— The Erimtan Angle —

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Back in the day, the more than well-respected MIT academic and critic Noam Chomsky used to be somewhat in favour of AKP-led Turkey and its course. In 2012, for instance, while talking to David Barsamian, he made these choice remarks: Tayyip “Erdogan’s popularity in the Middle East does not make him popular in the U.S. He’s by far the most popular figure in the Arab world, whereas Obama’s popularity is actually lower than Bush’s, which is quite a trick. Turkey has taken a fairly independent role in world affairs, which the U.S. doesn’t like at all. They’ve maintained trade relations with Iran—in fact, are even increasing them. Turkey and Brazil carried out a major crime. They succeeded in getting Iran to agree to a program of transferring the low-enriched uranium out of Iran, which happened to virtually duplicate Obama’s program. In fact, Obama had actually written a letter to Lula, the Brazilian president, urging him to proceed with this, mainly because Washington assumed that Iran would never agree, and then they could use it as a diplomatic weapon against them and have more support for sanctions. But they did agree. There was great anger here that they got Iran to agree, because then that might undermine the push for sanctions, which is what they really were after. So that was another source of hostility. And there are others. For example, in the case of Libya, Turkey, which is a NATO power, interfered with NATO’s early efforts to carry out the bombing of Libya, effectively overriding the UN resolution, though they claimed they were observing it. Turkey was by no means cooperative; in fact, they actually blocked NATO meetings. Washington didn’t like that either. They don’t like the increasing trade relations with Iran, they don’t like their independent foreign policy. So given that situation, it’s appropriate to condemn human rights violations in Turkey, which are there. There’s been regression. Actually, there was a lot of progress over the past 10 years, quite considerable progress, but the last couple of years have been pretty unpleasant. It’s correct to protest them, cynicism aside”.[1]

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But those days are over now . . . now that Turkey is at war, at home as well as abroad.[2] As explained by Matthew Weaver in the Guardian: “Hours after Tuesday’s bomb attack on a tourist area of Istanbul, Erdoğan delivered a sneering criticism of Chomsky and ‘so-called intellectuals’ who had signed a letter calling on Turkey to end the ‘deliberate massacre’ of Kurdish people in the south east of the country. He invited Chomsky to visit the area in a defiant televised speech to a conference of Turkish ambassadors in Ankara. Chomsky has now rejected the invitation. In an email to the Guardian he said: ‘If I decide to go to Turkey, it will not be on his invitation, but as frequently before at the invitation of the many courageous dissidents, including Kurds who have been under severe attack for many years.’ Chomsky also claimed Erdoğan was operating double standards on terrorism”.[3] In response, the Prez (aka the first popularly elected President of the Republic of Turkey) did what he does best, and gave yet another speech. Weaver relates that “[i]n his speech, Erdoğan said: ‘Let our ambassador from the United States invite Chomsky, who has made statements about Turkey’s operations against the terrorist organisation. Let’s host him in the region.’ Referring to operations of the Kurdish separatists in the PKK, Erdoğan added: ‘We are ready to tell them what is happening in the south-east. They should see with their eyes whether the problem is a violation by the state or the hijacking of our citizens’ rights and freedoms by the terrorist organisation.’ He went on to accuse Chomsky and the other signatories of displaying the ‘mentality of colonialism,’ saying: ‘You so-called intellectuals are not enlightened persons, you are in the dark. You are nothing like intellectuals.’ A live translation by al-Jazeera quoted Erdoğan saying: ‘I have a message for those academics. Just putting your signature on a dry piece of paper means nothing. Come to Turkey. Chomsky can see what is taking place in Turkey with his own eyes, not through the eyes of a fifth column. Let those academics come to Turkey – I’m certain we will be able to show them the true picture.'”.[4]

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As I wrote some time ago, “[o]ver the past months Turkey has seen an ever-increasing escalation of violence. As expressed by Human Rights Watch recently, ‘[c]lashes have taken place between government forces and armed opposition fighters since the breakdown of the Turkish government’s peace process with Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In towns throughout the southeast massive security operations are under way against an armed movement, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), associated with the PKK. The youth movement’s supporters have dug trenches and erected barricades to seal off neighborhoods . . . Human rights groups including Mazlum Der and the Human Rights Association, and the Diyarbakir Bar Association, have reported the killings of scores of men, women and children in the southeast in recent months. Among the dead and wounded are young children, teenage boys, adult men and women. Some teenagers and young men who were killed may have been armed and actively participating in the armed clashes against the police, and others may have been unarmed but in the vicinity.’ The Turkish state-under-the-AKP has thrown its full weight into the renewed fight against the PKK, or as some would argue, against the Kurdish population of south-east Anatolia: ‘since August 16, there have been 52 open-ended, round-the-clock curfews affecting 17 towns, in which approximately 1,299,061 people reside (2014 population census), according to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV),’ as expressed by the Ankara-based journalist Uzay Bulut. Currently, these curfews affect the Kurdish-populated districts of Sur in Diyarbakır, Nusaybin in Mardin and Cizre and Silopi in Şırnak. About a fortnight ago, the wily PM declared that ‘all those towns will be cleansed of terror elements. If necessary, neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house, street by street.’ According to Yılmaz Kan, co-chairman of the organization Göç-Der (Migrants’ Association for Social Cooperation and Culture), about 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the recent military assaults. In view of these troubling developments some people have started asking aloud whether Turkey is headed for a return to the 1990s, when the Turkish state was waging a full-out war on the PKK. In response, the apparently always well-informed Economist relates that ‘[u]nlike in the 1990s . . . today the PKK’s armed youth wing [or the YDG-H] is firmly entrenched in urban centers across the south-east.'”.[5]

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Weaver then concludes his piece as follows: “[i]n his email to the Guardian, Chomsky accused Erdoğan of hypocrisy. He said: ‘Turkey blamed Isis [for the attack on Istanbul], which Erdoğan has been aiding in many ways, while also supporting the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different. He then launched a tirade against those who condemn his crimes against Kurds – who happen to be the main ground force opposing Isis in both Syria and Iraq. Is there any need for further comment?'”.[6]

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[1] D. Barsamian, “Noam Chomsky Discusses Turkey with David Barsamian” The Armenian Weekly (09 Feb 2012). http://armenianweekly.com/author/david-barsamian/.

[2] C. Erimtan, “Turkey at War: Flexing its Military Muscle, Imposing Curfews and Destroying Campsites” NEO (20 Dec 2015). http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/20/turkey-at-war-flexing-its-military-muscle-imposing-curfews-and-destroying-campsites/.

[3] Matthew Weaver, “Chomsky hits back at Erdoğan, accusing him of double standards on terrorism” The Guardian (14 Jan 2015). http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/14/chomsky-hits-back-erdogan-double-standards-terrorism-bomb-istanbul.

[4] Matthew Weaver, “Chomsky hits back at Erdoğan, accusing him of double standards on terrorism”.

[5] C. Erimtan, “Turks, Saudis & Kurds: What’s Going on?” NEO (11Jan 2016). http://journal-neo.org/2016/01/11/turks-saudis-kurds-whats-going-on/.

[6] Matthew Weaver, “Chomsky hits back at Erdoğan, accusing him of double standards on terrorism”.

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