This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 12 October 2015 contains three articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– Turkey: “Murderer Erdogan” and the murderous state must be stopped
– The U.S. airstrike on the Kunduz hospital: “Unacceptable”
– Sri Lanka: The rape and murder of Vidya – an indictment of a criminal state
Turkey: “Murderer Erdogan” and the murderous state must be stopped
12 October 2015. A World to Win News Service. At least 97 people were killed in the October 10 bombing of a political rally against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s refusal to reopen peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and his repression of the opposition. Erdogan quickly called the massacre a “heinous crime against the unity of our country”. Since the moment when the explosions took place, his government has used it to further strengthen his regime and the state as the only way to hold the country together in the face of bloody chaos.
The demonstration in Ankara, the country’s capital, was organized by a coalition of leftist and other organizations led by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) as part of its campaign for the 1 November parliamentary elections. As a large crowd gathered in front of the main train station, first one and then another bomb filled with metal pellets went off about fifty metres apart. Witnesses later recalled that contrary to “normal” police procedures in Turkey, security forces were absent and no one was searched entering the assembly area. Not long after, the police intervened – attacking people trying to carry the injured to safety, firing their guns into the air and shooting rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades. No ambulances arrived for some 30 minutes. Hundreds were wounded, many very seriously. HDP puts the death toll at 128.
The next day, Turkish police brutally stopped HDP and other activists and family members of victims who wanted to lay flowers on the site of the massacre, again tear gassing and attacking people already mourning a terrible loss. People chanted “Erdogan murderer, police murderers, state murderer” as they marched later that afternoon in Ankara, Istanbul, Diyarbakir (Turkish Kurdistan), France, Germany and Switzerland.
Initially Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that Daesh (Islamic State), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and PKK itself were suspects in the bombing. This might be seen as a stupidly bad joke, especially since the regime itself has identified HDP with PKK. But the serious implication was that the Kurdish movement had killed its own supporters and broad sympathizers in order to divide Turkey.
Days later, the regime announced that it was focusing its investigation on Daesh, and it rounded up suspected members. But in the hours following the bombings, it seized on the situation to launch airstrikes on PKK positions. Readjusting its previous position of an armed response to the regime’s refusal to negotiate, PKK ordered its fighters to cease engagements and return to their camps for the time being.
The Ankara massacre took place in an increasingly polarized pre-election atmosphere. HDP’s entry into parliament last June denied Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) a majority by drawing votes from previous AKP supporters. Erdogan found himself unable to put together a parliamentary majority to back proposed constitutional amendments meant to push through AKP’s Islamist programme and tighten the unity of the state. The lack of a governing majority made new elections necessary.
No matter what AKP’s role in the Ankara massacre may have been, what is certain is that Erdogan’s determination to make himself and the regime the only alternative to bloody chaos was itself a major factor in causing it. AKP has done everything possible to fuel both traditional Turkish (anti-Kurdish) chauvinism and Islamism. Erdogan seeks to weaken PKK and the Kurdish movement politically as well as militarily, to force it further into the fold of the existing political system.
By portraying this situation as a conflict between a corrupt personal dictatorship and liberal democracy, HDP and other leftist parties are making a grave mistake about the necessity driving the Turkish ruling class and its state. One of the sharpest contradictions is between the AKP’s intensifying drive to Islamize Turkey and support Islamist forces in Syria in an attempt to emerge as the leader of the Islamic (or at least Sunni) world, on the one hand, and on the other the fact that Islamism has become a big problem for the U.S. and the current imperialist world order. This has led the U.S., never a friend of the Kurds or any other oppressed people, to ally itself with the PKK’s Syrian affiliate PYD in fighting Daesh.
The U.S. is both bothered by the Erdogan regime and, at least for now, stuck with it. The sudden step-up in U.S. and Russian contention in Syria has made this even clearer. While President Barack Obama’s mouthpieces scold Russia for not attacking Daesh enough, Washington has complained very little publicly about Erdogan’s policy of concentrating his regime’s attacks on PKK. If after this massacre Erdogan can convince enough of the Turkish ruling class and people in Turkey that there is no viable alternative to his rule, he may think he can keep playing his double game with the U.S.
HDP is calling on people to respond to the massacre with their votes and continue to press for reform to democratize the state that at the very least created the conditions for this crime to happen. Erdogan has used peace negotiations and war, elections and open repression in bringing this situation about. The regime has already shown that the state can use its armed power to win votes, while HDP has counted on being allowed to help hold Turkey together, and getting U.S. support in doing that. These goals are no more in the people’s interests than the methods they are being pursued with.
The electoral politics adopted by much of the opposition to the regime are based on extremely dangerous illusions about the nature of the state and the world imperialist system it is embedded in. Such illusions are the necessary clothing of a stable reactionary state, especially when AKP’s actions are leading to cracks in the state’s legitimacy. Erdogan’s attempts to use events and resorting to extreme measures does not mean that things are under his control. Just the opposite. The Ankara massacre brings to mind the possibility of the kind of state collapse that has occurred in Iraq or Syria. The same contradictions, however, could give a determined struggle against the regime much more impact and open the possibility of revolution.
The regime badly needs the people’s illusions to strengthen its hand in a gamble in which it could win or lose everything. This weakness could be exposed and taken advantage of, instead of seeking to lend the naked emperor some “democratic” clothing. In this extremely difficult and dangerous situation, being able to wage an effective and coherent fight against the regime’s mounting crimes depends on many factors, but most of all an understanding of what is really at stake.
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The U.S. airstrike on the Kunduz hospital: “Unacceptable”
12 October 2015. A World to Win News Service. On 3 October, the U.S. military leading the occupation of Afghanistan carried out a prolonged series of airstrikes on a hospital in Kunduz, the only facility in northeastern Afghanistan capable of treating the victims of the war. Ten hospital patients, including three children, were killed, burned in their beds, along with twelve medical staff working for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which opened the hospital four years ago
Initially, the U.S. military tried to justify the attack as “collateral damage”, the by-product of a necessary action to “protect the force”. A military that has invaded and occupied another country cannot morally justify its actions as self-defence, and further, international law explicitly forbids targeting wounded people and medical facilities under any circumstances. U.S. President Barack Obama dismissed the attack as “a tragic incident,” as if the death of these people had been unavoidable.
“It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake,” MSF president Joanne Liu said. As shock and indignation mounted, on 8 October Obama tried to close the incident by calling Dr Liu to offer his “personal apology” for what he claimed was an “accident”. The facts, as MSF has brought out, make it clear that this claim is not true. MSF has repeated its call for an international commission to investigate the attack, which it continues to call a war crime.
Following is Dr Liu’s statement while visiting Kunduz Trauma Centre after the American attack.
For four years, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma centre in Kunduz was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan, offering essential medical and surgical care. On Saturday 3 October this came to an end when the hospital was deliberately bombed. Twelve MSF staff and 10 patients, including three children, were killed, and 37 people were injured, including 19 members of the MSF team. The attack was unacceptable.
The whole MSF Movement is in shock, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected. Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities. Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law. We are working on the presumption of a war crime.
In the last week, as fighting swept through the city, 400 patients were treated at the hospital. Since its opening in 2011, tens of thousands of wounded civilians and combatants from all sides of the conflict have been triaged and treated by MSF. On the night of the bombing, MSF staff working in the hospital heard what was later confirmed to be a U.S. army plane circle around multiple times, releasing its bombs on the same building within the hospital compound at each pass. The building targeted was the one housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward. Surrounding buildings in the compound were left largely untouched.
Despite MSF alerting both the Afghan and Coalition military leadership, the airstrike continued for at least another 30 minutes. The hospital was well-known and the GPS coordinates had been regularly shared with [the U.S. and Nato] Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials, as recently as Tuesday 29 September.
This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.
This attack does not just touch MSF but it affects humanitarian work everywhere, and fundamentally undermines the core principles of humanitarian action. We need answers, not just for us but for all medical and humanitarian staff assisting victims of conflict, anywhere in the world. The preserve of health facilities as neutral, protected spaces depends on the outcome of a transparent, independent investigation.
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Sri Lanka: The rape and murder of Vidya — an indictment of a criminal state
12 October 2015. A World to Win News Service. Vidhya Sivaloganathan, an 18 year-old Tamil from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, left her home for school at 7 am, never to return. By late afternoon, her concerned family dispatched her brother to inquire at the school and among her friends, only to learn she never made it to school that day. The family’s pleas for help to the police, who made derogatory remarks about Vidya, were left unheeded until late in the evening.
At 6 am the next morning, Vidya’s brother searched her usual paths to and from school. Finding one of her slippers, he pursued a trail into the jungle. There he found his sister’s dead body, her legs tied to two different trees, her arms tied above her head, her mouth stuffed with cloth. Hearing his sorrowful wails, villagers quickly rushed to the scene.
After this murder last May, righteous outrage spread quickly throughout the Jaffna peninsula, sparking demonstrations of very young girls, university students and people from many walks of life. Jaffna is in the north of Sri Lanka, part of an area considered by Tamil minority people as their rightful homeland, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought against the Sinhalese chauvinist regime for a separate state over 25 years until brutally defeated in 2009 by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.
People demanded that the perpetrators be punished and justice be done, as opposed to the usual government response of allowing rapists to go free or taking years to even go to trial. Shops were closed and black flags were flown in the area. At one of the largest demonstrations, the police fired guns in the air and shot tear gas at people, who in turn threw stones at the Magistrate Court building and burned cars. One hundred thirty people were arrested and are still in jail. Angry villagers burned down the houses of three of the nine suspects, and rickshaw drivers attacked five of the suspects near a hospital where they were taken for medical examination prior to their arrest. The passionate feelings of the people in Sri Lanka over this unspeakable crime have been compared to the 2012 mass outpouring in India after the rape and murder of a Delhi student travelling home at night with her companion.
Reports of rape have increased by 20 percent in the last two years in Sri Lanka despite the fact that victims are routinely blamed, ignored and humiliated by the police and courts. A 2013 UN survey found that 97 per cent of rapists in Sri Lanka face no legal penalties. Some of the rapists are people in high places protected by the government, as recently admitted by former president Rajapaksa.
Many men and even some women believe that women are more responsible for rape than men: for the way they dress, for arguing with their husbands or even just being out at 9 o’clock at night. One women’s group, “Street Harassment Hurts”, runs a Facebook page created to challenge and debate thinking about sexism, rape and harassment, a much needed conversation, they say, for Sri Lankan society. The typical approach in Sri Lanka as well as many other countries is to hide sexual abuse. “Brushing under the carpet has been Sri Lanka’s strategy up until now,” says Rehana Thowfeek, its spokesperson. “You go home and tell your mum this has happened, and she says, ‘But it happens to everyone.'”
The following article by Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe, slightly edited and reprinted with the author’s permission, first appeared in the Colombo Telegraph.
The recent gang rape and murder of an 18-year-old Tamil school girl, Vidya Sivaloganathan in Pungudutivu, raised righteous protests and condemnation from all decent people throughout the land. There is already a high rate of rape and child abuse in the country. It is a damning indictment of a rotting, morally defunct neo-colonial state and social order. Women and children from all communities and nationalities are subject to this heinous crime of violent sexual abuse on a routine basis. Gang rape and murder have occurred before. So, what was of particular outrageous provocation that assaulted the conscience of society over the gang rape and murder of Vidya? There are several reasons and those who protested and raged may have their own subjective compulsions and motivations. It must be said that the effort of the degenerate Mahinda [Rajapaksa] camp and some limp and lame journalists to defame the protestors by focusing on the possibility of “anti-national” forces being involved in a “separatist conspiracy” is as repugnant, reviling and revolting as the crime against Vidya itself.
Perhaps, many felt that “Enough is enough.” In truth, once is enough! At a deeper level, the violation of Vidya was felt to be a collective violation of humanity. For some, this violation was a concentrated expression of accumulated criminal violations against nature and humanity. For some, this violation, as with all such violations of women, was a symbol of irrevocable moral degeneration and a standing indictment of the prevailing social order. For the more politically conscious forces, this violation served to rip apart the veil of deception carried out under the banner of Yahapalanaya [Yahapalanaya refers to Maithripala Sirisena who became president in January 2015, replacing the Rajapaksa regime]. The understanding would have dawned that no amount of cosmetic gyrations and circus gymnastics at the top of the pyramid of power could arrest the generalized depths of degradation and abuse that has spread throughout the body politic and that only a deep, structural revolutionary transformation of the state and the economic, political and social order it preserves, would eradicate the cancerous roots of this organic crisis and rapid decomposition. The raging public anger and bitterness were directed at the police and the courts, the supposed guardians of the state and the rule of law.
The indictment and due and expeditious punishment of the perpetrators of this grotesque crime is certainly called for. The sheer brutality and barbarity of the war generated a generalized culture of brutality and barbarity throughout society. This savage culture was fervently fostered by the putrid, crony-narco-mafia Rajapaksa regime, and countered by the LTTE with parallel quality and intensity. State terror, assassination, inhuman torture, rank corruption and rape were hallmarks of the chauvinist, supremacist, neo-fascist Rajapaksa regime. An official culture of impunity defiled all that is sacred and human, and justified all that is criminal, venal and profane. A case filed against a rapist was withdrawn by a lackey Attorney General under the direction of Mahinda Rajapaksa, even when there was growing evidence of guilt, being that the accused was a minister and a close and loyal associate and criminal accomplice of the Rajapaksa troika. Similarly, a case against a minister accused of murder was withdrawn. Every effort was made to protect the rapist-murderer, a Pradeshiya Sabha chairman and close underworld associate of the Rajapaksa family.
The military occupation of the North has had the inevitable effect of criminalizing and brutalizing the entire social order. The narcotics trade thrives and is a most lucrative sub-economy, functioning in mute complicity with corrupt officials of the armed forces and the police. War lords, drug barons and youth gangs feed on helpless victims, without fear of reprisal. This militarization, criminalization and brutalization is being carried on, and even intensified, under the Yahapalanaya regime. Repeated calls for demilitarization and normalization are routinely ignored, and defied, by the Regime. A visit by president Maithripala Sirisena to the grieving family of Vidya and the transfer of police officers will not slice the cake. This is good for photo opportunities and craven journalism. The rape and murder of sister Vidya alerts us to the reality that the prevailing neo-colonial order and its rotting state and murdering ruling class are to be structurally held accountable for this crime and for all the accumulated crimes committed against nature and humanity.