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Turks begin to mobilize against war

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  • Fred Feldman
    CounterPunch February 1, 2003 Report From Istanbul We Won t Be US Soldiers: Turkish Citizens Say No to the War on Iraq by BEHZAD YAGHAMAIAN The opposition to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2003
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      February 1, 2003

      Report From Istanbul
      We Won't Be US Soldiers: Turkish Citizens Say No to the War on Iraq


      The opposition to war has been slowly building up in Turkey. There have
      been many demonstrations and anti-war meetings across the country. Turks
      oppose the war and the presence of U.S. forces in their country. War is a
      subject of conversation in private and public gatherings. Students and
      academicians, journalists and publishers, artists, and ordinary people show
      their resentment of the war in different forms: petitions, public
      declarations, peace forums, and anti-war rallies. The United States has
      requested/demanded the use of Turkey's land and air bases, the stationing
      of 80,000 soldiers-according to some reports-in Turkey, and access to the
      country's naval bases in the Black Sea! For many, this is a near occupation
      of the country by the United States.

      For many ordinary people, the U.S. attack on Iraq is an attack on Islam and
      Mulsims. A taxi driver, and a father of three told me that the war was
      about oil and money, a ploy by Bush to get richer from resources owned by
      the Mulsims. Another cabby called for a union of Mulsim nations to defeat
      the U.S. and Israel. As an alternative to joining the EU, he proposed the
      formation of an Islamic Union between Turkey and its neighbors: Iraq, Iraq,
      and Syria. An older driver called George Bush the "Satan." Many in Turkey
      share these sentiments. They feel assaulted, pushed around and
      disrespected, and violated by the United States. Anger towards the U.S. is
      growing in the country.

      Nearly a month ago, more than one thousand Turks-mainly intellectuals,
      students, and unionists-came together at a peace forum to listen to
      speeches by Noam Chomsky, Tarik Ali, and others. They cheered, and burst
      into clapping every few minutes with Tarik Ali's criticisms of the close
      alliance between Turkey and the U.S., his attack on the history of the U.S.
      involvement in the region, and his call for a broad and inclusive anti-war
      movement in Turkey. A young person from the audience, a member of "an
      anti-capitalist organization," asked Tarik Ali for guidance in forming an
      anti-war movement. Ali's response and his call for action by labor unions
      created a thunder of excitement and clapping in the auditorium.

      January was a month of intensified anti-war activities by the Turks. On
      January 26, a large and diverse crowd gathered outside Istanbul University
      to demonstrate against the war. They came in the thousands-middle class men
      and women in their western outfit, and those from poor quarters of
      Istanbul; women under the Islamic headscarf; children on the shoulders of
      their parents; workers and unionists, and student; and Arab women in their
      traditional garbs. They came from all walks of life, all smiled, all looked
      defiant and jubilant.

      This was a postmodern protest against the war-an unlikely block of the
      seculars, Mulsims, syndicalists, and the socialists-created by the hawkish
      U.S. war plans in the region. There were colorful flags and banners,
      whistles, drums, the sound of clapping hands, cheering, and chanting. There
      were many pictures of Che Guvara wearing the black and white checkered
      Palestinian scarf, and others with his landmark cap!

      The crowd chanted without stopping for a moment. They linked the Israeli
      persecution and killing of the Palestinians with the U.S. war crimes in
      Iraq; condemned George Bush and Ariel Sharon, and opposed the "Imperialist
      War." Some called for socialism, others cried Allah-o Akbar. The hijabed
      women walked in groups of twenty or thirty; some whistled; others jeered,
      clapped, and protested with joy. They carried banners; posed before
      cameras, and protested outside the university they were barred from
      entering with their headscarves.

      Peace signs in the air, men and women jumped up and down, danced to the
      beat of the drums, and loudly denounced the United States in their
      theatrical body movements and words. The message was clear. The U.S. was
      not to be welcomed in Turkey, not by its citizens.

      Behzad Yaghmaian is the author of Social Change in Iran: An Eyewitness
      Account of Dissent, Defiance, and New Movements for Rights (SUNY Press,

      He can be reached at: behzad_yaghmaian@....
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