Report by Solidarity with the Victims of All Genocides on the launch of Desmond Fernandes' latest book - Modernity, 'Modernisation' and the Genocide of Kurds and 'Others' in Turkey: '1915' within its Pre-and-Post Historical Periods (Apec Press, Stockholm) - that took place in the Grimmond Room, Portcullis House, London (an annexe to the Houses of Parliament), on 8th June 2010:
Sponsored by Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli, and organised by Solidarity with the Victims of All Genocides (affiliated to the Welsh Centre of International Affairs), Alex Fitch from the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities noted that the book is an “excellent study … There is a tendency for us to accept what we know until we are challenged by something that contradicts it. Rarely do we set out to question what appear to be unshakable 'facts' without reason. I think anyone who does not have a basic grounding in concepts of the State and the creation of national identities is going to find many of their assumptions seriously and positively challenged by this book. For those familiar with the shaky nature of national identity and borders, the content will be equally valuable and depressing.“In either case, the reader is presented with a detailed and extremely widely sourced collection of material. Starting with the contention that 'genocidal processes have not been the accidental by-products of modernisation or modernity projects' but, as evidenced by numerous examples, have actually been 'central aspects of the process and phenomenon', this study takes the skeletons out of the cupboards of Western 'civilising' nations. We can clearly see in today's global human geography the effect of the genocidal (in the physical, linguistic and cultural sense) colonial projects of the major European powers”.For Alex Fitch: “The continuation of genocidal policies and projects in the post-colonial and neo-colonial period is also amply illustrated. Concepts such as 'development' and 'development aid' take on a whole new appearance when the implications, effects and the acknowledged 'side effects' are taken into consideration. This is illustrated especially well through an examination of Rostow's five-stage economic modernisation theory. 'Development' has also been a key part of counter-insurgency strategy being a key means of implementing social engineering projects under the guise of economic improvement for those affected. The 'development' myth has been one of the key covers under which the Turkish State has pursued its genocidal policy against the Kurdish people since the republics conception.“Desmond Fernandes details, from the earliest moments, the strategies used against Kurds in Turkey (strategies which had already been used successfully to eliminate [the] Armenian population). Central to the programme has been the banning of the Kurdish language, the suppression of Kurdish culture, mass destruction of Kurdish villages, destruction of social structures and aggressive educational projects aimed at creating individuals schooled and raised in the Turkish myth. This has been supplemented with the physical destruction of traditional eco-systems, development projects in the form of intensive hydro projects, and road construction which have assisted in pacification programmes and of course the massacre of Kurdish people. All of these elements are painstakingly detailed with witness accounts from numerous sources. Perhaps most depressing is the active role of many of Turkeys NATO allies in these acts of genocide.“Desmond draws on numerous sources which show the level of collusion between the organs of the United States Government and the Turkish authorities (which in many commentators' eyes were often so closely attached as to be indistinguishable). From the NATO Gladio organisation to the 'open kill' licence of the post September 11th period, the Kurds in Turkey have been considered an 'intractable problem' for which Turkey's war of ethnic cleansing has been an acceptable solution. Desmond includes an important quote by Remzi Kartal of the Kongra-Gel which succinctly summarizes the situation over recent years: 'Politics and in particular the politics of banning and criminalizing our struggle, led by the UK and other EU member states, have played a critical role in the continuation of the military conflict in Turkey and in preventing the democratic political solution of the Kurdish question. European governments have given political, diplomatic, psychological and moral support to the traditional “deny and destroy” politics in Turkey in relation to the Kurdish issue. It is clear that these politics are exacerbating the conflict at a time when an increasing number of people are supporting peace and democracy. A democratic political and negotiated solution based on dialogue is the only way forward to make progress'”.Professor Khatchatur I. Pilikian (Artist, musician, writer and author of The Spectre of Genocide as Collateral Damage is Haunting the World and UNESCO Laureates: Nazim Hikmet & Aram Khatchaturian) noted that “Desmond has documented the macabre story of the last 100 years or so, of state terrorism in the land once an empire of the Ottomans, then called the Republic of Turkey since 1923 … Having already tackled, for many decades now, those horrendous issues with consummate objectivity, and having produced many related books and articles, Desmond has written his latest book in a new ‘mode’, delving himself in the labyrinth of the concepts of Modernity and Modernisation, in relation to the reality of genocide of the indigenous peoples of Turkey, namely Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Greeks, Greek Cypriots, and others.“Assembling, assessing and scrutinizing massive data and notes, Desmond has also drawn parallels with other lands and peoples where oppressive, state terror politics were and are carried out in the name of that same modality, that of Modernity and Modernisation, not forgetting to mention, of course, Civilisation and Democracy. At this point of my reflections, I must point out that, for me, the real merit of a book is not only what it says and conveys, but also what it makes me think about, to say what I think and to act upon it … “The oppressor has failed to totally bamboozle the oppressed by its camouflaged modernisation mantras ‘a la mode’. That’s why Bertold Brecht’s theatrical aphorism still continues to pinch our alter ego: 'If sharks ruled the world, they would teach the little fish that it is a great honour to swim into the mouth of a shark'. The real message that Desmond’s recent book conveyed to me is this: Sharks of the world beware. The little fish have no more an appetite for the great honour to serve your voracious appetites at your own banquets of total wastes in an ocean of hunger and debt”.For further details about how to order the book, see: http://techybits.net/desfernandes/3.aspThe book [ISBN: 978-91-86139-34-6] can also be ordered through most UK bookstores from July 2010.For further details of the event, contact Eilian Williams at: firstname.lastname@example.orgOther reviews of the book:● Reading this, we should remember some words by George Orwell: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them” - Patrick Mac Manus, Oprør (Denmark).● The book could not come at a more appropriate time. 'Modernisation' in Turkey has had a complex and convoluted history, and with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's response to the Israeli attack on the Gaza aid flotilla, it would seem to have entered a new phase: Turkey as moral conscience of the Middle East and champion of human rights. Fernandes' detailed analysis shows us, however, that the category of the 'human' has always been most carefully circumscribed in 'modern' Turkey, with human rights defined as necessarily co-terminous with the 'rights' and life of the state itself. Those 'others' who, by their very existence, have challenged the narrative of the Kemalist state were deemed never to have had rights to protect or uphold in the first place. They were swept aside, and any mention of them was punished as a grievous harm to the nation … It is not just scholars of 1915 or of modern Turkey who should read this book. Anyone who wants to understand the rhetorics and desires of nation-states in an age of neo-colonial globalisation, or to gain an insight into contemporary relations between Europe and the Middle East, should do so too - Daniel Jewesbury, Co-editor, Variant magazine.The full text of Professor Khatchatur I. Pilikian's speech:I have just perused through Desmond Fernandes’ manuscript of his latest book. In 253 pages, assembled in eleven chapters, Desmond has documented the macabre story of the last 100 years or so, of state terrorism in the land once an empire of the Ottomans, then called the Republic of Turkey since 1923.
Having already tackled, for many decades now, those horrendous issues with consummate objectivity, and having produced many related books and articles, Desmond has written his latest book in a new ‘mode’, delving himself in the labyrinth of the concepts of Modernity and Modernisation in relation with the reality of genocide of the indigenous peoples of Turkey, namely Armenians, Kurds, Assyrians, Greeks, Greek Cypriots, and others.
Assembling, assessing and scrutinizing massive data and notes, Desmond has also drawn parallels with other lands and peoples where oppressive, state terror politics were and are carried out in the name of that same modality, that of Modernity and Modernisation, not forgetting to mention, of course, Civilisation and Democracy.
At this point of my reflections, I must point out that for me the real merit of a book is not only what it says and conveys, but also what it makes me think about, to say what I think and to act upon it. In the few minutes I have for this presentation, allow me then to say the following.
A couple of years back, in a public meeting discussing the legal controversy of the war in Iraq, an Iraqi intellectual raged against the mere utterance of the word democracy, calling it an ‘ugly’ and ‘dirty’ word. He was raging, and rightly so, against the latter-day imperialism’s camouflaged, nay deranged version of democracy that reflects the sterile ethics of bygone colonialism.
Activated with such deformed mantras, the most powerful military power on earth was decimating the heritage of a country and its culture, eventually annihilating over a million of its population, leaving behind nearly a million displaced children and close to five million Iraqi refugees roaming around both in neighboring countries and in their own homeland too. No surprise then that a banal refutation of a warmonger against the Iraqi intellectual’s rage sounded what the formidable John Milton had once warned against such ambivalent refutations, saying: “They who have put out the people’s eyes, reproach them of their blindness.” (Apology, 1648)
It is true that the Turkish Parliament did not grant the vote of consent for the Turkish government to indulge with the so-called coalition forces led by Uncle Sam to invade Iraq. Yet it is also true what the Canadian Action on the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey writes just recently: “Since 1993, over four thousand Kurdish villages have been destroyed and more than seventeen thousand killings of innocent Kurds have been carried out by The Turkish Special Forces. Following the March 29, 2010 municipal elections, fifteen hundred politicians, intellectuals, elected representatives, mayors and human rights activists have been jailed to date. As unacceptable as it is, hundreds of Kurdish children have been killed by the Turkish Security Forces since 1993 and today, about three thousand Kurdish children (aged 6 to 17) are in jail.” It is obvious that the Turkish government relentlessly continues its undeclared war against its own citizens, but failing, nevertheless, to “put out the people’s eyes”, particularly in this case, the Kurdish people’s eyes, or, for that matter, the Turkish people’s eyes too, I tend to believe.
To keep the sanity of our political vision and not lose the focus of our historical perspective, we should also not forget that there was a country, in the Far East, where exactly 35 years ago, the same awesome military power that the world had ever witnessed failed and abysmally so to take the land and its people of millennial cultural heritage “back to the Stone Age”, as vowed then by its megalomaniac military commander. The arrogance of the invading oppressor had wiped out from their own memories the fact that the Vietnamese people were fighting for at least two thousand years to free their land and themselves from successive foreign rules. No wonder then that the United Vietnam and the Vietnamese people prevailed.
Paradoxically, but tellingly so, the Vietnamese people and their internationalist leaders were not hesitating to guide their struggle with the millennial tools of what genuine democracy in essence meant, knowing quite well that once the 16th supreme commander of the country of the invading military force, President Abraham Lincoln had so eloquently envisaged democracy as “The rule of the people, by the people, for the people.” Therein laid the modernity of the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people.
In fact, the truth of the matter is, somehow not forgotten by the oppressed peoples of the world, that all the battle cries of freedom in the last twenty six centuries or so have been raised in the name of Democracy, whether in Turkey, in the Middle East, in Latin America and in the Far East, not to mention in the advanced capitalist countries where the mantra of profit-at-any-cost, namely globalisation leads the collateral damage inflicted upon language itself. Through their post-modernist, neo-con and neo-liberal abuse the concepts of Democracy, Socialism, Freedom, Modernisation, Human Rights, and what not, are made to lose their essential meanings and made to ‘act’ as their antinomies in real life.
Authorities of all kinds and hues often luxuriate in their prerogative to censor, expurgate, remove or cancel. The above-mentioned Canadian Action, the one referring On the Armenian Issue, writes: “Canada, along with another twenty five countries and over forty U.S. states, have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Turkey, however […] continues to deny and ignore the Armenian Genocide committed by its former regime even to this day.” Censorship has thus become an act of bureaucratic vandalism. It is activated mainly to deny the existence of a phenomenon, especially when the latter reflects and manifests the truthfulness of a painfully culpable historical reality.
No matter. All the censorship and negations notwithstanding, the essential and historical truth remains. Whether freedom from slavery, torture, foreign rule, poverty, from exploitation and child labour, discrimination, or freedom of speech, of conscience and of the human spirit etc., etc., even the screams for free markets, were all raised in the name of democracy, not to mention capitalism, which also came into being through that same tool. The same is true with all the humanist and Internationalist declarations and covenants, such as, just to mention a few, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, The Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples, 1976, and most tellingly, The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948. Furthermore, when the exploitation of democracy by capitalism stretched to the limits of obscuring and hence impoverishing its potentialities, socialism became in its turn the battle cry of all those for whom genuine democracy is the only guarantee for a real and radical change, for a more equitable, tolerant and caring civil society. Therein lays, I believe, the modernisation of the struggle of the oppressed people of our world, particularly when considered the root meaning of the word, which simply means ‘of the present time.’
The oppressor has failed to totally bamboozle the oppressed by its camouflaged modernisation mantras ‘a la mode’. That’s why Bertold Brecht’s theatrical aphorism still continues to pinch our alter ego: “If sharks ruled the world, they would teach the little fish that it is a great honour to swim into the mouth of a shark.”
The real message that Desmond’s recent book conveyed to me is this: Sharks of the world beware. The little fish have no more an appetite for the great honour to serve your voracious appetites at your own banquets of total wastes in an ocean of hunger and debt.