Armenian, Assyrian and Hellenic Genocide News

Double Standard: The Turkish State And Racist Violence
by Yucel Yerilgoz (Courtesy ANU)
Posted: Sunday, January 07, 2001 08:21 pm CST

In present-day societies, racism and racist violence appear on the public agenda with increasing frequency. In the past, Europeans associated these terms with victim groups such as Jews and gypsies. Today, as a result of labour migration in Western Europe, other groups such as Turks and North Africans are added to this list, in addition to refugees. In some countries, the Turkish population is among the groups under racist attack. The environment in Europe is not sufficiently safe to allow Turks and other minorities to live a quiet life without worrying about racist attacks.

What does it mean to be 'a potential target' and 'to live with fear'? What do the people living with these feelings understand about the racism that threatens them? Do they oppose racism as an ideology or are they 'anti-racist' because it threatens them? What does Turkey as a country, whose citizens abroad live with these feelings, understand about racism? Individual members of groups which are the potential victims of racist violence, are often by definition perceived as being anti-racist themselves. Many times racism places groups of people in a hierarchy based on skin colour, religion, and cultural, national or ethnic origin. Racist violence is inflicted on those groups who find themselves in the 'lowest' ranks of this hierarchy. However, this does not necessarily mean that these victims of racist violence cannot themselves advocate racist beliefs and ideologies. This should not be taken as a matter of 'blaming the victim'. Racist violence should always be combated as such, regardless of the person on whom it is inflicted. And it should be fought wherever it occurs, if necessary, within the very groups who are victimised by racist violence.

This chapter deals with the Turkish state, and with the Turkish people who live all over Europe. Two questions are considered: on the one hand, how do the Turkish people respond to, and what is their role in violence directed against minorities within Turkey itself and abroad? And on the other hand, what is their response to violence against Turkish minorities in the countries of Western Europe? First, a few remarks are needed about the ideological structure of the Turkish state without which Turkish policy and behaviour cannot be properly understood. Second, an explanation is given of the Turkish influence on the everyday life of Turkish people living abroad. Third, examples of the response to the violence against Turkish minorities in Europe that appeared in the Turkish press and were published all over Europe are presented.


"No idea can be upheld against the interests of the Turkish nation, the foundation of the indivisibility of the Turkish existence with its state, its country, its history and moral values, Ataturk's nationalism [Kemalism], principles, revolutions and civilisation."

This statement is from a section of the Constitution of the Turkish republic, which was ratifed in 1982. It not only proves that Kemalism still prevails in Turkey, but also means that Turkish law will not accept any idea that is in conflict with the interests of the Turkish nation and Turkish nationalism.

Kemalism, presented in Turkey as an ideology, is named after Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938), founder of the Turkish Republic. In tb23, Kemal declared republican rule over the countries remaining of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. Up to the time of his death, he continued to assume total control of Turkey's destiny. In Turkish history, this period of time is known as the 'one-party period' or the 'one-party dictatorship'. Kemal, later named Ataturk ('father of the Turks') and 'Chief for Eternity', launched a series of reforms concerning a great variety of matters, ranging from clothing to the alphabet. In these reforms, Western norms were adapted to Turkish conditions. At the same time, he began activities to create a state based on 'being Turkish'.

Since the turn of the century, there has been evidence of attempts to create a state structure based on 'being Turkish'. An organisation, first known as the 'Young Turks', and later called the 'Committee of Union and Progress', was actively committed to this issue. The main goal of this Committee was to prevent the division of the Ottoman Empire. This Committee was represented in the main administration of this Empire after the announcement of the Constitutional Government in 1908. This continued until 1918 (see Tunaya, 1984, and Haniolu, 1985). The national and cultural requirements of non-Turkish elements, which were unknown because of previous oppression, began to surface after the Constitutional government was formed. 'Union and Progress' governed according to a dual policy. It oppressed non-Muslim elements and tried to make all Muslim groups Turkish. Albania, Macedonia and Yemen took their share of this oppression, which was aimed against nationalist movements. In 1915, this period drew to a close with the holocaust of 1.5 million Armenians. Although there was a Kurdish group among the founders of this Committee, they were unable to prevent these policies developing towards Turkish nationalism based ultimately on notions such as 'Turan' - the idea of realising the 'Great Turkish Empire' in the place of the Ottoman Empire.(1) The Kurds were deported to different parts of the country under the Deportation Law of 27 May 1915 (Besikci, 1977).

The founders of the Republic (1923) were part of this Committee. Of course, these ideas were developed by the 'Union and Progress'. But during the years that followed, Kemal made a definitive distinction between the unionists and himself. During the 1930s, in particular, he began efforts to create a new Turkish nationalist ideology. From that time onward, there was no 'race' in Turkey other than the Turkish 'race', and no language was allowed but Turkish.

There were 'One Party', 'One Nation', and 'One Leader' in the country. Ideological theories were formulated in the magazine, Kadro, first published in 1932, and banned by M. Kemal in 1935. The main goal was the creation of a 'coalescence nation without classes or privileges' (2) The famous Turkish sociologist, Ismail Besikci, observed that Mussolini's ideas were very influential in determining this ideology, and established that there were significant parallels to be drawn (Besikici, 1990).

In the same period, M. Kemal ordered that scientific conferences be held. At one of these conferences, a theory (the 'Son-Language Theory') was accepted following 'scientific' discussions. According to this theory the Turkish language was 'the mother of all languages'. The 'Turkish history thesis' was accepted at another conference. According to this theory 'the superior Turkish race' was the 'mother of all civilisations and races' (Besiksi, 1977).

The Turkish Janissary Corps (TURK OCAKLARI) was responsibIe for the organisation of these conferences. In one of his speeches at a ceremony on 23 April 1930, the President of the Turkish Janissary Corps, Abdullah Suphi Tanriover, made the following statement establishing the parallel between Fascism in Italy and the developments in Turkey:

A form of nationalism, also known as Fascism, has appeared in Italy after a very difficult struggle. We see some of our own political and social ideas as being similar to aspects of this movement. Fascism concerns economic, political and social harmony based on the ideal of the 'motherland'. Like the Fascist youth, nationalist Turkish youth will also take up arms and will defend the Turkish revolution against anything that threatens it. We see both our past and our future in the enthusiasm of Fascism. (3)

While this ideology was created within Turkey, friends and enemies were also identifed according to TURK'UN TURK'TEN BASKA DOSTU YOKTUR (The only friends of Turks are Turks). Internal enemies were identifed as communists, socialists, Muslim fundamentalists, Kurds and other ethnic minorities such as Armenians, Lazes, Greeks and Suryanis. (4) Attacks were launched against these groups. Anybody who opposed these ideas was immediately removed. As a result of the assimilation policy, anybody who did not speak Turkish was punished. BIR TURK DUNYAYA BEDELDIR (One Turk is worth all the world) and NE MUTLU TURK'UM DIYENE (What a happiness to say that I am Turkish) became the slogans of the day.

After the death of M. Kemal in 1938, his colleague and close friend, Ismet Inonu, succeeded him. During the Party Congress on 26 December 1938 he was given the title of 'National Chief' and was proclaimed the irreplaceable leader of the Party. It was decided that Kemalism would continue to be the country's sole ideology. Although Turkey had a non-biased policy during the Second World War, the government interned people who were close to the Hitler regime. Many people, most of whom were scientists fleeing the regime in Germany, were accepted as refugees in Turkey. However, according to documents which were discovered recently, some people, including Turkish citizens, were handed over to the Nazis and killed in Nazi concentration camps.(5 Representatives of the Hitler regime had organised their supporters, especiaily within the army. In December 1942, the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs sent 5 million German Gold Marks to their Ambassador in Ankara, Franz von Papen, for their 'Turkish friends'. In documents found later, Alparslan Turkes is named as one of the people who had connections with the German Fascists (Soytemiz, 1988). Turkes, also known as BASBUG ('Fuhrer'), frequently appears in the recent political history of Turkey. After the defeat of Germany, Turkes and his friends were arrested and tried. Not because they had established relationships with Nazis, but because they had formed a 'Turanist' organisation in 1944. They were found not guilty by the Court in 1947 because 'an organisation, based on an idea which is not considered to be criminal, is not a crime either'.

In 1950 Turkey embarked on a multiparty regime. To this day, this regime is a multiparty regime that is peculiar to Turkey. The groups that had been identified as internal enemies during the 1930s, were not given the right of political organisation. All parties had to follow Ataturk's route. The Democratic Party, which had started as the opposition movement within the Republican People's Party, won the 1950 election with an outright victory. Their policy was 'to follow Ataturk's route' and to maintain close ties with the USA. On 27 May 1960, the government was overthrown by a military coup that was motivated by the assumption that the government no longer followed Ataturk's route. Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was executed. The coup was directed against the reactionary attitude of the government and was Kemalist and progressive. Its spokesman was Colonel Alparslan Turkes, who had been a sympathiser of Hitler in the 1940s. Later, this man was to lead the extreme Right and his name was mentioned in relation to numerous murders committed by his osrganisation, known in the West as 'The Grey Wolves'.

The government of the Justice Party, formed to replace the Democratic Party, faced another military coup in 1971. The reason for this coup was again the assumption that the Republic had moved away from Ataturk's route and that the Muslim fundamentalists, leftist and Kurdish movements were gaining power. They had already been identified as 'enemy forces' during the 1930s and were seen to threaten Turkish democracy.

The last military coup occurred on 12 September 1980. The reason for army interference was again the assumed move away from 'Atatark's route' and the increasing number of terrorist activities. The daily newspaper with the largest circulation, Hurriyet, announced that the new policy to be followed was a 'continuation of'Ataturk's route'. All movements and opinions have the right to be organised as a political party in Turkey. Yet, no party can be created which opposes the state's unity with its nation, its country, and secular republican principles, or which depends on classes (Constitution, para.68). This means that the Constitution, which was ratified in 1981, still supports the notion of 'enemy forces' identified in 1930, such as communists, Muslim fundamentalists and Kurds. Any political party which opposes this law is prohibited. Although some parties, which did not follow official ideology, have existed in Turkish political history from time to time, they were all banned later on. So too, the Muslim fundamentaIist National Regularity Party and the Turkish Workers Party which indicated in their programmes that they are nationalist, were banned after the 1971 coup although they had elected representatives in parliament. Again, the motivation was that they did not follow Kemalism. In 1992, the Socialist Party which mentioned the existence of the Kurds in Turkey, was banned by the ANAYASA MAHKEMESI (Constitutional Court) for this reason. Within the context of the right-wing and left-wing ideas that are allowed in Turkey, this automatically means: Kemalist right-wing and Kemalist left-wing parties. They all have to have one point in common - to be a better Kemalist. As a matter of fact, the present-day structure is like this. With one exception, ali the parties in Parliament have stated in their programmes that they are 'nationalist'. After the Republican People's Party, founded by Ataturk, was banned together with the other political parties by the I980 military coup, the Social Democratic People's Party was created to replace it as a left wing party which accepted as its tenets the six main principies, identlfied by M. Kemai in the i930s. This party is currentiy ied by Erdal Inonu, the son of the 'National Chief', Ismet Inonu. The HALKIN EMEK PARTISI (People's Labour Party), which takes its place as a more left-wing party and which is outside the Kemalist context, is known as a pro-Kurdish party. The lawsuit to ban this party still continues at the Constitutionai Court. The right-wing parties which continue to exist compete for the status of the 'most nationaiist' party.


Turkey is one of the countries which signed the United Nations Internationai Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Dlscrimination' (1965), but this has not been ratified by Parliament The 'International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid' (1973) has been neither signed nor ratified by the Turkish state. Yet racism is prohibited by Turkish law. But this does not include 'Turkish racism'. Minorities, who oppose this and identify themselves as non-Turkish, are activeiy being portrayed as racist, and there are various legal measures directed against these 'racists'. In the Constitution of the Turkish republic, the following phrase is mentioned thirty-three times: 'Anybody who opposes the indivisibility of the Turkish Republic with its nation and its country, wslll be deprived of their basic human rights and freedoms.'

In addition to this, and according to the Turkish Criminal Law (para.125), the Anti-Terror Law (para.8) and a number of other laws, anyone who tries to divide the country, who says that there is more than one nation in Turkey, who acts on or organises on the basis of this matter, can be punished by various penalties, including imprisonment and execution. It is also a crime to say 'Hurray to the Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood.' The Kurdish deputies who added this statement to their pledges at the opening ceremony of Parliament in November 1991 were first beaten and then taken to court for attempting to divide the country.

To have Turkish nationalism accepted by the people, all institutions, especially in the field of education, are held responsible for its propaganda. In elementary schools, all pupils have to rise when their teacher enters the classroom and have to respond to his 'Good Morning' with 'Thank You'. And then they have to recite a long text starting with the phrase 'I am Turkish, I am honourable, I work hard.' This text ends with 'I give my existence as a present to the Turkish existence.' This is not only the case in elementary schools, but also in High Schools. In all universities, academies and colleges Turkish Revolution History is a mandatory course. The objective of the main textbook is to explain Ataturk's revolutions. This book shows that these revolutions were based on nationalism and that they secured Turkey's place in the world (Eroglu, 1974). Turkey's largest educational institution, Turkey's Teachers Association, campaigned to remove the chauvinistic elements from the educational system. After the 1980 coup, this Association was banned by the military court for 'conducting activities to divide Turkey' and its leaders were given sentences of up to 8 years imprisonment. The slogans, which were identifed in the 1930s are not only valid in schools, but are also widely accepted by the population. It is not difficult to activate the people. In order to 'help' themselves with their socio-economic problems, government offcials have, on numerous occasions, manipulated the feelings of the people. In 1955, for example, the Cyprus problem was the most important 'national issue'. At the end of August a conference was arranged in London, with Greece and the United Kingdom - the other parties involved - to determine the status of Cyprus. Turkey planned an activity to demonstrate the sensitivity of this problem within the Turkish community. The newspaper, ISTANBUI EXPRESS (6 September 1955), published the news of the bombing of Ataturk's birthplace in Selanik, Greece. Student protests started the same day. It developed into a nationwide response and within two days, shops, cemeteries and churches belonging to Greeks were destroyed and properties were plundered. Police, who had initially supported the violence, had to use force to stop it once they realised that they could no longer control it. Martial law was announced in Istanbul. The government declared that the communists were responsible for the violence. Many people known to be leftist, were placed under police supervision. Later, it was discovered that the events had been planned by the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and that the bomb had been planted by Oktay Engin, an MIT agent who, in 1992, was Governor of Nevsehir, a Turkish province. (6)

When we look at some of the recent attacks against the Kurds living on the west coast of Turkey, we see that the 'September 1955' violence is not an 'historical incident'. Especially at the funerals of soldiers who died in combat in Kurdistan, cities outside Kurdistan staged massive and violent anti-Kurd protests. This was not a nationwide, public response. Government officials organised these protests and still do.

Fethiye is a town on the west coast. Besides Turks, Kurds who have moved to the west live here. After a funeral in 1992, shops owned by Kurds were attacked. A newspaper journalist reported: 'Kurd hunt in Fethiye ... The houses were identified, trucks full of people started to drive around shooting, houses were destroyed, people were forced to move ...''(7) Human {ights organisations, and the People's Labour Party organisation in Fethiye, claimed that the events had been organised by the Mayor (a Social Democrat) and other government officials.(8)

'Forty-five houses and shops belonging to Kurds were bombed and guns were fired in Alanya.(9) Some measures were taken to force the Kurds to move from the west to the east. People were told that they would be punished if they rented houses or shops to Kurds, and that this was a decision that had been taken by the city councils in western Turkey. (10) Various slogans were written in big letters, not only on visible places in the cities, but also in the high mountains surrounding the cities in Kurdistan - slogans such as: 'What a happiness to say that I am Turkish', 'One Turk is worth all the world', etc. Broadcasting or publishing the Kurdish language was prohibited, as was education in the Kurdish language. Kemal's words: 'Peace in the country, peace in the world' are repeated continuously during official speeches. Yet it is generally believed that each internal enemy is supported by outsiders. Efforts to seek out this external support depend on the position of the people or groups involved within the Kemalist context, and on the attributes of the enemies. According to left-wing Kemalists, the Kurds are a problem created by Western imperialists. Muslim fundamentalism is a problem that was exported to Turkey by the reactionary Arab countries and, more recently, by lran. According to right-wing Kemalists, Turkey is opposing a world that is against the development of Turks and Muslims and that wants Turkey to become a communist country. Both groups are governed by one feeling: 'Turks do not have any friends but Turks themselves.' The whole world is afrald of the Turks and their development. In addition to this, Turkey is surrounded by enemies. According to the Turkish press, Western European anti-racists are called 'Friends of Turkey', and racists are 'People who see Turks as their enemies'. The 'Ataturk Peace Award', which has been awarded since 1984, was awarded to Nelson Mandela in 1992 for being anti-racist and a hero. When he refused the award because of the oppression of the Kurds, he was called 'an insolent African', 'an ugly African' and 'the terrorist Mandela'(12).

'Turan' is still a dream. But realising this dream is not so easy in the world of today. On the contrary, it is easier to aim at being the leader of the Turks in the world. The disintegration of the former USSR created great opportunities for Turkey to reach this goal. Wide-ranging campaigns have been launched to spread the feeling of being Turkish in the originally Turkish Republics of the former USSR. Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel added Alparslan Tukers, the 'Fuhrer' of the nationalists, to the group that visited these countries. During meetings held with the leaders of the nationalist fronts in Azerbaijan, security was provided by guards who wore T-shirts with 'Grey Wolf' pictures(12) The 'Grey Wolves' are an armed and extreme-right group, labelled as 'Fascist' in Western Europe, and banned in several European countries (Amnesty International, 1979 and 'Nederlands Centrum Buitenlanders', 1980).


During the 1960s, many Turkish people moved to Western European countries as migrant workers. Turkey was interested in these people for two reasons. First, the currency sent back home substantially supported the Turkish economy. Second, it wanted to make sure that these people did not forget their nationality. The mother-tongue education provided the means for achieving this. Special nationalist teachers were sent to the various countries - Germany, for example and Turkey was able to decide who to send. Research has shown that the teaching materials used for this mother-tongue education are no different from those used in Turkey itselful (13)

Another example of this policy by the Turkish state involves the military service for Turkish youths living outside Turkey. They have the choice either to accept this service in Turkey for 16 months or to pay 10 000 German Marks and to vaccept one month of military training. This training is meant to 'make a real Turk' of the youngsters. During this month Turkish youth are toverfed' with nationalistic slogans, like 'I am glad that I am Turkish' and 'A Turk is worth all the world' in a way that some speak of as 'a month of brainwashing'.(14) Even if one of the basic goals of the Kemalist ideology is to become 'Westernized', the adaptation of people who moved to the European countries was not seen as a positive development. Being 'Westernized' should only be achieved by Kemalist intellectuals. This would provide them with privileges and make them different from the rest. Thus, they would gain rights to 'protect the others from dangers' and would act as leaders. Various right-wing and left-wing movements began to develop among these migrant workers. The state responded to these organisations according to its official ideology. Nationalists (left-wing and right-wing) and the Muslim organisations controlled by the state were supported. The state officially requested governments of the host countries to prohibit or ban other organisations. However, they did not succeed in going beyond the 'walls of the Western democracies'. The National Intelligence Agency (MIT) was involved in the organisation of the Turkish extreme right in Germany. It is known that Enver Altayli has been an MIT agent since 1968. At the end of the 1970s, Alparslan Turkes appointed him leader of the organisation in Germany of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with which the 'Grey Wolves' were associated (Mumcu, 1988). In the same article, by letters written to Turkes, the President of the Party, the author proves that Enver Altayli was also connected with Die Bundesnachrichtendienst (German Secret Intelligence Agency). His successor was Musa Serdar Celebi, who was tried together with Mehmet Ali Agca, for the attempted assassination of Pope John II. He was found not guilty.

The Turkish right-wing extremists do not only have relations with the German Intelligence Service. The group also established close relations with the German CSU and with neo-Nazi groups. The president of the party, Alparslan Turkes, wrote a letter on 28 July 1977 to his associates, stating:

"our party is developing in Turkey. It is required to reflect the same developments to our citizens living in Germany and to speed up the work of getting organised. In order to achieve the desired results, it is necessary to improve the relations with the NATIONAL SOZIALISTICHER PARTEI DEUTSCHLANDS (the German National Socialist Party, NSPD) and to benefit from their experiences and methods."(15)

A report published by Amnesty International (1979) indicates that the European organisations of MHP had connections with other rightwing extremist organisations outside Germany. Another example is the French ORDRE NO W EAU. From time to time, right-wing extremist Turks have been known to be organised together with Muslim fundamentalists or to be supported by people belonging to Islamic groups. Right-wing and left-wing Turkish organisations in Europe have done everything possible to exclude or marginalise organisations that do not fit in with Kemalism. Their greatest supporters in this are the media, broadcasting in Turkish all over the continent. With respect to these organisations, two examples can be given. Professor Dr Faruk Sen, director of the Turkey Research Centre in Germany, has written (in his column in MILLIYET) an article entitled 'Never-ending Pain, Kurdish Reality' in which he stated:

"the subject of the Kurds which we have excluded until today, has begun to take on a relatively important place in our day-to-day life here in Germany. Everyone, from the taxi driver to the German we meet in a restaurant, from our German doctor to the German postman, is reproachful about this matter."

The author asks Kurds to help to change this situation and continues his article stating:

"the Kurdish intellectual is also responsible. The approach used by Kurdish intellectuals to solve this problem by creating pressure on Turkey through German politicians, journaljsts and bureaucrats, but not solving it with the people with whom they live together in the same country, offends the people living in Turkey. In this matter, Kurdish intellectuals also have to take positive steps."

The director of the Turkish Research Centre is in effect asking the Kurds in Europe to remain silent about the oppression of Kurds in Turkey and not to conduct any studies in Europe related to the Kurds. Another example of the work of Turkish organisations in Western Europe in line with Kemalism, concerns the Turkish Consultancy Council in the Netherlands. This Council, which is an institution on a level above the Turkish federations organised throughout the country, advises the Dutch government with respect to various issues. It does not accept the inclusion of Kurds and Alawiis (Sener, 1989), who are not officially recognised in Turkey but who are organised on their own throughout the Netherlands.

At the time that I decided to write this chapter, the neo-Nazi attack in Mollen had not yet occurred. The plan had been to evaluate the ideas of Turkish people living in Western Europe with respect to racist violence by analysing the Turkish press. However, the broadcasts, advertisements, offilcial statements, etc., in the aftermath of the murders in Molln can provide a general summary. Special attention shouId be paid to the HURRIYET newspaper, because this newspaper is read by the vast majority of the Turkish population both inside and outside Turkey (for instance, NOS, 1986). Both leftist and rightist people publish in this newspaper, such as the chief editor of the newspaper, Oktay Eksi, who is also the elected president of the Turkish Press Council, and Mumtaz Soysal, who writes daily articles in this newspaper and is also a member of Parliament for the Social Demo

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