By Kamal Soleimani
Gülen’s latest speech does not come as surprise to the Kurds in Turkey. His speech just corroborates what the Kurds have been saying about Gülen all along. Kurds have long said that if Gülen had his way, he would not be any more lenient than the Turkish military when it comes to the Kurdish question. There is no denying that Gülen is internationally recognized for his image as a lenient religious figure who is eagerly trying to promote world peace and interfaith dialogue. He has been very successful in presenting this image. Of course, even if he were sincere about this — which I doubt — the speech should not be seen as something that contradicts Gülen’s nationalism. Gülen has always promoted the Turkish image, language and culture just as much as he publicizes his interpretation of Islam. His religious interpretation is very much at home with some aspects of Turkish state nationalism. It is a type of missionary nationalism that some of its aspects of shared particularly by the current foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu and by AKP in general.
Gülen’s nationalism is now challenged by Kurdish demands. It should be noted that the Kurdish question is the greatest challenge to Turkish religious nationalism, à la AKP or à la Gülen. Previously, when these groups were in the opposition, they had to make instrumental use of the Kurdish question against the military and the Kemalist establishment. To them, talking about the plight of the Kurds was beneficial for at least two reasons: it would help their standing both at home and abroad and it would further delegitimize the Kemalist military’s rigid political space. In addition, it was a way for them to get the Kurdish electorate behind them. Of course, Gülen himself has always been extremely reticent in expressing his views on Kurdish issues. Others, like the AKP, were more outspoken. However, the entire spectrum of what could be called the Turkish religious nationalist consensus has never offered a meaningful solution to the Kurdish question. Aside from obsolete slogans such as Turkish-Kurdish Kardeslik (brotherhood), these groups have never offered a well-defined project for dealing with the Kurdish question.
This has been the case until last spring, when there was a referendum for the amendment of the Turkish constitution. Despite all the ambiguities in its narrative of constitutional change, AKP received 58% of the vote, and while the Kurds overwhelmingly supported the pro-Kurdish BDP’s stance in that referendum, the BDP separated itself from all the Turkish political parties: the AKP was trying to consolidate its power by amending the constitution, while the rest of the Turkish political parties were content with the existing constitution, which was the product of the military coup of 1982.
That election was a defining moment for both the Kurds and the AKP. After the referendum, the AKP came to the realization that they could no longer rely on the Kurds for support, and the party has had to take care to appease the Turkish electorate. This event would become determinative for the AKP to abandon all the ambiguities in its rhetoric on Kurdish question. The Kurdish question was transformed in the AKP political narrative into the Kurdish citizens’ problems, to use Erdogan’s expression. Consequently, Kurdish politics was about to change and be expressed in forms that were not common until then. For the first time in the last thirty or forty years, the Kurds used their religiosity against a government that is recognized as having a strongly conservative religious background. The Kurds began to challenge the government on its home turf by challenging state-sanctioned religiosity and religious institutions. Many Kurds refused to pray behind the imams appointed by the state and preferred to initiate their own collective Friday prayers on the streets. The Kurdish Friday prayers were a spectacle as they were performed on the streets, while hundreds of hippies and left-minded Kurdish youth for the first time started praying in the face of the heavy-handed police force. This novel strategy was a major step toward unmasking Turkish religious nationalism and toward calling their bluff, because similar strategies hand been used before by Erdogan and his allies when they were in opposition. Now, the AKP and Gülen’s followers have no problem with the state’s religious institutions, such the Directorate of Religious Affairs; it has now been completely baptized since it is used and directed by the ruling party and pro-Gülen figures. This novel strategy enraged the Turkish religious nationalist establishment to a degree that Erdogan publicly declared that the Kurds’ prophet is Abdullah Öcalan, to question the religiosity of the new challenge. Gülen’s latest assertions on Kurds are expressed partly against this background. He seems to be frustrated with the fact that his mission in Kurdistan to naturalize Kurdish nationalist demands is failing.
To many people, considering Fethullah Gülen as a nationalist might sound absurd and over the top. By many, I am referring to those who are unfamiliar with Turkish nationalist discourse. However, for anyone who is familiar with Turkish nationalist discourse, Gülen clearly stands as a mouthpiece for the state’s rhetoric and approach in his assertions. Gülen complains about the inability of the state to civilize the Kurds. Of course, the politically correct term is educate. A student of Turkish history knows that this discourse can be traced back to the era of Abdulhamid II. He was the first Sultan to establish the Asiret Mektepleri — tribal schools — in 1892, as a step toward civilizing the Kurds, especially the ones who were known for their rebelliousness against the state. This course was continued by the Turkish republic combined with the forced migration and systematic policies of assimilation.
Gülen complains about the failure of assimilationist policies and the state’s inability to kill off all the nationalist Kurds who believe in armed struggle against state policies. Throughout his speech the possessive pronoun “our” is used to claim possession of the Kurds. In his speech, Gülen speaks in the name of the sovereign or the state; this is a well known form of addressing the Kurdish issue in Turkish politics. A student of contemporary Turkish politics may very well remember the late former prime minister Bülent Ecevit’s statement contending that “the Kurds are not a distinct ethnic group; they are OUR citizens.”
Of course, Gülen supports taking harsh measures against the PKK. He is very adamant about this in his speech. He suggests that in the 1980s, the Turkish state could have completely destroyed the Kurdish resistance. However, it can be inferred that he blames Turkish military government at that time for being complacent about the PKK’s emergence. He asserts that the Turkish military state was able to bring the entire nation to its knees; they could jail, kill and oppress whomever they wished, but how in the world the state could be so ineffective in dealing with Kurdish resistance. “It is really shameful, embarrassing (°ayiptir, ardir),” that the state has not killed them all”, says Gülen. He vehemently advocates the killing of every single Kurdish guerilla, and he is unequivocal about this when he says: “let us say there are 15,000 or 50,000 of them. So [addressing the Turkish state], you have around…a million intelligence personnel. I don’t want to mention them all by name but you have several intelligence organizations; you are member of NATO; you are involved in cooperative projects with a number of international intelligence organizations. … So, use these projects and programs and localize, identify and triangulate every single of them and then kill them all one by one…”
As to the question of whether or not Gülen wants to kill Kurdish civilians? Forget about distinguishing civilian and non-civilian, he utters the word Kurd only once and refers to the Kurdish language twice in his entire speech. But if one listens carefully to his speech, his treatment of the Kurdish issue seems frightening. He does not seem to think of the Kurdish question as anything more than a foreign conspiracy. To him the entire enterprise is an artificial phenomenon rooted in a) foreign plot to undermine the integrity of “that beautiful country, Turkey” and b) Kurdish simplemindedness, illiteracy and economic backwardness, which has provided Turkey’s enemies with grounds that are very conducive for plotting against the state.
He does not see the PKK, or any Kurdish political group for that matter, as having a legitimate raison d’être. It is clear that he thinks any politics that is defined as Kurdish is dangerous. It seems to oppose the PKK not just because of its armed struggle or because of what he sees in a negative light as its political strategy. He is against any form of Kurdish politics whatsoever. That is why he believes that if it were not for illiteracy and economic underdevelopment, such a brand of politics would not have come into being. He is well aware that the PKK is more than a just a few thousand guerillas in the mountains. The PKK is the dominant force in Kurdish politics in Northern Kurdistan and it could determine the outcome of parliaments and municipal elections for the Kurdish region and shape the Kurdish political debate. When one reads his prayers against this background, the prayers and the harsh demands entailed in them become even scarier. We should pray to God to ignore Fethullah Hoca’s prayers. I do not think civilian Kurds to remain unharmed if God listens to this type of prayers. For example he asks to God to do the following things for him: “O God, unify us (Allahim birligimizi sagla), and as for those among us who deserve nothing but punishment (o hakki kötektir bunlar), knock their homes upside down (allahim onlarin altlarini üstlerine getir), destroy their unity (birliklerini boz), burn their houses to ash (evlerine ates sal) may their homes be filled with weeping and supplications (feryad ve figan sal), burn and cut off their roots (köklerini kurut, köklerini kes) and bring their affairs to an end (islerini bitir)”
- Activists calling for Blair to resign from role as advisor to president Nazarbayev
- Campaign follows the death of 14 sacked oil workers
Tony Blair has blood on his hands from his ‘consultancy’ work with the dictator of Kazakhstan, opposition leaders in the former Soviet state claimed last night.
In an open letter, activists called for the former British premier to resign from his controversial role as an advisor to their president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The campaigners are part of a growing protest over a bloody Christmas crackdown on sacked oil workers in which at least 14 died and 80 were wounded.
The Daily Mail revealed in October that Mr Blair had assembled a high-powered team to improve the reputation and business links of the oil and gas-rich central Asian state.
According to one source, the consultancy deal brokered by the ex-premier is worth as much as £8million for the companies involved.
Mr Blair’s advisory firm, Tony Blair Associates, has helped him earn as much as £20million since leaving Downing Street in 2007, but a spokesman has insisted he is not profiting from the Kazakhstan deal.
His links with Mr Nazarbayev – who has introduced laws forbidding criticism of himself, and is believed to rig his elections – have roused particular controversy because he began cultivating him a decade ago when the despot made an official visit to London.
The call for Mr Blair to sever links with the regime was made by 50 activists in a letter published in the opposition newspaper Respublika, headlined: ‘Blood on Your Hands, Blair!’
The letter goes on: ‘It is known that you were an adviser to the bloody dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
‘The whole world saw with its own eyes that he used weapons against civilians in his country, trying hard to suppress the riots. The bloody scenario of Libya was repeated in Kazakhstan.
‘The leadership of Kazakhstan in peacetime opened fire and shot at unarmed citizens. Such bloody methods are being used in our country since you became an adviser to President Nursultan Nazarbayev.’
The activists – young politicians, youth workers and journalists – had made an earlier appeal to Mr Blair to rethink his role.
The latest open letter continues: ‘In our previous appeal we said that your support for authoritarianism and dictatorship will badly affect your reputation. Our forecasts, unfortunately, came true.
‘We once again urge you to resign from the position of presidential adviser and to stop co-operating with the criminal regime.’
The letter highlighted the case of oil workers from the Mangistau region, whose ‘legitimate and fair demands were ignored for many months’.
‘There was bloodshed, the blood of innocent citizens of our country. You are an adviser to Kazakhstan’s leadership. Why within the last seven months were authorities deaf to the demands of oil workers? And finally, they shot at its citizens?’
The U.S. State Department says it is ‘deeply concerned’ over the violence and clampdown, sentiments echoed by the EU and human rights groups.
Nazarbayev has blamed his son-in-law Timur Kulibayev – the head of the company that fired the striking oil workers – for the violence. Kulibayev is a friend of Prince Andrew, and bought the prince’s home in Windsor for £3million above the asking price.
Mr Blair visited Kazakhstan in January, May and November this year. Former No10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell and ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell also visited this year.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘Tony Blair’s team has been advising on the Kazakhstan government reform programme. He has had no role in this dispute. But the president has promised an inquiry.’
Locals gather in front of a truck carrying the bodies of people who were killed in a warplane attack in the Ortasu village of Uludere, in Turkey’s Sirnak province on Dec. 29.
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey – Turkish warplanes killed at least 35 people in an airstrike in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi border overnight, apparently mistaking smugglers for Kurdish militants, a pro-Kurdish party and local officials said on Thursday.
Turkish warplanes strike militant targets regularly in the region in their battle against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas, and have stepped up raids after a PKK attack in August.
“We have 30 corpses, all of them are burned. The state knew that these people were smuggling in the region. This kind of incident is unacceptable. They were hit from the air,” said Fehmi Yaman, mayor of Uludere in Sirnak province.Turkey’s Dogan news agency said the attacks occurred near the Turkish village of Ortasu in Sirnak near Iraq, a country where Kurdish rebels are based, and killed more than 20 people. The report said the raids were launched after drones and thermal cameras located a “crowded group” near Ortasu.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said in a statement 35 people had been killed, adding that party leaders were heading for the area.
The Turkish military declined to confirm or deny whether it had carried out the Wednesday night raid on both sides of the border.
Local villagers said the smugglers were carrying drums of diesel on mules and tractors, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. The diesel drums exploded and burned them to death.
Local BDP official Yunus Urek told CNN that one person survived with injuries.
Smuggling is an important source of income for locals in provinces along the Iraqi border, with many villagers involved in bringing fuel, cigarettes and other goods from Iraqi villages on the other side of the border.
PKK militants also cross the border in these areas.
“There were rumors that the PKK would cross through this region. Images were recorded of a crowd crossing last night, hence an operation was carried out,” a Turkish security official said.
“We could not have known whether these people were (PKK) group members or smugglers,” he said.
17 more people missing
Television images showed a line of corpses covered by blankets on a barren hillside, with a crowd of people gathered around, some with their head in their hands and crying.
People loaded the corpses onto donkeys which were led down the hillside to be loaded into vehicles to be taken to hospital in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country.
Security sources said those killed were carrying canisters of diesel on mules and their bodies were found on the Iraqi side of the border.
They said those killed were from Uludere on the Turkish side of the border on what was a regular smuggling route.
The Firat news agency, which has close ties to the PKK, said that 17 people were still believed to be missing. It said those killed were aged around 17-20.
The PKK, regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, launches attacks on Turkish forces in southeastern Turkey from hideouts inside the remote Iraqi mountains.
Turkey and Iran have often skirmished with rebels in the region and Turkish leaders vowed revenge in October with air and ground strikes after the PKK killed 24 Turkish soldiers in raids on military outposts in southeastern Turkey.
It was one of the deadliest attacks since the PKK took up arms in 1984 in a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
December 28, 2011: Iranian submarines and warships participate in navy drill in the Sea of Oman.
TEHRAN – An Iranian surveillance plane has shot video and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier during Iran’s ongoing navy drill near a strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.
The report did not provide details and it was unclear what information the Iranian military could gleam from such footage. But the announcement is an indication Iran is seeking to cast its navy as having a powerful role in the region’s waters.
IRNA quoted Iran’s navy chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, as saying the action shows that Iran has “control over the moves by foreign forces” in the area where Tehran is holding a 10-day military exercise.
“An Iranian vessel and surveillance plane have tracked, filmed and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier as it was entering the Gulf of Oman from the Persian Gulf,” Sayyari said.
He added that the “foreign fleet will be warned by Iranian forces if it enters the area of the drill.”
State TV showed what appeared to be the reported video, but it was not possible to make out the details of the carrier because the footage was filmed from far away.
The Iranian exercise is taking place in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz — the passageway for one-sixth of the world’s oil supply.
Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there.
Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet, said the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay headed out from the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, after a visit to Dubai’s Jebel Ali port.
She described the passage through the strait as “a pre-planned, routine transit” for the carrier, which is providing air support from the north Arabian Sea to troops in Afghanistan.
Rebarich did not directly address Iranian claims of possessing the reported footage but said the 5th Fleet’s “interaction with the regular Iranian Navy continues to be within the standards of maritime practice, well known, routine and professional.”
Thursday’s report follows U.S. warnings over Iranian threats to choke off traffic through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington imposes sanctions targeting Iran’s crude exports. On Wednesday, Rebarich said the Navy was “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”
Gen. Hossein Salami, the acting commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard rejected the warning.
“The U.S. is not in a position” to affect Iran’s decisions, Salami told the semi-official Fars news agency Thursday. “Iran does not ask permission to implement its own defensive strategies.”
Kyrgyzstan’s new leader made the remarks in a Thursday meeting with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake in the capital Bishkek.
Atambayev insisted that the annual $150 million fee the US pays Kyrgyzstan for the right to use the Manas Air Force Base was not worth all the risks involved in the matter.
“We want to transform Manas into a fully civilian airport; and keeping a military base for $150 million is slightly dangerous; not slightly, but very dangerous.”
After becoming the president last month, Atambayev said that his country has notified the US to close its military base following the expiration of its lease in 2014.
“Our country will honor all its international agreements, but we have warned the US embassy that they will have to close the base in 2014,” said Atambayev.
The Manas Air Force Base, which the US currently uses to support its operations in Afghanistan’s ten-year war, is located at a civilian airport on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
The air base has been used since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and has played a major role in American military operations in the country.
The Kyrgyz government wanted to shut down the base in 2009 due to issues caused by US troops stationed in Manas. However, US officials managed to negotiate a new agreement later that year after increasing its annual payment to the Kyrgyz government.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev described Russia as a key strategic partner but claimed that Moscow had not paid rent for military installations on the country’s territory for the past four years.
BISHKEK, December 29 (RIA Novosti)
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev described Russia as a key strategic partner but claimed that Moscow had not paid rent for military installations on the country’s territory for the past four years.
The main strategic partner of Kyrgyzstan is Russia but the former leadership “did not leave a good legacy in relations with Russia,” Atambayev said.
“Over the past year and a half we managed to establish relations with Russia, which were ruined by the former government,” he said, noting that a lot of support was afforded to the republic by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Atambayev said that he was able to reach an understanding also with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in particular on the issue of the payment of debt on the Russian side that has accumulated over the past four years for territories in the republic used as Russian military facilities.
Four Russian military facilities are situated on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, as well as an air base in the city of Kant.
Atambayev also said that the U.S. air base at the Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan should be closed, as it is a threat to the country.
“Kyrgyzstan does not need a military air base at the civilian airport, it is very dangerous. We want the Manas airport to only be a civilian airport,” he said at his first press conference.
The U.S. airbase at Manas was set up near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in America to support military operations in Afghanistan. Under the current U.S. agreement with Kyrgyzstan expires in 2014.
Atambayev, 55, who served as the country’s prime minister, overwhelmingly won the October 30 presidential elections with 62 percent of the vote. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva, who took power after Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted as president amid large-scale popular protests in April 2010, was barred from running in the polls.