TURKEY’S US-BACKED “WAR ON TERROR,” PART 5

“The Bush administration appears to be ‘minded’ to accept the absurd and dangerous ‘definitions’ that are being provided and used under the new Turkish ‘Anti-Terrorism Law’ and by Turkish military officials to criminalise people and organisations. These definitions, specifically created to facilitate the ‘War on Terror’, have the capacity to criminalise the non-violent activities of many Kurdish and non-Kurdish people.”
~ Desmond Fernandes.

The article has been reproduced, with permission, from the October 2006 electronic edition of Variant: Cross Currents in Culture, No. 27, Winter 2006 and from Chapter 5 of the book by Desmond Fernandes and Iskender Ozden (2006) US, UK, German and NATO ‘Inspired’ Psychological Warfare Operations Against The Kurdish ‘Communist’ Threat in Turkey and Northern Iraq (Apec Press, Stockholm).

Concerns Over The New ‘Anti-Terrorism Law’.

We also need to ask ourselves whether the Bush administration will keep accepting the ‘definition’ of ‘PKK terrorists’ and ‘terrorism’ that will have been provided to it by its ‘deep political’ Turkish hypernationalist and military/paramilitary/‘special forces’ linked ‘allies’. Certainly, Condoleeza Rice, during her most recent visit to Turkey, did not publicly express any concern over such definitions when she provided assurances that the Bush administration was fully supportive of Turkey’s ‘War on Terror’. The Bush administration appears to be ‘minded’ to accept the absurd and dangerous ‘definitions’ that are being provided and used under the new Turkish ‘Anti-Terrorism Law’ and by Turkish military officials to criminalise people and organisations. These definitions, specifically created to facilitate the ‘War on Terror’, have the capacity to criminalise the non-violent activities of many Kurdish and non-Kurdish people.

Concerns over this matter were even recently expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur: “[A] letter, sent on May 21 [2006] to the Parliament Justice Committee by Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, informed Turkey that the new [proposed anti-terrorism] law fails to meet the requirement of proportionality in the use of force by security forces, introduces ‘improper restrictions on freedom of expression’ and reflects the danger of punishing civilians not involved in violence. ‘This danger is exacerbated by the very broad definition of terrorism’” that is being used “‘and the very long and wide list of terrorist offences’ … Scheinin’s letter assessed the draft” – which is now law -“according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also with reference to certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. He said the very definition of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist offences’ in the draft were contrary to the spirit of his comments and recommendations after his country visit to Turkey on 16-23 February 2006 as UN Special Rapporteur, adding that ‘such indiscriminate use of the terms terrorism and terrorist”, raised concerns about, “ the principle of legality”, (122) as well as other issues.

This new ‘Anti-Terrorism’ law, as the Bush administration well knows, has also been criticised from several other quarters for dangerously enabling ‘deep political’ circles in Turkey to potentially target and criminalise anyone they do not like as a ‘terrorist’. Ayhan Bilgen, the Deputy Chairman of MAZLUMDER, for example, forcefully argues that “we need to see from today that this [law] will target every section of the society. In the past, they said only leftists would be put on trial under Article 312, that the State Security Courts would be involved in the struggle against separatism. But none of these happened. They should not think they can get away with it, saying that it will specifically effect [only] religious groups, the PKK and left-wing organisations … This framework” suggested by the draft bill – which is now law in Turkey – is such that, in “using human rights advocacy, you will be” targeted and defined as a terrorist, for “‘defending terror or something else [like that]’, and because of this, it will incriminate” even those who are “defending human rights, allow[ing] for the[ir] conviction” as terrorists. Human Rights Association Chairman Yusuf Alatas has “argued that the bill [is] ‘incompatible with human rights’ and said it [is] intended to bring back all of the country’s past suppression laws and create a silent society … He said, ‘Not even Parliamentarians are free. Everyone standing up against the law will be accused of supporting terrorism and standing up against the regime’”. (123)

“In a statement dated 14th July [2006], International PEN wrote that the passing of these amendments threatens to broaden ‘the definition of terrorism and brings with it the possibility of many more prosecutions of writers and journalists for writings that cannot be construed as supporting or advocating violence’” (124). A letter from the representatives of 15 organisations including political parties and democratic mass organisations stated that the Anti-Terror Law “surrenders personal rights and freedoms to the conscience of the security forces and eliminates basic human rights”. It stated that fundamental rights and freedoms were under threat:

Disappearances under detention could be revived: “The law severely restricts the right to defence. Personal safety is endangered with the republic prosecutor being authorised to order for a suspect not to be allowed to contact relatives or receive the assistance of an attorney as of the moment of detention. This situation raises concern that ‘disappearance under detention’ incidents could be revived”.

Those thinking differently cannot express their opinion, (or) organise: “It is known that the whole of the society does not think in the same way on issues such as the ‘Armenian Genocide, Cyprus Question, [the] Kurdish Problem’ which are the red points of the state. The law totally abolishes the right of persons, intellectuals and institutions that think differently [on these issues] to share their views with the public. Any individual who expresses their opinion, organises according to their opinion, can be put on trial for a terrorism offence under this law”. (125)

The former head of Turkey’s Prime Ministry Human Rights Advisory Board, Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu, also concluded that the controversial Anti-Terror Law “violated the constitution … ‘I’m worried about thought being punished … My worry is that in the name of preventing terror, opinion will be punished … That the press, intellectuals and journalists who express their views by using mass communications will be placed under pressure’, he said. Kaboglu added that in this situation, the additional authority granted to security forces and prosecutors” in their ‘War on Terror’ “would boost the current trend against freedoms” and fundamental rights in Turkey. (126)

InfoTurk confirms that even “Turkish media criticized the government’s proposal … saying the draft defined too many actions as terror and could easily be misused … The Cumhuriyet newspaper devoted its front page to criticizing the proposed law: ‘The reforms passed in the European Union process will be erased by a definition of terror that encompasses all crimes … There is nothing left out in the definition’”. (127) According to Izmir Bar Association Prevention of Torture Group (IOG) lawyer Nalan Erkem, “‘The arrangements that the draft makes with regard to access to an attorney takes away all of the rights of the defendant … While it opens the way for torture and mistreatment, the draft also aims to prevent lawyers from proving their existence’. Erkem argued that the draft was in the nature of an insult to lawyers in Turkey, stripping away the defence rights that were brought forth under Turkey’s accession plans with the EU”. (128) “Representatives of … 17 non-government organisations (NGOs)” (129) have also “read a press statement in front of Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Justice Hall … where an appeal was made to … reject it. The move came after similar appeals from leading Turkish human rights groups including IHD and MAZLUMDER … The country’s Human Rights Foundation (TIHV) joined in the criticism and said the law would not only shift Turkey from its previous EU projections but also meant a turn to a ‘tolerance policy towards torture’”. (130)

Conclusion.

In reflecting upon the current situation, it is also worth noting that the Bush administration has set in place a series of arrangements that are aimed at securing immunity from prosecution of all US, Turkish and Israeli forces who may be charged with ‘war crimes’ or ‘genocidal crimes’ for any questionable actions that they may have been found to be undertaking. The US government, it seems, has not only been seeking to unethically provide immunity from prosecution to its government, military forces and citizens at the International Criminal Court (ICC), but also those of its ‘client’ and ‘favoured’ states – Israel and Turkey in particular: “Senior (US) officials have stated repeatedly and quite categorically that they will continue to reject any jurisdictional arrangement allowing international prosecution of its own civilian authorities or military personnel for war crimes as ‘an infringement upon US national sovereignty’ (thereby recapitulating the previously noted premise of the Third Reich). Objections have also been raised with regard to any curtailment of self-assigned US prerogatives to shield its clients – usually referred to as ‘friends’ – from prosecution for crimes committed under its sponsorship – e.g. … Turkish officials presiding over the ongoing ‘pacification’ of Kurdistan”. (131)
The information gathered in this article does, unfortunately, disturbingly support Keen’s contention that “an important part of the political function of the ‘War on Terror’ has been the way it legitimises political intimidation by a range of allies beyond the Bush/Blair/Aznar axis. In effect, the ‘War on Terror’ has given a licence to internal repression in countries supporting this war” (132) – such as Turkey. “As in many civil wars, demonising one party” – the ‘terrorist PKK’, in this instance – “has created space for the [hidden] abuses of others. As Michael Mann observes, labelling opponents as ‘al-Qaeda’” – or, indeed, as being no different to ‘al-Qaeda’ – “‘allows repressive governments’”, such as Turkey, “‘to do what they want with limited international criticism’”. (133) Not only has the US governmental stance dangerously allowed the Turkish government to repressively ‘do’ what it wants with regard to the ‘Kurdish question’, it has actively endeavoured to actively ‘assist it’, as it did throughout the genocidal period of the 1990’s, with its highly questionable ‘anti-terrorism initiatives’. We need to seriously reflect upon these issues and act to expose and end the nature of these types of unacceptable ‘actions’ and ‘activities’.

– Desmond Fernandes, 15th September 2006.

POSTSCRIPT.

Since this article was written, other reports and assessments have, similarly, concluded that there is certainly cause for concern over the nature of Turkey’s US backed ‘War on Terror’. Outgoing Ambassador Hansjoerg Kretschmer, head of the European Commission’s Delegation to Turkey, conceded on 23rd September 2006 that the behaviour of the Turkish military and security forces – the very forces that the US-UK governments aggressively support and collaborate with in their ‘joint’ War on Terror – was disturbing: He sharply criticised “security organs for having ‘played their own games outside the control of the civilian authorities, disrespecting the legal and institutional order … In a democracy the ultimate decision rests with … the people, which must have power to define this service. It is they who decide which kind of state they want to have, which role the state should play and how much money they wish to pay for security. In other words, the state is at the service of the people. It is not an end in itself … [But] they [the military] consider themselves the guardian of the fundamental tenets of the Turkish Republic and express their views on all almost every aspect of public life which they consider relevant from the perspective of a very wide concept of national security. Education, religious instructions, cultural rights, university issues, just to mention a few … These expressions of [their] views have’”, he noted, “‘of course more weight than the legitimate expression of the views of individual citizens … Opening his remarks about the Semdinli case, Kretschmer described the incident … as the ‘tip of an iceberg, as indicated by the subsequent confession of a retired general’. He was referring to Lt. Gen. Altay Tokat’s statements in which he indicated that he had ordered the bombing of state property while on active duty in the [Kurdish] Southeast in the 90’s” in order to further heighten tensions and advance the agendas of the ‘deep state’ and military. (134)

“‘In my view, the big challenge for Turkey during the accession process’”, Kretschmer noted with concern, “‘is to create such stable institutions, able to deliver their services – including security – [but] to the citizens of the country in a way respectful of democratic principals. [Only] then, it can be hoped that the security organs, the security sector, will be put in to its appropriate provision as a service provider, fully controlled by the institutions and indirectly by the people of Turkey’”. (135) But we have to ask ourselves: So long as the US and UK governments – under the guise of the ‘War on Terror’ and the fight for ‘democracy’ and ‘Free World values’ – openly, as well as covertly, endorse and reinforce, rather than politically challenge or question, the existing, hardly satisfactory ‘arrangements’ and ‘deep political’, unaccountable, structures and ‘actions’ of the ‘anti-terrorist security and police forces’, how are the structures and democratically accountable ‘stable institutions’ that Kretschmer hopes for, to be created and effectively function? (136)

It has also been disclosed that “in an upcoming report … by the European Parliament, four members of the body’s subcommittee on human rights … said they witness[ed] a noticeable regression in the human rights situation in Turkey … The lawmakers ended five days of travelling in Turkey, much of it spent in the [Kurdish] southeast, during which they said they gathered information about increased incidence of torture, increased militancy and violence and repeated violations of the principle of free speech. ‘The impression is that the situation is going backwards’, said Italian lawmaker Vittorio Agnoletto, who said he was particularly disturbed by an overwhelming military presence in the southeast”. (137) The US Ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, however, expressed the following view: “There is nothing that worries me with regards to Turkey’s continuation as a strong, secure, stable and secular democracy”. (138)

This ‘strong, secure, stable and secular democracy’, however, is one in which any politicians, academics, journalists and concerned citizens who seek to advocate a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish ‘situation’ by encouraging a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state, stand to be placed on trial for this ‘crime’. At the end of September 2006, for example, “twelve executives of the now defunct [pro-Kurdish party] DEHAP were being tried at a High Criminal Court for a … statement encouraging Turkey to negotiate with outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan … The executives … had referred to Ocalan as ‘Mr. Ocalan’ and suggested that a solution to the ongoing Kurdish problem could [possibly] be found in regarding him as a counterpart to it”. (139) Any academics who additionally refuse to parrot the ‘official’ line of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) on the ‘War on Terror’ in this ‘democracy’ are likely to be intimidated and appropriately ‘targeted’. As Tolga Korkut reports:

Turkey’s Police General Directorate has launched an investigation into academics at the Police Academy who contributed to the 2005 ‘Security Sector and Democratic Oversight’ Almanac published by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV). The investigation comes just days after the ‘Turkey Almanac 2005’, jointly published by TESEV and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), was harshly criticized by the Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit in his October 3rd [2006] landmark speech at the War Academy as being “part of the attrition campaign against the armed forces” … A police statement in the wake of his remarks said the Academy had launched an investigation into its lecturers … Previously describing Buyukanit’s remarks on the Almanac as “unfortunate”, TESEV’s Volkan Aytar told Bianet in an exclusive interview that the investigation now mounted against its contributors was [of] concern: “The opening of an investigation against scientists that have shown the courage and written on an issue such as security which was untouchable breaks one’s hopes. It also raises concerns on academic freedoms. There are a minority of experts who work in the field of security in Turkey” … Aytar argues that rather than react to the Almanac, people should be proud [that] such a work was produced.

One of the writers of the Almanac, … Umit Kardas, describes the situation as “an attempt to put pressure on the [right of] freedom of expression and academic freedom”. Kardas says the academics involved should defend their freedoms and refuse to be censored. “But other academics should also act and provide them with support …By creating psychological pressure on this issue, preventing academics [from being] involved in such work, they are trying to set an example so there won’t be [any future] such work”, Kardas sa[id]. “… They want lecturers of the Police Academy to see themselves not as academics but as policemen [of a certain kind] and censor themselves … What is essential is the monitoring by people of the whole of the security sector from private security to security media. The armed forces are not used to this [democratic need] and because of that, it raises their hair”. Kardas believes that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) does not want to be debated [or subject to critical assessment, even as it prosecutes its ‘War on Terror’] and wants to [retain its] ‘I am protecting the order, the regime and state is my responsibility’ image. (140)

Professor Cizre, one of the academics under pressure, has forcefully argued that: “The Almanac seeks to introduce information in a reliable way and to every sector by forcing open the shadows and [the] secret curtain [placed] in front of security institutions. The objection [to me is really over an] objection [they place upon] an information society”, she noted. Professor Cizre is “a political scientist who focuses on problems of the democratization of civil-military relations in Turkey … ‘It is possible to call this’” the attempt at “‘democratizing and ‘transparentizing’ the security sector via [the] spreading of information [over its nature and dynamics] and rendering visible heretofore invisible power relations and dynamics’. As for the government”, The Turkish Daily News confirms that “Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin supported Buyukanıt [in his stance], despite having not read the criticized Almanac: ‘I take with understanding his response against [the] report … [His response] is fair and appropriate’, Sahin said”. (141)

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

122. Bianet News Center (2006) ‘Disregard of UN Warnings on Anti-Terror Act’, Bianet News Center,5 July 2006.
123. BIA News Center (2006) ‘Human Rights Activists: “New Anti-Terror Bill Incites More Violence”’, 20 April 2006, in Info-Turk, May 2006, No. 333 (http://www.info-turk.be/index.html#Activists).
124. WIPC/IFEX (2006) ‘The Writers in Prison Committee’s Appeal to Sezer on ATL’, WIPC/IFEX, 21 July 2006 (http://www.info-turk.be/335.htm#Disregard).
125. Korkut T. (2006) ‘Mr. Sezer, Do Not Ratify The Terror Law’, BIA News Center, 3 July 2006.
126.Korkut, T. (2006) ‘Human Rights Advisor: “TMY Violates Constitution”’, BIA News Center, July 2006.
127. Info-Turk (2006) ‘New Anti-Terror Law: End of the Timid Democratisation’, Info-Turk, May 2006, No. 333 (http://www.info-turk.be/index.html#Activists) – citing The New Anatolian and other media, 19 April 2006.
128. Korkut, O. (2006) ‘Anti-Terror Schemes May Encourage Torture’, BIA News Center, 26 April 2006, in Info Turk, May 2006, No. 333 (http://www.info-turk.be/index.html#Activists)
129. BIA News Center (2006) ‘Reaction by NGOs: “New Terror Bill Takes All Citizens Terrorist”’, 28 April 2006, in Info-Turk, May 2006, No. 333 (http://www.info-turk.be/index.html#Activists).
130. BIA News Center (2006) ‘Reaction by NGOs: “New Terror Bill Takes All Citizens Terrorist”’, 28 April 2006, in Info-Turk, May 2006, No. 333 (http://www.info-turk.be/index.html#Activists).
131. Churchill, W (2003) Perversions of Justice, p. 347. For further details on this, also refer to: Fernandes, D. and Ozden, I., US, UK, German and NATO Inspired Psychological Warfare Operations Against the ‘Kurdish Communist Threat’ in Turkey and Northern Iraq and Fernandes, D. (2006) ‘On The Possibilities of Successfully Taking A Case To The International Criminal Court’, in War and Occupation: Human Rights Abuses, Torture and Disappearances Under Detention, The 5th International Conference Against Disappearances, 16th -20th May 2006, Diyarbakir, Turkey. Organised by The International Committee Against Disappearances (ICAD) and Aiding and Solidarity Association with the Families who lost their Relatives (YAKAY-DER).
132. Keen, D. (2006) Endless War? Hidden Functions of the ‘War on Terror’, p. 77.
133. Keen, D. (2006) Endless War? Hidden Functions of the ‘War on Terror’, p. 77.
134. Turkish Daily News (2006) ‘Kretschmer blasts military for disrespect of legal order’, Turkish Daily News, 23 September 2006.
135. Turkish Daily News (2006) ‘Kretschmer blasts military for disrespect of legal order’, Turkish Daily News, 23 September 2006.
136. It is interesting to note that, due to his remarks, “the European Commission representative to Turkey should be declared persona non grata, said Independent Republic Party (BCP) leader and former Foreign Minister Mumtaz Soysal … He also added that the EU ambassadors can say whatever they want in member countries but don’t have the same right in candidate countries. At a conference on Friday, Kretschmer said that particularly the security sector and the armed forces” – currently driving Turkey’s US-UK backed ‘War on Terror’ – “ were [currently] held exempt from the principle of accountability and that the Turkish military doesn’t confine itself to carrying out the mandate given to it by the political authority … Claiming that security units don’t respect the legal and public order, Kretschmer said that the biggest problem in Turkey in the EU process is to provide stable institutions that provide services within the framework of democratic norms, including the security units” (The New Anatolian [2006] ‘BCP leader: Kretschmer should be made persona non grata’, The New Anatolian, 25 September 2006).
137. Associated Press (2006) ‘Turkey’s human rights situation regressing, European MP’s say’, Associated Press, 23 September 2006.
138. Aslan, A. (2006) ‘Wilson: “Reactionary” Debates Cacophonous’, Zaman.com, 4 October 2006 (http://www.zaman.com/?bl=international&alt=&trh=20061004&hn=37059). Indeed, this view was being promoted by US governing circles in 2002, even as “Britain [ostensibly] handed over command of the international security force in Kabul … to Turkey [temporarily] and announced the withdrawal of Royal Marine commandos who ha[d] been hunting al-Qaida fighters in south-eastern Afghanistan … In a ceremony on a football pitch”, Richard Norton-Taylor observed that “[US] Major General John McColl handed over command to Turkey’s Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu. The US [wa]s keen [even then] to promote Turkey as a secular, democratic role model for Afghanistan” – See Norton-Taylor, R. (2002) ‘Britain hands over Kabul command to Turkish forces’, The Guardian, 21 June 2002 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/ukresponse/story/0,,741067,00.html).
139. BIA News Centre (2006) ‘Mayor Acquitted as DEHAP Faces New Court’, BIA News Center, 28 September 2006.
140.Korkut, O. (2006) ‘ Investigation Against Researchers on the Turkish Army’,BIA News Center, as reproduced in Turk, October 2006, No 338 (http://www.info-turk.be/338.htm#Sparks).
141. A report from The Turkish Daily News, 3 October 2006 edition, as reproduced by Info Turk, October 2006, No. 338 (http://www.info-turk.be/338.htm#Sparks).

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