Tag Archives: Turkey

Kurdish Nationalism Rises In Turkey

Local elections in Turkey the past weekend revealed that Kurdish nationalism is alive and growing even stronger. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) encountered strong evidence that Kurds did not trust the stance of current Prime Minister Erdogan who they believe lied to them about his commitment to work through peaceful means in dealing with issues related to Kurds. The opposition Democratic Society Party (DTP) which has been championing Kurdish rights strongly increased their lead in Kurdish areas of the nation. In 2007, the AKP had a higher percent of the vote because Kurds accepted his pledge to work peacefully in dealing with their rights. However, he switched and backed military plans for attacking Kurdish rebels in northwestern Iraq.

The issue of Kurdish rights hangs like an albatross around the neck of Turks who seek entry into the European Union. The EU will insist on local rights for Kurds and if that is not forthcoming, they will reject Turkey’s application for membership.

Violence Escalates In Iraq

During the past several months, the media has been filled with stories concerning how the famous “surge” has resulted in a dramatic “victory” in Iraq. Lost in this euphoria is the reality that al-Qaeda, which arrived in Iraq courtesy of George Bush, is still active and may be laying low awaiting further reductions in US military personnel. Suicide bombers blew themselves up throughout Iraq yesterday as Kurdish areas were hit in anticipation of the arrival of the Turkish president who has led the fight against Kurdish rebels. Al-Qadea may be targeting Kurds because they collaborate with Americans, and there may be Kurdish rebels who are attacking any fellow Kurds who seek to work with Turks. In a word, this is one mess after another.

The situation appears to suggest there might be an escalation in fighting in northern areas of Iraq as both Kurdish rebels and al-Qaeda share a common animosity toward Kurds who collaborate with Americans or with Turkish authorities. Further south in Iraq there were other suicide bombers.

When all is said and done, President Obama has inherited a rather complicated situation and all talk about “victories” may well be a bit premature.

Turkish Women Still Fight For Equal Rights

The release of a major report in January regarding women rights in Turkey upset many people when they learned 42% of Turkish women have been victims of physical or sexual violence by a male relative at least once in their lives. Moreover, the vast majority of women have victims of psychological abuse. Nebahat Akkoc, founder of the Diyarbakir based Women’s Consultation and Solidarity Center, (KAMER) is optimist because recent changes in Turkish law relating to women’s rights more or less meet standards of the European Union. However, despite this step forward, “although these rights exist on paper now, they are still waiting for more decisive implementation.” In a sense, the laws now run ahead of society’s acceptance of what should be rights for women.

KAMER has ventured into the economic sphere and assists women to start up their own business enterprise. The organization also conducts workshops to raise awareness for women on their legal rights since many do not know of recent changes in the Penal Code.

Perhaps, if the Turkish government were to establish an economic incentive program for budding female entrepreneurs, it might help spark a growth in female rights.

European Court Rules Turkey Allowed Women Abuse

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkish police had abused two teenage girls suspected of aiding Kurdish separatist forces. The judges found credible their complaints that Turkish police physically and sexually assaulted two teenage girls who were in their custody for allegedly working with Kurdish separatist groups. The court found the abuse entailed sodomy and forced virginity tests which violates international conventions. The Turkish government has promised to wipe out any examples of torture, but apparently the message still has not gotten down to those working in the police and army. The two girls were convicted in 1999 of being members of a terrorist group and sentenced to long terms in jail. The court ordered the Turkish government to pay the girls for their imprisonment and abuse.

The abuse of women goes deeper than just against those who support illegal groups, it pervades many aspects of Turkish society in which men dominate women and abuse them both physically and emotionally. Until Turkish women truly have equal rights they will be denied their rights as equal partners in society.

Great Turkey Monkey Dispute!

We are living in the 21st century, but to some scholars in Turkey the theory of evolution is just that– some silly theory that is propogated by people in the West in order to prove they know more than people in Turkey. The nation’s top science agency pulled its own magazine cover because it featured a story about Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Huseyin Celik, education minister, said, “evolutionary theory overlaps with atheism, creationism, with religious belief. Given that polls show only 1 percent of Turks are atheists, not teaching creationism claims in biology classes would be tantamount to censorship.”

Dr. Cigdem Atakuman, editor in chief was fired because of her opposition to pulling the cover. In reality, polls indicate barely one fourth of Turks believe in anything akin to evolution, which, in itself is not shocking, given how many Americans want creationism taught in public schools. The damage to Turkey’s image arose from having a prestigious institution caught in this embarrassing mess of trying to deny a scientific concept.

Turkish President–We’ll Solve Kurdish Problem!

President Abdullah Gul said he was working to resolve problems with Turkey’s Kurdish minority and urged the European Union or other outside groups to remain out of the issue. “There are already good things happening. We are resolving our own internal problems.” He emphasized his government was trying to cooperate with the Iraqi Kurdish government in order to clamp down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Gul is expected to meet with President Barzani of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. There is some speculation that Gul is contemplating a general amnesty for Kurdish militants who have been fighting for years.

Perhaps, this is another example of the United States distancing itself from a regional conflict since there are signs progress is being made to resolve this issue. The United States does not always have to go charging in and impose its will to end disputes. In most cases, that attitude results in making the situation worse.

Iran Dismisses Turkey Mediation Offer

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the recent offer by President Gul of Turkey to serve as a mediator in the conflict between the United States and Iran. “There is no need for mediation,” claimed the Iranian president, “our stance is clear; if there is justice and respect not issue would remain in the world.” President Gul has visited with Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to discuss his plans for serving as a mediator in the conflict between the US and Iran. An Iranian news agency claims Khamenei that “in cases of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American government made a big mistake and the stance o the current American issue of Gaza is one of America’s other big mistakes.”

Khamenei at this point sees no significant difference between Obama policies and those of George Bush in dealing with issues such as Afghanistan or the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Gul just met with the leaders of Iran and is trying to persuade them to engage more openly with the United States in order to resolve regional issues. Gul is trying to convince Iranian leaders a change in policy is taking place in the United States. Can he convince them is the question.

Violence Against Women In Turkey Still An Issue

Selma Atabek, a noted Turkish activist for women’s rights believes the fight to secure equal treatment for women in her country is tied into the broad struggle for women rights in all parts of the world. She cited the recent incident in which a German woman was accused of stealing $1.66 and lost her job as an example of the unequal treatment for women in most societies. Ms. Atabek notes the struggle to deal with domestic violence is an ongoing one in her land. The European Union funded the National Research Project on Domestic Violence Against Women in Turkey and data indicates at least 42% of women experience at least one example of physical violence during their lifetimes.

She pointed out in a recent interview that her focus in the 1980s was on winning basic political rights for Turkish women and that has witnessed great success. At that time, most men wanted women at home who obeyed them. “We started the first ‘Purple Needle’ campaign, in which needles with purple heads were distributed on the streets against sexual harassment. We even questioned our marriages…We discovered our right to be on the streets, not just during the day, but also at night.”

As so always when the fight for political rights is secured issues such as domestic violence or equal pay or equal job opportunities slide into the back. Ms. Atabek strongly denounced the very concept of “honor killing” as a denial of the rights of women. Although she does not wear the chador, Ms. Atabek strongly supports the right of women to wear a headscarf when attending colleges.

Turkey has made great strides in the fight for women rights, but several issues remain unsolved such as the constant presence of domestic violence.

Turkish Foreign Minister Urges Political Solution!

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan urged Western powers to re-evaluate their approach to handling problems in Afghanistan and switch from a focus on military action to one which emphasizes the importance of diplomacy. He offered scant hope that sending thousands of more American troops to Afghanistan will result in what President Obama or military leaders seek to achieve. Instead, Babacan wants to focus more intently on political solutions. “We believe that some and indeed most of the groups that support the Taliban could be drawn into politics through negotiations. If this happens, the elections will have greater participation.” Bacan warned sending more troops to Afghanistan would only increase the ability of the Taliban to launch more attacks.

Babacan is urged the United States to pursue diplomacy and step one is to engage Iran with the entire Afghanistan situation. The Shiite Iranian government is no friend of the Sunni Taliban and therefore could be an ally in dealing with the insurgents. Involving Iran as an ally in fighting the Taliban could eventually help resolve problems with that nation over its nuclear policy.

EU Court Says Kurdish Classes Legal In Turkey

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that peacefully petitioning for Kurdish language classes is a fundamental human right and it accused the Turkish government of violating a student’s right to an education. The decision arose from complaints by 18 applicants who attended Turkish universities and decided to petition their university authorities to provide optional Kurdish language courses. For daring to petition, the students were subjected to disciplinary action. The European Court ruled the petitions could not be “construed as an activity which would lead to polarization of the university population on the basis of language, race, religion or denomination.”

Kurdish was banned after the 1980 military coup as violence broke out between the armed forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Even as the EU Court was ruling in favor of the students, a Turkish court acquitted a mayor on charges of using Kurdish in his celebratory message to his constituents.