Reaching out to the Muslims

Well, it seems like al-Qaeda have resurfaced after a period out of our headlines. Maybe people were getting bored with ISIS – or were just plain confused about who they actually were, given all the acronyms that seemed to refer to the same shadowy outfit: ISID, ISIL, DAESH etc. Then there are YPG and SDF . . . And that’s just in Syria! It’s all a bit much, really. Let’s just get back to basics and bomb the sh** out of al-Qaeda. At least we knew who those guys were . . . Didn’t we?

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Got those mothers!

So it seems that’s what we’re doing. By “we”, of course, I mean the Western alliance; the Christian, democratic, freedom-loving Western alliance. That’s us, right? Me and you?

And it’s with some satisfaction we note that the United States military is back to doing what it does best – taking out al-Qaeda operatives threatening Homeland, USA, just a short 9,220 km hop, step and a jump away from Washington DC, in Syria (that’s 5,763 miles for those of you who still insist on using those medieval measurements).

Colonel John Thomas (no connection with the male appendage of the gardener in “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”), spokesman for US Central Command, apparently told Reuters: “’US forces conducted an airstrike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.’ He later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear — but that it was the same one widely reported to have targeted the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

Washington DC to Aleppo

There’s DC – there’s Aleppo. You can see why we’re nervous, right?

‘We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties in relation to this strike,’ he added, when asked about reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that 42 people had died, most of them civilians.”

Several news sources, however, including the BBC, reported that the al-Jineh mosque “had been packed with worshippers for evening prayers. Forty-two people, mostly civilians, died in an air strike. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the raid by unidentified planes was in al-Jineh, Aleppo province.”

Back to Colonel Thomas: “We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting [of militants] took place – is about 50ft (15metres) from a mosque that is still standing.”

Now, I have to tell you, I’m a little confused about how the Colonel can be so sure the mosque is “still standing” when he admits that “the precise location of the strike was unclear.” Nevertheless, I’m sure the families of the dead worshippers will be comforted to hear that the US military is going to “look into the allegations”.

Turkey and the Syrian refugee crisis: An example for humanity

This is part of an article published yesterday in Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News. It was written by Turkey’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

“Turkey opened its doors to Syrians and started granting them entry in April 2011. Since then, Turkey continues to allow Syrians to enter the country by strictly adhering to international law, particularly to the principle of non-refoulement.

n_107964_1“As the country which has assumed the greatest burden with the largest refugee population in the world, we are also proud to find and show ways to alleviate responsibility through coordinated action. In this context, the Turkey-EU Agreement of March 18, 2016, can serve as an example to other parts of the world coping with irregular migration. There is no doubt that the most important achievement of the agreement has been the ending of loss of lives at sea. In 2015, the Aegean Sea claimed around 1,000 lives due to dangerous journeys toward the EU. The trend was even more brutal at the beginning of 2016 with around 400 lives lost in the first three months of the year. Since March18, eight irregular migrants lost their lives in the Turkish waters of the Aegean. We will continue to do our utmost to prevent deaths in our seas.  As a result, we have transformed the Aegean Sea into an area of stability and solidarity. We owe this accomplishment to our human-oriented approach which seeks a better future and destiny for those we host.

“Turkey’s aim is not only to save lives and provide a safe harbor for the Syrians, but also to improve their living conditions and ensure their self-reliance. Their safety and dignity remain our priority. Consequently, we are creating favorable conditions for Syrians to actively participate in social and economic life.

“Fundamental harmonization policies in Turkey are regulated by the Law on Foreigners and International Protection. In this regard, language courses, education, vocational training, labor market access, access to social and health services, social acceptance, anti-discrimination measures, xenophobia and racism are major components of Turkey’s integration policy.”

“Turkey has so far assumed an unfair share of the humanitarian burden of the Syrian conflict. They should not be left alone in coping with this humanitarian crisis, which requires a genuine partnership among all members of the international community. Concerted global action is urgently needed.

“Refugees should not be considered a security threat. Doing so only results in more securitization of migration and restrictive policies. Closing borders and building fences are temporary measures that ignore the core of the problem and do not change the fundamental reasons for mass migration.

“Last but not least, in order to find a durable solution to the migration crisis, we have to address the “root causes” of massive waves of forced displacement and support peace processes and promote peaceful settlement of disputes in conflict-ridden areas. But even more importantly, in responding to the refugee crisis, we should never forget that we are not dealing with statistics but human beings who need protection. It is humanity’s joint responsibility to find sustainable solutions by putting our human values first.”

TCA Distributes $100,000 to Syrian Refugees in Turkey

 

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Refugee children in Şanlıurfa, Turkey, wearing their new winter coats

I’m passing this article on from TCA’s website. Clothes, money and education are probably the most powerful weapons the West can employ to combat terrorists:

“As of December 2016, the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) has distributed $100,000 in humanitarian grants to Syrian refugees in Turkey, marking the conclusion of TCA’s Syrian Refugee Matching Campaign launched in the summer of 2016. TCA would like to thank the Turkish American community and friends of Turkey for their generous donations to the campaign. Humanitarian grants were given to fund specific project requests from local organizations working directly with refugees on the ground in Turkey including: Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Butun Cocuklar Bizim Dernegi (All Children Are Ours Foundation), and Sureli Destek (Periodic Support).

“With the TCA grant, Butun Cocuklar Bizim Dernegi and Sureli Destek provided winter clothing and boots to over 1,000 children in Batman and the Fatih, Okmeydani, and Kucukcekmece districts of Istanbul. They also provided refugee families with food, hygiene products, school supplies, heating supplies, and transportation support to refugee families. Thanks to the grant, Sureli Destek will be able to continue providing aid to families for the next five months.

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Children working on art projects at ReVi’s school in Izmir; and wearing knitted products from families in ReVi’s knitting program

“ReVi is currently supporting 400 families in the Basmane, Kadifekale, and Ikicesmelik districts of Izmir and has recently opened two schools that serve over 120 children ages 5-12. TCA’s humanitarian grant supports teacher salaries, rent, school supplies, food and hygiene products, materials for bracelets and knitted products, and renumeration for families involved in ReVi’s bracelet making and knitting program. Bracelets and knitted products can be purchased through their online store at http://revistore.org. TCA’s grants will allow ReVi to continue its operations for the next four months.TCA has previously made significant humanitarian donations to victims of natural disasters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Philippines, Haiti, and Mexico as well as to Chaldean refugees in Turkey who were displaced by the wars in Iraq.”

Visit the TCA website

Turkish Coalition of America Syrian Refugee Campaign

I’m passing this on because it’s such a worthy cause:

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Children working on art projects at one of ReVi’s schools in Izmir

Since the launch of TCA’s Syrian Refugee Campaign in June 2016, TCA has distributed humanitarian grants to several organizations working directly on the ground with Syrian refugees in Turkey. These organizations include Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi), Butun Cocuklar Bizim (All Children are Ours), and Sureli Destek (Periodic Support).

With the grant, ReVi has opened schools in the Kadifekale and Basmane distircts of Izmir, which teach over 120 children age 5 -12 years old. None of these children had previously attended school before beginning classes at ReVi. ReVi is also helping families work from home through knitting and bracelet making. They provide workshops to teach families how to make bracelets and provide materials like wool and beads at no cost. They then purchase the products from the families and sell the items through their online store http://revistore.org. Through this wonderful program, many families are able to make enough money to pay their rent.

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Children at a school supported by Bütün Çocuklar Bizim

Working together, Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek have distributed food, supplies, diapers, and school bags to Syrian families living in the Fatih, Okmeydani, and Kucukcekm
ece districts of Istanbul. Many of the families have young children and rely on income from daily odd jobs to get by. Often, children as young as 8 years old are forced to work 12-14 hours a day to support their families. When asked, many of these children have conveyed their desire to attend any kind of school. Butun Cocuklar Bizim and Sureli Destek are working make sure all children who can enroll in school are registered and begin classes in the coming weeks.

To donate to TCA’s Campaign to Raise $100,000 for Syrian Refugees in Turkey, please click here. TCA will match every dollar contributed up to $100,000 as part of this campaign. The Turkish Coalition of America is a Section 501(c)3 nonprofit and your donations may qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes.

Turkish Coalition of America

Liberty, Equality and Democracy – Lessons from the experts

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Yeh, I know we’re great – I mean great-ER!

I visited the Donald Trump official website today. I know you’ll hate me for it, but I couldn’t help it. I promise you I didn’t donate to his campaign or buy a T-shirt. I simply wanted to see what the guy’s planning to do – and now I know. “Together,” he says, “we are bringing back the American Dream. The time is now. Together, we WILL Make America Great Again!”

To be scrupulously fair, I checked out Mrs Clinton’s site too. The only thing I could find vaguely resembling a slogan was “Join the official campaign—and help stop Donald Trump!” Now whether that’s because Mme Hillary is so out of touch with reality that she still believes in the American dream and the greatness of America, or whether she thinks getting back there is a lost cause, I can’t say – but it got me thinking. What exactly was it that made America great?

Normally I find Google very helpful. I go to it in times of trouble, as the Beatles and others once went to Mother Mary. This time I just ended up confused. It seems books have been written on the subject, but I wanted a quick answer. You know, something like: George Washington; Abe Lincoln; mom and apple-pie; or black slaves from Africa. Well, I can tell you, it’s not that simple. Was it The Constitution? Free-market capitalism? Was it because God was on their side? Did Harry Truman and Arthur Vandenberg have something to do with it? Was it all about conquest and greed?

Personally I liked the sound of “The Constitution” – until I learned that even Ben Franklin, according to Wikipedia, had doubts about it at the time. There have been 27 amendments to the original document, including No 2, which allows certified maniacs to carry assault rifles and massacre school children in their classrooms; and No.6, officially protecting “the right to a fair and speedy public trial by jury, including the rights to be notified of the accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel” – which would seem to preclude institutions like Guantanamo, and summary assassination by drone strike. The 18th Amendment of 1917 actually prohibited the manufacturing and sale of alcohol within the United States, until it was repealed in 1933. On the other hand, some seemingly worthwhile suggestions have been rejected, for example a proposal to limit, regulate and prohibit child labour, which has been languishing on the books since 1924.

quotes+freedom+(17)OK, smart-alec, I hear you say. What’s your idea? And I’m going to tell you. Out in the sea at the entrance to New York Harbour, a colossal statue stands on an island. Standing 93 metres from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, the copper and iron figure is of a woman, the Roman goddess Libertas, The torch represents liberty bringing enlightenment to a benighted world, and the document under the goddess’s arm bears the date of the American Declaration of Independence. The statue was a gift to the United States from the government of France – from one shining beacon of liberty and equality to another, so to speak. Closely associated with the Statue of Liberty are the words from a sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

Now I also don’t know, so I can’t say to what extent the respective governments of those two exemplary republics actually believed what they were saying when the symbolic lady was dedicated on 28 October, 1886. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ve all seen Leonardo de Caprio in  “Titanic”. It is certainly true that shiploads of poor immigrants from the Old World flocked to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries seeking a better life for themselves and their children. No doubt some of them found it, and their stories gave credence to the myth of the American Dream. After the abolition of slavery, their cheap labour may also have given a boost to the American industrial machine.

But something’s changed, hasn’t it! The Big DT is right! The question is, however, is he the one to fix it? I’m not sure how his rants about restricting immigration relate to those words about sharing America’s fresh air (and wealth of resources) with the poor huddled masses of less fortunate countries. Still, at least he’s talking about immigration, even if he’s against it. Hillary’s preferred solution seems to be, bomb those poor tired sods before they can even get on a plane and head in our direction.

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Neece – not nice!

As for France, that self-righteous paragon of liberty, equality and brotherhood, you may have seen the news report from Nice where four armed police wearing body armour rousted up a burkini-clad Muslim woman napping on the sand and forced her to remove her clothing. That’s FOUR ARMED police! And the woman wasn’t even in the sea – just lying on the beach minding her own business. Seems it is not only illegal to wear a burkini in the sea in France, it is actually compulsory for women to wear almost nothing while sunbathing!

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Where are your bikinis, girls?

Then an Italian imam with a sense of humour posted a photo on his Facebook page of seven Catholic nuns wearing grey and white habits frolicking in the sea. According to reports, he got two thousand Likes in a short space of time before the champions of social media freedom of expression shut down his account.

So who is the new champion of liberty and the so-called “American” Dream? My vote goes to Turkey. There are now close to three million refugees from war-torn Syria in Turkey. Some voices have been raised in protest, but on the whole the government and people of Turkey have lived up to their reputation for hospitality by allowing these tired, poor, mostly blameless, displaced masses to escape from the horrors in their native land.

One family’s story was recounted in our local newspaper yesterday: A young Syrian, Zaher Battah, graduated from the medical faculty of Aleppo University in 2006 and went on to specialise in heart and vein surgery at the University of Damascus. He married his wife in 2011 and they had a son, Enver. Then civil war broke out. Fearing for his family’s safety, Dr Battah escaped with them to Lebanon in 2014. Sadly, their little son was diagnosed as autistic. Thinking that the child would get better treatment there, the couple moved to Turkey. However, because of local regulations Zaher has been unable to work as a doctor. Formerly earning $5,000 a month in his own country, he is now struggling to pay for little Enver’s treatment, working as a tailor in Izmir for 800 TL (less than $300).

By doing their best to portray these refugees as Islamic terrorists, wealthy nations in the West are trying to justify their own selfish, heartless refusal to address the enormous human tragedy unfolding in the Middle East. Some of us are actually of the opinion that the root cause of that tragedy is the acquisitive greed of those Western nations. But leave that aside. According to Wikipedia, Germany, with 600,000 Syrian refugees is the most hospitable European country, although Sweden, with 110,000, does better on a per capita basis. France has 12,000, the UK 11,000, and the USA 7,123. When it comes to donations to international organisations working with displaced persons, Turkey again tops the list with $8 billion. The United States, God bless them, are second with $4.6 billion. The UK government has given $1.5 billion, Germany 1.3 billion – and France? $150 million. These figures, incidentally, do not include government spending on domestic hosting and development, where, of course, Turkey, with its three million asylum-seekers, again comes out on top.

Desperate not to have more of these poor desperate souls at their own doorsteps, European Union member states negotiated a deal with Turkey earlier this year. A recent article in The Economist acknowledged that “In exchange for visa-free travel for some of its citizens, €6 billion ($7 billion) in refugee aid and revived talks on possible future accession to the EU, Turkey was to take back migrants who had made their way to Greece and try to secure its borders.” It’s not that easy, of course. Turkey has over 4,000 km of coastline on the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and Greece, thanks to past meddling by Western Powers, owns dozens of islands within a stone’s throw of the Turkish mainland.

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It’s your history, people! What happens when you renege on an agreement?

Turkish authorities did their best. After agreement was reached, the flow of migrants to those Greek Islands, and hence, into the Euro Zone, slowed to a trickle. Unfortunately, like the mayor and corporation of Hamelin Town after the Pied Piper got rid of their rats, the EU began to show their true colours. Turkey and their evil president, Tayyip Erdoğan, were using those poor refugees to blackmail Europe for their own selfish ends. “A thousand guilders? Come, take fifty!” “Did we promise visa-free entry to Europe? Fast-track the process for membership of the EU? Oh no!”

As far as I am aware, there hasn’t been any money forthcoming either. Only accusations that Turkish border guards have begun shooting Syrians trying to cross into Turkey. Well, I don’t know about that – but I do know that there was another news item this week reporting an attack on a boatload of refugees by a Greek coastguard vessel. The inflatable boat with thirteen Afghans on board was heading for the island of Kalymnos, about 20 km from Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula and apparently failed to stop when ordered to do so by the Greek coastguards, who then opened fire. Three people were wounded, two of them Turkish.

yunan-sahil-guvenligi-kacak-teknesine-ates-acti-140067What do you make of that? It may be that those Turkish guys were breaking international law, and taking a fee from the Afghans for ferrying them to the Greek island. Maybe they did disobey an order to stop, and try to escape apprehension – but does that justify machine-gunning them in cold blood? Western governments are quick to insist on the rights of their own citizens, even when they have flagrantly broken the law in another state, drug smuggling, or whatever. That old anti-Turkey propaganda movie “Midnight Express” comes to mind.

I hesitate to accuse the Greek government of ordering its coastguards to fire on unarmed refugees; or to suggest that the gnomes of Brussels have instructed Greece to do whatever is necessary to stem the tide. But I do wonder.

Joe Biden’s Turkey tightrope

The vice-president has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that Washington is committed to its NATO ally.

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JB: Sorry I’m late. Wish I could have come sooner 🙂 RTE: What’s six weeks between friends?

Septuagenarian US vice-president is currently in Turkey, smiling for the cameras and his home audience, and talking down to Turkey’s leaders while delivering veiled threats about “friendship”. This article on politico.com has some interesting insights into the relationship:

ISTANBUL — Smoke rose over the Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Jarabulus Wednesday morning as Turkish tanks rolled across the border in a major operation that could pit two U.S. allies against each other.

The campaign began just hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Ankara to discuss the fallout of last month’s failed coup. But while Turkey was moving against the Islamic State with Washington’s support, its operation was aimed not only the jihadists, but also the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Speaking in Ankara, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the attack on Jarabulus — the last stretch of northern border territory held by the jihadists — had begun at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, targeting “terror groups which constantly threaten our country.”

After a suicide bombing killed 54 guests at a Kurdish wedding on Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu vowed to “cleanse” the country’s border region of ISIL, which had previously used Turkey’s porous frontier as a gateway to its self-declared caliphate.

Erdoğan added that the operation would also target Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose three-decade war against the Turkish state has killed some 40,000 people.

The trouble for Turkey is that while the U.S. and the rest of NATO have listed the PKK as a terror group, they see the YPG as their most effective ally in the fight against ISIL. Earlier this month, with American support, the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) — a coalition dominated by the Kurds — retook the strategic city of Manbij in northeastern Syria.

But while Manbij’s liberation was greeted with enthusiasm in the West, it caused consternation in Ankara. It meant that the Kurds had moved West, across the Euphrates river, which Ankara had once declared a “red line.” It also meant that they were free to move north towards Jarabulus, a town just south of the Turkish border.

Had the Kurds been able to capture Jarabulus and surrounding areas, they would have connected the two Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, creating a de facto autonomous state along Turkey’s border. This would have fulfilled a longstanding dream of the Kurds but it would have been anathema to Ankara, which fears that an autonomous Kurdish entity in Syria would pour oil on the flames of its own Kurdish conflict.

Turkey is determined for Syria to retain its territorial integrity and will take matters into its own hands if required to protect that territorial unity,” Erdoğan warned on Wednesday.

Turkey is killing two birds with one stone,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The military objective of this operation is ISIS, but the political objective is the Kurds.”

After bombarding Jarabulus for two days, Turkish tanks and special forces entered Syria alongside several hundred Syrian rebel fighters. By early Wednesday afternoon, the joint operation had succeeded in retaking two villages and the Syrian rebels reached the center of the town under Turkish and U.S. air cover.

Syrian Kurdish leaders responded with anger. Salih Muslim, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), wrote on Twitter that Turkey was now in the “Syrian quagmire” and would be defeated like the Islamic State. Redur Xelil, a spokesperson for the YPG militia, denounced Turkey’s intervention as an act of “blatant aggression.”

As tensions rise between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, Ankara’s foray into Syria may be yet another headache for Biden, who has the difficult task of reassuring Ankara that the U.S. is committed to its NATO ally amid surging anti-American sentiment following the July 15 coup attempt.

Turkey blames the coup on Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gülen and has demanded his extradition — a request that has so far been met with reluctance from U.S. authorities. Erdoğan has also long criticized the West’s support for Syria’s Kurds, describing it as the equivalent of holding “live grenades with the pins pulled.”

In Ankara on Wednesday, Biden launched a charm offensive, praising the bravery of the Turkish people during the coup attempt, lauding their efforts against the Islamic State and declaring that the country had “no better friend” than the United States. He also warned the Syrian Kurds that they would lose U.S. support if they did not retreat to the Euphrates’ eastern bank.

His speech was well received. But with two of their allies on a collision course, the U.S. will have to watch Turkey’s next steps closely.

Read the whole article

Diplomacy and Democracy in the Western Alliance – Do as I say, not as I do!

Last Friday two high profile Turkish journalists appeared in an Istanbul court to answer charges of procuring information vital to state security, political and military espionage, publishing state secrets and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization. Serious charges indeed, which relate to an incident where trucks allegedly carrying weapons were seen crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.

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Pretty undignified for high-ranking diplomats, if you ask me

What was particularly surprising about the court hearing was that Consuls-General from ten European countries accompanied by their colleagues from Canada and the USA, plus the German Ambassador from Ankara, turned up to observe proceedings. Not content with quiet observation, the diplomatic ladies and gentlemen snapped a selfie of their group which the French Consul-General apparently uploaded to his Facebook page.

Needless to say, Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdoğan, was not pleased. ‘Who do you think you are?’ he is reported to have demanded, apostrophizing the group in characteristic fashion. ‘This is Turkey. You can do what you like in your consular buildings and compounds, but elsewhere you need permission!’

Well, whatever the rights and wrongs of the charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, Mr Erdoğan is absolutely right here. Foreign ambassadors and consular staff have diplomatic immunity to go about the business of representing their countries’ interests wherever they are posted; and that even includes the right to be whisked out of harm’s way in the event of being caught out doing something they shouldn’t. A blind eye is generally turned to what may or may not be going on behind the walls of embassies and consulates.

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Champions of press freedom in the West – and where are they now?

It is, however, generally agreed, I believe, that diplomatic rights stop short of allowing privileged foreign personnel to participate in direct political activity, especially when the issue involves national security. If the governments of Western nations believe Turkey (or any other country) is using its courts to stifle dissent, and imprisoning its citizens without due process of law, there are acceptable channels through which to express their disapproval.

Obviously foreign politicians can and do say what they like in the safety of their own countries. Diplomats can seek an audience with the host country’s leadership to make their official views clear. But do they have the right to congregate with others of their species at a high profile trial in an attempt to intimidate, or influence proceedings by their presence? I don’t think so.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years, knowing that, as soon as he sets foot outside the premises, he will be arrested by the local police and extradited to Sweden to face what he claims are trumped-up charges of rape; and he believes he will thence be shipped to the United States to face more serious charges that could see him imprisoned for life.

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London bobbies standing guard outside the Ecuadorean Embassy, London

Now there are quite a few people who believe that Assange and Wikileaks did us all a great service by bringing out into the open, amongst other things, shocking documents and videos showing how the United States military had been conducting its occupation of Iraq. How would it be, I wonder, if the Turkish Ambassador rounded up a dozen or so like-minded embassy staff from, say, Middle Eastern and South American countries, and hung around outside in a demonstration of solidarity with Assange and his Ecuadorean protectors, while conducting photo ops, and publishing selfies etc on social media? Or if governments of the same nations instructed their diplomats in Washington DC to stage a similar event in support of Chelsea/Bradley Manning, currently serving a 35-year jail sentence for supplying the actual leaks to Assange?

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Freedom of speech American-style

Maybe the US government would laugh. Maybe they wouldn’t – but the fact is, whatever they may think about the state of democracy and freedom of speech in the USA, foreign governments would know better than to interfere in that country’s internal politics. So why do those Western countries think Turkey does not deserve the same respect? Unfortunately, ‘respect’ is the key word here. Those countries are so used to criticizing and belittling Turkey, they seem to feel they are absolved from normal standards of diplomatic behavior.

Moreover, whatever Western governments think about the state of democracy in Turkey, these foreign diplomats were permitted to sit in on a highly sensitive trial. They were not prevented from gathering in a group demonstration clearly intended to express support for the defendants and, by implication, criticism of the legal system and the government of Turkey. I suspect there are not many countries in the world, including some that claim the democratic moral high ground, that would permit such obvious and public meddling in their internal affairs.

And then there is the question of whether these two defendants are merely professional journalists doing their job of keeping the public informed – or whether they had some ulterior motive. Well, surely that is a matter for Turkey’s courts to decide. The story behind the criminal charges does beg some questions that foreign media and governments seem to be avoiding.

A couple of trucks were apparently stopped by police on Turkey’s southeast border, and alleged to have been carrying weapons. The government denied this, claiming the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid. The opposition CHP Party suggested that the government was supplying weapons to forces of ISIS/Daesh and Al Qaeda, and accused them of high treason. Can Dündar, a well-known opponent of Turkey’s AK Party government, and recipient of an award from Reporters Without Borders, published a piece referring to video evidence supporting the claim that the trucks had been carrying arms and munitions.

My questions are: If those were military vehicles crossing the border on official government business, who authorized the search? And who carried it out? And who filmed the trucks’ cargo? And how did the film get into the hands of a journalist in Istanbul? Given that anti-government militants in Syria have been waging a civil war for five years, who has been supplying them with weapons for the fight?

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Who’s really supplying the military hardware?

And of course I have some opinions of my own. First of all, assuming the government of Turkey had in fact dispatched those truckloads of weapons to Syria, who would be the most likely recipients? It is outrageous to suggest that Turkey’s government is actively supporting ISIS or Al Qaeda. It is far more likely that, given Ankara’s clearly stated desire for Bashar Al Assad to step down as President of Syria, military support would be directed to the anti-Assad rebels. Second, even if they have been providing some assistance, it is not possible that Turkey alone could have supplied sufficient weaponry to keep this war going for five years. It is well known that military hardware has been channeled through Saudi Arabia and Qatar – and America has made no secret of its desire to see the back of Assad. Finally, it must be true that a person or persons high up within Turkey’s military leaked information about those vehicles to news media, and organized the border search, with the aim of embarrassing Turkey’s government. What’s your definition of high treason?

I would be interested to hear from those Western diplomats what action they think their own governments would take in a similar situation? It has come to light that Turkish police had detained and extradited a Belgian national who went on to carry out one of the recent bombings in Brussels. It seems that Belgian security forces failed to act on the warning received, and they are placing the blame on their Ambassador in Ankara. If their communication channels are really so dysfunctional, and their envoys in foreign countries are acting on their own initiative, it seems to me Western governments need to get their diplomatic personnel under control.