Is Turkey a Suitable Model for the Muslim World?

Ramzy Baroud recently wrote an article1 presenting Turkey as a “regional model” for the neighboring countries in the Middle East. US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, view Turkey as a ‘model’ and an ‘example’ for the states in the Middle East and North Africa.

President Obama sent similar message telling an Italian newspaper: “The fact that it [Turkey] is a democracy and a country that is mostly Islamic makes it a critically important model for other Muslim countries of the region.”2

President Obama forgot to inform his audience that “Turkey is ’world leader’ in imprisoned journalists” according to an IPI report: “OSCE, that said 57 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey. As of December, Iran and China each had 34 journalists behind bars.”

One should ask Mr Obama why is it that Iran and China with far fewer journalists behind bars, 34 journalists each, are condemned on a daily basis for violations of ‘human rights,’ while Turkey with 57 journalists in prison receives high marks for her ‘democracy’ and is presented as a ‘model’ for the regional states by Barak Hussein Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Ramzy Baroud?

This double standard on human rights based on countries ‘usefulness’ to empire’s agenda has created criticism of the policy. IPI Press Freedom advisor Steven M. Ellis wrote in an article featured on the institute’s website:

While Iran and China topped lists in December by reportedly jailing some 34 journalists each, Turkey, a candidate for membership in the European Union, has nearly doubled that number five months later, raising questions about the country’s commitment to freedom of the press and the legitimacy of its democratic image.

Obama is also using Turkey as an ally to reach out to the rest of the Muslim world. Obama called on Turkey to work side by side with the United States to resolve conflicts across the Middle East and praised NATO’s role (Turkey being a member) in supporting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The president also supports Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, a position which has been criticized by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This admiration for Turkey makes people curious to know what Turkey has done to receive such commendation from the US? There is a perception that, as a close ally to the US, Turkey’s ‘Islamic’ orientation can send a signal to the Muslim world that the US is not anti-Muslim.

Ramzy Baroud praises Turkey and tells his readers: “Turkey’s success cannot be reduced to one decade of economic growth and political stability,” but “it goes back to earlier generations, starting with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.”

This starting point suggests that Baroud believes the demise of the Ottoman Empire, an imperialist project, was a positive step forward towards creation of modern Turkey and ‘civil society’ which Baroud supports.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is known as the founder of the new Turkish state, helped to power by the British Empire after WWI to bring Turkey under the Western hegemonic rule and to strengthen its western orientation. Modern Turkey was formed by the Treaty of Versailles, which humiliated the German nation and eventually gave rise to Hitler.

Baroud writes: “The very promising Turkish political experience, now branded the ‘Turkish model’, had its many challenges. It took a new generation of Turkish leaders to position their country as a politically stable regional power with a rising economy.”

We have to realize that Turkey has been a strategic ally of the US and Israel for a long time, but since AKP rose to power in 2002, the foreign policy of Turkey has been mainly designed to promote the interest of Turkish elite to help Turkish economy.
The demise of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 terror attack, on the one hand, opened new windows of opportunity for certain countries including Turkey. On the other hand, number of Muslim countries in Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa that support Palestinian rights and have no diplomatic relations with Israel are treated with sanctions, partition or military attacks on spurious charges. Countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Somalia are just to mention a few.

Sudan has repeatedly informed the world community that the Zionist forces were behind its partition.3

Southern Sudan was officially split from Sudan on July 9, 2011. The Sudan People Liberation (SPLM) which fought for independence supports diplomatic relations with Israel.

We have a similar situation in Libya. Libya has no diplomatic relations with Israel, however, according to the latest news, Libyan rebel leaders has said they will recognize and maintain normal relations with Israel if they come to power.

Turkey, however, has had close economic and military ties with Israel for the past 62 years. Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel in March 1949. Michael Dickson provides information on the economic cooperation between the two countries:

Turkey is currently Israel’s biggest trade partner in the region and its second-biggest in the world, following the United States. In the first three months of 2011, Turkey exported products worth $579.3 million to Israel and imported goods worth $397.3 million.

While Turkey purchases high-tech defense-industry equipment from Israel, amongst the goods they export are military uniforms and footwear for the Israeli army.

Does Mr Baroud know that: the boots on the feet of the Israeli soldiers who tramp through occupied territory and kick down the doors of Palestinian family homes are labelled ‘Made in Turkey’ as Dickson writes?

On the other hand, Iran has continually supported Palestinian rights against Israel since the Iranian revolution in 1979, and refuses to recognize an apartheid state in the occupied Palestinian territory. This policy plus other accusations have led to the imposition of western sanctions on Iran and its diplomatic isolation. Iran is denied the foreign investment needed to improve its economy; Iran is denied access to technology. Iran is not allowed to buy civilian air planes and spare parts. Iranian rights to travel safely have been violated which is the main reason behind plane crushes killing many Iranians each year.

Lately, the unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the US-Israel asking other countries not to refuel Iran Air jets have created many problems for passengers who are mainly Iranians. To avoid such an insult, Iranian passengers are using Turkish Air lines instead of Iran Air to travel abroad which contributes to the Turkish economic growth and political stability that has caught people’s attention, including Mr Baroud’s.

None of these problems, however, are experienced by Turkey which maintains close ties with apartheid state of Israel. Turkey’s recognition of Israel in 1949 broke Israel’s total isolation in the Muslim world.

Other people have raised questions about Turkey’s new foreign policy, “zero problem,” and its motivations. Mehdi Darius Nazemroaya in NATO’s Secret Ground War in Libya paints Turkey as a Trojan horse helping the western powers’ agenda in the region. He writes:

Ankara has been portrayed as siding with the Libyan regime. In reality Ankara supports the Transitional Council and the NATO war against Libya. It has been claimed that Turkey has been advising Colonel Qaddafi and his regime, but this is misleading. Ankara has been playing the role of a negotiator and go-between, but it is not impartial.

The world has witnessed Turkey’s cooperation with Obama administration and NATO against Libya and now against Syria which is disturbing to many in the region. Many ‘progressives’ including Baroud hold the “brutality of Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi and his refusal to concede power” as being responsible for Libya’s destruction by the Western powers.

Baroud writes: “The brutality of Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi, and his refusal to concede power, is costing Libya much more than innocent lives. The country is now also facing a possible loss of future independence and sovereignty.”4

Turkey has also sided with Obama and NATO against Syria and held a meeting for Syrian opposition groups in Anatolia where Syrian Muslim Brotherhood attended. Furthermore, Turkey allowed thousands of Syrians to cross into Turkey, many of whom are Kurds, to create facts on the ground for further action if is needed.

I hope Erdogan’s empty slogan demanding Israel to remove the Gaza blockade is not the reason behind Baroud’s view of Turkey as a model. Erdogan’s actions and policy regarding Israel since the 2008 genocide in Gaza have shown that Mr Erdogan’s words were nothing but slogans designed to capture Arab’s minds and hearts to secure Turkey the power of the region status.

  1. Economy Alone Fails to Explain Turkey’s Success,” Dissident Voice, 6/24/2011. []
  2. Patrick Goodenough, “NATO Member Turkey Solidifies Its Ties with Iran and Syria,” CNSNews.com, 2/11/2011. []
  3. Pro-Israel lobby behind Obama’s support for South Sudan’s independence – official,” Sudan Tribune. []
  4. Ramzy Baroud, “US Rethinks Strategy,” Uncommon Thought Journal, 28/4/2011. []
Shabnam Dana is a Persian instructor living in Massachusetts. Read other articles by Shabnam.