Nov 30, 2015

We’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

We can now add: “Don’t judge a book by a quote in it!”

The quote that troubles me is from a recent book about Turkey’s 11th president (2007-2014), Abdullah Gul:

“We must have a vision that avoids slogans, focuses on good governance and honors fundamental rights and freedoms while upholding the equality of sexes. In short, we must put our own homes in order, first.”

The book—12 years with Abdullah Gul, by Ahmet Sever—is nothing but aimless hot air.

Mr. Gul heaved his hypocritical hogwash to a pre-selected group of Islamic politicians in Tehran who care nothing for democracy, but pretend to be its ardent champions.

What do Iranian officials care about “upholding the equality of sexes”—when Islamic jurisprudence scorns women as lesser beings?

It is like an owl telling another: We should stop conducting our business in the dark and step into the light and act like the symbol of peace, doves.

The book exposes Mr. Gul as an imposter—and unmasks Mr. Sever as a paid henchman, albeit disguised as a retired advisor.

For example, General Tuncer Kilinc is the National Security Advisor of Turkey in 2002—when Mr. Gul is elected to become the country’s first pious prime minister.

He approaches Mr. Gul with a sort of bribe: If you could tell your wife not to cover her head, “we will erect a statue in your honor.”

Somewhat annoyed, Mr. Gul snarls, “Why is this a concern of yours? Do I trouble myself with how your wife dresses?”

At first glance, you want to offer kudos to civilian Mr. Gul for mustering enough courage to rebuke the general—the first in the Turkish Republic.

Upon reflection, however, we marvel at the idiocy of the exchange: Why are Turkish men concerned with what their wives wear in public?

The same applies to the Turkish government, which has arrogated unto itself the right to ban the language of 20 million Kurds. Taking your cue from Mr. Gul, you want to shout:

“Why is the language of Kurds a concern of Turks? Have Kurds ever troubled themselves with how Turks conduct themselves in public?”

The burdens of hypocrisy for Turkish politicians are heavy—especially when trying to gloss over their glaring flaws abroad.

In Iran, Mr. Gul tries to sound like Thomas Jefferson of the Middle East, but in Paris, he is miffed that President Sarkozy questions his country’s democratic bona fides in public.

In his words, “Isn’t a more democratic and secular Turkey—one that gives priority to the rule of law, one that enjoys a thriving economy, one that can make a strong contribution to the defense [of the continent]—in the best interests of Europe?”

The logic may be mildly compelling, but the reality is totally lacking. Besides, the French rarely let their interlocutors have the last word:

“Of course, we want a secular, democratic and modern Turkey. But you will not have us tell the hardworking and intelligent Turkish people that unless they are part of European Union, they cannot become democratic.”

In short, Mr. Sarkozy tells Mr. Gul: Don’t put the cart before the horse!

In case Mr. Sarkozy’s impeccable logic doesn’t impress Mr. Gul, here is a Kurdish solution to Turkey’s endless quest to join the EU:

Instead of aping after the European mirage year after year, let a bit of Europe flourish inside Turkey by lifting the ban, for example, on the “illegal” Kurdish television stations that are broadcasting from the continent!

Such a move would also swell the ranks of Turkey’s friends in Europe and contribute to the understanding of civilizations as opposed to their dangerous march towards what looks like a showdown.

If a Turkish politician stood for applied democracy, he would likely qualify Turkey for its third Nobel Prize—this time for peace!

Mr. Gul’s life is not all hypocrisy, however. There is also mockery, courtesy of leaked American cables that assign a wicked pedigree to his political lineage.

Americans come in for a laugh when Mr. Gul is associated with Mr. Fethullah Gulen, a renegade Turkish cleric now roaming loose in Pennsylvania, on Turkey’s most-wanted list worldwide.

Mr. Gul denies the charge, but sneeringly claims that if the Americans had done their homework, they would not have associated him with Mr. Gulen, but “Great East.”

See: It’s always somebody else’s fault!

But even a disinterested observer would notice that “Gul” has a certain ring with “Gulen!”

“Great East” is the name of a defunct magazine, brainchild of a Turkish poet Necip Fazil Kisakurek. He is dead, but his ideas have come to power through the influence of politicians like Mr. Gul.

A bigoted Muslim and rabid anti-Semite, Mr. Kisakurek sang the virtues of the East over the wickedness of the West and crossed paths with Mr. Gul in his declining years.

He didn’t live to see the publication of Samuel Huntington’s book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” but I suspect he would have found himself in its pages.

An anecdote attributed to him goes like this: “Master, how come we don’t hear much about you in your works. Can you tell us about yourself a little bit?”

To which, Mr. Kisakurek responds: “I am the fertilizer of the beloved flower of Islam.”

Does that fertilizer include terrorism against secular Kurds and non-Islamic world?

The same Mr. Kisakurek doesn’t believe, “Sovereignty belongs to the people,” words originally coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau but plagiarized by Ataturk and emblazoned on the front wall of the Turkish parliament. He thinks sovereignty “belongs to the right!”

Ah—but who decides what is right?

His answer is an Islamic supreme leader that offers a combination of Franco and Hitler says Carter V. Findley, a professor of modern Middle East at Ohio State University!

Some flower that is! More like a shameful stinkweed!

One charming nugget in Mr. Sever’s book is a story that a Turkish journalist, Cengiz Candar, tells Mr. Sever, who shares it with the Turkish president:

An American journalist asks Mr. Candar to compare Mr. Gul to Mr. Erdogan. He does it this way: “If there is a fight in an alley, Mr. Erdogan will jump right in it, but Mr. Gul will turn around and walk away.”

When Mr. Gul hears it, he says: “No, I won’t run away from the fight. I will separate the parties.”

Really? No fibbing here!

Kurds feel like yelling: “Mr. President, the Kurds have been fighting Turkish governments since its birth. If you are such a peace lover, why didn’t you end the Kurdish-Turkish fight on your watch?”

Turks are too strong for their own good. Unless Kurds find their Achilles heel, they must endure what Thucydides observed 2,400 ago by way of an Athenian ultimatum to Melians:

“Right … is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Mr. Sever says Mr. Gul always looked at the Kurdish Question as a “matter of conscience.” I’m sure he fooled Mr. Sever into thinking so, or fooled himself in so saying.

If he really thinks the Kurdish Question is a matter of conscience, he should perhaps read up on Confucius. The great Chinese sage has the perfect medicine for him as well as our aspiring Kurdish leaders:

“The moral character of the ruler,” he once observed, “is the wind,” and “the moral character of those beneath him is the grass.”

He went on, “When the wind blows, the grass bends.”

There is scarcely any moral wind blowing in Turkey.

The winds that blow have rained bullets and bombs in Kurdistan desolating its mountains and cities and terrorizing its children while Mr. Sever wants us to remember his idol as a great statesman.

Beguiled Turks may do so, but conscientious Kurds and lovers of democracy all over the world will forever associate his name with hypocrisy and view him as a discredit to the human race for all times.

By Kani Xulam

This book review also first appeared on Pasewan, a website for Kurdish and non-Kurdish views on the Kurds and Kurdistan.

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