SIMILARITY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

“One is forced to speak not of what is held in common between the cultures, but what is held in common between the myths, and that in its simplest archetypal forms.”
~ Carl Gustav Jung.

I have located an excellent video from Australia’s SBS TV which discusses the serious problem of torture inflicted on the Basque people by the Spanish government. On the surface, this may not seem related to the Kurdish situation, but if you watch the video and you know anything about the manner in which the Turkish government (or the Iranian or Syrian, for that matter) has handled its Kurdish problem, you will understand exactly why I am writing about this subject.

To get you set up, you can find the video here. It is a long one, almost 26 minutes, and it is definitely worth every minute of your attention. There is a partial transcript of the program provided at Istanbul Indymedia, which also contains a link to the video.

As I mentioned, this video focuses on torture as used by the Spanish government on any and every Basque they suspect, correctly or not, of being an ETA member, sympathizer or simply having any connection at all to ETA, including journalists who have interviewed ETA members. There are a number of other aspects of the Basque situation that are also familiar subjects to Kurds, but are peripheral to the discussion of torture as presented in the video, such as the Dirty War conducted against the Basques, efforts of Spain to create intra-Basque fighting and disunity, extrajudicial killings, deaths in prison and in custody, impunity of security forces, the whole propagandized “terrorist” question, and extraditions of Basques.

More on all those other aspects of Spanish repression can be found at EHJ-Navarre. Note, too, that it appears Spain and France had a little relationship going similar to the one between Turkey and Iran as regards extraditions.

I suppose the most striking thing to me is the attitude of the Spanish government toward the Basques and their longing for independence. Here is a country, Spain, that behaves in ways very similar to Turkey. It denies that torture takes place or, when cornered, attempts a tu quoque argument, as one government offical does in the video. He attempts to downplay the Spanish government’s guilt by asking, “Which country in the European Union hasn’t had cases of torture reported?” When the interviewer quotes the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture as saying that today, most claims of torture are leveled against Spain, the official demands that the camera be turned off so that the “terms of the interview” can be discussed.

That same Special Rapporteur, Theo van Boven, found that Spanish authorities were obsessed with the Basques, and that sounds so much like Turkey and its obsession with Kurds. All this obsession turns every Basque and every Kurd into “terrorists” by the respective, obsessed governments. Naturally, all of this obsession justifies torture committed against both peoples, as well as justifying all of the other dirty government tactics. Yet in spite of all this obsession, there appears to be a need to hide the atrocities well from outside eyes and to play the denial game when confronted with them.

A related point is one made by the interviewer, who states:

Outside of the Basque Country, the allegations of torture haven’t gained much traction. Anyone with a connection to Basque nationalism tends to be dismissed as a “terrorist” sympathizer by the national government and media.

Just as with Kurds, such sympathizers are beyond the legal pale and are permitted to suffer from impunity of security forces. All of those outside of the country in question simply believe the official media version of events. It helps that these governments have friendly relations with other, powerful governments, all of whom perpetuate the official myth worldwide and cooperate with extradition or deportation proceedings, in spite of well-founded fears of torture or danger to life itself.

The experience of Martxelo Otamendi, is a familiar one to Kurds. This editor of the Basque-language newspaper, Egunkaria, was detained incommunicado and tortured for published interviews with ETA members and the newspaper was shut down by the government. The Spanish government maintained that the paper was funded and directed by ETA, although to this day, no evidence to support that claim has ever been presented.

Compare that to the current situation of Roj TV, and there is no difference except that the Basque example was a newspaper and the Kurdish example is a TV channel. Both employ languages that have been restricted or banned by their respective obsessed governments, and both are accused of “terrorist” backing with no proof forthcoming. Unless, of course, we are going to permit a lot of governmental hot air and hysterics to be entered as evidence.

Otamendi was tortured while detained and when he continued to speak about his experience after release, he was slapped with additional charges by the government. The charges stated that he was a “collaborator” with “terrorists,” and that he was, in effect, defaming the very government that had tortured him. To top it off the government made the following ludicrous statement:

“[I]f there was a credible complaint of torture it would be discussed publicly; however in counter-terrorism cases it was standard for a person who has been detained systematically to allege that he/she has been tortured. Consequently, most press agencies did not report the case as they knew the claim to be false, except for those newspapers linked to terrorism” (p. 5 of link)

This is nonsense. In fascist-inspired states, nothing like this can be discussed publicly. There is a double-standard at work here, as well. In the video, the government official states that journalistic investigations are not credible for states that “uphold the rule of law,” but the statement I quote here, from the former Spanish Interior Minister, very obviously considers journalistic investigations to be valid. It is not the argument for or against journalistic investigations that is relevant; it is the fact that the Spanish government, like the Turkish government, will twist everything in any possible way in order to justify its own vile actions.

Is it any wonder then, that Spain and Turkey, together, are heading up the “Alliance of Civilizations” program? Exactly what kind of alliance of civilizations will that be?

At the beginning of the video, the presenter asks the question:

This disturbing story actually comes at an interesting time in the decades-long Basque conflict. Two weeks ago, ETA – responsible for hundreds of deaths over the years, announced a permanent cease-fire, the best chance yet for a resolution of the conflict. But could the torture allegations derail the peace negotiations?

If my Kurdish sense is correct, and I answer this question from my Kurdish sense, I would have to say that the public discussion of Spanish atrocities against the Basques–to include others besides torture–can only derail the peace negotiations if the Spanish government continues in its denial. As I see it, genuine peace negotiations and resulting settlement will have to take into account the government’s atrocities against the Basque people. The Spanish government is going to have to ask itself why the Basques felt compelled to engage in their right to legitimate armed resistance and it’s going to have to find honest answers, because there is no such thing as spontaneous generation. In other words, shit doesn’t just happen.

Turkey will have to face up to the same thing as regards the Kurds.

The video report ends by summing up the situation precisely:

After decades of violent struggle, it will not be easy to bridge the gulf of trust between the Basques and the Spanish Government.

Double dittos for the Kurds and the Turkish government.

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