Saturday, October 17, 2009

News from Hypocristan

As we were saying...

What is there to think about stories like the one below? Ahmet Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, stands up before a microphone and says something so totally, so stupidly, so demonstrably untrue that one can only gape and wonder if he will be Oscar-nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here's the background. A Turkish dramatic series presented on a state-run television channel shows Israeli troops deliberately shooting at and killing Palestinian children. Israel cries foul. Ahmet Bey says, "But Turkey does not censor." This of course is false. A quick look at the comments following the linked article will show the American reader just a few of the many media outlets that have been banned by the Turkish authorities, from YouTube to the works of Richard Dawkins. But the real question is, Why does the Turkish government continue to act this way? Why do they blandly tell these lies? Why do they promote their police state to the world as a "vibrant democracy"? Having just gone through the Bush II Administration, and faced with the ever-burgeoning popularity of such beings as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, Americans are in no position to give themselves a pass on this. (Think of how many times George W. Bush claimed he didn't say something that he was quite plainly videotaped saying.) But there's something so Turkish about the blandness with which Turkish government officials put out these statements about their own uprightness and morality. Contrast this with the American style. Tad Friend, writing about Hollywood in 12 October 2009 edition of The New Yorker, says,
"Hollywood's leaders work with the understanding that facts are not fixed pillars but trial balloons that you inflate with the gas of vehement assertion."
The gas of vehement assertion. How I wish that I had written that phrase. How I wish that I could buy some of that and put it in my car. It could run forever.
Davutoğlu: Turkey is not a country that censors

ISTANBUL – Daily News with wires Friday, October 16, 2009

Foreign Minster Ahmet Davutoğlu on Friday responded to complaints from Israel about the depiction of Israeli armed forces in a Turkish television series on a state-run channel. “There is no censorship in Turkey,” Davutoğlu said in a press conference Friday before he departed for Bosnia, according to broadcaster CNNTürk. “TRT [Turkish Radio and Television Corporation] is an autonomous institution. The television series’ producers are also an independent company. It is not in the ministry’s mandate to advise them.”

He criticized Israel as the actual source of tension, referring to the country’s attack on Gaza last year. “Turkey has been working toward creating peace in the region, and it was Israel that put our chances of creating peace at risk by attacking Gaza.” He cited women and children suffering the most from the incidents.
He recalled that Turkey was mediating between Israel and Syria last year, but said, “We will not be silent about what happened in Gaza,” according to the Anatolia news agency. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey was expected to visit the Foreign Ministry later Friday to express his government’s concerns about the television series.
The final stroke, the smack to the forehead, comes in the Comment form at the end of the article. Note:
"Submitted comments must be approved by Daily News staff to ensure they are in accordance with Turkish law. Comments that violate Turkish law will not be published."
And Orwell laughs again.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Meetings in Autumn

Lalish circa 1850.

The headlines tell the tale: Armenia and Turkey, at last, have made a kind of peace. At a meeting in Zurich on 10 October 2009, protocols were signed which, if approved by each country’s parliament, will lead to a normalization of relations. After a long flirtation chaperoned by the Swiss, a history-making visit by Turkey’s President to a football match in Yerevan, and a ceremony that stalled for over three hours at the last minute, it took the combined ministers and ministrations of France, Switzerland, Germany, NATO, Russia, the EU, and the US (kudos esp. to Hillary Clinton), all of them smiling through clenched teeth and, no doubt, rolling their eyes, to hammer together this union between a rusty nail and an ironwood plank. Next step: a football match in Turkey, to be attended by Serge Sarkisian, President of Armenia. If, as seems likely, the Turkish police can keep order at the match (my guess: one out of every three attendees will be a plainclothes officer), expect a ponderous, lurching march thereafter toward the goal of rapprochement. Sworn enemies on both sides will continue to make trouble (a recent tour by Sarkisian of Armenian settlements in Europe, the US, and Russia was accompanied by cries of “Traitor!”); still, observers are cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, another newspaper article reminds us of a far less famous event. As I write this, the Yezidis’ Feast of the Assembly is nearing its climax. Every October 6-12, when not kept away by war and violence, Yezidis from around the world make their annual pilgrimage to Lalish, a.k.a. Sheikh Adi, a tiny complex of temples, shrines, and tombs in the hills north of Mosul. From F&T:
The classic description of Sheikh Adi comes from Henry Layard, who in the fall of 1846 took time off from his dig at Nineveh to attend the Feast of the Assembly, the annual gathering of the Yezidi clans. Layard, himself not a clergyman and with no official need to pass judgment on “devil-worshippers,” simply recorded what he saw: a festival abundant with beauty and devoid of debauchery, with oil lamps sparkling among the olive groves by night; dancing maidens; the music of flutes and tambourines and the chanting of priests; crowds of white-robed Yezidis; giggling maidens with their black hair plaited in glass beads and gold.
And who are the Yezidis? Definitely not “devil-worshippers,” as they have been labeled for centuries. Those who know about Turkey and Kurdistan, especially those who have read a certain book by me, will need no introduction. The Yezidis speak Kurdish, and yet, after years of strife with their Kurdish neighbors, they do not really consider themselves Kurds. In recent years their villages have suffered greatly from terrorist truck bombs, probably set by Sunni Arab jihadists, and they still live in fear. But they too, have shown their own violent side, as when two years ago a Yezidi girl was caught on video being stoned to death by her Yezidi relatives. (Her crime? Wearing jeans, being seen with a Sunni Arab boy.) In recent decades much more has been learned about their religion, a mixture of angel worship, Zoroastrianism, and other elements. Still, no one can really say where their religion comes from, and as to the origin of their name, whether Yezidi, Ezidi, and Yazidi, the multiplicity of theories leads one to believe that, in all likelihood, none of them are correct.

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