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On October 5, President Erdogan held an election rally, not on home ground in Turkey, but Strasbourg, France. After prayers led by an imam, the president of what theoretically is the only secular state in the Middle East, launched into belligerent diatribe designed to rouse the 12 000 Turks who had come in from neighbouring countries. Complete with sound and light effects, the crowd, cordoned off with males on one side and bescarfed females on the other, egged him on to cries of “Allah u Akbar”. Had the enemy he was thundering against been ISIS, Turkish presence as a member of NATO in a fellow NATO country could have had some form of legitimacy. But here the target of his wrath was no less that one third of his own population, namely the Kurds and members of the HDP opposition party, in fact those he described in his speech as being All those who wish to separate from us‘. Then he uttered an ominous threat: we will make sure they live regret it
One wonders if someone had actually listened to the premonitory words spoken in Strasbourg last week. This was a true call to war made on European soil. The next day, King Philip of Belgian personally awarded him the highest decoration, the Order of Leopold, no less. Nobody batted an eyelid or caught the irony of the situation: the most celebrated king to reign by that name was Leopold II, notorious for having murdered some 10 million Congolese natives which he had reduced to slavery in the infamous Congo Free State. Portentous, to say the least.
The careful planning of the massacre that took place only six days later, during a peace rally in Ankara, shows that the Turkish president really meant business, as promised. The images are horrific: one moment we see angelic young people, dancing and singing, passionately believing that peace can return to their great country. Then flashes of fire, explosions, the IPhones starts shaking, fast forward to blood and corpses. Over a hundred dead (some say 130), countless wounded (over 500). Eyewitnesses reported that the police attacked the distraught crowd with tear gas and shooting, preventing the ambulances reaching the scene of the crime. As usual, Twitter and Facebook were blocked.
As can be expected, the Turkish government is blaming the PKK, just as it did last time after the comparable attack at Suruç where over thirty youths were slaughtered whilst preparing to bring toys over to Kobane , just over the border.
Each time, the youngest, the best, the most hopeful Turkish citizens are targeted, those who are united in opposing Erdogan’s neo-liberal, quasi-fundamentalist Weltanschaung. It is ironic that the only ones to be defending the secular, egalitarian Kemalist legacy are those Ataturk himself once opposed, that is to say the Kurds and their allies.
In the meantime, world leaders, from Obama to Putin and all in between all dutifully phoned Erdogan to offer their condolences, Surely condolences should have been extended to the HDP behind this rally?
Federica Mogherini, the head of European diplomacy added Our partnership and engagement with the Turkish authorities and Turkish society is stronger than ever, at all levels: The Turkish people and all political forces should be united against terrorists and against those who are trying to destabilize the country, which is facing many threats
An ominous message indeed as the implication was absolute support for Erdogan, which in the view of upcoming elections is revealing. ‘Unity against terrorism’ has come to signify upholding Middle Eastern dictators whatever their politics or their ethics: as long as Erdogan, Bachar Al-Assad, General Sissi, Salman of Saudi Arabia appear to be exercising coercive containment (, even of the most violent kind (with the help of weapons donated or bought from their Wetsern and Russian allies), some kind of ‘peace’ seems to be guaranteed seems to be the premise.
What on earth are these irresponsible world leaders playing at? One action replay of Munich after the next. As if to say, paraphrasing Neville Chamberlain after talking to Hitler ‘Messrs Erdogan, Assad et al are gentlemen’ . Except that the Munich agreement were signed before The Kristallnacht pogrom, but now, such blind behaviour is taking place after the equivalent of countless Kristallnächte and massacres, including that which happened yesterday in Ankara.
Truth be said, the so-called coalition which was launched with so much histrionic chest-thumping has led nowhere. Since Turkey purportedly joined NATO in this puppet war, there appears to be no plan, no direction. ISIS is doing better than ever, the Roman arch of Palmyra was destroyed last week, in the wake the temple of Bel reduced to rubble in the previous month, the slaughtering , murders, torture, rape continue unabated are, five villages around Aleppo have just been taken, along with a prison and a barracks. Can we add the Ankara massacre to the list, like for Suruç taking orders from the Presidential palace. As usual?
Russia has invited itself into the game, but no-one is sure who they are shooting at and the US is removing training and weapons, seemingly more worried about what could be going on in the Pacific. The only ones left fighting ISIS and world terror are the brave, much-maligned Rojava Kurds, with their male and female battalions, YPG/YPJ. But these are Erdogan’s arch-enemies and he is supported by Western powers bringing the planet down in the collective folly…
Why won’t anyone recognize that what the methods of systematic repression displayed in Turkey are grounded in the most sinister precedents of the twentieth century. Attacks against people, political party offices and businesses, demonstrations repressed in blood, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, systematic intimidation, endemic corruption and nepotism, elections rigged in order to terrify populations. Small wonder that the refugees, having experienced Syria, want to flee Turkey.. The only way to stop them coming is to make sure they want to stay in Turkey in civilized, safe conditions which is why Europe should efficiently oppose the fascist madness that is sweepting over Turkey by supporting its democratic clairvoyant opposition, the HDP targeted by yesterday’s massacre and countless other attacks
Did no-one take note of Erdogan’s mantra in Strasbourg: One flag, one country, one faith. In a city at the border of Germany, was no-one reminded of that other slogan that that prevailed, not so long ago, over the last wholesale attempt of world destruction: Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.
Carol Mann, sociologist and historian, director of Women in War, Paris, www.womeninwar.org