Istanbul: proletarian districts declare ‘autonomy’

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)

Counter-terrorism units of the Istanbul police have been carrying out raids on suspected operatives of the PKK and allied armed-left faction DHKP-C. The July street-fighting was sparked after a raid on a supposed DHKP-C safe-house left a female suspect dead. Police said she was wanted on suspicion of preparing a suicide attack. (Daily Sabah, Aug. 16; BGN News, July. 26)

The new street clashes come as Istanbul was hit by flash-floods following heavy rains—an increasingly common occurance, blamed on the destruction of green spaces in the city's recent development blitz. (Today's Zaman, Aug. 24) Over-development has been an issue in recent protest movements in Istanbul, pointing to the global convergence between issues of class justice and issues of urban ecology and control of space.

Fighting meanwhile continues in the country's east. Two soliders were killed Aug. 24 in a roadside bombing blamed on the PKK  in the Semdinli district of Hakkari province near the border with Iraq. Also that day, a police officer in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province was killed in an ambush by presumed PKK militants. (AFP, Aug. 24)

For all the brutality in Turkey, it is heartening to see resistance spreading from Kurds to ethnic Turks. As we've said before: Erdogan fears the Kurds for the same reason the rulers of Beijing fear the Tibetans… threat of the contagion spreading to the dominant ethnicity.