Turkey is now Comedy Central

Being led into the courthouse

The trial, arguably the largest in the history of Turkey, began last week. They really haven’t even started yet though as they’re still reading out the 7,500 page indictment.  If they read 40 pages an hour and read continuously for eight hours a day, that’s 23.5 days just to read the indictment.  And the trial goes until 12 November—16 days from now.

Day after day the imprisoned Kurdish politicians and lawyers are brought into the courthouse.  Each is allowed to be accompanied by one family member.  There are also nearly 300 lawyers defending the accused.  Needless to say, the courthouse is packed.

The Kurds on trial are not allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish.  At rollcall, however, they say in Kurdish Ez li vir im.  Ez amade me. I am here.  I am ready.  Turkish law says that if the defendants know Turkish well enough, then they have to use Turkish in court.

Evin Cetin, a Kurdish jurist and politician from Sweden who is observing the trial says that ‘[p]reventing the defendants from speaking in their mother tongue is illegal according to international standards because this means preventing the defendants from defending themselves. It was the court’s duty to bring in interpreters and not depriving them of the right to speak Kurdish.’

She also believes that the defendants will stay in prison until after parliamentary elections in 2011, because Erdoğan’s AK Party wants to ‘weaken the Kurds and deprive the Kurdish front of its progressive and seasoned politicians.’

Osman Baydemir, Mayor of Diyarbakır, is also a defendant.  He is on trial for the charge of ‘terrorism’ and thinks that some defendants will ‘be released in order to please Europe but there will be more arrests too.’

Baydemir said on Wednesday of the trial: ‘If it is a crime to demand my culture, identity, language then yes I am a criminal.’

On top of this, TRT chose this week to launch the first-ever comedy show in Kurdish on the state-run TRT6 channel.  Cîran, Cîran, which translates as ‘Neighbour, Neighbour’ was announced with great fanfare and is about a few expatriate Kurdish families living in Istanbul.  There was a gala event at a posh hotel with government officials, media officials, and others to watch a preview of the show.

Selahattin Demirtaş, BDP co-chair, slammed TRT6 on Tuesday asking why Kurdish could be broadcast on the state-run channel but not used in a court of law.  Demirtaş said that this shows Erdoğan’s inconsistency in dealing with the Kurds. ‘If they are your brothers then let them speak their language. Erdoğan is always saying the parliament is the place to solve the problem then he should not treat Kurdish politicians like political hostages.’

So on the TV you have slapstick comedy (in Kurdish) and in Diyarbakır a farcical, politicised trial of Kurdish politicians and humanitarians (in Turkish).  Which is the comedy?

When Baydemir called for demands for Kurdish culture, identity, and language it is doubtful he was thinking of something as inane as Cîran, Cîran.

sources:

Fifth day of trial against Kurdish politicians started. ANF News Agency, 25 October 2010.

Baydemir: We want a regional parliament. Rojhelat, 27 October 2010.

Deniz, Mediya and Fatima Avci. Trial of Kurds Viewed as Touchstone of Turkish Democracy. Rudaw, 26 October 2010.

First Kurdish sit-com to kick off on the state-run TRT 6. World Bulletin, 23 October 2010.

Demirtas: PM is considering the defendants as political hostages. ANF News Agency, 26 October 2010.

Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk seek restoration of parliamentary seats

Aysel Tuğluk and Ahmet Türk

With the trial of 151 Kurdish politicians, lawyers, human rights activists, and others ongoing in Diyarbakır, Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk, former head and deputy, respectively, of the banned pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), petitioned Parliament on Tuesday to demand the restoration of their membership in the legislature.

The Turkish Constitutional Court shut down the DTP in December 2009 and prohibited both Türk and Tuğluk from re-entering politics for five years.

So why are they petitioning to get reinstated in parliament?

It goes back to last month’s referendum on the constitution.  One article included in the amendment package—the 84th article of the Constitution—now states that deputies whose political party is closed down will be able to continue to participate in politics.  The court will not be able to dismiss them from their positions as parliamentary representatives.

Hasip Kaplan, Şırnak deputy of the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), took the case of two dismissed representatives to the Parliament, asking that they be reinstated as parliamentary deputies.  He said that he thinks that ‘the return of their rights will strengthen democratic politics.’  The petition to reinstate Türk and Tuğluk was presented to Mehmet Ali Şahin, speaker of the parliament.

Burhan Kuzu

Hikmet Sami Türk, a former justice minister, agrees that the petitions of Türk and Tuğluk need to be accepted and that their membership in Parliament be restored. The parliamentary term for which the two former deputies were elected has not yet ended, and thus they need to re-obtain their titles as deputies, said the former justice minister.

The petition will now be sent to the Parliament’s Justice Commission for evaluation. AK Party deputy from Istanbul, Burhan Kuzu heads the commission and refused to comment on the submission of the petition.  Kuzu has also been tapped to begin drafting a new constitution for the country.

However, there will resistance to the request.  Constitutional law expert Ergun Özbudun, does not agree with Kaplan or others in favour of restoring their membership in parliament. He said newly passed laws could not be applied retroactively. ‘A law or a constitutional amendment cannot be applied to what happened in the past unless they indicate the contrary,’ he said.

Indeed, it would be surprising if the Justice Commission ruled in favour of the petition.

Sources:

Türk, Tuğluk seek to restore Parliament membership. Today’s Zaman, 27 October 2010.

BDP brings banned representatives’ case to Turkish Parliament. Hürriyet Daily News, 26 October 2010.

Press Statement from UK Delegation at Diyarbakir Trial

Press Statement from UK Delegation in Diyarbakir to observe the trial of 151 Kurdish political activists and human rights defenders:

We, as delegates from Britain of varying backgrounds and ethnicities welcome the opportunity that has been afforded to us to have firsthand insight into these historic trials. During our observations thus far we have had the opportunity of meeting and speaking with Mayors, Parliamentarians, Lawyers, Academics and many other interested parties. This has given us the opportunity to explore at firsthand the issues in these trials and have helped to shape our understanding of the actual meaning of these trials.

We had firsthand experience of being in the Courtroom with the 151 defendants and their 250 lawyers yesterday and today. We can confidently express our observations thus far in the following manner:

Conversations about tomatoes must be some secret code

Turkey, in its desire and aspiration to become a member of the European Union has not shown that it has progressed very much in terms of its treatment and approach to the Kurdish people, their politicians and the Kurdish question generally so as to pave a way forward for peaceful dialog and solution. We are confident in finding that these trials are politically motivated and are an attempt to suppress the political struggle of the Kurdish people through the judicial system.

The manner in which the evidence in the trials is exaggerated is clear from the sheer volume of the 7,500 page indictment and supporting evidence, consisting of over 13,000,000 pages.  In these pages there is no evidence of weapons or aggression in any kind directed at any of the defendants who stand trial. The only evidence obtained consists of intercept evidence of daily conversations and routine political propaganda or views and secret evidence by way of anonymous witnesses. Some conversations are in relation to the purchase of groceries i.e. tomatoes and in others the conversations are between family and friends. These conversations have found itself in the indictment as being secret codes. The fact that there is no evidence or suggestion of weaponry or aggression is in our view indicative of the will of the Kurdish people and politicians for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, which we support and respect.

We find the manner in which the evidence was obtained and presented to the defence, which was some 15 months after the initial arrests on the 14th of April 2009, to be a concrete example of the unfairness of the trials thus far. A large proportion of the defendants are in custody, which has meant the defence has had very limited time to prepare the case for the trials in the 4 months since they received the evidence. We find this to be a breach of Article 6 of the ECHR.

The refusal to allow the defendants to express themselves in their mother tongue, Kurdish, is a denial of their basic human rights and is a breach of Article 6.

The real problem with this is that the charge is essentially a political one, whereby normal political activities such as lobbying, meetings and rallies are deemed to be criminal because it is said to be in support of a banned organisation, the PKK.

From what we have gathered, activities from elected representatives such as Mayors and general civil society organisations representatives organising events such as Women’s day celebrations on the 8th of March, Kurdish New Year festival, Nevroz, and campaigning for an environmental society, have been deemed criminal activities and placed within the indictment. Clearly, by any standards, activities such as those mentioned are completely lawful and innocent.

We have particular concern that 8 of the defendants are lawyers – 7 of which are in custody – and are indicted in this case simply for doing their job of defending their clients. In a modern society this is unacceptable.

At the very least, the fact that most of those in prison are leading members of a political party which had been successful at the last elections suggests that there is a straight forward electoral motive for the Turkish governing party the AKP, to support these prosecutions particularly as there is another election next year. If the Turkish government wishes to demonstrate that Turkey is a modern and democratic state it should urge the prosecution to release those in prison immediately.

At its worst it is a wholly political trial, to destroy or curb all activities and initiatives developed within the Kurdish population, and demolish its key institutions and vital civil society organisations.

Paradoxically, as Mr. Esber Yagmurdereli, a distinguished lawyer defending in this trial submitted to the Court yesterday, “…this case is brought by the public prosecutor, to prosecute the public…”

UK delegation: Mr. Jeremy Corbin MP, Mr. Hywel Williams MP, Mr. Ali Has – Lawyer/Spokes person of Peace Council Britain, Mr. Hugo Charlton – Barrister, Mrs. Margaret Ann Owen – Barrister/Human Rights Activist and Serife Semsedini – Human Rights Activist.

Source: Kurdish Aspect (graphics added by Kurdistan Commentary)

‘Kurdish Opening’ now closed; Peace Group on trial

What started out as a gesture of reconciliation has ended in the death of the Kurdish Opening.

In October of last year 26 refugees from Mexmur refugee camp and eight members of the PKK crossed into Turkey at the Habur gate.   The ‘Peace Group’ (Peace and Democratic Solution Group, or Koma Aştî û Çareseriya Demokratîk in Kurdish) as it became known was welcomed enthusiastically by thousands and thousands of well wishers in the area.  The returnees were not prosecuted by the authorities upon their return. Turkish PM Erdoğan said at the time, ‘Good things are happening in Turkey.  This is hope.’

Now, eight months later, all of the returnees, with the exception of four minors, are on trial.  All 30 have been charged with ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’.  The eight PKK members face additional charges of ‘being a member of a terrorist organisation’, while the refugees from Mexmur face charges of ‘committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization without being a member.’

The 30 are on trial in three groups at two separate Diyarbakır courts. Yesterday morning ten of them were arrested by the court for being a possible flight risk. Those from PKK face up to 20 years in prison.  The returnees from the refugee camp face up to 15 years each.

What has happened in the past eight months that completely reversed the direction of the so-called Kurdish Opening, or as it would later be dubbed, the Democratic Initiative?

The Turkish government has taken an increasingly hard-line approach towards the Kurds. At the same time, the PKK has increased its activities in the region causing further backlash from Ankara.

In November the government held a parliamentary debate on the initiative. Interior Minister Beşir Atalay announced to the parliament that he intended to permanently end the conflict with the PKK in an open-ended process that would end terrorism and raise Turkey’s level of democracy.  Head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal accused Erdoğan of instituting a ‘plan to destroy and split Turkey.’ Then-leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, said the AKP’s initiative was a ‘PKK initiative’ and charged that the government was negotiating and making deals with terrorists.

Ahmet Türk, former head of the now-banned DTP strongly criticised both the CHP and the MHP saying that they were ‘trying very hard to reverse the process because they have nothing to offer society apart from conflict, bloodshed and tears.’  He called their approach to the democratisation process racist, separatist, and dangerous.

The next month, December, saw the closure of the DTP and widespread arrests of local and national Kurdish politicians, activists, and students.  Those arrested were from the DTP and its successor, the BDP. Who can forget the now iconic photograph of BDP politicians lined up outside a courthouse in Diyarbakir in handcuffs? The purge lasted for months and more than 1,500 people were arrested.

Though there was intense opposition, Svante Cornell, a Swedish academic now at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said that while the AKP had good intentions, the whole process ‘failed not mainly because of the opposition, but because it mismanaged the process, had unclear goals, and did not succeed in controlling the flow of information.’

In recent months the PKK has expanded its attacks on Turkish military targets.  Thirty-five soldiers have died.  Earlier this month PKK spokesperson Ahmed Danees told Reuters: ‘Two days ago, we started waging attacks against the Turkish army in response to their repeated military attacks against the party and political attacks facing Kurds in Turkey’.  He also announced that they decided to break the unilateral ceasefire that had been in place since April 2009.

Now, some say, the AKP may adopt a more nationalist rhetoric and harsher tactics in order not to lose votes to the rightwing MHP.  In fact on Tuesday Erdoğan launched into strong attacks against the BDP, the country’s pro-Kurdish party.  Said Erdoğan,  ‘…saying peace won’t bring peace. Those who are in direct or indirect contact with the PKK are accomplices to murder.’ This could be interpreted as a prelude to a possible ban of the party.  After all, the general election is just over a year away.

Under the Peace Watch Tent

Meanwhile, in Diyarbakır, demonstrations and meetings against the Peace Group members’ trials are continuing.  The Diyarbakır Initiative for Peace group, supported by the Human Rights Association (IHD), and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have organised gatherings in the Peace Watch Tent.  The tent serves as a centre for speeches and rallies. BDP parliamentarians, Green Party co-chair, chair and former chair of the Human Rights Association (IHD), members of Kurdish Writers Association, regional mayors and many NGO representatives are there showing their support for the returnees. The peace watch tent, erected in a nearby park, is decorated with banners reading, ‘Peace is on trial, bear witness.’

sources

10 arrested as trial begins in Turkey for Habur returnees. Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, 17 June 2010.

Support for arrested peace delegates spreads.  DiHA/Dicle News Agency, 17 June 2010.

Jones, Dorian. Friction Between Turkey, Kurdish Rebels Increasing. VOA News, 17 June 2010

Head, Jonathan. PKK returnees on trial in Turkey. BBC, 17 June 2010.

Stephens, Philip. Turkey puts Kurd activists on trial. Financial Times, 18 June 2010.

PKK rebels say scrap ceasefire on Turkish forces. Reuters, 03 June 2010.

BDP takes arbitrary arrests of Kurdish politicians into EU Court. Rojhelat, 18 May 2010.

Dewleta Tirk ‘açilim’ a xwe qedand; Endamên Koma Aştiyê hatin girtin. HawarNet, 17 June 2010.

Hacaoğlu, Selcan. Attacks threaten unusual Turkish Outreach to Kurds. The Huffington Post, 16 June 2010.

Endamên Koma Aştiyê parêznameya hevpar dan. Firat News, 17 June 2010.

From Kurdistan Commentary:

PKK Peace Caravan, 21 October 2009.

AKP’s Kurdish Initiative, 15 November 2009.

Arrests of Peace Caravan Members, 11 January 2010.

Turkey’s Terrorist Bias. Part 1 (The State)

This is the first of two articles focusing on the bias in Turkey towards one militant group, Hamas, over another, the PKK.

The Turkish state and media have different, conflicting, attitudes towards the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) and the Palestinian Hamas.

The famous quote “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” holds true as much today as it always has, especially, and absurdly, within Turkey.

In recent years the Turkish state’s relations with Israel have seen a gradual decline since the ascendency to power of the Islamist rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP Turkish acronym) in 2004. Alongside this deterioration of relations has arisen a bias in Turkey, both from the state and the media, in their approach to dealing with two militant groups that most countries recognize as terrorist organizations.

Hamas on the one hand, opposed to the existence of Israel, has fought a bloody war with that country since the 1990s, whilst the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting Turkey since 1984, initially demanding a separate state for Turkey’s Kurds, but later changing their demands, calling instead for cultural and political rights for Kurds.

Elections and legitimacy

The AKP has taken a critical approach towards Israel on the Palestinian issue, increasingly so since the 2009 Israeli offensive on Gaza, as highlighted in the very public spat between Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. Relations between the two countries have become so bad that Erdogan has started lobbying for the recognition of Hamas as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people despite that organizations refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Erdogan’s argument is that Hamas won the Palestinian Authority (PA) 2006 parliamentary elections and has the right to represent the Palestinians.

“Hamas entered the elections as a political party. If the whole world had given them the chance of becoming a political player, maybe they would not be in a situation like this after the elections that they won. The world has not respected the political will of the Palestinian people.”

argued Erdogan in an interview with Newsweek in January 2009.

Further still, the situation has worsened with the recent Gaza flotilla incident where 9 Turkish nationals were killed by Israeli commandos. As a result Erdogan and the AKP have taken an even harsher tone towards Israel with reference to Hamas, putting Turkish-Israeli relations at an unprecedented low.

“I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization…They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land,”

Erdogan has said. On the deaths of 9 Turks during the Gaza flotilla raid by Israel, Erdogan has said:

“This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism”.

Taking Erdogan’s logic on why Hamas should be recognized on the grounds of winning the 2006 elections, it is possible to see a double standard in his argument. During the 2009 Turkish local elections the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) put on a strong showing, gaining large support in the predominantly Kurdish areas of the country, only narrowly coming second to the AKP. Yet Erdogan and the AKP run government banned that party for being a “focal point of terrorism”, imprisoning dozens of its members and banning from politics for 5 years its top brass.

Erdogan had arrogantly hoped to win over most of the Kurdish areas after introducing cosmetic reforms, vowing that he would “take that castle” in reference to the largest Kurdish dominated city of Diyarbakir. AKP even went as far as to hand out free electronic appliances to Kurds to gain their votes. But once the DTP showed its strength, the state resorted to banning them. Incidentally the Kurds kept the castle with over 66% of the vote.

The DTP quickly reorganized under a new name, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and again the Turkish state, and in some cases, ordinary Turks, have been hard at work harassing, intimidating and imprisoning its members, as well as trying to outlaw the BDP.

What is interesting to note in this parallel is how Israel did not intervene to prevent Hamas taking part in the 2006 PA elections, leaving the Palestinians instead to choose their own representatives. However, Israel had set conditions for holding peace talks with the Palestinians. One of them being, understandably, that Hamas cease aggression towards Israel as well as recognize Israel’s right to exist; something that Hamas has yet to agree to. Meanwhile, Turkey has, to date, refused to accept the PKK as a key player in solving the Kurdish question and has moved to ban any pro-Kurdish political party that shows any sign of factoring the PKK into a Kurdish solution.

And all this is despite a number of unilateral ceasefires declared by the PKK since the 1990s which Turkey has ignored, instead favoring a ‘surrender or die’ approach towards the PKK. Considering this, one could say that Israel and the PKK would make realistic negotiating partners for peace, in comparison to Hamas and Turkey and their ‘all or nothing’ attitudes.

State terrorism

Equally absurd is Turkey’s critique of Israel’s reaction and use of force, by labeling it “state terrorism”. Not that Israel is not famous for using heavy handed force which is rightly questionable and worrying, i.e. Gaza offensive 2009. But the absurdity, again, lies in the reality of Turkish politics and state policies.

Turkey reacts with the charge of “state terrorism” at Israel for boarding a ship and subduing hostile crew members, leaving 9 dead. But what of the continued oppression of the Kurds? The most shocking policy that Turkey has pursued in recent years has been the imprisonment of children under anti-terror laws. Children of 14 and 15 years of age are being imprisoned for throwing stones at Turkish police and chanting slogans in support of the PKK, a crime under Turkish anti-terror laws. Yet Turkey complains about Israel shooting violent activists that support Hamas.

Furthermore, for the past 6 years Turkey has routinely shelled and bombed the Kurdistan region of Iraq where the PKK has bases, and has launched numerous ground offensives into Iraqi Kurdistan, the latest being in 2008. Ironically, Turkey has done this in part with the use of Israeli bought unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The result has been loss of civilian life, property and livestock. Iraqi Kurds, in those areas bombed and raided, are now displaced in their own country, too afraid to return to their villages because of Turkish heavy handed tactics.

This obvious double standard and contradictory attitude of the Turkish state raises a number of questions, such as; What is it that distinguishes Hamas so fundamentally from the PKK that Erdogan and Turkey feel the need to champion them? What is it the PKK is not doing that Hamas is doing? Could it be the extremist hard-line approach of calling for the destruction of Israel? or maybe the firing of rockets on Israeli civilian areas?

Additionally, what constitutes “state terrorism” to the Turks? The killing of 9 people on a ship heading towards a naval blockade? is the imprisonment of children, 14 or 15 years old just for throwing stones and shouting slogans, not state terrorism? taking away someone’s childhood because of mere sticks and stones, as well as words? What about the constant bombardment of neighboring countries, killing civilians, with the excuse of fighting ‘terrorism’?

Despite all this, what one could call hypocrisy, Turkey maintains its hostile stance towards Israel whilst conveniently ignoring its own domestic issues. They champion one militant group, Hamas, yet deny engaging their own home grown one, the PKK.

Well they have not totally ignored the domestic issues in relation to the recent flotilla incident. Turkish intelligence services are now suggesting there could be a link between Israel and the PKK’s actions. Maybe someone should remind them who it was that helped capture the leader of the PKK for Turkey in 1999.

Comparing Kurds and Palestinians

I was surprised to notice on The American Conservative website a link to one of my blog postings in an article that defends Turkey.  It drew my attention to Paleocon blogger Daniel Larison’s (Eunomia) piece, ‘The Campaign to Vilify Turkey Has Begun’, which was blasting Wall Street Journal columnist Robert Pollock for his op-ed ‘Erdoğan and the Decline of the Turks.’ In his article, Larison linked to my blog posting ‘AKP’s Kurdish Initiative’ from last November.

Here’ an excerpt from Larison that deals specifically with the Kurds:

Over the last few days I have seen a few people trying to equate the current status of Palestinians in Gaza with that of the Kurds in Turkey. Apparently Pollock expects us not to know that the status of Kurds has improved significantly under the AKP government. Kurds have representation in the Turkish parliament. Kurds have been granted some language and other rights that they did not have in the “good old days” before the AKP took power, and last year’s “Kurdish initiative” was an attempt to expand on this. This AKP initiative encountered significant political resistance from the Republicans and the National Movement, which means that the one party attempting to address some Kurdish grievances is the one Pollock is attacking. Hurriyet was reporting as recently as Monday that the failure of the initiative was the reason for stepped-up PKK violence, including the attack in Iskenderun on Monday. Diyarbakir and Erzerum [sic] are not blockaded enclaves, and there are not over a million Kurds living in government-enforced poverty in the name of anti-terrorism. Can anyone seriously claim that Palestinians in Gaza are currently being treated the same as Kurds in Turkey?

Let’s break this down, shall we?  I have some issues with his analysis here.

He says that the ‘status of the Kurds has improved significantly under the AKP government’ and he gives some examples. ‘Significantly’, I believe, is an overstatement. First, he says, Kurds have representation in the Turkish parliament.  The AKP took power in 2002.  There were Kurdish parliamentarians long before that.  Under the AKP Kurdish parliamentarians have been harassed and arrested and interrogated.  The pro-Kurdish DTP was closed down in December of last year, which was followed by massive arrests of BDP politicians.  The BDP was the successor party to the DTP.  And remember, these are not true Kurdish political parties.  They are called ‘pro-Kurdish’ because the Turkish constitution does not allow political parties based on ethnic lines.

Next, Larison says, ‘Kurds have been granted some language and other rights that they did not have in the “good old days.”’ True.  Broadcasting in Kurdish has expanded.  However, there are still severe restrictions on broadcasting in languages other than Turkish.  The medium may be Kurdish, but the state keeps control of the message.  The use of Kurdish in the political sphere is taboo.  Public education in Kurdish is absolutely forbidden.  At least the Palestinians in Gaza are able to use Arabic freely, whereas in Turkey there was a policy of linguistic genocide against Kurdish.

Then Larison says that ‘there are not over a million Kurds living in government-enforced poverty.’ Well, how many Kurds have been displaced over the years?  Well over a million.  And some 3,500 Kurdish villages were razed to ensure the inhabitants could never return. In 2009, most were living on the edges of large urban centres, ‘having settled among the urban poor, but facing discrimination, acute social and economic marginalisation and limited access to housing, education and health care’ (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre).

Mr Larison says that it ‘hasn’t taken long for the usual tactics of vilification normally reserved for authoritarian states to be applied in full force to Turkey.’ I would like to make two comments about this.  One, Turkey is somewhat of an authoritarian state.  And two, Turkey is often vilified; you just don’t hear it in the Western press so much.

In the 2008 Economist Democracy Index, which groups countries into four categories (Full democracies, Flawed democracies, Hybrid regimes, and Authoritarian regimes), Turkey is categorised as a ‘hybrid regime.’  Other countries in this group include Cambodia, Albania, Venezuela, and Russia. These are authoritarian regimes with democratic tendencies. Turkey’s penal codes, after all, were adopted from Fascist laws in Mussolini’s Italy in the late 1920s.

The Freedom House 2010 ‘Freedom in the World’ report has three simple categories for countries: Free, Partly Free, Not Free.  Turkey is in the ‘Partly Free’ category and marked as trending downward.  To wit, negative changes since the last report was issued.

Finally he asks if ‘anyone seriously claim that Palestinians in Gaza are currently being treated the same as Kurds in Turkey.’  The tactics may be different, but it is a systematic, state-endorsed, racist repression of a particular group of people.  Cultural genocide at its best.