Friday, June 15, 2012

Turkey – Once a Hope for Modern Secular Islamic Economic and Political Power – Now Becoming a Theocratic Nation That May Fail

More Bad News for the Long Term European Outlook

The potential for the nation of Turkey to be a leader in a prosperous and peaceful middle east has always been great.  The country has a strong economy, a historic and beneficial culture and a history of democracy.  More importantly, as an Islamic nation it has demonstrated that strong secular governments and strong adherence to religion can co-exist.  The country has long sought entry into the European Union, which would have been highly beneficial to both Turkey and western Europe.


Sadly the potential for Turkey be to be a presence of power, stability, freedom and democracy in the Middle East is fading.  There are two reasons for this. The first is the continued inability of the Turkish nation to reach a settlement of acceptance and tolerance for its minority Kurdish population.  This has allowed an armed Kurdish terrorist group,  PKK to wage a war of terrorism against Turkey.  The latest battle in that war was a tragedy for both sides.

On December 28th Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish smugglers crossing into Turkey from Iraq, killing 34. Most were teenagers; the youngest was 12. All came from a pair of villages in the mainly Kurdish township of Uludere. Their families had trouble separating the remains from mules who died. “We pieced them together the best we could and buried them,” says Abdurrahman Yurek, who lost his 16-year-old son.

The victims were apparently mistaken for militants of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In fact, the village men are members of a state-paid Kurdish militia fighting the PKK.

While this may have been a tragic mistake of war, it is hard to see it as other than a deliberate massacre of civilians.

An article in the Wall Street Journalquoted Pentagon officials saying that American drones spotted the caravan and alerted the Turks. American officials offered more surveillance to identify the convoy but “Turkish officers instead directed the Americans who were remotely piloting the drone to fly it somewhere else.”

The second problem in Turkey is the solidification of power of the country’s increasingly theocratic Prime Minister, Recep Ergodan.  He was originally elected on a platform of separation of Islam and the government, but as he has continued in office he has moved away from that stance and towards a union of Islam and the government.  He has silenced press critics and is moving  implementing fundamentalist attacks on women.

Mr Erdogan accused “foreign provocateurs” of exploiting the affair. He said that the BDP and the PKK were “necrophiles” seeking political gain and that journalists were servants of their cause. His message, as Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, put it, was “Shut up.” He has already claimed a victim: Ali Akel, a critic and veteran columnist for another pro-government paper, Yeni Safak, has been fired.

Mr Erdogan has now announced plans to ban abortion, saying that “every abortion is an Uludere”. Outraged feminists have taken to the streets. “The prime minister should stop being the custodian of vaginas,” said Aylin Nazliaka, a female MP from the opposition CHP party. “We used to have faith in the prime minister; now it’s all but dead,” says Mr Encu.

What is unfolding is a terrible waste of an opportunity.  A strong, secular independent Turkey as a member of the EU would be the model for the future of the Middle East.  A Turkey rife with strife may also turn out to be a model for the future, but not one anyone wants.

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