by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Turkey is currently undergoing a humanitarian crisis of tremendous proportions – indeed, it has been for decades. The crisis has penetrated all conceivable sectors of Turkish society: military, political, cultural, societal and economical. It is directly attributable to the historical ideological legacy of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, better known as Ataturk, who advocated an extreme form of Turkish nationalism that was both staunchly secular and statist, and which accordingly would refuse to recognise national and religious minorities. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Ataturk, along with the legacy of “secular democracy” he has allegedly left behind in the form of the Turkish political system, is widely lauded in the West. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “as his name implies (Ataturk means ‘Father Turk’) he was more than anything else the stern but essentially benign father of his country.” Mike Moore observes: “The West came to love Ataturk. He modernized Turkey, made it secular, and laid the groundwork for Turkey to later become a staunch NATO ally.” The West’s love of Ataturk thus continued to be lavished on the Turkish Republic in general, as the Wall Street Journal observes:
“For the peoples of Central Asia, Turkey’s secular democracy, with its strong ties to the West, presents a refreshing alternative to Iran’s dour fundamentalism… Clearly, Turkey’s success in maintaining its Islamic credentials within the framework of a secular democracy poses a challenge and a threat to Iran.”
Noting the consequently close ties between Turkey and the Western powers, the New York Times observes that: “The United States depends on Turkey as a vital military and political ally in Southeastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.” Washington’s respected Center for Security Policy (CPS) has, however, urged the United States government to tighten its bond to the Turkey: “Now is the time for a wholehearted American embrace of democratic, secular Turkey – a truly indispensable nation for American and Western interests in a critical part of the world.” Indeed, the U.S. has expressed its endorsement, support and sheer admiration for the Republic of Turkey. Nick Burns, then spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, declared on 16thJune 1997 in response to questions about the internal crisis in the country:
“As Secretary Albright said late last week, we have full expectation that Turkey’s secular democracy will continue and be strong. We know this is a difficult time in Turkey. We know that there is a lot of political in-fighting underway. We choose not to participate in that. We’re not going to take sides. We just expect that the continuation of secular democracy, civilian authority will be maintained… Secular democracy has been flourishing in Turkey, although it is under attack internally in the country, but we choose not to participate, interfere in that domestic debate between those who prefer one course or another. We prefer just to say that Turkey’s secular democratic basis has been important to the United States for a long time… we expect that civilian rule and secular democracy will continue in Turkey. I can tell you that the very strong view of the United States – that secular democracy must continue – has been communicated to the highest levels of the Turkish government. That includes the Turkish military.”
Yet an inspection of the documentary record reveals that Turkey, from the time of Ataturk to this day, has been consistently responsible for massive human rights abuses, colossal counter-democratic programmes, and brutal repression of the population. Moreover, these policies are the direct consequence of the political ideology of the founder of the modern Republic, Ataturk, a figure who as noted above receives much praise in the West for his apparent commitment to democracy and secularism. Ben Lombardi who is with the Directorate of Strategic Analysis in the Department of National Defence at Ottawa, Canada, describes some of the implications of Ataturk’s political philosophy:
“Ataturk also believed that the transformation of Turkey from an Islamic state into a secular republic was essential to the process of modernization. Authority should not, he asserted, rest on its connection to religious faith. The Caliphate and the Shariah, or Moslem holy law, were therefore abolished; education in public schools was to be strictly secular and focused on the pre-Islamic (pre-Ottoman) Turkish past; outward displays of religious faith were prohibited.”
A cursory inspection of the methodology effectuated by the “essentially benign” Ataturk to impose his vision of nationalist, statist secularism upon the entirety of Turkish society illustrates the essentially facist nature of his reforms. Not only were they enforced without consultation of the Turkish people, all domestic resistance was brutally eliminated. The intensity of resistance may be understood in light of the fact that Ataturk had to impose martial law nine times to dissolve widespread civil unrest which broke out in response to his reign. There was therefore certainly nothing genuinely democratic about Ataturk’s ‘reforms’, however much the West came to “love” him. As one historian records, “it was public knowledge that he was irreligious, broke all the rules of decency, and scoffed at sacred things. He had chased the Sheik-ul-Islam, the High Priest of Islam, out of his office and thrown the Koran after him. He had forced the women in Angora to unveil.” Mustafa Kemal thus lost no opportunity to crush all political, ideological and religious opposition. H. C. Armstrong reports:
“The secret police did their work. By torture, bastinado, by any means they liked, the police had to get enough evidence to incriminate the opposition leaders who were all arrested. A Tribunal of Independence was nominated to try them. Without bothering about procedure or evidence, the court sentenced them to be hanged.”
Ataturk’s political vision hence involved clamping down brutally on all national minorities and routing out all expressions of religious faith. The horrific policies he implemented have been well-summarised by George J. Dariotis, Supreme President of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, who observes that:
“While Ataturk did shape Turkey into a secular Turkish state, as Turkey’s first dictator he did so by committing widespread human rights violations against his own people and by implementing the large-scale massacre and ethnic cleansing of millions of Turkey’s Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and other Christian minorities. After his forces had already routed the Greek army out of Asia Minor in 1922, Ataturk’s troops perpetrated one of the most infamous and widely reported war crimes against an urban civilian population prior to WWII. According to reports by US Consul George Horton, Ataturk’s troops massacred 200,000 Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna (now Izmir), burning this cosmopolitan New Testament city to the ground while Western warships passively watched from its quay. As a result of widespread atrocities and of decrees by Ataturk’s new government expelling Asia Minor’s indigenous Christian inhabitants, well over a million Greeks were ethnically cleansed from Turkey. Many have mistakenly attributed this violent extinction of Hellenism’s three-thousand year presence in what is now Turkey to a subsequent treaty’s ‘population exchange’ between Greece and Turkey. In fact, Ataturk’s ethnic cleansing campaign against Turkey’s Greek minority had already taken place – and only 5 years after an earlier Christian holocaust: the Armenian Genocide.”
The New York Times reported concerning this that: “According to the most recent statistics, the Christian population in Turkey has diminished from 4,500,000 at the beginning of this century to just about 150,000. Of those, the Greeks are no more than 7,000. Yet, in 1923 they were as many as 1.2 million.” Dariotus continues:
“Ataturk institutionalized his hate of Islam and executed, tortured and imprisoned Muslims for wearing beards and fezzes, praying, or for simply practicing their faith. Many believe Ataturk’s anti-Islamic Inquisition, and its perpetuation by the Turkish state, has had the effect of radicalizing Islam… Ataturk also set up what would be considered a ruthless dictatorship by any contemporary standard, which he used to suppress Muslims and crush dissent to his program of Turkification and secularization. After Turkey’s indigenous Christian minorities were depopulated, Ataturk established Turkey’s policy of destroying its Kurdish minority through forced assimilation, ethnic cleansing and genocide.”
Ataturk’s comprehensive programme of repression established a precedent that has lasted to this day, partly due to having been formally integrated into the Turkish Constitution. The Constitution speaks of “full dedication to the reforms of Ataturk and Article 153 prohibits any retrogression from these reforms”, which were aimed at “safeguarding the secular character of the republic”. In fact, “the 1982 constitution aimed to guarantee the depoliticization of Turkish society and… to enclose [the new moral order] within the magic triangle of family, mosque, and barracks.” As President of the Middle East Information Network, Edward Graham, thus notes, the “1982 constitution was also designed to suppress religion in public affairs.” Indeed, according to the New York Times: “As a way to modernization, secularism was a basic principle of the republic founded by Ataturk 72 years ago. It is [still] a cardinal tenet of the governmental philosophy that bears his name, Kemalism.” After his death, Ataturk’s Generals continued to influence politics and control the flow of power as and when they willed. In the last four decades, the Turkish military has toppled popularly elected governments four times in accordance with their effectively totalitarian mandate.
As Turkish political scientist and former Assistant Professor at Ankara University Haluk Gerger observes, Ataturk and his successors aimed their transformative programmes “directly at the cultural norms, social mores and the way of life of the masses. From religion to attire, from the alphabet to the role of women, the whole social fabric and institutions were effectively dismantled only to be recreated in the image of Kemalism.” However, this secularised “revolution from above”, which continues to be mentioned with admiration by Western analysts, had no basis in popular sentiment. On the contrary, it was “mercilessly executed and later on unrelentingly enforced…
“It inevitably caused wide-spread opposition and resentment, and polarized the society further, widening the gap between rulers and citizens. This polarity that set a minority ruling elite against the majority of the people – the working classes, the Kurds, the conservative Muslim masses – produced its natural outcome: the rulers began to fear their own people.”
The inevitable consequence of this was that the secular Turkish elite have effectively “shun[ned] democracy” due to their “dread [of] popular participation”. They have “violate[d] fundamental human rights and instead use oppressive methods to rule over disenchanted and disenfranchised masses. In other words, fear [of the people] inevitably produces repression and violence. This is exactly what happened in Turkey.” And this is exactly what receives such lavish praise, admiration and support from the Western powers.
- Turkey’s Silent War
The myth of Western humanitarian benevolence is clear from consideration of the contemporary crisis in Turkey, which has been perpetuated by Western governments and largely ignored by the mass media. The crisis pertains in substantial part to Turkish Kurds. The Turkish government has been practicing ethnic cleansing and genocide against its Kurdish minority as part of its war on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) that began in 1984. The war against the Kurdish people en masse continues despite the fact noted by the Federation of American Scientists that the vast majority of Turkey’s 13 million strong Kurdish population do not claim to support the PKK. The scale of the war also happens to be much wider than what Serb forces perpetrated in Kosovo, which elicited NATO intervention. By 1999, an estimated 45,000 Kurdish civilians had been killed, and 3,000 Kurdish villages plundered and subsequently incinerated by Turkish security forces in a brutal scorched earth campaign, the occupants either killed or driven out. Up to 3 million people have been internally displaced in this way from their homes in this manner. Most of this destruction has taken place within the last several years.
Systematic detention and torture of captured Kurdish civilians has also continued with impunity. One representative example of the nature of these policies is noted by Amnesty International in its annual country report:
“Two Kurdish girls, 16-year-old N.C.S. and 19-year-old Fatma Deniz Polattas, were detained and reportedly tortured for several days at the Anti-Terror Branch of Police Headquarters in Iskenderun in early March. They were held blindfolded and naked. N.C.S. was exposed to verbal and sexual harassment. Fatma Deniz Polattas was anally raped. A formal complaint was lodged, but the prosecutor decided not to prosecute the police officers.”
The Turkish authorities justify their campaign on the pretext of attempting to prevent the secession of areas in the south inhabited by Kurds, who for decades have sought self-determination through the establishment of their own state. However, as a matter of chronological fact, the movement for secession sprouted and grew in reaction to, and thus as a direct consequence of, comprehensive repression of the Kurdish population within modern Turkey since the founding of Republic by Ataturk. The institutionalised violations of human rights perpetrated by the Turkish authorities against the Kurds have been instrumental in provoking the backlash of separatist movement based on Kurdish nationalism. In the same vein as conditions between Serbia and its Kosovan province, it is primarily due to the massive repression of Kurds by the Turkish authorities that there exists a movement in the country for Kurdish self-determination, similar in kind to the plea of the Kosovan Albanians. Indeed, the Turkish government refuses to recognise the most elementary rights of the Kurdish people, repressing them by refusing to acknowledge their very existence. All human, social, civil, political, cultural and linguistic rights have been denied the Kurds by the Turkish authorities. To even speak the Kurdish language or have a Kurdish name is illegal. The result can only be described as a form of Turkish apartheid.
As the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reports, the Turkish establishment “has prohibited all existing legal avenues for Kurds in Turkey to express themselves politically or culturally…
“Kurdish language television and radio broadcasts are forbidden. In late 1998 and early 1999, Turkish police arrested over 3,000 members of the main Kurdish political party (People’s Democracy Party or HADEP) for alleged ties to the PKK. With elections scheduled for April 1999, the Government is preparing a legal case to close HADEP and another Kurdish-based political party. Fourteen political parties have been banned since 1982. The government has not responded to past ceasefire announcements by the PKK, saying it will not negotiate with ‘terrorists’. Nor is Turkey responding favorably to calls from many governments to begin negotiating with Kurdish leaders now that PKK leader Ocalan has been arrested.”
Turkish political scientist Haluk Gerger comments on the foundations of this apartheid-like repression:
“The basic insecurity that characterized the system and the resultant fear that shaped the behavior of the ruling elite have their roots in history. That is, both in the imperial heritage upon which the republican reconstruction was attempted, and the very essence of the structure that was created. This phenomenon is now being augmented in all its dimensions by the war against the Kurds… Turkish militarism is characterized by the rampant prominence of its values in society, the preponderance of the military establishment in politics, and by the unabashed legitimacy accorded to violence both at popular and official levels. Turkish chauvinism is expressed in extremely aggressive ultra nationalism, in xenophobic Turkism, in excessive bigotry and in the irrational and superfluous ‘master race’ and ‘one-nation state’ideas.”
The contrast in Western policy towards parallel circumstances is conspicuous. Although, the Turkish government has been practicing ethnic cleansing against its Kurdish minority since 1984 – on an even wider scale than Serb forces have done in Kosovo – Turkey has been in consistent receipt of extensive support from most NATO allies, most prominently from the United States and the United Kingdom, both of whom played leading roles in the intervention in Kosovo. The contradiction is accentuated when we recall that the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Turkey happens to be far beyond the scale of Kosovo’s crisis both before and after NATO intervention. Yet while NATO saw fit to intervene in Kosovo and indict Serb warlord Slobodan Milosevic, the Alliance has actually supported the Turkish Republic as it pursues its scorched earth campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the south, and consolidates its apartheid-like laws throughout the country.
While the international community has failed to condemn the Turkish government’s of state terrorism, the United States has been quick in leading the way for the Western powers to label the PKK a ‘terrorist’ group. And while professing concern for the plight of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, the international community has ignored repression of Kurds in Turkey. Summarising this hypocrisy, Kurdish expert Vera Saeedpour, Editor of the International Journal of Kurdish Studies, observes that:
“While the U.S. is attacking Iraq almost daily in its self-declared ‘no-fly zones’, saying that it does so because it cares about the Kurds, it is backing Turkey in its attacks against the Kurds. Turkey has destroyed, drowned villages with dams. They deny or punish any manifestation of Kurdish identity, yet Clinton has called Turkey a ‘shining example to the world of the virtues of cultural diversity’. Kurdish parliamentarians are in prison for their words, some spoken in the US. The Iraqi Kurds, under U.S. pressure, have helped Turkey in its attacks on the Turkish Kurds. European countries didn’t give Ocalan safe-haven because of the pressure from Turkey and the U.S., which insisted that Ocalan face justice in Turkey; but there isn’t any justice for a Kurd in Turkey. Ocalan asked for an international trial in Europe, but Turkey refused since they didn’t want their Kurdish policy to get any scrutiny.”
The anti-humanitarian tenor of Western policies towards the Kurds are well rooted in history. Indeed, they are based on long-standing strategic interests in the region. “The Kurds are in several countries and that was planned by Britain”, observes former President of the American Kurdish Society in Boston, Hussein Aktas. “If you have a problem with Iraq, you can use them against Iraq, same for Iran and Turkey.” Thanks to this disasterous condition, historically established by the West, there are “millions of Kurds who have been displaced from their homes since 1993 in Turkey”, and “hundreds of thousands of people have been tortured.”
III. Domestic Terrorism
The Turkish military regime has been consistently responsible for killings, torture, and other human rights abuses. We may consider several representative example of such institutionalised abuse. In the first eleven months of 1992, security forces shot and killed 74 civilians in house raids, and slaughtered over a hundred peaceful demonstrators by shooting. Many people ‘disappeared’ while in custody of police or gendarmes. In the southeast, 165 people were killed by assailants using death-squad tactics, deaths that have not been investigated by Turkish authorities. Among those killed were journalists, teachers, doctors, human rights activists, and political leaders.
Five years on, the U.S. State Department revealed that the repressive measures employed by the Turkish government against its own citizens continued with impunity.
“Extrajudicial killings, including deaths in detention, from the excessive use of force, in safe house raids, and ‘mystery killings,’ continued to occur with disturbing frequency. Disappearances also continued. Torture remains widespread: Police and security forces often abused detainees and employed torture during periods of incommunicado detention and interrogation. Prolonged pretrial detention and lengthy trials continue to be problems.”
Examining the prevalence of torture in Turkey, the report noted that: “The HRF’s torture rehabilitation centers in Ankara, Izmir, Istanbul, and Adana reported that they accepted a total of 354 credible applications for treatment in the first six months of 1996… 713 applications were received in 1995.” According to human rights attorneys and physicians who treat victims of torture “most persons detained for or suspected of political crimes usually suffer some torture during periods of incommunicado detention in police stations and Jandarma [Gendarme] headquarters before they are brought before court. Government officials admit that torture occurs”, though they justify its occurrence with reference to the “State’s fight against terrorism”. Noting the redundancy of this justification, we should also note that it contradicts “the fact that many cases of torture, however, occur in western Turkey, outside the zone of conflict.”
The State Department further notes that the “commonly employed methods of torture” include “high-pressure cold water hoses, electric shocks, beating on the soles of the feet, beating of the genitalia, hanging by the arms, blindfolding, sleep deprivation, deprivation of clothing, systematic beatings, and vaginal and anal rape with truncheons and, in some instances, gun barrels.” Other forms included “sexual abuse, submersion in cold water, use of truncheons, hanging sand bags on detainees’ necks, forcing detainees to stand on one foot, releasing drops of water on their heads, and withholding food.” To prevent an official record of such practices from being established, “physicians are pressurised not to report evidence of torture” through intimidation by members of security and police forces, who often stay in the examination room when physicians are examining detainees. Physicians are thereby coerced into “refraining from examining detainees, performing cursory examinations and not reporting findings”. Similarly, medical conclusions affirming the occurrence of torture – in spite of the reports of physical findings – are evaded. About 60 percent of physicians who were surveyed by the State Department believe that “nearly everyone who is detained is tortured.” The Turkish authorities also ensure that doctors and other health-care professionals in a state of emergency region are “killed, tortured, imprisoned, internally exiled, and legally sanctioned in the course of their professional duties”, in accord with the traditional policies of repression.
These policies are most often specifically directed against popular domestic opposition and activism rooted in Islamist sentiment. In this connection, it is worth noting the February 1997 ruling by the government’s National Security Council that “Muslims are the number one enemy of the principles of the State of Turkey.” The statement went on to prioritise the clampdown on “Islamic activism” over the anti-Kurdish policy. Given that about 99 per cent of the population is Muslim, the implication of all this is that the regime is undertaking a full scale programme of repression against the entirety of the Kurdish and Turkish people, in particular involving the attempt to eliminate all public expressions of Islamic identity – a policy bearing all the hallmarks of facism.
The reaction of the authorities to popular Islamic sentiment has been to brutally clampdown on virtually all expressions of Muslim faith. In the process, women have been killed attacked, imprisoned and denied education simply for wishing to wear a headscarf. For example, 75 students were arrested after participating in a demonstration at Malatya University against the ban on female students wearing headscarves and attending university. The prosecutor called for the death penalty to be applied to 51 of the students, charging them with attempting to overthrow the country’s secular constitution, and demanded up to 15 years jail for the rest of the accused on a lesser charge, without elaborating. Among those on trial and facing the death penalty was a 16 year old, Gulan Intisar Saatcioglu. Her part in the alleged attempt at “overthrowing” the constitution was to read out a poem entitled ‘Song of Freedom’ at the demonstration. Two of her sisters and her mother, journalist Huda Kaya, also faced the death penalty.
There is nothing novel about this sort of policy. In late 1995 and 1996 similar widespread student protests occurred. Among the issues being called for, reports Amnesty International (AI) were “the abolition of tuition fees which in some universities had risen by up to 350 per cent”, “an increase in state loans to students”, “the removal of police, gendarmerie and special security units from campuses”, and “an end to privatization in education.” After an unrelated violent incident on 30 March 1996, “31 students from universities in the city were detained almost three weeks later at their homes, their university or in the street. The detainees included active student representatives who had been prominent in the protests. The detentions occurred days before a major student demonstration planned for 24 April in Istanbul.” While some students were shortly released, others were held in incommunicado detention for up to two weeks, during which they were reportedly “coerced through beatings and torture, to make confessions implicating them in membership of an illegal armed organization, and the storage and throwing of petrol bombs. Their allegations of torture are in some cases corroborated by medical evidence. Some of the students – both male and female – allege that they were sexually assaulted by police officers”. Eight were eventually convicted by Turkish courts of membership and support of an illegal armed group. They were then sentenced to up to 18 years imprisonment. However, Amnesty concluded from its investigation of the proceedings that “the students were denied a fair trial”. According to AI, “the students were targeted because of their previous peaceful campaigning and… they are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for their non-violent principles and activities.”
“Mysterious murders, extra judicial killings, deaths under torture and deaths in jails increased enormously in 1998”, reported the Turkish human rights group Mazlumder on the escalating clampdown of the Turkish authorities. “While the applications which limit the freedoms of press and [other] organisations continues, the oppression of religion began with 28 February, a process [which] also increased enormously in 1998. There are ten thousands of victims in only this field.” In one month alone for example, October 1997, there had been 15 cases of torture, 13 mystery murders, 2,215 detentions, 26 arrests, three disappearances and 25 confiscations of publications in Istanbul.
- A Secular Democracy
The military has intervened in politics four times to eliminate popular reforms challenging this extremist version of secularism. In particular, from 1996 to 1998, there was open conflict between the military authorities allied with the secular political leadership, and the Muslim Welfare (Refah) Party. Prior to this, there were three military coups in the history of the Republic (in 1960, 1971 and 1980). In 1972 an anti-Kemalistic Islamist party (the National Order Party) was closed down by the Constitutional Court. Shortly afterwards another religious party, the National Salvation Party, was established. At the end of the 1970s it was part of a coalition government, but was again closed down after the 1980 military coup. In 1983 a new Islamist party was established – the Welfare Party. It won the 1995 parliamentary elections with 21 per cent of the vote and formed a coalition government with the secularist True Path Party of Tansu Ciller in July 1996. The military started a campaign to remove the government. It succeeded in the summer of 1997, and in January 1998 the Constitutional Court closed down the Welfare Party. “After all [these] three previous coups” in which democratically elected goverments were overthrown, “the West responded quickly by recognizing the military authorities as the new government in Ankara.”
The primary reason for this authoritarian position held by the Turkish army is that the popularity of Islam constitutes a threat “to the legitimacy of Kemalism as the state ideology.” For this reason, the military is “sensitive to threats directed at Kemalism, since that ideological framework is their source of legitimacy.” The marginalisation of Kemalism among the general Turkish population therefore implies the de-legitimisation of the authority of the secular elite in terms of democratic principles. Since the “growing political prominence of Islam and the re-Islamization of Turkish society threatens to undo much of Ataturk’s legacy that the armed forces have in the past sworn to protect”, the army has intervened to protect its own position of authority, as well as that belonging to the Turkish elite. According to the noted analyst of Turkush affairs Feroz Ahmad, “this thin urban layer of Turkish society would see every manifestation of Islamic reassertion as reactionary and fanatical.”
The campaign against democracy under the guise of secularism is familiar to those acquainted with Turkish politics. According to the Associated Press, “the military has purged from its ranks officers it regarded as favoring a more political role for Islam.” The Ankara-based human rights group Mazlumder reports that during the last four years, army generals have purged hundreds of officers on the pretext that they are “Islamic fundamentalists” without allowing them the right to defend themselves in a court of law; the overwhelming majority of them are in fact merely married to women who wear headscarves.
Innumerable similar examples abound of such policies, designed to marginalise popular opposition to effective military reign. For example, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the elected Mayor of Istanbul in 1994 and a leading figure of the Islamist Virtue Party, was imprisoned from 26 March to 25 July because of a speech he delivered in December 1997. Similar incidents have occurred repeatedly in relation to other democratically-elected officials who do not conform to the requirements of the military. For example, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS): “Turkey’s democracy is in jeopardy. In 1997, the military played up fears that the government – led by the Islamic Refah Party – was seeking to undermine the secular state. It reacted strongly, forcing out Prime Minister Erbakan and keeping tight control over the policies of elected officials ever since.” Yet another incident occurred according to the FAS “In the fall of 1998,” when “Turkish courts upheld a sentence against the mayor of Istanbul, a leader of the Islamic movement, for reading a poem at a peace rally which supposedly ‘incited religious hatred’.”
Similarly, in late December 1999 Hasan Celal Guzel, former minister of culture and education during Turgut Ozal’s term, and the leader of the Rebirth Party, was thrown in jail on charges of “undermining the foundations of the secular republic.” He was given a five-month sentence, but he only began to serve his term a few days after Turkey was accepted as a candidate to join the EU. The judge based his accusations on a speech given by Guzel two years ago in which he had criticised the military’s intervention in politics, which had led to the overthrow of then democratically elected Prime Minister Najmuddin Erbakan in June 1997.
These instances provide tangible representative examples of the ongoing policy of the Turkish elite. It is clearly a policy designed to eliminate popular political opposition to the status quo, and thus to maintain the hegemony of the secular military regardless of the wishes of the general population. The sheer contempt of the present rulers in Turkey for the political rights of their own people is therefore unambiguously evident.
- Invasion and Occupation
However, Turkey has been guilty not only of domestic state-terror, but also invasion. Both are violations of international law. Both have occurred to the indifference, consent and even complicity of the West. In 1974, Turkey instigated a brutal invasion of the northern third of Cyprus, to be subsequently condemned by numerous UN resolutions. Turkey has continued to occupy the sovereign region to this day. Two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots were ethnically cleansed; over 1,600 are missing, 6,000 were killed and 1,000 women raped. Turkey refuses to remove its army of occupation and ignores international demands for the return of refugees, while thousands of Cypriots have fled the island. The only solution the West has offered to the exiled Cypriots is that they be given a ‘compensation’ to agree not to return to their homes, a gesture amounting to the legitimatisation of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of a sovereign region. In an interview with American journalist David Barsamian, U.S. foreign policy analyst Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, harshly condemned the U.S. response to the invasion:
“Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, virtually annexed it. The United States supported that. We’ve been interfering with UN efforts to settle the Cyprus problem since the early 1960s. Turkey invaded a sovereign republic, broke it up and took what it wanted, which was fine. Very similar to Kuwait. They killed a couple of thousand people. They looted the place. They looted antiquities. They tried to destroy any relic of Greek civilization. They drove out a couple of hundred thousand people. Rather similar to Iraq in Kuwait. But nobody even talks about it. When the president of Turkey came here a couple of weeks ago George Bush hailed him as a peacemaker, even though his actions were just what Saddam Hussein had done.”
Turkey has also illegally invaded northern Iraq several times. For example, on 20th March 1995, more than 35,000 Turkish troops poured into northern Iraq without permission from the Iraqi government, and to that government’s objections. Turkish troops not only fought combatants, but also burned down houses, while forcefully expelling and massacring Kurdish civilians. In a statement by spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry Ferhat Ataman, it was tacitly admitted that the laws of war as embodied in the Geneva Conventions would be violated in this way: “Turkey, as it clearly indicated from the beginning, has no intention of occupying or invading Iraq. There is no reason to implement the Geneva Conventions, because there is no question of a war between states or an invasion.” In response, Human Rights Watch pointed out that given “the large area currently occupied by the Turkish military in Iraq and the considerable military action in this zone [the] operation constitutes an occupation and therefore triggers the protections of the Geneva Convention.” The response of U.S. President Clinton is instructive. He expressed U.S. support of the invasion as a defence against PKK terrorism. HRW reported that while going through the motions of calling on Turkey to avoid harming civilians, Clinton curiously failed “to seek a reaffirmation of Turkey’s commitment to the Geneva Conventions and assurances that Turkey comply with its humanitarian objectives”, thus displaying tacit U.S. approval of Turkey’s subsequent rampage against Kurdish civilians, along with PKK combatants.
In May 1997, Turkey invaded northern Iraq again, with an input of more than 10,000 troops – possibly as much as 50,000. Turkey had invaded what was supposed to be a Kurdish UN-established ‘safe zone’ and U.S.-enforced ‘no fly zone’, established to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein – but evidently not from Turkey. Although the UN Secretary-General strongly condemned the cross-border invasion as a violation of international law, the U.S. State Department once more voiced its support of the invasion. The fact that scores of civilians were indiscriminately targeted, massacred and expelled, remained of little interest to the U.S. government. Some European governments, however, temporarily suspended military assistance to Turkey in recognition of its anti-humanitarian policies, unlike governments such as the British and American. In May 1999, following the arrest of PKK leader Ocalan, Turkey launched another massive invasion of northern Iraq. Fifteen thousand troops were inputted 12 miles into the territory, backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes, to indulge in the customary annual ethnic cleansing of Kurdish civilians. This occurred once more to Western indifference, despite the exhaustive documentation by independent observers of Turkey’s routine use of U.S.-supplied weapons in Turkey’s in such attacks.
- Western Complicity
It is an unfortunate but revealing fact that the Western powers have been heavily complicit in the Turkish regime’s institutionalised repression of its domestic population. Indeed, Turkey continues to enjoy an image of benign liberalism within the Western media, which has largely ignored the country’s massive domestic crisis. As Dr. Gerger points out, Turkey’s “bonds with the West” were “forged at the onset of the Cold War”, and these bonds have directly “bolstered the country’s predisposition to militarism. With the active participation of the United States and NATO, a cold war democracy, a national security cult and apparatus were created in Turkey.” To obtain Western approval for its policies, the regime also needed to manufacture domestic enemies to play on Western fears.
“The frenzied structure thus created engulfed the society in militarism. Successive American administrations were happy to see, and therefore instigated, militarist authoritarianism in a country they considered a critical proxy in the Cold War. In Turkey they perceived a contradiction between democratization and protection of Western interests. The infection of this imported bigotry was socially devastating in Turkey, since it found fertile soil to grow, interacted with the already existing propensity to violence, and magnified its destructive contamination.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch further observes that rather than condemning Turkey’s atrocious policies of repression, torture and ethnic cleansing:
“Turkey’s NATO partners have extended generous political and military support, helping Turkey to develop a formidable arms industry and supplying it with a study stream of weapons, often for free or at greatly reduced cost. The United States in particular has been deeply involved in arming Turkey and supporting its arms production capacities.”
U.S. weapons as well as those supplied by other NATO members are regularly used by Turkey to “commit severe human rights abuses, and violations of the laws of war in the southeast…
“The most egregious examples of Turkey’s reliance on U.S. weaponry in committing abuses are its use of U.S.-supplied fighter-bombers to attack civilian villages and its use of U.S.-supplied helicopters in support of a wide range of abusive practises, including the punitive destruction of villages, extrajudicial executions, torture and indiscriminate fire.”
HRW refers to the employment by Turkey’s special counterinsurgency forces, “reknown for their abusive behaviour”, of U.S.-supplied small arms, such as the M-16 assault rifle and British armoured cars. In fact, “the Clinton administration… supplies Turkey with 80 per cent of its foreign military hardware” despite its knowledge of the use to which that hardware is being put. According to the report, “it appears that Pentagon representatives in Ankara are more eager than ever to sell Turkey U.S. weapons, including M-60 tanks, helicopter gunships, cluster bombs, ground-to-ground missiles and small arms.” Moreover, “the U.S. is also involved in co-production agreements with the Turkish defence industry, most notably helping to build the F-16 fighter bomber”, which the U.S. reluctantly acknowledges has been used “indiscriminately to kill Kurdish civilians”. HRW also reports U.S. plans to aid Turkey in building “a new armored personnel carrier.” Thus, many of the Western powers, particularly the United States and United Kingdom have been actively supporting Turkey’s genocidal behaviour in the ample provision of military aid.
Support for the Turkish regime has continued in this way ever since its existence. A few examples suffice to clarify this. In 1992-93 alone, the Pentagon shifted a mammoth military shipment to Turkey at no cost. According to the UN arms registry the U.S. government had turned over 1,509 tanks, 54 fighter planes, and 28 heavily armed attack helicopters to Turkey. Veteran Washington Post correspondent Johnathan Randal reported that it was in 1994 that Turkey became “the biggest single importer of American military hardware and thus the world’s largest arms purchaser. Its arsenal, 80 percent American, included M-60 tanks, F-16 fighters, Cobra gunships, and Blackhawk ‘slick’ helicopters, all of which were eventually used against the Kurds.”
In 1997 the State Department granted market licenses to Bell and to Boeing Aircraft for attack helicopter – although these are used to bombard Kurdish villages. In particular, Turkey has about 2,800 U.S. supplied armoured personnel carriers (APCs), which are often used to clampdown on domestic dissidents by Turkey’s misnamed “anti-terror” police units. Amnesty International conducted a three-year study on these police groups, which it sent to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in an effort to block the transfer. The report provides examples of identified “anti-terror” units torturing children, sexually assaulting prisoners, using electric shock torture, beating, burning, and the near-drowning of suspects, as well as other gross violations of human rights. Among 280 victims of the “anti-terror” units mentioned in AI’s report were “infants, children, and the elderly.” In spite of this evidence, during December 1998 the U.S. State Department granted an arms deal to Turkey relating to the sale of further APCs. Due to the recently enacted Leahy Amendment, some restrictions were imposed on the use of U.S. loans for APCs destined for areas of conflict – but the export license for all 140 vehicles to the “anti-terror” police was still approved.
To cite another example, in the few months after February 1999, Turkey was finalising its choice of 145 U.S. attack helicopters, a deal worth about $3.5 billion. Under pressure from human rights activists the U.S. introduced a clause in the helicopter contract declaring that Turkey would have to achieve certain specific improvements in its human rights record. Although these improvements were not achieved, the U.S. nevertheless remained eager to sell its helicopters.  In fiscal year 1999 alone, Turkey imported $803 million worth of U.S. arms. The total value of arms that Turkey has imported from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales programme (government to government), and through direct commercial sales from industry, in fiscal years 1980-1999, comes to a massive $10.4 billion. U.S. arms-sales have included a vast variety of weapons from AH-1P attack helicopters to F-4E fighter aircraft, from M-85 .50 caliber machine guns to ASROC launchers.Director of the American Kurdish Information Network, Kani Xulam, comments:
“There’s a war against the Kurdish people in Turkey. Turkey gets its helicopters and jet fighters from the U.S. and Europe. If it didn’t get these weapons it would have made peace. But as it is, Ocalan’s [former leader of PKK, arrested by Turkish authorities in 1999] repeated offers for dialogue and cease-fires were ignored. When you don’t have talks, more violence ensues.”
Crucial U.S. military aid to Turkey has persisted while the brutal regime conducts systematic violations of human rights against its domestic population. Despite its systemically anti-humanitarian policies, Turkey is a member of NATO, a political ally and a client of the U.S., UK and other NATO allies. The U.S. State Department admitted in 1999 that: “Turkey is vitally important to U.S. interests. Its position athwart the Bosporus – at the strategic nexus of Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Caspian – makes it an essential player on a wide range of issues vital to U.S. security, political, and economic interests.” It also argued in an apparent attempt to justify this position:
“In a region of generally weak economies and shaky democratic traditions, political instability, terrorism, and ethnic strife, Turkey is a democratic secular nation that draws its political models from Western Europe and the United States. Turkey has cooperated intensively with the U.S. as a NATO ally and is also vigorously seeking to deepen its political and economic ties with Europe.”
President Clinton elaborated on the implications of this during the visit of Turkey’s then Prime Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, to the United States from 18th to 21st December 1997: “First of all, I think it is very important that we do everything reasonable to anchor Turkey to the West… If you look at the size of the country, if you look at its geostrategic significance, where it is, what it can block, and where it can open doors to, it is terribly important.” Notably, during his visit, Yilmaz met Vice President Gore and the secretaries of State, Defense, Commerce and Energy, along with officials of the IMF, the World Bank, and the CEOs of several major U.S. corporations. A contract was signed with Boeing worth about $2.5 billion. Other strategic and economist interests behind the U.S.-Turkey alliance became clear whenbBy November 1999, the BBC reported that: “Accords for the construction of oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea through Turkey to the Mediterranean have been signed at the European security summit Istanbul.” The deal has been described as “a policy victory for the Clinton administration”, enabling “oil and gas from newly-developing fields in the Caspian Sea to reach international markets.” The U.S. pipeline routes are planned to stretch from the oil-rich Caspian Sea, straight through Kurdish populated southeastern Turkey, from which up to 3 million of the primarily Muslim Kurdish people have already been conveniently ‘ethnically cleansed’.
The principle behind these policies are clearly not humanitarian. On the contrary, humanitarian considerations appear to be rather irrelevant; rather economic and strategic interests in maintaining regional U.S. hegemony have motivated policy. Turkey, a Western client in receipt of significant economic, military and diplomatic aid from the West, in particular the United States, has been implementing a sustained policy of domestic repression, embracing every dimension of Turkish society, military, political, economical, educational, cultural, and so on. This policy has even involved committing ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide against the Kurdish population. Nevertheless, due to Turkey’s lucrative strategic position in relation to the Caspian, the Middle East and the Balkans, the regime continues to receive extensive support from the Western powers, specifically the U.S. The maintenance of U.S./Western hegemony to secure regional politico-economic interests is far more important than human rights and their protection in the contemporary world order. As Franz Schurmann, Professor Emeritus of History and Sociology at the University of California (Berkeley), points out:
“Washington has been searching for a surrogate power to lead a new alliance system that would keep the region securely within the U.S. orbit. When Israel and Turkey announced the conclusion of a military alliance just before the Israeli elections on May 28, the Arab world knew who had been chosen [by Washington] as the new surrogate – Turkey.”
NB: For further extensive discussion of human rights practices and democratic standards within Turkey, see Ahmed, Nafeez, Routing Out the Opposition: The Comprehensive Repression of Human Rights in Turkish Society, Islamic Human Rights Commission, London, 2000, http://www.ihrc.org/New_Folder9/Routing Out the opposition.pdf
 Vali, Frenc A., Bridge Across the Bosphorus: The Foreign Policy of Turkey, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1971, p. 55.
 Lawlor, Eric, Smithsonian Magazine, March 1996.
 Moore, Mike, ‘Editor’s Note: The Hapless Kurds’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, Vol. 55, No. 2.
 Timmerman, Kenneth R., ‘Turkey’s Secular Model’, Wall Street Journal (Europe), 24 April 1996.
 New York Times, 7 June 1997
 CSP Decision Brief, ‘Democratic Secular War: The Truly Indispensable Nature’, Center for Security Policy, Washington DC, 19 December 1997, No. 97-D199, http://centerforsecuritypolicy.org.
 U.S. Department of State Briefing, interview with spokesman Nick Burns, 16th June 1997, available at http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/turkey_chronology_politics.htm.
 Lombardi, Ben, ‘Turkey: Return of the Reluctant Generals’, Political Science Quarterly, Summer 1997, Vol. 112, No. 2.
 Jameelah, Maryam, Islam and Modernism, Mohammad Yusuf Khan & Sons, Lahore, 1965/1988.
 Armstrong, H. C., The Grey Wolf, Mustafa Kemal: An Intimate Study of a Dictator, 1934, p. 243; Lengyel, Emil, Turkey, 1941, p. 134.
 Armstrong, H. C., The Grey Wolf, Mustafa Kemal: An Intimate Study of a Dictator, op. cit. p. 229-236.
 Dariotis, George J. and Spyropoulos, P. D., American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) letter to John McLaughlin of the Washington-based McLaughlin Group, 6 January 2000, http://www.ahepa.org.
 New York Times, 26 November 1979.
 Dariotis, George J. and Spyropoulos, P. D., AHEPA letter, op. cit.
 Cited in Eren, Nuri, Turkey Today and Tomorrow: An Experiment in Westernization, Praeger, New York, 1963, p. 100-102.
 Salamé, Ghassan, Democracy without Democrats? The renewal of politics in the Muslim world, I. B. Tauris Press, 1994. p. 291
 Graham, Edward, ‘Islam’s Rise in the Turkish Republic: An analysis of Turkish political trends leading to the rise of the Refah Partisi’, Middle East Information Network, 1999/2000, http://www.mideastinfo.com.
 Darnton, John, ‘Turkey Serves as Bulwark Against Dictators, Terrorists, Islamic Radicals’, New York Times News Service, 2 March 1995
 Auwal, Mohammad A., ‘Kamalism Must Go’, Iviews (News & Views), 17 May 1999, http://www.iviews.com.
 Gerger, Haluk, Crisis in Turkey, Middle East Research Associates, Amsterdam, December 1997, Occasional Paper No. 28. Dr. Gerger was dismissed from his university position after the 1980 military coup due to his political views, and works instead as a writer and journalist. At the time of this paper’s publication he was serving a 10-month prison sentence because of a “thought-crime”.
 The majority of Turkish Kurds are also of the Islamic faith like their fellow Turks. See Narli, Nilufer, ‘The Rise of the Islamist Movement in Turkey’, Middle East Review of International Affairs, September 1999, Vol. 3, No. 3, note 18.
 AI report, ‘Turkey’, in Annual Report 2000, Amnesty International, London, 2000. Estimates have ranged between 560 thousand to 3 million, with the most reliable figures ranging over 1 million. Also see note below for references to the facts discussed here.
 See HRW report, Weapons Transfers and the Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey, Human Rights Watch, New York, November 1995; HRW report, Turkey’s Failed Policy to Aid the Forcibly Displaced in the Southeast, Human Rights Watch, New York, June 1996; FAS, ‘U.S.-Client Country Profile: Turkey’, op. cit. Also see especially McKiernan, Kevin, ‘Turkey’s War on the Kurds’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, Vol. 55, No. 2.
 AI report, ‘Turkey’, in Annual Report 2000, op. cit.
 Mcdowell, David, A History of the Modern Kurds, New York, 1996, pp. 424-5; Randal, Johnathan, After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness: My Encounters with Kurdistan, Westview, 1999; Tirman, John, Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America’s Arms Trade, Free Press, 1997.
 FAS, ‘U.S.-Client Country Profile: Turkey’, Federation of American Scientists, web-site at http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/turkey.htm; Tamar Gabelnick, William D. Hartung & Jennifer Washburn, Arming Repression: US Arms Sales to Turkey During the Clinton Administration, Joint Report of the World Policy Institute and the Federation of American Scientists, October 1999, http://www.fas.org/asmp/library/reports/turkeyrep.htm. Also see IHRC report, IHRC Rapporteurs Return from Turkey: Preliminary Statement, Islamic Human Rights Commission, London, 16 November 1998, http://www.ihrc.org. A fairly objective overview of the political situation in Turkey is Lombardi, Ben, ‘Turkey – Return of the Reluctant Generals?’ Political Science Quarterly, Summer 1997, No. 112. See especially HRW report, Turkey: Torture and Mistreatment in Pre-Trial Detention by Anti-Terror Police, Human Rights Watch, New York, March 1997, Vol. 9, No. 4 (D).
 Gerger, Haluk, Crisis in Turkey, op. cit.
 IPA news release, ‘Analysts on Kurdish Situation’, Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), 17 February 1999, http://www.accuracy.org/press.htm.
 HRW report, Broken Promises: Torture and Killings Continue in Turkey, Human Rights Watch, New York, December 1992.
 U.S. State Department, Report on Human Rights Practices in Turkey, January 1997. This report, harsh as it is, has been criticised by Human Rights Watch (HRW) for downplaying the gruesome scale of the Turkish government’s atrocities.
 Consider for example the case of 18 year old Feliz Beyaz, who was a leading member of the women’s movement, and a relentless campaigner for the right of Muslim women to wear the Islamic dress at university. After being arrested and released on bail, she was killed in a hit and run “accident” which in fact bore all signs of being a Turkish secret service (MIT) extrajudicial execution. MIT is known to have previously undertaken the same method to eliminate political opponents. See IHRC Press Release, ‘Liberal Facism: Turkey’s Crimes Against Its People Continue’, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Wembley, 21 September 1998.
 Nando Times (Ankara), 22 June 1999; IHRC Press Release, ‘Protestors Face Death Penalty: IHRC Observer Returns from Landmark Trial in Turkey’, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Wembley, 23 June 1999. See IHRC, Report of IHRC Observer into the legal proceedings against Huda Kaya and the Malatya 75, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Wembley, July 1999.
 AI report, Turkey: Student Campaigners tortured and imprisoned, Amnesty International, London, September 1997.
 Annual Report, Mazlumder Human Rights Organization, Ankara, 1998.
 Reuters (Istanbul), 8 November 1997.
 NoHC Report, Freedom of Religion in Turkey: The secular state model, the closing down of the Welfare Party, and the situation of Christian groups, The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, May 1998.
 Lombardi, Ben, ‘Turkey: The Return of the Reluctant Generals’, op. cit.
 Ahmad, Feroz , ‘Islamic Reassertion in Turkey,’ Third World Quarterly, April 1988, No. 10, 752.
 Meixler, Louis, ‘Turkey Vows to Fight Islamists’, AP, 4 September 1999.
 Cited in ‘Disquieting Dimensions of Human Rights in Turkey’, Radiance Weekly, 26 May 1999; Mazlumder Press Release, ‘Personal Expulsion From the Turkish Armed Forces’, Mazlumder Human Rights Organization, Istanbul, 1 January 1999.
 AI, Annual Report 2000, ‘Turkey’, Amnesty International, London, 2000.
 FAS, ‘U.S. Arms Clients Profiles: Turkey’, Federation of American Scientists, 30 November 1999, http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles.
 Majid, Saad Abdul, ‘Turkey wages desperate anti-islamic war’, Islam Online, Ankara, 21 December 1999, http://www.islam-online.net/iol-english/dowalia/news.
 The Cyprus Problem, web-site at http://cyprus.org. See especially European Commission of Human Rights, Report I, (20 July 1974 – 18 May 1976); Report II (19 May 1976 – 10 Feb 1983); Report III (11 Feb 1983 to date).
 Chomsky, Chronicles of Dissent, p. 272.
 Cited in HRW letter, ‘Turkey Should Honor Geneva Convention in Iraq’, Human Rights Watch, New York, 20 April 1995.
 Gerger, Haluk, Crisis in Turkey, op. cit.
 HRW report, Weapons Transfers and the Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey, Human Rights Watch, New York, November 1995.
 McKiernan, Kevin, ‘Turkey’s War on the Kurds’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, Vol. 55, No. 2.
 Randal, Johnathan, After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness: My Encounters with Kurdistan, Westview, 1999.
 McKiernan, Kevin, ‘Turkey’s War on the Kurds’, op. cit.
 Cited in FAS, ‘U.S. Military Aid and Arms Sales to Turkey, fiscal years 1980-1999’, op. cit.
 IPA news release, ‘Analysts on Kurdish Situation’, op. cit.
 U.S. Department of State, Congressional Presentation for Foreign Operations for FY 1999, p. 339.
 North, David, ‘U.S. attitude to “ethnic cleansing” depends on who’s doing it’, Workers World News Service, April 1999.
 BBC, ‘Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed’, 18 November 1999.
 See McLaughlin, Martin, ‘U.S. policy towards the Kurds – a mass of contradictions’, Workers World News Service, 20 February 1999.
 Schurmann, Franz, ‘New U.S. Surrogate in Mideast – Turkey’, Jinn Magazine (online), Pacific News Service, 1 July 1996, http://www.pacificnews.org/jinn.
Mr. Nafeez Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist based in London. He is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development anda Researcher at the Islamic Human Rights Commission.