When Dr. Bulent Kenes raised genocide crime dangers in Turkey through his book titled “A Genocide in the Making?” zeroing in on the Erdogan regime crackdown on the Gulen movement, chances are that in some quarters he was taken for a prophet of doom or false alarmist or anti-government propagandist.
Now that evolving events point in the direction of the very dangers, what should the world response be? Should it be to sit back, relax and wait for the crime to be committed to take action?
This reminds me of a court case I was covering as a cub reporter at the turn of the 1960s. On her own plea of “guilty”, one European lady was convicted and sentenced to a fine of 30 shillings for careless driving and causing an accident.
At that time, this translated into one-and-half Pound Sterling or six U.S. dollars, which is not the point at issue here. This analysis is about the link between prevention and cure (of crime) in which case medical practice recommends the former. “Prevention is better than cure”, they say.
In her mitigation for court lenience, she told the magistrate: “The moment I noticed that an accident was imminent, I covered my face and waited for it to happen.” While delivering judgment, the magistrate rejected her plea saying: “In covering your face with hands, you abandoned the wheel, which is careless driving, leading to the accident.”
Prevention is, indeed, better than cure, which can also sometimes turn out to be painful and bitter, as it was for this accused lady driver.
In a 221-page book dedicated to “Furkan, Feridum, Ahmet, Esma, Gulsum … and all victims of Erdogan’s despotic regime”, Dr. Bulent Kenes sounds an alarm against “a brutal crackdown … filled with violations that may be classified, at the very least, as crimes against humanity and very well be the harbinger of what comes next in terms of full-scale genocide to exterminate thousands of innocent people.”
He calls the world memory to global community general disregard to situations on the ground resulting in failure of applying brakes on the crime of genocide in the event of it surfacing and taking root in society. To use the book’s argument, here is “a unique volume that loudly cries out to the world this highly probable risk before it is too late (for Turkey).”
The question is: “To be or not to be; isn’t the genocide crime cloud hovering over Turkey today even more real than before?” Isn’t Dr. Bulent Kenes’ warning on genocide crime in the making in Turkey coming true as days come and go?”
Five months less two days after the book landed on my desk for review, I read a news media headline: “Turkey shaken by suggestion of poisoning jailed Gulen followers.” The story reads: “A pro-government group in Turkey has come up with the idea for the collective death of people held in prison due to their links to the faith-based Gülen movement. Rights defenders said the ruling party rhetoric has reached a genocidal level, while pro-government journalists (identified as) Hilal Kaplan and Emre Erciş expressed support for the idea.
“In a Clubhouse chat room created by supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) …, some speakers talked about a potential elimination of imprisoned Gülen followers by poisoning them.
During the conversation about the situation of tens of thousands of political prisoners, particularly those held behind bars over their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, chat room creator Furkan Bölükbaşı suggested that they ought to be killed “by using a kind of cheap poison that would not be a burden on the state budget.”
The suggestion was first put forward by Mustafa Aydın, another AKP supporter who has pictures of himself with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “We should not feed them in prison,” Aydın said. “Why is the state feeding them in prison with my taxes? We should not give them meals. They should eat each other instead. We should destroy them altogether. It’s not a crime, anyway. We used to poison dogs in the past; we should do the same [with them].”
Several hazards stick their neck out of this development. First Hazard is: “In as ethically and smoothly running governance system, where does a platform standing for violation of human rights find an environment that is conducive to its existence?
The Second: Neither the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) nor its relevant government departments raise a finger at the sentiments being sent across in society and the tone of statements being delivered from the proceedings of the platform. Not even the office of the presidency. Instead, a key participant displays pictures taken of him and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Does this imply support of the Head of State?
Third: The Turkish local media is practically critically ill and almost dead under the control of the Erdogan. While human rights activists saw this as the AKP rhetoric reaching a genocidal level, two pro-government journalists support the idea of killing imprisoned Gulen linked Turkish citizens by poison.
Which type of media practice is that? This clearly illustrates why media practitioners ethics involves staying away from politicians and tycoons. Held under Erdogan’s claws, here are media practitioners playing a negative role in society, promoting crime, and genocide (a crime against humanity) for that matter. At the end of the day, Turkey media personnel who fun genocide must understand that they will have to answer for their part in the crime. A living story is from the Rwanda genocide in Africa of the 1990s.
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 explains that it is a set of “systematic violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to terminate their existence.”
Isn’t what the Erdogan’s regime is doing to the Gulen Movement and its members (similarly to PKK and its members and now increasingly to HDP and its members) congruent to genocide?
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, identifies five acts, which, when committed, constitute the crime. These include “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…”
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.”
Today, innocent under-ten Turkish sons and daughters are left to die of cancer because their parents are perceived to be members of the Gulen Movement. Mothers nurse babies in prison. People are “put under pressure and persecuted for their identity and membership in a group when there is no reason for them to be targeted individually.”
There is every proof that a culture that does not value human life has taken root in Turkey. The fact that the economy of Turkey is in tartars is not a secret. But an independent investigative report published in Foreign Policy on August 8, 2021, reveals the AKP Party government spending between TL 11.2 billion and TL 13 billion ($1.3 billion to $1.5 billion) for the construction of more than 100 prisons as part of its post-coup building spree and an additional 100 ‘facilities’ are under consideration by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government raising the total capacity of Turkey’s prisons by more than 70%, to at least 320,000 from around 180,000 in 2016.
Whose prisons? What message does this send to the Turkish people? Why shouldn’t they improve on their Head of State moves and suggest poisoning prisoners instead? Mind you, more than 400,000 Syrian refugee children are being denied education! To what is the Erdogan regime more committed?
Turkey already stands accused of genocide. What is taking place in the country demands more than just international concern. It demands action. Dr. Bulent Kenes’ genocide world alert in Turkey is coming true.