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United the world falls under self-first

EVERY year in mid-February the world celebrates a special occasion tagged “The Valentine Day”. I am no party to this alien near-cultural ritual. But this time round I still received a WhatsApp chat all the way from the United States of America to East Africa on the western rim of the Indian Ocean.

During this month, this year, many events took place, though some astonishingly anti-Valentine Day in letter and spirit.

United under the African Union (AU) flag and together falling under the scourge of COVID-19, member countries were called upon to develop capacity for producing own vaccines. What a proud and loving small global village now telling each member to fend for oneself!

As a World Health Organization (WHO) Media Team registered member, I receive a message requesting me to sign a “vaccine equity declaration for health workers wherever they are…” For heaven’s sake, has the world grown so selfish that it has to be reminded of the rights of these people basing on their kind (of) service they render and the risky working environment?

How many doctors and nurses have lost their dear lives on duty, some leaving behind untold problems to their families? I remember a Tanzanian Catholic nun from Uru on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro dying in Italy. Does the world really need to be sensitized on this?

It is in this very month that Turkish Recep ayyip Erdogan turned 77. The official media quotes messages from Britain to Georgia, from Mauritania to Somalia and Senegal sending birthday wishes to Erdogan saying: “Long live uncle Tayyip” and “we love you grandfather Tayyip”.

Turkey ostensibly launches a military operation in Northern Iraq to rescue 13 hostages held captive for years by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. The mission aborts. President Erdogan flashes blames around at various targets, including the United States of America for supporting Kurdish enemy operations in Syria and Iraq. “The U.S. has given them weapons and they have fought against us.”

The president also directs the blame to “pro-Kurdish party” meaning the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). One of the bereaved mothers is brought to the TV address. The Head of State promises to avenge her son’s death. What an anti-Valentine Day tactic for prompting nationalist feelings for a planned purpose.

Those versed with Turkish event methodology will not be surprised to learn that almost immediately a crackdown is put in place, leading to the arrest of more than 700 people over alleged links with PKK. When were investigations made? How are those arrested linked to soldiers’ deaths at a site to which they have never been – that is, if they even know it? It reminds me of the Oxford English Readers for Africa textbook I read more than 70 years ago about a lamb that had to be killed by an angered and uncompromising predator for fouling water downstream before it was born.

I’m not a Turk, nor a Kurd. But I’ve had interest in the area which has big ties with holy places of the three books.  We used to read about the Mesopotamia plains and highlands, which today comprise parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia. There is what has gone down in history as the Ottoman Empire. I remember Kemal Ataturk, Said Nursi and his famous book, Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet Movement, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). I remember inclinations of Ataturk, Nursi, Gulen and Erdogan painting the picture of an interesting global garden of thought.

For example, isn’t it brain teasing that President Erdogan, in an anti-Valentine Day spirit, should tag Gulen as the brain behind the July 15, 2016 coup when the perceived perpetrator doesn’t harbor any liking for palace life – let alone of a family head? Erdogan’s own ally has confirmed to the word that the coup story was cooked.

This explains the must change of focus to now focus towards perceived pro-Kurdish elements wherever they are. Besides PKK which has been at war with the Turkish state for about three decades now and its leader, Abdullah Ocalam has been imprisoned since 1999, Erdogan’s new target is the HDP, whose co-chair, Selahattin Demirtas, is currently in jail and risking serving a  term of 142 years!! His charges range from first degree murders, robbery, incitement to violence and  violating the integrity of the state.

The thing is: “What prevents ‘Uncle and Grandfather Tayyip’ from extending the Valentine Day spirit to the Kurd people? What is criminal about being (born) a Kurd? Can the bullet beat the heart? HDP and human rights groups have made it clear to Erdogan that the Olive branch is the cure and that they are ready to participate in the mediation. Why does he see them as enemies?

The hostility between the Turkish State and the country’s Kurds who constitute 15-20% of the population is deep rooted. Because of the 1920s and 1930s uprisings, many Kurds were resettled; their names and costumes banned, use of their language restricted and denied identity. They ended up being referred to derogatively as “Mountain Turks” Turkey at the same time claims that YPG and PYD in Iraq and Syria respectively are wings of PKK and holds that they should be eliminated.

This creates a non-peace conducive environment. Turley finds this a justification for crossing its country borders and mounting military operations in Iraq and Syria. In such operations Turkey has found itself supporting the IS, which is a global mistake.

It would pay a lot to Turkey to appreciate that the Kurd people are scattered all over the world from where they attract some level of sympathy.  This is on top of Turkey itself having 18-25%; Iraq 15-20%; Iran 10% and Syria 9%. Put briefly, the Kurds constitute regional majorities in all the four countries and are the fourth largest ethnic group in West Asia, after Arabs, Persians and Turks. What perhaps escapes the anti-Kurd minds is that they are scattered in the Middle East, Asia, America and Oceania, Europe, Trans-caucasus and EU countries.

One need not envy Erdogan. If it were not for the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Western allies and the consequent isolation of the Kurd people, chances are that the story about this one of the world’s largest peoples group without a state could read differently today.

The problem is that Erdogan has no right to mount military operations beyond his country’s borders under the pretext of hot pursuit. He should start at home by coming to terms with the Kurds within Turkey before dealing with them in Iraq, Iran, Syria and anywhere else. Peace, like love, starts at home.

Without the olive branch, the spirit and letter of the Valentine Day during whose observance Erdogan was born, chances of Turkey taming the Kurds remains a dream of his era. Peace and love, respect for a different opinion have the same charge with a secret and selfish agenda, to borrow from the subject of chemistry. So, they repel. In the world of selfishness, the story remains one: “United we fall.”

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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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