Submitted by George Callaghan…
NATO is supposed to stand for democracy and human rights. It begs the question as to why Turkey is allowed to be a member of this alliance.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey as prime minister or president since 2002. His party is the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In the 1990s Erdogan was at the forefront of Islamist politics. He published a poem so provocative that his pervious political party was outlawed. The AK Party is partly funded by a billionaire business mogul named Ahmet Calik. Calik was made a government minister in Turkmenistan by the tyrant there. You can tell a lot about him by the company he chooses!
Since its foundation the Turkish Republic has been staunchly secular. People are permitted to practise Islam and others faiths within the law. The government will not help or hinder any religion. Prayer rooms in barracks and other public buildings were closed. In your free time and outside of state property people were permitted to pray as much as they like. If people wanted to be observant Mohammedans the state would not impede this. But nor would the state facilitate it. Women were not allowed to wear a hijab in a public building but they were allowed to do so on the street. Alcohol and pork were legalized. No one was compelled to consume these things. Women were genuinely free to wear a chador or a bikini or anything in between. I have seen Turkish women wearing both. Music and dancing were allowed in a way that had no comparison in other countries where Islam was the majority faith. There was equality before law for women. Sabiha Gokcen became the first female combat pilot in the world. Gokcen as Ataturk’s adoptive daughter. This was in an era where being an aviatrix was vanishingly rare.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is the founder of the Turkish Republic. Ataturk means Father of the Turks. Ataturk’s bold vision for a secular society was difficult to achieve. He had to battle religious reactionaries. In banning polygamy he purposed to further the rights of women. The progress he made for Turkey was a quantum leap in a single generation. Ataturk remains a highly contradictory figure who would certainly win no prizes for human rights.
The military viewed itself as the guardian of the Kemalist tradition i.e. secularism. Practising Muslims were unofficially prohibited from becoming military officers. They could serve in the ranks. This discrimination is of course distasteful. But it did achieve one valuable goal. Turkey remained a secular nation. The army officers called themselves Muslim. They were Muslim inasmuch as they had a party at various Islamic festivals. These were parties which involved imbibing copious vinous glassfuls or indeed raki.
There is a notion abroad that there is a culture war between the religious and the secular in Turkey. There is an element of truth in that. There are people in between the two positions. Religious people and non-religious people get along well sometimes. Sometimes the two exist in the same family.
Despite oppression in the political sphere for decades Turks were free in the personal sphere. What you ate, what you drank, what you wore and so forth were up to you. This was a level of liberty which was without precedent in the Muslim world. Christians and Jews practised their faith without hindrance.
It is true there were bestial attacks on the Greek community. That was more hellenophobic than anti-Christian. Despite that there are churches in Turkey and Christians are allowed to worship.
Some Muslim countries caught up with Turkey and also had religious equality as well as liberty in personal matter. Syria is a notable example.
Since Erdogan started to rule the Turkish Republic his country has interfered in the affairs of numerous countries. He openly speaks of his neo-Ottoman pretensions. His role in Libya and other Arab Spring countries is amply documented. He has wreaked merry hell across in the region in furtherance of democracy or so he claims. At the same time he had muzzled the media, nobbled the courts and politicised the civil service. He has a low tolerance for dissent.
The Erdogan Administration has done what it can to expedite the return of worship on public property. That includes the establishment of prayer rooms. Prayer that is for Muslims only. Allowing this might seem unimportant but it matters because it is a slippery slope to a Shariat state.
The return of Sharia can come by myriad almost imperceptible gradations. Pornography has been outlawed. One of the foremost campaigners against Sharia Law is Salman Rushdie. For him this is the canary in the coalmine. Erdogan essayed to outlaw adultery. The azan has returned to being sounded from many minarets. Prayer rooms are back in many publicly owned buildings. None of these things is dreadful but they show a direction of travel. People have started to pray on the street impeding public access and egress.
The stealthy erosion of the Kemalist consensus alarmed many Kemalists in the officer corps. In July 2017 some of them decided to take drastic action. Or so it seemed. The events of the supposed military coup are enigmatic. Was it a real coup? Was it a masquerade orchestrated by Erdogan to justify his assumption of a vicelike grip on the people? The 300 people killed in a few hours are real enough. All other coups in Turkey succeeded very easily. They all had the green light from the CIA. Perhaps this one did not. The coupsters were easily defeated within a matter of hours this time.
As a result of the events of July 2017 Erdogan purged the armed forces and th state. Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned. Hundreds of thousands were dismissed or demoted. This applied not just to military personnel but to teachers, civil servants, doctors and lawyers.
Erdogan is not wrong about everything. He outlawed a pernicious fraternity called the Gulen Foundation. The Gulen Foundation has been proclaimed a terrorist organization. It used to run scores of schools across the world and brain wash children in its nefarious ideology. Such miseducation has not been forbidden. Shockingly the founder of this outfit resides in the United States and the US Government has done nothing to put paid to Gulen’s activities.
NATO countries have all too often turned Nelson’s eye to the manifold wrongdoings of the Turkish state. When it was a military dictatorship that was A ok according to the self-appointed guardian of democracy: the USA. When the Turkish Army behaved egregiously badly in its counterinsurgency against the PKK all the NATO countries stifled their criticism. NATO selective silence on this head is tantamount to complicity. As we speak Turkey is in illegal occupation of the land of two of her neighbours which have never done her a bad turn. These are Cyprus and Syria.
Be it known that this article is in no wise anti-Turkish. No one should be mistreated on account of being a Turk. There are admirable aspects to Turkish culture such as hospitality, culinary creativity, music, architecture and sartorial style. Many Turks abominate Erdogan and his party. Turks are the principal victims of the Erdogan regime. What would excluding Turkey from NATO achieve? It might bring about the downfall of Erdogan and thereby emancipate his people from their long night of oppression.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.