Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

The Palin Syndrome at the Rumi Forum

December 11th, 2008 by

by Aleek Kahramanian

Maverick, Maverick, Maverick, Maverick. . . . Did you get that?If we learned anything from the Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin’s big book of campaigning, it’s this. If you script yourself and repeat the same message over and over again, however ridiculous – some percentage of people are bound to believe you.

Today’s speaker at Washington DC’s pseudo-think tank, the Rumi Forum – Dr. Soner Cagaptay – clearly subscribed to the Palin doctrine. Call Turkey a “liberal democracy” often enough and the 40 or so attendees at the lecture titled “What Should President-elect Obama’s Priorities be for Turkey?” would buy in.

According to Cagaptay, who directs the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute,

“Turkey functions and behaves like a European country. Let’s elaborate on that, liberal European democracy that respects the traditions of liberal democracy which includes the idea of a secular government and a fully liberal society.”“This would mean that Obama would be 100% supportive of the idea of Turkey functioning as a democracy and 100% of Turkey functioning as a liberal democracy. By liberal, I mean, to use an analogy of full manual liberal in the sense of a country which promotes liberal values for all of its citizens and inhabitants and perhaps goes through a period of further democratic liberalization as with the EU reforms we saw from 1990-2004.”

Dr. Soner CagaptayGet it folks? Let’s say it together.

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

Convinced yet?

Well, the vast majority of European Parliament members don’t seem to be. They’ve been following Turkey’s political reform record as part of that country’s ongoing bid to join the E.U. and the accounts are dismal.

The draft report considered this week by the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, presented by Ria Oomen-Ruijten (European Popular Party, Conservative, Netherlands), expresses “concern to see in Turkey, for the third consecutive year, a continuous slowdown of the reform process” despite the strong mandate of the AKP government.

Oomen-Ruijten goes on to note that “freedom of expression and freedom of the press are still not fully protected in Turkey”, that the amendment to Article 301 of the Penal Code was not sufficient, as people continue to be prosecuted” and it is now calling for the repeal of this article. It regrets also “the frequent website bans, the extent of which draws Turkey away from standards of a democratic, pluralistic society”.

But maybe that’s just European bias.

What about human rights groups in the U.S. – surely they will back Cagaptay’s assertion that Turkey is a “liberal democracy”.

Not according to U.S.-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch, which has published a report critical of Turkey, documenting a rise in police violence that has gone unpunished. Following meetings with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek, who is in charge of improving his country’s human rights record, HRW’s Director Kenneth Roth stated “it was not clear to me whether he [Cicek] was responsible for protecting human rights or violating them, because he brought an attitude that was utterly contemptuous of the concerns we are raising.”

All of this makes for a very nervous European Union, concerned about admitting a country that denies genocide, represses fundamental human rights and is taking little or no action to reform.

Perhaps the Rumi Forum should put Dr. Cagaptay’s message on YouTube and, with repetition, convince the Turkish nation of the benefits of actually becoming a “liberal democracy.”

Of course, that’s only if the Turkish authorities actually lift the ban on YouTube.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 11th, 2008 at 9:39 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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