TCA Marks Anniversary of Cyprus Peace Operation

I’m reblogging this from the website of the Turkish Coalition of America:

July 20, 2017

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the Turkish peace operation in Cyprus, which took place on July 20, 1974 to protect the lives and liberty of the island’s Turkish community.

The dispute over Cyprus did not begin in 1974.

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Known in Turkey as “The Peace Operation”

The independent Republic of Cyprus was born in 1960 as a partnership state based on the political equality of the co-founding Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot peoples. It had a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president, each with veto powers to ensure political equality at the executive level.

A special international treaty, the Treaty of Guarantee, obligated Turkey, Greece, and the United Kingdom to preserve the independence of Cyprus and prevent its annexation by any other state.

This system of checks and balances, however, faced a serious challenge when Greek Cypriots attempted to amend the Constitution by removing all provisions that gave Turkish Cypriots a meaningful say in the affairs of the state. In late 1963, the Greek Cypriots launched an all-out armed attack on Turkish Cypriots throughout the island, killing and wounding thousands, driving one-quarter of the Turkish Cypriot population from their homes and properties in 103 villages, and causing widespread destruction.

The ferocity of this onslaught was described by former U.S. Undersecretary of State George Ball, in his memoir titled “The Past Has Another Pattern” where he observed that Archbishop Makarios, the then Greek Cypriot leader, had “turn(ed) this beautiful island into his private abattoir.” He further stated that “Makarios’ central interest was to block off any Turkish intervention so that he and his Greek Cypriots could go on happily massacring the Turkish Cypriots.”

The Turkish rescue operation in 1974 undoubtedly saved the Turkish Cypriot community from mass-extermination, prevented the annexation of Cyprus to Greece, and thus preserved the independence of the island. Turkey’s legitimate and timely action has kept the peace on the island since 1974.

Today, the Constitution of the Republic is dead and the government of the Republic of Cyprus has been usurped and monopolized by Greek Cypriots. Turkish Cypriots and successive Turkish Governments have worked toward a settlement and have either instigated or accepted all major United Nations initiatives aimed at a just and lasting solution. The latest and most elaborate initiative was the “Annan Plan” named after former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was the architect of the plan. The Annan Plan put forth separate and simultaneous referenda of Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on April 24, 2004. It was overwhelmingly accepted by Turkish Cypriots with a 65% majority; but was rejected by Greek Cypriots, at the behest of their leadership, with a margin of 76%.

Despite the Turkish Cypriots vote in favor of peace and reunification, the European Union rewarded intransigent Greek Cypriots with E.U. membership. As long as the equal rights and interests of both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots across the island are disregarded, it will be nearly impossible to find a solution to the Cyprus problem.

No Green Spaces left in Istanbul??

Future shock

It’s hard for all of us, guys!

In 1970 a guy called Alvin Toffler published a best-selling book “Future Shock”. According to his obituary in the NY Times, “Mr. Toffler was a self-trained social science scholar and successful freelance magazine writer in the mid-1960s when he decided to spend five years studying the underlying causes of a cultural upheaval that he saw overtaking the United States and other developed countries.”

Way back then Toffler identified a phenomenon causing serious global anguish:

“The accelerative thrust triggered by man has become the key to the entire evolutionary process on the planet.” Amazon review

“Today the force of change is almost tangible” Toffler “discusses change and what happens to people; how they do and don’t adapt.” Bookrags review

Toffler was American, and he was writing primarily about the United States of America – and it was their movers and shakers who were responsible for most of the “Future Shock” we were/are experiencing. So, while you can feel some sympathy for US citizens struggling to cope with modernity, at least they get most of the benefits. What about the rest of us, in less privileged parts of the world? Afghanistan? Somalia? New Zealand? Or even Turkey?

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Give him a homespun cotton loincloth, and . . .  Yeah, maybe.

Contemporary Turkey is a divided society, if you listen to the doom-sayers. The leader of the opposition CHP Party is currently trekking through the summer heat on a Gandhi-esque march from Ankara to Istanbul seeking “justice”. And, I hope he finds it – although it’s a rather less easily identifiable commodity than common table salt*. He is accompanied by numbers of supporters who, like may others, have been struggling to adjust to rapid changes taking place in their country whose population has doubled to nearly 80 million since 1970, and whose largest city, Istanbul, has grown from less than three million, to 15 million or more in the same time period.

But, I don’t want to talk about justice, or the difficulties involved in adapting to a changing world. In the current heatwave I’m more interested in finding a shady tree to sit under – and again, if you hearken to those prophets of doom, I’ll be lucky to find such a thing in Istanbul outside a tree museum. Joni Mitchell sang that Big Yellow Taxi song about the concretification (yep, I just made that word up!) of America, also back in 1970. I’m not sure if the New York city fathers ripped up any concrete to plant trees as a result, but we were all proud of Joni for singing that song.

Well, I was concerned about the disintegrating ecosystem of Planet Earth in my youth – and I’m probably more concerned about it now. I recycle our household rubbish, walk, ride a bicycle and use public transport where possible, and carry my supermarket purchases home in reusable natural fibre bags. On the other hand, I do find very tiresome the constant harping by certain people on Turkey’s AKP government and its wanton destruction of the country’s natural and historical heritage.

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Aftermath of Gezi Park demo, 1 June, 2013

What I also find surprising is some of those people are foreign visitors who have been in the country a month or two, maybe a year or two, and talk authoritatively about how things used to be in Turkey, in some mythical golden age they have been told about. Just over four years ago, at the end of May 2013, a series of anti-government protests broke out, ostensibly sparked by the city council’s plans to develop the iconic Taksim Square and its environs. Part of the project aimed to rebuild an Ottoman-era military barracks building demolished in 1940 and replaced with a small green space we learned was officially called Gezi Park.

I have no intention of delving into the politics of the matter. What I can say, however, is that the square was badly in need of a revamp. On one side stood a 20-storey 70’s glass tower housing the five-star Marmara Hotel; opposite the hotel, a busy terminal station for buses heading to other parts of the city. On the other two sides, a soulless 60’s era Soviet-style structure known as the Atatürk Culture Centre facing the blank brick wall of a large water reservoir partly masked by a huge garish TV screen. In the middle of the treeless concrete square itself, a Metro underground station could be reached only by crossing the two or three lanes of speeding buses, yellow taxis and joy-riders that maintained a kind of lethal spinning asteroid belt around it. Behind the bus terminal lurked Gezi Park itself – four hectares of trees, grass and asphalt mostly invisible from surrounding streets, and consequently popular with the neighbourhood’s homeless, youthful glue-sniffers and aging alcoholics. Not a place you would probably have chosen for a family picnic.

Gezi Park quickly, however, became a focal point for those who, for one reason and another, hated the Prime Minister, now President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his AK Party government. Foreign news media took up the cry that Turkey’s political leaders were destroying “one of Istanbul’s last green spaces” as they buried the beautiful, historic city beneath a pall of tar and cement.

Now I don’t know how many of the protesting tree-huggers have actually been back to Gezi Park since the protests of 2013 ended. I am fairly sure that the widely televised violence of those protests has been a factor in the decreasing numbers of foreign tourists and local revellers visiting the Beyoğlu/İstiklal area which, by all accounts, has lost most of its former vibrant energy. And I am amazed to hear still repeated such claims as “Throughout the vast metropolis there are only a handful of actual parks, a few stretches of grass along the Bosporus and lone trees peeking through the concrete in other places.”

 

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Foreground: 1,000-year old Byzantine Pantokrator monastery, currently undergoing extensive restoration

“Constant renovation and reconstruction,” I read recently, “has demolished historic buildings and in some areas completely changed the city’s landscape. . . The current government isn’t known for prioritizing the environment and even relative to other major world cities, Istanbul actually has a pretty poor percentage of green space.”

Istanbul is, as the writer noted, a vast metropolis, its historic heart the capital of three world empires stretching back at least 1700 years. I can’t tell you what vast sums the local and national governments have been spending to restore ancient churches, palaces, city walls, mosques and other monuments that had been left to moulder in picturesque decay by former administrations. I can’t say exactly how much time and money was lost while the building of underground Metro lines was paused so archaeologists could rummage with delight among long-buried Roman harbours and necropolises; nor how many times engineers had to redraw the design for a rail bridge across the Golden Horn to meet the objections of UNESCO World Heritage inspectors.

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Halil Pasha Topçu Barracks building – demolished in 1940 to make way for Gezi park

What I can tell you, with absolute certainty is that Gezi Park is not only NOT one of Istanbul’s last green spaces, it is surely one of its least attractive and significant. I can also assure you that, from personal firsthand observation, the current government has done far more than any of its predecessors to clean up and beautify the urban landscape, in spite of the exponential population growth of recent years. They were even planning to RE-build a formerly demolished historically important building next to Gezi Park – for which they were also vociferously criticised.

When I first came to Istanbul in 1995, residents suffered from frequent outages of electricity and an unreliable water supply. The Golden Horn, streams and rivers stank like open sewers, and no one swam in the turgid waters that lapped the shores. What parks remained in the inner city from former times were neglected and generally strewn with rubbish. Since the AK Party government came to power in 2003, people have begun to swim again at beaches along the Sea of Marmara coast, and fish for their dinner in the Golden Horn off Galata Bridge.

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Bosporus view from Gülhane Park – Yıldız Park in the middle distance

Not far from that bridge, if you walk up the hill towards the ancient cathedral museum of Hagia Sophia, you will pass the gates of Gülhane Park on your left. It’s worth a visit. Its 16 hectares of beautifully laid out gardens and majestic trees provide a sanctuary for migrating birds like storks and cranes; cliff top tea gardens offer a glorious view of the Bosporus across to Asia (if you still believe that stuff about Asia Minor); and the former imperial stables house a fascinating museum celebrating the scientific and technological achievements of Islamic civilisation.

A short bus or taxi ride will bring you to Beşiktaş, a trendy district of bars, restaurants and open-air fish markets where you can visit the Naval Museum, with displays relating to the glory days of Ottoman sea power. Tucked away down a side street you may stumble across Ihlamur Park, which features a small Ottoman hunting lodge surrounded by pretty gardens – an unexpected oasis in a busy neighbourhood. If you’re looking for more extensive greenery you can walk or take a taxi to Yıldız Park, 37 hectares of landscaped woodland, artificial streams, waterfalls and small lakes, with several restaurants and cafes for formal dining or an open-air snack. At the upper end of the park is Yıldiz Palace museum, the last residence of Ottoman sultans before they faded into history.

If you look across to the Asian shore you will see a similar “green space” across the water. Fethi Pasha Park, 13 hectares in extent, has a maze of sheltered walkways, restaurants and cafes and beautiful tree-framed views of the Bosporus across to the European shore. More adventurous souls may catch a taxi or local transport to Çamlıca Hill – in fact two hills whose summits are the highest points in Istanbul, with spectacular panoramic views. Those doom-sayers will probably tell you that this idyllic spot has been desecrated by the construction of a large new mosque – if “desecration” is the right word for a building dedicated to spiritual searching. Anyway, don’t believe them. The mosque, visible from all over town, has had little real impact on Çamlıca’s park and woodland. In fact the hilltops have long been blighted by dozens of lofty radio and television masts – and part of the development plan is to erect a 365-metre tower that will amalgamate all the masts into one, as well as housing two restaurants and a viewing platform that are absolutely on my list of must-visits when they are completed.

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Getting away from the concrete in Validebağ Park

I must say that residents on the Asian (or more correctly, Anatolian) side of the city are more fortunate than their European neighbours in terms of green spaces – which may account for the skewed outlook of foreigners who tend to prefer districts nearer to Western Europe. I will briefly mention two more beautiful parks well worth a visit. Not far from Çamlıca Hills is another former Ottoman imperial woodland, Validebağ Park, 10 hectares of semi-wilderness including a former royal palace that served as the location for a much-loved Turkish classic comedy movie based on the escapades of a gang of over-grown schoolboys.

If you’re looking for something new, and are open-minded enough to accept evidence that the government’s reputation for environmental barbarism is not deserved, check out Orhan Gazi City Park on the Marmara coast in the district of Maltepe. This massive project reclaimed 130 hectares from the sea and created a huge recreation area planted with thousands of trees and laid out with carefully tended gardens of roses and seasonal flowers, tulips, begonias, pansies, marigolds . . . There are 63 ha of picnic area, 7.5 km of bicycle track not counting a 400-metre velodrome; basketball, volleyball and tennis courts; artificial turf football fields, a large gymnasium, running tracks, a skateboard park, children’s playgrounds, several outdoor stations with exercise equipment, as well as the ubiquitous cafes and tea gardens. Also, for devout Muslims, two mosques, in case they are caught short when the call to prayer is heard.

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Historic mosque in Sadabad Park, Kağıthane

Well, I could go on to talk about Sadabad Park in the district of Kagıthane, for many years a polluted industrial wasteland now gradually being restored to something resembling the small slice of heaven once known as the Sweet Waters of Europe. I could rhapsodise about the Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden located in an unlikely apex of converging motorways in the district of Ataşehir – but I won’t. If you live in Istanbul, or have time to spend while you’re here, get out and visit these or others of the many spectacular “green spaces” in this beautiful “city of the world’s desire”.

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  • Mahatma Gandhi led a march in 1930 to protest against the British monopoly of salt production and sales. It was a symbolic act of defiance against the British Raj. At the time of his selection as party leader, some remarked on Mr Kılıçdaroğlu’s resemblance to India’s national hero – though the Turkish chap is more often seen in a suit than a homespun cotton loin-cloth.

Thieves Falling Out? What’s going on with Qatar?

media liesWhy do I follow the mainstream news media? It’s simple. I know they are trying to con me. I know they are telling half-truths, and hiding important information from me. Reading between the lines, however, gives me important clues as to what questions I should be asking to find the answers I really need to know.

So . . . This week I learn that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are cutting ties with oil rich neighbour and former friend Qatar over “alleged support for terrorism”. Well, good for them, you might think. Great to see high profile Muslim countries taking initiative to stamp out this curse currently plaguing the world.

But wait up. Who exactly are the “terrorists” those dastardly Qataris are “allegedly” supporting? The terrible Taliban? ISIS/Daesh? Al Qaeda? Boko Haram? Apparently not. In fact it’s far more likely those groups are funded by Saudis. The object of Qatari affections seems to be the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, ok. They’re just as bad, aren’t they? With a name like that, they’d have to be terrorists. Certainly movers and shakers in the USA and Israel think so: the Clarion Project, the Gatestone Institute, and Israeli Stand With Us express strong opinions on the subject. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up their case with a simple, if inelegant sound byte: “It seems to me, by and large, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck, maybe it’s a duck.”

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. . . or Muslims!

On the other hand, the people at Brookings say no, and there seems to be debate on the matter within Trump’s administration. Back in March, the Big DT was on the verge of issuing an executive order adding the Brotherhood to Washington’s official list of terrorist organisations – but decided to postpone the decision. Apparently cooler heads in his team were arguing that affixing the “terrorist” label would unnecessarily upset some of America’s allies in the region. Clearly, however, other “allies” are strongly in favour, especially the Saud family, the UAE (Dubai etc) and Egypt. So who’s right?

According to a BBC backgrounder, the movement (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic) was founded in 1928, and “initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence.” It’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, did create “a paramilitary wing, the Special Apparatus, whose operatives joined the fight against British rule and engaged in a campaign of bombings and assassinations.” Sounds nasty, but you have to remember that, in those days, Britain was fighting a losing global war to hold on to its rapidly shrinking empire. Their plan to wipe Turkey of the map had been foiled by Kemal Atatürk; and MK Ghandi led India and Pakistan to independence in 1947. In 1956, after President Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal, the Brits, French and Israelis actually invaded Egypt – but were ordered out by US President Eisenhower.

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That was in 1956

You might think the Muslim Brothers had some cause for indulging in a little active resistance. Not everyone is as patient and peaceful as Mahatma Ghandi. When Hosni Mubarak stood down as President of Egypt in 2011 as a result of “Arab Spring” protests and the (probably reluctant) urging of US President Obama, he had held the position for 29 years, winning “elections” where 70-80% of his citizens didn’t bother to cast a vote. The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned from putting up candidates, but in the first genuinely democratic election in June 2012 they won a comfortable majority. Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected (and non-military) president. He lasted just over a year. In July 2013 he was ousted by Egypt’s armed forces and his place taken by military commander-in-chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Subsequently, the United States and its Western allies have been twisting their tongues into breathtaking contortions to avoid calling the military coup a military coup.

Did the US government’s henchmen have a hand in Morsi’s ousting? Of course they cover their tracks, but we do know that the US had supported Mubarak’s dictatorship, despite his abysmal human rights record. US funding made Egypt’s military the world’s 10th largest, and Egypt reversed its earlier implacable hostility to Israel. It was unlikely that Morsi would have been quite so accommodating to US Middle East policy. US aid was cut off but resumed as soon as Egypt returned to military dictatorship. Go figure, as my North American friends are fond of saying.

Obamas Arab mates

Barack Obama with his Arab mates

Well, Qatar’s tiny population (2.2 million) has the world’s highest per capita GDP, its capital, Doha, is the location for TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and the country was selected by FIFA to host the 2022 football World Cup tournament. It’s not exactly a paragon of democratic freedom, but that doesn’t seem to be a major stumbling block to finding favour with US administrations. It does seem that their crime, in the eyes of their neighbours, is lending support to those Muslim Brothers.

Now don’t you think it’s interesting that just after President Donald Trump returns home from a successful visit to his country’s friends in the Middle East, a gang of those friends suddenly decide to pick on a neighbour that has been causing difficulties for the Trump administration? DT wants to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation but some of his advisors are blocking him. Is it possible he suggested to King Salman and the rest of his Arab buddies that now might be a good time to put the screws on Qatar to fall into line?

Whatever the failings of their foreign and domestic programmes, putting the screws on other sovereign states to fall into line is something United States governments are especially good at. We’ve seen what happened in Egypt. We are witnessing (again) what happens to South American nations (Brazil, Venezuela) that think serving their own people takes priority over the interests of US corporations. For all the talk about bringing American-style democracy to the world, we have seen that US administrations are far more comfortable dealing with military dictators than with elected leaders who may have to listen to what their own people are saying.

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Enlisting recruits for Al Qaeda in Yemen

And whatever may have been said in private, President Trump was only too happy to trumpet his success in clinching a deal to sell $110 billion worth of military hardware to the Saudi rulers. In case you were wondering what the Saudis are doing with all those tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships, Time Magazine tells us that it is mostly being used to slaughter people in neighbouring Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, currently racked by poverty, starvation and a cholera epidemic. As if the Saudis can’t do enough damage by themselves, the US military has been making its own contribution to peace in the Middle East with commando raids and drone strikes. Tell, me please, who are those poor Yemenis threatening?

Meanwhile Turkey is struggling to persuade its own so-called Western allies to support its struggle against terrorism. Military personnel known to have been involved in the unsuccessful July 15 military coup attempt have taken refuge in EU countries, notably Greece and Germany – and those NATO friends are refusing to hand them over. Fethullah Gülen, believed by Turkey’s government to have been a key figure in efforts to overthrow them, is safely ensconced in his Pennsylvania retreat, while the US government spurns all requests to extradite him. The Pentagon, in open defiance of Ankara’s wishes, is unabashedly supplying military hardware to Kurdish separatist groups in Syria closely allied with the internationally recognised terrorist PKK.

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Supporting autocrats in the Middle East

I read an interesting book review the other day. ‘Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East’ is a collection of academic articles apparently arguing against Barack Obama’s simplistic assessment of Middle East strife that it is “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia”. So far, so good. The Ottoman dynasty ruled a multicultural, polyglot empire embracing Muslims, Jews and mutually antagonistic Christian sects for six centuries without major sectarian conflict.

Unfortunately, it seems the writers have lurched from one flawed interpretation to another. The reviewer summarises the book’s theme thus: “Behind the current turmoil lies a toxic brew of authoritarianism, kleptocracy, developmental stagnation, state repression, geopolitical rivalry and class dynamics. . . Many of the contributors,” we are told, “make the key point that lethal sectarianism and politicized identities are often manipulated by authoritarian regimes in pursuit of political gain.”

Well, it is undoubtedly true that Hosni Mubarak, for example, made good use of his 29 years as dictator of Egypt to enrich himself and his family. The academics in “Secularization” might have noted, however, that courts in Switzerland and the United States have resisted all attempts by Egyptian authorities to repatriate the tens of millions of dollars stashed by Mubarak in their banks.

The articles seem to attribute the rise of the phenomenon purely and simply to power-hungry “autocrats” in the region stoking internecine hatred for their own purposes. One writer even blames the current lawless chaos in Iraq on neighbours Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, who allegedly sabotaged Washington’s genuine attempts to create “a stable and democratic Iraq”.

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The Big DT with his Israeli mates

Well, I guess we saw in Afghanistan just how genuine was the American desire to bring stability and democracy. After using the Taliban to evict the Russian military from Afghanistan, the United States walked away and left the locals to sort out the mess by themselves – and we’ve seen the result of that. When it suited the White House, they supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. Iran itself had experienced its Islamic revolution as a result of 27 years of US-supported dictatorship by the puppet Shah, installed after a CIA-sponsored coup in 1952. The Saudi royal family gained and retain their power by working with, first the British, and subsequently the United States. Much of the current conflict in the Middle East stems from the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 by the United Nations aka the United States, which has subsequently supported that government’s expansionist aggression against all objections by the international community.

Is this current business with Qatar just another example of local thieves falling out? I don’t think so.

An Important Day for Turkey

19 May is one of the most important national holidays in the Republic of Turkey. It commemorates the day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal set sail from the occupied Ottoman capital, Istanbul, to the Black Sea port of Samsun. That day is taken as the beginning of the national struggle to assert Turkey’s independence against imperial forces bent on dividing its territory and subjugating its people.

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Kadıköy Council’s planned programme for 19 May

After a four-year struggle, the new Republic was founded in 1923. Mustafa Kemal became its first President, subsequently acquiring the honorific “Atatürk” after a law was passed requiring all citizens to adopt a surname.

More Propaganda!

In our newspaper today, among large advertisements inserted by commercial enterprises keen to demonstrate their loyal attachment to the founder of the Republic, was one paid for by the Beşiktaş Borough Council, announcing that the government had forced them to cancel their planned celebration of the day. The ad featured shadowy silhouettes of ordinary citizens, children, elderly and wheelchair-bound going about their business behind bars. I assume the implication was that you never know in Turkey these days when you will be arrested. I have been hearing the same from other people in our social and work circles – commemorating Atatürk’s achievements and celebrating national events has been banned by the AKP government.

So I did a little search online, and I found the following:

Kadıköy’de 19 Mayıs Coşkusuyla Kutlanacak – 19 May will be joyously celebrated in Kadıköy

kadikoyde-19-mayis-coskusu-2As it does every year Kadıköy City Council is organising celebrations on May 19 Youth and Sports Day. The Council has prepared a magnificent program featuring everything from sport to music.

The program includes a 12-km Bicycle Tour, an evening rock concert with popular musicians and a DJ dance. A variety of sports events will be staged including women’s rugby and lacrosse matches, a frisbee competition and a skateboarding performance.

A shuttle bus service will be put on free of charge to transport festival-goers to the various venues.

Reports in other Turkish sources:

http://www.kadikoylife.com/kadikoyde-19-mayis-coskusu-2/

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/kadikoy-de-19-mayis-coskusu-tum-gun-istanbul-yerelhaber-2041710/

And one in English:

Turkey marks Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey will celebrate Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19, with various events planned in the capital Ankara and around the country.

anitkabir-toren-celenk-3In Ankara, official ceremonies will be held in parliament and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk. The ceremonies will continue today in the city, with the Turkish Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team, the Turkish Stars, set to perform an air show at 4 p.m. There will also be a flag parade at 6:30 p.m. in which a 1,919-meter-long Turkish flag will be carried by the participants.

Meanwhile, police detained seven of nine suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in four cities yesterday for “planning a sensational attack” on the May 19 ceremonies.

So who to believe? The sad fact is that Turkey is located in a dangerous part of the world. It has borders with Iraq (in state of lawless chaos since George W Bush destroyed most of its infrastructure in 2003); Syria (where a vicious civil war has been going on since 2011); and Iran, not to mention several other problematic neighbours.

There has been a state of emergency in force since a violent military-sponsored coup attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government in July 2016. My people at the NZ Embassy in Ankara send me frequent warnings about the dangers of terrorist attacks and the risks of living and traveling in Turkey.

In spite of this, most of us in Turkey continue to go about our lawful business confidently in safety and security, without noticing any oppressive signs of military or police heavy-handedness.

Milli Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun!

Why should Turkey be first?

we-dont-live-in-a-democracy-we-live-in-a-hypocrisy-quote-1What would you say to an online news outlet founded by an Arab-American entrepreneur based in Washington DC who also happened to be president and chairman of an investment company set up to help companies secure reconstruction contracts in Iraq? What if the guy had close ties to the Bush family and both Bush administrations? If he was, in fact, a friend and business partner of former president George W. Bush’s brother Neil, and a “major contributor” to the presidential campaigns of both George Bushes, father and son? Would alarm bells ring if you knew he had been involved in the founding of Syria’s ruling (minority) Ba’ath Party, and was a strong supporter of beleaguered dictator, Bashar Assad? If his biography boasted that he had “over thirty years of experience managing investments in oil and gas, telecommunications, high technology, media, manufacturing and real estate”?

Would it colour your assessment if you learned that major contributors to the website included former top-level people in the US State Department and the CIA? That it is an “invaluable” source of information for The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Economist?

That’s a sample of what I turned up when I went searching for background on the Al-Monitor website and its founder, Jamal Daniel. Check him out for yourself: Counterpunch, Mediabiasfactcheck, Tabletmag.com

Well, pardon my cynicism, but when I read an article on that site taking Turkey’s government to task for its failure to address the issue of climate change, I wanted to laugh out loud! A big noise in the fossil fuel industry, major financial backer of GH (The American way of life is not up for negotiations”) Bush, funding criticism of a developing country for its “misguided energy policies”?

energy-sources-german-2016-1The article compared Turkey’s electricity generation unfavourably with that of Germany which, allegedly, produces far more power from solar energy under its its cold, cloudy skies. Well, I took a look at figures for electricity generation in Germany. The latest I could find were for 2016. If my arithmetic is correct, the Germans are producing 52.7% from fossil fuel sources, and a further 13.1% from nuclear plants. Admittedly they claim 29% is based on renewable sources, but that includes hydro.

Turkey, for comparison, according to the latest figures, produces over 40% from renewable sources, and 58% from coal and natural gas. Well, it’s not ideal, for sure, but I don’t see anything for the Germans to be particularly self-righteous about. And in fact Turkey’s government is actively encouraging the development of wind and solar electricity generation. Click the links if you’re interested (sorry if you can’t read Turkish):

Wind energy    Solar energy

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And still they’re poisoning the planet!

And what about the United States? Again, I couldn’t find the latest figures, but in 2014 the principal sources of US electricity were: coal (39%), natural gas (27%), nuclear (19%), Hydro (6%), and other renewables (7%). Do the maths. 66% fossil fuels and 19% nuclear. No wonder the developing world is not interested in listening to the pious pontificating of American “environmentalists”. Physician, heal thyself! And have a go at China if you are sincere in your desire to clean up Planet Earth!

Another article that appeared on the same Al-Monitor site launched intoTurkey’s skyrocketing welfare spending”. The writer quoted figures showing that “welfare assistance to the poor” had increased from 1.3 billion Turkish Liras in 2002 to 33.7 billion TL by 2016 – the period in which the country has been governed by RT Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The essence of the argument seemed to be that the government’s social welfare programme had become “a major instrument to lure and control voters”.

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Wind turbines in Turkey

Well, leave aside that the writer’s computational skills seem not up to the task of converting raw data to a percentage – and the fact that Al-Monitor locates Turkey unequivocally in the Middle East. It may be that Throughout Turkey’s Republican history, no other government” has channelled so much money into social welfare programmes – but I have to tell you, that cash was sorely needed. Turkey was governed for decades by a socio-economic elite that allowed the majority of the population to languish in underdeveloped ignorance, staging regular military coups every ten years when the democratic process threatened their hold on power.

These days Turkey has a working egalitarian health system that most Americans would envy if they knew about it. The public sector has been upgraded so that personnel are educated and trained, and offices are modern and well equipped. You make appointments on the internet and there is no longer any need to bribe your way through the bureaucratic process. State retirement pensions are regularly increased in line with single-digit inflation, and paid automatically on time.

Such methods, I agree, may not be in line with IMF and World bank guidelines that aim to embroil developing countries in increasing unpayable debt before forcing “belt-tightening” austerity measures on reluctant governments. But hey! Hands up who envies the Greeks their current economic mess.

Turkey’s opposition, we are told, “is at a loss and unable to come up with a counterstrategy other than pledging to give out more, which seems to have had little effect so far. In short, the government’s policy of vote hunting through welfare assistance remains without an alternative in Turkey. As a result, the votes of millions remain hostage to the aid they receive and continue to sway elections.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Take your socialist ideas of helping the poor too far and you may end up like Venezuela – your economy in tatters despite having the world’s second largest proven oil reserves. Uncle Sam’s got his eye on you!

So, it seems, in the eyes of the West, Turkey should be setting an example to the rest of the world:

  • Stop generating electricity until you can do it all using renewable resources. And hydro’s not acceptable if it means using water, or flooding areas that may contain places of historical interest (just about everywhere in Turkey!).
  • Front up and admit to having genocided innocent Armenians – and pay large reparations. Maybe the USA will follow suit and pay up for genociding its indigenous people; and join with the Brits in recompensing descendants of the African slaves who kick-started their industrial development. And the French will atone for killing 1.5 million Algerians.
  • Stop whining about that attempted military coup last July. Forgive and forget! Maybe those people did try to overthrow the democratically elected government using tanks and machine guns – but come on! That’s just freedom of expression, isn’t it? Nothing to hold a grudge over.
  • Stop trying to modernise your country and compete with the giants of the industrial world. Accept your fate as a backward Third World has-been, and be happy.
  • Keep crawling on your knees to the European Union, whose leaders have no intention of ever admitting you to their club. Do everything they tell you to do, and persist in a pathetic, trusting naïveté that one day they’ll let you in.
  • Accept your role as sanctuary for the millions of refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria. Police your borders so none of them can escape to Western Europe to threaten the comfort of our complacent, privileged lifestyles.

Have I missed anything? If you have any more useful advice to give Turkey’s government, please feel free to set your own house in order first. Then they may start to take you seriously.

Looking out for your Friends – Europe and American style

I could hardly believe it was true when I heard the news – but on reflection I realised the behaviour is totally in character.

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America’s true friends in the Middle East

The United States military Central Command (CENTCOM) announced on Sunday that it was “conducting patrols” along the Syrian side of the Turkey-Syria border. The stated purpose is “’to discourage escalation and violence between two of our most trusted partners in the fight to defeat ISIL’, the statement said . . . all parties in the region should remain focused on defeating the terror group.”

Photographs of the “patrols” published in Turkish media showed tanks flying US flags alongside ground forces belonging to the Kurdish separatist group YPG. The US source refers to “coalition forces”, implying some kind of Western alliance along the lines of George Dubya’s “Coalition of the Willing”, but in this case it’s just Americans and locals – a hotchpotch of anti-Assad rebels referred to by various unintelligible acronyms such as SDF and YPG.

In fact the US’s main “trusted partner” in the “fight” against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is YPG – a shadowy Kurdish separatist group that Ankara claims is allied with the PKK, a revolutionary Kurdish outfit that regularly carries out terrorist attacks in Turkey, and is recognised internationally as a terrorist organisation. Turkey’s government has for years been asking Washington to establish a no-fly zone along the Syria-Turkey border to assist in the maintenance of security – but the requests have gone unheeded. Recently Turkey has begun taking matters into its own hands by carrying out airstrikes in retaliation for alleged aggression by the Kurdish groups.

Evidently the US military sees this as running contrary to their own plans for the region. “Patrols” of tanks along the border are clearly intended as a warning to Turkey’s government to toe the party line, ie the United States’ line – despite the fact no one is very clear exactly what that is.

Initially the Turkish government was reluctant to get involved in the “fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh” – understandably, given that many people believe that mysterious organisation was created, directly or indirectly, by the ham-fisted US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Turkey accepted the Assad dictatorship in Syria as a necessary evil until the Arab Spring in 2011 gave birth to a resistance movement and a long-running civil war that drove millions of refugees across its border.

Just the other day, Turkey’s President Erdoğan made it clear that his country now fully supports America’s fight against ISIS. He said that together, Turkey, the United States and its coalition partners could destroy ISIL/ISIS/Daesh – but said also that his government is not happy with America allying itself with terrorist groups (meaning the PKK-allied YPG). Turkey’s concern is that the US is promising Kurdish separatists an independent Kurdistan in return for their help, first in defeating Saddam Hussein, and now against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. Given that such a new state would likely lay claim to a large chunk of south east Turkey, we can understand Mr Erdoğan’s unease. And given that the US has repeatedly turned a deaf ear to Turkey’s concerns in the matter, we may also understand why he feels his country has no option but to take action in its own interests.

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Protecting the Money Power

Unfortunately this situation mirrors many that have taken place in this region and others as the United States and the EU play out their self-appointed role as the world’s policemen. Peace in the Middle East is unlikely as long as the US refuses to acknowledge valid Palestinian grievances against Israel. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to Turkey’s acceptance into the EU is the intransigence of Greece and Greek Cyprus, and the refusal to recognise that Turkey had a good reason for its military intervention on the island in 1974. I’m not even going to start talking about the number of times the US has interfered directly in the affairs of its neighbours in Central and South America.

Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner overseeing EU membership bids, suggested on Monday that in the current circumstances, Turkey’s bid to join the EU was dead in the water. Mr Hahn and his friends in Brussels are blaming Turkey for this, despite the fact that they have been holding their loyal NATO ally at arm’s length for 30 years, while admitting more and more former members of the old Soviet bloc, thereby heightening tensions with Russia. Hahn’s current excuse for rejecting Turkey is the old chestnut of human rights. When Turkey was having regular military coups back in the late 20th century, and torture and disappearances of political dissidents were commonplace, that was the big issue. As the country began to leave those days behind, the Cyprus business began to loom as the major obstacle. Now, as Turkey tries to stabilise itself in the wake of an unsuccessful military takeover, civil war and chaos across its eastern borders, a flood of refugees and tourist embargoes stretching its economic resources to the limit, and threats of terrorist attacks in its cities, the human rights business has surfaced again. “There is no version of Turkish democracy,” says Mr Hahn. “There is only democracy.” By which he means, I guess, “Do as we say or suffer the consequences.”

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Turkey is undemocratic – we’re just protecting our democracy

Thanks for your sympathy, guys. Never mind that France is still living under a state of emergency 18 months after a terrorist attack that killed a tiny fraction of the number of people who have died in Turkey. The fact is that, whatever their posturing, Europe needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced recently that “the alliance without Turkey would be weak”.  Turkey is getting on with the job of caring for three million Syrian refugees while wealthy European countries are bleating about having to cope with mere hundreds or thousands. EU leaders promised major financial and diplomatic assistance to Turkey in return for Turkey preventing those refugees from continuing their flight into Europe. Precious little assistance has been forthcoming although Turkey has upheld its side of the bargain. “Think,” said Stoltenberg, “if any other NATO country besides Turkey was under the massive terrorist attacks Turkey has faced. Turkey has the right to defend its country and to punish the people who launched the thwarted coup attempt of July 2016.”

freespeech-wuerker-468-x-413My opinion is, leaders of the European Union and the United States want to see the back of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They resent the fact that, since his AK Party came to power in 2003, they have been obliged to start taking Turkey seriously. They can no longer mock the country for its hyperinflation and regular military coups. They are angry that Turkey is no longer a lapdog following the Western alliance wherever its economic interests lead. Turkey refused to follow George Dubya into Iraq, has openly criticised Israel’s illegal settling of Palestinian territory, and called out the Sisi military coup in Egypt for what it was. They are furious that every criticism they make of Turkey is thrown back in their faces with interest. Armenian genocide? Check out what the French did in Algeria. “We love Turkish people,” they’ll tell you. “It’s just that guy we can’t stand!” Yeah, yeah.

No2EU-do-as-you-are-toldSo there is only “democracy” . . . Western style. But what about countries that look at the West and say, “We don’t want that kind of democracy”? In fact, as we see from recent election results in the USA and France, there are actually plenty of people in those countries who are not sure they want it either. Mr Erdoğan’s government gets a good deal of flak for criticising and even censoring social media. So what do you make of the Home Affairs Select Committee report to the UK Parliament criticising large social media companies? The report accuses them of failing to remove illegal content such as hate speech, terror recruitment videos and sexual images of children when asked to do so. It said the largest firms were “big enough, rich enough and clever enough” to sort the problem out, and that it was “shameful” that they had failed to use the same ingenuity to protect public safety as they had to protect their own income.

A year or so ago, Mr Erdoğan came under considerable fire for his over-sensitivity in response to a poem aired on German television. A “comedian” from that highly civilised country trumpeted several verses of foul-mouthed X-rated doggerel accusing the Turkish president of committing unspeakable acts with sheep and goats. I say “unspeakable”, not because I am unduly sensitive, but because you won’t find any mainstream news media that were prepared to publish an English translation.

The German Public Prosecutor, in throwing out a case against the “comedian/poet”, is quoted as saying, “the context in which it was delivered made clear the claims were “exaggerated and absurd”, and not meant to be taken as serious allegations against Mr Erdogan [and] it was therefore “questionable” whether the poem constituted slander, given its satirical nature, and that the “from the lack of earnestness or any seriously intended connection to the personal dignity of (Mr Erdogan), it was meant to be immediately clear to every listener that it was a joke”.

So what about the shrill cries of protest in the USA over a “comedian” in that country suggesting that Donald Trump engages in fellatio with Russian President Putin? Seems it’s ok to accuse the leader of a key NATO ally of sexual shenanigans with sheep and goats – but if you step on the hypersensitive toes of the ever-lengthening LGBTIQ acronymiacs . . . that may be one step too far into the shaky ground of free speech.

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I’m not a big fan of the dear departed Winston, but . . .

I have to tell you, I’m in two minds about the “free speech” business. It may be that it is acceptable in Germany and the United States to accuse, in the most obscene and biologically precise terms, high-profile public figures of inserting their reproductive organs into the corresponding receptacles of female goats, of taking ovine male organs, or those of other countries’ leaders, into their mouths, and who knows what else. I have to tell the democratically self-righteous citizens of those countries, however, that they may not experience the same freedom everywhere. In Turkey, for example, you need to be careful about dropping a loose word with reference to another man’s mother or sister, if you value your health.

And the other thing that seems to me somewhat ironic – These freedom-of-speechers demand the right to make the most outrageously untrue accusations while expecting that the law of the land will protect them from the righteous anger of those whose honour and integrity they are intent on vilifying. That strikes me as cowardice in the extreme. Say and do what you like – but why should I pay taxes to protect you from the consequences of your “freedom”?

For many years I have been hearing these champions of free speech hiding behind words attributed to the 18th century French philosopher Voltaire: “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Interestingly, I now find that the “quotation” was actually invented by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, author of a biography of Voltaire published in 1906, where she asserted that he had uttered the words – a claim she later retracted.

Soooo, it seems no one has a monopoly on the truth – and those who claim it most vociferously may be the ones we most need to distrust.

Armenian “genocide” movie panned by critics and flops at box office

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

There seems to be some debate about whether it was Joseph Goebbels or Adolf Hitler who said it – or whether either of them did. Some people say Hitler claimed inspiration for his Jewish Holocaust from the Ottomans’ treatment of their Armenian citizens. That certainly, we know to be untrue.

MV5BYTI5NmI0N2UtOWQyOC00MDg2LWI5YWUtNWEwZTgyM2VlYThmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTk1MDM0OTc@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_A new film, The Promise, is attracting some media attention in the USA. It premiered last year but its producers waited until this month (April 21) to release it in the United States, for reasons that will become obvious. The New York Times and Time Magazine have published sympathetic reports – but the response from film critics and at the box office has been less positive:

“It is bombs away at the Friday box office. The $100 million movie is projected to earn $1.5 million-$2 million Friday from 2,251 theaters for a $4 million-$5 million launch – a sobering start considering the movie’s hefty budget.”

“’The Promise’ ends up feeling very old fashioned in a bad way. It’s bloated, it’s sweeping, there’s a love triangle, and there are four-too-many endings. But since there’s so much movie there, there’s also quite a bit that works – including lead performances from Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to save the whole ship, and in the end, the film turns out to be disappointingly unremarkable.”

MV5BMTg3ZDVlMjgtNTM4Yi00ZTQ3LThmM2QtYzdjZmRjMTcxMTkzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDExMzMxNjE@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_The NY Times piece leads the reader in gently, noting that the film’s “director Terry George figured there’d be weirdness around [it]. Gradually we learn that the subject of The Promise is the alleged “Armenian genocide” of 1915 – and the “weirdness” is the response it has elicited from Turkish ambassadors and others. One example of the “weirdness” is that another film, The Ottoman Lieutenant, dealing with the same historical events, appeared around the same time. Possibly the most interesting thing about the two films, neither of which seems destined for cinematic glory, is that the former was financed by a mega-rich gentleman of Armenian descent; the latter, allegedly by Turkish sources – probably true, although I have been unable to verify the claim.

The NY Times writer asserts that “The battle over these two new films represents just the latest front in Turkey’s quest to control the historical narrative.” We may think that claim debatable at least, given that the $100 million to make The Promise was provided by the late Kerkor Kerkorian, an American of Armenian descent featuring highly on the Forbes Rich List. The Wikipedia link to the production company, Survival Films, took me directly to the late Mr Kerkorian’s page. The company spokesperson is named as Eric Esrailian, and Kim Kardashian West has been tweeting enthusiastically about the film. The “genocide scholar” Taner Akçam, notorious for playing fast and loose with historical data, is also quoted; and the US release of The Promise was deliberately timed to coincide with the date chosen by the genocide lobby to publicise their cause. But it would be wrong, of course, to suspect the Armenian diaspora of trying to “control the historical narrative”.

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1923 – See it written there?

Nevertheless, the Times writer, Cara Buckley, seems all too ready to reiterate the one-sided arguments aimed at holding the modern Republic of Turkey responsible for a “crime” that took place eight years before it came into existence. She quotes people associated with the film as expressing “nebulous fears” about their safety, implying that sinister Turkish forces may try to silence them – breathing not a word about the 31 Turkish diplomats assassinated in the 1970s and 80s by Armenian terrorists pushing their own agenda. In the interests of fair play you may like to check out this report in the NY Times of 29 January 1982.

Fair play is not something you’ll get much of in Buckley’s article. The United Nations” she says, “the Roman Catholic Church, the European Parliament, historians and scholars have roundly recognized the atrocities as a genocide, the 20th century’s first.” In fact the United Nations has never recognised the “Armenian genocide”, nor has the United States government, despite incessant lobbying; and the French Constitutional Court ruled recently that their parliament did not have the authority to legislate on such issues.

Another gentleman Buckley quotes extensively is “Advertising executive-turned-documentarian Joe Berlinger.” Berlinger, maker of a recent pro-genocide documentary “Intent to Destroy” apparently worked closely with Promise director, Terry George. Well, I don’t want to belittle advertising executives in general, but  selling their services for a fee is what that business is all about I guess.

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Advertising poster for the 1919 Hollywood movie

Inspiration for The Promise is said to have come from a 1933 novel, “The Forty Days of Musa Daghbased on true events that took place in 1915”. According to the Wikipedia entry, the book “achieved great international success and has been credited with awakening the world to the evidence of the persecution and genocide inflicted on the Armenian nation during World War I.” A NOVEL, remember. An earlier production stirring up American emotions on the subject was the 1919 Hollywood movie “Ravished Armenia” or “The Auction of Souls”, stills from which are frequently passed off by pro-Armenian lobbyists as actual photos of Ottoman atrocities (see below).

The Time Magazine report is headed “The real history to know before you see ‘The Promise’“. The writer, Olivia B Waxman, seems to have sourced her “facts” from one Peter Balakian, a poet and translator of such balanced works of history as Armenian Golgotha and The Ozone Journal – based on the account of an Armenian survivor and a recent excavation of bones in Syria.

Well, my purpose here is not to make light of tragic events that undoubtedly happened during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, as its leaders struggled against forces within their borders and beyond determined to tear it apart. Justice is rarely served, however, by viewing historical events through the filter of narrow national interests. To anyone interested in a more balanced view of those years, I recommend the American historian Justin McCarthy. He, and others like Stanford Shaw have indeed received serious threats aimed at shutting them up.

Decide for yourself – but don’t believe something just because it is constantly repeated.

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CrucifictionYou’ll see this image again and again on sites arguing for the Armenian “genocide. Compare it with the film poster image above.

https://5165news.com/armenia/areg-galstyan-why-trump-should-recognize-the-armenian-genocide/

https://coercioncode.com/2016/08/09/erdogans-turkey-remembering-armenian-christian-genocide-1915/

This was one caption: “Taken by a German officer in 1915 showing a row of young women who had been hanged upon crosses in mockery of the Crucifixion of Jesus because they had refused to convert.”