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SEMİH İDİZ > The Uludere raid and pickled cabbage

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The American Ambassador to Ankara, Francis J. Ricciardone, made the headlines in Turkey, shortly after taking up his post in Ankara, when he used a local saying which is not easy for foreigners to understand, let alone pronounce in Turkish, as he bravely did. 

“Bu ne pehriz, bu ne lahana turşusu” he said - much to everyone, except Prime Minister Erdogan’s, amusement. He was referring to the banning of a politically controversial book by journalist Ahmet Şık before it was even published. 

The Turkish saying roughly translates into “How do you tally eating this pickled cabbage with your diet.” In other words it is meant to highlight a contradiction or an odd situation that simply does not add up. 

Inevitably the same saying came to mind the other day with remarks uttered by Prime Minister Erdoğan in Pakistan, which were no doubt meant more to curry favor with his Pakistani hosts than anything else. 

Addressing a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in Islamabad Erdoğan referred to last November’s deadly air raid by US jets on the Salala border post that killed over two dozen Pakistani soldiers. The US has expressed regrets over the “mistaken raid,” but has refused the full apology that Pakistan demands.

“I am in a position to remind you of the situation concerning a US apology here for our martyrs in Pakistan” Erdogan said, using roundabout words indicating Washington has to apologize for this raid in line with Pakistani demands. 

Not surprisingly his words were immediately jumped on by a number of columnists in Turkey, given the raging debate concerning the “mistaken raid” by Turkish jets in Uludere last December, just weeks after the Salala raid. 34 Kurds were killed in that raid on suspicion of being members of the PKK terrorist group. 

As it turned out it was merely a group of local Kurdish smugglers carrying fuel from Northern Iraq into Turkey on horseback that was hit. The issue hit the headlines once again after a recent Wall Street Journal article on the use of a US “Predator” unmanned aerial vehicle in that raid. 

The press has been demanding to know who was responsible for authorizing “the kill,” which also came at a time of high sensitivity in Turkey concerning the Kurdish issue. The government dragged its foot concerning the investigation into the incident, which many in the media are referring to as the “Uludere Massacre,” and is only now providing snippets of information after the WSJ article. 

It has also refrained from offering an apology, even though a blatant mistake was made leaving 34 citizens of Kurdish origin dead. In the meantime the Minister for Interior Idris Naim Şahin - who has made a name for himself over his insensitive and odd statements and behavior - went on record on Wednesday saying the incident was not one that merited an apology. 

Referring to the Kurds killed in the raid as “our people,” Şahin said “they had lost their lives while involved in smuggling,” adding that if they were alive today they would be in court facing a trial. 

“Because they faced a harsher situation in which they can not be tried, the smuggling side of the matter has been overshadowed” he added in remarks which have merely enhanced his negative image for many in this country. He seems to be suggesting, in a Kafkaesque manner, that those people were lucky to have been killed otherwise they would be going to prison.

The refusal by the government to offer anything that resembles an apology for the Uludere raid involving Turkish citizens is inevitably in stark contrast with Erdoğan’s demand for an apology by Washington for the Salala raid involving “our martyrs” in Pakistan. 

This is why one has to ask how Erdoğan tallies eating this pickled cabbage with his diet. Pakistanis may be happy over his remarks concerning the Salala raid, but it is clear that not everyone in Turkey is swallowing this cabbage. 

May/25/2012

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