Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Turkish Tangent

Some have claimed that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had no right to take the position that he did in Davos earlier this week. They cite Turkey’s past relationship with Armenians, Greeks and Kurds, even going back to the Ottoman Empire to bring up evidence of blemishes on the “Turkish” record of human rights.

While the present Turkish government, or indeed the Ottoman Empire, aren’t perfect, the claims mentioned above overlook the current situation in Turkey and the recent efforts by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to address such issues. They also overlook the dynamic grassroots movements across all sectors of the country that demand the government revise its official position on issues from free speech to the Armenian genocide.

Turkey is in a stage of transformation at the moment, and it’s important to remember that change takes time in these types of situations. The AKP, and Erdogan, can’t overturn decades of official policy relating to issues like that of the Kurds overnight. Why? Because those policies are deeply rooted in the Turkish military’s “secular” and “nationalist” ideology. The military has held a dangerous amount of power since the country was established, overthrowing various governments that it did not deem “nationalistic” enough. To achieve any of the positive changes they’ve set out in their charter, Erdogan and the AKP need to stay in power. And doing that involves a risky political dance around the military’s sensitivities.

Despite that, the AKP has managed to make some strides in issues that have long been considered taboo in Turkish politics. Below are some random excerpts from two articles that discuss Turkey’s stance on the Kurdish question. Read the articles themselves, and do some more research, if you’re interested in getting a better understanding of the shift in Turkish politics regarding issues such as this one.

Turkey raises hopes of peace with Kurds - The Guardian (2007)

As well as securing a national victory on Sunday, Mr Erdogan scored a remarkable triumph in the Kurdish south-east, doubling the vote of his AKP or Justice and Development party in mainly Kurdish areas to win an absolute majority of the vote with 52%.

"The AKP beat us. The government now has complete power and legitimacy," said a Kurdish official in the regional capital of Diyarbakir.

Having received such a vote of confidence from the Kurds, Mr Erdogan is unlikely to alienate them ...

In addition to the AKP's electoral success in the Kurdish areas, the main Kurdish party in Turkey, the DTP, took 23 seats, putting it in the new parliament for the first time since 1994. The DTP is seen as the political wing of the PKK. The Turkish election system is stacked against it by setting a 10% national threshold for representation in parliament. The DTP beat the system by running candidates as independents.

"That will make a difference," said Hizsar Ozsoy, a Kurdish analyst in Diyarbakir. "There's definitely a chance for a political opening."

The Erdogan camp has been trying to open political channels to the Kurdish leadership in Iraq for months, but has been stymied by the military top brass and the outgoing hostile president of Turkey.

Behind Major Changes for Turkey's Kurds - Canada's Embassy Magazine (2009)

Many of the changes percolating within Turkish society are linked to the electoral victory of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which came to power in 2002 and was re-elected with a sweeping majority in 2007.

Despite widespread distrust of the AK Party's Islamic background, especially amongst ultra-nationalists and the military, Mr. Erdogan initiated a series of political and social reforms that permitted greater protection for basic human rights, including for minorities. (He was also receptive to Greek efforts to lessen tension between the two NATO allies over territorial disputes and Cyprus.)

... [R]ecent actions directed against Erdogan have diminished his commitment to promote further reforms in order to appease opponents, especially the military, perceived as wanting a tougher line towards Kurdish militancy and PKK insurgents based in northern Iraq's Kurdistan province.

Whereas many within the global community are convinced reforms and meaningful changes are necessary to deal with the current problems confronting various societies, in Turkey, change can be a highly divisive issue with no one sure where that country's current changes will ultimately lead.


Nicholas Karavatos said...

Katie at 5:48am February 5 on your Facebook link to this post:
"I was in Turkey last spring break, without too many details I can safely say that Turkey really isn't as modern or conciliatory a country as these articles portray. For a country with huge domestic violence rates they have only 12 shelters (all run by EU and US). I can't speak to their position on the Kurds, but their attempts to fulfill the Copenhagen protocol have been weak at best and disingenuous at most."

I think she makes good points to back up her feelings, as does the author of this blog.

But "A Turkish Tangent" feels apologist. I always wonder how we decide which nations are, oh, "aren’t perfect" because "change takes time" and which nations don't get that allowance.

I don't think Turkey has a "PAST relationship" with Greece, Armenia, and Kurdistan. It is contemporary. Greece and Turkey are still at de-facto war in Cyprus due to a Turk invasion and occupation that niether the UN nor any other nation has approved and all claim is illegal. Turkey crosses into Iraq to kill Kurd "freedom fighters" (or are Kurds not freedom fighters like Palestinians?). And as long as a nation denies atrocities it has committed - even within the last century such as the Armenian Genocide - that atrocity is still happening.

I also feel a lack of comfort with the historically dismissive "even going back to the Ottoman Empire" which ended in the early 20th century.

They are the same people, speaking the same language, practicing the same religion, all from the same center of power.

The Germans don't say: "That was the Third Reich, not Germany." Germany admits everything and strives to atone.

Just like it's all Turk, that was all German.

France refers to the République Française, the Deuxième République, the Troisième République, and the Quatrième République of their history from the last few hundred years without denying the 1st or 2nd Empire Français.

Just like it's all Turk, that was all French.

Personally, thankfully, as a Greek-American I wasn't raised to hate or fear the Muslim Turks. But I also know what has happened and what does happen.

And if the Turkish political authority wants to call the Jewish political authority "killers," I'd prefer the Turks peered into their collective soul as, for example, the Germans have attempted to do for the last 50 years.

Oh, and "the past": My cousin last winter in Chicago was rolling her eyes about our old Greek immigrants and how they do go on about the Turks. As postmoderns, we don't feel as trapped by history as they do, but we do know our history. And we have our own family stories of Turk slaughters - and I'm not going back to the Turk's (from the Central Asian steppes) ethnic cleansing of Greeks from western Anatolia (nor even more modern pograms).

You see, this is why, generally speaking, I am more interested in the structure of power and empowerment, instead of getting caught up in who is bad and who is good all the time.

Guo Guo said...

michael kors watches
adidas wings
cheap rayban sunglasses
louis vuitton
burberry outlet
cheap nfl jerseys
michael kors handbags
hollister clothing store
michael kors outlet online
true religion
marc jacobs outlet
michael kors outlet online sale
oakley sunglasses cheap
louis vuitton outlet
hermes outlet
ugg for women
burberry outlet
tory burch sale
michael kors canada
michael kors outlet
ugg boots
louis vuitton handbags
ugg outlet
michael kors watches
timberland boots
uggs outlet
timberland uk
wholesale nfl jerseys
jordan 13 retro
tory burch handbags
louis vuitton handbags
tod's shoes
moncler jackets