THE REAL DOUBLE STANDARD


“In recent years, it [PKK] has made numerous offers to negotiate federal status, self-government, or a democratic process securing basic rights for the Kurds. It has even declared unilateral truces, but on each occasion its efforts have been ignored or presented as a trap.”

~ Eric Rouleau, “Turkey’s Modern Pashas”, Le Monde Diplomatique.

Bulent Arinc, the Turkish Parliament Speaker, told his Lebanese counterpart that “Israel’s actions in Lebanon and Palestinian territories were unacceptable.” I wonder why he considers Israel’s actions unacceptable? Is it simply for the sake of the “territorial integrity” of Lebanon or Palestine? Or is it because Arinc is concerned about the people in Lebanon or Palestine?

It appears that his concerns run in the following order:

1. Concern that civilians, including children, are being killed.
2. Concern that bridges and roads are being destroyed.
3. Concern for Israel’s lack of respect for international law.
4. Concern for Israel’s use of excessive force.
5. Concern for Israel responding to the smallest incident with such ferocity.

Erdogan also claims to be concerned about Israel’s miltary actions and accuses “the international actors of failing to step in to end the ongoing violence.”

Yet the Ankara regime has never acknowledged its own use of excessive military force against Kurdish civilians, nor has it ever been concerned that those Kurdish civilians, including children, were killed by its own excessive use of force. It has never had a care for its own flagrant disrespect for international law, especially for those international laws that have to do with human rights. It has never lost a night’s sleep over the thousands and thousands of Kurdish villages it has destroyed, the vast tracts of land it has mined, or the vast forests it has burned.

During the first Palestinian intifada, from 1987 to 2000 (13 years), 1,491 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces and Israeli civilians. That averages out to approximately 115 deaths per year. Compare that with the number of Kurdish deaths by Turkish security forces during the first dirty war. Let’s use the much touted refrain of 37,000 Kurds killed from 1984 to 1999 (15 years) and we shall see that the math tells us that Turkish security forces killed approximately 2,467 Kurds every year. Children were included. Who is it that is the master of the use of excessive force? Israel or Turkey?

Human Rights Watch has a report on Turkish violations of laws of war from 1995, at the height of the first dirty war. Let’s see what it says about forced displacements:

According to our findings, Turkish security forces regularly violate the international laws of war. The most frequent violation is that of forcible displacement, during which Turkish forces order villagers to leave their homes and then burn down their villages. In all of the cases investigated, the Turkish government made no attempt to care for the displaced civilians, again in violation of international law; the villagers were simply ordered out of their homes, told to leave their possessions behind, and then watched as their homes were burned. Following the destruction, the villagers were told to walk to the nearest town and to never return.133

In most of the forced dislocations investigated in this report, the Turkish troops behaved with extreme contempt for the dignity and physical well-being of civilians. Torture or other cruel and inhumane treatment appear to be a routine phenomenon during the displacement process, belying any Turkish arguments that the evacuations were carried out for the safety of the civilians. In many cases, troops engaged in village destructions beat male villagers, exposed men, women and children alike to extreme weather conditions, and humiliated civilians in a wide variety of ways.

The troops do not typically kill large numbers of civilians during the forced evacuations; short of killing the displaced villagers, however, Turkish security forces display blatant disregard for their well-being. In one case (Case 11 below) investigated for this report, for example, children died during the village destruction after being forcibly separated from their parents. The security forces turned down repeated requests by the parents to search for their children, who appear to have been burned alive when the troops set the village alight.

A little indiscriminate fire, anyone?

Although indiscriminate fire by Turkish security forces is not the most consistent violation of international law in Turkey’s southeast, it remains a persistent problem. In some cases, the security forces have grossly overreacted to actual or suspected PKK attacks. In these incidents, which have occurred primarily in the towns and cities, security forces appear to have taken advantage of suspected or actual PKK activity to unleash a barrage of fire on civilian neighborhoods suspected of containing PKK sympathizers.

In some instances, the indiscriminate fire may have been due to negligence on the part of Turkish gunners seeking to hit PKK targets. But lack of intent to kill or cause destruction is no excuse for failing to care for the well-being of civilians.

In other cases, security forces have shelled, bombed or strafed villages, either as punishment for presumed PKK sympathies or as a method of intimidation aimed at forcing villagers from their homes. In the latter set of cases, the security forces appear to have relied on indiscriminate fire as a quick and easy way of evacuating villages in preparation for their later destruction. In some such attacks, civilians have been wounded or killed; in others, they fled their homes which were partially destroyed. Later, troops came and completed the destruction.

In a number of cases, Turkish security forces have targeted civilian settlements for serious attack with the intention of causing large numbers of civilian casualties. This is best exemplified by the March 1994 series of Air Force bombing raids on villages in the Şirnak area, in which dozens of civilians were killed and entire villages were destroyed. Other similar cases occurred in 1992 and 1993, however, suggesting that the March 1994 attacks, while remarkable in their scope and intensity, were not isolated events.

Much more information is available in that report, with specific case investigations that show clearly that the Turkish security forces engaged in gross human rights abuses for any variety of excuses, from villages refusing to participate in elections, to refusing to become Village Guards (Korucular), to supporting PKK and sometimes just for the hell of it. All of this is what is starting to happen again to 20 million Kurds under Turkish occupation.

Kurds who rise up against these atrocities are labeled as “terrorists” while the real terrorists walk free with the support of the international community. The real terrorists even have the support of some within the Kurdish community. Let’s be honest here, too: If none of these atrocities had happened, and if Kurds had been accepted as equal citizens as Kurds, there would be no need of serhildan or of engaging in legitimate armed struggle. If the international community had used its collective power to end the atrocities and demand the acceptance of Kurds as equal citizens as Kurds, there would be no need for serhildan or armed struggle either.

Who is it that responds to the smallest incident with ferocity? Who are the terrorists?

Well, there’s Iran’s Hezbollah, for one. They targeted American Marines serving as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force back in 1983, in Beirut, killing over 200 of them. They carried out attacks against French and Italians serving in the same force. They carried out attacks in Argentina. They’ve kidnapped Westerners, murdering some of them. They hijacked at least one commercial airliner.

HAMAS has engaged in hundreds of suicide bombings in Israel, killing many civilians, for the purpose of completely destroying the “territorial integrity” of Israel–in other words, to wipe it off the map–a goal that HAMAS has in common with Hezbollah.

On the other hand, the big, bad PKK has not targeted Americans or other Westerners, nor does it have the goal of “wiping Turkey off the map,” unlike Turkey, which has always had the goal of wiping Kurds off the map. It would be easy to suggest that Turkey got its idea of wiping Kurds off the map from its close and friendly association with organizations like Hezbollah and HAMAS, or its coziness with Syria and Iran, but that wouldn’t be true.

Turkey has always had the goal of wiping Kurds off the map. It, and its enablers, are terrorists of the Kurdish people.

So when Mr. Arinc and Mr. Erdogan come along, at the bidding of their pashas, crying about double standards and feigning indignation at Israel’s “lack of respect for international law” and “excessive use of military force,” don’t you believe it. It’s just another case of Turkey’s double standards.

By the way, check out Bianet’s report on growing anti-Israel protests in Turkey. Then imagine if any of those people would even show their faces in a demonstration in support of Kurds in what is supposed to be their own country.

Also check the photo Bianet’s running on its English page for this report. See the picture of the Palestinian with face covered? That’s now illegal in Turkey under the new anti-terror law. No demonstrators can cover their faces–a law that targets Kurds in particular.

And that brings up another point, these demonstrations are encouraged, if not actually organized by the state, because this kind of activity is also a violation of the new anti-terror law.

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