Friday, July 15, 2011

Kurds Feel Sharp End Of Turkish Democracy

When the floodgates opened and the Arab Spring swept the Middle East earlier this year, the phrase I kept seeing over and over in the media was "The Turkish Model". The pundits and politicians, once they'd gotten over their horror at the prospect of putting together the words Arab and Democracy discovered their saviour and it was Turkey.
Here was, they fulminated, a "moderate" Muslim country (god I hate that word). Turkey supposedly showed the way to reform throughout the Middle East.
Well, you needn't have doubted that anything out of the western media and the likes of Stephen Harper would be anything but weasel words.
And we didn't have to wait long to see what they really relished about the Turkish Model. And it wasn't the "democracy". Rather, the Turkish Model was revealed in it's glory this week as it sent troops, tanks and gunships into the Kurdish areas of southern Turkey.
The Kurds, along with the Palestinians, were amongst the biggest losers from the carve up of the Ottoman empire at the end of the first world war. Their homeland was divided between Turkey, where they make up 20 percent of the population, Syria, Iran and Iraq (and perhaps elsewhere). In Turkey they have been denied linguistic and cultural rights, their desire for independence or even autonomy suppressed. Turkey doesn't even officially recognize the Kurds exist as a distinct identity - perhaps not surprising for a country that still can't admit that it carried out the first genocide of the modern era against the Armenians, despite overwhelming evidence and documentation. So, pretending that the Kurds dont exist is just business as usual for Turkey.
Of course, it's not quite true to say that Turkey just ignored the Kurds. They also killed them. In the 1980s when the long simmering frustration of the Kurds - who couldn't even have their own political parties - exploded into a guerilla struggle, the Kurdish state responded fiercely. By the time the Kurdistan Workers Party was forced out of the country, some 40,000 Kurds had been killed and thousands of villages had been razed.
This week's armed foray into the Kurdish region, will be strongly reminiscent of the Syrian Army's foray into it's own restive regions for millions in the Middle East. And the hypocrisy of NATO and western politicians is also likely to be noted. NATO honcho Rasmussen immediately supported the actions of the Turkish state and denounced the guerillas - terrorists in newspeak jargon - who were doing nothing different than the rebels in Libya. Except that attacking Libya is politically useful. The Kurds of Turkey aren't so lucky. Though given that the Kurdish leadership in Iraq did receive aid in their aspirations and now, as the price to be paid for imperialism bestowing it's tender favors, they are now expected to shoot down their own people when they protest. Saddam is needed mo longer.
Back to Turkey, today's assault may push back Kurdish demands for autonomy but it is likely to damage Turkish claims to being any sort of model to anybody fighting for democracy. As usual, western prescriptions are as bad as the disease being fought.


christian h. said...

Good post - but i think you mean "Armenians", not "Albanians"?

Shawn Whitney said...

Oops. Good catch. Teach me to write posts on my iPhone while sitting on a patio in the sun...
I will correct that immediately!

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