Thursday, February 07, 2008

Turkey takes action against the shadowy far right

Feb 07, 2008
The Toronto Star
Haroon Siddiqui

Given the prevailing paranoiac obsession with Islam, the media have duly informed us that the "Islamist" government of Turkey is set to lift the "secular" ban on the hijab in universities.

Another view of this development would be that a democratic government is about to restore some basic human rights for women: freeing them from state strictures on what they should or should not wear.

Meanwhile, a more significant development in Turkey is going unnoticed in the West: the busting of a right-wing plot of murder and mayhem, designed to destabilize the country and trigger a coup against the elected government.

Number one on the plotters' hit list was Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.

Thirty-three members of a clandestine cell are charged with "provoking armed rebellion."

They include: A retired army general who was earlier allegedly associated with bombings and extrajudicial killings – incidents that were blamed on "Islamists" and others; A leading prosecutor who had hauled Pamuk and other writers into court, on the infamous charge of "insulting Turkishness" – such as questioning the official denial of the 1915-17 Armenian genocide; Some former army officers with links to an anti-Semitic academic, who thinks that "Hitler was right about certain things," and that 9/11 was the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service.

Turkey is abuzz with the expectation that a thorough probe and a transparent trial may, finally, unmask "the Deep State."

That refers to the shadowy forces in the army, the judiciary and the bureaucracy long suspected of working with the mafia to advance their ultra-nationalist agenda.

They are thought to have been behind the murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and a judge in Ankara in 2006.

The latest arrests are unprecedented, and follow a public pledge by Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan to expose and eradicate such elements.

He has been democratizing Turkey to strengthen its candidacy for the European Union. He has run into stiff resistance by the old guard, led by the army, which is ostensibly safeguarding Turkey's secular traditions against the "Islamic" encroachments of his religious Peace and Justice Party.

In fact, he is dismantling the autocratic policies put in place back in 1925 by Kemal Ataturk. That legacy includes keeping religion at bay with bayonets, denying the wrongs done to the Armenians, oppressing the Kurdish minority and silencing political and intellectual dissidents.

Erdogan has already begun restoring the linguistic and cultural rights of the Kurds, even while battling Kurdish separatists in the south along the border with Iraq.

Last year, he nominated as his presidential candidate Abdullah Gul, whose wife wears a hijab. That led the army to threaten a coup. Gul won handily. Now the government is easing the ban on the hijab.

Next, it hopes to axe the law against "insulting Turkishness."

But its move against the nationalists is its boldest.

Last week, the main headline on Page 1 of the English newspaper Zaman captured the widespread public sentiment:

"Million-dollar question: Who's the boss of the Deep State? It's time to get the number one in the operation."

A historic democratic battle to end the quasi-dictatorship of the Turkish army and expose the elusive fascist forces that have long haunted Turkey has finally begun.

Too bad the West remains fixated on a piece of cloth called the hijab.

Haroon Siddiqui, the Star's editorial page editor emeritus, appears Thursday and Sunday. Email:

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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