Follow by Email

Friday, November 13, 2015

Roger Cohen, "Turkey Haunted by Its Ghosts": Silvan and the Hypocrisy of the West

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Turkey Haunted by Its Ghosts," Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen tells us of the struggle of Turkish Kurds for autonomy and an end to intolerance and discrimination. Writing from Diyarbakır (see why I have highlighted the name of this city below) in southeast Turkey, Cohen informs us:

"The Kurdish question has boiled up again in acute form. Kurdish militias loyal to the imprisoned P.K.K. leader, Abdullah Ocalan, have taken control of a wide area of northern Syria that they call Rojava, defeating Islamic State. Kurdish pesh merga forces are fighting side by side with the United States against ISIS in Iraq. Young Kurds here in the Diyarbakir area have tried to set up autonomous areas within cities, only to be crushed. All Kurds at some level want the state denied them when the Ottoman Empire broke up. They may settle for autonomy but a dream persists.

. . . .

The emergence of Kurds as America’s Iraqi and Syrian allies against ISIS has complicated the critical Turkish-American relationship. President Obama probably needs Erdogan more than Erdogan needs him, a fact that limits American leverage. Still, renewed Turkish-Kurdish negotiation and real Turkish commitment against ISIS are paramount American interests. The impression with Erdogan has been: better a Sunni Islamist fanatic than a Kurd."

Cohen's conclusion:

"Settling the Armenian dispute and reaching a negotiated settlement with the Kurds must be central Turkish goals before the centennial in 2023 of Ataturk’s state."

Action needs to be taken by 2023, i.e. sometime within the next eight years? Remarkably, Cohen does not even mention what is currently occurring in the city of Silvan in the Diyarbakır Province of Turkey. As we learn today from a Hurriyet Daily News article entitled "Thousands of residents flee Silvan amid ongoing conflict":

"Thousands of residents sought to flee for their lives in the southeastern district of Silvan yesterday, the 10th day of a continuing military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

A sixth curfew since August was declared in three neighborhoods of Silvan, a town of 86,000 about 80 kilometers from Diyarbakır, on Nov. 3.

. . . .

Up to date, some 10,000 residents have fled Silvan without taking away any of their belongings, Muhittin Kan, chair of Silvan branch of the Union of Associations of Turkish Craftsmen and Artisans, told the Doğan News Agency (DHA) on Nov. 12.

'We don’t know whether they will come back because most of the houses belonging to them have been damaged,' Kan said.

'The town is under fire. Reinforcements are still being sent here. We have been scattered. Craftsmen will not be able to recover even in the next 20 years,' Kan said, noting that around 100 workplaces had been severely damaged.

. . . .

'Silvan has been besieged by thousands of soldiers, special teams and police officers accompanied by helicopters, Kirpis [armored vehicles] and tanks for the last 10 days. We don’t even know how many people lost their lives and how many people have been wounded,” [
The Confederation of Public Sector Trades’ Unions] said in a written statement. 'We know from the AKP’s earlier practices where it imposed curfews that very severe human rights violations are being committed in Silvan and even lawmakers are not being let in so as to prevent these violations from being heard.'"

So why does Cohen, writing from Diyarbakır, not even mention the struggle in Silvan, now in its tenth day?

And why does the Obama administration and Europe also ignore this catastrophe? Can you begin to imagine the stink that Obama and his friends would raise if Israel were to encircle and attack a Palestinian city with helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles?

Shame on the West! The Middle East's 30 million long-oppressed Kurds deserve their independence!


  1. Onion News (Breaking):
    President Obama announced today that in light of the European Union's decision to label Israeli products originating from Judea and Samaria (known in some locales as the "West Bank"), the US would follow suit and similarly begin labeling Turkish products manufactured in Occupied Northern Cyprus. At a last minute press conference, US State Department spokesman, John Kirby said that "the US will propose strong wording aimed at clearly informing US consumers of the atrocities committed by the Turkish Army when they invaded the Island in 1974". He added that "40 percent of the Island remains occupied and some 200,000 Greek refugees never returned after being expelled from their homes and farms in Northern Cyprus."
    President Erdoğan called President Obama to express his outrage over the US decision and has threatened to recall his ambassador from Washington.
    EU High Representative Federica Mogherini also expressed her displeasure regarding the US decision stating "two rights don't make a wrong". When asked to elaborate she said "Our Occupation Hypocrisy is clear and we will not waiver. Our history dictates that Jews must be treated differently."


    Jonathan Steele writes what seems quite good background for the book allegedly being reviewed:"
    "Out of Nowhere: The Kurds of Syria in Peace and War"

    by Michael M. Gunter

    London: Hurst, 169 pp., $50.00 (distributed in the US by Oxford University Press)

    from Steele's report:
    "...Turkey is the joker in the deck. The peace talks between Turkey and the PKK broke down this summer and Turkey resumed its air strikes on PKK bases. I asked Saleh Muslim if he was afraid of a Turkish military intervention at some point. After all, Rojava is a long and thin slice of land on Turkey’s borders that is only lightly defended by 50,000 Kurdish militia troops. “Two years ago I was most afraid of a Turkish intervention, but Turkey is not so free to do that now,” he replied, apparently confident that Washington’s alliance with the YPG in the struggle against ISIS has limited Turkey’s options...."