Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Turkish Penal Code (Apparently, size does matter)

Cumhuriyet gave a free copy of the new penal code with their newspaper last week, knowing the little I do know about penal codes I was surprised how thin the thing actually was. Cumhuriyet must have sensed the laziness of the general public to go out and find the damn thing...good for them. They have, after all, saved me a trip to the library. Although I did not see laws against Armenian genocide acceptance or advocating removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus, there is an article that presumably allows people to be charged for it (2+ years jail sentence):

Insulting the Turkish national identity, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey: up to 3 years (if committed by a Turkish citizen abroad: to be increased one-third); Insulting the Turkish Government, the judicial organs, military or security institutions: up to 2 years (if committed by a Turkish citizen abroad: to be increased one-third).

The vagueness in wording is rampant throughout the text. What differentiates a criticism from an insult? The fact that one would leave such a distinction in the hands of a few judges is absurd. Convinctions may be hard to come by, but even having to waste months or years in court is punishment in and of itself.

The European Green Party, usually referred to as the most vocal supporter of Turkey's EU bid, held a parlimentary meeting in Istanbul today. And for ardent supporters, they made a lot of people squirm. Daniel Cohen-Bendit bluntly stated that people being sent to jail for speech, even when their words directly attacked the State, was unacceptable. His bluntness even took the translator by surprise, who started off watering down some of his words but then began translating them more accurately when she realized he wasn't letting up.

What's also been amusing is a couple of pieces by Mehmet Ali "Gee What a Great View" Birand. He spends most of his time begging both the EU and Turkey to be patient cause "things are getting better." Either I haven't been paying attention, or Birand is growing a few fangs, and it's a good thing:

"I am talking about our general attitude towards our Kurdish citizens.

We didn't even recognize their existence.

Didn't we tell them: "You don't know who you are. You are not Kurds, you are mountain Turks?"

Didn't we change the names of their villages to Turkish?

Didn't we even prevent them giving their children Kurdish names?

Didn't we ban them from talking Kurdish or listening to Kurdish songs?

Didn't we purposefully leave the Southeast poor and ignorant? Didn't we ignore the fact that a clan structure was being established there?

Now, let's look at the status of the Alewis.

Didn't the dominant Sunnis force Alewis to remain on the sidelines for years?

The religious Affairs Directorate didn't use even a small part of the taxes it collected from the Alewis to support Cem Houses (Alewi places of worship).

Alewis were always put under pressure.

Only when the Sunni Islamists became dominant did the Alewis draw praise as the "protectors of the secular system."

Didn't the state instigate Sunni-Alewi conflicts? How quickly we forget the large-scale clashes that occurred in the 1970s.

In his later article, his title exhumes his usual, almost child-like optimism: "I bet Ataturk is smiling," he says. In it, he notes the following:

"The European Commission gives a 'green light' to Turkey. However, the report was dominated by its aim to alleviate fears in EU countries. And then I looked at our media: Some are just ignorant, while some want to be seen as rebels while blasting the commission's report. Thank God most see the bigger picture."

One of those rebels, presumably, is Nuray Mert, who attacked the report on being weak on defending religious freedom and too overly concerned about superficial exhibitions of cultural diversity. Then Birand throws this in the field of strawberries:

"Our 'commission official' was honorable after all...We criticized the man for years. We accused him of being a Nazi and anti-Turkish. What he said was right but it didn't suit our purposes, so we just ignored them. However, we should now give credit where it's due."

Well, no wonder Guenter Verheugen is being ridiculed by Europe's right nowadays. Birand, as usual, finishes by saying that the pessimism exhibited by some goes against the facts. There are some pessimists out there, however, who are so inclined because they refuse to demand anything less than what is just.

What was also amusing was the misunderstanding of our press over the use of the word "minority". In the West, it usually implies receiving some kind of additional attention. In Turkey, it is used to refer to groups of people who have to pay a certain price to be who they are.


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