Sunday, April 06, 2008


“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
~ Joseph Campbell.

There's something on Ragıp Zarakoğlu from last weekend on Scotland on Sunday, thanks to Seta's Armenian Blog:

In the 30 years since he and his first wife Ayse started their publishing house, Belge, he has gone through 40 trials. Although he says he can generally cope with the pressure, it's not always manageable - he spent several months last year in a US hospital being treated for heart problems. Now, in his late 50s, he faces the possibility of a three-year jail sentence.

[ . . .]

Most of us think of Turkey as a cheap holiday destination – a place of sandy beaches, brilliant sunshine and the odd ruin to add a little culture to our break. We wouldn't think twice about letting the Turks into the European Union – Turkey is, after all, a modern, democratic society, is it not? For all the talk about the oppressed Kurds, every second carpet seller in Istanbul is Kurdish, so what's the problem?

But Turkey is not quite like that. Since 1984, 30,000 Kurds have been burned out of their villages and murdered by death squads. And no one is allowed to talk about it.

There are five main taboos in Turkish society and Kurdish oppression is one of them. The others are the Armenian genocide, when more than a million Armenians were killed between 1915 and the establishment of the modern Turkish state in 1923; the military; Sharia law, which the government of this predominantly Muslim country does not wish discussed because it is determined to keep the state secular; and lastly, defaming the name of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish state. His portrait can still be seen in shops and offices all over the country, although he died in 1938.

[ . . . ]

For dissidents such as Zarakolu, struggle has been a way of life. Born in 1948, he was inflamed by Sixties hippy culture, by the idea of revolution and the protest songs of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Unlike the radicals of the west, his belief in the revolution was tested. He was first sent to prison in 1971 for belonging to a suspicious organisation – Amnesty International.

He and Ayse set up Belge in 1977 and continued to publish in the face of further imprisonment, the torture of Ayse and the firebombing of their premises by a right-wing group. "If you accept this is a struggle for the truth and for freedom of expression, it helps for me to try and remember what we went through in the past," he says.

"Sometimes we went in prison, sometimes we used the trial as a platform, sometimes we felt ourselves to be the prosecutors against the system. We try to force our society to face its history. Without this hardship we can't change society. Somebody must pay the bill."

He has been paying the bill for 30 years. Even on the day he buried his wife – Ayse died of cancer in 2002 – the Turkish authorities couldn't leave Zarakolu and his family alone. As Ayse's coffin was carried to the grave by eight Kurdish women, they were watching. As her son Deniz rose to make an emotional speech about his mother's work on behalf of the Kurds, they were watching. They waited the 40 days of mourning that is traditional in Turkey and then arrested Deniz for questioning by the anti-terror team.

"Normally humanity respects death," says Zarakolu. "This was a psychological problem for me, something like torture, because it's very aggressive. It's the unrespectfulness against the funeral, against the truth."

It took a change in the laws for Deniz to be acquitted. The charge? He had dared to suggest that Turkey's oppressed Kurdish minority might one day have an independent life. "I think Kurdish women will be free some day," he said. "And they will not forget my mother."

Six years on, the Kurds have still not forgotten Ayse and how she fought for them. In one town in the Kurdish region of Turkey, they wanted to name a public park after her but the authorities refused, saying she was a convicted criminal.

[ . . . ]

On April 8 Zarakolu faces what is expected to be his last trial, the culmination of a four-year process that began in 2004. It is presented by the Turkish courts as the scrupulous and thorough pursuit of justice, but to even the most casual observer it looks like judicial harassment. I ask Zarakolu if he is afraid of going to jail. It would, after all, be easy for him to stay in the United States with Katherine. He's almost 60 now, not an age to be contemplating going back behind bars. "Generally I forget," he says. "But sometimes I feel tired – exhausted. It's another way of oppression."

There's much more there, and Ragıp (and his late wife Ayşenur) are among the few, true heroes of Turkey, so take the time to read the whole thing.

Forty Kurdish women were arrested in Belgium on Friday, suspected of being hevals. So much for the EU, The List, and PKK. If the EU really wanted to crack down on terrorism, it should probably raid every Turkish embassy and consulate in its jurisdiction . . .

Did you ever wonder why the conflict of interest over Joseph Ralston's appointment as "PKK coordinator" never caused the scandal it should have? Wonder no longer:

Members of Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the onset of the Iraq war, according to a study by a nonpartisan research group.

Not all the companies in which lawmakers invested are typical defense contractors. Corporations such as PepsiCo, IBM, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson have at one point received defense-related contracts, notes the report by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

The center's review of lawmakers' 2006 financial disclosure statements suggests that members' holdings could pose a conflict of interest as they decide the fate of Iraq war spending. Several members earning money from these contractors have plum committee or leadership assignments, including Democratic Sen. John Kerry, independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman and House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

The study found that more Republicans than Democrats hold stock in defense companies, but that the Democrats who are invested had significantly more money at stake. In 2006, for example, Democrats held at least $3.7 million in military-related investments, compared to Republican investments of $577,500.

Overall, 151 members hold investments worth $78.7 million to $195.5 million in companies that receive defense contracts that are worth at least $5 million. These investments earned them anywhere between $15.8 million and $62 million between 2004 and 2006, the center concludes.

A look at a few individual invertebrates:

Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is identified as earning the most — at least $2.6 million between 2004 and 2006 from investments worth up to $38.2 million.

Spokesman David Wade said Kerry, who staunchly opposes the war in Iraq, is one of many beneficiaries of family trusts that he doesn't control. Wade also noted that Kerry does not sit on the Appropriations Committee, which has direct control of the defense budget.

"He has a 24-year Senate record of working and voting in the best interests of our men and women in the military, not of any defense contractors," Wade said.

It's impossible to believe that this dirtball, Kerry, "staunchly opposes the war in Iraq," since that war has enriched him, and I don't give a damn what kind of lies his spokesman tells the public.

Here's another:

Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Armed Services Committee, held a considerably smaller share at $51,000. A spokesman said the senator, who supports continued operations in Iraq, is "careful to make his policy decisions based only on what is best for the country."

Oh, I know I believe him. One more:

A spokesman for Blunt, R-Mo., a senior member of House GOP leadership who held at least $15,000 in Lockheed Martin stock in 2006, said the insinuation that lawmakers' votes might be affected by their portfolios is "offensive." Like Lieberman, Blunt has been a fierce supporter of the war.

"I don't pretend to speak for other offices, but I am fairly certain that no member would consider their personal finances when voting on issues as important as sending our men and women in uniform into harm's way," said Blunt spokesman Nick Simpson. The Lockheed Martin stock was given to Blunt's wife by her mother, he said.

Ah, here's the old "my-wife's-mother-gave-her-the-stock" story. Actually, what is truly offensive is that Congress is, in fact, benefiting not only from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also on their phony Global War On Terror, Incorporated. And that's why there will be absolutely no change on the global status quo when a new administration takes over in January 2009.

Here's something you probably won't see too much of, although it's definitely something to watch for:

A report warns of Saudi Arabia and Turkey possibly joining in a nuclear arms race.

The report says the Saudis would most likely develop nuclear weapons if Iran acquires them. High-level American diplomats in Riyadh say an Iranian nuclear weapon frightens the Saudis "to their core."

The report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also says Turkey would come under pressure to follow suit if Iran builds nuclear weapons. It says while Turkey doesn't see Iran as an enemy, it also believes a power balance between the countries is the primary reason for a peaceful relationship between them.

The report was prepared by a committee staff member after interviewing hundreds of individuals in Washington and the Middle East last year.

I don't believe the "follow suit under pressure" nonsense. I suspect Turkey's been wanting to be a nuclear player for some time. After all, they did buy all those nuclear secrets from Marc Grossman et al, and nobody paid attention to that. Isn't Grossman still walking around a free man?

Turkey with nuclear weapons . . . what could be more scary?


Anonymous said...

"Turkey with nuclear weapons . . . what could be more scary?"

That's a damn good question...

Elisher said...

Long Live to Ragip Zarakolu, Turkey's conscience!

Mizgîn said...

Biji Aysenur Zarakoglu!

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