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Monday, October 25, 2010

Roger Cohen's Blinkered Guidebook to Turkey

Today, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Turkey Steps Out", Roger Cohen writes:

"if I could escort Sarah Palin, Tea Partiers and a few bigoted anti-Muslim Europeans to a single country illustrating how the world has changed, it would be the home of the D-word, Turkey."

I wonder whether Roger, in his new role as tour guide, would take it upon himself to explain the slaughter by Turkey of some 1.5 million Armenians between 1914 and 1918. Would he mention how Obama, as a senator and a presidential candidate, stated, "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides,” yet as president, earlier this year, asked the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to cancel a vote scheduled on a bill recognizing the Armenian genocide?

Given his thesis that "the world has changed", Roger might claim that the Armenian Genocide is already "ancient history" and let bygones be bygones. Yet there is a fly in this ointment.

Some 20% of Turkey's population consists of Kurds, who, suffering endless oppression, seek autonomy. The life expectancy of Turkey's Kurds is significantly less than that of Palestinians in Gaza, and it is a travesty that Turkey's IHH sent a flotilla purportedly bearing aid for Gaza when Kurds live in abject poverty in eastern Turkey.

As described by Human Rights Watch, past persecution of Turkey's Kurds reached extraordinary levels of savagery, leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced persons (some estimates place the number in the millions), who until today have been unable to return to their villages:

"Evacuations were unlawful and violent. Security forces would surround a village using helicopters, armored vehicles, troops, and village guards, and burn stored produce, agricultural equipment, crops, orchards, forests, and livestock. They set fire to houses, often giving the inhabitants no opportunity to retrieve their possessions. During the course of such operations, security forces frequently abused and humiliated villagers, stole their property and cash, and ill-treated or tortured them before herding them onto the roads and away from their former homes. The operations were marked by scores of 'disappearances' and extrajudicial executions. By the mid-1990s, more than 3,000 villages had been virtually wiped from the map, and, according to official figures, 378,335 Kurdish villagers had been displaced and left homeless.

In the intervening decade, Turkey has embarked on a convincing program of human rights reform which has been internationally recognized and welcomed. However, that reform has not yet significantly benefited IDPs in Turkey. Most are in much the same situation as they were a decade ago: still displaced and living in harsh conditions in cities throughout the country."

Turkey, of course, is not alone when it comes to persecuting its Kurdish minority. It is no accident that Turkey's current Middle East outreach program focuses upon Iran and Syria, which are also "full partners" in the oppression of the region's 35 million Kurds and seek to deny the Kurds their independence.

For some six months during 2009 Cohen repeatedly informed us that Iran is "not totalitarian", while devoting a mere sentence to the barbarous oppression of that country's Baha'i minority. Are we now to hear of the wonders of Turkey as Cohen sweeps the cruel persecution of its Kurdish minority under the carpet?


  1. Well said!
    I've also posted about it here and link to earlier piece in that post:

  2. I was wondering if you show this much diligence to pointing out human rights abuses in and perpetrated by other countries, namely the US?

  3. Mr.Cohen's point is clearly the foreign policy change of Turkey after Davutoglu's appointment to his role in 2009. That's all. You're countering this point with a human rights report from 2005, which is not current anymore plus noone in Turkey nor Mr.Cohen doesn't say there are no HR issues. You clearly hate Turkey and didn't even read the Cohen's op-ed. When I read your post, I see a hateful rant against Turkey which uses tired arguments hundreds if not thousands of people already used. Contribute to blogosphere if you have something genuine to say. The world has changed, maybe it's time to be open minded about how you approach the Armenian tragedy. Do you even care about the living Armenians as much as you care about the past ones?

  4. JG: kudos for your comment, in the #1 position with 74 recommendations, so far. You forgot to note that Turkey still maintains an illegal blockade of their border with Armenia :)
    Majority of other comments offer some measure of criticism to Cohen's simplistically disengenous cheerleading, which totally fails to acknowledge the influence of the Gulen Movement on the AKP, or the distress of the Alevis, who are as much as 30% of Turkey's population.

    Today's other news about Turkey's demands for allowing the NATO missile shield system only adds to MY belief, that Turkey will use their NATO membership solely to Turkey's advantage, without any restraint. I sense NATO is privately aware of the increased risk of depending on Turkey.

    NATO would be better served to locate the missile shield system in Greece, or on a permanently seaborne platform.


  5. Dear JG,

    Ottoman empire survived for 600 hundred years and it was "the most global empire" of all times. Armenians, Persians, Greeks are only few. There was no cultural imperialism (non of them speaks Turkish now. The way Indians speak English). Why do you think there was double sided killings in 1915 then, after 600 years of peaceful living together?. Ask the French and Brits who were there in 1915. What were they doing ? "divide and rule" when the empire was weak.

    Any culture who tries to teach Turkey "human rights" should first run a multicultural empire for 600 years with full respect to all cultures.

    British empire 600 years? Nob. American Empire? Nob.

    You have now Chinese cuisine, korean cuisine, Turkish cuisine, etc,etc in USA. But they are not on the same table, they are on separate commercial restaurants. In a basic Turkish breakfast we have armenian, persian, greek falavors. These flavours are all melted in 600 years in families. Not in commercial restaurants.

    Do the Turks tell you to accept the Native Indian Genocide and appologize for it everyday on TV prime Time?. Do the Turks have a colonialistic aim for a genocide against Armenians the way French did on north Africa?

    What RU doing in Afganistan? (deals for mining), what did you do in Iraq?.... US, as the gralnd son of angosaxonian empire is doing the worst abuse of human rights everywhere and creates scapegoats to clear it self..

    The US based Armenian lobby opposes to opening up the ottoman archives about Amermenian issues. They are afraid of the truth. Please go and ask them. Baseless media is talking non sense. Wost than Lindsay Lohan news.

    I am trying to understand you. But what I see is nothing but lack of knowledge, respect and understanding. Even if I assume that you are financially supported by an anti-Turkish armenian, kurdish, neocon lobby what you have written is so baseless that not even your supporters like your job. If you try to sell your baseless ideas please be little wiser. Don't go by gut feeling with a crusade (s)word. Use wiser word(s) :))).

  6. The Turkish Republic's Kurdish problem has more to do with fascism than racism. An ethnic Kurd is equal to Turks if they accept a Turkish national identity. There already have been Turkish presidents of Kurdish descent.

    The Palestinian-Israel conflict on both sides is all about racism.

  7. Everyone, please look up the definition of fascism and rethink its selective application as a term to the Turkish Kurdish problem. It's really frustrating to read such one-sided, two-dimensional accounts whenever the subject of Turkey comes up. Yes, we have problems with Cyprus, yes, in the past, things happened with Armenia and yes, the Kurdish minority express discontent. However, I would like to see the same criticism applied to other Western nations who purportedly are the epitome of human rights. I would like to see, say, Muslims in the USA or France have the right to broadcast in Arabic, or wear the headscarf in public places or practice religious law and build their own mosques (!) since they too are minorities. Why do these freedoms only come up in the case of Turkey but are obscured in other Western nations with large ethnic minority populations. I don't see anybody criticizing the US for the same issues that Turkey is criticized for.

  8. "I would like to see, say, Muslims in the USA or France have the right to broadcast in Arabic, or wear the headscarf in public places or practice religious law and build their own mosques (!) since they too are minorities."
    Obviously,you've never been to the USA,and you are showing a prejudiced view.I am not aware of a prohibition to an Arabic broadcast,nor prohibition of religious feedom,headscarves,or Mosque building.We have plenty of them,and religious ceremonies are openly,and freely conducted.Simply because a Mosque is being resisted in the shadow of a national tragedy(and I'll add,there is already a mosque in the area) does not speak of the nation.

  9. We,as Americans,ashamedly acknowledge the past mistreatment of native Americans.
    Will Turkey do the same regarding the Armenians,other oppressed minorities? Need I mention the acknowledgement of the Holocaust in other countries in the region?

  10. What was your point? Should Davutoglu change his view? Or you just wanted to talk something out of context? Probably you wanted to get attention. Sorry dude... You are not talking about what we are talking here.

  11. Actually, I went to university in Canada, have visited the US many times, am in a serious relationship with an American, going to be attending the US for my PhD and probably speak English better than you, Anonymous, you brave old soul you!

  12. You might be a PhD candidate intent upon attending a university in the US, but apparently you are entirely unaware that Muslims in the US are guaranteed the right to broadcast in Arabic by the First Amendment. Peculiar how you are willing to denigrate the US while taking advantage of its educational system.