Friday, 29 February 2008

Turkey's war on PKK

Cem Uzun reports from Istanbul.

Turkey's invasion of Iraq is continuing, and PKK militants and Turkish soldiers, the sons of poor Turkish families, continue to die. The death toll is 150 and rising at the time of writing.

The fighting is in appalling conditions and scores of Turkish soldiers have been hospitalised with frostbite. No-one can know how many fighters and civilians have suffered the same fate on the “other” side.

Turkish media are filled with nationalistic propaganda. The familiar “precision strike” videos are accompanied by the funerals of the Turkish soldiers who have died, under headings like “Ibrahim was sent to heaven”.

US secretary of defense Robert Gates visited Ankara this week and asked, as did George Bush, that the invasion should be “short”.

The reply from Turkey's chief of the general staff, Buyukanit was, “Short is a relative term, it could mean a day and it could mean a year. We will withdraw when our job is done. How long have you been in Afghanistan?” At the time of writing some troops are returning from Iraq, but it does not look likely that the invasion is over.

Turkey's operations are being supported by instant satellite and electronic intelligence from the US. However, Turkey's invasion threatens to destabilise Northern Iraq into civil war, damaging US interests. The US is threatening to cut off the flow of intelligence if Turkey prolongs the invasion.

However, if the US does cut off intelligence, the Turkish Army will have an excuse for extending their stay to “complete their job”, claiming that without intelligence it will take longer. In this game of chess, people continue to die.

Meanwhile opposition is growing to the invasion inside Turkey. Turkey's Kurds have been protesting since day one. Parents of dead soldiers have started to question why their children have died, questioning army officers who turn up to the funerals about where the officers' own sons did their military service.

A significant turning point came on a live television game program called “Popstar Alaturka”. As part of the nationalistic propaganda campaign the program started with a minute's silence for the “martyrs”, as they are called, of the invasion.

At the end of the minute's silence, jury member and superstar singer (and transsexual) Bulent Ersoy, took the microphone and said, “I am not a mother, and I can never be a mother, but if I were a mother, I would not send my son to fight in someone else's war.”

There has been an instant lynch campaign against Bulent Ersoy and a mainstream media blackout on her replies to criticisms. The public prosecutor has taken out charges against her for “turning the people against the army”.

In a press conference the day after her television appearance, she defended her words, saying, (about the Kurdish problem) “If asking for a solution, rather than death, is a crime, then let them come and hang me right now.”

Now thousands of signatures are pouring into the “No to the military operations” campaign web site in support of Bulent Ersoy and calling for the prosecution of Ersoy to be stopped. The Turkish Human Rights Association and Turkey's Peace Parliament have also come out in support of Bulent Ersoy.

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