Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turkish War on Terror Emphasizes Lack of Rights

Flag of Turkey

In a free society one would expect to be able to hold their own personal opinion (even if it goes against the government) and be able to voice this opinion to whoever will listen. In Turkey this simple concept is illegal and seems to have sparked controversy. Bulent Ersoy, a very popular transsexual singer in Turkey, has been charged with trying to turn the public against the military.

It was in February that she made comments that the Turkish war against the separatist PKK group was not worth the deaths of so many Turkish soldiers. If convicted Ersoy faces up to four years in jail. Hakkan Ozgur, one of the officials that submitted a complaint against Ersoy, explains why she was charged:
"The Turkish military is fighting a war on terror," "I believe making propaganda against this is illegal. It creates doubts in people over whether to go to the military. It sows doubt in the minds of those whose children are already serving."

I find his comments preposterous. Bulent Ersoy's opinion that too many people are dying in a war shouldbe perfectly legal. She has the ability to voice this opinion to a wide audience, and why not use it? Bono, of the band U2, uses his star-status to voice his opinions. the Dixie Chicks have used their popularity to voice opinions against the War in Iraq, and they haven't been charged. I do realize that Turkey is a much different society than North America, but I think these basic rights should be common throughout the world.

I also balk at Ozgur's use of the excuse that Turkey is "fighting a war on terror." It seems that this is a common way to avoid criticism for denying simple rights for people (maybe he is taking some cues from George W. Bush). If someone is doing something that a government doesn't want them to do, it seems the 'war-on-terror-card' gets played. According to BBC, to persuade people from questioning governmental actions in Turkey they cite Article 318 of the penal code - dissuading people from military service. It is also a crime to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions. Personally, I think this is little more than oppression. The ability to question your government seems to me to be very essential to making sure that things are done properly which benefits all.

I applaud Ersoy in her courage to voice an opinion, and question the practices of her government that she finds questionable. Although, her trial can have two effects: It will either create fear to question the government because a high profile person such as Ersoy was charged, or the fact that a high profile person such as Ersoy questioned the government will influence others to do the same. I hope that the second effect takes hold in Turkey. The people have a right (or should have a right) to point out something wrong with the government, military, etc. if they wish. I feel like sending a copy of Voltaire's works to the Turkish government. The voice of the people should be taken into fully consideration when running a country because it should be about the people, for the people.


(cross-posted on The Largest Minority)