New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 October 2015
• What It Feels Like To Live In Turkey
By NURAY MERT
• Why is Turkey not hitting ISIL?
By TOLGA TANIS
• A Way to Investigate ISIL Atrocities
By Günal Kursun
• Why Russian actions will help keep Turkey aligned with Western powers
By Paul Iddon
• Germany and Refugees
By GWYNNE DYER
What It Feels Like To Live In Turkey
By NURAY MERT
Now I know how it feels to be hopeless! There is nothing left to be said: Turkey is fast heading toward destruction! Even after the latest tragedy in Ankara, nothing has changed: there is no remorse, no sensibility, no sobriety and no dignity from the president and his party.
Business goes on as usual; everybody else but the government is responsible for the grave atrocity, according to government party supporters.
“If you blame me [President Recep Tayyip Erdogan], you are with terrorists,” he said, in his own words. After that, it emerged that the bombers were members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but “wait a minute, there is a press ban on the news for the sake of inquiries.” Then, government circles started to claim that “maybe it is a PKK, or at least a joint ISIL-PKK operation.” If the question is, “Is it possible for those who are fighting each other in Syria to engage in a joint venture in Turkey?” Here is the answer: “Why not, after all, they are both enemies of Turkey.”
This is what you read, hear and are supposed to be convinced about regarding the devastating blast that killed more than 100 in Ankara. If you are unconvinced, “you are no better than the terrorists and are part of a great plot against Turkey;” indeed, it is the great powers that are behind the plot to destroy Turkey, even when they are supposedly our allies and friends. If the question is, “Why are our so-called friends all against us?” then the answer is also ready: “Well, it is a long story which begins with the Crusaders; it’s a war against Islam. They managed to destroy the Ottomans and now Turkey’s rise frightens them, so they are doing everything to stop it.”
If you ask “what ‘rise’ are you talking about?” here is the answer for those “who are unaware of the importance of Turkey”: “Under the leadership of Erdogan, the rules of the game started to change. Erdogan is the only modern Muslim leader who challenged the imperialistic West, that is why they are trying everything to silence him: the end of Erdogan is the end of Turkey; the end of Turkey is the end of the Muslim world. This time, they will not succeed!”
Imagine you live under the rule of those who believe in this narrative. Their worldview is a blend of conspiratorialism, nationalistic paranoia, xenophobia and a revengeful kind of nostalgia. Since the leadership and majority of the AKP’s supporters are genuine believers, it is scary to think that a considerable portion of the country that you live in has this sort of mindset. There are also those careerists who have nothing to do with Islamism and/or nationalism but pretend to be converts. It is not only something scary but also sickening. It is the most difficult part of life under authoritarian rule and in times of crises; it is a paradise for sycophants, opportunists and hypocrites and, contrastingly, a hell for anybody who cares about human integrity and dignity.
After all, it was a Western-educated, Western-oriented, female academic who recently became the European Union minister that claimed that “there are great powers behind this,” referring to the Ankara blasts. So, often you have to choose between an idiot and a hypocrite, between a narrow-minded person and an opportunist or between a fanatic and a lunatic.
Now I know how it feels to become “cynical” – something that I have politically despised for so long! Now I know how it feels to be defeated.
Why is Turkey not hitting ISIL?
By TOLGA TANIS
The bomb in Suruç exploded on July 20. Turkey opened Incirlik airbase to the United States with a telephone conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 22.
Following a series of unilateral small scale aerial attacks against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria, the results of which we are not sure about, it took more than a month to have the necessary protocol with the U.S. to join the whole-scale coalition attacks against ISIL. The signatures came on Aug. 24. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement five days later on Aug. 28, declaring that Turkish planes had joined the attacks against ISIL targets in Syria.
I realized the first oddity reading the news that came after this statement. Turkish newspapers were full of stories on how Turkish planes had inflicted damage on ISIL and how seven ISIL targets were hit north of Aleppo. But in the coalition attacks reports coming from CENTCOM, only one aerial attack was seen to be have taken place in that region. In the report dated Aug. 28, apart from Kurdish regions, there was only one aerial attack north of Aleppo. The same for the Aug. 29 report.
On Aug. 30, I forwarded a written question to CENTCOM: “Does that list include the aerial attacks that Turkish planes conduct in the framework of the coalition?” Nikolaj Thide, the spokesperson of CENTCOM, answered me in written form and said, “Yes, it includes [such attacks].”
Then I tried to clarify this: Did Turkey really conduct those aerial bombings but was not included in CENTCOM reports because they were unsuccessful? I asked this question many times. But as the issue is about relations with an ally country, the Pentagon did not clarify this.
And that’s where I was stuck.
And then, as you know, came a long period of silence on ISIL. And we left ISIL aside after the news that came at the end of August and started to read about Turkey’s aerial bombings against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Exactly one and a half months later came the Oct. 14 statement of Josh Earnest, the spokesperson of the White House that clarified all the developments:
“Turkey has stepped up its activities in Syria in the course of the past 24 hours and there are reports from yesterday night that Turks for the first time hit in a successful way an ISIL target on the move.”
Turks objected. “We did not hit it, the U.S. hit it,” they said. And with this effort to create a contradiction they tried to conceal the most crucial detail in Earnest’s statement. Why? Because this came to the surface with Earnest’s statement, behind which the U.S. administration still stands. The attack in Suruç took place. Turks joined the coalition against ISIL. They said “We hit it.” Yet, it was revealed they hit no target within the framework of the coalition. And while Turkey was not targeting ISIL, and focusing on other things, names related to ISIL conducted the biggest bombing attack in the history of the Turkish republic.
That’s why the answer to the question of why Turkey hit ISIL targets for the first time on Oct. 14 within the framework of the attacks by the coalition it joined on Aug. 28 is important to this issue. I talked to two different sources at the Pentagon. The first official said, “In the beginning they joined the operation, but then for a long time they did not [participate in it].” In other words, during the month of September, while Turkey earmarked its resources to the fight with the PKK, it did not even try to hit ISIL. But the first initial trials became unsuccessful. The second official pointed to the political dimension of the issue and said, “The priority for Turks is the PKK.”
In other words, Turkey on the one hand used in a wrong way its resources by not focusing on ISIL and on the other was unsuccessful in hitting ISIL targets.
This has happened before. You have seen how Ankara provided wrong information about the train-and-equip program and how that program failed later. But this is something else. We are facing an administration that cannot protect its citizens and cannot prevent the murder of innocent people. The Turkish government needs to explain to the Turkish public and to the world why it did not hit ISIL.
A Way to Investigate ISIL Atrocities
By Günal Kursun
October 18, 2015
Four in Diyarbakir, 34 in Suruç and 102 in Ankara, a total of 140 deaths for which the government declared that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is responsible.
We can add to this account Sgt. Mehmet Yalçin Nane, shot by ISIL militants and snipers in Kilis while waiting on the border on July 24. Regardless of the number of deaths, I can clearly say that ISIL atrocities constitute crimes against humanity according to international criminal law.
Crimes against humanity are certain acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. The first prosecution for crimes against humanity took place at the Nuremberg Trials. During the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II, the elements of the crimes were defined and the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) adopted specific elements in their statutes. The Rome Statute, establishing the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) has clear provisions for crimes against humanity. According to Article 7 of the Rome Statute, the extermination of 102 people with a bomb constitutes a crime against humanity. I'm sure more ISIL atrocities could be collected if a serious investigation were to be done, as we are speaking about an insane killer gang that has cut hundreds of throats, tortured, raped and sexually enslaved people. Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, an internationally recognized expert whom I had the privilege to meet in Istanbul a few years ago, argues that crimes against humanity are part of jus cogens, and as such constitute a non-derogable rule of international law.
According to precedents established by the ICTY and the ICTR, the number of deaths is not important. The important thing for this crime is the mental element (mens rea), the mental intention or mental fault, the guilty state of mind of the perpetrator at the time of the offense. If the accused was committing crimes against humanity knowingly, willfully and intentionally, it would constitute the crime even if only one person suffered. In Turkey, more than 140 people have died within the last four months.
Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 77 prescribes that willful killing with an intent defined as a crime against humanity deserves aggravated lifetime imprisonment and that this will be applied according to the number of people killed. It means that if serious proceedings were to be held in Turkey, ISIL gang members responsible for the attacks in Turkey would be sentenced to a total of 140 lifetime imprisonments. There is no probability of that happening at the moment. As Turkey is not a state party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, Turkey is not allowed to ask the ICC to start an investigation. However, an ad-hoc recognition of the ICC's power of authority limited to just this issue is possible and the government has to take it into account seriously.
The ICC, having the support of the UN behind it, could conduct an investigation in Turkey and collect evidence before it disappears. The best solution would be ratification of the Rome Statute and becoming a member state to the ICC, but ad hoc recognition of the ICC can help Turkey in its combat with terrorism in general, and particularly combat with ISIL. The atrocities of ISIL in Syria and Iraq are another problematic area that deserves another article, but I can say that ad hoc recognition could help these two countries as well; however, it will press the alarm button for the Turkish government on the allegations of having previously aiding ISIL.
Why Russian actions will help keep Turkey aligned with Western powers
By Paul Iddon
Relations between Turkey and the United States over the course of the past six decades have seen their ups-and-downs. In the 1970s, Washington imposed an arms embargo on its fellow NATO ally following its military intervention in northern Cyrus. More recent years have seen divergence between the two over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurdish issue and the present crisis in Syria.
While many interests and outlooks between Ankara, Washington and the other powers diverge on a multitude of issues, it’s doubtful Turkey will “go east” anytime soon. Indeed, one just has to look back to how Turkey became so solidified in the Western bloc to understand why it is likely to stay there. Russia’s recent intervention into the Syrian conflict, on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the recent incursions by Russian jets into Turkish airspace has irked Ankara, whose primary goal in Syria is to see to the end of the al-Assad regime.
Turkey was neutral during World War II. Early on in the Cold War (1952), however, it joined the NATO camp, and the context in which it did so serves as perhaps an apt historical precedent to the present situation. The Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, had his suspicions about the Turks for remaining neutral and chose to aggressively stake his claim to large swaths of eastern Anatolia, which led Ankara to view the Soviet bloc and its motives toward the Turkish Republic with deep suspicion. Stalin also supported separatist movements in Iran’s Azeri and Kurdish regions during the same period. Tehran subsequently grew closer to the United States, at least partially, as a result of Washington’s assistance in helping that country reassert its authority over all its sovereign territory.
The Soviet claims that Ankara cede parts of its national territory ceased after Stalin’s death. By that time, Turkey was also fighting on the opposite side of the Soviet Union in the distant lands of Korea during the Korean War of the early 1950s and was saliently in the Western camp, or on the Western “side,” if you will, throughout the rest of the Cold War period.
Speaking of territorial claims, Russian posturing in the Crimean region in Ukraine, where Moscow insisted it had the right to deploy nuclear weapons if it wants to, likely worries and/or annoys Ankara. A world power which insisted it can do that just to Turkey’s east (while simultaneously increasing the capacity of its forces in the Black Sea) while also directly intervening to prop up a rival regime immediately to Turkey’s south is one that Turkey is likely wary of. Despite the many differences pertaining to policy Ankara may have with its NATO allies concerning the future of Syria and the Kurdish issue, it is unlikely it views those powers as a possible threat in its own neighborhood.
The same, however, cannot be confidently said about Moscow – especially in recent weeks. As was the case in the early years of the Cold War, suspicion of the Russians and their motives and possible designs over the strategically important region in which Turkey sits will likely see that regional power remain aligned with the Western NATOpowers, despite whatever other differences and disagreements it may have with them.
Germany and Refugees
By GWYNNE DYER
No good deed goes unpunished.
Two months ago Chancellor Angela Merkel amazed the world by opening Germany’s borders to all the genuine refugees (mostly Syrians and Afghans) who could get that far. She must have known her own people well, because ordinary Germans showed extraordinary sympathy and generosity to the new arrivals.
Even when the first estimate of 800,000 refugees coming to Germany this year went up to 1.5 million, the “welcome culture” stayed strong. Only one month ago Merkel’s action still had the approval of half the population, with only 40 percent thinking her policy was wrong.
Now those numbers are reversed, and the voices of dissent are multiplying. Even Horst Seehofer, the prime minister of the state of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union,(CDU), has lost patience, saying that “no society can cope with an influx on this scale.” In fact, he’s theatening to challenge her policy before Germany’s Constitutional Court.
That’s just “compassion fatigue”, you might say, and you would be right. Bavarians have seen 175,000 refugees arrive in their midst in just the past month. That’s almost 1.5 percent of the state’s population in just thirty days. Many of them will move on to other states eventually – but another 175,000 will probably arrive in the coming month.
The scale of the refugee influx into Germany is almost unprecedented in modern European history: one and a half million people in six months (for the refugees only started arriving in large numbers in July). It’s as if the United States, with four times Germany’s population, were taking in one million Syrian and Afghan refugees every month. Americans would never accept that.
What’s surprising is not the fall in support for Merkel’s policy. It’s the fact that it is still so strong, even though no other member of the European Union is being anything like so generous in its refugee policy. (Britain has offered to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years.) There must be something special about the German response.
There is certainly something special about modern German history, though most people elsewhere have forgotten it or never knew it. Not the Nazis and the war, but what happened at the end of the Second World War and just afterwards. As the Soviet army rolled west across eastern Europe in early 1945, huge numbers of ethnic Germans fled before it.
Hundreds of thousands of them died of cold, hunger and the constant bombing, but between six and eight million made it into what is now Germany before the fighting ended. Almost as many more were expelled from Eastern European countries in the following five years, mostly from Czechoslovakia and the parts of Germany (about a fifth of its current area) that had been given to Poland by the victors.
Between 1945 and 1950 some twelve million German refugees arrived in Germany – a Germany that had been bombed flat and was desperately poor. Even food was scarce in the early post-war years. But the Germans took the refugees in, shared what they had with them, and together they gradually pulled their country out of the hole it had dug for itself.
Germans don’t like to dwell on this period of their country’s history, but it hasn’t been forgotten. Indeed, one-fifth of today’s Germans are those now elderly refugees and their children and grandchildren. Deep down Germans have an understanding of what it is to be a refugee that no other Western Europeans can share.
Does this explain why Merkel did what she did? Nobody can say except herself, and she isn’t saying. She certainly hasn’t been a strong advocate of large-scale immigration in the past.
At a meeting with young CDU party workers in Potsdam five years ago, she said that the idea of creating a multicultural society in Germany had failed utterly: “The concept that we are now living side by side and are happy about it does not work.” Indeed, she even said that Germans had Christian values and “anyone who doesn’t accept that is in the wrong place here.”
But she grew up in the town of Templin in northern Brandenburg, in what was then East Germany. When she was a child and a young woman, that area, not very far from the new Polish border, had a population that was 40 percent refugees.
Does their own refugee heritage explain why half of Germany’s 80 million people still support a policy that, so long as it lasts, will be adding one and a half million more non-German-speaking Muslims to the country’s population each year? Yes, it probably does.