Sunday, March 29, 2009

The gift of Television

"I call a cat a cat."
- Boileau

Because of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish Republic only officially recognizes two special ethnic groups: Jews and Greeks, because of a long-standing animosity between Jews, Greeks and ethnic Turks. These ethnic groups are protected under special provisions that give them the same rights as Turks.

The question remains what Turkey has to say about Kurds, Nogais, Zazas, Ossetians, Laz, Arabs, Georgians, and Armenians who officially are not recognized by the treaties. Minorities in Turkey are discriminated against not just in practice, but also in legal writing. Did you know that speaking Kurdish was still an illegal practice in Turkey until 2003? The Turkish penal code has many other problems, which is why Turkey cannot enter the EU. But what to make of the new 24-hour Kurdish-speaking television news station?

It may seem like Kemal is smiling upon the Kurds at last, but the Turkish Republic is full of secrets and many disguises. This is probably the most salient feature of the country I realized when I visited in July of 2007: the country is rife with conspiracy theories. For every Turk I talked to, I heard at least three conspiracy theories. The generals did not trust the politicians, the politicians did not trust the intellectuals or the military, and the intellectuals did not trust anybody. Everybody else is caught in the crossfire of propaganda.

The ruling political party, AKP, chose to use wicked brute force to invade the Eastern region settled by the Kurdish separatists about a year ago. Now they want to give Kurds a television station, just before an election cycle. Is it not the case that this television station is merely a way to create divisive feelings amongst those Kurds who see it as an act of kindness and Kurds who see it as an act of appeasement? Those who see it as an act of appeasement truly believe that Kurds must be separate from Turks politically. Those who see it as an act of kindness can be bought by the government into the Turkish political system.

You cannot look at the situation and say, "Either way, Kurds win", because even though they have a television station, it comes at the expense of many Kurds turning to the statist and corrupt Turkish government. It comes at the expence of political capital. The AKP party is set to win these elections again, which means the Eastern Kurds will have to endure more bombings. The TV channel, since its state-owned, might then become just another mouthpiece for the government. And that, my friends, is why the government is kicking your asses.

Separatists will never get anywhere if the people they defend are constantly giving into to concessions.


Şevket Zaimoğlu said...

There are so many errors in this post that I don't know if I can correct them all. Let me give it a try.

1. There is no such thing as Turkey officially recognizing "two special ethnic groups" that is Jews and Greeks in the Lausanne Treaty. It is clear you have never read the text of the treaty:

Section III of the treaty is concerned with the "protection of minorities." Article 38 in this section tells us who these minorities are: Non-Moslems. No reference to Jews, no reference to Greeks, no omission of Armenians.

That was the theory bit. Now, in practice, Jews, Greeks and Armenians were the three minority groups recognized with respect to the Lausanne Treaty. Your claim that Armenians were not recognized is totally baseless.

2. The Non-Moslem minorities, whose rights were protected in the Lausanne Treaty, were not only given same rights (in proviso) as Turks, they were given further rights not even available to the Turkish people! Turkey accepted these rights in the Lausanne Treaty as fundamental law and made a pledge so that it would never take measures to limit those rights.

3. There is a good reason "Kurds, Nogais, Zazas, Ossetians, Laz, Arabs, Georgians" were not recognized by the Lausanne Treaty: they were Muslim and therefore, they were not non-Moslems. Hence, by the logic of the treaty, they were considered as the founding element of Turkey. In fact, during the Lausanne negotiations, the chief Turkish delegate, Ismet (Inonu) even claimed that he represented not only the Turks but the Kurds, too! In January 1923, Mustafa Kemal Pasha gave an interview to the journalists, where he stated that they were thinking of giving some sort of local autonomy to the provinces inhabited mostly by the Kurds.

It is true that Kemalism strayed from that initial promise and began engaging in Turkish nationalism with strong ethnic and fascist tones does not change, but still, this does not change the fact that Turkish nationalism was and still is, to a large degree, fused with Islamic nationalism. Even the prevalent Turkish word for nation, "millet", refers to the Islamic community, not the ethnic Turkish.

4. You say "Did you know that speaking Kurdish was still an illegal practice in Turkey until 2003?" You clearly haven't understood the wide discrepancy between the Turkish reality as it is lived daily on the streets and the Turkish fiction as it is recorded in the lawbooks.

Did you know that wearing a fez is STILL an illegal practice in Turkey in 2009 and will probably remain so in the foreseeable future?

Did you know that all Turkish public servants and MPs are STILL required to wear western hat by law in Turkey?

Anonymous said...

That's contradictory because Fez are sold everywhere.

The treaty does not specify ethnic groups, but "in practice... with respect to the Laussane Treaty" is what I was getting at.