Anyone who has been following the international news lately will know that Turkey has been staking out its own version of the moral high ground in regard to Israel. As reported on Page 4 of this week’s Jewish Voice, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, told an audience at a United Nations summit in Vienna that – and we quote – “just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.” In other words, the Turkish leader was calling Zionism – the fulfillment of the Jewish people’s centuries-long yearning to live as an independent nation in its ancient homeland – a “crime against humanity.”
Not too long ago, Turkey helped sponsor a flotilla of boats that traveled to the Gaza Strip for the express purpose of defying Israel’s blockade of the area, which had been established to prevent the smuggling of weapons of war into the Hamas-controlled terrorist haven. When Israeli soldiers attempted to defend themselves against the violent actions of the “peace-loving” activists on the boats, the Turkish government condemned Israel and initiated an atmosphere of hostility with the Jewish state, it’s heretofore friend.
So – it seems that Turkey feels it is morally superior to Israel, and has the right to castigate it for its alleged crimes. But is Turkey such a paragon of morality itself? We think not – and here are just a few reasons why.
Most prominently, it has been historically documented that during and after World War I, Turkey’s Ottoman government carried out the systematic extermination of its minority Armenian population. The “Armenian Genocide” was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian desert. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. The Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.
As if this historically verified reign of terror was not enough, Turkey’s modern governments have only compounded their country’s guilt by refusing to admit to the genocidal actions of their predecessors, and criticizing those who dare speak the truth.
While this extended atrocity is likely the most egregious abuse of human rights on Turkey’s record, it is by no means the only one. In 1978, the movie “Midnight Express” – while technically fictional – used real-life information to portray that country’s tendency to mete out extremely harsh physical treatment to individuals arrested on even moderately serious drug use charges. The harrowing scenes of brutal torture in the film made it clear that Turkish authorities have no compunction about abusing the human rights of their detainees.
The overall human rights situation in Turkey under its present national leadership is similarly raising alarm among informed observers. Journalists who were only doing their job of reporting the news have been imprisoned on terrorism charges and are currently on trial. These charges are “shocking to hear,” according to The European Federation of Journalists President Arne König, who attended the February 4 trial of the 46 journalists in Turkey’s Silivri Prison. “It was shocking for us to hear that normal journalistic activity can be considered illegal and an act of terror,” König was quoted as saying in a statement released by the body . Around 75 journalists are currently standing trial in Turkey, according to EFJ numbers.
In general, the Middle Eastern country – which has increasingly come under the influence of Islamism of late – has drawn outrage for its deteriorating treatment of minorities and other citizens who are somehow deemed unfavorable by the Erdogan regime. In recent news reports, senior officials of Human Rights Watch (HRW) have declared that Turkey should reverse the negative movement of its human rights profile and raise its voice for more democracy in its foreign policy.
“We have very serious concerns about human rights in Turkey and the direction it is going in this country. It is not a good direction,” Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations of the HRW, stated on February 4.
We could bring more specifics about Turkey’s dismal human rights record – both present and past – but we simply do not have enough editorial space to do so. In any case, our point should be abundantly clear to anyone with even a modicum of intelligence. Turkey has absolutely no right to point an accusatory finger at the state of Israel, which consistently does its utmost to uphold the human dignity and personal freedom of its citizens, and persists on seeking peaceful relations with its neighbors. When Turkey wakes up and smells the (Turkish) coffee – and seriously sets out to mend its ways with regard to human rights for all of those under its hegemony – then they can engage in conversations of this nature with the Jewish state. Until then, they should really just keep their hypocritical mouths shut.