I have a piece in the news section today about U.S. drones being deployed in Turkey in support of Ankara’s fight against the Kurdish separatist rebels (Kurdistan Worker’s Party/PKK). This, despite ongoing investigations by rights groups into whether the Turkish government used chemical weapons against the PKK, “which are inherently indiscriminate and would be a violation of international law.” The drones are one aspect of an increased show of U.S. support for “counter-terrorism” in Turkey.
I can hear the foreign policy hawks now objecting to my criticism by explaining that the PKK are a terrorist organization, so why am I only criticizing Ankara’s crimes? The PKK kill civilians too! Yes, but U.S. taxpayers aren’t supporting the PKK.
And the Turkish government isn’t just engaging in excessive force against the PKK (and whatever civilians happen to get in the way), it is also criminalizing political speech it deems subversive, all in the name of “counter-terrorism.” According to Amnesty International, “anti-terrorism legislation is particularly problematic in that it is used to bring a large number of prosecutions targeting legitimate free expression regarding the Kurdish issue in Turkey.” “Since 2001,” writes Howard Eissenstat in a recent blog post, “some 12,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested under terror statutes” for what appear to be political crimes, “with nearly four thousand arrested in just the last thirty months.” Many of these arrests are of leading public intellectuals in Turkey, like Ragip Zarakolu, a human rights activist. He was arrested along with 43 other people on November 1 in Istanbul, apparently for making a political speech at a legal pro-Kurdish party event.
As if Obama needed another violator of individual liberties to support. Granted, direct monetary aid to the Turkish government is still considerably less than it was during the Bush administration, but military aid – like these drones and attack helicopters, et al – seems to be increasing under Obama in tandem with support for encroaching civil rights.