Sitting next to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed to reporters during a Pentagon press conference on Oct. 25 that his country has actually offered Turkey a “Bin Laden type” operation against the military chiefs of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The offer was first revealed by Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara on Oct. 16 and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said the same day that he had turned it down because the circumstances were not the same.
“It is Erdoğan’s country,” Dempsey reportedly said, adding that he could not question his decisions. “He is doing well.”
One should assume that Dempsey in no way used the expression in the way that Germans called Turkey “Enverland” in reference to Defense Minister Enver Pasha after dragging the Turkish Empire via him into World War I; otherwise it would recall bad memories to Turkish people’s minds.
Speaking of Erdoğan’s country, taking a closer look at today’s current affairs in Turkey might make you think that some issues could actually be carried out better, including the Kurdish problem which Dempsey was commenting on.
One of the main items on political parties’ agenda during their bayram, religious holiday, activities was the ongoing hunger strikes in prisons, for example. More than 600 PKK member or sympathizer prisoners have been on a hunger strike for the last 45 days demanding the easing of prison conditions (such as free access) not for themselves but the imprisoned-for-life founding leader Abdullah Öcalan of the PKK. Oct. 24 Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin called the strikers to put an end to it, without getting any response. Yesterday it was Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who made the same call, but neither in Ankara nor in Istanbul. He paid a bayram visit to Osman Baydemir, the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) member mayor of Diyarbakır, where Erdoğan might not be most welcome nowadays.
A new municipality law, by the way, is under heavy criticism by both the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) opposition because it brings new advantages to Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and that rift could cost Erdoğan MHP support for having local elections early, in 2013 instead of 2014.
The CHP and AK Parti are now in another row over the 89th anniversary celebrations of the Turkish Republic on Monday, October 29. Because the governor of Ankara imposed a ban on rallies to celebrate Republic Day by a number of civil society associations in front of the historical first Parliament – now museum – building, the CHP decided to boycott the official celebrations to join banned civil ones.
From Oct. 29 on politics might further warm up in Erdoğan’s country.