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Hussain Abdul-Hussain Headshot

Look Who's Talking: Turkey!

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A country that has been occupying part of a neighbor state for decades, that often sends its air force to bomb anti-government militants, that refuses to give civil rights to its biggest minority and that twists arms of world governments in order to impose its version of history... well, you guessed it, it is Turkey.

In 1974, Turkey invaded the northern part of Cyprus presumably to rescue Turkish Cypriots amid growing tensions with their compatriot Greek Cypriots. Since then, Turkey has maintained its occupation over Northern Cyprus that proclaimed its independence in 1983. Going against the will of the United Nations, Turkey was the only one to recognize Northern Cyprus, while the world stood in support of Nicosia's sovereignty over the occupied land. Turkish military bullying in the Middle East did not stop in 1974 as the Turkish army often launches punitive air and ground campaigns against Kurdish rebels in southern Turkey. Turkey's Kurds have long been deprived of their political, cultural and economic rights, often forced to relinquish the teaching of their language in their schools, and never allowed to create any political groups.

The unlucky Kurds repeatedly revolted against Ankara. Some of them went as far as demanding autonomy or independence, thus inviting further brutality from the Turkish majority dominating the government.

The rebellious Kurds formed armed groups and launched their own war of independence. In retribution, the Turkish army has repeatedly pursued them in the mountainous southeastern part of the country. Whenever squeezed, Kurdish militiamen take refuge in the predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq. In their footsteps, the Turkish army has - several times - crossed the border into Iraq. When it did not, like a week ago, it only shelled Kurdish positions on the border.

Until a few years ago, Turkey had been preoccupied with its own affairs, whether in Cyprus or southeastern Turkey. But recently, Ankara has become an outspoken player in one of the world's toughest and most volatile regions. The Turkish government has taken sides and entered into alliances with rogue states such as Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has leveled criticism against Middle Eastern and world governments, sometimes accusing them of being unfair when dealing with Iran, at other times blaming this or that government for its domestic policies.

But when it comes to civil liberties, look who's talking. True, Erdogan eased some restrictions on the Kurds as he recently allowed them to use their language in the broadcast of private satellite stations or in recording songs. However, until today, the Kurds were not allowed to give their children Kurdish names, or form political parties.

It has long been known that a government repressive of Kurdish rights sits in Ankara. Despite the lifting of a few restrictions on the Kurds -- under pressure from the EU which Turkey aspires to join for economic benefits -- Erdogan and his cabinet pretend to be champions of human rights around the world.

Bad blood has also long existed between Turkey and Armenia over what many Armenians believe to be Turkish mass killings of Armenians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Since an influential community of Armenian stock lives in California, home state of Congressman and Chairperson of Foreign Relations Committee Howard Berman, the Armenians lobbied for the committee to approve a bill that describes the Turkish massacres as genocide.
Erdogan and his cabinet went ballistic. They recalled their Ambassador to Washington, even though President Barak Obama's Whitehouse had remained silent on the issue. After some American cozying up, the Turks resent their ambassador.

The genocide debacle between Washington and Ankara has a parallel in history that only a few might remember. When former President George Bush asked Turkey to open its Angerlik base for American troops preparing to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Turkish parliament convened and voted against the American request. The Turkish government, a long time ally of the US and a NATO member, declined Washington's request on the grounds that it couldn't have possibly forced such a decision down the throats of the elected representatives of the people of Turkey.

But when a Congressional committee voted on the Armenian Genocide, the Turks punished the US government for a bill that had only passed one stage of its long journey to become law.
The Turkish arrogance continues.

Erdogan recently canceled a trip to Buenos Aires after the Argentinean government had moved a bust of Turkey's founder Kamal Ataturk, formerly on display. He blamed the Armenian lobby and said that his move "suited Turkey's honor."

Turkey should either practice what it preaches about world justice and civil rights, or it should stop its trip of arrogance and go back to minding its own business. With its new behavior, Turkey is not welcome back into regional and world politics.