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Issue 
July 20, 2018
Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) press conference on July 20 in Dili, Timor Leste.

MOVIMENTU KONTRA OKUPASAUN TASI TIMOR (MKOTT)

Public Statement on the Prosecution Against Witness K and Bernard Collaery by the Australian government

Díli, 20 July 2018

It is with great astonishment and sadness that on 28 June the Movimentu Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor—the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) learned that the Australian Lawyer Bernard Collaery and the Australian former Inteligence Officer "Witness K" have both been charged for revealing the Australian Government Spying on Timor-Leste's Cabinet Room during the negotiations for off-shore natural resources in the Timor Sea between Timor-Leste and Australia in 2004.

It is a great shock as this prosecution of Mr. Bernard Collaery and Witness K was approved by the Australian federal attorney general, Christian Porter, which means Mr. Collaery and Witness K have been prosecuted by the Australian government. For many in MKOTT, this prosecution reminds them of the prosecution of so many of them, of their family members, friends and colleagues by the Suharto government during the 24 years occupation.

Ironically, these Timorese were charged as terrorists by the Indonesian government and today, Mr. Bernard Collaery and Witness K are charged with the anti-terror law by the Australian Attorney General, their very own government. MKOTT is shocked that in this day and age, the Australian government is doing what it thought only the Dictator Suharto was capable of doing during his reign.

The Australian government had come under intense international scrutiny when the government of Timor-Leste brought the spying case before the International Court of Justice in January 2014. As an act of good faith, the government of Timor-Leste dropped this case in June 2015, which paved the way for the conciliation process overseen by the Permanent Court of Arbitration for the delimitation of a permanent

maritime boundary between the two countries.

The Australian government publicly welcomed this and declared its own readiness to negotiate a permanent maritime boundary with Timor-Leste in good faith. The charges against Witness K and Collaery now shows that the Australian government had acted in bad faith with the mere intention of discharging the international pressure brought about by the espionage case at the ICJ.

MKOTT strongly condemns the charges against Lawyer Collaery and Witness K as politically motivated, which the movement regards as an attack on the freedom of expression and attack on democracy by the Australian government. This act on the part of the Australian government also shows that the government will use anything to pursue Australia's commercial interests in relations with its neighbors, even if it violates international law to deprive one of its poorest neighbor, and will crash anyone or anything stands on its way.

As a movement strives for justice, human rights, good neighborhood and respect for international law, MKOTT:

1. Expresses its solidarity with Witness K and his lawyer Mr. Bernard Collaery as they struggle to make the Australian government aware that their bugging of the Timorese cabinet room was not only illegal but also an infringement of Australia's spirit and tarnishing Australia's pride as a good and responsible member of the international community.

2. MKOTT calls on all the defenders of justice, human rights and international law in Australia and around the world to stand united in solidarity with Witness K and Lawyer Bernard Collaery against this prosecution.

3. MKOTT calls on the Australian government not to criminalise Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery as doing so is an attack on freedom of expression and democracy.

4. MKOTT calls on the government of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to consider reviving the espionage case before the International Court of Justice should Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery are criminalized by the Australian government. They are charged because they revealed an illegal operation against the government and the people of Timor-Leste.

5. MKOTT calls on the Australian government to stop using the Australian state intelligence apparatus to spy on its neighbors for commercial gains, which is a clear breach of international law.

6. MKOTT applauds and support the stand of the Australian Federal Member of Parliament, Mr. Andrew Wilkie, who invoked his parliamentary privilege to let the public know about the prosecution against Witness K and Bernard Collaery by the government of Australia.

7. MKOTT appreciates the members of the Australian Federal Parliament; Andrew Wilkie MP, Senator Nick McKim, Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Tim Storer who requested the Australian Federal Police to investigate the legality of the Australian Spy Operation in the Timor-Leste Cabinet Room in 2004.

8. MKOTT calls on other Australian Federal Parliament Members and Senators from all the parties, particularly from the Labor Party who had opted the policy of respect to international law with regards to maritime boundary with Timor-Leste, to use their Parliamentary Privileges to reveal information in relation to the prosecution against Witness K and Lawyer Bernard Collaery to the public.

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
Asylum seeker Thileepan Gnaneswaran.

The Tamil Refugee Council has reported that asylum seeker Thileepan Gnaneswaran, who was deported on July 16, separating him from his wife and 10-month-old daughter, was arrested on unknown charges on arrival in Sri Lanka and later released.

His wife and daughter were both granted safe haven enterprise visas on July 11, two days before Gnaneswaran was issued with a removal notice after his claim for protection was rejected. Their separation will almost certainly be permanent as her visa does not allow for family reunion and she cannot return to Sri Lanka.

The case has received international attention after it emerged he was deported in defiance of the United Nations, which had urged the government to uphold international law and allow the family to stay together.

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
East Timor has had to wage a long struggle for its resources.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has called on the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate the role of intelligence services in the bugging of East Timor's cabinet rooms while the two nations were negotiating a deal on accessing offshore oil deposits. Wilkie has the support of Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim and South Australian Senators Tim Storer and Rex Patrick.

Last month, Wilkie used parliamentary privilege to reveal the Commonwealth had charged Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and a former spy known as “Witness K” for divulging information about the operation. But he said senior government officials were the “real criminals — the people who ordered the illegal bugging”.

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
The Homes not Prisons meeting in Melbourne. Credit: Stephen Jolly / FB

A “Homes not Prisons” event in Fitzroy on July 18 attracted more than 100 concerned public housing residents and community members from across Melbourne to the Atherton Gardens public housing precinct.

The aim was to highlight the staggering inequity of expenditure by state and federal governments on prisons compared to public housing for the vulnerable in the community.

Residents expressed their concerns about inadequate or broken facilities, security problems, the threatened removal of green spaces and the lack of parking permits. They were frustrated by the lack of action to address their problems and felt they were not being listened to. This echoes the sentiments of public housing residents throughout Victoria.

Spokesperson for the Atherton Gardens Residents Association Hi Tran said residents had to fight for everything, including basic maintenance. He emphasised the need to work together and with Yarra City councillor Stephen Jolly, who had been instrumental in some of their victories, to ensure they did not lose what they had and continue to fight for issues such as better housing for larger families.

Jolly said the state and federal government had walked away from their responsibility on the public housing issue, preferring instead to leave it to private investors, but this market approach was not delivering what was needed.

Steph Price from the Public Housing Defence Network said the community was concerned about attacks on public housing and the affordability of housing in general. She reiterated Jolly’s view that the government’s response to the housing crisis was completely inadequate, leaving many vulnerable to insecure housing and homelessness, including families with young children.

Smart Justice’s Megan Fitzgerald questioned why there was such a vast difference between government spending on prisons and public housing. She pointed out it cost almost $800 million to house a mere 7149 prisoners in the Victorian prison system last financial year, the same amount the Victorian government spent on housing Victoria’s estimated 22,000 homeless people.

She said if the government is concerned about crime rates, the main priority should be to address rising rates of poverty and homelessness. Instead, the government will spend almost $700 million to build a new 700-bed maximum security prison at Lara — almost $1 million per prisoner.

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
Refugee activists occupy Australian Border Force's offices in Melbourne on July 11. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

The Australian Border Force is an authoritarian and undemocratic body that does not serve the interests of ordinary people in Australia. It should be abolished.

Five years since the reopening of the refugee torture centres on Manus Island and Nauru, the results are clear. Refugees have suffered cruel and unusual punishment which has: not saved lives at sea, not “stopped the boats” and not benefited ordinary Australians.

These policies do not “protect” Australia's borders. On the contrary, they make ordinary Australians less safe. So it should be abolished.

Border Force was established in 2015 when the Customs department was combined with the immigration detention and compliance functions of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP — also known as the Department of Incredibly Brutal Policies).

It was set up deliberately as a semi-militarised body designed to intimidate. The uniforms of the “officers” would not be out of place in a military dictatorship or a fascist regime.

The legislation establishing Border Force included a provision that doctors, nurses and social workers would be imprisoned for two years if they revealed information about child abuse, rape or other mistreatment of refugees. Internal reporting mechanisms failed to alleviate these problems, making whistleblowing the only option for concerned workers.

The legislation explicitly encouraged and protected human rights abuses at the expense of those speaking out.

Public outcry meant health professionals were eventually exempted from these penalties, but teachers, lawyers, security staff and other workers in the immigration detention system still face imprisonment of up to two years if they publicly expose criminal or abusive behaviour by Border Force.

Last year, the Australian government paid an out-of-court settlement of $70 million to refugees imprisoned on Manus Island to avoid judicial scrutiny of their practices. The payout is implicit acknowledgement of the human rights violations and wrongful imprisonment for which the Australian government is responsible. Border Force is the agency charged with carrying out the human rights abuses.

The name, existence and practices of Border Force are designed to create a barrier between ordinary people and the refugees who have come or might consider coming here asking for protection.

The existence of Border Force is just as racist and authoritarian as Trump’s proposed Border Wall or Israel's Apartheid Wall. And it has the same function: to disguise the fact that the people on the other side are people — just like us.

The same Liberal and Labor governments that promote draconian policies against refugees are willing accomplices in the undermining of Australian sovereignty by foreign corporations. They are more than happy to support the Trans Pacific Partnership for instance which includes provisions allowing corporate interests to sue the Australian government if environmental standards, human rights laws or labour protections interfere with their profits.

Border Force is not about “protecting” Australia. It is a vehicle to scapegoat refugees, thereby distracting voters from the real threats to their interests, such as the federal government's plan to cut corporate taxes.

Ordinary people have no interest in a government body whose function is to carry out human rights abuses. We'd be better off if Border Force were replaced by a humanitarian agency tasked with organising a smooth welcome for refugees and new migrants. Socially useful aspects of the customs function of Border Force could be returned to a designated Customs Service.

Australia should offer immediate refuge to all the asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. We should also offer permanent protection to the thousands of refugees in Australia who are currently on uncertain and degrading bridging visas. We should end the practice of forced deportations to danger, such as Tamils to Sri Lanka.

And we should expand the number of refugees we accept each year, including taking proactive measures to facilitate safe passage of refugees currently in Indonesia and Malaysia and elsewhere.

Ordinary people in this country would be better off with policies such as these and abolishing Border Force would be both a symbolic and a practical contribution to achieving that.

[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of Socialist Alliance.]

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
A rally in support of former president Rafael Correa in Quito, Ecuador, on July 5. Photo: Denis Rogatyuk

July 5 marked the final breaking point between the increasingly right-leaning government of Lenin Moreno and his leftist predecessor, Rafael Correa.

On that day, nearly 60,000 people filled Plaza Santo Domingo, in the historic centre of Quito, in support of Correa and the pro-poor Citizens’ Revolution he promoted during his 10-year presidency (2007-17).

Protesters came together under the banner of “Indignaté Ecuador” (Be outraged, Ecuador!) to oppose the arrest warrant issued against Correa by Ecuador’s National Court of Justice.

The warrant is in relation to the attempted kidnapping of former Ecuadorian right-wing legislator and journalist, Fernando Balda, which occurred in Colombia in 2012. Balda had been previously charged with supporting the 2010 coup attempt Correa before fleeing to Colombia.

Balda was eventually extradited to Ecuador in October 2012 to face charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and threatening members of state security, and was given a one-year prison sentence.

In May, the chief prosecutor’s office requested that proceedings be initiated against the former president, following the filing by Balda of a formal accusation of kidnapping against Correa.

Ecuador’s National Assembly declared Camacho’s request inadmissible on June 14, as it was “not for parliament to authorise the prosecution of an ex-president, as provided by the Constitution”.

However, on July 3, Judge Daniella Camacho, who is presiding over the case, ordered that Correa be placed in preventative detention. The government notified Interpol of its intention to extradite Correa, despite a complete lack of concrete evidence.

Correa, who has been residing in Belgium with his family since May 2017, has dismissed the charges as a “government plot”. He has urged citizens “not to worry about [him] but rather worry about the country” and the growing number of neoliberal reforms being implemented by the Moreno government.

The attack on Correa can be seen as the latest example in a series of attempts by right-wing and neoliberal administrations across South America to wage “lawfare” against progressive leaders.

Right-wing forces have used legal manoeuvres and parliamentary and judicial means to either remove progressive presidents from power (as was the case with Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Fernando Lugo in Paraguay) or to try and prevent them from running again (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina).

Jorge Glas, a Correa ally and Moreno’s vice-president until October 2017, is currently in jail on charges of having allegedly received bribes from the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, in exchange for favourable government-negotiated contracts.

The complete lack of transparency and fair judicial procedure in Correa’s case proved to be the final straw for the increasingly organised and militant opposition that has emerged in response to what many see as Moreno’s betrayal of the Citizens’ Revolution.

Among the protesters were prominent social, political and indigenous leaders, as well as former and current parliamentarians who have split from the ruling Country Alliance party and formed the Citizen’s Revolution Movement.

With the support of the former president, a growing resistance has taken shape in the form of the newly-founded Movement of National Agreement that seeks to defend and extend the original achievements and aims of the Citizen’s Revolution. These include resistance to neoliberalism and US imperialism, reduction of poverty and inequality via higher social spending, the defence of the rights of nature, and Latin American integration.

Prominent leaders of this movement include former National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira, former foreign relations and defence minister Ricardo Patiño, and former parliamentarian and feminist activist Paola Pabón.

Revolutionary, left-wing and progressive leaders from across Latin America and the world have also expressed their opposition to what they see as a politically-motivated trial against Correa.

Among them are Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, his Bolivian and Cuban counterparts, Evo Morales and Miguel Díaz-Canel respectively, as well as Rousseff, former president of Uruguay, Jose “Pepe” Mujica, leader of the radical left Spanish organisation Podemos, Pablo Iglésias, and Argentine Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
Brisbane protest against Adani, 2017. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Months after missing its March deadline for financial closure on its Carmichael mine and rail project, Adani has relaunched its PR offensive with claims its finances are almost stitched up.

In an interview on July 17, Karan Adani, son of the company’s owner Gautam Adani, told Indian TV it was now finalising the rail project’s financing.

Stage 1 of the revised project is estimated to cost $5.3 billion, consisting of $2.05 billion for the coal mine and associated airport, road access, water, sewage and power infrastructure, plus $3.3 billion for the 388 kilometre railway line.

Karan Adani’s understatement of the cost of the rail link by almost $2.5 billion is par for the course in Adani propaganda. He also claimed that all approvals were in place and that work would commence immediately after the rail finance was approved.

However, this is not the case. There remain several obstacles before work at the mine can begin, including:

1. Federal approval for Adani’s proposed water scheme, involving pumping 12.5 billion litres of water a year from the Suttor River to the mine. The government has delayed its decision and asked Adani for more information.

2. A court challenge by a group of Wangan and Jagalingou people to a land-use agreement. If the challenge to invalidate the agreement is successful, Adani would then require the Queensland government to extinguish native title at the mine site.

3. A stop order application by a group of Juru people, amid a dispute about cultural heritage in the vicinity of the Abbot Point coal terminal and a section of the rail link.

4. Finance to build an airstrip near the mine site for fly-in fly-out workers. Townsville council reallocated funding for the project recently, having expressed concerns about Adani’s ability to continue with the Carmichael project.

5. Finance to build the rail line. After the Queensland government vetoed a loan through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, environmentalists fear the government-backed Export Finance and Insurance Corporation may support the rail link.

6. The Queensland Labor government has imposed more than 240 conditions on the Carmichael coalmine project, 132 of which relate to water. On May 3, the coordinator-general fixed a new lapse date for the project’s evaluation report to August 14 next year. A month ago, the government also insisted Adani find the source of local groundwater before it signs off on the water management plan for the mine.

Federal Labor environment spokesperson Mark Butler, who opposes the mine, was sceptical of claims Adani would soon have the finance required for the rail line.

“If I had a dollar for every front page where Adani said it had finance for this new coal mine I'd be a very rich man,” he said. “Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.

“My view about this project has been clear for some time. I don’t think it stacks up. I don't think it is in the national interest.”

The day after Karan Adani’s interview a clarifying statement was issued by Adani Australia. It repeated his comments but said the company “continues to work to secure finance for the Carmichael project”.

It remains unclear where the money to build the mine will come from, or the extent of any external commitment to Carmichael. Tim Buckley, from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said Gautam Adani had the financial wealth to self-fund Carmichael and “we can’t assume this project is dead”.

“Gautam Adani has never been wealthier than he is today. Never underestimate a billionaire,” Buckley said.

Buckley said the statements by Karan Adani and by the company appeared to be “continued pressure on the federal government to provide yet another massive subsidy”.

This “continued pressure” by Adani will be met by an emboldened movement against the project, particularly against any further public funding to Adani or to its agents for construction of the rail project.

On July 18, Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy said: “These comments confirm what we have known for some time; Adani is serious about building its dirty coalmine and it is time for our elected representatives to side with the wider community and stop it.

“Digging up and burning coal from the Adani mine will unleash huge amounts of climate pollution, which will accelerate damage to the Great Barrier Reef and turbo-charge dangerous extreme weather events like bushfires, heatwaves and floods.

“Adani’s polluting coal mine will also trash critical habitat for precious native species like the Black-throated finch. And it will be allowed to guzzle our critical groundwater.

“This is not a project that represents the best interests of the community and the natural world we rely on. Now, more than ever, we need a commitment from all political parties that they will stop this polluting coal mine before it wrecks our safe climate and natural world.

“Community action has driven our elected representatives to stop these kinds of dangerous and environment-wrecking projects in the past. The Franklin River flows freely today as testament to this.

“The community campaign to stop Adani’s polluting coal mine is the biggest environmental movement in Australia since the Franklin River dam protests. We will continue to organise against Adani’s dirty coal mine until it is stopped, and the Galilee Basin is closed for coal mining.”

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Issue 
July 20, 2018
63% of respondents agreed that privately owned power companies should be returned to public ownership.

After 25 years, it is clearer than ever that privatisation of electricity in Australia has been a disaster for people and the planet.

In the early 1990s, prior to privatisation, energy prices in Australia were some of the lowest in the world and had been dropping for decades. That trend was sharply reversed following privatisation. Today, households are paying skyrocketing prices and growing numbers of Australians are now living in “energy poverty”.

The recent report by the (pro-market) Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has revealed that in the past decade alone, residential electricity consumers have faced a real increase of 35% in their bills and a price increase of about 56% in real terms.

So it is no wonder that in a recent Guardian Essential poll, 63% of respondents agreed that privately owned power companies should be returned to public ownership.

Jeremy Corbyn has put renationalisation back on the agenda in Britain. Last year, a poll conducted by a conservative think-tank revealed that more than three-quarters of people in Britain now favour the public ownership of water (83%), electricity (77%), gas (77%) and railways (76%).

In Australia, the demand of renationalisation is not one you will find coming from the leadership of the Australian Labor Party.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) in Victoria has been campaigning for renationalisation of the electricity sector for a number of years and has taken a lead in this area. The ETU (Vic) campaign “Privatisation isn’t working” makes the point: “A privatised power market [is] never going to satisfy our social need for affordable energy. The question isn't how to regulate, it's whether we should own and run it for common good.”

In 2014, the union commissioned an independent report by University of Queensland researcher Dr John Quiggan into electricity privatisation. The report found that electricity privatisation in Australia had delivered higher prices, a rise in customer complaints, a decline in reliability, higher costs and worse service and recommended renationalisation of the electricity grid.

The early ’90s were a time when concepts such as the “greenhouse effect” and “global warming”, were starting to be seriously discussed internationally — the Rio Earth Summit was held in 1992. At just the time when a publicly owned and controlled energy sector could have made a head start in responding to climate change, Australian state governments were embarking on a program of corporatisation and eventual full privatisation of the energy sector.

The Bob Hawke–Paul Keating Labor governments embarked on neoliberal economic reform in the early 1990s and adopted a national competition policy in 1995, the same year Keating launched the National Energy Market. This policy drove the privatisation agenda. Keating’s national competition policy aimed “to promote and maintain competitive forces to increase efficiency and community welfare, while recognising other social goals”.

But history has shown that community welfare and social goals have been sacrificed in the name of competition in the electricity sector, as they have in healthcare, education and — as the Royal Commission has shown — in the banking sector.

Successive Australian governments have wasted decades on market solutions for lowering electricity prices, addressing climate change and remedying the many other ills caused by the neoliberal economic agenda.

Bipartisan pressure to maintain coal in the “mix” of fuels for the generation of electricity is holding us back from the transition needed to 100% renewable energy generation and supply. While there is still a market for coal, Labor and the Coalition are happy to keep promoting it.

Green Left Weekly is proud to champion the demand for renationalisation of the energy sector in Australia and for a shift to 100% renewables. But we need your support to keep doing it.

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Issue 
July 19, 2018
Cosmetic company Flormar workers protest for union rights saying, 'We don't become beautiful with makeup, but with resistance'.

In the aftermath of Turkey’s June 24 elections, “won” amid fraud and intimidation by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the alliance between his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Muhsin Yorulmaz takes a look at the post-election climate.

The most pressing issue for the socialist movement in Turkey is the lack of rights usually afforded in a capitalist democracy. This makes organisation more difficult than in many other countries.

Turkey continues to languish under a country-wide “state of emergency”, referred to as “OHAL”. This state of affairs is anything but exceptional.

Erdoğan promised an end to OHAL as part of the recent election campaign, but after his re-election, this promise is being kept in the most disingenuous way possible: under the anti-terror law, the AKP-MHP government is proposing a “partial OHAL” involving “crisis administration zones”.

In effect, this is using words to mask an indefinite extension of martial law.

Under OHAL, Erdoğan and his clique have continuously condemned and issued legal measures against labour strikes, which are increasingly frequent as the economic and political crises mirror each other.

Labour struggles

One struggle of particular note is the ongoing two-month long Flormar workers’ resistance, where workers have called for a boycott of Flormar and Yves Rocher cosmetic products. The women workers have employed the bold slogan: “We don’t become beautiful with makeup, but with resistance!”

Similar actions are ongoing in many industries, from solar panels to pasta to grocery store workers and metal workers. An easy and concrete act of solidarity for socialists around the world would be to support the boycott and spread the word about this resistance via the hashtag #FlormarVeYvesRochereBoykot.

Organised labour plays a key role in the movement against fascism in Turkey. Even many socially conservative and nationalistic labourers, not otherwise predisposed to anti-system rhetoric, are radicalised by the obscene levels of exploitation in Turkey. This exploitation results in their real hunger and even deaths.

In particular, construction workers, who labour constantly while their pay is delayed to “develop” Turkey according to the government's wishes, are taking part in work stoppages and other disruptions. Miners, who face 19th century conditions to extract natural resources at the highest rate of profit for their bosses, face real physical danger for minimal compensation and are easily provoked to anger.

Recently, the decision on the Soma mining disaster spurred workers into righteous anger against the government. This was a disaster in 2014 caused by an explosion at a coalmine in Soma in which more than 300 miners were killed. The miners lost their lives due to lax safety measures that are the norm in Turkey for the often unpaid miners and construction workers, without whom the AKP’s much-trumpeted economic “development” would be nothing.

The total lack of any accountability for this massacre enraged locals. They had to be held back by Erdoğan’s security to prevent them from physically assaulting the president who poses as a people’s champion.

In Turkey, as elsewhere, the deaths of workers are not treated as murder, no matter how much responsibility lies with negligent safety regulations and corporate greed. After months of legal battles, the bosses were acquitted.

Workers and workers’ rights supporters have poured into the streets demanding justice for one of many injustices against the poor and oppressed that have been covered up by the AKP during its long rule.

Students and women

As in many countries, the socialist movement draws considerable ranks from the student movement. The government took advantage of OHAL to arrest students for carrying a banner mocking Erdoğan at a graduation event. The banner featured a political cartoon that had previously been the subject of a libel case, but was found to fall under freedom of expression by the courts.

Facing a campaign of incitement from pro-government and state-run media, referring to them as “so-called” students who were turning the graduation march into a show of “insults”, the students will now have to refight this legal battle simply because the government fears the ongoing organisation and agitation by students.

Democracy is an expensive commodity in Turkey. After a series of rapes and murders of children, women’s and health groups, as well as socialists, have taken to the streets to condemn sexual violence. They have identified the rapacious mentality of the ruling elite with that of the killers and rapists of tabloid news.

It is important to understand these dynamics in terms of society trying to rectify its own ugliness. As a team of medical representatives put it, “the community must look after its children”, rather than resorting to a rhetoric of “law and order”.

The AKP-MHP government is already jumping at the chance to change this narrative, raising again its consistent demand for reintroducing the death penalty into Turkey’s civil code. Noone who has watched the AKP free rapists and murderers of women for years can have illusions that this demand reflects the anger the people feel at rapists and murderers of women and children. It is a pretext to legalise the execution of political dissidents who, in their thousands, still fill Turkish prisons.

Kurdish struggle

All of this may sound like very frightening conditions under which to organise, but for the downtrodden Kurdish people in Turkey, all this has been their experience even in periods of relative “democracy” and “peace” in the Turkish republic more broadly.

Kurdish areas, ruled as an internal colony of the Turkish republic, have been in a more or less continuous “state of exception” no matter the conditions in Turkey more broadly.

The state fears the democratic will of the Kurdish people, whose separate language, history, geography and culture makes them a threat to the dominance of the Turkish ruling class.

Because the Kurdish people are extremely conscious of their national difference, the state can never rely on even the façade of democratic methods in dealing with them. The state has left Turkish Kurdistan economically undeveloped and bought off the feudal elements held over from the Ottoman state, rather than incorporating them into the urban bourgeoisie, as in the west of the country.

Kurdish regions are constantly under conditions of the most reactionary state terror. As a result, the crisis takes on a different character in Kurdistan. The Turkish military is presently operating on the other side of the border, in the internationally recognised territories of Iraq and Syria, to prop up fascist Turkish death squads in cities such as Afrin in Syria and Kirkuk in Iraq.

And yet, despite its impressive military power, NATO membership, and consequent ability to operate across borders to suppress and murder the Kurds, the Turkish state repeatedly calls out the “PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorism” of guerrillas it labels “bandits”.

Kurdish guerrillas have for decades told Turkish soldiers that the war in Kurdistan is not their war, but a war of the elites against the people of Kurdistan. They have defended their positions and continue to make the Turkish military pay for its actions with blood. However, unlike what Turkish special forces soldiers do with Kurdish guerrillas, they do not take photographs of the dead as trophies to mock the families of the Turkish army conscripts.

Despite violence, overt and covert, the Kurdish people do not submit. The Turkish state knows that it can only hold them in check, not wipe them out as the Ottoman state sought to do to the Armenians.

This is the Achilles heel of fascism in Turkey. Unable to end this war, they continue it indefinitely, sacrificing the lives of dozens of conscripts to the vanity of the Turkish ruling classes.

Elite fears

During the ongoing protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park in 2013, many young Turkish people commented to their Kurdish friends that if this was how the Turkish state behaved in Istanbul, it could only be worse in Kurdistan.

A sort of empathy developed. This, more than the explicit occupations of public spaces and slogans for resignation of the Gezi movement, was what rattled the Turkish ruling elite. It raised the spectre that the Turkish people could be organised, and they could identify the violence of the state as their enemy.

The elite’s fear is that one day, the Turkish state will not be able to scare away sufficient numbers of the Turkish masses by raising the spectre of “PKK terrorism”; that the Turkish masses will come to identify more with the poor and oppressed Kurdish people; that Turkish women will view Kurdish women as their sisters; that Turkish labourers will see in their bosses the state-paid officials in Kurdistan.

In short, they fear that the call made by the Kurdish people for years of real fraternity and equality between all people will be answered.

The fear that more resistance in Turkey will provoke more violence by the state is well-founded. But there is a breaking point: once fear is cast aside, millions can be mobilised, the mighty can be brought down, and miracles can happen.

[Muhsin Yorulmaz is a writer and translator with Abstrakt, a Marxist internet magazine from Turkey.]

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Issue 
July 19, 2018
A candlelight vigil for activists who have been killed since the signing of the peace accords, in Bogota, Colombia, on July 6.

Candlelight vigils were held in Colombia and cities around world on July 6 under the slogan 'They are killing us' to demand an end to the political violence that has cost the lives of more than 125 social leaders in the South American country since January alone.

The protests coincidence with a particularly deadly week in Colombia in which seven social leaders were assassinated.

Political violence against social activists has risen in recent years despite the signing of a peace accord between the government and the leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). According to Colombia’s Ombudsman, more than 311 political murders have been registered since the accords were signed in November 2016.

This trend has escalated further since the June election of far-right presidential candidate Ivan Duque, with on average, one social leader being murdered each day since the election.

Vigils organised were held in Colombia's capital Bogota and Medellin, as well as more than 25 cities around the world including Sydney, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, London, New York, Rome and Buenos Aires.

In Sydney, United for Colombia is already organising another rally for August 4, 1pm at Bligh and Barney Reserve in The Rocks. They have also released the following sign-on statement. To add your name or organisation to the statement email unitedforcolombia1@gmail.com.

***

It is with great sadness, indignation and powerlessness that we receive each day the terrible news regarding the ongoing assassination of our social leaders while the government remains silent.

We have grave concerns for the human rights situation in Colombia and grave doubts about the future of the peace accords and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). We are also troubled by the reestablishment and empowerment of paramilitary groups that have taken arms against our leaders, many of them guarantors of the process of land restitution, human rights protectors in their communities, and leaders of the Humane Colombia movement that supported the presidential candidate Gustavo Petro in the recent elections.

We, Colombians and supporters living in Australia, want to make an urgent call to the national and international community, to governments, to social, political and solidarity organisations in Latin America, Australia and the world, and to individuals interested in developments regarding Colombia’s peace process and the imminent violation of human rights in Colombia to strongly come out in support of the following:

1. We demand that the incoming government, headed by Iván Duque, respect the peace accords, and guarantee its continuity and implementation as well as the prolongation of the Special Jurisdiction of Peace as a mechanism of transitional justice, in line with the agreements reached between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Peoples Army (FARC-EP) and the national government of outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos.

2. We ask that the incoming government of Iván Duque continue negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) in good faith and with a will for peace so that the accords come to fruition and an end can be put to so many years of civil war in Colombia.

3. We express our desire for peace, unity and reconciliation in a country that for decades has spilt blood and lived in misery. As Colombians living outside the country and supporters, we vehemently reject the systemic assassination of and threats against our social leaders and demand respect for life and freedom of expression, as stipulated in articles 11, 13, 16 and 20 of the Colombian Political Constitution.

We believe that dialogue and reconciliation for the purpose of coming up with mutual proposals and solutions, are the only manner in which to overcome the long social and armed conflict in Colombia that has left millions of victims, men and women in situations of forced displacement, disappeared, assassinated and exiled.

This is why a genuine and firm commitment on the part of the national government headed by incoming president Iván Duque is necessary.

4. We ask that the Colombian government act firmly to locate and put on trial those responsible for these actions. It is unacceptable that investigations are being reduced to conclusions that deemed them to be the result of “crimes of passion” or “common street violence” when it is evident that there is a clear pattern of assassinations of social, civic and popular leaders.

5. We ask that the international community, the United Nations and the International Criminal Court intervene in the human rights situation in Colombia. We demand transparency regarding the cases of massacres of populations and selective assassinations of more than 300 leaders in the past four years, and that the necessary action be taken to find and sentence those responsible for these types of actions.

Lastly, we call on Colombians living outside the country to remain united in their indignation and vehement rejection of violence. Colombia does not deserve a new civil war. Enough of so many deaths!

It is time for a Colombia where life, natural resources and freedom of expression are respected. It is time to leave indifference behind. It is time for solidarity, to work for our people and land. Being far away does not mean we care less, as this is above all an issue for humanity.

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