Greater Middle East
Working-class districts of Istanbul, following the lead of rebel Kurds in Turkey's east, are declaring their own "autonomy" from the state—amid ongoing street clashes with security forces. The center of the urban rebellion is the Gazi neighborhood, where the Gazi People's Initiative has proclaimed self-government, pledging to resist all police operations in the district. Upon the declaration Aug. 15, residents marched through the district with a banner calling for freedom for imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. On Aug. 19, a 17-year-old youth was killed in nearby Esenler district, when police opened fire on an "unauthorized" demonstration by the PKK-aligned Revolutionary Patriotic Youth Movement (YDG-H). Police said they were fired on by masked YDG-H militants. On Aug. 24, masked militants reportedly torched a public bus with Molotov cocktails after stopping it at a street barricade in Okmeydanı district. In July 26 street-fighting in Gazi, a police officer was killed, allegedly by a sniper who fired from a building. Gazi district is a stronghold of Turkey's Alevi minority. (Daily Sabah, Aug. 24; AFP, Aug. 19; JINHA, Aug. 16; BGN, AFP, July 26)
In response to the new offensive by the Turkish government, Kurds in the country's east are declaring their own regional autonomy. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) announced a "democratic autonomous region" in Dersim (Tunceli) province, and established checkpoints on the main road ithrough the region on Aug. 18. "We as guerrillas, under the right of self-defense for ourselves and our nation, declare democratic autonomy in Dersim," said a fighter in a video released by the group, showing their militants controlling the road and searching vehicles. Villages in Dogubeyazit district (Ağrı province) likewise issued an autonomy declaration. Local PKK militant Muhsin Kula said: "We will not recognize state institutions in this region. We hereby declared that we manage ourselves." Fighting between the PKK and government forces has left several dead this month, especially in Hakkari province, although accounts of the death toll widely vary. The government is denying PKK claims of 30 soldiers killed, claimg to have lost only one. Kurdish anger has been enflamed by reports that a female PKK fighter named Ekin Van was allegedly raped and killed before her naked body was dragged through the streets in Varto (Muş province). (Rudaw, Aug. 18) (See map)
Aug. 21 marked the two-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event. The vigil in New York's Times Square for a second year drew some 200, wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles numbering 1,400—the estimated number killed in the attack. Chants—led by children, prominently including a girl of perhaps 10 years—included "BASHAR ASSAD, YOU WILL SEE; SYRIA, SYRIA WILL BE FREE"; 'BASHAR, ISIS, THEY'RE THE SAME; ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE NAME"; and "SYRIA, SYRIA, DON'T YOU CRY; WE WILL NEVER LET YOU DIE." (WW4R on the scene)
We in Neither East Nor West-NYC (NENW-NYC) support the struggle of the anti-authoritarian Kurdish and allied forces in Rojava. We view this as a continuation of our work in the 1980s and '90s, when we networked for mutual solidarity between anti-nuclear and anti-militarist activists on the East and West sides of the Cold War divide. We also mobilized to support Nigerian anarchists, Cuban ecologists, and left-libertarian dissidents in China and Hong Kong.
Reports from the PKK-aligned Kurdistan National Congress indicate an internal war by the Turkish state against the Kurds in the country's east, approaching levels of violence not seen in 20 years. Several villages in Diyarbakir province are said to be under heavy shelling by the Turkish army. Many of these villages are reported to be currently burning, with many injured, and an unknown number killed. After hours of shelling, Turkish soldiers reportedly entered the village of Kocakoy, Lice-Hani district, putting homes to the torch—sometimes with families still inside, resulting in further loss of life. Troops then proceeded to force an evacuation of the villages. It is not said where the survivors fled to. A similar attack is reported from Şapatan (Turkish: Altınsu) village in Şemdinli district, Hakkari province, where the blaze has spread to surrounding forest areas. (KNC, KNC, Aug. 18)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Aug. 17 approved a 54-article counter-terrorism law which has been assailed by Amnesty International and other rights groups as violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international standards to which Egypt is a party. Amnesty warned that the legislation would make permanent powers usually reserved fior a state of emergency, and would effectively overturn the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and free association.
An unusual two-day ceasefire is about to take effect in three Syrian towns, brokered by regional enemies Turkey and Iran—the former a patron of the Syrian rebels and the later a sponsor of the Damascus regime. The two groups that have agreed to the truce are the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham rebel faction and Iran-backed Hezbollah. The truce was ostensibly organized to allow delivery of humanitarian supplies to rebel-held Zabadani (heavily damaged by regime barrel bombs), and government-held Fou'a and Kafraya. All three are in Idlib governorate, near the border of the Alawite heartland of Latakia, traditionally a bastion of support for the regime. (Syria Deeply, Haaretz, BBC News, Reuters)
As Turkey continues to bomb Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Iraq, violence is quickly spreading within Turkey itself. Two assailants—apparently both women—opened fire on the US consulate building in Istanbul on Aug. 10, fleeing the scene when police shot back. One of the assailants was captured in a building where she took shelter. She has been identified as a member or the armed-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C). (Hurriyet Daily News) Elsewhere in Istanbul, an officer was killed in clashes after a car-bomb attack on a police station. In southeastern Sirnak province, four police officers were killed by a roadside bomb and a soldier died as gunmen fired on a military helicopter. (BBC News)