A very European problem

Image: Adnan Eren Can

Turkey and its relationship with Europe has had its ups and downs throughout history. Ever since the Korean War, Turkey and its Western allies have stood side by side against their enemies, through NATO. However, in recent times this relationship has become damaged, in part due to Eurocentrism. Unfortunately, there are those who see Turkey as the ‘other’ that needs to change. For some of those in Europe, Turkey will never be accepted as an equal country, or part of Europe. 

Ever since the Korean War, Turkey and its Western allies have stood side by side against their enemies, through NATO

In an article (Human Rights: a cold Turkey?) published December 2017, claims and allegations were made against Turkey that are the result of Eurocentrism. The article states that Turkey is moving away from secularism and can no longer be considered an ‘exemplary Muslim nation-state’.  I would like to point out that Queen Elizabeth II, the UK head of state, is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In Turkey, neither the President nor the Prime Minister, hold any religious titles. Yet it is Turkey that is criticized for leaving secular values. On the 7th of January 2018, the Turkish President, Erdogan, opened a grand Church in Istanbul. These facts were never mentioned in the article. Instead, it is argued that ‘fundamentalist Islamism’ is back on the ‘political agenda’, this we believe is offensive to Turkish people who have voted for a political party which is orientated as conservative. During the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, some people labelled the American-British alliance ‘the crusaders’. As we would reject these unacceptable labels we must also reject labels such as ‘fundamentalist Islamism’ when we talk about other countries.

One of the articles questions the reality of the failed coup of 15th July. I personally visited the Turkish parliament that was bombed by terrorists on the night of the coup and can show the photos that I took that show the destruction. Turkey is fighting against three different terrorist organisations, namely the Gulenist Terror Group (FETO), PKK and Daesh. Turkey also fights PKK/YPG, which is a terrorist organisation according to the EU and USA. The Syrian branch of the PKK the PYD is known for forced displacement and war crimes according to Amnesty International. With all these problems, Turkey is doing the utmost to defeat terrorism, and the Turkish judiciary has punished many terrorists.

This war on terror was described as limiting liberties in the articles. Why is it that following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, France was not criticised for its state of emergency and fight against terror, yet when Turkey is fighting terrorism it is heavily criticised? Why is it when France or any other European country rightfully makes arrests due to terrorist activities it is seen as necessary, but when Turkey rightfully arrests terrorists it is called ‘suppression’? Anti-terror laws in the West are all seen normal but when Turkey introduces similar laws it is labelled as a ‘police-state’. Turkey hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees and expects its allies to support her in its fight against terrorism. Turkey continues its war on terror in Syria with Operation Olive Branch. The aim of this operation is to create safe-zones in Syria where refugees in Turkey and Europe could return to their homeland. However, false criticism like that in the article does not help and slanders Turkey’s war on terror.

Why is it when France or any other European country rightfully makes arrests due to terrorist activities it is seen as necessary, but when Turkey rightfully arrests terrorists it is called ‘suppression’?

The call for outrage against Turkey is interesting, as it is only defending its democracy. Yet where is the outrage against terror? It is not just to expect Turkey to support Europe against Daesh terrorism, whilst not helping Turkey against its war on terror. Those with a Eurocentric view of Turkey need to understand the change taking place in Turkey, and around the world. Those with a Eurocentric view of the world need to see Turkey and other nations as equals, not as inferior countries that need to be ‘civilised’.

The April 2017 referendum is a good example of the development of democracy in Turkey as the voter turnout was 85%. This demonstrates the tradition of democracy in Turkey. A turnout of 85% has never been seen in a UK general election or US presidential election, and the 2016 EU referendum only saw a 72% turnout.

The claim that there is a ‘Kurdish genocide’ is very dangerous. With the current government, many freedoms have been given to Turkey’s Kurdish citizens, as now Kurdish TV channels operate freely. Similarly, the current government receives a lot of support from Kurdish citizens during elections and there are Kurdish MPs and Ministers.

Even with these significant positive developments, some people continue to bash Turkey. This is a result of Eurocentrism. This outlook does not benefit those who make such claims, as they make wrong judgements about the world. Also, this does not benefit Europe’s relations with other nations, such as Turkey. A different relationship is possible where mutual trust and respect is created. When this is achieved, Europeans, Turks and others around the world will benefit from such a relationship.

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