I stumbled over a piece in the 26th May, 2016 edition, written apparently by the Turkish Embassy to the Editor with the title “Watch these two Turkish Organizations”. The organizations referred to are the Galaxy International School and the Ghana-Turkey Cooperation and Development Association (TUDEC). The piece sought to warn Ghanaians about the nefarious activities of these two organizations both in Turkey and abroad. The piece also warned about other organizations affiliated to the two referred to. This column is not the mouthpiece of the organizations so named, but we are compelled to draw attention of the Embassy and the general Ghanaian public to some basic facts:
- It is not very usual of an embassy to carry an internal feud between government and other organizations to the international arena (especially in host countries) where the said organizations seem to be well established. In this case, the piece we have referred to seeks to create disaffection between the Ghana government and its people, on the one hand, and the said organizations, on the other. Meanwhile, it is a well-known fact that these organizations are doing well in Ghana. In fact they offer the best of links between the Ghanaian people and Turkey. Until the visit to Ghana of the Turkish President quite recently, very few people knew that the Galaxy International School is Turkish, (we all thought it was American).
- Ghana and Turkey have started some romance, a kind of political and economic flirtation that needs nurturing, and which may yield good fruits in the future. It is those organization that have made inroads even before diplomatic relations were established, that may form the platform upon which this relationship may flourish. Entering into open confrontation with them (even if they do not support the home government) is rather sad.
We have had occasions to write about Turkey. On each occasion, we had warned that even though Turkey holds the key to stability in the greater Middle East (especially within the so-called Arc of Instability) the governance style of H.E Recep Tayyip Erdogan is creating more problems for the Middle East, Europe, and Turkey itself. The reckless downing of the Russian jet fighter by Turkey and the vituperative utterances by President Erdogan thereafter, nearly brought Russia and NATO into unnecessary confrontation. The spoiler role of Mr. Erdogan in the fight against ISIS is legendary. We had indicated in one our pieces that he had tacitly supported the clandestine entry into Syria of foreign fighters (about three hundred a day). It was through this that eventually ISIS was formed. Now in the fight against ISIS, he has found a way of separating one group from the other. Any group that he feels supports (or is part of the Kurdish cause), even though may be in the coalition against ISIS, would still be targeted by Turkish forces. NATO and the US have had cause to complain on several occasions. On Sunday, May 29th, Erdogan used the occasion of the commemoration of the 563rd anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, to criticize the United States, Russia, and Iran for their presence in Syria and said their unwillingness to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad was contributing to Syrians’ pain. Erdogan said: “What business have Russia and Iran (in Syria)? What business do the U.S. soldiers dressed up with the so-called patches of a terror organization have there?” So he supports rebellion against a sitting President (in this case Assad)? What double standards! Why is he against the PKK? They also are an ‘out-lawed organization, fighting for self-determination in Turkey!
In one of our earlier pieces, we indicated how the EU has been concerned about Mr. Erdogan’s increasing dictatorship. We told of how some journalists spent over 90 days in jail. We told of how US Vice President Biden had visited the families of the jailed journalists in Istanbul. We also told of how about 72 journalists were fired and some media houses closed down. We concluded then that metastasizing the Syrian conflict has also engendered a resumption of Turkey-Kurdish confrontation that had seen a good thaw in past years. This in turn has accentuated governmental paranoia about critical journalists and about Kurds in general. Both the Turkish government and the security establishment view the PKK as a more critical security threat than ISIS and this perception is creating more problems in Turkey and for Europe, as well as the fight against ISIS. Recently, Mr. Erdogan, visiting Germany, asked the German Chancellor to cause the arrest and trial of a comic who had mocked him. Really? The refugee issue presents another vulnerability for the country. All these may be presenting headaches for the president. Amidst all these are the allegations about his involvement in the illegal sale of ISIS oil. Cap this with the demands from Europe (the EU) for reforms and directions, which the president agreed to but has not implemented and you would realize that the president is not a happy man.
In almost all the pieces we had written about Turkey, we had indicated how the Turkish people are warm-hearted, hardworking, and forward-looking. We said of Turkey to be a country with a rich history. Turkey we said, had a well-developed industrial base and are second only to Germany is hardware and machine building or equipment. It had a very buoyant economy until recently, when a cocktail of neighbouring and internal instability, imprudent state calculations (eg. The downing of the Russian jet fighter, assaults on the PKK in the south and south-eastern borders, the row with Russia, the US and the EU), state corruption, and the descent into virtual autocracy have combined to slow down things. In this sense, the more Turkish companies do well outside their shores, the more the country’s image is enhanced, even if these companies are anti-government. Unless these companies and/or organizations (TUDEC and Galaxy) are undermining the Turkey-Ghana relations, there, I think, is no need fighting them from the embassy. The littler I have learnt about these organizations, after H.E. Mr. Erdogan had visited Ghana is that the face of Turkey in Ghana is more through these two organizations than any other body. Turkey has a huge responsibility in bringing the broader Middle East into calm. As a member of NATO (which has bases in Turkey) and one time a huge economic partner of Russia, she could have been the broker in any deals within the Middle East. To be seen to be the spoiler is unfortunate, especially when that spoiler urge is carried outside the soils of Turkey to target organizations that are rather raising the image of Turkey. We conclude with the very message we gave the other time: “the more Turkey slides into the abyss of autocracy, the more the likelihood of dissent and chaos. This should worry Europe, especially if dissent travels the path of opposition and Turkey plunges itself into chaos or implodes.”
We had indicated in our earlier pieces that Turkey can be a true partner and friend of Africa better than our traditional partners. The President, Erdogan, has said so himself in a recent publication, authored by himself. Hear him: “Turkey looks forward to working more closely with our African friends and allies in a range of areas….. The growing cooperation between Turkey and Africa shows that a lot can be accomplished by engaging our partners genuinely and finding solutions that serve the interests of both sides. It also sends a strong message about Africa’s true potential to the world.”
Clear positive words, as the President seeks to encourage Afro-Turkish cooperation. True, this cannot be achieved via repression at home and battling Turkish companies abroad.