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Archive for July, 2016

5 decades after China’s Cultural Revolution, a few say sorry

June 02, 2016

BEIJING (AP) — As a teenager, Wang Keming felt nothing but contempt for the older peasant his village singled out for collective persecution in 1970. Stirred by Mao Zedong’s radical ideology and inured to the rampant violence of China’s Cultural Revolution, he beat the man bloody and saw nothing wrong with it.

Decades later, Wang felt something that few of the millions of people who committed abuses have publicly acknowledged: guilt. He expressed remorse to his victim and later he shared his apology in a national journal, in what is believed to have been the first public apology by anyone for personal acts committed during the Cultural Revolution’s violent decade.

“I realized that what I did was an individual political act, and I must take responsibility for it,” the retired newspaper editor said in an interview at his suburban Beijing home. “Otherwise, my heart would be troubled for the rest of my life.”

Since Wang’s 2008 public apology, dozens of other participants have accepted responsibility and shown contrition. The vast majority have not, though an entire generation was almost wholly caught up in the events. About one million people were estimated to have died from execution, persecution, extreme humiliation, factional warfare and savage prison conditions — often in the hands of their fellow country people.

The Communist Party, which still rules China with an iron fist, also has yet to apologize five decades after Mao launched the movement to realize his radical communist egalitarian vision. The party closed the book on the era in 1981 without holding Mao responsible or apologizing to the nation. It instead rendered a verdict that the movement was a “catastrophe” caused by mistaken policies and a handful of self-serving political radicals. A further re-examination of the decade might further threaten its legitimacy to rule; last month’s 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution was met mostly with stony official silence.

Advocates of greater openness say that without an honest accounting, wounds will never heal and the movement’s unaddressed history will impede China’s political development. Xu Youyu, a liberal Chinese intellectual, said that by failing to admit its mistakes, China’s leadership set the wrong example.

“Such an attitude has affected the masses, giving individuals an excuse not to apologize, because those with graver mistakes have not said sorry,” Xu said.

Wang was among millions of city youths sent to the countryside at the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1969. Then 16, he was eager to play his part and prove his fervent loyalty to Mao.

By then, schools had been shut down and urban teenagers were wandering the streets with little to do but pick fights with each other. To prevent further rounds of chaos, Mao sent them to the vast countryside, ostensibly to spread revolution and learn life lessons from the peasantry.

Wang found himself in Yujiagou in northern Shaanxi province, a stark area of loess hills where he was forced to endure back-breaking work plowing fields of buckwheat, millet, wheat and sorghum on the arid slopes.

Wang was not allowed to participate in the revolution in Beijing, partly because his father had been labeled a “capitalist roader,” one of Mao’s worst class enemies. Now he saw his chance.

“I really wanted to join the revolution. I thought it was a meaningful thing,” Wang said. “The collective education instilled in me had sowed hatred in me against enemies.”

He never had a second thought about using violence. “Revolution is violence,” he said, citing a common saying from the Cultural Revolution years. “I never thought violence was a bad thing.”

As an excitable teenager, Wang also preferred joining political meetings called to denounce those designated as society’s bad elements over performing strenuous farm work.

“Since I slacked off in farm work, maybe I could make up for it by my zeal in the political movement, to show that at least I was politically reliable,” he said.

So, when the village picked peasant Gu Zhiyou to meet its quota of bad elements, Wang enthusiastically joined the farce of shaming the man, whose alleged counter-revolutionary crimes had included quoting an ancient Chinese proverb linking a weather pattern to mass deaths. His critics said Gu was hoping for an invasion by what was then the Soviet Union, whose relationship with China had soured.

At an Aug. 14, 1970, denouncing session, Wang shouted slogans against Gu. The group took a break, and Gu sat on a grindstone in the shade of a tree, but Wang felt a need to continue hounding the man.

“But every word I heard (from him) was defiant, and I told myself, ‘You can’t be kind to enemies.’ So I suddenly shouted, ‘You are still resisting,'” Wang wrote in his public apology. “I stepped forward, raised my right arm and slung it at him. I hit his face with my fist.”

Gu was left splayed on the grindstone, his nose and mouth bleeding. “I was a bit taken aback that I beat him to the point of bleeding, but then I told myself, ‘He is an enemy, and I can beat him as long as he is an enemy.'”

Scholars say that by engineering the Cultural Revolution for mass participation, Mao unleashed destructive powers upturning the prevailing social order, distorting morals and setting free the ugliest side of human nature.

“The Cultural Revolution corrupted people’s morals,” said Wang Youqin, a University of Chicago lecturer who has documented Cultural Revolution-era killings. “Too many ordinary people were part of it, and they are unwilling to admit wrongs.”

The movement began with a document issued May 16, 1966, by the Communist Party’s Politburo, which also purged four top officials. Widespread violence was not immediate, but that August and early September in Beijing alone, Wang said an official document tallied 1,772 related deaths of people who were beaten, tortured or took their own lives.

Many of the victims were schoolteachers persecuted by their students organized into Mao’s bands of youthful revolutionary Red Guards.

Wang said the killing spree — intensified by Mao’s encouragement of Red Guard violence — was one of the worst in Chinese history during peacetime.

“The weapons used to kill were not guns and knives, but the fists, clubs and copper-buckled belts of the Red Guards,” Wang wrote in a 2014 article. “The process of killing often took hours or even days. It should be called torture-killing.”

Cheng Bi, a 93-year-old retired Beijing school administrator, was abused by many students but believes two students — whose names she still remembers — should have apologized for their particularly brutal acts against her during the Cultural Revolution. One is dead, and she does not expect the other to apologize.

She recalled how she was forced to kneel with her arms raised while one of the students beat her wrists repeatedly. The other whipped her 45 times, turning her body purple.

“Anyone could beat me at any time,” Cheng said, recalling how her persecutors shaved half her head to shame her in what was spitefully termed the “ying-yang hairstyle.”

“They beat me with belts, slapped me in the face, forced me to perform labor and starved me. The students threw away my pain medications so I had to endure the physical pains,” Cheng said.

In one incident, students slapped her rice bowl out of her hands three times in a row because they didn’t think she deserved to eat, she recalled. “I was so humiliated I wished a big ditch would suddenly appear in front of me so I could fall into it,” Cheng said.

But she survived. In her school, one teacher hanged herself after five rounds of savage beatings by students during a single night. Another young staffer was beaten to death by students wielding wooden training guns, belts and lead pipes.

Decades later, Cheng did receive an apology, from an unexpected source. Shen Xiaoke, who as a student once harangued Cheng using the ideological language of the extreme left, sent her a letter in 2010.

“It bothered me that I was so irrational then,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in the central province of Hubei.

“I was really surprised,” Cheng said. “I didn’t think he’d done anything bad to me and wondered why he needed to apologize.”

Inspired by Shen, several more students apologized to Cheng for their ignorance, rudeness and callousness during the decade. He’s happy that a national newspaper published his letter, though it was printed without his prior knowledge.

“It can serve to represent the classmates who are too ashamed or do not have guts to apologize yet,” Shen said.

He noted that it’s easier for students with no blood on their hands to say sorry than those who do, Shen said.

He knows of a former classmate who kicked the teacher who later hanged herself. He said the former student has not apologized, but privately has broken down wailing when speaking of the psychological burden.

After attacking Gu, Wang Keming remained in Yujiagou for several years and even worked alongside his victim. Gu was kind to him.

Wang said he felt a tinge of sorrow but quickly justified his act on the grounds it was a part of the revolution. “I kept coming up with reasons for my act, but my inner conflicts only grew worse.”

In 1978, Wang returned to Beijing. He worked as a laborer, then landed a job at a newspaper. He later devoted himself to studying the dialects and folk cultures of northern Shaanxi.

Wang came to realize the Cultural Revolution was a mistake, and later concluded that he bore personal responsibility.

“When we put collective values ahead of individual values, there can be no place for human rights, and no respect for humanity,” Wang said. “Because of people like me, a totalitarian regime gets to be stable.”

In 2004, Wang apologized to Gu, who died four years later.

“Hey, it was a political movement,” Wang quoted Gu as saying in his public apology. “You were only a kid and didn’t know anything.”

In January 2008, Wang’s apology appeared in a national journal. The article prompted a book project spearheaded by Wang and other Chinese intellectuals to find more people willing to own up to their actions.

More than 30 agreed, including Zhang Hongbing, a Beijing lawyer who had informed on his own mother. She died during the course of her persecution.

“We were the accomplices of the evil,” Zhang wrote.

Wang Jiyu admitted that on Aug. 5, 1967, he clubbed a boy who had hit him with a rock in a group fight.

“He flew like a tossed bag and tumbled down an embankment. As he slowly crawled back up, I smashed him on the forehead and the blood splashed onto the club,” Wang wrote.

He was never legally punished for killing the boy.

“Repentance is not enough, and it may take generations of reflection to understand why there was so much hatred,” Wang Jiyu wrote in 2008. “For me, the remorse for the killing has only grown heavier with each year.”

Sudan’s al-Bashir, attending Rwanda summit, defies the ICC

July 16, 2016

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Rwanda on Saturday to attend a summit of African leaders, defying an international warrant for his arrest after public assurances from Rwandan leaders that he would not be arrested.

The African Union summit on Sunday is expected to discuss the continent’s uneasy relationship with the International Criminal Court, which some say unfairly targets Africans. Ahead of the summit, some African countries renewed efforts to quit the ICC en masse despite the opposition of some countries like Botswana. Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast have been pushing back as well in recent days.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has led growing criticism of the ICC, calling it “useless” during his inauguration in May, an event that al-Bashir attended. Some countries want a separate African court with jurisdiction over rights abuses.

“Withdrawal from ICC is entirely within the sovereignty of a particular state,” Joseph Chilengi, an AU official, told reporters Saturday. Al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC for alleged atrocities in the country’s Darfur region.

He should be at the ICC answering to charges that include genocide, “not persisting in this game of cat-and-mouse with the court,” Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch said Saturday night. Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said this week that Rwanda would not arrest al-Bashir.

“Africa doesn’t support criminals, but when justice is involved with a lot of politics we take a pause to separate the two,” Mushikiwabo told reporters. The African Union summit also will discuss South Sudan, where clashing army factions raised concerns of a return to civil war. The chaos threatens a peace deal signed last August between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who is attending the summit, has called for an arms embargo.

Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.

6 Iraqi cabinet ministers resign

July 21, 2016

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi has accepted the resignation of six cabinet ministers, his office revealed yesterday.

According to a press release posted on the prime minister’s website, Al-Abadi has accepted the resignation of the ministers of oil, transport, construction and housing, water resources, industry and interior.

Interior Minister Mohammed Salem Al-Ghabban resigned earlier this month following the attacks in central Baghdad that killed 300 people.

Political analyst Haroun Mohammed told Quds Press that Al-Abadi’s acceptance of the ministers’ resignation is an endorsement of the status quo.

“The ministers already resigned about two months ago and stressed at the time that they will not join their ministries whether Al-Abadi accepted or rejected their resignation. But Al-Abadi has filled up the vacuum by mandating their tasks to other minister in order not to lose the quorum,” Mohammed said.

He rejected reports that Al-Abadi accepted the ministers’ resignations due to pressure from the Sadrist movement.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


‘I kept saying, not again’: Egyptians react to Turkey’s failed coup

Thursday 21 July 2016

CAIRO – When Shereen heard that a coup attempt was underway in Turkey, her heart rate jumped.

“I almost cried,” said the Egyptian housewife and longtime Muslim Brotherhood supporter. “I remembered the same moment, with the same scenario here.”

Shereen, who declined to use her last name for security reasons, stayed up all night watching the news on television.

“My husband told me not to worry,” she said. “What happened here won’t happen there.”

Across town Shaima Sabry, another housewife who shares mutual friends with Shereen, watched a completely different event unfold: This was a “show” that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had put on “to get revenge and more power”.

Sabry, who supports the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said she was “upset with the way Erdogan and the people treated their military”.

As the coup attempt in Turkey last Friday grabbed the world’s attention, the news hit close to home in Egypt as many, like Shereen and Shaima, saw reflections of politics in their own country in recent years, and their reactions mirror a public that is still deeply divided.

“There is the pro-regime lobby that saw the [Turkish coup] as a victory for the Egyptian regime itself,” said Ziad Akl, a political sociologist and senior researcher at the Egyptian Studies Unit in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

There is also, Akl said, the anti-government lobby, which is composed of different political forces including the Muslim Brotherhood who “think that [the failure of the coup is] a triumph for legitimacy”.

For them, says Akl, Erdogan’s post-coup actions exemplify “how a coup should be dealt with”.

‘Revolution from inside’

Though the international media had confirmed the failure of the coup in Turkey by the early morning hours of 16 July, headlines in public and private Egyptian newspapers told citizens that the attempt to seize power in Turkey had actually succeeded.

“Turkey’s military disposes of Erdogan…The military rules Turkey and removes Erdogan” the front pages of the state-owned al-Ahram, and the privately owned al-Masry al-Youm and al-Watan read.

Controversial talk show host Ahmed Mousa insisted that what took place in Turkey was not a “coup at all,” but a “revolution from inside the Turkish military forces”.

He told viewers that, in Turkey’s “revolutions… the Turkish military always wins”.

Another host on the al-Balad channel said that the Turkish citizens who took to the streets in opposition to the coup “look like ISIS”.

On an official level, however, Egypt blocked a UN Security Council statement that condemned the unrest in Turkey and called on all parties to “respect the democratically elected government of Turkey,” Reuters reported.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said after the incident that they were only opposed to “the wording” of the statement.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded: “It is only natural for those who gained power through a coup to avoid taking a stance against the coup attempt that targeted our democratically elected President and Government.”

Reliving the coup

For many Egyptians, the events in Turkey were like a chance to relive the events of 3 July 2013, which saw a popular-backed coup oust democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi – but now with the benefit of hindsight.

Shereen, the Cairo housewife who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, said that watching the Turkish coup attempt made it clear to her that the power of the people is “the most important thing”.

She was one of the millions who took to the streets to protest the 3 July coup in Egypt and who, like her friends, lost loved ones when Egyptian security forces violently dispersed the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins staged in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in August 2013, killing at least 904 protesters.

“In Turkey, Erdogan had the support of a large faction of the military, the police, the television channels – and the opposition parties stood with him,” she said.

“Here, it was the opposite. We had a really weak alternative media. The police, their families, and a lot of people who believed what was happening took to the streets on 30 June,” she said in reference to a day of mass protests against Morsi’s rule.

“It was a lost cause,” she said.

But for Mohamed el-Raai, an independent photojournalist based in Cairo, the coup attempt in Turkey did not make him think too much of Egypt, “because there are a lot of differences between the incident there and the incident here”.

Still, he said, the way the Egyptian media covered the event “was naïve and backwards – we’ve gotten used to expecting this from them. They insist on scaring us with more arbitrariness, lies, and ignorance.”

Raai also said that the support opposition parties gave Erdogan against the coup was “a great response”.

“They put the nation’s interests, freedom and democracy above their personal disagreements with the ruling group in Turkey,” he said.

“It’s not about Erdogan as a person, but about the ideals of democracy.”

Hatem Ali, a doctor and a political activist, said the first thing that came to his mind as he followed the Twitter feeds of Turkish activists were ”the drawbacks that this coup will bring to the Syrian refugees and to Syria”.

It also, he said, brought memories back of the 2013 coup in Egypt, leaving him wondering if a scenario similar to that of Rabaa Square might follow.

“I kept thinking: How many innocent people will die for this? How many of Erdogan’s supporters will have to die?” he said.

“But in the end, there can’t be a comparison between Egypt and Turkey,” Ali said. “Turkey did not have a [Mohamed al-]Baradei or politicians who said we should get rid of the elected government first, then see how we can deal with the army, as was done in Egypt.”

“The difference,” he said, “is that mainstream people in Turkey, whether they support Erdogan or not, are more conscious and oriented with political life than all the Egyptian ‘politicians’ who now express regret for their participation in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Scarier than Rabaa

Egyptians who fled to Turkey after the crackdown in their homeland also said they had a heartfelt scare last Friday.

Salma Ashraf, an Egyptian human rights worker now based in Turkey, said she initially did not understand what was going on. But when she realized a military coup was underway, she was in “utter shock”.

“It reminded me of when the military in Egypt kept Morsi in secret detention. When Erdogan appeared on FaceTime, I was sure that it was a coup because the exact same things happened with Morsi,” she said.

“[Erdogan’s] calls to the people to take to the streets reminded me of Egypt and, in my mind, I kept saying ‘not again’. I imagined another sit-in, and another Rabaa. My mind just could not take it.”

Ashraf, who was at Rabaa Square in August 2013, said the Turkish coup attempt was scarier for her than Rabaa because it was only later, after the events in the square, that she realized what she had been through. When the events in Turkey began, though, she “quickly felt fear”.

“I kept imagining and remembering everything what I [had] experienced before,” she said.

“People in the streets, helicopters killing them, blood on the streets, protesters shot dead next to us and the whole massacre then: another Egypt, now.”

Ashraf said her brothers, also living in exile in Turkey, admired how quickly the Turkish people reacted to the coup, and that they had had joined anti-coup protesters in the streets.

Ashraf said she was relieved when the coup failed, and her fears that she might be deported began to abate.

But she is watching events closely.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Turkey readies cross-party rally against coup, for democracy

By Frank Zeller with Raziye Akkoc in Ankara

Istanbul (AFP)

July 24, 2016

Turkey readied Sunday for its first cross-party rally against the bloody putsch attempt, following the break up of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential guard as sweeping purges of suspected state enemies continue.

The mass rally, to be held under tight security on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim square, was called by the biggest opposition group, the secular and center-left Republican People’s Party.

But in a show of patriotic post-coup unity, it will be joined by Erdogan’s ruling Islamic-conservative AKP party, whose followers have covered city squares in seas of red Turkish crescent flags every night since the failed coup.

Sunday’s mass event, expected to be boosted by free public transport in the city of 15 million, will seek to soothe divisions after the shock of the July 15 coup and the subsequent government crackdown.

“The Turkish republic is stronger than it was in the past,” wrote Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in an editorial in the HaberTurk daily.

“Turkey is on democracy watch … This watch continues until the anti-democratic elements are cleaned out,” he said.

The number of alleged conspirators who have been rounded up has surged above 13,000 with soldiers, police, justice officials and civilians all targeted in a crackdown that has alarmed European leaders.

– ‘Right-hand man’ –

Turkey has undergone a seismic shift since the night of violence when renegade soldiers sought to topple Erdogan but were stopped by crowds of civilians and loyalist soldiers and police in clashes that claimed 270 lives.

In the latest reaction to the coup, Yildirim said Turkey would disband the 2,500-strong Presidential Guard, saying there was “no need” for the elite regiment.

Almost 300 of its officers have been detained after some of them forced TV news presenters to read statements stating that martial law had been declared during the abortive coup attempt.

Under new police powers decreed as part of a three-month state of emergency, all those detained can be held without charge for 30 days.

Also targeted in the sweep was an alleged senior financier for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen — the reclusive spiritual leader who Turkey accuses of being the mastermind behind the botched attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

Security forces detained the aide, Halis Hanci, in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, a senior official said, describing him as a “right-hand man” to 75-year-old Gulen and responsible for transferring funds for him.

Police also detained Kerime Kurmas — reportedly Turkey’s only female fighter pilot — who is accused of being one of the rebel air force officers who flew thundering F-16 jets low over the roofs of Istanbul on the coup night.

– ‘Come here and see’ –

Erdogan’s government has also sacked tens of thousands of teachers, university lecturers and civil servants and ordered the closure of thousands of schools, associations and charities as it seeks to rid the state of what he has called the Gulenist “virus”.

But European leaders have protested the mass purge, with Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warning that “a country that jails its own university professors and journalists imprisons its future”.

Turkey has argued that EU leaders simply do not understand the seriousness of the threat to Turkish democracy.

“Come here and see how serious this is!”, EU Minister Omer Celik said at a foreign media briefing.

“Those who look at Turkey from far away think it is a Pokemon game,” he added, referring to the viral Japanese cartoon smartphone game.

The coup and the tough response to it have forced government critics and dissidents to walk a fine line: while the putsch attempt is almost universally condemned, many fear being targeted in a retaliatory witch-hunt.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, has warned heightened police powers and rule by decree “pave the way for more injustice”.

The turmoil has strained Turkey’s ties with its NATO allies and cast a shadow over its long-term bid to join the European Union.

Celik insisted Ankara remained committed to joining the bloc and would honor a landmark deal with the EU to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

But Erdogan struck a darker tone, telling France 24 television on Saturday that “for the past 53 years Europe has been making us wait”, and that no EU candidate country “has had to suffer like we have had to suffer”.

He rejected the European criticism of his response to the coup attempt, saying that “they are biased, they are prejudiced, and they will continue to act in this prejudiced manner towards Turkey”.

Source: Space War.


Why is Turkey’s Erdogan being demonized in the West?

July 22, 2016

Soumaya Ghannoushi

Many masks have slipped since Turkey’s failed military coup last Friday, such that a great many on the right and the left alike, who never tire of eulogizing about democracy and human rights, the masses, and people power have been exposed as little more than pseudo liberals and fake democrats.

Ironically, the same western “experts”, “analysts” and “commentators”, who had in the last Turkish elections gleefully predicted the overthrow of the AKP but were sorely disappointed after its victory, have committed an even more colossal error of judgment this time round.

Instead of expressing a clear principled stance against military coups and in favour of democracy and the popular will, they chose to side with the putschists as they bombed the Turkish parliament with F16s and gunned down peaceful protesters.

They cheerfully sought justification for the plot to topple a democratically elected government when it was under way, heaping scorn on the elected president instead of the generals and soldiers who conspired to overthrow him.

And when the coup was defeated, against all the odds, the tune turned to lamentations over democracy and its terrible plight under “arrogant” and “authoritarian” Erdogan and gloomy warnings of an inevitable slide to repression and tyranny.

A Sunday Times commentator even rebuked the coup plotters, which he referred to using such lofty descriptions as “the guardians of secularism” and “a force for progress”, even as “Modernity” itself, for staging its coup in July when “everyone is soporific with the heat”, suggesting that September would have yielded the desired outcome.

The same symphony of exoneration of the coup plotters and demonisation of Erdogan was played by left-wing media. Hours after the coup’s launch, the liberal, left-leaning Guardian ran a piece that bore the surreal title “Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup – by Erdogan, not the army”.

Neither was the response of western governments any more principled. Resorting to diplomatic sophistry, they initially avoided denunciation of the coup, confining themselves to vacuous calls for “caution” and “restraint”.

Only when the tens of thousands of ordinary Turks who defied the curfew and, unarmed, resisted the attempt to drag their country back to the dark era of military dictatorship, managed to defeat the seceders did these hollow phrases shift towards tepid statements of “support for democracy” and lengthy expressions of concern for the putschists and their fates.

Erdogan may have committed numerous errors, moving as he is in a highly complex local and regional context. What is indisputable though is that his power is founded on electoral and popular legitimacy.

And, like him or loathe him, the Turkish president has done more to democratize the country than any other leader in its modern history, strengthening its civil institutions and corroborating the authority of the people in opposition to a military which had wrought havoc in its political life.

The AKP era has seen the liberation of civil rule from the generals’ hegemony, reform of the military and restructuring of the security service, intelligence apparatus and special forces.

Through the accumulation of democratic traditions, with the liberalization of the country’s political system via successive elections, political pluralism and the widening role of civil society, the Turkish people have grown freer, bolder, and more able to defy the edicts of putschists and generals.

The paradox is that no other leader in the Middle East is more demonized than Erdogan when he is one of the very few heads of state who have actually been democratically elected in that part of the world “we” wish to keep as a “black hole” and “our” antithesis.

As for our allies, who range between seasoned autocrats and bloodthirsty generals, they are safely exempted from our criticism, plots and conspiracies. In fact, they may even do our dirty work for us, as some of our oil rich Gulf friends did in Egypt and continue to do in Libya and other countries in the region.

For this is the deal: either a democracy that yields those we want, that is, those who do as we say and serve our interests, and eliminates those we disapprove of, which is the ideal scenario for us. Otherwise, we must look to our reserves of putschists and generals around the region to do the necessary in quick “surgical” interventions.

Our orchestra of apologists would swiftly move to embellish the ugly spectacle with fact-reversing analyses and commentaries than turn coup-plotters into “guardians of modernity” and “agents of progress” and democratically elected leaders into “dictators”.

As for those citizens who dared defend their electoral choices, they will be painted as zealots and religion-crazed fanatics, or in Turkey’s case, as “Erdogan’s Islamist mobs“, as one British newspaper referred to the anti-coup protesters.

The truth is that the West couldn’t care less about democracy or human rights. They are irrelevant when it comes to its friends and allies and are only valuable as a stick with which it may beat its rivals and enemies. If Erdogan is being vilified today, it is not because he is a not democrat or a tyrant, but because he is not pliant to western dictates and willing to keep to the rules and parameters the West lays down in the region.

The real challenge, then, is: are western powers able to accept and deal fairly with a leader who expresses the will of his people and his country’s interests, which may not necessarily coincide with their will and their interests?

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Turkey’s state of emergency begins; critics fear overreach

July 22, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s president triumphantly rallied supporters after prayers at a mosque Friday as his government announced new details about the state of emergency imposed after an attempted coup.

The changes included extending the period that suspects can be detained without charges to up to a week. “Victory belongs to the faithful,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told hundreds of people outside a mosque in Ankara, the capital. He said pro-government protesters faced down guns and tanks during the July 15 uprising and accused followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the alleged director of the uprising, of mocking the Turkish people.

Gulen has strongly denied any knowledge of the attempted military coup. “Here is the army, here is the commander!” the crowd in Ankara chanted. They also called for the reintroduction of the death penalty for use against coup plotters, a request that Erdogan has said he would consider despite concerns that it would violate Turkey’s international commitments and rupture ties with Europe.

Germany has expressed concern about the rule of law in Turkey, saying several people detained in the wake of the failed coup appeared to have been mistreated. “(This) raises troubling questions, if accused people are seen on television or photos bearing clear traces of physical violence,” Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the German government, told reporters Friday in Berlin.

Germany hopes Turkey’s state of emergency will be as short as possible and that it would have no impact on a deal between the EU and Ankara to halt the flow of migrants crossing to Europe, Seibert said.

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday approved the three-month state of emergency, which gives Erdogan sweeping new powers. He has said the state of emergency will counter threats to Turkish democracy, though critics are urging restraint because they fear the measure will violate basic freedoms.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster CNN Turk that the period of detention that most suspects can be held without charges will be extended from 1-2 days to about one week in the first stage of the state of emergency.

The Turkish government has already imposed a crackdown that has included mass arrests, mass firings and closing hundreds of schools allegedly linked to Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Those targeted in the crackdown include prominent journalist Orhan Kemal Cengiz and his wife, Sibel Hurtas, who were detained at Istanbul’s main international airport as they prepared to leave the country Thursday. They were taken to police headquarters for questioning, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, praised most Turkish media for quickly criticizing the attempted coup but he railed against foreign media reports that he said provided “one-sided coverage under the influence of this organization of assassins,” a reference to supporters of Gulen.

The government says 246 pro-government people — forces and civilians — died during the attempted coup, and at least 24 coup plotters were also killed. Some media have cited concerns that Erdogan’s crackdown is at least partly designed to sideline legitimate opposition to his government and expand his power.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, has asked for access to the trials against alleged coup plotters in Turkey. “Turkey needs to be reminded regularly that, after parts of the military tried to change the country, it would be a bitter irony now if the government would change the democratic state from above,” Michael Georg Link, director of the OSCE’s office for democratic institutions and human rights, told Germany’s rbb-Inforadio.

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