Turkey struggles for survival, killing Kurds

The first victim is likely to be Mayor of Diyarbakir Osman Baydemir, who, as authorities believe, talks too much about the indigenous inhabitants of his city and vilayet.

The Turkish government has started a serious chase after the Kurds. At the same time it is “getting ready” for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide committed in the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. Turkey is in a hurry: time is pressing, and the centenary of the massacres may have negative consequences for the authorities. Naturally, they won’t surpass Armenian expectations, but continued and persistent denial of extermination of the Christian nations in the Ottoman Empire will hardly add to the prestige of Turkey, now seeking to enter the top 10 list of the world countries, as stated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

PanARMENIAN.Net - The first victim is likely to be Mayor of Diyarbakir Osman Baydemir, who, as authorities believe, talks too much about the indigenous inhabitants of his city and vilayet. Restoration of the church St. Giragos and the cordial welcome of Armenian pilgrims could not leave Ankara “indifferent”. Last week Diyarbakir hosted a workshop on the social and economic history of the city and its adjacent areas, organized by the International Hrant Dink Foundation, with the assistance of Diyarbakir Institute for Political and Social Research. The workshop was opened with the speech of Mayor Osman Baydemir, who said that people in the Ottoman Empire were slaughtered based on religion, and urged the government to courageously recognize this black page in history. “This city,” Baydemir stated, “belongs to Armenians and Assyrians as much as it belongs to Kurds.” In fact, there is nothing new in this statement: Armenians, Assyrians, and even Kurds know that Turks are alien people in the south-east of the country. And Diyarbakir indeed was the capital of Greater Armenia under Tigran II. But the city was a little bit north of modern Diyarbakir.

In response to the rather bold statements of Osman Baydemir, the government put forward a number of accusations against the mayor, among them “propaganda of a terrorist grouping” (i.e. the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK). The Prosecutor's Office and the High Criminal Court of the city accuse Baydemir of attending the funeral of the dead militants, marking the anniversary of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s capture in Kenya, as well as of “committing a crime on behalf of an illegal organization without being a member of that organization” and of “making propaganda for an illegal organization,” the indictment reads. If the mayor proves guilty, he faces 28 years in prison.

In the light of new escalation of tension against the Kurds, the detention of prominent human rights activist, publisher Ragip Zarakolu is more than understandable and quite predictable. Most interesting, in our view, is the fact that the human rights activist was detained within the framework of an anti-terrorist operation. Absurdity, of course. But people in Turkey are arrested and writers are persecuted for other reasons too, such as the recognition of genocide of Christian nations. All of them are charged under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which forbids insulting Turkish identity, Turkey or its government institutions. Under the EU pressure this article was somewhat mitigated, but these were only cosmetic amendments to please the international community. In fact, in the field of human rights advocacy Turkey falls behind Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria. But the “Arab Spring” tuned everything upside down and now Erdogan behaves as if the main advocate of freedom in the Middle East. And no one wants, or dares to remind him of the massacre of Kurds and his own civil activists.

Meanwhile, military operations against the Kurds have been increasing and in this context quite surprising is the position of Iraq that allows Turkish troops to freely cross the border of Northern Kurdistan. The lack of stability and central authority in Iraq makes the boundaries of this once powerful state quite unprotected. Head of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani is just trying to sit still and assent to both the Turks, and all the rest, including his Kurds. Yet, in essence, Barzani betrayed his people by allowing Turkey to administer punishment over the PKK on his own territory.

For Turkey the Kurdish question is an issue of further existence as a state, and for the sake of its preservation Ankara is ready for anything. If necessary, the number of those arrested will be increased to hundreds or thousands. Keeping in mind the experience of World War I, Ankara can deal with the Kurds as she did with the Armenians. The question is whose hands she will drench in blood this time. Most importantly Turkey has already realized that no world community will ever accuse her of genocide against its own people. Turkey will add to her armory the experience of Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur, namely “it’ll be talked over and forgotten”. This is the only way to save itself and Ankara knows it best.

Karine Ter-Sahakyan
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