Conscience not only cannot but doesn’t ever cheat. We all get the inner feeling when we do something bad – or a sin rather than a crime for that matter because crimes are relative, not absolute. It all depends on who the judge is or the executive. Yet when it comes to calling genocide genocide, man has all along been mincing words, the reality notwithstanding.
Having the first go at it on record, renowned British Prime Minister, (Sir) Winston Churchill, beat about the bush calling it “a crime without a name.” Everyone knew what it was but didn’t like to say it. This presents a typical African way of introducing people. The practice is, when you come to a person whose name contradicts cultural norms or the flavor of the day, you simply tell your audience: “And that one.” No name is mentioned and it’s a message sent and well received.
That is exactly what “genocide” is to mankind — the controversial creation provided by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin. But, with or without what Churchill and Lemkin had to say, man knows what “genocide” is all about. It is a terrible, horrible, distasteful killing experience of human beings perpetrated by their own kind! Strange, as it sounds, that is still what it is – true.
“Genocide” cannot happen by accident. It is something carefully planned, with a defined target and articulated implementation process or modus operandi. Dr. Bulent Kenes clearly points it out in the first chapter of his book: “A Genocide in the Making?” Zooming on “Erdogan’s regime crackdown on the Gulen Movement in Turkey and beyond, he refers to “genocide” as a set of “systematic violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to terminate their existence.”
After reading the book from cover to cover, I remained with one thing I did not fully come to terms with him. This is the question of a question mark accompanying the title. The book ably defines “genocide”. It carves the different shapes it can take in society. Likened to an aviation route, it competently charts the flight schedule. It points out the captain and attendants on board, the passenger manifest and all information about the weather.
Then I ask myself: “Having done all that, what is the question mark all about in the title?” The book constitutes the answer. What the Erdogan’s regime has done to the Gulen Movement and its members (similarly to PKK and its members and now increasingly to HDP and its members) is congruent to genocide.
Maybe what could have qualified for a question mark is whether what Erdogan has done so far to groups and their members he perceives as dissident provides enough evidence to put him on the wanted list of the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague and subsequent issue of an arrest warrant.
According to Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as adopted by the UN General Assembly way back in 1946, any of the listed five acts, when committed, constitutes the crime.
Three of them (vividly incriminating the Erdogan’s regime by more than 60% in the Gulen Movement and its members’ case) are: “Killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm … (and) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part…”
Going by this and as Lemkin pointed out, genocide can put on a political, cultural, social, biological, physical, ethnic and religious cloak. The book unveils and downloads them on past world history and the current 21st century inhabitants claiming to live in a small global village yet engulfed in the environment of “degeneration of democracy, freedom, equality, and rule of law, etc (all of which) “increase the risk of genocide.”
Bulent Kenes goes ahead and classifies the types of genocide relating them to the current state of affairs. The list boils down to ideological, pragmatic, domestic and international, economic and cultural. He then looks into the development of law for the prevention of punishment of genocide before zooming on the Turkish law itself on site.
In the letter and spirit of the United Nations, what is taking place in Turkey today against the Gulen Movement and its members, “is a denial of the right of existence of entire human group(s) … the denial of the right to live of individual human beings… shocks the conscience of mankind … is contrary to moral law and to the spirit and aims of the United Nations…. The punishment of the crime of genocide is a matter of international concern.”
Revisiting Lemkin Bulent Kenes emphasizes the fact that “genocide is directed against the national group as an entity and the actions involved are directed at individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.”
This is why in the case of Turkey we find innocent under-ten sons and daughters of the country are left to die of cancer because their parents – fathers in particular– are perceived to be members of the Gulen Movement. Genocide cases per se. Others are living in forced exile because their “Gulenist” parents have had their passports cancelled. Bulent Kenes observes: “Victims of genocide are put under pressure and persecuted for their identity and membership in a group. There is no reason for them to be targeted individually.”
In Chapter II, Bulent Kenes addresses what he calls “Susceptibility to Genocide: Aggravating Factors in Turkey. Generally, it is an input blaming all that has afflicted Turkey today on the history and a “national culture that does not value human life.”
He recalls what happens to Armenians and Assyrians during the Ottoman Empire; residents of Dersim, who had their ties with the external world severed to the level of being forced to leave because of being starved, introduction of property tax which deprived foreigners of their property in favors of the Turks, the organized and clandestine activity of the Turkish government after it experienced difficulty in dealing with the opposition. This is recorded as Istanbul Pogrom which was based on fake news about the bombing of a house in which the father of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk lived. It ends up in blacklisting “leftist intellectuals” and arbitrary deportations of Greeks, who were allowed to leave with luggage not exceeding 20kg (equivalent to cabin luggage on a flight) and Turkish lira worth about $ 20.
The Alevi were subjected to a massacre that claimed 150 lives and 200 of their houses set on fire. This was done under a pretext of a census. To facilitate the operation the police were given off duty and targeted houses were marked.
The chapter embodies two spectacular aspects of Turkey’s susceptibility to genocide. These revolve on the axis of Kurdish crackdown and divergent Erdogan’s governance style that contradicts the basis of AKP and the Gulen Movement contact lines. Unfocused state governance led to the development of mutual distrust among the Turkish and Kurdish people.
Clashes between government and Kurish forces, which had earlier on left 40,000 people dead were re-ignited by Erdogan’s decision to severe negotiations to clear the way for a nationalist-Islamist alliance. Kurdish cities were besieged. Hundreds of Kurds were slaughtered. Heavy losses were registered on both sides. Human rights violations came on stage. In more than 30 residential houses were destroyed leaving more than 500,000 people homeless. There reports of women and children trapped without food. Not a single security force serviceman was arrested. Ten thousand teachers were purged on allegations of having ties with PKK. Elected Kurdish leaders were arrested, and media houses closed.
to distance himself Bulent Kenes observes that when Erdogan made a U-turn on his pre-election promises prompting Gulen to step back, Erdogan was forced to find new and loyal partners across the board “in the bureaucracy, army, judiciary, civil society and the media in order to destroy both the Kurdish political movement and the Gulen movement.”
Bulent Kenes rightly observes that now sitting on three extreme political Islamist, ultranationalist and Eurasianist ideological discourses which are loosely connected by simply being opposed to the West, Christians, Jews, Kurd and Gulen, Erdogan had set himself a conducive environment to go about whatever he wanted. And this is what he has done to the present day.
“When radicalism associated with religion and sectarianism is causing bloodshed in the Middle East, there could not be any justification for the injustices and inhuman actions that the Erdogan regime is taking without any religious, ethical, moral and legal responsibility than this parlay. Erdogan has exploited this opportunity to the utmost.
“He sized thousands of companies and private properties, shut down thousands of educational institutions and hundreds of media outlets, purged at least 160,000 public servants, investigate over 600,000 people, detained some 500,000 and imprisoned at least 77,000 members of the Gulen Movement. He still continues …today.”
The Erdogan regime has paralyzed all checks and balance mechanisms embodied in the national constitution and international conventions. The Judiciary has lost all its qualities of ensuring its independence, objectivity, impartiality and self-governance. The tenure of judges enshrined in the constitution has been completely terminated. The judiciary has become a stick of the executive. A total of 4,238 judges and prosecutor, about a third of them within the hours of the orchestrated July 15, 2016 coup have been fired.
A former founding –editor-in-chief of the prestigious Today’s Zaman newspaper, Bulent Kenes traces the road to establishing a one-man rule (dictatorship) in Turkey the world has read much about. Erdogan has dared to force domestic and foreign human rights organizations to side with him or face prosecution.
Only single-track security, bureaucracy, militias have been retained while more jihadists and mafias have been taken board. In Erdogan’s Turkey there is room for talking about “cutting off traitors’ heads… we will spill your blood in streams, and we will shower in your blood.”
Chapter III of necessity provides information about the Gulen movement and the system it has been through to the present day. Most of it is common knowledge except pointing out how it became to be a target of people who glorify death and its road to being dehumanized.
Along the same lines, Chapter IV traces what it calls “genocidal markers in the Gulen movement crackdown” characterized by persecution, systematic and psychological damage of the organization and members, and making life hell. Bulent Kenes hints in this chapter that the Erdogan regime has gone ahead and made preparations for the committing the fourth and fifth acts of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children…”
Finally, Bulent Kenes provides a ten-stage genocide checklist for the Gulen Movement by the Erdogan regime, including profiling it over years before taking action, labeling it as terrorist, discrimination, dehumanization, state aligning with jihadists and utra-nationalist groups, polarization, persecution, extermination and denial.
There is nothing to ask about genocide in the making in Turkey under the Erdogan regime. It’s all done. If it were athletics meet, participants in the hit have gone past the “set stage” just waiting for the “go” signal.