Turkey: What Erdoğan knows about Europe
4 March 2011
Despite the Turkish Prime minister's criticisms of the EU, it's clear his country's future lies with the union, argues a Guardian columnist.
If you are going to be a hypocrite, it's best to be so spectacularly hypocritical that you momentarily deprive your audience of the oxygen that would permit them to process the sheer absurdity of what you have just said. It works every time. Just ask the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the proud recipient of quite probably the last Muammar al-Gaddafi International prize for human rights.
Erdoğan has spent much of this week in Germany – if you believe his version of events – imparting well-meant advice to the locals. From the German perspective, Erdoğan did a Gaddafi by effectively accusing the Germans of being racists bent on repressing the country's 3 million Turks by forcing them to speak German and preventing them from practising their religion. "No one may ignore the rights of minorities… Nobody will be able to tear us away from our culture," Erdoğan told a gathering of 11,000 Turkish emigrés in Dusseldorf. "Our children must learn German, but they must learn Turkish first," he boomed, unwittingly lending support to Angela Merkel's highly dubious assertion that multiculturalism had "utterly failed" in Germany because immigrants refused to learn the language.
It's true that it has never been much fun being a Turkish immigrant in Germany. One need only spend a few hours in the company of Merkel's own party members to see how little some attitudes have changed since the first Gastarbeiter arrived there 50 years ago. Citizenship, when given, has been granted in a niggardly fashion almost designed to make life difficult.
Yet who would want to be one of Turkey's 15 million Kurds? The limits of Turkish tolerance will become apparent to anyone brave enough to attempt to school their children first in Kurdish and then in Turkish. As for religious freedom, the Alevis (who make up nearly a fifth of the Muslim population) suffer systematic discrimination, while even the religious brotherhoods that form the core of Erdoğan's own AK party are still officially banned. As for the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Jewish and Syriac minorities, despite the fine words of recent years, it is hard not to see them as hostages from history that no one really wants. Read full article in the Guardian...