A couple of weeks back, Human Rights Watch announced in their annual World Report that repressive governments around the world are exploiting the “war against terrorism” to clamp down on domestic dissidents.
Now comes the news that in Turkey, the chief of terrorism prosecution is targeting publishers of an American dissident’s writings — just as George W. Bush declares that Turkey is his role model for Afghanistan and all Muslim nations.
The (London) Independent’s Robert Fisk reports that scarcely two months after the European Union praised Turkey for passing new laws protecting freedom of expression, the authorities in Ankara are using anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute Noam Chomsky’s Turkish publisher.
Fatih Tas of the Aram Publishing House faces a year in prison for daring to print American Interventionism, a collection of Chomsky’s recent essays which include some harsh criticism of Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority.
Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a secular constitution, has regularly topped Human Rights Watch’s list of European human rights offenders. The country’s powerful military has come in for criticism from the EU, most recently last year, over the brutal suppression of a hunger strike by prison activists.
But what pressure there has been stateside — always minimal — has hushed to a silence since September 11.
NATO member Turkey is too valuable to the U.S. war effort to be criticized by the United States. Turkey immediately supported the assault on Afghanistan, and has offered to take over leadership of the peacekeeping force there later.
Moreover, Turkey’s support is critical for the U.S. war on Iraq, Turkey’s southern neighbor. U.S. and UK bombers have launched innumerable bombing raids against Iraq from the massive Incirlik airbase in Southern Turkey.
(While they apparently came from the south this time, Allied bombers attacked Iraq again this Wednesday and Thursday in the first apparent escalation of bombing since September 11, according to Iraqi news reports. No casualties were reported at the “civil and service installations” in the southern provinces of Basra and Thi-Qar.)
Spinning his country’s linchpin position into pressure for hoped-for dollars, Turkey’s prime minister came to D.C. last week, in search of billions of dollars worth of loans. “We provide living proof that a Western-type democracy can exist and thrive in a predominantly Muslim country,” Bulent Ecevit said Jan. 17 in an address at the National Press Club.
President Bush, who met Ecevit during his four-day visit, said Turkey was a close friend and ally of the United States, according to news reports. During that meeting, Bush said Turkey was a role model for Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world. Ecevit said that in his meeting with the president, Bush also “expressed in strong terms that he has to get rid of Saddam Hussein.”
Turkey is seeking a lifting of U.S. quotas on imported Turkish goods and help securing loans to get out of a fiscal crisis. Turkey is also inviting bids from international companies on a gas pipeline project partly owned by U.S. energy giant Unocal.
For its part, “the United States is pressing international lenders to grant Turkey loans for to help it emerge from a severe financial crisis,” reports the Associated Press. Last week, Ecevit thanked the United States for its support.
“Large amounts of money have come to Turkey from the IMF and the role of the United States in securing this cannot be ignored,” Ecevit said. The International Monetary Fund said it would probably soon reach a new standby agreement with Turkey that has some $10 billion pegged to it.
As AP reports, “Turkey’s renewed significance did not, however, bring any clear pledges from the Bush administration for trade privileges or a write-off of $5 billion worth of military debt.” However, Ecevit was said to be pleased by the creation of an Economic Partnership Commission which will discuss how to enhance trade and commercial relations between the two countries.
Turkey has a long record of suppressing critical writing by domestic critics. In 1999, the government convicted prize-winning author GÃ¼nay Arslan of “disseminating propaganda undermining the indivisibility of the nation.”
Arslan was sentenced to one year and eight months imprisonment and a fine. His book, “History in Mourning, 33 bullets,” was accompanied by a preface attributed to a well-known pro-Kurdish politician who was murdered in 1992, and discussed the brutal suppression of a Kurdish uprising.
(Turkish police again clashed with Kurdish demonstrators on Friday, using nightsticks to disperse members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party in the southeastern city of Siirt. Eight demonstrators and four policemen were injured, according to the Anatolia news agency.)
MIT linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky, meanwhile, is planning to fly to Turkey for Fatih Tas’ first court appearance on Feb. 13, he says, and has already written to the offices of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, pointing out that amendments to Turkish law were supposed to have provided greater freedom of expression, not less of it.
© 2001 workingforchange.com