MARKAR ESAYAN

Is Bashir any different from Bashar?

Parliament on Saturday ratified an agreement concerning the establishment of military »»

Parliament on Saturday ratified an agreement concerning the establishment of military ties with the Ministry of Defense of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This deal is a full-fledged 17-item military cooperation agreement that seeks to create bilateral exchange in military training, education and defense.

Cooperation in military training and education, cooperation and mutual visits between educational institutions, cooperation in the field of defense, cooperation between armed forces, the organization of the armed forces, including the equipment and composition and staff structure of military troops, cooperation in the field of military intelligence, cooperation in logistics and logistical systems, the exchange of staff for professional development…

It is clear that Turkey is headed towards a cooperation agreement which will recreate Bashir’s army, by sharing Turkish military experience in all areas with Sudan.

Of course, it is a good thing to see Turkey establish relations in every field with all countries around the globe. But this should be done in congruity with Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies and also, if Turkey claims to be a democratic country, then it must uphold the principles of the free world.

For instance, Turkey is not likely to establish such relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who recently shot our jet down and who killed about 17,000 Syrian citizens, calling them “terrorists.” If you do establish such relations, then you, like Russia, Iran and China, will have played a part in those deaths.

Let me recall that Sudanese President Bashir is accused of directing the massacres that amounted to genocide conducted by the Janjaweed against ethnic groups before Sudan’s division. Bashir is currently standing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the killing of 460,000 in these massacres. He is the first head of state to be tried by the ICC. The charges against him include three counts of genocide and five counts of crimes against humanity as well as two counts of war crimes. Who had raised the harshest criticism against these charges voiced by the court? Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. Now, they are both gone. The ICC has called on the international community to arrest Bashir if he ever leaves his country and to do so even if this requires an airborne operation.

Currently, there is a serious Arab Spring effect visible in Sudan. Dissident groups are frequently rallying against Bashir. This is because he is a bloodthirsty dictator. And this is confirmed by the ICC indictment.

The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission’s members from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) slammed the bill concerning the ratification of the abovementioned agreement, saying, “Turkey will have its share in the massacres in Sudan.” Commissioner Nazmi Gür from the BDP wrote the following dissenting opinion: “Omar Bashir is still ruling Sudan as a ‘dictator’ and it is a shame for Turkey to strike a military deal with the Bashir regime although the international community has made it clear that he conducted massacres against civilians.”

What he says is true.

Sudanese leader Bashir was not part of the Sudanese delegation that arrived in Turkey in November 2009 for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting, but the EU harshly reacted even to this “unfulfilled” visit by issuing a diplomatic note to Turkey. “Turkey is expected to fulfill its commitments stemming from its accession partnership. In this context, the EU calls on Turkey to revise its invitation to Bashir and cooperate with the ICC,” the note said.

When he was asked why Bashir was invited although Turkey had told Israelis, “You know well how to kill people,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed that there was no massacre in Darfur. “I am a prime minister who personally visited Darfur and initiated concrete steps to alleviate the problems. How many of these world leaders paid a visit to Sudan, to Darfur? Gaza and Darfur should not be confused with each other. Some 1,500 people were killed in Gaza. No such thing could happen in Darfur. If it ever happens, we would forevermore follow up on it,” he said.

The prime minister may have made this statement due to wrong or missing information. But concluding such a comprehensive military agreement with Sudan places the responsibility of acting more seriously on Turkey. Moreover, this move weakens the legitimacy of Ankara’s Syria policy. It is not up to Turkey to acquit a leader who is charged with serious crimes. If so, why should Assad’s similar arguments be less persuasive?

Turkey is making a grave mistake.

2012-07-04

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Columnist:: MARKAR ESAYAN