Davutoğlu, Ersanlı, al-Bashir and al-Assad
At one time, Büşra Ersanlı’s (a jailed professor) and Ahmet Davutoğlu’s (the current foreign minister of Turkey) paths crossed in university corridors. When Davutoğlu’s application to Marmara University was met with a reaction from the Kemalist team and was opposed, Büşra Ersanlı was the figure who supported him the most. Again, in another university, when Davutoğlu formed a new department, it was Ersanlı who supported him and rushed to give lessons.
Consequently, what stance Davutoğlu adopted, what he felt, what he did for it on the Ersanlı issue was both a political statement and an issue of fidelity.
Davutoğlu’s opinion is clear; he does not think Ersanlı is guilty in any way. He said he carefully read the entire indictment and its appendixes. He has expressed that the problem stems from legal and democratic shortcomings of the investigation and of the case. He has added that he has conveyed his thoughts on this issue both to the justice minister and to the prime minister.
From his words, we understand that there are many Cabinet ministers who are aware that it has gone too far in the KCK trial and similar trials and that intense debate took place in this direction in the Cabinet.
Sudan and Syria: Contradictions
The most important part of the interview with Davutoğlu was about Sudan, a topic that has a distinctive significance from the angle of the inner consistency of foreign policy, democracy, human rights, justice and freedom ventures.
The issue is al-Bashir.
Omar al-Bashir took power in Sudan with a military coup and he is accepted as the number one offender in the Darfur disaster by the War Crimes Tribunal since 2009. He is held responsible for the deaths of 200,000 people and for 3 million displaced people.
However, Turkey, which claims to have adopted justice, freedom and human rights in its foreign policy, has very good relations with al-Bashir. He has visited Turkey; he is enjoying support from Turkey.
We asked Davutoğlu. Here is his answer:
“Sometimes, there are situations where two principles clash. There are moments when you experience a clash inside. It is the contradiction between ‘the need to mediate’ and ‘to show reaction to what is going on there.’ During the past eight months, each time I went to Sudan, there were people criticizing me saying, ‘Why are you going there?’ The same situation occurred at one time in Libya with Gadhafi. Now, a similar situation is going on with Sudan. We have a relationship with Sudan to solve problems. We have a starting point of ‘Maybe we can reach a solution by acting this way.’
“There are two issues regarding Sudan. Darfur and South Sudan. We have relations with both sides. For two reasons: Can there be a solution? Can we help those who are experiencing problems? For example, Darfur’s only relationship was through us. We have transported aid, health services and the Red Crescent. South Sudan, you know, is the Christian side. They came to Ankara. They asked for help from us on grounds that it could only be us that could mediate between them and al-Bashir. To tell the truth, if there were any hope left in Syria, I would have continued going there also; we could have maintained the contact.”
“Our Sudan policy is not a policy of supporting al-Bashir and his Darfur stance. We went to Darfur in 2005 and look what we have done. Similarly in South Sudan. Is it a mistake; is it a crime for me to go there? No. If there were hope, we would go.
“Syria is different. Syria attempted to legitimize cruelty through us; we opposed that. During his trip, the prime minister told al-Bashir to his face, ‘Muslims don’t commit cruelty.’ We were able to reach Darfur and provide aid through our relationship with al-Bashir.
“The meeting al-Bashir attended in Istanbul was an African Union meeting. We cannot tell them ‘We want this and we don’t want that.’ For example, our relationship with Israel is cut right now. In the Black Sea cooperation meeting in Istanbul, Israel participated as an observer; there was no objection on our part.”
“Because of one person, are we going to disregard that country and leave all the resources to Westerners?”
I don’t know about you, but are you convinced about Sudan?
I am not, definitely not, in any way.
Yes, diplomatic interests are as important as principles, and diplomacy requires some kind of living with and managing contradictions.
But, there are limits to that.
It is a humiliation even to shake hands with a leader defined as a perpetrator of genocide, as a committer of a crime against humanity, as the massacrer of 200,000 people.
What needs to be done is to activate ethical and political sanctions.
We hope that it is not this critical sentence in the Davutoğlu interview, “Are we going to leave the resources to Westerners because of one person?” that constitutes the key policy.
Ali Bayramoğlu is a columnist for daily Yeni Şafak in which the unabridged version of this article was published July 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.