Attacking army, Turkish premier plays with fire

The tradition of appointing Jews and Christians to senior positions in the government dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire.

Detentions of the military establishment still endure in Turkey: the other day an arrest warrant was issued for Naval Forces Command Staff Adm. Deniz Cora. The admiral is accused of having been involved in a plot to assassinate former Naval Forces Commander Adm. Metin Ataç and current Naval Forces Commander Adm. Eşref Uğur Yiğit. More and more details come to emerge in this story of preparation of a coup to shift Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. For instance, Turkish and Western sources insist that more than half of the generals and admirals arrested are Dönmeh (Jews that converted to Islam).

PanARMENIAN.Net - Such a descent is not a crime in itself. This rule applies to the entire civilized world, including the EU, where Turkey is so eager to get. But in Turkey, which after Istanbul pogroms of 1955 became a mono-ethnic Muslim country, such charges may play a role in the court, if the generals really have to stand trial. Now Christians make up less than 1% of Turkey’s population, while before the World War I they were 33%. Presently Turkey’s population includes about 10 000 Assyrians, 60 000 Armenians, 2000 Greeks, and about 20 thousand Jews. In the present circumstances, when the Turks are faced with the necessity of national identity, such issues will appear again and again. The tradition of appointing Jews and Christians to senior positions in the government dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire. Almost all of the Grand Viziers were Christians by origin, less often - Jews. It is useful to recall that the leaders of the Young Turks and the founder of the Turkish Republic Ataturk are also considered Dönmeh. All of them were born in Salonika, where the largest Jewish community of the Ottoman Empire was to be found. However, these facts are not reflected in any official biography. The thing is that nobody can speak out loud of their ethnic identity in Turkey, as it is fraught with great troubles, especially if the politician is of Armenian or Kurdish descent. We still remember the “scandal” around the Armenian genes of Leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Besides, current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to some sources, is a Laz. The Laz are Caucasian people living in the historic area of Lazistan (Lasica, Lazeti), most of whose territory is now part of Turkey (Rize ili). In modern Turkey, Laz are accounted as Turks, since they currently practice Sunni Islam. That is why their exact number is not known (estimates vary between 50 and 500 thousand). But in Byzantine times the Laz used to be Christians.

But the generals are charged not only for their origin. As the news channel CNN Türk reports, former Chief of the General Staff of Turkey İlker Başbuğ published an online memorandum that refers to the creation of 42 Internet sites to distribute propaganda against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PPK), as well as against the Greeks and Armenians. As Deputy Prime Minister Hüseyin Çelik believes, the Internet Memorandum is one of the most interesting incidents in Turkish history and it is hard to swallow. “The Turkish Armed Forces is a 1 million-strong community, from its chief of General Staff to the soldiers, and among them there may be some 1,000 people who seek to stage a coup. But you put the institution under suspicion if you institutionally protect these people. I don’t want to accuse anybody. The judicial process continues and I hope it will reveal who is right and who is wrong,” Çelik said.

The Turkish prime minister clearly realizes that he may share the fate of his predecessor, Adnan Menderes, who was hanged in 1960 for the Istanbul unrest and the “inability” to run the country. After the execution of Menderes, Turkey experienced another five military coups, the latest in 1980, which brought to power Kenan Evren. The question is whether the generals will manage to stage another coup to overthrow the hated Erdogan and regain control over the country.

Karine Ter-Sahakyan
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