J’accuse: Turkish lawyers confront Erdogan over war crimes
As the cornered rats infesting Syria, driven into an ever deeper hole by the patriotic forces, descend deeper into murderous internecine squabbling within their own ranks, the West is finding it ever harder to prevent a true and shameful record of the proxy war from swimming into clearer focus.
One shining example of this is the comprehensive report, signed off by numerous prominent Turkish lawyers, intellectuals and journalists, which was issued in December 2013 under the title “War crimes committed against the people of Syria”. Put together by the Peace Association of Turkey and Lawyers for Justice, the report sets itself the task of drawing up a charge sheet of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed not only by the terrorist gangs themselves but also by those who support them from the outside, not least Erdogan and his cronies.
Origins of the proxy war
Running through the background to Syria’s crisis, the authors suggest that, whilst popular democratic concerns over neoliberal aspects of the government’s economic policy and decreased agricultural subsidies underlay some of the original protests, what was opened up by the “Day of Rage” in Dera’a on 15 March 2011 rapidly took on a quite different political colouration. Despite the accommodating responses by the Ba’ath-led coalition in succeeding months (including the 19 April end of the long-standing state of emergency and the constitutional referendum of 26 April, endorsed by 89.4% of voters, under which the state guaranteed multi-party elections and a legal opposition), the jihadist grip on the opposition, running to an agenda set by imperialism and played out by its lackeys in the region, very rapidly made itself felt. The report makes it clear that armed gangs had already emerged from the shadows before the end of March 2011, an armed “opposition” with zero interest in Syria’s secular and democratic development.
The main body of the report provides a harrowing but invaluable record of the subsequent long and bloody trail of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the West’s stooges, constituting a body of evidence which cries out for a Nuremberg Tribunal to put it into practical effect and bring the criminals to justice.
Of particular interest is the part of the report which throws light on the Turkish state’s reactions when the Turkish border town of Reyhanli was bombed on 11 May 2013 in a murderous car-bomb attack. It will be remembered how Erdogan and his Western backers instantly tried to pin the blame on Damascus, before even bothering to look at any evidence. Yet a subsequent leak of police correspondence proved that the authorities knew as early as 25 April that such an attack was planned by al-Qaeda, and yet nothing whatever was done about it.
Having failed to back up with any evidence the accusation against Damascus, the authorities did the next best thing – and pinned the blame on a non-existent group called the “People’s Liberation Army of Turkey”, a group which turned out to have been defunct for the past twenty years! Erdogan’s laborious efforts to avoid drawing the obvious conclusion – that the outrage in Reyhanli was in fact the work of the very terrorists to whom he offered aid and succour – were not helped when al-Qaeda itself belatedly laid claim to the deed.
The authorities demonstrated that they were more interested in punishing alleged whistleblowers than catching terrorists. The report notes that “Officials focused on finding whoever leaked the document instead of inspecting the criminals of the explosion and bringing them to the court”. To this end a private was accused of involvement in “leaking the documents regarding state security and its political interests”. However the case against him collapsed in November 2013 when, says the report, “it was seen that statements of witnesses were contradictory while the evidences were unlawful”.
Reyhanli appears elsewhere in the report, this time in the context of cross-border smuggling to which the authorities turn a blind eye. It seems that the streets of Reyhanli frequently play host to luxury cars driven over from Bulgaria with a view to purchase by gangs in Syria. There is also a brisk trade in four-wheel drives from Hatay, some of which go on to be kitted out with heavy weaponry for use in Syria. As the Turkish report notes, “It is not possible for the Syrians in our country to organize this illegal trafficking without the support of our government or a mafia structure.”
Turkey’s “refugee” camps
The report is also illuminating on the status of the camps dotted along the border which Turkey shares with Syria. For years the public has been told that the twenty or so camps along the Turkish side of the divide are safe havens for innocent refugees fleeing the Syrian army. The reality however is that the whole border area has been transformed by years of proxy war into a hellish war zone within which there is little safety or comfort for anyone, Syrian or Turk alike. The camps, laid on by Ankara at a cost of 1.5 billion US dollars, give sanctuary to the armed gangs which hold sway in those areas, enabling them to ply their evil trade in Syria then melt back across the porous border.
It is clear that Ankara’s funding for these camps has been motivated by anything but humanitarian concerns. It was pointed out by the Humanitarian Aid and Solidarity Platform in a letter to the UN High Commissioner for refugees, the “establishment of the refugee camps a few kilometres close to the border is both against the Refugee Law and also poses a risk for the unarmed refugees.” This is especially so when the same camps also harbour armed fighters, as was admitted and “justified” by Foreign Affairs minister Davutoglu when he told the Turkish parliament, “It must be appreciated that order is necessary to avoid problems. It is normal for refugees who are also security elements [!!!] to be specially treated” – contrary to the provisions in the UN Charter requiring universal disarmament in the camps. Also running counter to international law has been the transformation of the camps into a political circus, with Erdogan sharing joint platforms with “opposition” luminaries to cheer on the troops. A report from the Turkish human rights association IHD cites another flagrant abuse in the systematic discrimination practised in the camps, with Kurds, Circassians and other war victims barred on sectarian grounds.
The report includes the moving testimony of the father of one youth misled onto the path of terrorism. 22 year old Burak Yazıcı was sent to Syria by jihadist groups. Before he left he told his father, “I have to cut off the heads of Assad’s men and become a mortar. I cannot answer to God if I fail”. His anguished father points the finger of blame for his son’s death at the Turkish government: “How did he cross the border? I am calling out to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Interior Minister; how do these kids go to Syria? How does my son travel without a passport? Does not this country have a border?”
We welcome the courageous decision by progressive Turkish lawyers and writers to publish what amounts to a charge sheet detailing the crimes for which their own government deserves to stand trial, and look forward to the day when not only Erdogan and his cronies but imperialism and all its lackeys come to face the court of revolutionary justice. On Erdogan’s current performance, this day might come sooner rather than later.