09 November 2007

2176) Why Are You So Biased Against Turkey? By Ergun Kirlikovali

Letters To The Editor, Economist

The Economist print edition of November 1st 2007 carried an article that could easily be shown in any college freshman English course as a perfect example of bias and bigotry in the big media: “Turkey's Kurds”.

Just look at the loaded words you used to describe Turks and Turkish reactions to recent acts of terrorism by the PKK: “gaggle”, “threat”, “clobber”, “warmongers”, “howling”, “wrest”, “scorched-earth”, “frenzy”, and more.

And through your pen, the notorious PKK-Kurdish terrorism is magically transformed into a more hygienic sounding “war against the Turkish army”; Barzani's autobiography, all of a sudden, gets “snapped up everywhere (in Turkey)”; Diyarbakir instantly becomes “the Kurds' unofficial capital”; and even 5-year old Kurdish girls emerge as experts on Turkish-Kurdish relations. .

In the face of this much distortion and partisanship, Turks can be forgiven for responding with a sarcastic “Well, excuse me for living and inconveniencing the honorable Kurdish terrorists. Let me just roll over into that corner and die quietly. ”

I am not surprised that there is anti-Turkish prejudice, as there are all kinds of zealots out there. What baffles me is that such racist trash can actually find its way to the pages of a respected journal.

How would you like it if others glorified El Qaeda terrorism the way you glorify PKK-Kurdish terrorism?

You think such racist coverage of controversial issues may eventually damage your credibility?


November 2, 2007

*Turkey's Kurds

Dreams and reality

From The Economist print edition

The effects of northern Iraq on Turkey's Kurds are more complex than they seem

STANDING by the stream that separates the hamlet of Ovakoy from northern Iraq, Hisyar Ozalp, a young Kurdish lawyer, gestures towards a cluster of pink houses on the opposite bank. “That is Kurdistan,” he says. “And so is this.” Any conversation in Ovakoy shows why Turkey is so nervous about the effect of the Iraqi Kurds' semi-independent statelet. “I don't like Turkish, it's no good,” declares Fatma, a five-year-old, using the commonest Kurdish dialect. A gaggle of Turkish conscripts stares in mute incomprehension.

In the province of Hakkari, members of a group inspired by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdish region, whisper of a new plan to unite the Kurds of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Until recently, their KDP-Bakur disavowed the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has escalated its long war against the Turkish army, killing 48 soldiers in October alone. Today it says armed struggle may be “the only way.” The Iraqi Kurds' march to independence since the 1991 Gulf war has stirred excitement among Turkey's 14m Kurds (roughly half of all Kurds). Mr Barzani's autobiography is being snapped up everywhere. “Iraqi Kurdistan is like a beacon,” says Ibrahim Guclu, a Kurdish politician.

Like many Kurds, he believes that Turkey's threat to clobber the PKK in northern Iraq is a cover for a full-scale invasion aimed at Iraq's Kurds. Warmongers in the Turkish media are howling for retribution against Mr Barzani for providing a haven for the PKK. Mr Barzani, who lost 200 of his own fighters helping the Turkish army against the PKK in the 1990s, says he would be happy to mediate but insists that the Turks should first recognise him as the Kurds' legitimate representative. Nothing doing, says Turkey, which this week announced new sanctions against those who support the PKK.

Despite Mr Barzani's popularity, the Turks can take heart from the millions of Kurds who have no desire to break away. That was the message of the July 22nd election, says Sehmus Akbas, a Kurdish businessman in Diyarbakir. He is thinking of the big gains made by the Justice and Development (AK) party in Kurdish areas, at the expense of the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party (DTP). Such is the appeal of AK's mix of liberalism and Islamic piety that it might even wrest Diyarbakir, the Kurds' unofficial capital, from the DTP in local elections next March.

Relations between Turks and Kurds are as intimate as they are fraught and complex. “We are like flesh and fingernail, inseparable,” says Mr Akbas. Many Kurds cling to sentimental notions of an independent state. But the reality after centuries of cohabitation, intermarriage and economic integration is that “drawing boundaries has become impossible”, as Hasim Hasimi, a Kurdish politician, puts it.

Take Istanbul; home to some 2m Kurds, and easily the world's biggest Kurdish city. Many Kurds are poor and unemployed, often victims of the army's scorched-earth campaign against the PKK in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, they tend to support the rebels. Yet thousands of middle-class Kurds with summer homes on the Aegean coast, who want their children to learn English not Kurdish, have little interest in politics. There are few signs that northern Iraq is luring Turkey's Kurds. More ethnic Turks than Turkish Kurds do business there.

The frenzy of nationalism that has gripped Turkey since the PKK killed 12 Turkish soldiers and kidnapped another eight on October 21st is threatening to upset the fragile balance at home. In the western city of Bursa, ultra-nationalist vigilantes recently vandalised a chain of stores owned by a Kurdish family, after rumours spread that it was helping the rebels. DTP offices throughout Turkey have been pelted with rocks and, in one place, set on fire.

“Is Turkey going towards partition?” asks Sezgin Tanrikulu, a human-rights lawyer in Diyarbakir. Very probably not. But with every funeral of a Turkish soldier, calls for revenge are growing. Ordinary Kurds risk being caught in the crossfire.

Copyright © 2007 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group.


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