Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Matter of Principle

Why Turkey must not yet be allowed into Europe...

Writing in the Guardian last year, Martin Kettle argued that it was ‘disgraceful’ that Turkey’s bid to join the European Union was moving so slowly. He thus echoed the views of Prime Minister David Cameron who, last July, expressed his anger towards those in Europe who are hostile to Turkish membership, asserting that it is ‘wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent’. What neither Kettle nor Cameron seems to recognise is that there are important legal and political reasons preventing Turkey from becoming a part of Europe, and until these challenges are met, its membership must be refused as a matter of principle.
Firstly, the government in Ankara maintains its illegal occupation of Cyprus, a nation already possessing EU membership. Since the forced partition in 1974, Turkey has evicted almost one-third of the original Greek-Cypriot population from their homes, imported Turks from the mainland to inhabit the territory, and persistently used aid and weaponry given to it by the United States specifically for its own defense to help with its occupation and colonization of the island. Turkey remains the only country in the world to recognise northern Cyprus as a state and maintains a 30,000 strong troop presence there to this day.
Secondly, Turkey persists in its denial of rights to the country’s Kurdish minority. Despite constituting around 18 percent of the population, the Kurds have had their language prohibited from being taught in public schools, their political parties banned, and their freedom of expression curtailed by stringent laws. Though the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made improvements on the issue in recent years, there remains a great distance to go.
Finally, the Turkish government continues to lie about the genocide of 1915, in which one and a half million Christian Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turks. Though some may argue that what happened almost 100 years ago is unimportant today, imagine what the international reaction would be if the German government refused to accept that the Holocaust ever occurred. Like the events of 1939-45, we have pictures, original Ottoman documents, first-hand accounts of witnesses, a post-war trial, and even movie reel from the First World War to attest to the genocide of the Armenians, yet the Turkish government still peddles the lie that any violence that occurred was the product of a civil war. Moreover, thanks to its grotesque ‘Law 301’ which prohibits ‘denigration of the Turkish nation’, writers who dare to speak out about Turkish atrocities are regularly prosecuted by the government.
A country that maintains its illegal occupation of Cyprus, suppresses Kurdish rights, lies about the twentieth century’s first genocide, and incriminates its own writers for daring to speak the truth about their country’s history is not one that should be allowed into the European ‘tent’. Until the Turkish government is willing to drastically reconsider its position in regards to these important issues, Turkey is destined to remain out in the cold.
by Matt Jones

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