Let's not use Africans against the French
Despite efforts to improve the image of Arabs by the ruling party, this nation still has what I can call the “Lawrence of Arabia” trauma. In the eyes of a sizable segment of the society, the Arabs’ collaboration with the French and the British was not a strategic alliance to liberalize them from Ottoman rule, but was an outright betrayal, a stab in the back. At the end of the day, they were fooled by these imperialist powers and became their mere colonies, would say the conventional view.
It seems we still have the tendency to see the former colonized countries prone to be fooled by the Western imperialists. The general public opinion would believe that Iraqis will let themselves and their natural resources exploited by Americans. The way Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked France during the war on Libya was based on the premise that the French and other western powers are going there to plunder the riches of Libyans and the “naïve” Libyans would not even be aware of it.
We think Iraq or Libya hasn’t made much progress since their tribal days of “Lawrence of Arabia.” But that is not the case. Times have changed and some of the Iraqis and Libyans know exactly with what they are dealing. By the way, note how Iraqi Prime Minister recently complained about Turkey interfering to its internal affairs to the US public.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu threatened France of talking about French colonialism everywhere in Africa.
In the past, it was Algeria. I remember that the Algerians were not that happy when each time there was a talk of recognizing Armenian claims of genocide the Turks would remind the French what they did in Algeria.
There are two problems with this rhetoric. The first is the assumption that Algerians or Africans can not speak for themselves, which attests to an indirect condesending view on these countries.
Second, we do exactly what we accuse France of doing: political opportunism.
It is cristal clear that what French President Sarkozy is after is not a moral achievement. He is after Armenian votes. He makes recourse to Armenians when he needs it, just as Turkey recalls the tragedy of Algerians and Africans only to make a point against the French.
The Turkish – French relations are at a serious crossroads. The bill penalizing denial of Armenian genocide claims will be endorsed by both the lower house of the parliament as well as the Senate, since the Socialists who are in the majority in the latter can not dare to turn it down due to the upcoming elections.
Turkey does not have a lot of punitive tools that will not be harmful to its own interests. The Turkish ambassador will be called back for consultation once the bill passes from the lower house. He might then be called back permanently once the bill passes from the upper house. I don’t think Sarkozy would be moved by not being able to see Turkish ambassador in Paris. Pulling back the ambassador, is a serious step but only symbolically and actually it makes the life of the country that takes this decision much more difficult.
French companies are barred from entering natinoal bids for the past five . Any additinal step could prove harmful for Turkey as well. Will Turkey try to harm French interests in other domains as the cultural sector for instance at the expense of closing the channels of dialogue between the two peoples?
The upcoming crisis with Paris will require careful finetuning.