08/29 Zaman: The power of NGOs


The power of NGOs

There were several reactions in Turkey after an influential Jewish NGO in the United States declared that the events of 1915 under the Ottoman Empire qualified as “genocide.” The Turkish government was the main actor responding, which is in fact absurd.

Numerous NGOs, associations and think tanks all over the world, including in the US, conduct research, publish reports or make statements about foreign countries and societies. These declarations are not necessarily positive. After an ethnic or religious NGO’s declaration, interrogating a state with the same ethnic and/or religious affiliation as the NGO also is ridiculous. In other words, it is meaningless to ask Israel “What’s going on?” simply because the Jewish lobby in the United States makes a negative statement about Turkey.

NGO activities in Turkey are a relatively new phenomenon and that is why society and the government’s experience with such work is limited. The general feeling is that every NGO is supported by at least one government and that those in the US don’t favor Turkey, anyway. This feeling is related to Turkey’s own democratic traditions. Nevertheless, there are some people who certainly know that an NGO declaration will result in Turkey contacting the Israeli government. They also know that when the “Armenian genocide” issue arises, the Turkish government will absolutely respond. When one puts the genocide issue and the Jewish NGO together, it is obvious that somebody wants Turkey to analyze this issue as an interstate affair.

There are several facts prompting Turkey to consider the “genocide” issue an interstate problem. As this subject is debated in the parliaments of many countries and recognition laws are adopted, it becomes easier to take this as a “state” problem. That’s why Turkey has drawn away from the essence of the debate and has focused on designating which country develops hostile policies toward Turkey with genocide rhetoric. The people of Armenian origin living in different countries have diverging external or domestic motivations and sensibilities, but this “interstate” atmosphere completely avoids those.

One can even think that the actual state of affairs, which has existed for a very long time, is exactly what is needed by all parties. Maybe the “irresolution” process of the issue is more beneficial than its resolution process. Once before the US Congress, the genocide issue will affect relations between the Democrats and Turkey at a moment when everybody thinks the Democrats will accede to power after the next presidential election. That’s why Turkey, not a good ally of the Bush administration given the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) issue and Iraq policy, will also have doubts about the next Democratic administration. That’s why it would be reasonable for Turkey to trust the current administration. But as the trust between Turkey and the US influences directly Turkey’s relations with the Middle East and Russia, Turkey will also have to approach other allies of the United States. Thus we will have to stop avoiding Israel and establish new dialogue.

The rapprochement between states or societies, especially between Turkey and Israel, is appropriate. However, there is an irony in that the Armenian diaspora pushes Turkey against the wall, making Armenia more dependent on Russia, consolidating its isolation, and encourages Turkey’s rapprochement with Israel and the United States. It’s obvious that there are some people designing their policies through Turkey’s reactions. That’s why the genocide issue is not used as a matter encouraging societies to engage in a dialogue, but as a tool to orient states’ foreign policies.


Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/yazarDetay.do?haberno=120601