Turkey Bids Farewell to Rule of Law


editorialcartoonBy Edmond Y. Azadian

After the fall of the Soviet Empire, very few analysts anticipated the resurgence of the Cold War, nor its intensification to its present level. President Ronald Reagan had assured everyone that NATO would not expand and further threaten Russia. But that reassurance did not last long and NATO not only integrated the former Soviet bloc nations in Eastern Europe, but also began installing missile defense bases on Russia’s border in Poland “to defend European allies from rogue countries;” this was despite the fact that Tehran had cut a deal with the West to eliminate its lethal arsenal of nuclear weapons.

For 70 years, the international political game was to contain the Soviet Union and today it has become the containment of Russia to forestall its potential growth into a superpower again. But common sense indicates that any country under existential threat would certainly resort to rearmament. And that is what is happening in world politics, with the resuscitation of old Cold Warriors like Turkey.

Whenever the West needs to commit a provocation, it will undoubtedly need a country like Turkey. And that commission will be rewarded by a well-timed look away when Ankara is engaged in foreign adventures or domestic repression.

By definition and treaty agreement, NATO is a defensive structure. But, somehow, that principle is defined too loosely for Turkey. The US and Europe warn and remind Russia that as Turkey is a NATO ally, the three-minute incursion of its war planes over Turkish air space is a violation of the NATO border. On the other hand, Turkey occupies 39 percent of Cyprus using the 1960 Swiss accord as a legal fig leaf, but no NATO principle question that move. Similarly, 2,000 Turkish officers are illegally stationed near Mosul in Iraq and the latter country’s prime minister calls that invasion a violation of his country’s sovereignty, yet no NATO rule is cited.

The same story is repeated in Syria and even some politicians in Europe consider that crime as a “liberation” of a part of Syrian territory.

This double standard is tailor-made for political bullies. Besides actual violations of all principles, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even wilder dreams of reviving the old Ottoman Empire by recapturing those nations which had survived thousands of years of captivity as Ottoman subjects.

After committing all those foreign adventures with impunity, President Erdogan has turned his wrath against his own people. Characterizing the pseudo-coup of this summer as a “God-given opportunity,” he has embarked on a witch-hunt, the thrust of which is mainly directed at the Kurdish people. Mass arrests, expulsions and extrajudicial killings have amounted to staggering numbers: 105,000 people have been laid off; 74,000 are in jail and 34,000 are arrested and awaiting trial in kangaroo courts. Investigation has started against 40,000 people; 2,346 intellectuals have been fired; 133 journalists are in jail and another 2,308 are laid off; Sixteen television stations, three news outlets, 47 newspapers and 23 radio stations have been shuttered.

People may wonder how these people still vote for Erdogan and his AKP Islamist party to keep him in power. Well, Erdogan has mastered fear mongering. It was only recently that he expressed his admiration for Hitler, who had built his Nazi Empire on fear. However, no system based on fear and terror is sustainable for a lengthy period. Nazi Germany collapsed, Japanese militarism was destroyed and even the longer lasting Soviet Empire met its demise.

It looks like Erdogan’s government went too far. The camel’s back broke when an arrest warrant was issued for Can Dundar, the editor of the opposition daily Cumhuriyet and the two leaders of the pro-Kurdish party HDP, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, were jailed, along with 11 other members of the HDP. Last May, AKP majority party was successful in lifting the parliamentary immunity of the HDP deputies in Parliament.

Now, the two co-mayors of Diyarbakir are jailed, as well.

Dundar, interviewed in Germany, where he has been living in exile, said, “Germany will have a decision to make. It is a choice between being on the side of democracy or oppression. We will see. Europe is also confronted with this choice. Does it want to see a Turkey as an oppressive regime or as a democratic and secular, free country? I think this will be the litmus test for both Germany and Europe.”

Garo Paylan, another outspoken deputy from the HDP party, was recently in the US. He has since returned to Turkey, where his planned trip to Marseille France, to attend a ceremony, was disallowed. There is fear in every Armenia’s heart that he has chosen the path of martyrdom of Hrant Dink.

There is an outcry all over the world, especially in Europe, where protest rallies are held regularly.

The European Court of Human Rights has recently received 40,000 claims against Turkey in addition to 7,500 lawsuits, which it had already heard.

Angela Merkel’s criticism after the closure of Cumhuriyet has met with loud protests from the government press in Turkey. She is being accused of “protecting terrorists.” A letter published anonymously in Al Monitor says, “The definition of that now includes almost anyone who opposes the government/state. If even includes Germany, whose government yesterday was declared a supported of terrorism.”

The conclusion of the letter, “Turkey is steadily moving on the road to fascism.”

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said she was “extremely worried” by the arrests and raised her concerns in a telephone call with Turkey’s foreign and EU affairs ministers.

There is genuine concern in Europe and the US about the fate of the Kurdish population in Turkey, as well as empathy towards Turks in general, who are caught in the frenzy of government terror. But European governments are divided on how to deal with a situation running out of control.

For example, describing AKP government’s behavior, Luxemburg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn stated angrily, “To put it bluntly, there are methods that were used during the Nazi era and that’s a really, really bad development.”

He suggested imposing economic sanctions, pointing out that 50 percent of NATO members and EU aspirant Turkey’s exports go to the EU and 60 percent of investments in Turkey come from the bloc.

“At a certain point in time, we won’t have any choice but to apply it [sanctions] to counteract the unbearable human rights situation.”

Germany’s interior minister, Thomas De Maiziere, after swallowing all the insults hurled at his government by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that while it is important to criticize the arrests of the politicians and the limitations of press freedom, one should also keep in mind that Turkey, bordering Syria and Iraq, is a key ally in the fight against terrorism.

“A different look, also to safeguard our interests is the right approach,” he said.

On the other hand, Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman said, Berlin would not get involved in discussions about potential sanctions.”

The US State Department also slapped Turkey on the wrist. Indeed, the US State Department spokesman John Kirby said, “The United States is deeply concerned by the Turkish government’s detention of opposition members of parliament …. And by government restrictions on Internet access today.”

He also condemned Friday’s bombing and urged the PKK to “cease its senseless brutal attacks.”

To add insult to injury, in all this turmoil, Moscow is negotiating with Ankara to double its sale of natural gas and to provide to the Turkish army a new missile defense system.

People are raising their voices in protest throughout Europe and in some cities in the US. Where is the Armenians’ solidarity? Why would the Kurds care about our claims tomorrow if we are indifferent towards their plight today? Even the Armenian government has to condemn the human rights violations and the Diaspora must join the Kurdish movement of political protest.

Twenty two million Kurds in Turkey are as much at risk as our 75,000 brethren there.

To sum up the situation in Turkey, the best way is to quote an article by Asli Aydintasbas in a column in the Washington Post.

“The story of Turkey is fast becoming a heartbreaking saga of a budding Muslim democracy tossing out a historic chance at progress, only to settle for a familiar pattern of Middle East despotism by succumbing to  a retro personality cult. A decade ago, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was applauded by the world for the pace of its reforms and advances toward European Union membership. I myself was writing in praise of the ruling party AKP’s brand of ‘Muslim democrats,’ which at the time seemed like a hopeful alternative to both the hardline secularism of Kemalism and Islamic radicalism. A decade later, Turkey is barely able to hold civilized relations with its western allies, experiencing a rapid decline as rule of law, and has become a thorn in Europe’s side.”