Why do I think European countries don’t criticize Turkey about its war in the mountains in the north of Iraq, and about repression of Kurds in Turkey, about the war crimes of the Turkish army and its mercenaries in the north of Syria? I was supposed to analyse the situation, but I couldn’t bear what I was going to say. So I exclaimed: “You know why? They are all just assholes and they don’t give a shit!” The longer I think about it, the more I like it as an expert analysis.
You’re supposed to reflect on all kinds of dynamics between Turkey and the EU and particular EU countries. Germany’s weapons industry, post-Brexit UK looking for trade partners, dynamics in the Mediterranean Sea with oil and Cyprus and Greece and Libya. The ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe in 2015 and the Turkey-deal that was a result of it and that is currently being re-negotiated, and Turkey’s historical reluctance to take any advice from abroad and especially from Europe because it was European countries that tried to weaken a fledgling Turkey into oblivion a century ago. Turkey is a NATO-member, Biden has only just assumed office, there are the relations with Russia and Turkey’s insistance on buying the S400 missile system, and Turkey and the airport of Kabul after the US has left Afghanistan.
Sorry Kurds, you are not a priority now. You gotta understand.
You have to add that you don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. It could very well be that on a diplomatic level, European leaders are metaphorically grabbing Erdoğan by the tie. That they emphasize the importance of human rights, press freedom, an independent judiciary, respect for election outcomes and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, and that there might be consequences if Turkey doesn’t respect etcetera. Insert: leverage. Europe doesn’t have it.
So don’t expect too much, Kurds, in these dynamics. You gotta understand.
But what I think is that Europe doesn’t aspire to have leverage. That they don’t have it, speaks volumes about how much they care about human rights: they’d have instant leverage when they would give up their fear of refugees and stop being intimidated by Turkey’s threats to put ajar its borders. What I mean to say is: all kinds of analysis about the relations between Turkey and the EU may be right in itself, but are built on the shaky assumption that the EU finds human rights as important as they claim to find it. It doesn’t.
Turkey may be behaving towards the Kurds like Saddam Hussein once did, as a NATO and Council of Europe member it remains a respected member of the international community. Asking Turkey to comply with ‘European standards’ assumes that Turkey intends to do that. It assumes that Turkey has a genuine wish to respect the right to life of its citizens, to not subject them to unfair trials, to not disenfranchise them, to respect their votes. That is the foundation trestling the European Court of Human Rights. But the assumption is wrong. Currently that is shown by the refusal to release political prisoners Selahattin Demirtaş, Osman Kavala and others from jail despite an ECHR order, a refusal seamlessly fitting the decades old problem of enormous case loads from Turkey on the ECHR’s desk.
The seeds of new cases are sown continuously. The files of the Kurdish citizens who have been attacked and murdered in an organized way in plain sight in cities in western Turkey this very month, will end up in Strassbourg one day. In this article in Al-Monitor, I read that during the last three years of the AKP-MHP coalition, not any of the 282 law proposals of the MHP passed parliament. It’s not so difficult to add up one and one: while the AKP takes care of further suppression of the Kurds in parliament, the MHP’s task is to unleash its Grey Wolves on the streets.
Border death squads
That Europe doesn’t aspire to have leverage to hold Turkey to account, isn’t something new either. Currently, the thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the push-backs and other illegal activities by Europe’s border death squads Frontex, the horrific detention centers in Greece and Libya for which Europe is responsible, are testimony of that, but also in Europe, this fits a pattern. On the brink of the Second World War, Jewish refugees were not welcome in many European countries, and after the Shoah, the survivors weren’t welcome anywhere either and remained in camps for displaced people for years and years.
The Turkish Republic may be in the worst era of its very existence when it comes to disrespect for human rights, the European Union, founded in 1993, is too. Sorry Kurds. It’s painful, but let’s not make it prettier than it is. Turkey is a fascist state, and Europe doesn’t give a shit.