Double standards haunt U.S., EU in NATO dispute with Turkey -
Jun 07, 2022
The United States’ and Europe’s long-
Turkey is blocking Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership saying that the two countries
are supporting and harbouring terrorists, referring to operatives and sympathisers
of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a four-
“The failure to hold Turkey accountable for its repression of Kurdish ethnic and political rights within the framework of the Turkish state has enabled Ankara to establish Turkish policies as a condition for NATO membership even if they violate NATO membership criteria,” Dorsey said in an article for the Eurasia Review on Tuesday.
“Meeting Turkish demands regarding perpetrators of political violence is one thing; acquiescing in the criminalisation of legitimate Kurdish political and cultural expression is another,” Dorsey said.
A full reproduction of the article follows below:
U.S. and European acquiescence in Turkey’s long-
The opposition has sparked debates about Turkey’s controversial place in the North Atlantic defence alliance.
Turkey’s detractors point to its problematic military intervention in Syria, relations with Russia, refusal to sanction Moscow, and alleged fuelling of tension in the eastern Mediterranean, calling the country’s NATO membership into question.
Its defenders note that Turkey, NATO’s second-
Kurdish rights hardly figure in the debates, and if they do, only as a prop for taking Turkey to task for its slide into authoritarianism.
An ethnic group spread across southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northern Syria, and western Iran, Kurds are seen at best as assets in the fight against the Islamic State and at worst a threat to Turkish security and territorial integrity. Turkey’s estimated 16 million Kurds account for up to 20 per cent of the country’s population.
Turkey, or Turkiye as it wants to be known going forward, has used the security argument to make its agreement to Swedish and Finnish NATO membership dependent on the two Nordic countries effectively accepting its definition of terrorism as including any national expression of Kurdish identity.
Turkey has demanded that Sweden and Finland extradite 33 people, some of whom are Swedish or Finnish nationals, because of their alleged support for the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) or exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds responsible for a failed military coup in 2016.
Turkey accuses the two Nordic countries of allowing the PKK to organise on their
territory. Alongside the United States and the European Union, Turkey has designated
the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The PKK has waged a decades-
Turkey also wants Sweden and Finland to support its military operation against the
People’s Protection Units (YPG), a U.S.-
Mr. Erdoğan recently announced that Turkey would launch a new military operation
to extend the Turkish armed forces’ areas of control in Syria to a 30-
Past U.S. and European failure to stand up for Kurdish rights, as part of Turkey’s need to meet the criteria for NATO membership that include “fair treatment of minority populations,” has complicated the fight against the Islamic State, stymied Kurdish aspirations beyond Turkey’s borders and enabled repression of Kurdish rights in Turkey.
More immediately, the failure to hold Turkey accountable for its repression of Kurdish ethnic and political rights within the framework of the Turkish state has enabled Ankara to establish Turkish policies as a condition for NATO membership even if they violate NATO membership criteria.
Those policies include defining the peaceful expression of Kurdish identity as terrorism and the rolling back of Kurdish language and cultural rights since the collapse in 2015 of peace talks with the PKK. Turkey lifted the ban on Kurdish languages and the word Kurd in 1991. Until then, Kurds were referred to as ‘mountain Turks.’
The governor of the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir, widely seen as a hub of Kurdish cultural and political activity, forced this writer under treat of death to leave the region for using the word Kurd rather than mountain Turk in interviews in the 1980s.
Kurdish language programs in universities have dwindled in recent years amid administrative hurdles, while Kurdish parents complain of pressure not to enrol their children in elective Kurdish courses.
The failure to take Turkey to task early on takes on added significance at a time
when NATO casts the war in Ukraine as a battle of values and of democracy versus
autocracy that will shape the contours of a 21st-
For his part, U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to regain the moral high ground in the wake of the Trump presidency that broke with American liberalism by declaring “America is back” in the struggle for democratic and human rights.
Mr. Biden and Europe’s problem is that their credibility rides on cleaning up at home and ensuring that they are seen as sincere rather than hypocritical.
That’s a tall order amid assertions of structural racism on both sides of the Atlantic;
controversy over gun ownership in the United States; preferential arrangements for
Ukrainian refugees as opposed to non-
The obvious place to start is at home. Kurds could be another starting point, with Finnish and Swedish NATO membership on the front burner. Meeting Turkish demands regarding perpetrators of political violence is one thing; acquiescing in the criminalisation of legitimate Kurdish political and cultural expression is another.
That may be a tough bargain to drive home in Ankara. However, it would offer a compromise formula that could serve everyone’s interest and help Turkey solve a problem that promises to be one of the Middle East’s multiple exploding powder kegs.
(The original version of the article can be found here.)