The Update: Abortion, Murder and Tyranny, 01.06.2012

Turkey’s PM Erdogan has launched a Blitzkrieg on modernism and what most of us call a democracy. There is no longer any doubt that Erdogan’s agenda is to turn Turkey into a society of radical religious dogma. Turkey’s foreign allies are warned. By supporting Erdogan, they are propping up a tyrannical regime whose very genesis is anti-Westernism and plurality.

The anti-abortion debate came on the heels of Erdogan’s attempt to shut down all state-funded theatres in the country.  No one knows why, but defending his Interior Minister İdris Naim Sahin, who called the 34 Kurds killed in Uludere by Turkish jet planes and artillery “extras” (as on a film set), adding that had they lived, they would have been thrown into jail for smuggling.

The echoes of these callous remarks still reverberate among Turkey’s Kurds, who have largely given up on reaching parity in the new constitution.  How could they not? Almost anyone whose expresses sympathy for PKK or its incarcerated leader Ocalan is accused of aiding and abetting terror and detained.  On Thursday, a prosecutor in Diyarbakir petitioned the Speaker of the Parliament to have 8 deputies’ (6 belonging to pro-Kurdish BDP)    immunities lifted, so they, too, can be charged with aiding and abetting terrorism.

Erdogan came to the rescue of his minister:  “Abortion is murder.  Abortion is Uludere”.  The press should criticize abortion, instead of Uludere.  The author still can’t figure out what twisted pathways in the PM’s brain equated the two, but the response was swift.  Read on:

“The draft of a controversial bill that will restrict or ban abortion in Turkey is to be submitted to the government next month, according to health minister Recep Akdag.

Following remarks by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who likened the practice to murder and vowed to outlaw all abortions that are not medically necessary, Akdag stressed that abortion should not be seen as a method of family planning.

Scientific studies deny that women who have a cesarean procedure may have problems conceiving and giving birth in future.

Akdag argued that abortion was made legal after the 1980 military coup d’etat, without any public discussion of the issue having taken place.

He also said that the state will provide for unwanted babies conceived by rape. “People are asking about cases in which the mother has been through something bad,” Akdag said. “If necessary, the state will look after such babies. If we are to pass a law that will call for tougher restrictions on abortion, we definitely have to take some complementary measures.”

Turkish minister of family and social policies Fatma Sahin supported Erdogan’s remarks. “Abortion and ending pregnancy, which is what our prime minister called ‘murder’, is ending the pregnancy after ignoring birth control methods,” she said. “If you destroy a life and have an abortion after you ignore birth control methods beforehand, then this is a violation of the right to live.”

Ayhan Ustun Sefer, head of the Turkish parliament’s human rights commission, described abortion as “a crime against humanity” and argued that “it is a delusion to consider that a baby’s life begins only after a certain period of pregnancy”.

The proposed bill has sparked outrage among women and civil rights group, who denounced the state’s attempts to claim a woman’s body. Turkey’s Women for Women’s Human Rights group warned that the right to an abortion is under threat.

“They are talking about changing the laws so that it can be done up to four weeks and only when there is a medical problem,” the group’s spokeswoman, Pinar Ilkkaracan, said. “But these four weeks is laughable. A lot of women will not understand they are pregnant in the first four weeks.

“We know very well it will go underground and then it cannot be monitored. If it’s illegal, then it will be done under very unsafe conditions and many thousands of women will be dying from unsafe abortions every year.”

The charity Rightful Women Platform urged the government to focus on measures to advertise contraceptive methods and to improve health services instead.

“We wish they would also notice that at least five women are killed every day and take preventive measures. We refuse any discussion on the rights that we have won,” a statement by the charity said.

The Turkish Medical Association put the spotlight on the fact that restricting abortion would trigger a rise in illegal practices and push women to use primitive methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies. That would “dramatically increase” maternal mortality, they warned.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Erdogan not to bar access to abortion.

“Decades of access to legal abortion in Turkey are at risk,” said Gauri van Gulik, global women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “If these statements are translated into legislation and policy, Turkey would take a leap backward on women’s rights.”

The charity warned that further restrictions on abortion would “threaten women’s human rights to life, health, equality, privacy, physical integrity, and freedom of religion and conscience”[1].

Funny, not only does Erdogan put himself in the same camp as American Tea Party and other born again Christians, at the same  he also believes that abortion and C-sections are part of international plot (read American) to weaken Turkey’s demographics.

Does he really believe any of this?  Does it really matter?  65% of the society supports his view that abortion is murder, and hence he is killing two birds with one stone. He appeases his ultra-Islamist fan base and solicits votes for his upcoming presidential bid.

In the meantime, it is back to dark alleyways and coat hanger abortions for poor women.  However, they don’t count. When asked about the objections of the women rights’ NGOs, the Minister of Health Akdağ responded  “We really don’t care what women have to say.  This is a political decision.”

What kind of democracy allows policy making for half of the population without consulting its views? This is not all.  Erdogan also announced plans to build a grand mosque on the highest hill in the Istanbul city limits.  Imams are now enrolled in hospitals and marriage centers as  counselors.  Soon, they will be allowed to perform civil marriages. Thousands of uncertified Kurdish speaking imams will be set loose in the Southeast to pacify the Kurdish minority. Thousands of them are drafted by the Ministry of Education to teach lay courses.

The Grand Assembly recently banned strikes in the civil aviation industry, declaring it a “strategic industry”. Turkish Airlines fired 300 hundred cabin attendants for staging a wild cat strike and is suing them for damages worth up to TL2 million.

Can you really call this country a democracy now?  You may argue that the presidential veto, high courts and the opposition are sufficient checks and balances to stop Erdogan, if he steps over the boundaries.  Think again:

  • The president is Erdogan’s best pal and likely to replace him when he becomes president.
  • Erdogan single-handedly nominates all AKP deputies.
  • The opposition’s right to speak on the general floor is usually restricted to 5-15 minutes or less.
  • All parliamentary committees decide by simple majority and AKP has the majority in all of them.
  • Eroding and his best pal, President Gul appoint all the judges to the high courts.
  • All regulatory and state agencies report directly to ministers.

I don’t know, is this tyranny? Or do you have a better definition? How long will the West wait to call a spade a spade, and Erdogan a fundamentalist tyrant?

Atilla Yesilada

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