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A Kurdish question mark
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-10-18 10:00:20
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For a very long time Turkey has learned to play the card of the country at the crossroads, a country between east and west, between Christians and Muslims, a country between Europe and Asia. Turkey has often been neutral but has been equally often playing the game of both sides also. They are pro-Palestinian and, at the same time, they sign military treaties with Israel.

They want to be full members of the EU often using blackmails and opportunistic games and they like to be big brother to the middle Asian and other Muslim countries. For a long time they have stood in the gray shadows between the sides taking sides only when their opportunistic interests led them or when their militaristic, sometimes imperialist, dreams led them.

For nearly a decade now they managed to manipulate Europe by playing the game of religion. If you don’t accept us you prove that you are nothing other than a closed Christian club, which is something very unfair for a union that has often proved that is above religion from a country that has too often proved that it aggrieves other religions. Human rights and democracy are issues that have turned to be …semantics for Turkey.

Despite the steps Erdogan’s government has done in the last few years, human rights is an unknown concept for Turkey, obviously the change of a number of laws is not enough, a whole system has to change from its roots and here comes the democracy concept. What Turks call democracy is something only they can understand and explain, how can you have a democracy when the army has veto to any decision? Furthermore, how can you have democracy living in the constant threat that if the army doesn’t like the political decisions they can always interfere with a military coup, like they have often done even in the last twenty years?

What could the rest have done? Actually nothing, they just stood on the side watching. The west, during the Cold War era, worried that Turkey might lean on the Russian side arm of the country and help the nationalism, the other Muslim countries on the east felt like they had somebody that could meditate between them and the western powers, so they let Turkey lead in her own way. If Jordan, for example, had signed a treaty with Israel it would most likely be condemned by the other Arab and Middle East countries, yet when Turkey does so nothing happens.

When Turkey invaded Cyprus nobody moved and thirty years after with Cyprus a full EU member nothing still moves with the northern part of the Cypriot democracy occupied by the Turkish army. When Iraq occupied Kuwait WWIII nearly started with the whole world united by sailing into the Gulf - thirty years after we are talking about the Turkish rights in an independent country.

So let’s see where the Kurdish problem will lead now. The Turks from their side feel pretty confident. What happened with Cyprus can happen again and they have built their story very well. First of all there is a Kurdish state inside Iraq, a state rich in oil and naturally Turkey would love to have a share of that; excuses, that’s the easy part. First of all there is a Turkmen minority inside this Kurdish area; it amounts to a few hundred and the truth is that they always lived in harmony with the neighbouring Kurds, not perfect but they managed well; after all, they had Saddam as the common enemy. Then there is the PKK, the Kurdish liberation front that mainly acts in Turkey since the biggest part of the Kurdish population lives in south Turkey suffering under the Turkish military reality, not even being able to use or learn their own language.

The difference between a liberation party and a terrorist group nowadays is very thin; PLO just like PKK fought for the liberation of the Palestinian people and nowadays is considered as a liberation army, an equal in talks and playing a great part in the talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Turkey has managed, cleverly using the terrorists' fever, to persuade everybody that PKK is a terrorist group; a question that seems will find an answer in the future and definitely not now. That’s the second excuse Turkey needs to invade Iraq. Liberate the Turkmen and destroy a terrorist group. The reality? Oil!

The Turkish parliament from its part has given permission to the government and the shadow governors of Turkey, the generals to start military operations in Iraq, and pursue the Kurds. How will the rest react? Iraq’s government cannot do much except leave the Kurds to their destiny. Iran would love the situation, first of all they have their own issues with the Kurds and secondary they would love another fire in Iraq’s civil war, after all they are after a part of Iraq as well. The other Muslim and Arab countries will probably …look the other way pretending that nothing is happening - practice has made them really good at that. Europe as usual will be the last to understand what’s going on and the last to react. The Americans? Well, here is where the questions start.

Relationship between Turkey and the USA hasn’t been at its best for the last few years. First of all, Turkey didn’t help much in the invasion of Iraq, on the contrary. The Kurds, the only ones who had some kind of independence after the first Gulf War inside Iraq, gave every kind of help, including the lives of a lot of Kurdish people. How things are changing in the USA towards Turkey was obvious when the threat of recognising the Armenian genocide became reality.

The Americans, in exchange for the help they have promised to the Kurds, are going as far to help them gradually become independent. How they are going to react to a Turkish invasion against their only real allies in Iraq is the big question mark. Another question is Russia. Russia has lost influence in the area over the last few decades and Putin would love to put a foot into this very sensitive area.

What is left is not how the world will deal with this challenge but how Turkey will deal with the situation potentially changing everything geopolitically in the area.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-18 11:57:10
There seems to be a paradox at work here. The military in Turkey see themselves not as an anti-democratic force but as the guardians of Kemalism’s ideological puritiy, secularism being one of the six arrows of Atarturk’s ideology. One of the principle rationalizations of the army for the military coup of 1960 deposing Adnan Menderes (of the new Democratic Party which had defeated Atarturk’s party, the Republican people’s party, at the polls) was his tolerance of traditional religious attitudes which they considered a departure from the principles of the republic’s founder. The Second Republic was founded after a brief interval of military rule. Again, lately they have applied pressure to have Erbakan resign because of his pro-Islamic policies. In their view he was allowing too much religious freedom and had failed to curb religious schools and ban private Koran courses. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-18 12:00:00
That paradox turns into a Gordian knot of sort vis a vis the EU which also champions secularism and the division of Church and State “ religion.” On one hand the EU intelligentsia and political leadership advocate the exclusion of any religious views from the public agora and even frowns on the mere acknowledgment of the fundamental role of Christianity in the EU’s proposed constitution. That religious views are to be relegated to the mosque, the church or the synagogue not only is not considered anti-democratic but is seen as fitting and proper to a secular state. On the other hand it condemns the Turkish generals for insisting on secularism as integral part of any modern democratic state and deposing any politician that violates secularism. So the question for the EU arises: quo vadis Europa? Or more prosaically, which way do you want it? Ought not the will of the people in electing leaders with strong views on Islam and religion be respected?

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-18 12:03:31
P.S. In the second line above the word "beyond" is missing. It should read "beyond religion."

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-18 15:05:40


Those readers interested in a thorough exploration and the untying of the intricate Gordian knot hinted above may wish to visit the site of The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at the above indicated link.

Jack2007-10-18 22:17:59
What a mess. A formerly friendly allie, who assisted with airports for the take-over of a neighboring nation, now proposes to invade into a state they helped another nation take-over. There seems something disturbingly wrong here. If Turkey is serious about being in the EU, they ought to at least start acting like they belong. An invasion into northern Iraq (Kurdish regions)would damage their chances of union with Europe, and who could blame them!?

I believe Turkey wishes a happy ending; the Kurds out, then "oil's well that end's well".

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