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.