Beware of Turkish Diplomats Bearing Gifts

Team Keghart Editorial, 13 December 2009

A Dec. 3 editorial in the “Toronto Star” prompts Keghart to revisit Turkish diplomatic tactics yet again. The editorial in Canada’s largest-circulation daily claimed “a violent Kurdish insurgency in Turkey has abated in recent years” thanks to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “reaching out to heal old wounds”.It then mentioned that villages are being allowed to revert to their Kurdish names, a university “has a green light to integrate Kurdish language studies in its curriculum”, and that soon Kurds will be allowed to use their language in political affairs, etc.

The editorial welcomed these changes. To further improve the status quo, it also called for the removal of the “draconian laws” that criminalize “insults” to the Turkish nation.

Overall, readers were left with the impression that positive changes are taking place in Turkey, thanks to the European Union and the graciousness of Turkey’s prime minister. Unfortunately, the Toronto newspaper is sadly mistaken in its assumptions. These changes are only secondary elements in an array of other factors that are not necessarily related to outside pressure which Turks viscerally abhor, like other people around the world do.

If the writer had left out the expression “nudged by the European Union” and elaborated more on why “the fierce 25-year struggle…by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party” was waged in the first place, readers would have appreciated other aspects that have led to nascent reforms. Some important elements, such as the socio-economic changes in Turkey over the past couple of decades, the impact of a radical change in outlook of a new brand of intellectuals were left out.

The history of 19th century Ottoman Turkey is a classic example of how reforms were cynically proclaimed but not delivered. In several aspects the current regime is similar to that of the Ottoman sultans.

On the subject of the Kurds–who number 20 million by some estimates–-it is worth mentioning that following the peace initiative announced by Erdogan in mid-November, eight Kurdish rebels were joined by 26 other Kurds, including refugees from an Iraqi camp for the “peace talks”. The group was acting on orders by Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader. There was jubilation, and naturally a welcoming party took place, with people cheering and dancing. But what followed was bizarre. On the pretext that this was a demonstration in support of PKK, the government suspended the talks.

People who have followed Turkish government’s handling of relations with minorities would call these standard-issue avoidance tactics intended not to fullfill promises. Thus whatever “goodwill” is offered by the government should be treated with extreme caution. The recent Erdogan-Gul-Davutoglu shenanigans regarding Turkey’s relations with Armenia are another example that Ankara’s “progressive” and “good neighbourly” motions should be approached with reservation. And what about Turkey’s 180-degree turn regarding its relations with long-time ally Israel? Isn’t it another example of Ankara’s opportunism? Turkey’s “abandonment” of its “little brother” Azerbaijan during the Armenia talks is a further indication of Turkey’s perennial guile and insincerity.

It is no wonder that Cengiz Aktar, noted Hurriyet columnist, wrote recently “goodwill may not be enough in this tense period. No solid action has yet been taken. ‘Dogs bark but the caravan goes on’ type of approach may not be sufficient this time as ‘dogs’ may do great harm to the caravan.” Aktar went on warning, “we hear nowadays that there has never been a civil war in these lands but that if things continue as they are there might be one between Turks and Kurds.” He also reminded his readers that Turkey has failed to draw lessons from the atrocities of the past, including the looting and driving out of non-Muslim minorities by the Union and Progress government, the “periodic pogroms Alevis were subjected to”, pointing out the “ghosts are back again”.

As if to complicate matters further, on Dec. 11, Turkey’s Constitutional Court unanimously delivered a ruling, banning the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party for alleged links with the outlawed PKK. Moreover, the party’s founders were banned from politics for five years. They were banned from establishing, joining, administering or supervising any other political party for the duration.

Armenians are following these developments with great interest. It is not off the mark to state that a good number of them believe that true democracy is the only key to resolving not only the Kurdish “problem”, but also the Armenian question. Declarations of progressive Turkish intellectuals and their supporters provide some hope of pushing Turkey to the 21st century. However, it is way too early to conclude that things are really changing.

Turkey’s obduracy, recalcitrance, inflexibility are not just diplomatic characteristics but are cultural.Turkey’s idol, Ataturk, denounced Pan-Turanism and said Turkey should forget that unrealistic dream, but a significant sector of the country continues to talk about it to this day.

Team Keghart 13/12/09
5 comments
  1. Similarities of Turkey and Nazi Germany

    The events of the last few days in Turkey have demonstrated once again that the system is incapable of reforming itself. This is because the genocidal state is dominated by a consistently ultra-nationalist, racist-militarist panturkist ideology. This is the essence of the problem in Turkey.

    Unless the world (Europe-Russia-US) realises this and deals with it adequately, the way Nazi-Germany, with its brand of racist-ultranationalist-militarism was dealt with in 1945, Turkey, with its Deep State Terrorism, will grow increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. I will directly threaten the peace and security of Europe, including Russia, in addition to ongoing bullying of its own minorities and undermining of the democratic aspirations of its own people, not to mention overt and covert aggression and terrorism against all its large and small neighbours.

    Turkey cannot reform itself from within and like Nazi Germany it must be dismantled from without.

  2. The purpose of Turkishness
    Turks are able to not only bribe but also corrupt, i.e., they can use not hands but also hearts. Turks are skillful to corrupt not only persons with international position but also people with deep and dark faith, such as today’s Armenian leaders. Turks have always been very cabable people having corrupt government to save their Turkishness. Very few can understand that Turkishness is a type of corrupt terrorism.

  3. Toronto Star
    I take your article as a great way of analyzing Turkey’s behavior. Some of us, some of the nations do know the way Turkey operates and how diplomatically covers all mistreatment of minorities. They have always operated that way.

    I really appreciate your article, but people reading "Toronto Star" how would they reach the article, how would they know what you write, how would the Canadian public understand the ramifications of Turkey’s action?. 

    If this article is for the Armenian community, we know how all this happens. What good would it do to canadians? Do you publish this in "Toronto Star"? My concern is that most Armenian organizations publish all these articles, but I don’t see what good it does to the general public in US or Canada.

    Thank You for a great job you are doing! 

  4. CURDOS E TURQUIA
    Desmentindo tudo quanto se propalou a respeito de uma nova atitude da Turquia com relação aos curdos, verificamos a ocorrência, nos dias seguintes ao seu artigo – como que confirmando quanto nele foi exposto – de violentas manifestações de grupos curdos do PBK, repelidas selvagemente por forças policiais turcas. Onde, então, a boa-vontade, o desejo do governo turco em restabelecer os direitos dos curdos ? Os fatos desmentem, por si sós, o apregoado propósito de normalizar a situação dos curdos e revelam a verdadeira face do Estado turco. Precisamente como colocado em seu excelente editorial.  

  5. Armenian Weekly Special Report
    Turkish State Wages War Against Kurdish Civilian Political Movement

    (Special report from Istanbul by Armenian Weekly columnist Ayse Gunaysu)

    December 24, 2009

    ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)–The Turkish state started a new war against the civilian Kurdish political movement in 11 provinces, from Diyarbakir and neighboring cities to Istanbul and Izmir. Homes of prominent DTP (the Kurdish party recently closed down by the Constitutional Court) leaders were broken into at 5 a.m. and around 60 people, including mayors of Kurdish provinces and districts and the human rights association chairperson in Diyarbakir were arrested. Their rights to see their lawyers are suspended for the first 24 hours.

    The Human Rights Association (HRA) Diyarbakir branch was among the places where searches were made. Raids and searches by security forces in HRA branches was something that did not happen even during the most difficult times of the emergency rule in the region in the 1990’s.

    The news came as a shock as the former DTP leaders had declared that they gave up on their plans to leave the parliament and decided to continue their parliamentary struggle. Earlier, all hope had disappeared because of the closure of DTP just after the launching of the governments alleged peace initiative, the violent street protests that followed, and a suspicious ambush on a military unit in Tokat by a group of guerillas killing 7 soldiers triggering hateful protests in the west by nationalists.

    Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir gave a press conference in front of the Diyarbakır DTP organization offices protesting the arrests. He was surrounded by DTP MPs and party leaders.

    Baydemir, regarded as a most polite and refined Kurdish leader, used very harsh language, even resorting to the F-word (which is, in Turkish, much stronger than its equivalents in western languages), shocking everybody. He added, “We are now violating and will continue to violate whatever law our arrested party leaders and mayors have violated.” He also said, addressing the government, that they will not find any hand to hold when they themselves reach out tomorrow to the Kurdish people.

    North Kurdistan People’s Initiative, a section of PKK, called for a “total revolt” in cities, on the streets and on the mountains.

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