Anarchism in Turkey

This article is written for the request of Russian 'Avtonom' magazine. Written circa 2004 it is a continuation of preceding yearly reports written in 2000 and 2001 on the same subject, giving also a brief background to some of the anarchist groups in Turkey.

Submitted by JoeMaguire on July 27, 2010

2004 Eighteen years have passed over since the publication of the first Turkish anarchist periodical "Kara" (Black) in 1986. In Turkey anarchist movement is enjoying its "youth years" now, a bit confused up what to concentrate on and how to organize better but day by day growing and becoming more effective. Lately, before and during anti-NATO protests against NATO summit which was held in Istanbul at the end of June, anarchists started mobilizing months before and it was the most active movement we have involved till now.

Anarchists are relatively more organized in bigger cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. On the other hand in cities like Izmit, Mersin, Malatya, Bolu, Eskisehir, Antalya, Bursa, Denizli, Kayseri there are various anarchist collectives, circles, groups or "friendship groups" of anarchists' though not so active as the metropolitan areas. The movement had reached its peak in anti-war demonstration of 1st of March 2003 in Ankara, which simultaneously started a discussion on the matter of organizing. More than 400 anarchists were present in "Kara Blok" (Black Block) at this demo, a great number for us! Participants included not only anarchists from Ankara, also many from other cities.

Debates on organizing that were held in Ankara and Izmir as separate meetings did not end up with any concrete decision but at least they helped us to understand various tendencies. One group supported the idea of more flexible network type of organization, the other federative type of organizing. Though we could not reach a consensus some new projects emerged later on.

In Istanbul, after the experience of "Kara Ev" (Black House) has ended, new initiatives emerged. "Kara MecmuA" (Black Periodical) published only one new issue since 2003 and the group seems to be less active. On the other hand some anarchists started gathering with/around periodical projects: "Kara Gazete" (Black Paper) staff has published ten issues of their paper/wall-paper including news about and in interest of anarchist movement. A group calling themselves "libertarian socialists" has appeared and published their initial zine named "Liberter". "Otonom X" periodical/group was also one of those that have appeared this year; this group also includes anarchists from Izmir and Ankara supporting the idea of a federative type of anarchist organization. On the other hand anarcho-primitivists started publishing their own news-bulletin named "Uygarliga Karsi" (Against Civilization) and organized few direct actions. Anti-militarists do also carry on their own struggle; they have organized a different type of activity named "Militourism Festival" this year. As the unique anarchist publisher of Turkey, Istanbul-Kaos Publications is still active.

In Ankara there are two different anarchist organizations; Ankara Anarchy Initiative which is synthesis type of anarchist circle/group carries on its activities. Some people from this group has started a periodical project titled "Inat" (Persistence) and published the first issue. The group organizes weekly meetings and used to attend demonstrations in Ankara and elsewhere (even a small group went to Thessaloniki last year). The other one is Tacanka/KaraKizil group tending to be anarcho-communist/platformist. In anti-NATO protests they were one of those walking under the black&red cortege with anarcho-communists in Istanbul. Also, libertarian minded gay-lesbian group/periodical KAOS GL is located in Ankara and they are operating a culture center. Although there is not any anarcho-space in Ankara right now (there were two anarcho-spaces in recent years but both closed up), there is a café/bookstore kind of infoshop named Anarres which is a nice place for anarchists to meet.

In Izmir there are few initiatives mainly dealing with publication stuff. "A4 Asymmetry Publications" is a group of anarchists' reproducing/photocopying leaflets on the theory and practice of anarchism. Another collective is publishing and distributing an anarchist newsletter named "Anarsizmir". There are some underground/anarcho-groups in Izmir creating their own music and few even publish their own zines as well as some other groups in other cities.

Bi-monthly anarchist art periodical "ImlAsIz" is published in Kayseri, distributed country-wide and sold out in about 15 different cities. In Malatya there is an anarchist collective named "ozgur KarArt" (free KarArt) having a zine with the same name. Mersin anarchists deal with ecological problems of their own territory nowadays. In recent years there were anarchist activities in a number of cities; few direct actions in Izmit, talks & film-exhibitions in Antalya, Bolu, Denizli, and in Usak where anarchists faced state repression. A small group of libertarian communists live in Eskisehir. In general anarchists attend to annual Maydays and anti-war demos individually or in separate corteges.

Anarchist and libertarian ideas also give inspiration to a few leftist groups; one of them, Istanbul-centered student organization "Otonom" group declares itself as anti-capitalist and anti-statist but not clearly anti-authoritarian; they are mostly affected by Negri's views.

On June 28-29 of this year NATO summit was held in Istanbul. Anarchists and antiauthoritarians started mobilizing months before the summit time. The organization group named itself as "Libertarian Coordination Against NATO" and a series of activities were held. The coordination released a declaration and operated a web-site. The documents including the declaration, calls and news of the coordination were translated into nearly 20 different languages. On 4th of April, marking the foundation day of NATO, an anti-NATO picket was organized. Later, on mid of May "Militourism Festival" provided a good chance for anti-militarist/anti-war and anti-NATO propaganda. Lots of stickers, posters were pasted up, leaflets distributed; a talk on "Capitalism, NATO and Counter Movement" was organized. The first FNB (Food Not Bombs) action in the history of Turkey was held on 5th of June, under the name of "Food Not Bombs/NATO" in front of Taksim-McDonalds.

Few weeks later another FNB activity was organized - this time in front of Besiktas-McDonalds. One of the founders' of FNB, Keith McHenry was also present in these activities and carried FNB banner within Black Block on anti-NATO demos. "Libertarian Coordination" attended annual Mayday march in Istanbul and worked in cooperation with other anarchist groups in Turkey. The "activist guide" was prepared in Izmir by "A4 Asymmetry Publications" and leaflets-stickers were printed in Ankara by "Ankara Anarchy Initiative".

The organization of the huge anti-NATO demo on 27th of June and following two days was held with solidarity of anarchists' country-wide. Anarchists walked within "Black Block" and "Black-Red Cortege" on June 27th and reached a number of 300-400 people. Following days there were some clashes with cops but none of the anarchists got arrested. It was the first time that anarchists became a real "force" in the streets and even leftist periodicals/papers mentioned about anarchists' participation in anti-NATO protests.

Anarchist movement in Turkey is deeply affiliated with anti-militarist movement. Turkish government did not accept the right of conscientious objection yet and those rejecting compulsory military service are mostly anarchists and anti-authoritarians. The number of total/conscientious objectors passed over 30 at the moment and every year this number is increasing. It should be stated that legally it is so hard to be an army objector as it means to be "illegal" and living under the risk of arrest.

The state's (army) policy is in general towards not dealing with the objectors so much - just not to increase the number of the objectors and to cause it transform into an effective political movement - however objectors are lack of many so-called "legal rights/freedoms". Istanbul Anti-Militarist Initiative is the unique active anti-militarist group nowadays and this year they have organized "Militourism Festival" marking the day of 15th of May - International Day of Conscientious Objectors. After "visiting" important military facilities and few companies producing military stuff, as a convoy consisting of 3 buses full of anarchists, antimilitarists, antiauthoritarians and reporters a demo was held. Few years ago, there was an effective anti-militarist group in Izmir - Izmir War Resisters Association (ISKD) - but it is no more active now.

KAOS GL had appeared as a libertarian gay-lesbian periodical in September 1994 and since then the group became more and more active. In time they have organized lots of activities (seminars and talks) and they were the first gay-lesbian group that has marched on Mayday demo (in fact for a long time they were the unique gay-lesbian political group). In the year 2000 they have established their own culture center in Ankara. The group is non-hierarchical and in an anti-capitalist manner and it includes some anarchist/anti-authoritarian people. They have strong relations with anarchists in Ankara and elsewhere. In Turkey unfortunately there is no anarcha-feminist group or organization; however there are few (women) anarchists that are individually active in independent woman organizations/initiatives. Last year an anarcha-feminist leaflet was distributed in an anti-war demo, no more activity reported since then.

In the meaning of class struggle workers' movement, anarchists have lots to do in Turkey. Yet there is neither an anarcho-syndicate nor an anarcho-syndicalist initiative. But for the last few years libertarian communist views started to become more popular. Groups like Liberter (Istanbul) and Tacanka/KaraKizil (Ankara) emerged and started a discussion on anarcho-communists' involvement to class movement. Unfortunately there is no real organized participation to the workers' movement except ongoing discussions. Another important thing to stress on is that there are also individual anarchists who are active in their own trade-unions but they are not organized nor coordinated in an anarchistic/libertarian manner.

Birlesik Isci Sendikasi (BIS) should also be mentioned here as the unique independent self-organized revolutionary class-struggle type of trade-union in Turkey. BIS succeeded in organizing a group of contracted PTT workers last year who were working for a company that had a contract with PTT. The salary they got was only 1/3 of an average PTT worker although they did the same job. They started a strike which went on for few months until trade-union (BIS) was closed down by the authorities but the struggle lasted for a while.

For now, none is reported to be in prison related with any anarchist/anti-authoritarian activity. Although total/conscientious objectors live under the risk of arrest, since the incident of Mehmet Bal in 2002 there was no "serious" arrest.

In prisons of Turkey there are thousands of leftist and Kurdish political prisoners. Related with their organizations' authoritarian way of organizing and struggling, some of these prisoners started to criticize their own organizations and few of them are in favor of libertarian/anarchist ideas.

In fact it is quite hard and a big risk to stay "independent" from the leftist & Kurdish organizations in jails. That's because, if you do so, others will probably claim you cooperating with the state & authorities. We do not know the exact number of libertarian/anarchist minded people in jails at all. But they are in contact with anarchist & libertarian periodicals so that there is a kind of information exchange. The unique ABC group which was founded in Ankara during Usak anarchists' case seems silent for a while; on the other hand a group of green-anarchists initiated "ELP-Turkey" project to inform Turkish anarchist/libertarian circles about the anarchist prisoners in other countries.

Turkey's unique anarchist publisher is Kaos Publications which is active since 1994. Covering a wide range of anarchism they have published 22 books in addition to 2 brochures. Last two books they have published were William Morris' "News from Nowhere" and p.m.'s "bolo'bolo". In the near future they are planning to publish Proudhon's "Philosophy of Poverty" and books of Kropotkin and Stirner.

A number of anarchist periodicals are being published in Turkey. As it was mentioned earlier Kara MecmuA, Kara Gazete, Liberter, Anarsizmir, Otonom X, Inat, ImlasIz, Uygarliga Karsi are among those. Kara MecmuA issued its 10th issue on January this year, so did Kara Gazete, Anarsizmir and Uygarliga Karsi - till now each of them have published 10 issues. The rest except ImlasIz could only publish their first issues. In addition to these there are lots of zines, alternative/underground publications, and newsletters such as Oldsletter (Ankara), Pasli Teneke (Izmir), ozgur KarArt (Malatya) etc. Three years old underground "A4 Asymmetry Publications" has published a series of leaflets - about 15 - not only that of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Proudhon's classical writings also some contemporary brochures on anarchism. Anarchist art zine ImlasIz deserves to be touched on. Being founded in 2003 in Kayseri, it is bi-monthly published and distributed country-wide. 8th issue has recently been released. Most of the contributors are anarchist minded artists, poets, intellectuals, writers or "ordinary" anarchists who used to write for other art periodicals before.

Anarchist/libertarian views find place in various publications by articles of different writers such as Sureyyya Evren, Rahmi Ogdul, Halil Turhanli. Few leftist-independent publications - for e.g. a new daily paper Birgun - also give opportunity for anarchist/antiauthoritarian propaganda. There are lots of anarchist web-sites in Turkish language. Except groups' or periodicals' own web-sites there are independent anarchist web-sites, too. Turkish section of A-Infos is active for over 4 years (since summer 2000) and serves as a good source of anarchist news both from abroad and country-wide. "Anarsist Bakis" (Anarchist Look) web-site provides an excellent source including hundreds of anarchist articles (mostly translations). Istanbul Indymedia collective includes anarchists and anti-authoritarians. In addition to web-sites there are various e-mail lists; one of them "anarsistiletisim" (anarchist-communication) - which was founded right after 2003 1st of March anti-war demo - includes more than 150 anarchists' e-mail addresses.

There is another group which is mostly active in Istanbul publishing a bi-weekly paper named "Ozgur Hayat" (Free Life) and working under an association named SED (Social Ecological Transformation). Few years ago they were isolated by other anarchist groups and individuals after their physical attack to an anarchist comrade and ongoing threats to other anarchists.

Since then they act/struggle separately and in demonstrations you can see them walking apart. They have worked under the name of "Anarsistanbul" during anti-NATO protests and mobilized some hundreds of people. For now they are focused on an ecological protest campaign for construction of dams on Dersim (Tunceli) - Munzur River.