This time round, the Turkish government got what it wanted. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, perhaps the only two people in the country who had no reservations about sending troops to Lebanon, brought the vote in parliament as far forward as legally possible and railroaded their own party’s deputies into voting in favour. We needed 85 to vote against, only 15 did so. The government spent hours explaining how the troops would not fight, not touch Hizbollah, not do anything to help anyone but the Lebanese!
We had a mere six days to organise a demonstration in Ankara. A meeting of the Global Peace and Justice Coalition managed to bring the trade unions, professional organisations and many others on board. At six days notice, and on a weekday, we had 10,000 demonstrating in Ankara’s main square against participation in the UN “peace” force.
The vote, which gave the government parliamentary permission to send troops abroad if it deems necessary, is not the end of the story. Opinion polls indicate that anything between 60% and 80% of the population is opposed to Turkish participation in UNIFIL-2. The move is widely (and correctly) seen as buckling under American pressure and doing Israel’s dirty work.
On the day the troops sail out to Lebanon we shall be organising demonstrations and press conferences across the country. On 23-30 September, we are planning a series of activities to highlight the real purpose of the foreign troops in Lebanon and to call for their withdrawal. On 30 September, Tariq Ali will be doing what we hope will be a very big anti-war meeting as part of the Turkey Social Forum.
In a separate but very significant development, the families of two Turkish soldiers killed while fighting against Kurdish guerillas in South-east Turkey have refused to make the usual anti-Kurdish, pro-war speeches for the media.
One mother said “No, I will not say I’m happy my son was martyred for the good of the motherland”, and the other blamed the state for sending her son to his death, untrained and unprotected. This is utterly unprecedented and it would be impossible to exaggerate its significance in denting the apparently impregnable shield of nationalist militarism in Turkey.