More lies about Turkey!

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An evening out in Kadıköy

I had a meal and a drink in Kadıköy with a mate last Friday. Or was it a drink and a meal? Anyway. Kadıköy, once known as Chalcedon, has a long history of Christian settlement, and consequently a flourishing alcohol-fuelled entertainment economy. Despite loudly expressed fears that the AK Party government is dragging the country back to a medieval nightmare of Islamic fundamentalism, the labyrinthine streets of Kadıköy are packed most nights with revellers of all ages, knocking back beer, wine, rakı, or whatever beverage takes their fancy, unmolested by religious police. Even during the holy month of Ramadan.

Anyway. Gunther and I don’t see each other that often these days. We used to work together at one of Istanbul’s plethora of private universities (forty-one is the most recent figure I could find – FORTY-ONE!!). Our meetings inevitably descend into political argument, although I do try to steer towards other topics. My mate is an outspoken critic of Turkey’s AK Party government. Well, I can handle that. I’ve heard a thousand times all the arguments churned out ad nauseam proving that RTE* is the worst thing that’s happened to Turkey since Thanksgiving (sorry, that was a stupid joke – I could have said Winston Churchill).

hitler_bushIt also happens that Gunther, as you might guess, comes from German stock – and is intensely proud of the fact. To hear him tell it, Germany is indisputably the greatest country in the world, its economy driven by superior German brains and hard work, its industries second-to-none. Well, leaving aside the question of why he has chosen to make his home in Turkey rather than the Teutonic paradise of his birth, I found myself gagging over some of the outrageous claims he made to substantiate his thesis. Admittedly I have no formal background in the study of German history – which Gunther claims to have. Nevertheless I read, and take an interest, as one does. After our latest heated debate, I came home and checked the facts that I thought I knew, and which Gunther had vehemently contradicted:

  • Germany’s economy was in tatters after the First World War as a result of the huge punitive reparations demanded by the victorious allies, France and Britain.
  • The Weimar government was saved from imminent disaster by funding from the United States, enabling them to meet their obligations to those creditors.
  • When Wall Street crashed in 1929, the USA called in its foreign loans, throwing the German economy again into severe recession.
  • Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was funded by German and American bankers and industrialists to keep out the Communists who had become enormously popular with the working classes as a result of the Weimar government’s misguided austerity measures.
  • The Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements was founded in Basel in 1930, and, among other dodgy activities, laundered ill-gotten Nazi money during the Second World War.
  • In 1953 a conference in London agreed to cancel most of Germany’s debt and “reschedule” the rest. The United States, under the Marshall Plan, gave $1.3 billion in aid to assist in the rebuilding of Germany after the destruction of WW2.

Why am I telling you this? This is a blog about Turkey, isn’t it? The thing is, some people vociferously assert misinformation and even outright lies from behind a façade of superior authority (academic or otherwise), relying on the ignorance of their listeners or their own loud voices to carry their arguments.

I was reminded of this when reading an article about Turkey the other day. The piece, Why Turkey Chose Qatar, appeared on a website, The National Interest. For a start, the byline attributed it to two people with Turkish names, Aykan Erdemir and Merve Tahiroglu , which you might immediately think gave them credibility. Moreover, Mr Erdemir was a member of Turkey’s National Assembly from 2011-2015, is a respected academic, and is now on the staff of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). End of argument, you might think. Clearly this guy must know what he’s talking about. And in case he needed to check his facts, he had a helpful research assistant, Ms Tahiroğlu, backed by the no doubt exhaustive resources of the FDD.

Nothing daunted, I read the article, made a few notes, did a little research of my own, and here’s what I found.

First up, Aykan Erdemir was a representative of the CHP (Republican People’s Party), sworn enemies of Mr Erdoğan’s AK Party government, and frustrated losers of so many elections everyone’s lost count. Why did he leave political life after four short years in parliament? Who knows? Maybe he thought he could achieve his purpose better with American backing from abroad.

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What have the Yemenis done to Saudi Arabia or the USA?

Anyway. What were these two authoritative Turks writing about? Of course you are aware that the freedom-loving, democratic governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have imposed an embargo on Qatar on the grounds that their wealthy oil-rich neighbour is supporting terrorism. The “terrorists” in question are the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran – and the concerted Arab action was announced immediately after their governments had been visited by US President, Donald Trump. The Big DT didn’t actually mention that he had suggested the embargo, but he was proud to announce he had sign a deal with the Saudi royals for the supply of $110 billion worth of US military equipment, most of which is being used to terrorise the impoverished, starving people of Yemen.

Now some might argue, and indeed do, that the Muslim Brotherhood has been doing its best to work peacefully through the democratic process to bring change in Middle East countries. They actually won Egypt’s first truly democratic election in 2012, before being ousted by a military coup a year later. Turkey’s Prime Minister at the time, Mr Erdoğan, made no secret of his objections – which no doubt upset powerful interests in the USA and Israel. Some might also argue that someone needs to represent the interests of Palestinians suffering under the expansionist aggression of the Zionist Israeli government – and Hamas tries to do this. They might go further and suggest that US hawkishness towards Iran is driven by oil needs and their support for Israel, right or wrong.

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Mohammed Morsi – first democratically elected president of Egypt

But Aykan and Merve are not among those people. The main thrust of their argument is that Mr Erdoğan and the government of Turkey are acting purely from venal financial motives, largely aimed at increasing the personal fortunes of the Erdoğan family. I’m not going to dignify the argument by repeating it here. You can read the article for yourself if you’re interested.

More pertinent, I believe, is the way the writers seek to portray the Saudi coalition as the “good guys” in the current stand-off, and Turkey, Iran and Qatar as “cast[ing] their lot with Islamists”. Mr Aydemir’s paymasters, whoever is funding the FDD Defenders of Democracy, seem to have decided that the slave-based economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the oppressive military dictatorship of Egypt, are worthy of defending. The government of Israel is staying on the sideline, but if I were a betting man I’d put safe money on their being involved in the whole shady business.

Turkey is depicted as being in “a downward spiral of isolation due to its reckless foreign policy”, “estrang[ing itself] from the region’s Sunni camp, led by Saudi Arabia”. Well, Turkey’s people may be mostly Sunni Muslims, but their moderate brand of Islam bears no resemblance to the extremist Wahhabi hypocritical Shariah violence of the Sauds. Erdoğan is accused of nurturing some kind of “game plan” for Washington, trying to curry favour with President Trump after “ruining his relationship with Barack Obama”. Well he certainly seemed to hold his own in the macho hand-shaking competition, which you can still view on Youtube despite the fact that their administrators keep removing the clips.

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Well worth a look

Incidentally, I checked out “The National Interest” website. As you might expect, with a name like that, they unabashedly admit that their business “is not . . . about world affairs. It is about American interests . . . guided by the belief that nothing will enhance those interests as effectively as the approach to foreign affairs commonly known as realism—a school of thought traditionally associated with such thinkers and statesmen as Disraeli, Bismarck, and Henry Kissinger.” THINKERS! Not war-mongers, you’ll notice. And according to the FDD website, their “distinguished advisors include Sen. Joe Lieberman, former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, former State Department Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, Gen. P.X. Kelley (ret.), Francis “Bing” West, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, former CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Richard W. Carlson,  and Forbes CEO Steve Forbes.” Interesting company for our two Turkish academics to be keeping.

tellalieonceBut I’m saving the best till last. That article about Turkey and Qatar was chock full of links to other sites, suggesting that the material had been exhaustively researched, and was therefore beyond reproach. Just on a hunch, I decided to check one out at random. The final paragraph sums up the writer’s case and includes this statement: “For all these reasons, Turkey chose Qatar in the recent Gulf crisis. Indeed, it would have had little choice to discard such a lucrative partnership at a time of brewing economic crisis at home.” That link will take you an archived OECD report written in 2001, a year or so before the AK Party came to power, when Turkey had been plagued for decades with incompetent coalition governments, embedded hyper-inflation and regular military coups. The leaders it refers to are the Prime Minister and President at the time, Bülent Ecevit and Ahmet Necdet Sezer. OUT-RAGE-OUS! Check the other links if you have time. They are probably equally dishonest. Disinterested academics? Phooey!

I read a sad article in our local Hürriyet Daily News the other day, informing me that Over 8.5 million Turks received psychological treatment in 2016”. Statistics released by the health Ministry also showed that the use of antidepressants increased by 25.6 percent between 2011 and 2016” and “one out of every eight people . . . has applied to a hospital for mental and neurological disorders”. 

9aa63d24f038b03f13bdffdc7582c30dFor some reason, the newspaper chose to seek comment from Independent Member of Parliament, Aylin Nazlıaka, who expressed the opinion that “The solution is to remove the common perception and belief that the justice system is not objective and fair. The solution is getting rid of the pressure on people who have opposing views and thoughts. The solution is creating a Turkey whose people are hopeful about today and tomorrow, that produces [opportunity] and that has equality of opportunity. The solution is the normalization of Turkey by removing problems such as terror and unemployment.”

Well, Ms Nazlıaka could be right – and it may help if the CHP leader, Mr Kılıçdaroğlu finds the “justice” he is seeking on his current protest march from Ankara to Istanbul. On the other hand, some of those depressed citizens might try looking around to see the good things happening in their beautiful country instead of paying heed to the self-seeking and biased criticisms of foreign leaders and dishonest “academics”.

 

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  • Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
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The Mind of a Terrorist – Not that complicated really

First I want to talk about tourism. I’m not a big fan. I did feel sorry for Turkey last year when the Russian government got the pip and told their citizens to stay on local icy beaches for the summer. I know hotels have been closing because governments in Europe (and New Zealand) have been scaring their people off visiting Turkey. Falling visitor numbers impacts on the local economy, and innocent people find themselves out of work.

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Getting away from it all in NZ

On the other hand, everything has a price – and floods of tourists undoubtedly have a negative effect on natural beauties and historical wonders. The ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey’s Aegean region suffers from the trampling feet of millions of visitors. New Zealand’s main attraction for tourists is its clean, green, unspoiled nature. Tourist numbers, however, are multiplying spectacularly, and now it seems, forest trails a tramper might once have trekked in peaceful solitude must now be shared with thousands of others.

So I have mixed feelings on the subject. It does, however, annoy me when I receive yet another email from our Foreign Affairs people at the embassy in Ankara warning me of the terrorism danger in Turkey, and advising me to avoid unnecessary visits to the capital or Istanbul (where I happen to live). I would be interested to know what proportion of visitors to Turkey have been killed or injured in recent years, and to compare it with similar figures for New Zealand.

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Truck driver killed taking selfie on bridge

I read an article recently citing statistics showing that more people died in the last year while taking a “selfie” than were killed by sharks. Just last year two old friends from New Zealand visited us and spent three weeks in the country. In the morning of 28 June we picked up a hire car from Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport – where that afternoon forty people died in a bomb attack. They flew out of the country on 14 July – the day before military officers staged an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow by force the elected government.

What am I trying to say here? There are many ways to die, and most of them are less spectacular than a terrorist bombing. And whether it’s your day to go depends a lot on whether you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. A young woman from Turkey died in New Zealand’s Christchurch earthquake in 2010 – one of 185 people from twenty countries who were certainly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, tourists are flooding to New Zealand, and I never heard that Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was advising citizens to avoid my country. I have read several articles warning about the dangers of taking selfies – but people carry on regardless.

So I guess life will go on in Paris, Manchester and London. Locals will go to work and school, and tourists will still flock to the Louvre, Westminster Abbey and Etihad Stadium (home of Manchester City Football Club). The big problems, in my opinion, are the chattering news media, and governments playing political games.

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Sorry, Mr Harkin – It’s not about her

After the Manchester nightclub attack, my hometown daily, The New Zealand Herald, published an opinion piece by one James Harkin, said to be director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and a reporter on Syria and the rise of Islamic State. Well, the article was originally printed in the UK’s Daily Mail, so that possibly leaves room for doubt about his actual commitment to “investigative journalism”. After serious investigation, Mr Harkin apparently arrived at the insightful conclusion that the bombers were targeting Ariana Grande’s “revealing stage outfits, her stockings, pink bunny ears and unabashed sexual confidence”. From his work in Syria and his studies of the Koran, Harkin has decided that Islamic extremists have no problem with western governments – their target is “Godless Western decadence” and “the values we all live by.” Do they include pink bunny ears, I wonder?

Drone strikes

Creating terrorists

Well, I’m sorry, Mr Harkin, but you’re wrong. If you haven’t learned the term Asymmetric warfare it’s time you did. It is defined as “war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement.” In other words, George W Bush (and Margaret Thatcher before him) conclusively proved to all the world that confronting the military might of a technologically advanced Western power could only ever have one result. The Boers in South Africa, the Irish republicans, and a hundred other aggrieved, embattled but fiercely determined minority groups have shown that, in their desperation, they can inflict terrible damage. I don’t believe those Manchester bombers really wanted to “slaughter innocent little girls clutching pink balloons on a night out with their mothers at a pop concert”. They would prefer to hit the true war criminals who are hiding safely behind impenetrable layers of security. Unable to get at the political leaders, they commit random acts of terror with the aim of persuading ordinary citizens to pressure their own governments to stop the state terror they are inflicting on innocent people in faraway lands.

Which brings me to the question of cowardice. Another article in my beloved NZ Herald rightly took issue with British politicians calling the Manchester attack an act of cowardice. No one who condones the murdering of innocent civilians in distant countries using unmanned drones or mother-f**king MOABs can claim the moral high ground and call anyone else a coward. Where I part company with the writer is when she says, I don’t believe that’s an act of cowardice. It’s an utterly terrifying and fearless act of self-destruction fuelled by a desire to kill as many as possible, and all in the name of spreading this warped, brutal and extremist ideology.”

Pai marire

Taking on the British Empire, 1865 – What odds would you give?

Rachel the journalist just doesn’t get it. These people are not out to spread an ideology, though they must surely be fearless and desirous of killing as many as possible. They are fearless because they have lost hope. In the 1860s in New Zealand, a kind of religion emerged among Maori people on the East Coast. Known as Pai Marire, or sometimes Hauhauism, it was a mixture of Christian and traditional spiritual beliefs. Atrocities were certainly committed against white settlers by its adherents. When they ran into hopeless battle against government forces, warriors chanted a kind of prayer, Hapa, hapa, paimarire hau, which they believed gave them immunity from bullets.

Did they really believe that? Were they really fearless? Did they really want to eat the eyeballs of their victims, as some reportedly did? I suspect not. They had lost their land; they were losing their culture, their language and their pride. In their own minds, what was there to live for? But they were angry too, and wanted to vent that anger. So they would take as many others with them as possible when they journeyed to the next world.

Maori novelist Witi Ihımaera, in a short story exploring the issue of Maori pride and sense of loss, ended with the words “No wai te he?” “Who is to blame?” The old man in the story didn’t know the answer – but we, if we are honest, certainly do. More MOABs and drone strikes in the Middle East won’t end the terror.

Wheels within wheels – Some thoughts on espionage, money-laundering and Christian missionaries

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has just returned from a visit to Washington where he and President Trump apparently “agreed to disagree” over the issue of American support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria.

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Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy to the coalition against ISIL speaking with PKK militants currently being sought by Turkey through Interpol

Spokespersons for the US State department have openly admitted supporting and supplying weapons to the YPG, which Ankara claims has close links with the separatist Kurdish terrorist organisation, PKK. Jonathan Cohen, deputy assistant secretary for European and Asian Affairs (high level stuff!) is quoted as saying The relationship between the United States and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is a temporary, transactional and tactical one. We are in this common [fight] to defeat a terrorist organization in Iraq and Syria. We have the YPG because they were the only force on the ground ready to act in the short term. We have not promised the YPG anything.”

  • Main US tactic: Delegate an underling (in this case, a “deputy assistant secretary”) to tell the big lies. Then later you can deny responsibility.
  • Second tactic: A “temporary, transactional and tactical” relationship. Remember how the US had a similar relationship with the Taliban in Afghanistan to get rid of Russia? If the Kurdish separatists trust the US government, they’ll be in for a sad shock in future. In the mean time, the US is seriously upsetting a loyal ally (Turkey).
  • First big lie: “The YPG were the only force on the ground etc”. Turkey’s government has offered full cooperation to the US in combatting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
  • Second big lie: “We have not promised the YPG anything.” If you believe that, you’ll believe anything! The US government has been cooperating with and assisting Kurdish groups for years – for example enlisting them to help get rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Of course they are offering support for an independent Kurdistan.

So, Mr Erdoğan came back from Washington pretty disappointed. He did, however, more than hold his own in the handshaking competition:

What about Mr Trump? Apparently he asked Turkey’s government to “immediately release” the jailed American pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson was arrested in December last year on a charge of “being part of a terrorist organisation.” He allegedly has connections to the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), and used his missionary activities to incite Kurdish separatist activities.

Assange

Human rights – for who?

The US government would also dearly like to get their hands on Julian Assange and Edward Snowden – key players in the Wikileaks revelations that caused serious embarrassment over American actions in Iraq and elsewhere. The governments of Ecuador and Russia are kindly looking after those two gentlemen who fear that their democratic rights may count for little if the US government gets hold of them. In fact, that is pretty much confirmed by the latest news on Assange. It seems Swedish authorities have dropped their rape case against him – but the Brits say they will still arrest him as soon as he steps out of the Ecuadorean Embassy. Acting in their established role as America’s lapdog, they will probably then hand him over to the Yanks, who still want him. So now we understand the real situation, if we didn’t before.

Turkey’s government, for its part, wants the US to extradite ex-pat Muslim imam, Fethullah Gülen, who they say was a key figure in the 15 July coup attempt last year. They have also been asking the Greek government to hand over eight Turkish soldiers who took refuge in Greece after the failure of the coup. Now it seems Angela Merkel’s government is getting involved, granting political asylum to two Turkish generals known to have been active in the coup attempt, as well as several hundred Turkish military personnel.

Adding to the confusion, two Turkish citizens are currently on trial in the United States on charges of money laundering and conspiring to violate US trade sanctions against Iran. Wealthy businessman, Reza Zarrab, who is also a citizen of Iran, and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, assistant general manager of Turkey’s Halkbank are in custody in New York. Interestingly, they are being defended by American lawyers, one of whom is former mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani, whose firm also represents the US banks implicated in the case. In another twist, the judge has implied that the Turkish government is paying legal expenses for the two – though why that should concern him, I don’t understand – and anyway, the lawyers have stated that the two guys are paying their own costs.

Needless to say, President Erdoğan has added his voice to the discussion, asking that his two citizens be returned to Turkey. Amidst all the uproar, no one seems to be asking why the US imposed sanctions on Iran in the first place, and why Turkey should continue to suffer economically after loyally supporting America’s wishes in the matter for nearly forty years!

Getting back to the business of Andrew Brunson. Apparently he was/is involved with an organisation calling itself the Izmir Resurrection Church. According to their website: İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey and also the Biblical Smyrna. It has more churches than any city except İstanbul and unity between them has the potential to reap a great harvest. Now, for the towns and villages of Izmir!

There’s no greater testimony than a radiant Turkish believer, passionate to reach out.”

Related to the IRC is an outfit entitled The Bible Correspondence Course running an operation they call The 1881 Project. “Turkey,” they say, “is home to 75 million people who are both strongly nationalistic as well as loyal to their Islamic identity. But the truth of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice remains virtually unknown in what Operation World calls ‘the most unevangelised country in the world’.”

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Do Muslims really need to hear that?

“Since 1 July 2011, the Bible Correspondence Course is running an exciting 18 month initiative to challenge all of Turkey’s 81 provinces to consider the claims of Christ. Working together with local believers and churches from all over the world, we believe it is time to declare to every province in Turkey that a Savior has been born to them – a Son has been given to them. In more than a third of Turkey’s 81 provinces there is no meeting of believers and many have no known believer whatsoever.”

A Canadian mate of Brunson’s, David Byle, has also been involved in an ongoing legal battle with Turkish authorities who suspect him of being a threat to national security. This gentleman has been sounding off to another interesting organisation working under the name of World Watch Monitor. These people apparently have taken upon themselves the responsibility of reporting “the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith.” They love to cite the UN Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees among other things, “freedom of religion.”

Well, Turkish law does indeed permit freedom of religious belief, and does not forbid missionary activity. It is, however, a predominantly Muslim country. Although, unlike other Muslim states, it allows its Muslim citizens freedom to change their religion, its authorities are obliged to recognise that some devout citizens may not take a favourable view of public proselytising by tub-thumping Christians.

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Believe what you like, but keep it to yourself!

Furthermore, Christian missionaries in the past have given Muslim Turks some cause to be suspicious of their activities. Generally speaking, it is rare for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. Islam recognises that Jesus Christ was a prophet of God, and accepts Christians as “People of the Book” – but insists that Muhammed was the last prophet, bringing God’s final message. So why should they switch to what is, in their view, a more backward religion?

Consequently, Christian missionaries, mostly American, operating in Anatolia during the 19th century, tended to work among the Armenian community – who were already Christians. Ottoman authorities believed that they had an ulterior purpose: that they were trying to stir up discontent and incite rebellion against the Ottoman government. When such rebellions were forcefully put down, the same missionaries were conveniently on hand to report Ottoman atrocities against their Christian subjects, providing a pretext for Western governments to intervene on behalf of their “co-religionists”.

Which brings us to important questions about freedom and democracy:

  • Does the United States government have the right to force other countries to suffer social and economic hardships to support their foreign policies?
  • Does the United States Government have the right to demand the handing over to its own judicial system the citizens of other sovereign nations?
  • Are the authorities in Turkey required to forget what happened on July 15, 2016, forgive its citizens who tried to overthrow the democratically elected government by force of arms, and act as though nothing out of the ordinary happened?
  • Do foreign governments have the right to question the legal process in Turkey and give asylum to Turkish citizens who may have committed criminal acts of treason?
  • Does the right to freedom of religion imply the right to make a protracted public nuisance of yourself, requiring local authorities to protect you from the righteous anger of their own offended citizens?

I have my answers to these important questions. What about you?

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And one more question: Why does Youtube keep taking down videos of Trump and Erdoğan shaking hands? Fortunately people (probably Turkish fans of their President) keep re-posting them, but I have to keep updating my links!

A day for national unity in Turkey

fft99_mf6871574Today, 23 April, was a big day in Turkey, one on which three significant events coincided. These three events represented three major aspects of life in Turkey – the majority religious faith and two other cultural phenomena that bear many characteristics of religion.

First of all, 23 April is the day dedicated to the nation’s children by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic. On that day in 1920 the new Republic’s Grand National Assembly was inaugurated, representing the establishment of national sovereignty in the face of aggression by Western imperialist forces. I am reblogging below a brief article posted on the website of the Turkish Coalition of America.

resimli-mirac-kandili-mesajlariThe night of 23/24 April this year also happens to be Miraç Kandili in the Muslim calendar. There are five of these special holy nights, and Miraç is the one celebrating the ascent of the Prophet Muhammed to heaven.

Finally, bringing together all Turks, secular and religious, and transcending all political boundaries, is the sacred game of football. Tonight two of Istanbul’s greatest clubs, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, faced off in one of the year’s crucial matches. I’m not going to detract from the grandeur of this day by discussing the match or even disclosing the result.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_3k3647qbhqeco88ssg0g0g88k_640The important message for Turks of all political persuasions surely is the need to work together to preserve their national sovereignty in the face of renewed threats from within and without.

“On April 23, Turkish Americans across the United States are celebrating Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. The day marks the inauguration of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) on April 23, 1920, proclaimed in 1929 as a Turkish national holiday dedicated to children.  Every year, April 23 is celebrated in Turkey and Turkish communities abroad with international children’s festivals, in the spirit of world peace and harmony.

“The inauguration of the TGNA on April 23, 1920 was first step toward the creation of the Republic of Turkey, the roots of which were laid during the Turkish National War of Liberation led by Mustafa Kemal – later to be given the name Ataturk (father of Turks).

“The Turkish national liberation struggle began on May 19, 1919 and culminated in the liberation of Anatolia from foreign occupation, the international recognition of modern Turkey’s borders by the Treaty of Lausanne, and the founding of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. When the TGNA held its first session in 1920, virtually every corner of the Ottoman Empire was under the occupation of the Allied powers. Exasperated by the Ottoman government’s inability to fight the occupation, patriotic movements began springing up all around Anatolia.

“The occupation of Izmir by invading Greek armies and the atrocities they committed against the Turkish population was the final outrage that sparked a nationwide resistance movement. This resistance soon turned into a war of independence under Mustafa Kemal, a young Ottoman military officer at the time. With the Allied occupation of Istanbul and the dissolving of the Ottoman Parliament, Mustafa Kemal’s justification for opening the resistance movement’s new legislative body was created.

“With the opening of the Assembly, Ankara became the center of the Turkish national struggle and was declared as the capital of the new Turkish Republic on October 13, 1923. On the opening day of the Assembly, Mustafa Kemal was elected as its first president. His opening speech includes clues of what he envisioned this Assembly to achieve. Stating that “there will not be any power above the assembly,” Atatürk set the stage for the founding of the Republic of Turkey to replace the Ottoman monarchy. The Assembly, as the representative body of the Turkish people, established a national army and defeated the Allied Powers. Under the visionary leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it created a secular, democratic Republic.”

United States’ first female Muslim judge found dead in Hudson River

A groundbreaking black jurist who became the first Muslim woman to serve as a U.S. judge was found dead in New York’s Hudson River on April 12, police said.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a 65-year-old associate judge of New York’s highest court, was found floating off Manhattan’s west side at about 1:45 p.m. EDT (3:45 p.m. GMT), a police spokesman said.

14judge-master768Police pulled Abdus-Salaam’s fully clothed body from the water and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

 Her family identified her and an autopsy would determine the cause of death, the spokesman said.

On Wednesday, after responding to an emergency call, officers with the New York Police Department’s Harbor Unit found the body of Judge Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman to serve on New York State’s highest court, in the Hudson River in Harlem with no apparent signs of trauma and no indications of foul play. The police are treating her death as a suicide, although an investigation is continuing.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Wednesday that Judge Abdus-Salaam was a pioneer with an “unshakable moral compass.” He added, “Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam was a trailblazing jurist whose life in public service was in pursuit of a more fair and more just New York for all.”

Abdus-Salaam graduated from Barnard College and received her law degree from Columbia Law School. She became a public defender in Brooklyn after law school, the New York Times said, representing people who could not afford lawyers.

In one of her first cases, she won an anti-discrimination suit for more than 30 female New York City bus drivers who had been denied promotions.

Well, let’s hear from the USA. The whole world is waiting to hear your story, guys!

Twitter Democracy – Turkey under siege

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President Erdoğan opens new Islamic cultural centre in Lanham, Maryland

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan is currently visiting the United States of America. Yesterday he officially opened a large mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Lanham, Maryland, a small town just up the road from Washington DC.

President Obama apparently declined an invitation to be present at the opening ceremony – but it is to his credit, and to Americans as a people, that permission was given to build this complex. Of course the President of the United States has to walk a careful line, and needless to say there are plenty of US citizens only to ready to defame Mr Obama as a Muslim, and supporter of terrorists. Being photographed in front of a large mosque complex not far from the White House would undoubtedly have generated a good deal of negative publicity.

So the US President is well aware that not everything published in news media, at home and abroad, is 100% true. As Mr Erdoğan was departing for his American visit, there were some in Turkey saying that Barack Obama would refuse to meet him. That was nonsense, of course, as events subsequently proved. I watched a news programme on a Turkish TV channel the other day showing Mr Erdoğan speaking at the Brookings Institution in the US capital, and answering questions from representatives of the international news media.

Predictably, questions focussed on claims that Turkey’s president is a dictator, that he imprisons journalists who dare to criticise him, and that he is ordering his military to massacre Kurdish women and children in the south east of the country. President Erdoğan handled all of the questions knowledgeably and with dignity, even though he must be totally fed up with foreign media constantly harping on the same issues. He might have said that, were he actually a dictator, he probably wouldn’t have fronted up to such a meeting where he had everything to lose, and not much to gain.

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‘Erdoğan murderer and thief’ Is this press freedom?

My newspaper today reports that Mr Obama told his own news media that he had spoken to President Erdoğan about his concerns over press freedom in Turkey. For his part, Mr Erdoğan asserted that the issue did not arise during their fifty-minute meeting. Interesting! Turkey’s president went on to say that there have been headlines in Turkish newspapers calling him a ‘murderer’ and a ‘thief’. He doubted if such ‘journalism’ would be acceptable in Western countries, and if Mr Obama had raised the matter in their discussion, he would certainly have made that point.

The following opinion piece ran in a Turkish newspaper, Sabah, last week, under the by-line of Mahmut Övür. I doubt if you will see it in any English language news source, so I’m translating it for your edification:

“In the last fifteen years Turkey has been struggling to overcome a century of resistance to change, and at the same time, has faced attacks from the forces of the globalised world.

To clarify, Turkey has been facing constant condemnation in relation to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. With Deep State, PKK, DAESH and other terror organisations attacking from within, and newspapers, TV networks, and social media like Twitter and Facebook from abroad, Turkey has been engaged in an ongoing battle. From time to time it has had to put limits on these freedoms.

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State of emergency in Brussels

While all this has been going on, there has been strong criticism in particular from the EU and the USA via the press and politicians, mounting a campaign to the effect that ‘There is no freedom of the press or freedom of speech in Turkey’.

Under the guise of promoting freedom, they are implementing a deliberate policy of vilifying Turkey. In other words, since 2010 they have put Turkey in a state of siege.

Now one ugly incident has brought this plan out into the open. The other day President Erdoğan went to the USA to attend a NATO Security Summit.

This meeting was very important for a number of reasons and it happened at a very critical time, while Turkey has been the object of criticism over matters related to freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and its management of internal conflicts.

In the forefront of the critics were former US ambassadors to Turkey. What happened all of a sudden? A new campaign was started on Twitter, symbol of freedom in the modern world: #WeLoveErdogan. The #WeLoveErdogan hashtag attracted enormous interest in a short time and raced to first place on the TT list with 300,000 tweets.

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Democracy in Turkey in the good old days – 1980

So, what did Twitter do, this symbol of global democracy? This Twitter, which had stirred up so much controversy because it had been closed down for a short time, couldn’t stand this hashtag for more than two hours. They closed it down and, in a move worse than censorship, replaced it with a disgraceful tweet #TurkishdictatorintheUSA which received a mere 900 hits.

What can we say about this? We know that some of our own ‘intellectuals’ will remain silent, but I wonder what the freedom-fighter politicians in the EU who are so ready to criticize Turkey, will have to say?

Is freedom to be defined only by their narrow limits? We know that the West is quick to forget democracy and freedom when it suits them. So they could ignore the military coup in Egypt. And they could ignore the massacre of 400,000 people in Syria.

We saw the same thing when terrorism hit them at home. After the bombings in Paris and Brussels they announced a state of emergency, and they poured soldiers into the streets – but if we do a tenth of that, we are called a dictatorship.

Of course the EU represents a system of values, but those values should not apply just to some people, and some countries – they should apply to all humanity . . . Our world cannot accept this double standard.

Turkey knows itself. We have some serious problems, particularly in our legal system. We still do not have a modern, democratic constitution. But this does not mean that democracy in Turkey is as bad as those other countries are trying to make out. We have made great progress and we are continuing to move forward.”

Well, there are always critics who will accuse this man of paranoia, and of embracing unfounded conspiracy theories. On the other hand, what are we to make of recent rumour-mongering in neo-con US media that there is a possibility of a military coup in Turkey to overthrow its democratically-elected government? Turkey’s military high-command felt obligated to issue a statement denying the existence of such a possibility. In fact, one of the major achievements of Turkey’s AK Party government has been distancing the military from direct involvement in the nation’s politics, and returning the armed forces to the proper role they play in all democratic countries – subservient to the elected government, not above it.

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Edward Snowden vs Hillary Clinton

There is a saying in Turkish, ‘Hem suçlu, hem güçlü’, which can be rendered in English as ‘The person who is most guilty is often the most noisily indignant in attacking others.’ I have been following the intricate proceedings of an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email server to carry out official business when she was Secretary of State. In updating the issue, a Time article made references to earlier times when Mrs Clinton and her President-at-the-time husband were found to have engaged in, to say the least, extremely dubious behaviour. There was the ‘Whitewater’ case, where there was evidence of White House involvement in deliberate blocking of investigators. Later, there were President Clinton’s official pardons, issued on his last day oin office, to wealthy supporters previously convicted of tax evasion.

That Brookings Institution where Mr Erdoğan was interrogated by the foreign press is known as one of the United States’ foremost think tanks. According to Wikipedia, among its major sources of funding are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and the State of Qatar. It has been influential in guiding government policy on financial deregulation and ‘tax reform’, and has published books including one entitled America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Maybe you’ll tell me they are working towards a better world for all of us – but I’m not so sure.

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Ottoman siege of Vienna 1529 – and they still haven’t forgiven Turkey

A recent comment on another of my posts suggested that Europe has never got over its humiliation at Gallipoli in 1915. I would go further, and suggest that the West has never got over being expelled from Anatolia and Istanbul by Turkish nationalists in 1923. That they still harbour historical resentment related to the centuries they lived in fear of being overrun by the Ottoman Empire (whom they preferred to call ‘Turks’). That there is a residual memory of the fear and hatred incited by the 11th century Pope, Urban II, who, for his own interests and those of his church, launched nearly four centuries of military aggression (a.k.a. the Crusades) against the Muslim world.

Terrorism is no new phenomenon. I applaud the Obama administration for allowing the building of that Islamic cultural centre. In the final analysis, bridge-building and education will do more to ensure world peace than stirring up hatred and fear, and seeking revenge for past wrongs.

Homeland, Heartland and Cuckoo-land

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Brody, Carrie and Saul from ‘Homeland’

Our latest TV drama series fix is the American political thriller ‘Homeland’. Now I have to tell you my first impression wasn’t positive. My Turkish Muslim stepson gave us the first series as a gift, and I took a look while Dilek was visiting family in the USA.

Eh! I thought. Just another gung-ho American production glorifying their military/intelligence prowess and demonising Muslims – but I was wrong, and now we’re hooked. We’re way behind current on-screen activity – still working our way through the second series – so have no fear of spoilers.

The two main actors, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, and the show itself, have won numerous awards. Interestingly, according to the Wikipedia entry, much of the negative criticism comes from Muslim sources, who seem to consider ‘Homeland’ Islamophobic. Well, that’s not how it strikes me – and I’m watching it sitting alongside my Muslim wife.

US Marine sergeant Nicholas Brody (Lewis) was held captive for eight years and tortured by Al Qaeda in Iraq, before somehow finding his way back to homeland America. How did he survive so long? How did he get away? Was he ‘turned’? Is he now a traitorous terrorist seeking to slaughter his own people? What about Carrie (Danes)? Do you have to be insane to work for the CIA? Is she in love with Brody, or just using feminine wiles to get at the truth?

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There are at least two sides to every story

I’m not here to answer any of those questions – merely to register my appreciation for a US-made TV drama series that manages to address some of the real issues in the current ‘clash of civilisations’, and to explore some of the complexities involved in reaching a true understanding of what the hell’s going on in the world these days.

Sergeant Brody is given respite from ill-treatment while a prisoner in Iraq in return for teaching English to the son of Al Qaeda head honcho, Abu Nazir. After becoming attached to the little guy, Brody discovers his mangled corpse amongst the rubble of an American drone strike. US government response to reports claiming civilian casualties is that they are merely ‘propaganda’. US Vice-President Walden is the official spokesman on the matter. Brody knows he is ‘a liar and a murderer’ and says so, loud and clear.

Acting on a tip-off, the CIA mount an operation to take out Abu Nazir on a public street in Beirut. Clearly they take it for granted that they have every right to do so – assassinate a foreign national in a foreign country without consulting the local government. A top CIA man leaves the country with stolen property in a diplomatic bag – acting indignant, and threatening an international incident when searched by Lebanese authorities at the airport on departure. It all rings pretty true, and does seem to present the situation in a fairly balanced way.

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Turkish F-16: evidently a fairly effective item of military hardware

Somewhat less balanced was an online rant I came across the other day, courtesy of Huffington Post. A gentleman (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here) by the name of Doug Bandow had penned a piece entitled Dump New Ottomans from NATO: Shoot Down of Russian Plane Shows Turkey to be Dangerous Ally’. I guess pretty much everyone in the world is aware that on Tuesday 24 November a Turkish air force F-16 downed a Russian Su-24 bomber ignoring repeated warnings that it was violating Turkey’s airspace.

According to Bandow, No one believes the Putin government had the slightest hostile intent against Ankara. Downing the plane was gratuitously provocative and not necessary for Turkey’s defense. . . Ankara,’ he insists, ‘demonstrated where it stands. With the Islamic State and against the West.’

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A reliable friend of the West

Interesting that this guy is including Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the group he’s calling the ‘West,’ suggesting that ‘Moscow is a better and more reliable partner than Turkey in the Middle East.’ Putin himself, it seems, is not so sure, naming the United States as ‘one of the threats to Russia’s national security.’ But leave that aside. The official US report confirms Turkey’s claim that the Russian pilot was warned repeatedly before his plane was shot down. The absence of a direct threat to Ankara is a red herring. The Russian plane was using Turkish airspace to get a better line for a bombing attack on ground targets in Syria. Syria is a war zone, and Turkey is understandably sensitive about foreign military aircraft straying into its territory. Who was being provocative there?

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Greece’s military government at the time of the Cyprus crisis

The Huffington article goes on to make a number of outrageous statements about Turkey’s relationship with the West. Ankara never has been a true friend of the West,’ Bandow says, citing the Cyprus issue as his main argument. He mocks Turkey’s revered founder, Kemal Atatürk, comparing him to North Korea’s Kim dynasty. His point that Turkey was only vaguely democratic in those days may be true, but ignores the fact that it was an attempt at the time by the military regime in Athens to annex the island of Cyprus that provoked Ankara’s response. In fact, Turkey was on the front line of NATO’s defenses against Soviet expansion through the Cold War. The existence of several nuclear-armed missile bases within its borders must have put Turkey high on the USSR’s list of targets to hit in the event of hostilities. That’s a big thing to ask of a friend, never mind a mere ally.

Coming nearer to the present, Bandow concedes that the AK Party swept away ‘a coalition of feckless, corrupt and discredited parties’ when it was elected to power in 2002. He acknowledges that such coalitions were ‘hyper-nationalist’ and punished anyone with ‘liberal sentimentalities’. However, like most of the AK Party government’s opponents, his follow-up arguments are riddled with contradictions, meaningless assertions and logical non-sequiturs. One example: ‘President Erdoğan also is moving Turkey in a more Islamist direction. Although no one expects him to turn his nation into another Iran or Saudi Arabia, he has done more than end strict Kemalist secularism.’ What does this nonsense actually mean? If you were looking for further elucidation in the following sentences, you would search in vain.

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Me and you, Bash – Looking out for America’s interests

‘Ankara,’ Bardow says, ‘has attempted to manipulate the U.S. into ousting Syrian president Assad, who controls the important ground forces containing ISIL’. On the contrary, US President Obama, as long ago as August 2011, was calling for Bashar al-Assad to resign.

Another ludicrous claim in the article is that ‘Turkey is the latest example of alliance members seeking to drag the U.S. into conflicts of no interest to America’. What conflict? Is this guy actually suggesting that Turkey wants to fight a war with Russia? I would say the likelihood of Ankara having authorized its air force to shoot down a Russian plane without getting the ok from Washington is on the negative side of zero. So what conflict is he talking about? There are times while reading this article when I wondered if Bandow’s brain is actually connected to his typing finger.

Far from being a reluctant participant in conflicts, the Huffington article goes on to say, ‘American policy in the Mideast has failed catastrophically: persistent intervention has triggered sectarian war in Iraq, turned religious minorities into refugees, spawned the Islamic State, empowered Iran, turned Libya into another failed state filled with conflict and terrorists, discouraged a negotiated settlement in Syria, backed the least effective Syrian insurgents, inadvertently armed the most dangerous insurgents, and conducted a largely ineffectual campaign against ISIL without apparent end.’

In spite of which, Turkey is the bad ally! In fact, Turkey’s most serious internal problem, how to deal with its Kurdish citizens, had quietened down considerably by the turn of the millennium. It was George W Bush’s lying, murdering invasion of Iraq in 2003 that stirred things up again. The US administration enlisted the help of Iraqi Kurds in their ousting of Saddam Hussein – and what did they promise in return? An independent Kurdistan that would gratefully share its oil oil-riches with its big Western benefactor?

So who is this guy Bandow? Well, certainly a rabid Republican, and no friend of the Obama administration. According to his Huffington bio, he is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute – a kind of Libertarian ‘think tank’ founded by major Republican Party sponsor Charles Koch, one of the world’s ten richest human beings as a result of his oil and chemicals empire.

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Charles Koch – champion of freedom, democracy and true religion in the world today. We’re lucky to have him.

According to Wikipedia, Bandow was out of the club for a spell, having resigned from Cato in 2005 after he was found to have been involved in a bribery and corruption scandal involving American ‘lobbyist’ Jack Abramoff. Evidently such qualities are not totally at odds with the principles of the Cato Institute, however, and Bandow was accepted back not long after. Another of Doug’s interests is an organization calling itself the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. Interestingly, there is a link to this group on his Wikipedia page, but it goes nowhere, and the other page seems to have been removed.

Well, I have to confess, I don’t know what this guy Douglas Bandow is up to, but it seems to me he is a mouthpiece for some shadowy organisations that make liberal use of words like freedom, democracy and religion while using their immense money power to implement a hidden agenda of their own. I read a news item today claiming that ISIS/Daesh are using quotes from Donald Trump’s speeches in their current recruitment campaign.

So maybe there’s nothing very complicated at all about what these jerks are doing. They just want us all fighting each other so we’ll buy more weapons from them. What do you think?