Friday 2 February 2007

Turkey still unsuitable for Europe

Consulting Turkey

There is no doubt that Turkey does have an uphill task in becoming acceptable and amenable to Europe. I could very well sympathise with the many who believe that the way Turkey straddles Europe and Asia makes it better a neutral ally than an assimilated partner in the great Europe project.

Turkey still struggles with its identity in terms of its history, its nationhood, the influence of the army and its protection of pressure-cooker secularist ideology.

In many cases, what binds the people is so artificial in the context of real-politik and nowhere is that best exemplified than in the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which pared down simply makes a crime of insulting Turkishness.

This article, controversial as it is, surreptitiously stands to revolt against any objective scrutiny of Turkish history; this mainly points to the case of the alleged genocide of Armenians by the failing Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917, it also refuses to the recognise the need to protect the human rights of ethnic minorities like the Kurds.

Insulting Turkishness

The laudable goals of this article are listed thus:

1. A person who publicly denigrates Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.

2. A person who publicly denigrates the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security organizations shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years.

3. In cases where denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish citizen in another country the punishment shall be increased by one third.

4. Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.

You will note that the critical word of import in this article is “denigration”, which in common parlance means to blacken; somehow, one must not attack the reputation of all entities Turkish even if they have been caught in situations that make their reputation questionable or one must not deny the importance or validity of a stance even if it is an unfair revision of history to suit nationalistic purposes.

Resulting Turkey mess

The last part of this article could as well be a muzzled dog in that it cannot allow for objective analysis of a view which criticizes but is view by some as denigration.

On the basis of this poorly constructed piece of legislation, many have been charged with insulting Turkishness prominent amongst whom are the Nobel Laureate for Literature 2006 – Orhan Pamuk – charges were eventually dropped.

Hrant Dink, a writer and journalist, was convicted under this article in 2005 for writing about the Armenian Genocide and on the 19th of January was gunned down in front of his newspaper office by a teenager who took exception to his writings or so it seems.

The outpouring of rage and grief at the procession to the funeral of Mr. Dink did give the impression that the Turks would rather dispense of a piece of legislation that makes their brand of democracy questionable if not a fallacy of a pseudo-totalitarian state propped up by the army and licensed to punish any view that does not subserviently defer to that of the government and its organs.

The Economist suggested that this article be repealed as a sign of a new democratic dawn in Turkey and a lasting legacy to Mr. Dink.

Exulting extremist Turkey

It would now appear that we have been thinking ahead of ourselves, a leaked video – something that now seems the laudable purveyor of truths people in authority would rather we did not know – showing the suspect killer of Mr. Dink (Ogun Samast) posing with the national flag and some police personnel in a “Boy, you have done us proud” situation is now public property.

This would feed into the conspiracy that the suspect was probably part of a greater plot of perpetrators out to kill Mr. Dink, though being 17 years old, is a convenient fall-guy for an offence that might Turkishly be swept under the carpet for the want of another turn of phrase.

Obviously, an inquiry has been instituted to nab the police involved in what might have let the cat out of bag – the indoctrination of people into fundamental Turkey-tude that they cannot separate the wrongness of a heinous crime of murder from the absurdity of insulting Turkishness.

Insulting our intelligence

Beyond that, they are also after whoever leaked the video, now, that really gets to me, the video is a truthful recording of events that really took place, a truth that must not be conceal from a public that might feel justice is being served only to find out that murderous crimes are being glorified.

Once again, like all those before, the man who revealed the hanging of Saddam Hussein, the people who revealed the pictures of Abu Ghraib and yesterday, the lady who revealed the pictures of orphaned babies being gagged from crying out in a hospital in Russia, these are the upholders of our civility, the real democrats, the people who make us feel our bosoms for a conscience – they need to be commended and protected from the tyranny of powers that would not prevent injustice and when that injustice is revealed, they are hounded for seeking justice that should have been there in the first place.

It is self-evident that a Turkey in this form that allowed this ideology of Turkishness to prevail to the point that people can get killed does not belong in Europe. Imagine an offence like “Insulting Englishness” or “Insulting America-ness”, it is absurd.

Though, France does not help by creating a new offence of denying the Armenian Genocide, both Turkey and France are perpetrating wrongs that require a genuine historical consensus on what really happened and accepting that as the truth regardless of citizenship.

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