44th anniversary of the Maras massacre: the CIA-backed Turkish massacre

Taken from Challenge Magazine:

This week marks the 44th anniversary of the Maras massacre in Turkey. Between 19-26 December 1978, the fascist militias within Turkey enacted a bloody massacre in the city of Maras and the surrounding villages. This brutal murder of hundreds of people, was joint-sanctioned by Turkish and American intelligence forces. The unspeakable atrocity was designed to repress a strong communist, trade unionist, and ethnic minority rights movement in the city, and terrorise the rest of the country into submission.

The catalyst for the massacre was the bombing of a screening of When Will the Sun Rise (Güneş Ne Zaman Doğacak), an anti-Soviet movie which depicts the nationalist counter-revolutionary forces in the Azerbaijan SSR and their exile to the gulags by Stalin. The perpetrators of the bombing are commonly believed to have come from the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) of Turkey. At the time, the MHP blamed members of the powerful communist forces that existed in the city and the Kurdish/Alevi population which made up the majority of the city demographic as well as its progressive political organisations.

The armed wing of the MHP, known as the Grey Wolves, were the main perpetrators of the massacre. This force was founded in reaction to the rising communist currents that swept Turkey during the 1960s and 70s. Because of the threat posed by the democratic and workers’ forces, a CIA operation– Operation Gladio– was orchestrated to hinder the realisation of any democratic and anti-fascist victory across Europe. The plan relied on the recruitment of fugitive Nazi individuals and organisations. With the involvement of the Uzbek Nazi collaborator Ruzi Nazar, the CIA was able to recruit the reactionary nationalist and extreme Islamist members in Turkish society to coalesce them into an anti-communist front known as the “Nationalist Front” (Milliyetçi Cephe, MC). This front relied on militaristic violence and dissemination of fear to the organisations of the working class and ethnic minorities of Turkey. The Grey Wolves—now one of the largest far-right organisations in the world– are inextricably derived from Operation Gladio and the Nationalist Front.

Ruzi Nazar (centre), a founding member of the Wermacht Turkestan Legion and Radio Free Europe, and a member of the CIA, with fellow Nazi commanders.

Under the auspices of their CIA handler, Robert Alexander Peck, the Grey Wolves were ordered to enact their false propaganda campaign and the horrific massacre of minority groups and left-wing political forces in Maras. This was a larger part of the wider attacks they instigated throughout the region in cities such as Sivas, Malatya, Qocgiri, and more. It was with the blessing of the CIA-subordinate Turkish intelligence services that the Police, Army, and Government would never enter the city of Maras during the pogrom, and instead let the city burn at the hands of the Grey Wolves.

During the first day of the massacre in Maras, the Grey Wolves bombed a well-known left-wing café. That same night the Grey Wolves murdered trade unionist teachers Hacı Çolak and Mustafa Yüzbaşıoğlu during their walk home from work. The Grey Wolves would then attack the funeral processions for Çolak and Yüzbaşıoğlu.

The Grey Wolves would mark buildings with an ‘X’ to signify that the residents of the building are Alevis (a religious minority group in Turkey). This terror tactic is continued to this day by nationalist forces in Turkey. After this, the Grey Wolves then murdered the eldest male in the house, looted the building, and then burned it down. Trade Union buildings which belonged to the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DİSK) and the Teachers’ Association of Turkey (TÖB-Der) were destroyed. The latter trade union was the one officially blamed for the bombing, by the MHP.

Survivors of the massacre recall hearing chants on the streets:

Kill them, they’re not real Muslims; after we kill them, we will enter heaven; the only solution is to murder them.

Reports by survivor’s state that children were burned alive in boilers, which were then used to burn down houses with the adults trapped inside the basement. Babies were nailed on trees through their forehead. Women raped, and left impaled by wooden stakes through their vagina. An untold number of sickening atrocities were committed, yet the Turkish state has continually refused to conduct an inquiry, or even so much as acknowledge it as a massacre.

As a result, the real number of dead remains unknown, whereas official figures state 111 dead and 1,000 injured, Alevi associations state it is at least 500 dead and 3,000 injured. The British Alevi Federation (BAF) demands the arrest of the perpetrators of the attack and the proper burial for the victims.

Soon after the attack, the region was placed under martial law, but similar anti-communist and ethnic minority massacres continued throughout the region. This culminated in the 1980 coup in Turkey, green-lit by the CIA following a visit to Washington D.C. by Turkish Air Force General Ali Tahsin Şahinkaya[1]. The period of the military junta that followed the coup resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish communists in the country.

Only 321 out of the 20,000 alleged pogromists were sentenced to prison, all 321 would later be pardoned and released from prison in 1991. Certain perpetrators of the attack later became government ministers, such as Ökkeş Kenger who evaded a prison sentence and was later elected as an MP of the Turkish Parliament. Furthermore, the indifference of the state to the actions in Maras and its continued repression of minorities and leftist is shown in the current government makeup of Turkey as an alliance between the AKP and MHP.

The last legal remembrance of the Maras Massacre in Maras, before a ban in 2018.

The Alevis and Kurds, which once made up 80% of the population before the massacre, now number a mere hundreds out of the over million people in the province, sundered and removed in the legacy of depraved violence.

As the capitalist crisis ever-deepens, and the people turn to a solution, fascism inevitably rears its ugly head as the appendage of a dying ruling class’s interest. Let Maras never be forgotten. Let Maras serve as a reminder of why the class struggle is not simply a social phenomenon we can leisurely ponder over a cup of tea. It is conflict we must win. The sides of this war could not be seen more clearly than through the lens of Maras: socialism for working people, or the sanguine barbarism of the Western intelligence agencies and their savage lickspittles.

It is the duty of the organisers of the working class to remember those we have lost, carrying their spirits in our hearts. Nothing will stand in our way as we fight for a just world.

Berkan Çelebi, is a member of YCL’s South Yorkshire branch

Source: Challenge Magazine