Today is one of those dark days when the moral bankruptcy of Britain’s foreign policy is shoved in our faces. It really seems like Conservative leaders are pushing us to see how much they can get away with. Because Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a dictator in all but name – will receive the red-carpet treatment as part of his state visit to the UK. And both Queen Elizabeth II and Theresa May will give him a warm welcome on 15 May.
Erdoğan is very thankful to May’s government for boosting his legitimacy just before a controversial election campaign, calling Britain “a real friend”. Because only ‘real friends’, of course, can look past things like alleged:
- War crimes.
- Ethnic cleansing.
- Support for terrorists and alliances with neo-Nazis.
- Fuelling of Syria’s civil war.
The UK government’s moral bankruptcy
It’s all part of a pattern, though.
Far from a moral outcry, there are only timid, meaningless statements after these events. And then, of course, Britain wines and dines these countries’ leaders, trying to sell them more British weapons. Israel’s prime minister in 2017. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. And on 12 May, Bahrain’s dictator.
Now, just days after the government insisted it was “committed to media freedom”, Britain is rolling out the red carpet for the man who’s made Turkey “the world’s biggest prison” for journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders. And we’re standing alongside the man whose regime arrests human rights defenders:
"We are responsible not only for what we say but what we fail to say by staying silent."
— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) May 14, 2018
President #Erdogan is in UK meeting @theresa_may, the Queen etc. Today he told an audience at @ChathamHouse that #Turkey – the world's biggest jailer of journalist – is upholding the rule of law & freedoms. @Amnesty's Turkey director has been in jail for almost a year #FreeTaner pic.twitter.com/Ps3CxKr46K
— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) May 14, 2018
The overseer of death and destruction
Erdoğan’s biggest attack on democracy and peace began in 2015. The Canary watched in horror as the following images came in from towns and cities like Cizre and Nusaybin, which the Turkish regime destroyed as it ended peace talks and stepped up its anti-Kurdish war:
Imprisoning the opposition
Turkey’s regime has also been targeting the left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – whose electoral successes in 2015 clearly contributed to Erdoğan’s decision to crack down on his opponents. In February 2017, Turkish courts even sentenced HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş to a prison term for “insulting the state and its institutions”. And the government has reportedly imprisoned thousands of HDP members since 2015. A letter in December 2017 from numerous public figures and UK MPs said Demirtaş was “in court on trumped-up charges of terrorism” – participating in what were “nothing more than show trials”.
These imprisonments showed that Erdoğan’s regime would not tolerate any meaningful pro-Kurdish or progressive opposition.
Shame on Theresa May’s government
Erdoğan is taking Britain for a ride. He knows the government is so desperate for post-Brexit trade partners that it’s prepared to really scrape the barrel. And no matter how authoritarian he gets, Britain keeps selling him arms – reportedly over $1bn worth in the last two years.
Theresa May’s desperation is not only embarrassing. It’s utterly shameful. And it’s totally unacceptable.
– Write to Theresa May and your MP. Ask them to urge Turkey to resume peace talks with its internal opponents, and to release all political prisoners. Until that happens, ask them to cancel and stop approving arms sales to Turkey, and support Campaign Against Arms Trade to help make that happen.
Featured image via YouTube screenshot
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