‘The root cause of terrorism is hate, and anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism is one of the greatest, most enduring of all hates,” wrote Diane Weber Bederman in her Huffington Post blog on November 8, 2013. In 2009, the world witnessed a parodic moment when Turkey’s then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan manifested an unforgettable expression of this hatred, vowing never to return to the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum.
With one hand grasping the arm of the moderator, Erdogan turned to then Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and said: “Mr. Peres, you are older than me. Your voice comes out in a very loud tone. And the loudness of your voice has to do with a guilty conscience. My voice, however, will not come out in the same tone.”
Mr. Erdogan went on to say, “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” This reaction of Erdogan’s all of a sudden made him “the leader and role model of the Middle East,” a title which Erdogan is far from deserving given the number of children killed by the Turkish security forces during his rule.
As Louis Nizer put it, “When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself.”
The Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) reported that at least 580 Kurdish children have been killed by the Turkish state since 1988. 197 of those children have been killed during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002.
The police violence against Berkin Elvan, a 14-year-old teenager who died on March 11, 2014, from a head injury sustained during protests against the Turkish government, was widely covered by the international media, but unfortunately Berkin is not the only child victim of the Turkish state violence.
The child killings at the hands of police and military officials have become extremely commonplace in Turkey, the reason of which can be found in the remarks of Turkey’s rulers, and especially in the remarks of Erdogan who accuses others of “knowing well how to kill.”
In June last year, Erdogan proudly stated in a public speech that he personally gave the order to the police to suppress Gezi Park demonstrators by whatever means necessary. At the end of the demonstrations, eight people died, including the 14-year-old Berkin Elvan.
But that was not the only time that Erdogan made statements in public promoting police violence.
During the demonstrations held in Diyarbakir in 2006, Erdogan said: “Our security forces will intervene against anyone, including children and women, if they have turned into the pawns of terrorism.”
At the end of the demonstrations, 10 people had been killed by police, including 8-yearolds Enes Ata and Ismail Erkek, 9-year-old Abdullah Duran and 17-year-old Mahsum Mizrak.
Another Kurdish child who lost his life due to state violence was 18-month-old Mehmet Uytun. Uytun was killed by a gas canister when he was in his mother’s arms on the balcony of their house in the Cizre district of Sirnak on October 9, 2009.
In 2013, the Cizre district governorate announced that it would not allow an investigation into the killing. Rehsan Bataray Saman, lawyer of the child’s family, said that the case will be time-barred in two years and if the perpetrators are not brought to court until then, the killing of the child will become of the “unsolved murders” of Turkey.
The 11-year-old Mizgin Ozbek was also shot dead by security forces in the Kurdish province of Batman in 2006. Her mother Saniye Ozbek was also wounded in the attack and her father Hadi Ozbek was exposed to insults and torture, Batman Bar Association and rights organizations in the region reported.
Ugur Kaymaz was another child victim of police violence. The European Court of Human Rights convicted Turkey of violating the right to life of Ahmet Kaymaz and his 12-year-old son Ugur Kaymaz, who were shot dead by security forces in front of their house in the Kurdish province of Mardin in 2004.
Their autopsy reports revealed that 13 bullets were found in the body of 12-year-old Ugur and eight bullets in his father’s body.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the deaths of Ahmet and Ugur Kaymaz as “unlawful killings by security forces (which) underscored the continued potential for lethal state violence against civilians.” Ceylan Onkol, a 12-year-old Kurdish girl in Diyarbakir, was killed while tending sheep in her village by an explosive device thrown at her from a distance in 2009, the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) reported.
Onkol’s mother and relatives had to collect her dismembered body as gendarmerie officers did not allow the prosecutors to enter the field where the killing took place. Onkol’s murderer still remains unidentified as the prosecutor’s office announced that it had dismissed an investigation against the gendarmerie officers allegedly involved in her death due to lack of grounds for legal action.
In a political culture where state violence is continually and openly sanctified, aggrandized and encouraged by the heads of the state, it is only natural that killings of children – especially Kurdish children – by police and military forces become “ordinary” incidents in Turkey, for which none of the police or military officials who allegedly committed the murders have been given prison sentences.
For the perpetrators of these killings know very well that they will be protected by the state even if they commit the most appalling crimes in the name of “protecting” the state. They know very well that they can kill, wound, torture or maltreat anyone, including women or children, and never be brought to justice for their acts. They just follow the orders of Erdogan to protect the state, after all.
After the Turkish government has inflicted so much suffering on so many of its citizens, whitewashing its crimes as “necessary defense,” can it still claim the moral right to accuse others of “knowing well how to kill”? Actually, comparing the human rights records of Turkey and Israel would be an insult to human intelligence as the political and legal system in Israel is far more democratic and humane than Turkey on all levels. But as there are far too many anti-Semites and anti-Zionists whose hatred blinds their eyes to truth and justice, let me briefly describe how life for a Kurd is in Turkey, a subject which those so-called “human rights activists” who have been too willing to bash Israel have not even bothered to examine.
IN TURKEY where there are approximately 20 million Kurds; it was prohibited to simply state “I am Kurdish” until the 2000s. Kurds were not allowed to establish their own political parties from the 1920s to 1990. Even though the use of the Kurdish language is free on paper to some extent today, speaking it in courts and state institutions still creates serious difficulties. In 2009, when Ahmet Turk, a Kurdish MP of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) which was later closed down by the constitutional court, was delivering a speech in Turkish in Turkey’s parliament, he said he would like to continue his speech in Kurdish to celebrate the International Mother Language Day. The broadcast, of the stateowned TRT channel, (Turkish Radio and Television Association) was suddenly ceased and a presenter appeared, informing viewers that delivering a speech in the parliament in any language other than Turkish was against the law.
In 2010, when Kurdish defendants were tried in court in the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir, Bayram Altun, the former vice president of the banned Democratic Society Party (DTP) wanted to plead in Kurdish. The head of court said, “The defendant pleaded in an unknown language which is thought to be Kurdish” and asked the court officials to take the microphone away from him.
There are countless such examples which demonstrate that the Kurds have been exposed to unprecedented policies of assimilation and humiliation by the Turkish state for 90 years – since the Turkish republic was established in 1923. Unlike Turkish officials who simply denied the Kurds’ identity for decades, many Israeli officials have declared their willingness to recognize an independent Palestinian state if the latter is ready and willing to live in peace side-by-side with Israel.
After years of painful experience, Israel still wants peace as it has always done – but a peace that is real, which is only possible through “genuine recognition of the Jewish state,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with The Algemeiner last month.
It was Shimon Peres that said in 2012 that he expressed his desire for “a solution of two national states – a Jewish state, Israel; an Arab state, Palestine. The Palestinians are our closest neighbors. I believe they may become our closest friends.”
To hear a similar statement from a Turkish state official about Kurds or the possibility of a Kurdish state would be a sign of doomsday.
It is simply impossible. Historically, Turkish authorities have been allergic to the idea of Kurdish statehood.
Because of this institutionalized hatred of Kurds in Turkey, they do not have a single primary school where they can get education in their native language, let alone a state of their own. They are still not recognized as a distinct ethnic community in Turkey’s constitution.
Palestinian leaders, however, have rejected the proposal of an independent Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza at least five times since 1937 because they did not want to accept a Jewish state in the rest of Israel.
Do the people who blindly attack Israel under the guise of “defending Palestinian rights” truly care about the lives of Gazans? Not really. If they did, they would, first and foremost criticize Hamas, a terrorist organization, for hijacking the Gazans’ right to self-determination with its terrorist acts and genocidal charter.
Unlike the Hamas Charter, which stresses its commitment to killing all of the Jews in Israel, Israel’s Declaration of Independence specifically calls on the Arab inhabitants of Israel to “participate in the upbuilding of the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship.”
The founding documents of Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Hezbollah also declare that their goal is the destruction of Israel.
And this week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian man who shot Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick would go to heaven as a martyr. It is just common sense that the desire to achieve peace and the lust for destruction cannot go hand in hand. Israel and Palestine could have realized a “two state solution” several times already if Palestinian leaders did not have this sick obsession of destroying Israel.
Bashing Israel while Israel itself is the victim of a terrorist organization and all other anti-Israel hate groups worldwide will never help promote peaceful coexistence in the region and will only make the victim look like the perpetrator, and the perpetrator the victim.
As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel told Ynet, “People are no longer ashamed to be anti-Semites.”
According to Wiesel, the modern anti-Semite is, first and foremost, anti-Israel. “It’s very difficult to separate between the two,” he said.
“There are anti-Semites who are only anti-Israel,” he explained. “Once I thought that anti-Semitism had ended; today it is clear to me that it will probably never end. It might weaken sometimes, but it will continue existing, because in different countries there is no shame in being an anti-Semite. We must remember that anti-Semitism led to Auschwitz.
Without anti-Semitism there would have been no Auschwitz.”
Given the brutal attacks against the Jews in Israel and worldwide, and how aggressors shamelessly take pride in their violence, Wiesel seems to be right, and that is a tragic reality for the 21st century. The human race should have reached a higher moral level than this, but instead it has been blinded by genocidal Jew-hatred.
Apparently, the world will never completely heal from this disease called anti-Semitism, and will continue to attack the Jews in different ways. But should anti-Semitism deprive the State of Israel of its right to self-defense? That is the question.
All sane people throughout the world should know the answer.
The writer is a freelance Turkish journalist based in Ankara.