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February 13, 2013, Wednesday

Shànghǎi Hézuò Zǔzhī

Or Shankhayskaya Organizatsiya Sotrudnichestva, and in other words, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). I am afraid our bureaucrats need to rush to Chinese and Russian language courses. Indeed, the international organization our prime minister has decided to join for the future of his citizens has only two official languages: Chinese and Russian. The other four members of the SCO, viewed here as Turkish, i.e., the Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Tajiks, were not able to make Turkish the third working language. This is perhaps not surprising, however, as they prefer to communicate in Russian.

Recently the Foreign Ministry took the initiative to be upgraded from “Dialogue Partner” to “Observer” status in the SCO. The road to full membership is now open, and unlike the path to EU membership, not so terribly long. In fact, it is clear and simple. Our Central Asian relatives are certainly not going to make any problems. The whole matter starts and ends with China and Russia. Putin, no doubt, did not take it very seriously the first time Erdoğan mentioned his desire to become a member as it seemed unlikely that a NATO member really wanted to sign off on such a major decision. But thanks to Erdoğan's insistence, Russian approval was secured.

As for China, ever since the Turkish government's remarks to Beijing regarding the massacres of the Uyghur were “forgotten,” bilateral trade has been booming and no one is getting mixed up in each other's business. There is some possible trouble looming regarding sharing Africa's natural resources, but this is “healthy competition.”

As for the stakes in Central Asia, there is no risk for China or Russia. The “religion, language and culture-based” influence zone that Turkey has not been able to get going since 1989 means that its presence there is actually limited to trade and a few infrastructure projects.

The SCO is a security-based group of undemocratic countries. It's most important task is to prevent conflicts between neo-imperialist China and Russia in Central Asia through a security-based modus vivendi. Indeed, the SCO emerged in 1996 when China sought to guarantee its supplies of natural resources in chaotic Central Asia, freshly freed from Soviet domination. At the same time, the SCO helps guarantee peaceful coexistence for the three power centers composed of China, Russia and the four Central Asian members, not to mention the need to contain the consequences of the deep enmity that exists between the latter four. Last, but not least, the SCO addresses the security concerns they all have based on the US presence in Afghanistan.

On the other hand Turkey, despite all the talk about being Asian and its deficient democracy, is a country quite different from the Shanghai Six. The combined record of human rights violations of SCO members is astonishing. Worse still, their undemocratic practices have increased as a result of their security-based cooperation.

As reported in “Shanghai Cooperation Organization: a vehicle for human rights violations” by the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), the practice of branding any claim of ethnic rights as terrorism -- something Turkey is just beginning to move away from -- is the basic doctrine of the SCO.

Moreover, regarding freedom of belief, the SCO members also have a depressing record. They all practice a sort of communism-inspired secularism that is close to atheism. One telling example of the organization's anti-Islam cooperation among members is the fate of the Nurcular association. When in April 2008 Russia banned the association, both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan rushed to replicate the Russian decision.

For Turkey, the SCO may be compared to NATO in terms security cooperation. But it is impossible for Turkey to be a member of both for a number of reasons. As for the comparison with the EU, this is simply absurd as the two organizations are so different that they cannot even be compared.

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