundamentalist
Protestants. Indeed in a study carried
out in 2006 with regards to the per-
centages of those who accepted the
theories of evolution, Turkey came in
34th place, just after the USA, with
fewer than 25% of the population.

Creation AND evolution have been
jointly taught in schools in Turkey
since 1985. In 1998 fundamentalists
in Turkey increased their attacks on
the ideas of evolution, organising
several conferences with the help of
fundamentalist speakers from the
USA. These moves to attack evolu-
tionism go against all the institutions
of secularism in Turkey existing since
the early twentieth century.

Harun Yahya wishes to unite all reac-
tionary Jews, Christians and Muslims
against the ideas of evolution and
Darwin, which he held responsible
for fascism and the Holocaust!!
Yahya is the leader of a cult that mo-
bilises against evolutionism and, in
2008, successfully used the courts to
ban a Richard Dawkins site and the
site of the Union of Education and
Scientific Workers and the site of the
third largest newspaper in Turkey,
Vatan. As an ally of the AKP Yahya
seems to be setting the agenda . The
attacks on secularism and secularists
begun in 2002 when the AKP came
to power are increasing, with secu-
lar schools increasingly suspending
lessons for Friday prayer. Increasingly
the AKP is supporting private media
outlets that promote Islamism. The
institution set up by the founder of
the modern state, Kemal Ataturk, to
stop the politicisation of Islam, the
Diyanet, the Directory of Religious
Affairs, is now being used by the
AKP to issue edicts advising women
not to use perfume in public, not to
be alone with a male who is not a
relative and other attacks on gender

In 2007 millions of people mobilised
in Ankara and other cites chanting
“no sharia, no coup”. These were
in the main people who upheld the
concepts of secularism and opposed
the attempt by the AKP to soften the
divide between religion and public
life, whilst at the same time rejecting
the plan from some of those in the
military to carry out a coup against
the AKP. Ironically perhaps, the AKP
has embraced many of the values of
the Kemalists, the party of Ataturk, in
nationalist rhetoric and fulmination
against the different ethnic groups
in Turkey, whilst of course reject-
ing the formal State secularism of
the Kemalists. It is from these large
groups that opposition to both the
AKP and the Kemalists could emerge
and should link to the need for the
working class in the state of Turkey
to reject the whole bunch of political


Last year’s Arab Spring appeared
to have finally pushed up buds in
Syria in the last part of 2011 with
thousands mobilising against the
Assad regime and the resulting
murderous counter-offensive involv-
ing the bombardment of populous
neighbourhoods and summary mass
executions. The horror of Homs, the
deaths of thousands and the fleeing
of at least seventy thousand over
Syria’s borders show the depth of the
Syrian crisis.

The brutal Assad regime has been
in power for many years, supported
by the local regional power of Iran
and the Russian and Chinese power
blocs. The Baathist Party rules
there, just as a similar Baathist party
ruled in Iraq. It was at least toler-
ated by the West because it kept
Islamic fundamentalism at bay,
and so was supported just like the
Gaddafi and Saddam regimes had
been in the past. However, unlike
Iraq and Libya, Syria does not have
large oil resources, and so there is
no pressing compulsion for the West
to intervene. Syria has diminished
as a regional threat to the West in
recent years with its withdrawal from
Lebanon and its search for a better
relationship with the West. Up until
recently the Assad regime showed
that it could maintain stability. As
the then US secretary of State Henry
Kissinger said after the Assad regime
came to power, Syria was identifiable
as a “factor of stability”.

When the Muslim Brotherhood
organised an uprising in 1982 in the
town of Hama Basharm, Assad’s
father Hafiz, then ruler of Syria,
launched an offensive that killed at
least 20,000 people, on which the
West remained silent. Bashar is
quite prepared to carry out the same
strategy and of course the West will
not be prepared to intervene as they
did in Libya. Syria has a strong con-
ventional army, which would exact a
heavy toll on any invaders. In addi-
tion Russia and China are prepared
to support their local ally, indicating
the increasing tensions between the
big powers.

Another factor is the role of Islamic
fundamentalism in the conflict. The
West has been concerned by its rise
in Egypt and Libya after the events
of last year. In addition the West has
found it difficult to use the democra-
cy card, knowing the role of its local
allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and
Qatar, hardly themselves committed
to bourgeois democracy.

Whilst Syria may be able to rely
on the support of Iran, Russia and
China, circumstances at home are
cutting the ground from under
Bashar al Assad’s feet. Lack of dissen-
sion was secured whilst the regime
could promise economic and politi-
cal stability. However the economic
crisis has hit Syria in the last year
with Gross Domestic Product going
from 6% growth in 2009 to -6% this
year with inflation shooting up to
double figures this year. This coupled
with the genuine popular revulsion
against the barbarities carried out by
the regime may well weaken it.

But just who are the opponents of
the regime embodied in the likes
of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)? The
regime has traditionally relied on
the support of the Alawite religious
minority and Alawites are a group
privileged by the regime. Pitted
against the regime are an assembly
of different forces which include
Sunni jihadists ready to install a
fundamentalist regime, supporters
of a bourgeois liberal democracy and
nationalists. Some of these forces
are loosely organised by the Syrian
National Council and by the Syrian
National Coordination Committee.

Neither of these groups, at logger-
heads with each other, has anything
to offer the workers of the towns
and countryside, who appear not to
be developing a movement of their
own. The Free Syrian Army is itself
prepared to use the threat of bom-
bardments against the population of
Damascus, demonstrating that it
is another murderous gang prepared
to crush any attempt at workers’
self-organisation if it arises. The FSA
has the tacit support of another local
power, Turkey, intent on undermin-
ing the Assad regime and massing its
forces on Syria’s northern borders.
Whilst Iranian and Russian military
may well be on the ground support-
ing the regime, equally forces sent in
by the allies of the West in the region
are also operating within Syria.

Five droughts in succession, massive
youth unemployment and a huge
hike in the price of wheat have ag-
gravated social conditions. Whilst the
Arab street might well be mobilising
in parts of Syria, it is being manipu-
lated by different political gangs,
either those allied to the West, or
those of the Islamist Muslim Broth-
erhood, with generous donations
from the sheikhs in Saudi Arabia and

None of these gangs should be sup-
ported by revolutionaries and nei-
ther should the masses in Syria give
any allegiance to them. It remains to
be seen whether the working class in
Syria can develop its own independ-
ence and self-organisation under
extremely difficult circumstances.
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