Treating Turkey Tamely

Not a bad year for Turkey, this 2008. Hrant Dink is all but forgotten by the outside world. A train derailment and a factory fire garnered sympathy for them. Similarly, the case of a Turk in Saudi Arabia facing the possibility of a death sentence for “using God’s name in vain”, its very absurdity inspires pity for this man away from his home; There’s also the news of Turkey’s supreme court (more on this institution’s wisdom later) finding in favor of Alevis’ children not being obliged to study a different brand of Islam. Couple these with Turkey’s role in Israel-Syria negotiations and well-spun data about Turkey’s developing economy and its sociological impacts and you’ve got a great sense of what image the average reader of the LATimes forms of the fairly well disguised dictatorship. Of course, it would be a crime to omit the editorial cheerleading about a possible thaw in Armenia-Turkey relations based on Gul congratulating Sarkissian’s election as president. Please note, this ink was spilt on April 25, long before Sarkissian’s ghastly gaffe in Russia, using the occasion of Genocide commemoration as the lead-in for the paper’s argument.

Bad news? Well of course there was some. Protests against U.S. policy when Cheney visited were reported, as was the whole scarf-ban-rescission fiasco. Of course the recent bombings could not be glossed over, but hey, Turkish law enforcement (the same Keystone Kops who couldn’t follow up on leads that might have prevented Dink’s assassination) conveniently pinned the blame on those “terrorist” Kurds, almost overnight. You know how awful it is to be like the “terrorist” Minutemen of 230 years ago (not the border-addled clowns of today). But Turkey’s three and a half decade occupation of northern Cyprus never rises to the level of relevance.

What’s most interesting and relevant is the suit brought against Turkey’s ruling AKP (labeled as Islamist) for its attempt to undo the Ataturk inspired headscarf ban. The “secularists”, those whom you might think would be more enlightened, tried through legalistic means to shut down the party that had less than a year earlier increased its parliamentary majority. The guys are such Ataturk worshipping chauvinists that anything even remotely impinging on his deific presence in Turkey generates virulent reactions. So, the “enlightened” approach is to ban a popular party through the courts.

Meanwhile, soap-opera-ishly, the government arrested 86 coup plotters who have various levels of connectedness to Turkey’s military establishment– another nest of Ataturk idolaters. These people were also out to get the AKP.

So now, you had a crisscross-tug-of-war going between the chauvinists and Islamists. One sector of Turkish society is out to ban the other while the second is delegitimizing the first by arresting its less savory elemen’s. The country was in the throes of what can only de described as a major constitutional crisis. Of course the supreme court, which could have banned the AKP, did not. Rather, they partially defunded it. How much more blatant a threat to a legal party could Turkey’s “deep state” have given? The only reason the ban didn’t happen is, to my mind, the concern that it would be too brazen a challenge, too sharp a slap, to the Europeans who hold Turkey’s economic future in their hands. Go figure, party-banning is just uncool to the Euros.

Did anybody at the LATimes notice this and comment? Nope, of course not! Turkey is an important ally. It “generously” allows transit of supplies to U.S. troops in Iraq. We can’t go around risking that! Remember, that’s the cover story many of Steve Cohen’s (we’ll visit him next week) ilk in Congress used to work against H. Res. 106.

Even if this pathetic brownnosing is understandable from the paper that brought us Doug Frantz, how can we explain Armenia’s position? In the midst of a crisis that could have toppled the sitting government of or led to a coup in Turkey, Serzh Sarkissian threw a lifeline to the AKP and Gul. Instead of using every diplomatic trick in the book to create more maneuvering room for Armenia, at least vis-?-vis Turkey, a cowering rapprochement was initiated by Armenia. Was there a quiet deal cut in advance of the public theatrics? Under the circumstances, it seems unlikely. So why not hammer away at Turkey to extract concessions? I don’t understand.

What’s even less understandable is the maddening absence of letters-to-the-editor from Armenia’s regarding these issues and the slant of the coverage given. Doesn’t anyone read these things? What are we afraid of? Please, make your voice heard, via ink or pixels.

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