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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Agitated Turks

In 1923 the exiled Sultan of the former Ottoman Empire [Turkey, plus extensive subject territories] decided that his country's defeat in the Great War was definitive. Most of the subject territories had been split off from Turkey by the France-British 'peacemakers' to become the current disaster states: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon [the innocent victim of others' misbehaviour] and Palestine. Thus the ex-Sultan also surrendered the title of Khalif of the 'nation of Islam'; and over the next decade Turkey became a carefully-managed, secular democratic state dominated by the most successful soldier to emerge from the war, Mustafa Kemal who took the title Ataturk [generally understood to mean 'father of the nation'].

During the nineteen-fifties and 'sixties and 'seventies and 'eighties Turkey was a crucial component of the NATO alliance, and Turks were welcomed as Guest-workers in Europe, particularly in the Federal republic of Germany. Eventually, the guest workers were enabled to become Germans; though most people in this category married other Turks: thus they remained a defined ethnic group, whose affiliation became more clear after an increasing proportion of their womenfolk took to wearing 'Islamic' hair covering. Throughout it was assumed that the great majority of Turks in Germany, and in other EU countries, accepted conformity with the norms of their hosts even though they maintained their religious identity and their Turkish roots.

Meanwhile, in Turkey politics have changed. A popular Prime Minister secured a change in the constitution that made him president: since which he has espoused populism, suppressed what many regard as a staged sham of a coup, and moved to establish himself as a dictator. To this end he is leading a campaign to change the constitution again, and he has called a referendum for this purpose. Just as French presidential candidates have held rallies to address the huge French population in London, so the Turkish president is trying to rally potential supporters in European countries. Rising right-wing populism has forced the Merkel government in Germany to restrict this process: and now the Dutch government has banned a senior Turkish minister from landing in the country and dumped another over the German boundary.

These actions have the potentiality for alarming consequences. In a few days' time, elections in the Netherlands are likely to strengthen the populist right; and riots in Rotterdam may cause newly-alarmed people to vote for the right. Meanwhile, Turkey is promising draconian retaliation: this could involve Turkish-state-supported terrorism in Europe combined with removal of Turkey's control over migration from Asia into Europe. In just a few days, crisis could become catastrophe, engulfing many of the at least five million Turks in the EU and swamping the Greek islands with sharp-elbowed young me from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria.

The Netherlands, for many decades the bellwether of libertarianism in Europe, has suddenly become the leading edge of 'oppression' of a minority. The consequences will be immense.

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