TURKEY, PALESTINE, HYPOCRISY

The hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. ~Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, 1963

For some time now, I have been pondering the hypocrisy of the Turkish state, Erdogan, and many ordinary Turks in their complaints–official and unofficial–of alleged Israeli oppression of Palestinians despite the fact that since the founding of the Turkish state in 1923, it has been the Turkish state policy to to deny the existence of Kurds and, failing official denial, to engage in murderous military operations against Kurds as well as cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing of Turkish-occupied Kurdistan.

From the website of the Palestinian National Authority, we find some indication of the official Turkish policy of hypocrisy in this matter:

Israel’s heavy-handed policy against the Palestinian people has cast clouds on its ties with Muslim Turkey, the Jewish state’s key regional ally, with observers questioning whether their “strategic” partnership is still intact.

Leading the army of critics, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday condemned as “state terror” the killings of civilians in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip where More than 63 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli occupation began its operations in Rafah.

http://www.pna.gov.ps/subject_details2.asp?DocId=1435

Yet in that portion of Kurdistan which is under occupation by Turkey, Kurds have suffered under Turkish state terror for more than 80 years. We have, as one example, the ugly historical fact of the Dersim rebellion in 1937-38, in which it did not matter if a Kurd belonged to a tribe who resisted Turkification or not. It was sufficient to be Kurd for the terrorist Turkish state to murder. From the great scholar of Kurdistan, Dr. Martin van Bruinessen:

When the Turkish troops began hunting down the rebellious tribes, the men gave battle, while the women and children hid in deep caves. “Thousands of these women and children perished,” Dersimi writes, “because the army bricked up the entrances of the caves. These caves are marked with numbers on the military maps of the area. At the entrances of other caves, the military lit fires to cause those inside to suffocate. Those who tried to escape from the caves were finished off with bayonets. A large proportion of the women and girls of the Kureyshan and Bakhtiyar [two rebel tribes] threw themselves from high cliffs into the Munzur and Parchik ravines, in order not to fall into the Turks’ hands.”11

The Kirgan, a tribe that had opted for submission to the Turkish army and broken with the rebels, was not treated with greater clemency:

“Because the Kirgan trusted the Turks they remained in their villages, while the rebel Bakhtiyar withdrew. As a result, they were destroyed. Their chieftains were tortured and then shot dead. All who tried to escape or sought refuge with the army were rounded up. The men were shot on the spot, the women and children were locked into haysheds, that were set fire to.”12

http://www.let.uu.nl/~martin.vanbruinessen/personal/publications/Dersim.pdf

The murder continued in the spring of 1938, again, from Dr. Martin van Bruinessen:

In the spring of 1938 military operations resumed on an even larger scale. The Karabal, Ferhad and Pilvank tribes, which surrendered, were annihilated. Women and children of these tribes were locked into haysheds and burnt alive. Men and women of the Pilvank and Aşağı Abbas tribes, that had always remained loyal to the government, were lined up in the In and Inciga valleys and shot. The women and girls in Irgan village were rounded up, sprinkled with kerosine and set alight. Khech, the chief village of the Sheykh Mehmedan tribe, which had already surrendered, was attacked at night and all inhabitants were killed by machine gun and artillery fire. The inhabitants of Hozat town and the Karaca tribe, men, women and children, were brought near the military camp outside Hozat and killed by machine gun. (…) Thousands of women and girls threw themselves into the Munzur river. (…) The entire area was covered by a thick mist caused by the artillery fire and air bombardments with poisonous gas. (…) Even young men from Dersim who were doing their military service in the Turkish army were taken from their regiments and shot.

Let’s be absolutely clear, it was official Turkish policy to commit these crimes, especially from the Şêx Seîd rebellion (1925) and onward:

Shaikh Said’s rebellion did not pose a serious military threat to Turkey, but it constitutes a watershed in the history of the republic. It accelerated the trend toward authoritarian government and ushered in policies which deliberately aimed at destroying Kurdish ethnicity. Immediately after the outbreak of the rebellion, the relatively liberal prime minister Fethi Okyar was deposed and replaced with the grim Ismet Inönü. By way of defining his position on the Kurds, Inönü publicly stated, “We are openly nationalist. Nationalism is the only cause that keeps us together. Besides the Turkish majority, none of the other [ethnic] elements shall have any impact. We shall, at any price, turkicize those who live in our country, and destroy those who rise up against the Turks and Turkdom.

As for the charges of ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide:

The first deportations were simply reprisals against rebellious tribes. In later years, deportations became part of the concerted effort to assimilate the Kurds. The turkification program announced by Inönü was embarked upon with characteristic vigor. The Kurdish language, Kurdish dress, Kurdish folklore, even the very word “Kurd” were banned. Scholars provided “proof” that the “tribes of the East” were of pure Turkish stock, and that their language was Turkish, though somewhat corrupted due to their close proximity to Iran. Henceforth they were to be called “Mountain Turks.” It goes without saying that there was no place for dissenting views in academic or public life. Another historical theory developed under government sponsorship in those days held that all great civilizations — Chinese, Indian, Muslim, even ancient Egyptian and Etruscan — were of Turkish origin. Turkification, even when by force, was therefore by definition a civilizing process. The embarrassing question why it was necessary to turkify people who were said to be Turks already was never addressed.

Massive population resettlement was one measure by which the authorities hoped to strengthen the territorial integrity of the country and speed up the process of assimilation. Kurds were to be deported to western Turkey and widely dispersed, while Turks were to be settled in their place. The most important policy document, the Law on Resettlement of 1934, shows quite explicitly that turkification was the primary objective of resettlement. The law defined three categories of (re)settlement zones:

— one consisting of those districts “whose evacuation is desirable for health, economic, cultural, political and security reasons and where settlement has been forbidden,”

— the second of districts “designated for transfer and resettlement of the population whose assimilation to Turkish culture is desired,”

— and the third of “places where an increase of the population of Turkish culture is desired.”31

In other words, certain Kurdish districts (to be designated later) were to be depopulated completely, while in the other Kurdish districts the Kurdish element was to be diluted by the resettlement there of Turks (and possibly deportations of local Kurds). The deportees were to be resettled in Turkish districts, where they could be assimilated.

Lest anyone think that the bad old days of the Şêx Seîd rebellion, the Dersim rebellion or the Xoybûn rebellion was simply an aberration of the 1920s and 1930s, think again. Here is something about ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide of the Turkish state against Kurds in the 1990s:

Forced evacuation and village destruction started at the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties and reached its peak in the mid-nineties. Detailed accounts of forced evacuation and village destruction 1 have been made by different NGOs (IHD 1996; SNK 1995; Human Rights Watch 1995). Forced evacuation and village destruction reflected – at least partly – the course of the war between the PKK and the Turkish state. A total of 1,779 villages and hamlets and 6,153 settlements were evacuated or destroyed by Turkish security forces (Turkish Daily News, 31 May 2000). Most of the evacuated villages are now in ruins. Unless constantly maintained, the houses built of clay bricks fall into disrepair. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye Insan haklari Vakfi, TIHV) estimates the number of forced migrants at 3 million, and according to the Peoples Democracy Party (Halkin Demokrasi Partisi, HADEP), 4 million people are internally displaced (TIHV 2001; Karageci 2000). Zucker (2000: 2) estimates that Turkey is the country with the second largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. During the war between 30,000 and 35,000 people lost their life, most of them Kurdish civilians.

War is not only about killing people and material destruction, but also about the destruction of social institutions and social cohesion in society. ‘Mass terror becomes a deliberate strategy. Destruction of schools, houses, religious building, fields and crops as well as torture, rape and internment become commonplace. Modern warfare is concerned not only to destroy life, but also ways of life.’ (Bracken et al. 1998: 3). In this article, I will argue that this is exactly the case in Turkey. The aim of forced evacuation and resettlement was the destruction of social and cultural cohesion among Kurds and their subsequent assimilation into Turks. I will present historical evidence for my argument and address contemporary re-settlement projects. Before doing that, I will briefly discuss the concept of the nation and nationalism as factor of cohesion in official political thinking in Turkey.

http://www.ethnopolitics.org/archive/volume_I/issue_1/jongerden.pdf

Given this history of atrocity upon atrocity as official Turkish state policy, I find it very difficult to take seriously the ludicrous statements of Erdogan, such as this one, again from the PNA:

Following the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March, Erdogan accused Israel of perpetrating a “terrorist act” and angrily conceded that Ankara’s intention to mediate for peace between the Arabs and Israel were “messed up”.

http://www.pna.gov.ps/subject_details2.asp?DocId=1435

Yet I am certain that we shall find Erdogan speechless over the Turkish state’s assassination of Şêx Saîd. I also find the suggestion that Ankara is in any position to “mediate for peace” between any two groups, equally ludicrous. Has there ever been the same level of barbarity on the part of Israel against Palestinians as there has been, and continues to be, by the Turkish state against Kurds? Where are the hundreds of thousands of murdered Palestinians? Where are the millions forcibly removed from their villages?

Since 1980 the United States has sold or given Turkey–a NATO ally–$15 billion worth of weapons. In the last decade the Turkish army has leveled, burned, or forcibly evacuated more than 3,000 Kurdish villages. That is roughly three-quarters the number of Kurdish settlements destroyed in Iraq in the 1980s during Saddam Hussein’s infamous “Anfal” campaign, when the West was arming Iraq and turning a blind eye to widespread human rights violations.

That was from 1999: http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=ma99mckiernan

Here in the southeastern part of Turkey, there are an estimated 2500 villages like this one, either evacuated or destroyed. People who used to live in them say Turkish army soldiers would come to a village and give them a choice; they either had to join the Village Guard, which meant they’d had to take up arms against Kurdish guerrillas, or they’d be forced out of their homes. Most chose not to fight the guerrillas, who are known as the PKK. As a result, there are some two-million refugees from this part of Turkey.

That one was from 1996: http://www.hr-action.org/khr/CBS011496.htm

More from the 1996 link:

ED BRADLEY: But Congressman Porter says regardless of the PKK threat, the Turkish Government has gone too far.

JOHN PORTER: I think what is going against the Kurds in Turkey, approaches government terrorism; state terrorism by the Turkish military. And while any country has the right to fight terrorism and to prevent separatism, the kinds of repressive measures, extra- judicial killings, burning of villages, and the like, is — is — goes too far, far beyond reasonable measures to fight terrorism, and amounts — amounts to genocide against the Kurdish people.

ED BRADLEY: Few could argue with scenes like this. German television was documenting this 1992 Kurdish holiday celebration in Cizre, when government troops opened fire. At least four civilians were killed. Yet in the face of mounting evidence of military repression of Kurds, the Turkish Government categorically denies any wrongdoing.

ONUR OYMAN: Can you believe, for a moment, that a democratic country can kill its own women and children?

ED BRADLEY: It’s happened.

ONUR OYMAN: Just — just — just to — to accuse terrorists? It’s against common sense. It’s against our traditions. It’s against our way of life. And you cannot find such cases throughout our history. We are not criminals. We are not barbarians in Turkey.

ED BRADLEY: But since 1993, there have been more than 4000 official complaints of human rights abuses made by Turkish Kurds against the Turkish Government. In addition to the outright killings, reports of civilians disappearing and systematic torture are widespread. This Kurdish doctor says he was detained and tortured by the Turkish military because he was suspected of treating PKK guerrillas.

More from the PNA site:

It is impossible for Turkey to keep silent at what Israel is doing today… Turkish leaders believe that the resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict is a precondition for combatting terrorism and bringing democracy to the region,” said Mensur Akgun, a scholar of international relations.

But it has been official Turkish policy to remain silent at what Turkey does to those under its occupation. It closed Turkish-occupied Kurdistan to journalists in the 1920s and 1930s when the initial Turkish acts of genocide were ongoing. It closed Turkish-occupied Kurdistan to journalists during the PKK uprising in the 1980s and 1990s, only finally lifting the state of emergency (i.e. martial law) in 2002. The Turkish state has, therefore, purposely attempted to hide its atrocities against Kurds from the view of the world. Anyone who writes about Turkish state atrocities is imprisoned or disappeared, and any media offices who carry such news have been routinely bombed by agents of the Turkish state.

From the life of a Kurdish journalist:

[Ferhat Birusk] Tugan was born in Hakkari, a town in the southeastern region of Turkey where armed conflict between state security forces and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) has taken the lives of over 35,000 people since 1984. Though the Kurds comprise about 20 percent of Turkey’s population, laws to repress Kurdish identity have existed since the state’s formation. Tugan recalls secretly learning to read and write in Kurdish when he was 17. “It is illegal for schools to teach the language, and we spoke it illegally in our home,” he said. “There is only an oral history whispered into people ears.”

With a scholarship from Turkey’s largest daily newspaper, Tugan left Hakkari for Istanbul University in 1985. After receiving his degree, Tugan held a series of newspaper jobs until, in December 1993, he and 130 of his coworkers were arrested by Turkish anti-terrorist teams who surrounded the offices of Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper. It was United Nations Human Rights Day, but Tugan said Turkish authorities were angered by the paper’s coverage of the conflict in the southeastern provinces. “They may have been trying to say those new terms or concepts, like human rights, didn’t mean anything to them,” he said. Most of the newspaper’s employees were released immediately, but Tugan was detained for 14 days. “I saw the real face of the Turkish state,” he said. “I was tortured and harassed. They told me that if I went back to work for the paper, I would be killed. I knew they meant business as they had done it before.” In the months leading up to the arrest, more than 10 Ozgur Gundem journalists were mysteriously killed, he said.

Within ten months after his release, Tugan fled his country for New York, where he worked odd jobs and learned English. One month after he arrived, an explosion destroyed the offices of Ozgur Gundem, killing one person and injuring at least 22. “I saw the pictures of my office in the paper,” Tugan said. “If I had stayed I certainly would be dead.”

http://journalism.berkeley.edu/students/profile2001.html

More from Birusk Tugan, and something about US arms sales to the Turkish Republic here:

http://www.tsujiru.net/moen/video_trans/002.html

Back to the PNA article:

The government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a movement with Islamist roots, is also under pressure from an electorate which is highly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, he said.

Erdogan, however, underlined Friday that his government’s reactions were not prompted by religious but humanitarian considerations, directing his anger at Ariel Sharon, the hardline Israeli prime minister.

Oh, humanitarian considerations! That statement rings false coming from the leader of the Turkish state in light of the entire history of brutal repression of the Kurdish people under Turkish-occupation. It also rings false coming from the leader of an Islamist party, whose state has engaged in brutal atrocities against another majority Muslim people. Therefore it is impossible for anyone to seriously believe that Erdogan’s condemnation of the Israeli government has anything to do with either religious or humanitarian reasons. Instead, anyone with the ability to think must consider that it is merely base antisemitism that fuels Erdogan’s fire. . . after all, it has been under his leadership that Mein Kampf glorifies the Turkish best-seller list:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=4&article_id=13511

Where is Erdogan’s (or the Turkish state’s) humanitarian considerations for those it claims under occupation as its own “citizens?” Why does Erdogan, and the Turksh state, have to look so far afield to satisfy “humanitarian considerations?”

“The current Sharon administration takes governmental decisions to kill individuals. And they declare that this will continue. Unless we change this, we can never bring peace to the Middle East,” Erdogan told the Wall Street Journal.

PNA: http://www.pna.gov.ps/subject_details2.asp?DocId=1435

The current Turkish state apparatus takes governmental decisions to murder an entire people and it has made no effort to end its policies against the Kurdish people. In the last year, the situation has become worse in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan. The government continues operations against Kurds, even so far as to target individuals, as it did recently in Semdinli, with the result that uprising and protest is spreading quickly throughout Kurdistan under Turkish-occupation:


http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=28558

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4443296.stm

Tens of thousands of Kurds have been demonstrating during the last week in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan and it will continue even as the hypocrites in Ankara and most of the rest of the world remain silent–and complicit with–the brutality. I have sufficiently shown that such policies on the part of the Turkish state are not new, but are at the root of the ideological and practical foundation of the state. Neither is the reaction of the greater world, which passes over in silence the hundreds of thousands of Kurdish dead and the millions of forcibly displaced Kurds . . . silence which supports continuing Turkish efforts at blocking or simply ignoring all Kurdish attempts to bring these long-standing grievances to a negotiating table.

Unless Turkey radically changes from the “heavy-handed policy,” state terror and hypocrisy that it has employed for so many decades against the Kurdish people, there will never be peace in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan or in Turkey.

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