BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
At the conclusion of Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, CBS aired a commercial for Turkish Airlines featuring Academy Award-winning actor Ben Affleck as its new spokesperson. This is a surprising choice for the actor who has been a staunch advocate for human rights around the world.
Asbarez readers will recall the community-wide anger toward Los Angeles Lakers front man Kobe Bryant who had signed a multi-million dollar deal with Turkish Airlines, arguing that such a high-profile celebrity, who is adored by young people, should not be supporting a company with ties to a genocidal regime.
The difference this time is that Affleck’s views on human rights issues have been widely publicized, so the question is whether he chose to ignore the abhorrent human rights, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mass killings have been commonplace.
In fact, Affleck has testified before Congress and urged US intervention in Congo to end the mass killings there. In 2010 he founded the non-profit Eastern Congo Initiative, which, according to its website, “is an advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo.”
One would assume that Affleck’s advocacy against mass killings isn’t Congo-centric, but comes from an understanding that mass killings of any kind are a brutal violation of human rights.
And Turkey is one of the biggest violators of human rights today with its campaign of brutality against its own Kurdish citizens today and intolerance toward any kind of dissent, which manifested recently in the mass arrest of Turkish academicians who had signed a petition denouncing Ankara’s policy toward the Kurds. The most obvious example of mass killings, of course, is the Armenian Genocide, which Turkey continues to deny to this day.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently praised Hitler as a great leader, lashed out at the academicians, among them Noam Chomsky, for supporting those in Turkey who dared to speak out against their government’s policy in Turkey.
So Affleck, who will be appearing in the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” as the famous caped crusader, must have had a change of conscience when he opted to accept money from Turkish Airlines to become its celebrity spokesperson. Turkish Airlines is Turkey’s national carrier with the same government that is committing large scale human rights violations against its own citizens–and signing Affleck’s checks–owning a governing stake in the company.
And then there is Turkey’s affinity toward the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. For years Turkey’s porous border has served as a transit route for ISIS and other Islamist militants crossing over to Syria, with official Ankara turning a blind eye and escalating the international conflict, which today has global ramifications. This, coupled with Turkey’s financial support of ISIS through the purchase of oil usurped by the militant group, should have sounded the alarm for Affleck to rethink his decision to promote a country, whose government has blood on its hands.
One wonders, how many dollars does it take for protecting and advancing human rights to not be a guiding principle for a person?