From the ” Death Fast ” to the Sacrifice, From the Great Resistance to the General Resistance

Free prisoners[2] in Turkish prisons raise the torch of revolution!

Anatolia is a region in which 72 people live intermingled and which provides a passage between Asia and Europe. For this reason, the land in which we live witnessed several wars throughout history. From the period of Rome to the Byzantine Empire, from the Ottoman state to the present day, the governments that came and went always oppressed the people.

The Republic of Turkey established in 1923 by the popular resistance against the occupation and the collapse of the Ottoman state after the First World War, starting in 1945, as it is today, represents the exploitation of peoples by a fascist regime with entirely collaborationist methods.

However, the socialists have always continued their struggle against the collaborationist and monopolistic oligarchy, creating 50 years of history. The prisons form one of the most important bases of this history. The revolutionaries of Turkey have never considered prisons as places to get out from with as few losses as possible. The prisons became the fortress of socialism and resistance against the policies of the oligarchy. The revolutionaries judged in the fascist courts turned the prisons into schools one by one and the struggle continued with all available methods, including actions of freedom.

Those who created this tradition were the prisoners of Dev-Sol[3] and of the Party-Front[4] who fought using the ideological force inspired by Mahir Çayan[5]. In Turkey especially, socialist ideology spread from ’68 onwards and there began to be revolutionary parties which, rejecting opportunism and reformism, debated what the socialist revolution in this country would look like. THKC’s strategy of revolutionary war under the command of Mahir Çayan along with its own leadership became an important symbol of our history. In the 1970s Mahir and his followers took English soldiers hostage in response to the death penalty for THKO[6] leaders and the 10 revolutionaries were martyred in the village Kızıldere in a house where they were besieged. That event has passed into our history known as the Massacre of Kızıldere and with the new generations as the seeds planted in the land of Anatolia, it became the part of the people. In the ’70s in Turkey, socialist thinking spread and took root. The same years are the years in which fascist terror increased. Revolutionaries, socialists and democrats were murdered and kidnapped in the street in broad daylight. In this way the oligarchy sowed terror among the population with massacres in order to ensure servitude. The revolutionaries used the legitimate right to resist the massacres by getting the oligarchy into difficulties. In parallel with the spread of liberal policies all over the world, the Turkish oligarchy also adopted what is known as the December the 24th Decisions which facilitated a new economic structure for the benefit of monopolies completely dependent on imperialism. In order to give life to these decisions against the power of the revolutionaries, all revolutionary democratic forces were dealt a hard blow with the military coup on September 12, 1980.

The years of the Military Junta and the recognition of political prisoners

The fascist military coup of September 12, 1980 imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey in one night. At the same time, it was a process with the reputation of having gone through torture, loss, massacres and forced collaborationism. Those years were a test for revolutionaries who were tried and imprisoned in military prisons. The prisoners of Dev-Sol continued their struggle in the prisons and, in order to gain the status of political prisoners, started a hunger strike until death in 1984 against the imposition of prisoner uniforms. The resistance was ended with victory. While not even the leaves could move during the years of the Junta, the political prisoners surrendering their lives gave four martyrs fighting against torture and uniforms and included conditions in prisons to the agenda of the whole world.

Although the oligarchy in Turkey brings different impositions in each period, on each occasion great resistances are lived and, despite the massacres, the revolutionary prisoners have never lost the power to resist. The hunger strike in ’84, representing a defeat to the Junta gave hope to the oppressed people and showed that the revolutionaries in the prisons would not surrender. In the period since the ’80s

In the period from the 1980s to the early 1990s, military judges and prosecutors attempted to convict the 14 prisoners of Dev-Sol in the courts of the Junta. However, it was the revolutionaries who judged fascism with their resistance and their defence prepared under the name “We’re Right, We’ll Win!”  With the “actions of freedom” (prison escapes) made during the judicial processes, they showed how powerless and desperate fascism was.

While the despair over the collapse of the Soviet Union spread all over the world, the 1990s in Anatolia were years in which the people organized themselves in the ranks of the revolution again, despite repression. In these years too, the prison front has become the school of revolution. During the ’90s, to improve physical conditions and due to political demands, the prisoners found themselves in various forms of resistance such as occupying the dormitories and taking the guards hostage. In order to eliminate the organized power of the prisoners, the oligarchy shaken by the actions of freedom for the first time tries to carry out the policy “divide and conquer”. However, the resistance and new hunger strikes clearly showed the character of the oligarchy as aggressive and as an enemy of the people. Many prisons in the 1990s suffered massacres. Dozens of revolutionaries in the prisons of Buca, Ümraniye, Diyarbakır, Ulucanlar, etc. suffered serious injuries and were killed in the torture operations.

In order to crush the rejection of collaborationism with imperialism by all kinds of political groups and the revolutionary struggle that was increasing in the prisons and poor neighbourhoods, the October 24 Decisions carried out many massacres inside and outside the prisons. While these years practically normalized severe physical torture and disappearances during arrest, Party-Front expanded its presence in the mountains and in the countryside.

In the years when Marxist-Leninist parties all over the world abandoned the revolution with desperation and ceasefires and turned towards reformism, Anatolia was living the bloodiest years of the revolutionary struggle. As a consequence of the increasing struggle, all sections of the people were exposed to the ferocious attacks of fascism. Again, the front of free prisoners in prisons became the school of resistance and socialism. Against the “coffins”, the cells so small that the prisoner can stand but cannot sit or move, which were established in the prison of Eskişehir to break the organizations in the prisons in 1996, a new hunger strike started. This resistance, carried out with other leftist organizations, won at the price of 12 martyrs. In full view the oligarchy took a step backwards in terms of isolation policies, however, soon after the construction of F-type[7] prisons began.

The change of mindset or death!

From ’96 to the year 2000, the attacks of the oligarchy and the demands of the bourgeoisie increased. The government, which perceived the revolutionaries as the only impediment to the implementation of IMF policies, once again began to attack the prisons. The consequence of the US policies in the Middle East and the common interest with the imperialism of the Turkish oligarchy was the attack with the policies of isolation which was valued as “Either the change of mindset, or death”.  Imperialism and its collaborationist oligarchy, considered as their biggest obstacle the only hope of the Turkish people, the Party-Front. Related to this, their objectives were the organized life in prisons and the tradition of free prisoners. The response of the Party-Front to the attacks was clear: hunger strike…

The oligarchy insisted on unconditional surrender. The ideology of the left-wing movement apart from the Party-Front was not clear and has not shown a firm stance. In the 20 prisons where political prisoners were held, 100s of hunger strikers suffered the massacre known as “Operation Return to Life”. Fascism, frightened by the influence of the hunger strike among the population, used the massacre to put an end to the resistance. The organised power of the people who were the target of the December 19th massacre found itself in the dynamics of resistance. For this reason all kinds of lies, demagogy and censorship were used. Resisting for 3 days, the free prisoners showed that they will not surrender. In the December 19 massacre, 6 women were burned alive and 28 revolutionaries were murdered. The oligarchy committed massacre and torture in their own prisons against the prisoners using gases banned for war use. That way you couldn’t even autopsy the bodies burned by the chemicals.

The revolutionaries’ struggle against isolation and the F-type prisons inaugurated with the massacre gained a different impetus. Party-Front continued with the resistance and provided the organization of the struggle of life against isolation in the conditions in which other organizations abandoned the struggle and began to attack those who resisted. In the Great Resistance that lasted for 7 years, with 122 martyrs outside and inside the prisons, sacrificial and punitive actions were carried out. In spite of total censorship, forced feeding interventions, bribes of a release without charges, after 7 years the Party-Front had won another victory with organization of life in resistance and production in the F-type prisons, at the same time that the tradition of forcing the oligarchy to take a step back was spreading.

From the 80’s to the 90’s,
from the Great Resistance to today,
the free prisoners continue in continuous resistance for 2.5 years.

Today also continue the attacks against the prisoners who made the oligarchy take a step back with the Great Resistance, with burnt bodies that melted from hunger day after day. The free prisoners have again been resisting for 2.5 years for failing to implement the right of conversation accepted by memorandum, against the deportation policies to disrupt efforts of organization, limitation in number of books, etc.

In July 2016 (before July 15th when the state of emergency was proclaimed) the prisoners belonging to the Front began with the General Resistance burning their cells in protest against the violation of rights in prisons.

Punishment of:

  • Uniforms,
  • Deportations,
  • Limitation of the number of books,
  • Prohibition of visits,
  • Composed sentences[8],
  • Round-ups,
  • Oral reports by telephone,
  • Air conditioning in cages,
  • Video surveillance,
  • Inspection while handcuffed,
  • Impediment of treating sick prisoners,
  • Padded cells.

30 free prisoners set fire in cells within the scope of resistance in response to these punishments, numerous attacks and all kinds of immoralities. Again, against each revolutionary a disciplinary investigation was opened asking for hundreds of years of prison and in two and a half years there were more than 400 deportations.

In two and a half years there were several attacks in all the prisons and victories were proportionate to the resistance. In Turkey, especially in the year 2017 after the campaign for Nuriye and Semih[9], the state of emergency laws were annulled with the popular resistance. While the Turkish oligarchy continued to attack the People’s Front, since the resistance in 2017 the offensive has turned into intensive imprisonment terror. Based on statements obtained under torture from an informant, in the period between 2017 and 2018 almost 200 people were arrested. Sick, young, old, children… were illegally arrested and for the first time testified before a judge a year later.

The lawyers of the Office of People’s Advocates who were imprisoned in the same operation supported by the statement of the same informant, had their right to defence violated and were sentenced to 159 years in prison. In the unlawful trial from beginning to end, the lawyers who were defending themselves were released a year later. However, with political intervention, the commission of judges who signed the release, signed an arrest warrant 10 hours later and the committee was dissolved. Instead, a new committee specially appointed for this case, after two hearings in the empty courtroom passed the verdict .

The judicial process against the people’s lawyers really shows what the Turkish oligarchy thinks about the revolutionary prisoners. The revolutionaries imprisoned with the false trial methods continue with various methods of struggle on the prison front.

Another example of the convictions in the false trials is the violation of the prisoners’ right to defence with the system called SEGBİS (Sesli ve Görüntülü Bilişim Sistemi). By the method called “Audio and Video Informatics System” the prisoners and convicts in the prisons do not participate in the trial, but have an hearing using a simple screen and camera installed in the prison. With this system prisoners are made to see their own trial on a television screen, without being able to see anyone from judges to the prosecutor and his lawyer making the defense without understanding what is being talked about in court. As for those who do not accept this imposition and demand to be in court, they are forced to go in vehicles with cells, or even face the sentence of 10 years in jail without having made the defense. As an example, Alişan Taburoğlu, a 21-year-old university student was sentenced to 21 years in prison with the imposition of SEGBİS without having made the defense. We can reproduce more examples like this one. It is the judges and prosecutors who, with a view that does not even reach the level of medieval trials coupled with 21st century technology, violate the principle of a fair and face-to-face hearing.

The General Resistance is a process that was part of the resistance of all prisoners imprisoned in the last two and a half years. Today, 305 revolutionary prisoners in 29 prisons resist fascist impositions. 65 women, 2 children and 238 men prisoners in 29 prisons, at the same time 3 times a day carry out actions of shouting slogans and slamming the door.

What distinguishes the General Resistance from other processes is the participation of all the prisoners, paralysis of the functioning of the prisons and realization of many new actions that until now were not carried out in the prisons. As a general rule, when leaving their dormitories or cells, revolutionary prisoners repeat their demands shouting slogans in the corridors. In addition to this, in every attempt to turn them back, the prisoners are planted where they are and sit. No matter how much they are dragged or carried in the air by the guards, in many prisons this action brought victory. In cases of isolation and physical torture, prisoners gradually increase their actions and leave the ordinary with new forms of resistance. For example, against the torture of isolation, every day in Silivri prison number 9, while sitting while closing the yard doors. If we think that in total 20 cells make a sitting, then the closing of the yard door lasts 2-3 hours.

In cases of increased torture and against deportations the cells are set on fire. When the guards enter the cell to do the count, they are overtaken and run down the corridor shouting demands. Along with this, by writing slogans in the yard and slamming the door by all revolutionary prisoners during each action, the resistance grows like a fist. Just the action of slamming the door renders dozens of doors useless.

Whatever the free prisoners of the General Resistance dispose of, any situation that becomes a form of resistance is a very dynamic and shocking process for the oligarchy. To prevent 305 prisoners from being together, their separation into 29 prisons with a deportation every two months really shows the desperation in which the oligarchy finds itself. Against the graffiti written using fruit and vegetables, the prison authorities stopped distributing vegetables. However, this cannot be applied for a long time. Despite numerous searches after the fires in the cells and even the refusal to give lighters to the smokers, the prisoners managed to set the cells on fire.

Every period from the past to the present day the front of the prisons, like the General Resistance, is a base of resistance and attacks regardless of form and intensity. For the revolutionaries of Turkey, for the prisoners of the Party-Front, it is a resistance base that does not surrender to fascism and has never broken its bond with the people. From yesterday until today, the prisoners’ front has responded with resistance to every fascist attack. The resistance is the hope within the people against torture and the violation of rights in the prisons. At the same time it is the mirror of the struggle itself.

Today, by the way of the material production and the continuous resistances, continuous ideological development, not allowing the mind to stay inside the four walls of the prison and reaching all the peoples of the world the isolation policy of the F-type prisons has been broken. Resistance and production is the fundamental principle of free prisoners. Processes and policies, possibilities and methods may change, however while the prisoners’ determination to resist continues, prisons will remain the school of revolution

.[1] Büyük Ölüm Orucu in Turkish or Great Death fast refers to the hunger strike that lasted 7 years (2000-2007) and took the lives of 122 revolutionaries.

[2] Free prisoner is the way to refer to revolutionary political prisoners.

[3] Devrimci Sol, known by the short name Dev-Sol, means Revolutionary Left-organization formed in 1978, antecedent of DHKP/C formed in 1994.

[4] Parti-Cephe in Turkish refers to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party (DHKP/C)

[5] Mahir Çayan is one of the historical leaders of the Turkish revolutionary movement, founder of the Turkish People’s Liberation Party (THKP/C).

[6] The Turkish People’s Liberation Army (THKO) was an organization established by Deniz Gezmiş, another of the leaders of the Turkish revolutionary movement. He was arrested with Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan.

[7] F-type prisons do not have shared dormitories but individual cells with little space and no contact with other prisoners.

[8] In the case of violation of provisional release sentences are joined.

[9] Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça were education officials dismissed from their jobs via decree for criticizing government policies.


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