ALI H. – Obama’s deafening silence on human rights in Turkey

Obama’s deafening silence on human rights in Turkey andquot[US] President [Barack] Obama has disappointed many by failing to make human rights a priority. True, at times he has stood up for peopleand#39s rights where there are few strategic interests at play — in such places as Cote dand#39Ivoire, Kenya, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

But his readiness to compromise in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Mexico, Uzbekistan and Yemen leaves the impression that he is not committed to the human rights ideal.andquot (Politico, March 4, 2014)These words belong to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Iand#39m afraid Turkey falls into the second category.

In February 2014, a group of prominent American intellectuals sent a joint letter to President Obama calling for his intervention in the face of the negative trajectory of democracy and human rights in Turkey.They argued that then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan (now president) was increasingly undermining a central pillar of the strategic US-Turkish partnership: Turkeyand#39s growing democracy.

andquotSilence will only encourage Prime Minister ErdoIan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further,andquot the intellectuals warned.Unfortunately the events of 2014 have proven the validity of those worries and predictions that were ignored by ObamaSome continue to conveniently and misleadingly explain what is going on in Turkey with a clichandeacute: A war between the Hizmet community and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

What we really see is a step-by-step seizure of the legal system by President ErdoIan to establish a political sultanate and pursue self-interests. The ruling AKP is trying to turn the judiciary, which needs liberal reforms, into a partisan tool to suffocate all opponents of the sultanate.

The pro-Hizmet journalists who were charged with terrorism after the Dec. 14 mass detentions and the arrested 16-year-old Kemalist teenager have one thing in common: They spoke out against a regime of lies and corruption, and were victimized by the judicial systemTurkeyand#39s friends must step upWhile Turkeyand#39s democratic gains are rapidly eroding and the demands for freedom coming from various groups are suppressed, Turkeyand#39s friends and allies must step up, rather than saying a few things half-heartedly or simply watching the state of affairs.

In this respect, the EUand#39s performance has been more responsible than that of the US. The Obama administration is keeping a low profile, especially after the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threat.

It looks like they are ready to shut their eyes to everything for the sake of enlisting Ankara in the war on ISIL.Democracy and human rights warnings to Turkey on behalf of the Obama administration usually come from State Department spokespeople or at times from the White House National Security Council (NSC).

If you ask people in Washington, this is actually done deliberately to demote Mr ErdoIan, diplomatically implying andldquoObama is not your equal.andrdquo That might really be the case when ErdoIanand#39s frequent complaints to the US are handled by lower level officials.

However, when it comes to human rights and democracy violations, the lack of a senior level stance may send Ankara the wrong message, suggesting Washington is not disturbed.As a matter of fact, everybody in Washington is extremely troubled by Turkeyand#39s anti-democratic trajectory.

Iand#39m sure President Obama is also fed up with ErdoIan and continues dealing with him not out of approval, but solely out of national interests. Many in and around the White House believe the US needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the US.

This notion prevails whenever there is a crisis in the Middle East and the US administration puts a brake on reacting in the name of strategic interests. Another common excuse for the silence: andquotWe donand#39t have leverage over Ankara Even if we criticize it, they are not going to move anyway.

andrdquoDo Turkish politicians fear the US?All such andldquorealisticandrdquo analyses miss one important point: Turkish politicians may utter this and that, but at the same time they refrain from inciting the US and are afraid of it as well. Because in their conspiracy- theory-stricken minds, they think the US has the power to pull the rug from under them at anytime.

Hence, if they see serious push back from Washington, they might very well abandon some of their crazy plans.Not just failing to pressure Ankara, the Obama administration is in a mode that suggests: andldquoI donand#39t want see.

I donand#39t want to hear I just want to do my job.andrdquo For example, they sent Vice President Joe Biden to Turkey and he expressed no reservations about attending a so-called andldquopress conferenceandrdquo with ErdoIan that many critical media outlets had been banned from attending.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in constant communication with his counterparts in Ankara Does he raise press freedom and other democracy issues in a powerful way? I doubt it.The US might consider it a gamble to spend too much political capital supporting freedoms in societies where a democratic culture is not deeply rooted.

So they prefer standing for democracy at a level that is not too controversial, choosing economic and military interests as a priority in bilateral relations. This tactic might work in the short run.

However, societal tensions fueled by repressive regimes will inevitably produce larger instabilities that the international community, first and foremost the US, will have to deal with eventually. Globalization comes with interaction and mutual dependency.

You cannot preserve the quality of life in your own nation if you donand#39t watch out for freedoms in other nations too. Therefore realism, no less than idealism, warrants defending human rights and democracy in the contemporary world.

One might even call it realist idealism Applying cold-hearted realpolitik principles of the 19th and 20th century to todayand#39s crises is a mistake. Somebody needs to tell this to President ObamaandhellipBefore I forget, let me say a few words to those AKP partisans who would yammer, andldquoAli Aslan is calling for the US to pressure Turkey.

andrdquo They must first ask AKP officials in Ankara to stop lobbying the international community to pressure the repressive regimes in Syria and Egypt. If we are following freedom issues in other nations — and we must — itand#39s perfectly fine when others do the same for Turkey.

Whoever doesnand#39t like it should go ahead and drop Turkeyand#39s signature from international alliances and human rights conventions, further isolating the nation.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman