There are several democratic and revolutionary student organisations in Turkey. We want to tell the history of the history of the student movement, using Devrimci Genclik, the largest and most progressive movement at present, as an example. (The list of events isn’t complete, but it’s sufficient to get a picture of the students’ reality in Turkey.)
Devrimci Genclik was founded in 1969 and the movement was declared illegal in 1980, after the military coup. The students never narrowed their work to university affairs. They see their problems in the context of the political situation in the country. This is reflected in their actions, in which they fight at the side of the workers, the inhabitants of the gececondus, and the peasants. The members of Devrimci Genclik have always been subjected to arrests, torture and executions. Today, its tradition is carried on by TÖDEF. TÖDEF publishes a magazine, called “Devrimci Genclik”.
The student movement started to organise, like elsewhere in the world, in the sixties. The first “Fiker Kluebue” (Opinion Club) was founded in 1956 at the faculty of political science in Ankara. Its activities were restrained to discussions. Together with the better organising of the students against the repression by the DP (Democratic Party), the confrontations with the police increased. In one of these street fights, the student Turan Emeksiz was killed on April 28, 1960. He was the first martyr of the student movement in Turkey. There were many to follow. The military coup in 1960, led by patriotic officers, guaranteed democratic rights, giving opportunities for a swift development of democratic structures. But this freedom was not to last.
The first major student demonstration occurred in 1965, protesting the murder of two workers of the mine in Kozlu. The miners were murdered by the police during a strike. The students participated in the protests of the workers, the land occupations of the peasants, and the struggle of the inhabitants of the gececondus. In July, 1968, they went to the 6. Fleet of the USA, throwing the soldiers into the sea. At the universities, attacks by fascists increased while the police watched idle. In October, 1968, the “Turkiye Devrimci Genclik Federasyonu” (Turkish Revolutionary Youth Federation) was founded, establishing a revolutionary line for the student movement. June 15-16, 1969: General strike – with a participation of several hundreds of thousands the largest manifestation in Turkish history. The strike was aimed against a proposed law, stating that only unions who organised one third of all insured workers were allowed to represent the workers, thus effectively eliminating all democratic and revolutionary unions. The demonstrations ended in a massacre: the police opened fire upon the crowd.
From this student movement in 1969, several marxist-leninist parties originated such as the THKP-C (Turkish People’s Liberation Party and Front), propagating and leading the armed struggle, connected with the mass organisations.
March 12, 1971: Coup by fascist elements in the army, banning all democratic institutions. All major posts were occupied by fascists. The fascist attacks culminated in 1975 and 1976. There were just two possibilities for the youth, bowing for the fascist attacks, or resist them. 1973: IYÖKD – Istanbul Yuksek Ögrenim Kueltuer Dernegi – (Cultural Association of the Istanbul Academies) was founded, organising the first protests against fascism, NATO, and imperialism. 1974: Protests against price increases of the IETT (public transport). The price increases were reversed a couple of days later. July, 1974: Protests against the occupation of Cyprus: “For a Free and Independent Cyprus”. Boycott at the academies against the student fees. December 19, 1974: Protests against the murder of Sahin Aydin, stabbed by fascists. !975: A fascist front was established by the Adalet Partisi, the MSP – Milli Selame Partisi – (predecessor of the Refah Partisi) and the MHP. The armed attacks by the fascists increase. January 23, 1975: Kerim Yaman, an engineering student, is murdered by fascist. The students kidnap his body from the hospital, bringing it to his family to enable a funeral. Thousands of people occupy a university building in Istanbul. February, 1975: 8 Kurdish peasants are murdered in Urfa Viransehir. The students protest and demand justice. April 24: The worker Abdi Önen is wounded during a confrontation. The police arrests him, but he is not brought to hospital, and as a consequence he bleeds to death. The police uses armoured vehicles, guns and grenades against the protests. The students resist, using bricks and Molotov-cocktails. December 1, 1975: Cezmi Yilmaz and Halit Pelitoezue, students at the Galatasaray Engineering Faculty, are killed by fascists. Tens of thousands witness their funeral. The police opens fire upon the procession, students set up barricades.
January, 1976: The student UEzer Elmas is murdered during the occupation of the Mining Faculty. May 1,1976: Students march with the workers, holding portraits of those who fell. Many students are murdered this year. Demonstrations are attacked. IYÖKD is outlawed by the DGM (State Security Court)
1977: “Devrimci Genclik” is founded again after the ban by the military junta. It unifies revolutionary students of several cities, taking Mahir Cayan’s “Permanent Revolution” as a guiding principle. It organises demonstrations, protests, commemoration ceremonies, attracting a lot of people. March 3, 1977: Major confrontations with the police during the commemoration of the murder of Mahir Cayan.
During this period there are, regretfully, also confrontations among the left occur, taking one life. Devrimci Genclik condemns these acts because they only serve the fascists and its distances itself from the responsible groups.
Devrimci Genclik participates at the protests of the workers, such as at Profilo (1976), the pharmacists’ strike (1977), the strike at MESS (1978), and the strike at Pancar Motor (1977-1978). Together with the population, it fights in the gececondus in Umraniye and Kagithane (1977), against the demolition of their houses. A series of acts of resistance are waged in 1977 against the visit of the Chilean war ship Esmeralda. the murder of 2 Palestinians in Mogadishu, and for the Polisario in the Western Sahara. April 1977: The student Cigdem Yildir is murdered. His funeral becomes a anti-fascist manifestation. In this week alone, 10 students are murdered in Ankara. May 1, 1977: Almost 50.000 people march in the ranks of Devrimci Genclik. In total 250-300 thousand people join the demonstration. The police opens fire upon the people, murdering 34 people. Streetfights occur.
March 16, 1978: 7 students are killed during confrontations with fascists. October 20, 1978: Prof. Bedri Karafakioglu is murdered by fascists. November 4, 1978: The student Numan Kaygusuz is murdered by fascists.
1979:“Devrimci Sol” emerges from this movement, connecting the workers’ movement with the student movement, conducting the armed struggle with the THKP-C as an example.
September 12, 1980: MILITARY COUP
With the military coup, the imperialists react against the growing organisation of the people. All democratic organisations are banned, hundreds of people are murdered, thousands are arrested and tortured, countless people go into exile.
A fascist system of education is installed. Thousands of new books are written and prescribed for education. 1981: The military installs the YOK, the Turkish Academic Council. This body at the faculties dictates the curriculum, the criteria for admission and exams and disciplinary procedures. Fascism enters the universities, destroying all democratic rudiments. Professors who do not adjust are sacked, or even arrested.
It takes a long while for the progressive forces to recover from this blow. The struggle is waged in these years by the political prisoners and their relatives.
1984: The Death Fast of the political prisoners, which lasts for 73 days and in which 4 of our comrades die, gives new strength to the people outside the prisons to continue the struggle.
1986: The student Isa Tanriverdi is excluded from university. In protest against the YOK, he commits suicide. On October 27, some 500 students go out on the streets to protest against the YOK. The police attacks them. In the years to come, this protest will be repeated on October 27. November 7, 1986: Students go on hunger strike against the YOK.
April 10, 1987: Protest in Ankara against the fascist system of education. After the police arrests 3 people, the protest spreads to other universities and later to other cities like Izmir, Adana, Bursa and, of course, Istanbul. On April 14, thousands of students take to the streets: “Down with fascism, long live our resistance!” In Istanbul, the police surrounds the demonstration with armoured vehicles. Violent confrontations occur. 63 persons are arrested and subjected to severe torture. May 1, 1987: Despite the ban, people go out into the streets, demanding their rights. Salih Kul and Ozturk Acar are shot.
While some said “Actions now are suicidal”, Devrimci Genclik took to the streets with slogans like “When the rights are not given, they will be taken!”
April 28, 1988:The students hold a commemoration for Turan Emeksiz, the first martyr of the student movement. As a reaction against the arrests, the university board is occupied. 300 students are arrested and tortured. As one group, they go into hunger strike. May 1, 1988: Despite the repression and the massacres, 5.000 students and workers march to Taksim square. The police attacks. Barricades are put up, and street fights occur. Protest against the massacre in Tuzla/Istanbul in which 4 fighters of the TKP/ML (Turkiye Komunist Partisi/Marxist Leninist) were murdered by the police. Protest against the decree of August 1 which aims at the restriction of prisoners’ rights. Protest against the collaboration between the university administration and the police in Diyarbakir.
1982-1989:Trial against the members of Devrimci Sol. Because there are more than 1.000 accused, the trial is held in a large hall. At this trial, the prisoners read their statement “Hakliyiz Kazanacayiz!” (We are right, and we will win!) The right to defend themselves was won by the prisoners through the Death Fast of 1984. In their statement (2 books), the prisoners analyse the history of Turkey, fascism and imperialism, they accuse the state and its institutions for being responsible for the misery and the repression in the victory, and they describe their ideology. Hundreds of students witness the trial every day. The court is thus transformed into lecture-room.
May 1, 1989: Again thousands of workers, students and inhabitants of the gececondus gather to demand their demands. The student M. Akif Dalci is shot by the police. 6.000 students gather for the 20 year ceremony of Devrimci Genclik in Istanbul. December 1: armed fascists attack a university in Istanbul. 3.000 students protest and occupy the university. In the night, the police wants to evict the terrain. For hours the students defend themselves with Molotov-cocktails and barricades.
March 1, 1990: A plainclothes policeman who wants to spy on a student meeting is unmasked, beaten up, and his weapon is taken away. Thereupon the police attack. Again: confrontations with barricades, Molotov-cocktails… Hundreds of people are arrested and severely tortured.
In 1990, IYÖ-DER (Istanbul University Association) is founded.
November 6, 1990: First general university boycott against the YOK, school fees, the war, price increases, repression and terror. A lot of students in the country participate. Of course, there are hindrances as well. To weaken the boycott, false dates are spread. Days before, the police starts to arrest students. In Eskisehir alone, 100 students are arrested. During the boycott there are several attacks by the police. IYÖ-DER is temporarily shut down.
January 3, 1991: On this day the whole people shows its opposition against the regime of Ozal. Workers and civil servants lay down their work, shops stay closed, busses are not driving. Housewives symbolically show their empty pots, the garbage is not collected, even the shopkeepers in the bazaar keep their shops closed. There are universities which stay completely empty. Birtan, who participated in this protest, is arrested 6 days later when he leaves the university in Ankara. On January 16, he dies under torture.
March 19, 1991: TÜDEF- Turkiye Ogrenci Dernekleri Federasyonu (Federation of Student Associations) is founded. Several student associations such as AYÖ-DER in Ankara, UL-DER in Bursa, IYÖ-DER in Istanbul, KUEYO-DER in Kutahya, TYÖ-DER in Trabzon, SUEÖ-DER in Konya, EYÖ-DER in Izmir and KAYÖ-DER in Kayseri unite.
The main goal of TÜDEF is the abolition of the YOK, but it also is concerned with the situation in the country. TÜDEF considers itself as the mouth-piece of the organised students. One of those who contributed to this unity is Ismail Bahceci who gets “disappeared” in 1995.
April 10, 1991: A university boycott is waged with the main demand: “Kurdistan for the Kurdish people!” In this year, the students start with information tables to give advice to new students, but also informing them about the resistance and politics. These tables are attacked over and over again by the police. August 4, 1991: On this day, Seher Sahin, a member of IYÖ-DER, who mans one of these stands is dragged into the university building by the police. He is beaten up and afterwards they throw him out of a window on the 3rd floor. She dies 3 days later. The investigation against the responsible policemen does not lead to a trial. October 31, 1991: From the 300 delegates who want to participate in the 1st TÜDEF congress, 200 are arrested and tortured. But the congress is held anyway, witnessed by the parents of Seher Sahin.
November 6, 1991: University boycott.
Protest against the opening of the isolation prison in Eskisehir. The 23-year old Murat Ozsat, who participates in these protests, is arrested when he leaves the university in Gaziantep, where a solidarity hunger strike is held. He is murdered under torture.
Campaigns against torture and executions.
Devrimci Genclik organises “Newroz festivities” at the universities. These are brutally attacked by the police, many people get arrested. April 1992: Campaign to end the police presence on the universities. May 5, 1992: Husamettin Yaman and Soner Gul are arrested and “disappear”. October 1992: The IYÖ-DER student Ayhan Efeoglu disappears in police custody. November 6, 1992: University boycott. After students get arrested during a demonstration, the police station at the Edebiyat University in Istanbul is attacked with Molotov-cocktails.
March 12, 1993: The police opens fire upon the students who just started a campaign against the education fees. April 30, 1993: Sengul Yildirim and Ugur Yasar, TÜDEF students, are murdered in their house by the Anti-Terror Unit. The only witness was able to escape this massacre. Months later, when she wants to testify in the trial against the responsible policemen, she gets arrested and is sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. November 5, 1993: University boycott. This time the boycott is joined by scholars of several high schools.
January 5, 1994:The student Ali Efeoglu, a member of IYÖ-DER, is arrested and “disappears”. As a protest against his “disappearance”, the main party office of the SHP is occupied. All participants get arrested. November 7, 1994: University boycott. The owner of a university canteen who gives information to the police, gets punished, his canteen is destroyed. The car of a university director who sexually harasses female students is set on fire. The fights with civic fascist increase again. When the democratic and revolutionary students hit back, the police intervenes violently, arrests a lot of students, tortures them, and sometimes lets them “disappear”.
January 12, 1995: In the evening of this day, the TÜDEF students Refik Horoz (1971), Huseyin Deniz (1974), Reyan Havva Ipek (1970) and Selim Yesilova are shot by the Anti-Terror Department in Diyarbakir. R. Havva Ipek is arrested on the street, brought to her house, where she gets shot, together with her friends. To participate in the traditional festival at the Technical University in Istanbul, without identity control and without getting registered, 600 students form a block and march to the university campus. Grup Yorum, who are forbidden to give concerts in Istanbul, are in their midst. The police is unable to intervene. After the concert the student leave the campus in the same formation. November 6, 1995: University boycott.
January 1996:Students at the Yildiz University in Istanbul go on hunger strike in protest against the privatisation of the education system, for the withdrawal of the police and the gendarmes from the universities, against the increase of the education fees, and against the YOK. This protest is carried on in all cities of the country in a different manner. February 4, 1996: Demonstration at Taksim Square – since the massacre of 1977, demonstrations and manifestations have been forbidden there – . 5.000 students gather in Istiklal Caddesi in march towards the square. The police tries to prevent this with armoured vehicles and barricades. The students fight with bricks and sticks, they break through the police barricades and occupy Taksim Square where they unfold their banners and yell slogans. One day later they demonstrate in Ankara. Despite blockades, identity controls and searches, 5.000 students come. At the end of the manifestation, the police attacks. February 29, 1996: The university in Beyazit/Istanbul is occupied by thousands of students. Grup Yorum give a concert. The police surrounds the area, friends who come to support the occupants, are arrested. March 12, 1996: There are strikes on all universities in the country, commemorating the uprising in Gazi/Istanbul in which 40.000 people participated and more than 40 people were killed by the police. The people go out on the streets. In Gazi alone, 30.000 people demonstrate. March 16, 1996: Commemoration ceremony with 1.500 people for the massacre in 1978 in which 7 students were murdered. March 23, 1996: Thousands of students travel to Ankara to demonstrate in front of the government building. They are held back by a thousand policemen. The students have to break through the police barricades to reach the university campus. Confrontations occur. The students decide to occupy the university. Barricades are put up, flags are hung from the windows. A genuine battle evolves against the police who uses grenades. May 1, 1996: On this day, 100.000 people take to the streets: workers, students, the people from the gececondus. Right at the start, the police shoots Dursun Odabasi and Hasan Albayrak who refused to be searched. Despite this provocation, the people keep their calm. They continue the demonstration, orderly and disciplined. This prevented a massacre and it gave the people in Turkey confidence. After the final manifestation, when the families left the square, the reply to the massacre was given. The street fights continues for hours. Banks and shops owned by fascist, are destroyed, police cars are demolished, and one plainclothes policeman who wanted to mingle among the demonstrators, is beaten up. In these hours, Levent Yalcin, a unionist, was executed by a sharp-shooter of the police. November 4, 1996: Students issue a press statement at the Literature Faculty in Istanbul, stating that the attacks by right-wing radicals, supported by the police, are increasing.
Part of the call by TÜDEF for the boycott on November 6:
“Because universities are institutions of education and teaching. We need institutions which develop social abilities and a new way of thinking. Our democrats, intellectuals and academics have always been oppressed, but the ministers, the prime-minister and the big capitalists receive medals and rewards. Knowledge is turned into a commodity. The children of the people are sent to institutions which call themselves universities, but which are just four walls and a table. The universities are being privatised. On the campus of a university there are just plainclothes policemen, uniformed policemen and gendarmes, they use the universities as if they are a police department. The administration is controlled by civic fascists and policemen. We have decided. November 6 will be a day of boycott. The November 6 boycott is the answer of the youth against the YOK. The November 6 boycott will be the honour of the future, an action of those who demand their rights. (Turkish Student Youth Federation) TÜDEF”
November 6, 1996: University boycott.
On Beyazit Square in Istanbul, 1.500-2.000 youngsters are attacked by the police. Confrontations occur. The students yell slogans like: “Police out, science in”, “We are scholars. We are right. We will win.”, “Long live our democratic struggle.” Some 100 students are wounded in Istanbul, 700 students are arrested. In the whole of Turkey, 2.000 students are arrested.
From an interview with a TÜDEF representative:
“As TÜDEF we are aware that the solution of the problems can not be found in reforms and short term reactions, it must be looked for in a long term struggle. Therefore we have to create a higher organisation which renews itself in the time before us, in this long term struggle. As TÜDEF, we pursue the aim of working together with the youth movements in other countries, international youth movements, against the imperialist oppression against the youth. We must raise the youth even stronger. Although we live in very different geographical areas, our goals, our struggles, desires, our friends and enemies are the same. We are the youth which will strengthen the struggle against imperialism in different parts of this earth. One day we will meet in a better and more beautiful world.”