DEYAN RANKO BRASHICH was born in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia, and is an Op-Ed columnist for Connecticut's Litchfield County Times.  He writes the monthly Letter From America column for Romania’s Scrisul Romanesc, a literary magazine and is the Editor-at-Large for  The Country and Abroad, another literary/art magazine where he authors the Dispatch from Abroad column. He is a frequent contributor to Pecat, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, Britić, a magazine published in the United Kingdom, Ekurd Daily, a multinational Kurdish news portal and Passport, a lifestyle quarterly. He resides in New York City and Washington, Connecticut.

 

 

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Wednesday
Jan062016

TURKEY: A FRIEND GONE BAD

Versions of this article were published in Pecat, January 6, 2016, Ekurd Daily [Tukey/Iran/Iraq] January 7, 2016 and Britic, January 8, 2016.

What do you do when a friend goes bad? What do you do when a staunch ally puts selfish self-interest above common good? What do you do when your once tolerant secular neighbor becomes an intolerant Islamist jihadist? What do you do when your friend decides that universal human rights do not matter? In the age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn the answer is simple – you simply de-friend or de-link him with the click of a mouse. But when your buddy is a country, Turkey, a member of NATO, well that’s another kettle of fish. 

With friends you often ignore the negative. Your fraternity brother’s drunken groping of a girl or throwing up in the bushes is shrugged away as youthful high jinks. So it was in July, 1974 when the Greek Junta staged a coup d’état in Cyprus and Turkey responded by invading a small part of the north end of the island. Boys will be boys, nothing to really get worried about was the prevalent worldview. Within days Henry Kissinger sat them down in Geneva to hammer out a cease fire.

A week later the Greeks woke up, came to their senses and the Junta collapsed but Turkey followed up with another invasion in August capturing 40% of the island. For the next 10 years the European Commission on Human Rights time and again found Turkey guilty of violations of the European Convention of Human Rights by the “displacement of persons, deprivation of liberty, ill treatment, deprivation of life and deprivation of possessions”, in other words “ethnic cleansing”.

These crimes were ignored. The sacrifice of several thousand Greek Cypriot lives and gross violations of human rights was a price that NATO was more than willing to pay for a united front against Russia’s nuclear threat. The United States and the United Nations have tolerated a divided and occupied Cyprus for 40 years while the rest of the world stands idly by doing nothing.

The Kurdistan Workers Party [the PKK] founded in 1974 is the voice and political wing of the Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, some 15 million strong. The Kurds rebelled against the Ottoman Empire for centuries and against Turkey periodically since 1920. Since 1978 the Kurds have waged a rural-based insurgency coupled with urban warfare demanding the creation of an independent Kurdistan or, at the very least autonomy and full political and cultural rights inside Turkey.

The Turks have declared the PKK to be a “terrorist organization” and the US has gone along designating it a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” for it engages in terrorist activity. Of course it does, any revolution or war for independence is “unlawful” and involves the “high-jacking or sabotage”, “seizing or detaining … injuring … killing [an] individual” or “an internationally protected person”, “assassination” or “the use of any … biological agent … nuclear weapon … [or] explosive or firearm.” [18 USC 1182] You remember the American Revolution and the Greek War for Independence?

Yet this was politically expedient. It kept Turkey within the NATO fold and allowed the US to continue operating military bases on Turkish soil notwithstanding the fact that Turkey has acted in a like manner. The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of thousands of human rights abuses since 1970 – executions, torture, murder, wanton destruction of private property.

On New Year’s Day the New York Times reported that “Turkey’s Fight with its Kurds Lurches into War”. The Kurds’ declaration of self-rule in autonomous regions in Syria and their success against ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria are perceived as “a national security threat to the Turks”. For Turkey and its President Tayyup Erdogan “the Kurdish militants in Turkey are now the most important enemy”.

Turkey will use its military might to eradicate its domestic Kurd insurgency and ignore ISIL’s international war on terror. President Erdogan’s political self-interest trumps international stability. When push comes to shove his Prime Minister said that NATO concerns if they are in conflict with Turkey’s come will be ignored.

Erdogan speaks for Turkey when he said that the world “… want[s] us dead, they like seeing our children die. How long will we stand for that fact? I speak openly; foreigners love oil, gold, diamonds and the cheap labor force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East”. I have not heard Turkish voices in opposition and only muted disagreement to his “[y]ou cannot bring women and men into equal positions” or that liberated women “have been engaged in the treason of birth control for years” statements.

As for his “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism” and that “His executive powers have a precedent in Hitler’s Germany” statements, I won’t even bother to comment except to confirm that “America and Europe have been disgracefully acquiescent”.

So what do we do? Well, for starters Turkey is not the only country found wanting – throw the Saudis into the same basket. Both countries are Sunni strongholds and are using pretexts to fuel their opposition to Shiite Iran. Both countries have violated international human right norms and Turkey has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

What have we done in the past? We tried regime change but that has proven ill advised - see Chile, Nicaragua, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, but ignore the problem we cannot. So when a friend goes bad, realize that he is a friend no longer and treat him as you would an enemy.

In the case of Turkey impose sanctions. Sanctions are a tool we have deployed against many including Russia most recently our ally in the war on ISIS. There is no reason why we should not deploy them against a recalcitrant, back sliding ally. Then “to thine own self be true” we would be.     

 

  

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