I have recently returned from a visit to Istanbul with the SPOT delegation (Solidarity with the People of Turkey). The following day (15 January) the Turkish Parliament gave preliminary approval to a new constitution which will increase the powers of President Erdogan. There will be a second round of voting later this week and, if approved, a referendum will follow probably in April. It is a power grab by Erdogan. The new constitution will allow the president to appoint and dismiss ministers, and it will abolish the post of prime minister for the first time in Turkey’s history. There will be at least one vice-president! The bill’s final articles were passed late on Sunday, with the governing AK Party (AKP) gaining the three-fifths majority it needed with the support of the Nationalists. It is also rumoured that there could be a general election in the spring.
The delegation arrived in Istanbul on 11 January and in the evening met with LGBT representatives who were interviewed by journalists Owen Jones and Abi Wilkinson, who were member of the delegation. We heard about the serious attacks on members of the LGBT community and how they were fighting back.
The following day we visited a number of newspapers and journalists who are under threat from the authorities and earlier in the day visited representatives of the Turkish Journalists Association and the Journalists Union of Turkey who updated us on the current situation. They told us that currently 144 journalists are in prison for just doing their jobs as journalists. There are reports that prisoners face beatings and torture. They also told of us of the work they are doing to defend journalists in the courts and reminded us of the importance of our solidarity work with them, which really makes a difference. (See also: https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-bd06-Turkey-Writers-defiant-as-trial-is-adjourned The following day we visited opposition party representatives from the CHP (Republican Peoples’ Party) HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and the EMEP (Labour Party of Turkey).
During the evening we met members from the campaign to free journalist Ahmet Şık for background see: http://www.cpbf.org.uk/body.php?subject=international&doctype=news&id=3384. They are very confident of success and are building a great campaign to achieve this. We returned to London on 14 January inspired by the courage and determination of those we met (and those we could not who are in prison). They need our continuing solidarity in these dark times and you can help by raising the question of Turkey in your trade union branch and inviting a speaker from SPOT to update you on developments. Let me know if you want a speaker (email email@example.com)
You can read a report by Owen Jones in the Guardian of 18 January at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/18/turkey-democracy-erdogan-trump-authoritarians