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Hell in the making in Turkey

It’s not the imaginary Paradise; definitely not the Biblical Promised Land; no longer the desirable sweet home. It’s on the verge of the Land of Genocide, from where more than a quarter of its citizens interviewed prefer to flee and settle somewhere else. It’s hell in the making.

Human against human maltreatment bordering on what we today call “genocide” has practically been with man since the days of Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden, The Paradise – the best place for one to reside. I am not a morals philosopher, but I don’t know how the revered experts would describe a scripture murder narrative of Abel by his elder brother, Cain, out of pride, envy, fear and hatred.

If The Paradise life could be that unethical and inimical, what should the world expect from a circumstance calibrated by natura humana ad mala inclinatur — human nature is inclined to do malice?  The scriptures are laden with massacre, slavery, prisoners-of-war and fleeing refugees’ stories.   

From the Pharaohs, we have had Kings, Emperors, the Hitler(s), Mussolini(s) Czars, Salazar(s), Non-Executive and Executive Presidents, Tribal Warlords, name them. Many have come and gone, leaving behind an assortment of legacies. For the proud ‘invincible’ Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, the story was “Veni, Vidi, Vici “ – I came, I saw, I conquered. Uganda’s Iddi Amin in Africa hit the streets of neighbouring Tanzania border town of Bukoba, sending a message to the world that even the chickens had to go back to roost at noon and he could have lunch in the then government seat, Dar es Salaam. Others are still here with us, terrorizing the world with their style of rule, provided their will is done and at whatever cost. They compare themselves with God, The Almighty. These we call authoritarian in their rainbow colour governing styles. And dare you refer to them as dictators; your neck is at risk.

Turkey has not been the odd country out. It has had its share of a post-Ottoman Empire evolution which, within a century, has come to the verge of becoming the Land of Genocide and, regrettably, under the rule of a regime supposedly guided by apolitical party branding itself as Justice and Development (AKP).

Bulent Kenes, in his book titled “A Genocide in the making?: Erdogan Regime’s Crackdown on the Gulen Movement”, remarks that genocide constitutes this unpalatable human experience the world has all along known  but has kept silent about until 1933. This was when “Raphael Lemkin, a Polish law professor, who escaped the Nazi occupation of his homeland, made a presentation to the League of Nations conference…”in Madrid, Spain.

Lemkin urged leaders at Madrid “to enact laws against the destruction of religious or ethnic groups, which he called crimes of ‘vandalism’ and ‘acts of barbarism’. If only his proposal… in 1933 had been accepted, Lemkin believed … problems raised by the Nuremberg trials would have been prevented.” Eighty-eight years after his plea, the problem still stands unresolved, despite the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December, 1948. This was four years after he came out with the “genocide” term in his book titled: “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress.”

At around the end of the first week of April, 2021, the world had a news flash about Turkey “freezing assets of 377 individuals and members of terror groups…” This was not the first time it has happened. In 2017 assets worth more than $11billion were seized. So, the latest round cannot be called an accident. Accidents are not history to repeat themselves. It is something planned, calculated and executed.  

The Convention categorizes what constitutes Genocide as “acts against any member of an ethnical, racial or religious group with the intent to destroy such a group, in whole or in part, through the execution of a plan (leading to among others):

  • International killings;
  • Causing serious harm to the physical or mental integrity of persons;
  • Forcing the group to live under conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

It goes on to define respective penalties and guiding procedures touching, including security measures on legal entities and the fact that such offenses have no prescriptive period. With genocide, there is no escape tangent, the reason for which Turkey today can still be held responsible for the genocide of Armenians even when the current Turkish leadership did not participate in it.

If Turkish leaders can be held responsible for genocide crimes committed by their predecessors, how do they escape the ones they have committed yesterday, committing today or those on the drawing board? This is what the Erdogan regime must understand.

Kenes argues: “ The crimes committed against Armenians, Assyrians, Alevis, with events of poll/property tax, September 6-7 incidents in 1955, massacres in Maras, Corum, Sivas, and, ongoing  brutality against the Kurdish people show the violent track record of the political culture in Turkey and the value it gives to human life.” Realization of just one of the five is sufficient acts is enough to prove the genocide case against any country, any leader, any common person.

The Turkish situation is such that Erdogan, according to Kenes, has managed “converting the state apparatus into an illegal maverick, the judiciary into a sledgehammer to crush his opponents and the police force in total and military forces, to a great extent, into his partisan militia.”

Going by the genocide definition, Erdogan has committed deliberate and systematic crimes along the lines of mass detentions and arrests, confiscation of properties of thousands of companies and individuals, mass dismissals of people from public service, condemning them to “civil death.”

The sum total of arbitrary arrests is separation of children from their parents and guardians. There are records of pro-Erdogan groups sending children to orphanages controlled by the regime. Property confiscations, at the end of the day, deny children of their livelihood sources.

Today’s Turkey under Erdogan is real hell in the making. It is a case of genocide worth international attention without reservations. In Africa we say: “He who ignores a thorn prick should be ready for a sore leg.” Is the world ready for a sore leg over Erdogan’s open genocide crime?

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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