Friday, April 22, 2011

Comments on an article on the "Kurdish Issue" 

My comments on an article by Sonia Roy, titled "The Kurdish Issue: The Impact on the Politics of Iraq and Turkey and Their Bilateral Relations Regarding Kurds Post-Saddam Hussein Regime." The article was published at the Foreign Policy Journal website.

There are so many factual and spelling errors throughout the article, which make it difficult to take its main argument seriously.

- Firstly, as mentioned by another commenter, it is a gross error to state that "90% of the Kurds live in Iraq."

- In another sentence, the author claims "Kurds are the largest ethnic group in West Asia after the Arabs." Even if we suppose the author considered Turkey to be "in Europe", hence did not take into account the Turks, how about the Iranians? Isn't Iran in West Asia?

- Turkey's application for EU membership was not on 12 September 1987, but 14 April 1987.

- The author argues Turkey's treatment of its Kurds constitute a "barrier" towards entry to the EU because it violates the Copenhagen criteria. However, complying with the Copenhagen criteria was a preliminary condition for a country to be officially accepted as a candidate for EU membership. Turkey was given the status of EU member candidate in 2004 only after the European commission's report found that it indeed satisfied the Copenhagen criteria.

- When describing how the "no-fly zone" north of the 36th parallel came into force, the author fails to mention that hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees took refuge in the Turkish-Iraqi border, and the "no-fly zone" was established after the recommendation of Turkey's president Turgut Ozal. Turkey also allowed the "Poised Hammer" combined task force to use the Incirlik airbase in Turkey. Throughout the 1990s, there were serious concerns in Turkey that this task force was secretly aiding the PKK terrorists, yet in the face of any other alternative to protect the Iraqi Kurds from Saddam's wrath, Turkey continued to permit the task force's operations. Without Turkey's support, the task force could not operate, and hence the "no-fly zone" could not be enforced. Furthermore, the "no-fly zone" was not a unilateral declaration of the US, as the author implies, but the outcome of a UN Security Council resolution.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The plight of illegal Turkmen workers in Turkey? 

I have read an interesting post about the difficult conditions encountered by illegal immigrants from Turkmenistan in Turkey. These people often end up working in illegal sectors, doing dirty work such as drugs, human trafficking, even prostitution.

Well, in order for this post to have any value at all, I think the author must have compared the treatment Turkmens face when they travel to Russia, or other "stans" in Central Asia.

There is a central flaw in the post, and that stems from the inability to distinguish between how people treat those working the "dirty jobs" and how people treat members of a specific ethnic group living at the edge of their society.

Let us first look at the issue from the "demand" side. As long as there is a "market" for prostitutes, drug dealers, mafia thugs, human traffickers, etc, it does not matter if the Turkmens, Armenians, Sudanese, or Chinese do that kind of work. Before 1990, when Turkey was a very closed country, Kurds, Laz, Abhaz, Alevis etc, that is, Turkey's own ethnic groups did those. OK, maybe ethnicity has no role in this question, because "Turks" (whatever that might mean) from certain localities could well establish solidarity with their folk and build "hemsehri" networks.

Things do not look much different on the "supply" side. Let's assume, for some reason, Turkmens stop working in these dirty jobs in Turkey. It could happen due to the police taking stricter measures to crack down on organized crime, it could happen after stricter immigration and visa controls, or it could happen after a highly publicized incident, for example, a bloody street fight between some Turkmen youth and some Turkish youth, making it very difficult for Turkmen to continue working in these jobs. What will happen to those Turkmen? They still need money. If returning to Turkmenistan would have been an option, they would have done it already. Then, these Turkmen will go to another country, perhaps Russia, Dubai, or Poland, I don't know, and keep doing what they were doing in Turkey. They simply have to.

Let me give another example. Suppose, the Turkish government becomes worried about the plight of illegal Turkmen workers, and wants to do something to make their condition better. It passes a law that bans employing Turkmens below minimum wage. Would such an act improve these Turkmen's lot? No! Because, then, employing a Turkmen will lose all its attractiveness. Why should someone prefer Turkmen over Turks, when they will both have to be paid the full amount of the minimum wage. So, it is easy to see that if such a law is passed, the end result will be that Turkmens' place in these dirty jobs will simply be taken by other illegal immigrants.

I highly recommend the following article from the Atlantic magazine, on illegal Vietnamese immigrants on Vermont's dairy farms:

My conclusion is that there is never an easy solution to social problems. Back in 1980s, there were many Turkish workers in Saudi Arabia or Libya, working in construction jobs. At that time, these workers could earn more than they could in Turkey, hence they did not mind the difficult working conditions. They had to, there was no other choice. But today, Turkey's economy has improved, and the country is much more wealthy than it was 20 years ago. Hence, jobs in Saudi Arabia or Dubai has lost all its luster for the Turks. They can earn more money if they stay in Turkey. Have the poor working conditions and low wages ended in the Arab countries? No! The Turkish workers have simply been replaced with workers from India, Indonesia, and Philippines!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turkey and Armenia - on the brink of collapse? 

The Boston Globe published an article by David L. Phillips, titled "Turkey and Armenia - on the brink of collapse". The author's statement that "Turkish officials wavered at the last minute." is a blatant distortion of what happened on 10 October 2009. It was in fact the Armenian side, who wavered at the last minute, objecting to the statement Turkish FM was planning to make after the signing of the protocols. Looking at any photograph of the parties at the table after the signing makes it manifestly clear whose arm Hillary Clinton had to twist. The Turkish FM Ahmet Davudoglu was very calm and smiling, whereas his Armenian counterpart was nervous, red faced and visibly shaken.

Contrary to the author's claim, the ball is in the Armenian court. Armenian Constitutional Court's reference to Article 11 of Armenian declaration of independence is ridiculous and is squarely aimed at destroying any friendly relationship between the two country. For God's sake, can someone tell me what "Western Armenia" means? It refers to territory that is under Turkish sovereignty. No serious country in the world would engage in relations with another country not respecting its territorial integrity. Would the US accept Russia to call Alaska "Eastern Russia"? Would France accept Germany to claim that Alsace-Lorraine is eternally German? Would a British prime minister visit Dublin and speak under a map that showed Northern Ireland as part of the Irish Republic? Not a chance!

Clearly, Armenia is the aggressor here. It refuses to accept the internationally recognized borders of Turkey, while continuing its brutal occupation of 20% of Azerbaijan's territory, not to mention the autonomous Karabagh enclave. While thousands of Azeri refugees are living in camps, the international community is watching this clear violation of Azeri sovereignty in silence.

Armenia must shake up, and act as a responsible member of international community. That's the only way to achieve peace and stability in the region.

Monday, January 07, 2008

FT got it wrong on the Muslim headscarf ban in Turkey 

I was reading an opinion piece about President Abdullah Gul's Washington visit on the Financial Times, in which I spotted a frequently made mistake in the international press about the Muslim headscarf ban in Turkey, and decided to correct it. The author, Vincent Boland, claims that:
"Mr Gul’s wife wears the Muslim headscarf, which is banned in official buildings in Turkey."
It is true that Mr Gul's wife, Mrs. Hayrunnisa Gul, wears the Muslim headscarf, but it is simply not true that the headscarf is banned in official buildings in Turkey. Women covering their heads with a scarf are free to enter almost all official buildings: public schools and hospitals, post offices, central and provincial offices of nearly all ministries, court buildings, etc, as long as they are not working there. A student's mother, for example, can certainly go to her child's school and talk to the teacher, or go to the office of the Ministry of National Education, wearing a headscarf. However, if the mother happens to be a teacher herself at the same time, she cannot perform her job with her headscarf. She has to take it off. In the last ten years or so, a frequent argument one hears in the headscarf debate is the supposed distinction between those at the receiving end of the public service and those at the giving end. Accordingly, headscarf is OK if the wearer is not a public servant and on duty while wearing it. This argument was especially embraced by those desperately seeking a solution to the problem of female university students wearing headscarves. They claimed that just as a woman with headscarf can receive treatment at a public hospital, she should also be able to receive education at a public university.
I should also note that certain official buildings are off-limits to women with headscarves even if they are on the receiving end of the public service equation; the most visible examples are military buildings and universities. A mother wearing a headscarf cannot even attend his son's or daughter's wedding if it is held at an Orduevi (military community centre), visit her sibling's home if it is in a military lodging facility, or attend her sibling's graduation ceremony from a university. The military tries to argue that there is a difference between the traditional headscarf and the ones they have banned, in the so-called turban style, claiming that the latter has become a political symbol. But when you ask them what the difference is between the two headscarves, it all boils down to the so-called turban-wearer's insistence on fixing the scarf on their head with the use of metal pins. Thus, you come across the bizarre scenes of military personnel, asking women with headscarves with an embarassed attitude to please remove the pins on their scarves and tie the knots below their chin in a "rabbit-ear" style. The argument is as superficial as this, really.

There is another point that needs to be made. The headscarf ban for working women is not only found in the public workplaces, it is actually present in nearly all parts of the private sector. In the west, one is accustomed to the talk of "inclusion", and such notions as "equal opportunity employer" and yet, it is clear that a "glass ceiling" separates women and members of minority groups to climb the corporate ladder. Well, in Turkey, for professional women with college degrees, the glass ceiling begins at the entrance door, if they happen to wear headscarves. Take a look at the companies listed in the Istanbul Stock Exchange's 100 list (IMKB-100). You will NOT find a SINGLE woman with a headscarf as a manager, engineer, specialist, or any other white-collar profession. It's not as if there are not any women with university degrees who would like to cover their heads with a scarf, there are many! However, they cannot get a job anywhere, not just the public but the private sector as well, if they would like to keep their headscarves. The choice is theirs: either they will take off their headscarves and work, or they will stay home and use their diplomas as wall decoration.

In conclusion, Muslim headscarf is not banned in official buildings in Turkey. Nevertheless, for women professionals who would like to wear Muslim headscarves while working, it is banned almost everywhere.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Turchia, or Turkey, not the bird, the country

I have been looking for blogs from Turkey in English. I found blogs by Turks, but they were living abroad (actually, this one, but I suppose there are more). There were many from Turkey, but not in English. So, I decided to start one myself.

A few words on the title. Although Turkey is what my country is called in English, it is often a subject of ridicule (especially in the sports pages of English newspapers, when they beat our national team in soccer) by references to the turkey the bird. But the name originates from Turchia, as it was named by the Italians way back in the 11th century. (Now, I rely on the word of the venerable Ilber Ortayli, but I need to check this further in the Encyclopedia of Islam and Oxford English Dictionary.) The Turks did not use the term for a long time to come. The lands of the Seljukid state in Anatolia was called as diyar-i Rum, since they had conquered it from the Romans (that is, the Byzantines, but the Byzantines did not call themselves Byzantines either, always using the term Romaioi!). The Ottoman lands were called as the "Ottoman Imperial and Protected Domains," though in the documents of the foreign ministry the term Turkey began to be used in the 19th century. Only in 1923, with the proclamation of the republic did Turkey become the official name of the country.

So much for Turchia. "home of the Turks, land of the author of this blog" is a silly allusion I concocted (whoa! see how my GRE vocabulary is still in action) just a while ago, in an outrageous attempt to imitate "America: home of the brave, land of the free."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?