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Guest Connolly

Fikri Sönmez and the Fatsa Committees

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Guest Connolly

A little known participatory experiment in Turkey during the 1970's.





"After the death of Nazmiye Komitoğlu, who was the mayor of Fatsa from the Republican People's Party (CHP), he ran for the vacant seat as an independent. After his election as the mayor, he splitted Fatsa into eleven regions and created people's committees. He made campaigns against the violence against women, the poor infrastructure in Fatsa, gambling, diseases because of the bad conditions in the town. Because of his success in the town, he got support from different political movements in the town.


He was blamed creating a new state inside the Turkish Republic by the Justice Party (AP). On 11 July 1980, Turkish military conducted an operation against the town.[3] Fikri Sönmez was arrested and put into prison. He died of heart attack in the prison on 4 May 1985.[4]


He was survived by his wife Nurten Sönmez, he married in 1962, and his sons Naci and Yusuf" - from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fikri_S%C3%B6nmez




"In the 1970s Fatsa municipality was controlled by the left wing mayor Fikri Sönmez and his Devrimci Yol organisation of local committees under the slogan "The red sun will rise in Fatsa". During that time a communal management of the city was set, where the different aspects of life and administration were discussed. The committees were formed by the people of the municipality and had power to recall government authorities. A major incident in this period was the kidnapping by the THKO in 1972 of three British technicians from the radar station ın Ünye. This era ended when, upon the initiative of the MHP supporting provincial governor, the mayor and 300 others were arrested in the "Nokta Operasyonu" of July 1980, two months before the 1980 Turkish coup d'état.[2]


Throughout this period Fatsa lost a significant number of its people as they migrated away to jobs in Turkey's larger cities or abroad, including a large proportion of the Turkish community in Japan.


Today the municipality is controlled by conservative AK Party and her mayor is Hüseyin Anlayan." - from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatsa

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Guest Connolly

A more detailed analysis of the Fatsa democracy can be found here:



From 14 October 1979 to 11 July 1980, a very particular experience of directdemocracy was experienced in Fatsa, a small Black Sea town in Turkey. Anindependent candidate, Fikri Sonmez, obtained a very comfortable majoritysurpassing political parties in local elections. From then on, neighborhoodcommittees were created and considerable public work was realized collectively.The experience was ended by a military operation held in 11 July 1980. Thispaper tries to examine Fatsa experience with the help of social capital andleadership concepts, aiming to explore and understand the conditions, whichfavored voluntary public involvement in local political life in Fatsa.


Social Capital, Leadership and Democracy: Rethinking Fatsa


International Journal of Social Sciences and Humanity Studies


Yeseren Elicen (2011)



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Guest Connolly

"Fatsa, Turkey (1979 to 1980)


The concepts of self governance and direct democracy was put to action in 1979 Fatsa, a municipality with a population of approximately 20,000 of northern Turkey in the coast of Black Sea. The well known left wing activist at the time, Fikri Sönmez, or more commonly known as Terzi Fikri was elected as the Mayor to the Fatsa Municipality from the Republican People's Party. Fikri Sönmez was a part of People's Liberation Army of Turkey movement in pre-1980 coup d'état Turkey, who was particularly was renown for his activism against the black market profiteers which took advantage of the U.S. sanctions on Turkey at the time.


Fikri Sönmez was elected as mayor with 3.096 votes (62% of all) [3] on 14th of November 1979. He pursued Dev-Yol's councilist policies, and formed local committees for governance and collectives for production. Citizen's committees were formed in 7 neighbourhoods and 11 centers. As an example, the local committees practiced self-control on the small businesses through inspection, against black market profiteering.


The most well known project at the time was the "end to mud campaign," which aimed at building the finishing the infrastructure projects of Fatsa that started before the elections but never finished. This was decided right after the election with the decision of the technical, political and citizen's committees. Fatsa citizens worked collectively to finish the infrastructure works, in the end not only a new 4 km highway that passed through the city was built, but also new committees were formed in the neighboring villages to extend the efforts to the rural areas under municipality jurisdiction.


The Fatsa experiment under the slogan "The red sun will rise in Fatsa," ended with a Turkish military operation nokta operasyonu on July 11 1980 just two months before the 1980 Turkish coup d'état. Although the residents did not resist, almost 5,000 people were detained [4], and Mayor Fikri Sönmez was killed under detention due to torture.


During the short lived Fatsa experience, tailor Fikri was able to bring together all fractions of the society and political spectrum to realize public projects, which is underlined even by the opposition right party members and politicians in Fatsa of the time [5]. " - from http://eng.anarchopedia.org/Present_and_Historical_Anarchist_Movements#Fatsa.2C_Turkey_.281979_to_1980.29

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