Turkey's most senior living socialist leader Mihri Belli died at his home in Istanbul on Tuesday afternoon. He was 95.
Born in 1916 in Silivri Istanbul, Belli got acquainted with Marxism in the United States, where he went to study economics in 1936. He participated in the US labor movement and continued so upon his return to Turkey in 1940. At the time, he got involved at the Turkish Communist Party (TKP).
He worked with Prof. Fritz Neumark at Istanbul University Faculty of Economics between 1943 and 44. Belli founded and organized the Progressive Youth Solidarity at the university. Consecutevely he was arrested and condemned to two years in prison.
In 1946 he left Turkey to join the ranks of Democratic Army -the military branch of the Greek Communist Party- during the Greek Civil War, where he commanded troops.
In 1950, he was arrested for illegal entrance to Turkey and possessing weapons. Next year, he was once again detained during the infamous police operation targeting the TKP. Belli was tried and condemned to seven years in prison.
During the 1960s, he got the chance to write and speak without using aliases for the first time. He was part of the group who published the magazines "Türk Solu" and "Aydınlık Sosyalist Dergi". Durign those years, he served time in prison because of several articles and speeches.
At the time, he formulated a thesis dubbed as the "National Democratic Revolution" or MDD. He got into contact with the revolutionary youth leaders such as Deniz Gezmiş and Mahir Çayan.
Following the military coup in 1971, he left the country and briefly joined the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Then, he lived in Europe until returning back to Turkey in 1973, when the social democrats came into power.
After the amnesty of 1974, he was among the founders of the Turkish Proletarian Party (TEP). TEP was closed by the Constitutional Court because of a reference to "Kurds" in its bylaws.
Belli lived in the Middle East and Sweeden for 11 years following the military coup in 1980. He was among the founders of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) in 1996 and the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP) in 2002. In 2002 elections, he was a candidate for MP in Istanbul. (MAF/NV/EU)