Unless otherwise indicated, the articles here and in the Archive appeared on www.globalresearch.ca

rita-sargsyan
First Lady of Armenia Rita Sargsyan at the My Way center with students and staff

‘My Way’ Is Helping Children with Autism in Armenia

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator – JUNE 15, 2017
YEREVAN — It was not the atmosphere we expected to find in a center for youngsters with autism: laughter rang out of one room where children were busily painting, while piano music sounded in another room, where two young lads were performing a duet. Playing from memory without scores, they were fully concentrated, absorbed in producing the strong rhythms. When one of the lads played a solo piece, his companion grabbed the hands of a woman (who turned out to be his mother) and swept her up in dancing across the floor. In another room, a child hovered over his notebook, carefully writing out exercise sentences in Armenian under the watchful eyes of his teacher. In other small rooms, the same one-on-one combination of specialist and student was to be seen: whether in speech therapy or physical therapy. The scenes depicted youngsters concentrated on tasks that they were carrying out in their own fashion, with serenity, or delight or outright joy. The meaning of the center’s slogan — “I am different, I am one of you” — was immediately apparent.
As Lilith Soghomonyan and Sona Petrosyan, co-founders and board members, explained to my husband and me, taking us on a tour of the My Way Socio-Rehabilitation Day Care Center last April, the children come to the center five days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and take part in a wide range of activities, selected in consultation with the parents according to the specific needs of each individual. Therapy is provided in small groups where appropriate or individually, as for example, in speech therapy. Music, art, — whether drawing, painting, paper maché or clay modeling — sports, gardening or making candles, — all sorts of playful and productive activities are available, to allow the students to learn new skills in a social context. And they see the fruits of their endeavors, not only in the final creation, but often in its sale. Near the entrance, we saw such products on display, items ranging from candles to ceramics to works of art. The center has organized online auctions of paintings, for example, and the proceeds go to financing art therapy classes. This commercial activity, albeit on a small scale, illustrates the principle of gainful employment. In fact, as we learned, those running the center hope to expand, to provide actual vocational training to the older students, in an effort to provide them the means to earn a living.
It is a “global mission,” Soghomonyan explained to us, an approach that addresses the needs of the children as well as the families, providing information exchange and advice, and increasing social awareness of the issue. By functioning like a school, with a five-day schedule, the center provides the students with therapeutic, social activity under the supervision of specialists, while allowing families to tend to their jobs and homes.

The Founding Mothers
It should come as no surprise that the founders of the center are mothers of autistic children. Prior to the opening of My Way, there were no facilities in Armenia to address the needs of persons with autism. Lilith, whose daughter Jeva displayed symptoms of autism, came into contact with Renate Beil, a German who had been taking painting lessons from Lilith’s mother Nona Gabrielyan in Wiesbaden. On a visit to Armenia, Beil met Lilith, who is also an artist of the second generation. (Her son Guy represents the third generation of this artistic family, and he was among six young Armenians who exhibited their works in Wiesbaden last December (see “Portraits of the Artists as Young Men,” December 10, 2016 and “Art Inspires Artists,” December 17, 2016).
Through Beil’s intervention, Maria Kaminski, director of the German organization named “Autismus,” travelled to Yerevan several times with associates and organized workshops for the families of autistic children. Kaminski is also the mother of a son with autism, and that is how she got started. She has founded 82 (!) centers for autism in Germany and is currently President of the National Association of Autism — Germany.) She told the Armenian parents, “You have to do something” and they did. Initially, she helped Lilith and her daughter, then it expanded to a group of six children. Out of this process the NGO “Autism. Overcoming” was born, as the effort of a group of parents, among them Soghomonyan and Petrosyan in 2004. Two years later the International Child Development Center (ICDC) was founded by Dr. Ira Heilveil, PhD, an American clinical psychologist and behavior analyst from Los Angeles. Heilveil, who has over 30 years of experience treating children with autism, trained a base of specialists, and in Yerevan, these specialists have trained others, expanding their capabilities. Initially, due to space constraints the center could offer help to a limited number of children and youth.

First Lady Spearheads National Effort
Progress was being made on a national level that was to have a decisive impact on the Yerevan group. In 2012, the “Autism National Foundation” (ANF) was established on the initiative of the First Lady of Republic of Armenia Ms. Rita Sargsyan, who is its President. The Director, Lilit Atajanyan, MD, has been involved in various charitable activities for children with disabilities. The mission of the Foundation, as detailed on its website (www.anf.am), is “To support people with autism in Armenia” which includes children, teenagers and adults. This means providing them education as well as preparing them for meaningful employment. At the same time, the Foundation seeks to enhance their quality of life, increase public awareness and promote social inclusion also with government engagement.
In 2012, the foundation received a building from the Yerevan City Municipality as well as the funds to have it renovated and in January 2015, a new facility opened to provide help for over 100 students. This was the Socio-Rehabilitation Day Care Center for Children and Teenagers with Autism known as My Way. The new Center brings together the ANF, the NGO “Autism.Overcoming” and the ICDC in one facility and is able to offer therapy to 5 times the number of students assisted in the previous site.

Providing a Healthy Life Chain
At the same time, a second building was made available on a neighboring site, slated to house another My Way Center, this one providing age-specific vocational training for teenagers with autism. This includes work stations for vocational training as well as living quarters for young adults. The vocational training, as we learned, includes crafts such as sewing and embroidery as well as carpet weaving and pottery, woodworking, computer skills, gardening, cooking, music and art. The aim is to work with organizations and employers to find jobs for the students and markets for their goods.
In March 2016, a grant from Save the Children financed a pilot “Vocational Training for Teenagers and Young Adults with Autism” and in the five-month program 30 therapists attended seminars and received on-the-job training. Now they are working independently providing speech, art, music and dance therapy. On completion of this part of the project, the parents extended the activities to the end of 2016. Since January 2017, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has been financing the project, providing salaries for 30 of the specialists, albeit at a minimal level. Now My Way is seeking further financial support to raise salaries. Currently 140 students are receiving education and therapy from a total of 73 specialists.
To help children with autism, early diagnosis is crucial. Our guides told us that this might be at the age of 1 or 2 years even, and it is important to begin therapy as soon as possible. As the word has spread about the encouraging work of My Way, more and more parents have made contact, and the waiting list now has well over 150 names. The only obstacle to welcoming them is physical and logistical: My Way needs more room. They have the therapists, the expertise and have gained the experience required, but need expanded facilities.
Last year a third building was made available to them for this expansion, and now the directors are seeking funds for the necessary renovation. Here the vocational training program will find its logical continuation as students will learn the advanced skills and specialization in various fields, preparing them for employment in different professions. About 70 students should find work here, while others will seek employment independently outside the center.

National and Regional Pioneer
The goal is for the center to operate in three buildings: in the first, more than 100 children under the age of 14 will find accommodation, in the second, 70 teenagers and young adults at a time will be able to participate and in the third, 70 adults will find training in the workshops. Currently, the State Budget covers costs for operations and therapy for the first building and it is expected that the same will be the case for the second and third facilities, once they have been renovated and made operational.
It is important to stress that all services available at the Center are free, thanks to government support and partner organizations. It is also noteworthy that this institution is the only one of its kind, not only in Armenia, but throughout the Transcaucasus. Indeed, it is a pioneer in the field and can serve as a role model for similar initiatives nationally and abroad.
When we left Yerevan, Lilith and Sona and their colleagues were optimistic that they would reach their goals and we shared their optimism. As a symbol of that shared commitment, Lilith Soghomonyan gave us a beautiful painting done by her daughter.
This week Lilith has been in Germany, to attend the annual gathering of the German Autism Congress, held in Dortmund on June 9-10. This is the organization of Maria Kaminski. This year’s conference was entitled, “Learn — Work — Quality of Life,” and featured lectures by specialists as well as workshops and round table discussions. The presence of a founding member of My way was a fitting reminder that the campaign to help persons with autism has reached Armenia; and it was a personal acknowledgement of the crucial contribution Kaminski has made to this effort.
For more information about the center, visit http://anf.am/
(Material for this article has been taken from the ANF website and project reports of the ANF and My Way.)






German Troops to Leave Incirlik


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator – JUNE 8, 2017
Incirlik
BERLIN — When Turkish government officials repeated to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel their refusal to allow German parliamentarians unconditional access to their troops at Incirlik base, it was the proverbial straw that broke that suffering camel’s back. Gabriel had travelled to Ankara on June 5 in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise solution to the conflict that has strained relations, both bilateral and within NATO, to an unprecedented degree. After talks with both Foreign Minister Mevlùt Çavusoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gabriel made clear that Germany would have no choice but to withdraw its troops and relocate them. “There is no decision, no concrete plan,” he said, but there was also no alternative to transfer. Çavusoglu for his part stated that, although German parliamentarians could visit troops at the NATO base at Konya, “at the moment the conditions do not exist” for them to be allowed in to Incirlik. It was expected that within days the government and Bundestag would deliberate on the matter and opt for relocating the contingent to Jordan. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had already explored the option in Jordan and all that remained were the formalities of procedure.

Piling Up the Straws

How could it come to this point? The controversy began a year ago in the wake of the Bundestag’s deicison on June 2 to recognize the Armenian genocide. Turkey reacted by refusing visiting rights to a delegation of German parliamentarians to Incirlik, where 260 German troops, 6 Tornadoes and fuel tankers are stationed as part of the fight against IS. In September Berlin found a compromise formulation to deflate the impact of the resolution, which led to Ankara’s permission for one visit. Turkey resurrected the ban in response to Germany’s refusal to extend the witch-hunt against persons considered to be in cahoots with the Gülen movement which Erdogan blames for the attempted coup last July. Turkey’s stance toughened further after Germany granted political asylum to Turkish officers threatened with prosecution as pro-Gülenists. In addition, Turkey charged Germany with harboring terrorists, with reference to Kurdish organizations, accused of sympathies for the PKK. To add fuel to the fire, in February of this year Turkish authorities arrested Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist, as a pro-terrorist, and followed this up by detaining a German translator on similar grounds.

Since the German army is an army of the Bundestag, it is imperative that parliamentarians have unconditional access to “their” troops, and for this reason there can be no backing down on the part of Germany. After consultations between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister von der Leyen, it was decided to engage NATO, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (whose doctrine is that Turkey is “a key country for security in Europe”) decreed the issue to be “bilateral.”

The NATO Dimension

Although the geopolitical considerations behind this are obvious, the proclamation raised eyebrows in view of the fact that Turkey had recently blocked the decision for NATO’s collaboration with Austria in the Balkans. Austria is not a NATO member but had been cooperating with 500 soldiers in NATO’s Kfor mission in Kosovo. After Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz lobbied for terminating EU entrance talks with Turkey, Ankara responded by blocking this operation.

A further reason to involve NATO would be the fact that, in Erdogan’s anti-Gülen purge, an estimated 150 of 300 Turkish officers have been fired from their positions in NATO headquarters, or as military attaches in embassies, according to Spiegel magazine. The same source reports that 270 mainly high-level officers in total had been fired by Erdogan, creating a collapse in quality, as the replacements were often less qualified and lacked foreign language capabilities. This has security implications, as they may be tasked with sensitive operations like air space surveillance and secret defense planning, according to Spiegel.

That notwithstanding, NATO steered clear of the dispute. Turkey would allow German Parliamentarians to visit German troops at Konya, because it is a NATO base and as such no formal permit is required; NATO must simply inform Turkey of the plan. But Incirlik is another matter.

A Bilateral Non-Solution

Thus it came to be that Gabriel made one last attempt to reach a solution on the bilateral plane, and left Ankara empty handed. Judging from public statements made before the talks and the tone struck at a joint press conference of the two foreign ministers, the atmosphere was not very congenial. Çavusoglu had said matter-of-factly of the foreseeable withdrawal, “We welcomed them when they came and when and if they leave, we will bid them a friendly farewell.” The reason for the Turkish visiting ban provided by the foreign ministry was that Germany had given Turkish officers political asylum. Furthermore, Germany was not doing enough against the PKK. “Our expectation,” the Turkish foreign minister said, “is that our friend will not become a refuge for our enemies.” Gabriel made clear that in his country it is “independent agencies and courts that decide on asylum,” not politics. In reference to the case of Deniz Yücel, Çavusoglu conceded that he could see it was very important for Berlin. “But,” he added, “one thing is certain and Germany knows it only too well: the charges against Yücel do not have to do with journalism but with terror,” adding that the Turkish judiciary was independent in its activities. He accused the Europeans of sending journalists to Turkey as spies, in order to play the “press freedom” card once they were caught.

The German foreign minister was explicit in identifying underlying factors to the strife. “For some time,” he said, “it has not just been a question of the joint fight against IS, but also about domestic politics. We cannot allow our soldiers to become the playthings of the political climate.” He refused to budge on the demand that Bundestag members have unlimited access to the troops; “If Turkey insists that they cannot, then what remains is a decision for the transfer.” He expressed his desire to “arrange it with our Turkish colleagues peacefully and without great fuss.”

As if to underscore the animosity, Prime Minister Binali Yilderin made it known that scheduling problems would prevent him from receiving Gabriel.

However, Gabriel did get to meet Erdogan for an hour, and it was, as he said afterwards, a “sobering” experience. “Relations are very tense,” he summarized. Erdogan had accused Germany of failing to prosecute terrorists. Gabriel concluded, “We have to take note of the fact that the Turkish government has a completely different understanding of the state of law than we do.”



German Troops to Leave Incirlik


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator – JUNE 8, 2017

Incirlik
BERLIN — When Turkish government officials repeated to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel their refusal to allow German parliamentarians unconditional access to their troops at Incirlik base, it was the proverbial straw that broke that suffering camel’s back. Gabriel had travelled to Ankara on June 5 in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise solution to the conflict that has strained relations, both bilateral and within NATO, to an unprecedented degree. After talks with both Foreign Minister Mevlùt Çavusoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gabriel made clear that Germany would have no choice but to withdraw its troops and relocate them. “There is no decision, no concrete plan,” he said, but there was also no alternative to transfer. Çavusoglu for his part stated that, although German parliamentarians could visit troops at the NATO base at Konya, “at the moment the conditions do not exist” for them to be allowed in to Incirlik. It was expected that within days the government and Bundestag would deliberate on the matter and opt for relocating the contingent to Jordan. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen had already explored the option in Jordan and all that remained were the formalities of procedure.

Piling Up the Straws

How could it come to this point? The controversy began a year ago in the wake of the Bundestag’s deicison on June 2 to recognize the Armenian genocide. Turkey reacted by refusing visiting rights to a delegation of German parliamentarians to Incirlik, where 260 German troops, 6 Tornadoes and fuel tankers are stationed as part of the fight against IS. In September Berlin found a compromise formulation to deflate the impact of the resolution, which led to Ankara’s permission for one visit. Turkey resurrected the ban in response to Germany’s refusal to extend the witch-hunt against persons considered to be in cahoots with the Gülen movement which Erdogan blames for the attempted coup last July. Turkey’s stance toughened further after Germany granted political asylum to Turkish officers threatened with prosecution as pro-Gülenists. In addition, Turkey charged Germany with harboring terrorists, with reference to Kurdish organizations, accused of sympathies for the PKK. To add fuel to the fire, in February of this year Turkish authorities arrested Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist, as a pro-terrorist, and followed this up by detaining a German translator on similar grounds.

Since the German army is an army of the Bundestag, it is imperative that parliamentarians have unconditional access to “their” troops, and for this reason there can be no backing down on the part of Germany. After consultations between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister von der Leyen, it was decided to engage NATO, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (whose doctrine is that Turkey is “a key country for security in Europe”) decreed the issue to be “bilateral.”

The NATO Dimension

Although the geopolitical considerations behind this are obvious, the proclamation raised eyebrows in view of the fact that Turkey had recently blocked the decision for NATO’s collaboration with Austria in the Balkans. Austria is not a NATO member but had been cooperating with 500 soldiers in NATO’s Kfor mission in Kosovo. After Austrian Foreign Minister Kurz lobbied for terminating EU entrance talks with Turkey, Ankara responded by blocking this operation.

A further reason to involve NATO would be the fact that, in Erdogan’s anti-Gülen purge, an estimated 150 of 300 Turkish officers have been fired from their positions in NATO headquarters, or as military attaches in embassies, according to Spiegel magazine. The same source reports that 270 mainly high-level officers in total had been fired by Erdogan, creating a collapse in quality, as the replacements were often less qualified and lacked foreign language capabilities. This has security implications, as they may be tasked with sensitive operations like air space surveillance and secret defense planning, according to Spiegel.

That notwithstanding, NATO steered clear of the dispute. Turkey would allow German Parliamentarians to visit German troops at Konya, because it is a NATO base and as such no formal permit is required; NATO must simply inform Turkey of the plan. But Incirlik is another matter.

A Bilateral Non-Solution

Thus it came to be that Gabriel made one last attempt to reach a solution on the bilateral plane, and left Ankara empty handed. Judging from public statements made before the talks and the tone struck at a joint press conference of the two foreign ministers, the atmosphere was not very congenial. Çavusoglu had said matter-of-factly of the foreseeable withdrawal, “We welcomed them when they came and when and if they leave, we will bid them a friendly farewell.” The reason for the Turkish visiting ban provided by the foreign ministry was that Germany had given Turkish officers political asylum. Furthermore, Germany was not doing enough against the PKK. “Our expectation,” the Turkish foreign minister said, “is that our friend will not become a refuge for our enemies.” Gabriel made clear that in his country it is “independent agencies and courts that decide on asylum,” not politics. In reference to the case of Deniz Yücel, Çavusoglu conceded that he could see it was very important for Berlin. “But,” he added, “one thing is certain and Germany knows it only too well: the charges against Yücel do not have to do with journalism but with terror,” adding that the Turkish judiciary was independent in its activities. He accused the Europeans of sending journalists to Turkey as spies, in order to play the “press freedom” card once they were caught.

The German foreign minister was explicit in identifying underlying factors to the strife. “For some time,” he said, “it has not just been a question of the joint fight against IS, but also about domestic politics. We cannot allow our soldiers to become the playthings of the political climate.” He refused to budge on the demand that Bundestag members have unlimited access to the troops; “If Turkey insists that they cannot, then what remains is a decision for the transfer.” He expressed his desire to “arrange it with our Turkish colleagues peacefully and without great fuss.”

As if to underscore the animosity, Prime Minister Binali Yilderin made it known that scheduling problems would prevent him from receiving Gabriel.

However, Gabriel did get to meet Erdogan for an hour, and it was, as he said afterwards, a “sobering” experience. “Relations are very tense,” he summarized. Erdogan had accused Germany of failing to prosecute terrorists. Gabriel concluded, “We have to take note of the fact that the Turkish government has a completely different understanding of the state of law than we do.”



Erdogan’s Referendum and Germany’s Dilemma


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Special to the Mirror-Spectator – 25 MAY, 2017

Hermann
FRANKFURT, Germany — Turkish citizens who went to the polls on April 16 were saying “yes” or “no” not only to a new constitution but to the future of relations with Europe. This was the interpretation offered at a public debate organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, a think-tank linked to the German Liberal Party (FDP). Convened on May 19 near Frankfurt, the event addressed the theme: “The Sick Democracy on the Bosporus: Is Turkey Taking Leave of the West?” The round table, moderated by Dr. Rainer Hermann, who was the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s correspondent in Turkey for more than a decade, brought together prominent politicians who have been involved in bilateral relations with Turkey.

Dr. Hans-Georg Fleck, current director of the think-tank’s Istanbul bureau, was joined by Dr. Jörg-Uwe Hahn and Nicola Beer, both members of the regional parliament in Hessen.

It was clear from the opening greetings by Hahn, that the political deterioration inside Turkey had cast a pall on relations with Germany. Over the past ten years, the Hessen government has tried to develop ties, both on the city and state level, and was the first to set up partnerships with Bursa. Now, Hahn said, he was very saddened, since contact has been interrupted; his counterpart, the Vali of Bursa, is now sitting in a jail, along with hundreds of thousands of other Turks accused of association with the Gülen movement, officially inculpated with the coup attempt last summer.

The outcome of the referendum has only aggravated this state of affairs. As Fleck detailed in his introductory analysis of the vote, those who supported the new constitution in hopes of achieving stability and security would be disappointed; the enhanced powers granted to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will neither help alleviate economic ills, especially growing unemployment, nor contribute to solving problems deriving from the oppression of the Kurdish (and other) minority populations. The collapse of the tourist industry (which he characterized as more important for Turkey than the auto industry for Germany) and falling currency rates have resulted from the political crisis following the coup attempt and massive crackdown. Economic revival will depend on development of the younger population, which will require advances in education, which, he said, would not benefit from the referendum results. If the education system in the country was already abysmal, the mass firings of competent academics have worsened the situation. These teachers have lost not only their jobs, but their pensions, their social standing and, in many cases, their very freedom. The situation in the judiciary, where young, inexperienced judges have replaced those thrown out, the perspective is as bleak.

That said, the speaker hastened to stress that the results were indeed very close, as nearly half those who cast their ballots voted against the changes, and thus against Erdogan’s move towards autocratic rule. Rejecting the “yes” voters’ illusions of regaining some mythical Ottoman glory, the “no” camp, which included Kemalist and pro-minority voters, is characterized by its pro-Western, pro-European orientation. The question for Turkey’s partners in Europe is: how to deal with this highly polarized population? How to provide support for the very substantial sector of Turkish society which is adamantly opposed to Erdogan and the AKP’s dictatorial ambitions?

Should Turkey Enter The EU?

The issue is not academic for the German government. Should Berlin join those in Europe who want to end all discussion with Ankara about its bid for membership in the European Union? If, as Erdogan has threatened, the death penalty is reintroduced, that will automatically terminate Turkey’s chances for membership, since the EU outlaws it. Even now, debate is rife as to whether or not German authorities would allow Turkish citizens residing here to vote in a referendum on the death penalty; thus far, the position has been negative, as no campaign propaganda for such would be compatible with German law. Linked to the issue of EU membership is the question of whether or not Europe should continue providing Turkey with funds allocated for the process.

In the course of a lively debate, moderator Rainer Hermann posed the provocative questions, “Are the EU negotiations, then, simply a farce?” And should the funding stop? Whereas Fleck argued that Turkey should take the first step, to decide whether or not it still wants to join Europe, Beer countered that the Europeans should put a stop to the process. Erdogan’s provocations, she said, had been his way of testing how far he could go and, in her view, “the limits of the tolerable have long since been overstepped.” Therefore she called for not opening any further chapters in the negotiations. As for the funds, which she said were still flowing without any accountability as to where they were being allocated, Fleck said they had been appropriated but not yet delivered, and that money for refugee program support at least was under control.

The refugee crisis represents a further challenge to bilateral relations. What, Hermann asked, if Erdogan were to make good on his threat to open the borders, allowing a new wave of refugees into Germany before elections here in the fall? Beer’s response echoing the official position of Chancellor Angela Merkel, that a European-wide solution is required, and that is indeed a topic high on the agenda addressed in ongoing EU discussions.

And What About NATO?

Last but surely not least for the German government is the issue of military cooperation. Again, in mid-May, Turkey refused permission for a delegation of parliamentarians from the Bundestag to make a routine visit to German troops stationed at the Incirlik base. The first time Ankara made such a move was in response to the German Bundestag’s recognition of the Armenian genocide last June; now the reason for the refusal was Germany’s having granted asylum to Turkish citizens, including military officers, persecuted for alleged Gülen ties.

Two opposition forces, the Green Party and the Left Party (Die Linke), called for Germany to pull out its troops in response; since “the German army is the army of the parliament,” it stated in its call, “and the parliament must control it at all times,” such a veto is unacceptable. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel had also said the Turkish refusal was “the limit of the tolerable,” and Defense Minister von der Leyen arranged a visit to Jordan to discuss with the king possible alternative bases in the Hashemite Kingdom. Gabriel went further, suggesting that a possible pullout should be considered also for troops stationed in Konya. As government spokesman Steffen Siebert stated, however, there are differences between the two situations; German soldiers at Incirlik are manning German Tornados for reconnaissance flights over Syria and Iraq, whereas in Konya it is a NATO base for AWACs, and this would involve a NATO decision. It is considered unlikely for NATO to take any such steps considering Turkey is its second largest members.

As Beer pointed out at the round table debate, even redeploying German troops to Jordan would not solve the problem, which goes much deeper. How can one accept the move by one NATO member to deny access to troops of a fellow NATO member? This, indeed, is the question: how far is Germany or NATO going to tolerate the arbitrary rulings of an Erdogan regime which believes that with the referendum it has received a mandate to dictate its will despite national sovereignty and international agreements?






Armenia’s Heart: Poems … and Nothing More


Lilit
Lilit Sargsyan in Gyumri

Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Special to the Mirror-Spectator – MAY 18, 2017
GYUMRI — Anyone who knows anything about Armenians is aware of the special role their language plays in their history and culture, and nowhere is this more obvious than in their rich poetical tradition. In Germany, this tradition is not unknown; in the 1970s and 1980s, through cooperation between literary associations in the then-Communist East Germany (GDR) and Soviet Armenia, translations of works appeared by Hovhannes Tumanyan, Avetik Issahakyan and Paruyr Sevak as well as an anthology of medieval verse. At the same time, literary journals in West Germany featured some translations. Now, in the wake of the recognition of the genocide last June by the German Bundestag (Parliament), a wave of interest in Armenian literature has swept across the intellectual landscape.

In 2015, a new translation of 24 poems by Paruyr Sevak was issued by Schiler Verlag in Berlin, the result of a joint effort by prize-winning German author Heide Rieck and Agapi Mkrtchian, an Armenian author honored in Yerevan by the Armenian Writers Union with the Vasdakovor order, as an author of outstanding merit. Now, an anthology has appeared in Grössenwahn Verlag, translated by Mkrtchian and Helmuth R. Malonek, a German translator and university professor who studied in Yerevan and teaches in Portugal. The volume is entitled “Armenia’s Heart: Poems … and Nothing More,” and includes works by twenty-five contemporary Armenian poets.

As Prof. Tessa Hofmann writes in an extensive Afterword, they include well-known poets from the older generation of the 1940s and 1950s like Arevshat Avagyan, Henrik Edoyan and Edward Militonyan, as well as authors born in the 1970s and 1980s, who represent a post-Soviet literature. In addition to traditional themes in Armenian poetry, like love, religion and nature, Hofmann notes the treatment of emigration, for example, in the works of Varlan Alexanyan, Edward Militonyan, Ani Ter-Gulanyan, Eduard Harenz, Agapi Mkrtchian, Arevshat Avagyan and Arpi Voskanyan.

Opening Doors with Poetry

In her commentary, Hofmann quotes lines from a poem by Chilean Vicente Huidobro that say, “Let poetry become a key that opens a thousand doors.” Both in Armenia and in Germany, doors have been opened by the public readings of poems from this anthology in both languages. While on a recent visit to Armenia my husband and I had the opportunity to enjoy an event in Gyumri on April 9 at the Berlin Hotel, an inter-cultural center for artists and writers, where Agapi Mkrtchian presented selected poems in both languages. Attending the gathering, which was celebrated by violin and guitar music, were several prominent members of the Gyumri Writers’ Association, who spontaneously offered readings from their works at the conclusion. Days later in Mkrtchian’s hometown of Gegashen, not far from Yerevan, students from the local school presented a two-hour program to a packed auditorium, reciting (from memory) selections from the anthology, again in both Armenian and German. Students of Mariam Kazaryan, who directs the music school, provided the musical counterpoint to the poetry.

As soon as we entered the school, my husband and I were surprised to be greeted by faculty members in German. As we learned during a tour of the school, German is an integral part of the cultural tradition there and all pupils begin to study it as a foreign language already in the third grade. In fact, this is where Mkrtchian first encountered the language; later she was to pursue higher education in Germany and today teaches it at the high school level in Wiesbaden. On stage, one after another young girl or boy stepped forward to recite poems from the new book, and we were amazed at the proficiency of their delivery, particularly considering that the book had just come off the press and they had prepared the entire program in one short week.

Back in Germany, the book has already been presented at the Leipzig book fair and will be featured by publisher Grössenwahn in October in Frankfurt. On May 5, at the Wiesbaden Literaturhaus, guests were introduced to the poems by Mkrtchian and members of the Dichterpflänzchen, a poetry lovers’ association, who recited in German, and Susanna Markosyan and Lilit Sargsyan, in Armenian.

A generous selection of poems provided the audience with a broad sample of the volume: Armenuhi Sisyan, Narek Kirakosyan, Vardan Hakobyan, Nane, Agapi Mkrtchian, Edward Militonyan, Arusyak Ohanyan, Sona Van, Arevshat Avagyan, Benik Stepanyan, Anush Aslibekyan and Anush Vardanyan.

Again, music completed the evening, and again in both traditions; Diana Sahakyan performed selections from Chopin and Schubert on the piano whereas Arpi Nazanyan and her brother Mushegh played Armenian works on the flute and cello, respectively. A special treat came in the performance by Lilit Sargsyan, who sang her own compositions accompanying herself on the classical guitar. Sargsyan, who is founder and editor in chief of the magazine “Chrag”, composes both the verse and the music and has won prizes for her interpretations. She is currently studying in Germany.

With the final selection, a poem by Anush Vardanyan entitled “New Europe,” Lutz Schauerhammer from the Dichterpflänzchen said the performers wanted to encourage the younger generation of Armenian poets to look beyond their own borders and experience, abroad and to the future.

At the end of May, the Literaturhaus in Berlin will open its doors to the new anthology and book launches are to follow in several more cities.

Gegashen-pupils

Gegashen pupils


Agapi

Agapi Mkrtchian with students from her school



Genocide Commemoration after Recognition in Germany


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator – APRIL 27, 2017
BERLIN — Since the German Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution on the Armenian Genocide last year in June, the focus has shifted from the demand for recognition to other concerns; on the one hand, there has been further study of the role of Imperial Germany in the Genocide and, on the other, there are efforts underway to introduce the theme in history lessons in German classrooms. This shift in focus was perceptible in the commemoration held in Berlin on April 24, where several speakers, remembering the past, looked to the future.

The event was organized by the Central Council of the Armenians in Germany, the Armenian Embassy and the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany, and enjoyed the collaboration of the Berlin Armenian Community and the Armenian Church and Cultural Community in Berlin. Opening the program, Ani Smith-Dagesyan, a member of the Board of the Central Council of the Armenians in Germany, spoke of the current situation for the minorities in Turkey. Smith-Dagesyan, a young political scientist specializing in international politics, has been responsible for the political and cultural education of the younger generation at the Council. Armenian Ambassador Ashat Smbatyan addressed his remarks to this younger generation. The culture of memory, he said, was all the more important for those who did not experience the genocide, adding that remembrance must include other genocides as well. Smbatyan stressed the importance of the speech delivered last year by then-President Joachim Gauck on the genocide, a speech which paved the way for recognition and changed the situation in Germany.

Edelgard Bulmahn, Social Democrat who is vice president of the Bundestag, delved more deeply into the events of the past, emphasizing the importance of studying and acknowledging the role of Germany in those historical developments. She too spoke of the interest that young people today display in understanding their own past. Prof. Garabed Antranikian, president of the Technical University in Hamburg, had personal remarks to offer. As the son of a survivor who migrated to Jerusalem and then to Jordan, where he was born, he praised his father’s commitment to his own education, which allowed him to study and achieve an academic career.

Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany, offered prayers.

A day earlier, also in Berlin, a ceremony was held at the Ecumenical Memorial for the Genocide Victims of the Ottoman Empire, with a speech by Dr. Tessa Hofmann, a genocide researcher and co-founder of the initiative. The memorial is made up of three altars in memory of the Armenians, Greeks and Syrian Christians. Following an address by Hofmann, titled, “The Books are not Yet Closed,” participants marched in a procession to the monument, where Archbishop Emmanuel Sfiatkos, chairman of the Ecumenical Council of Berlin-Brandenburg, delivered a blessing.

A new book is to be released soon in German, edited by Rolf Hosfeld and Christin Pschichholz, which contains essays by numerous genocide scholars on the theme of the German role. The volume, Das Deutsche Reich und der Völkermord an den Armeniern, is a further example of the interest being devoted to this aspect, which has come to the fore since the Bundestag resolution. And, also stimulated by the same ferment, a debate around genocide studies in schools has been spreading among educators. As an example, the German-Armenian Society is organizing a presentation this week by former minister Stephan Dorgerloh on “Genocide as a Topic in Schools in Sachsen-Anhalt.”





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Turkish Referendum: The Price of Winning


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — The “Yes” vote in the Turkish referendum may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Not only was the reported margin in favor of the constitutional changes far slimmer than Erdogan’s AKP party and pre-election polls had expected, with only 51.4 percent of the vote, but the political fallout in Europe may be profound.

In Germany, which has the largest Turkish community in Europe, the political class clearly favored a “No” vote, on grounds that the constitutional changes would grant Erdogan the status of President-for-life currently enjoyed by some potentates in Asia and Africa; not only would he be able to occupy the bombastic presidential palace for more than another decade, but he would be able to rule virtually unopposed by parliament or other political institutions. The blatant violations of human rights and basic civil liberties, especially since the attempted coup last summer, have left no doubts about the policy options that the super-president will pursue.

German leaders responded cautiously but clearly to the first news of results. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel advised all to maintain “cool heads” and to proceed with prudence. And in a joint statement issued by him and Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 17, the message was that Berlin expected the Turkish government to “seek a respectful dialogue with all political and social groups in Turkey.” They said the very close vote meant a “huge responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally.” Following weeks of Germany-bashing by Erdogan, who went so far as to accuse Merkel et al of Nazi methods, the popularity of the Turkish president in Berlin had hit rock bottom. But that is not the primary concern for Germany’s politicians. As reflected in commentaries by experts on election night, there are reasons to fear that Turkey, now divided as never before, could become the theater for violent political conflict.

EU Shuns Dictatorship

The clearest message issued by German politicians was that the transition to one-man rule in Ankara would snuff out whatever hopes remained of Turkish entry into the European Union. CSU chairman Manfred Weber said “full membership for Turkey could no longer be the goal,” and that European heads of state and government would have to review their relationship to Turkey at their upcoming meeting in two weeks. The deputy chairwoman of the CDU, Julia Klöckner echoed this view, saying “the door to an EU membership is now definitely shut,” adding that financial support for the process would also end. European politician Elmer Brok, also from the CDU, was more cautious, in light of the fact that such a large portion of Turkish voters had voted against the changes. He did, however, stress that if Erdogan were to make good on his promise to reintroduce the death penalty, that would terminate the EU access process immediately.

On the left of the German political spectrum, demands for concrete action prevailed. Both the Left Party and the Green Party called for Germany to withdraw its 260 troops currently stationed in Incirlik and to halt all weapons deliveries to Turkey. Cem Özdemir, co-chair of the Greens, directed his attention to the Turkish voters in Germany, 63 percent of whom had voted “Yes.” His message was that those living here would have to commit themselves fully to upholding the constitution, the German constitution that is.





Cloak and Dagger in German-Turkish Relations


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN, APRIL 6, 2017— The news that the Turkish intelligence agency MIT was not only spying on German citizens in their home country, but had requested help in this pursuit from the German intelligence service BND, signaled a new low-point in Berlin-Ankara relations. Relations had already been poisoned by wild accusations made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was “Nazi-like” and “using Nazi methods.” The resulting controversy regarding whether or not to allow AKP politicians to campaign in Germany for a “yes” vote on the upcoming referendum ended in a decision, by Ankara, to cancel all such planned events. That seemed to lower the political temperature.

Then last week several German press outlets revealed the espionage activities. As reported, the MIT had given a list to its German counterpart during the Munich security conference at the beginning of the year. The list had 358 names of people the Turkish secret services alleged were terrorists and/or linked to the Gülen movement which Erdogan holds responsible for the failed coup attempt last summer. The MIT was seeking help from its German counterpart in gathering information about these people. Instead, the list arrived on the desks of the government, the German Criminal Police BKA, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and police. Interior ministries of the federal states then informed the individuals named, out of concern for their security. Among the names were political figures; Michelle Münterfering, wife of the former SPD leader Franz Münterfering, and Chairwoman of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Group was the most prominent.

Backlash


It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only did the news become very public, but political figures took the gloves off. Televised talk shows on national channels have been focusing increasingly on Turkey and the growing tensions. During popular round table discussions hosted by Maybrit Illner or Anne Will on prime time shows, typically there are a couple of prominent German politicians, an intelligence expert or two, and one or two Turkish-Germans, one of whom will struggle to argue for the AKP position. On March 31, Parliamentarian Münterfering herself appeared, and said, though in that position she had always been open to dialogue even with difficult interlocutors, here a new limit had been reached with such methods. Sabine Leutheuser-Schnarrenberger, a former Justice Minister from the liberal party FDP, who had met with journalists in Turkey, denounced the list, stating, “There is no danger represented by these people. The list is a notion to the German intelligence services [that they should] violate fundamental rights.”

The pro-Erdogan position ritually presented in these talk shows is that the Gülen crowd are terrorists, having attempted a violent coup, and that it is the duty of the Germans to hunt them down for prosecution. The most explosive response to this line of argument came during this show from Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, an intelligence expert, who exposed the charges of Gülen’s culpability as phony. “Turkish espionage was always known,” he said, “but it has gotten more aggressive since 2013.” Following the protests at Gezi park, he said that German-Turks came more under surveillance, “and then the pseudo-coup in July only increased Turkish paranoia.” When the term “pseudo-coup” provoked objections from Haluk Yildiz, from the Turkish side, Schmidt-Eenboom went on to say that the BND and CIA had concluded that it was “a pseudo-coup, staged by Erdogan, to prevent a possible real coup.” As for the Gülen movement, he said the BND shared the view that it “is definitely not the party responsible for the coup.” Commenting on the extent of Turkish espionage in Germany, he said, “Even the Stasi [Communist East German Security] did not manage to build such a vast network of agents in the Federal Republic of Germany.” (He also had pertinent remarks about “something like a jihadist highway,” that Turkey had until 2014, along which “it sent fighters from Libya and other countries over the border.”)

That the network is vast has been documented in recent weeks. In February, law enforcement agencies raided homes, mosques and offices of DITIB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, the largest organization representing the Turkish community in Germany. It depends directly on the Diyanet (Presidency of Religious Affairs) in Turkey and came to the attention of German authorities after reports that its representatives, especially imams, were collecting information on persons of Turkish background who had contacts to the Gülen schools or other entities. Teachers and imams were supposed to report such persons. DITIB has also come under scrutiny for allegedly promoting violence; since September 2016 all imams who tend to persons in prisons have been required to undergo checks by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, but the vast majority of DITIB imams in North Rhine Westphalia, for example, declined to do so. Thus, if 117 DITIB imams worked in the prisons in 2015, only 12 now do so.

The scandal of spying on German citizens suspected of links to the Gülen movement has generated fear among Turkish-Germans who are opposed to Erdogan and has created a serious conflict between the pro- and anti-Erdogan factions in the Federal Republic. Not only: as Zeit online, among other press reported recently, increasing numbers of Turkish citizens who fear for their safety at home are seeking asylum in Germany. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has received 262 applications for asylum, presented by Turkish diplomats and military officials.

Spying in Turkey


Not infrequently, pro-Erdogan representatives in the talk shows will accuse Germany of spying in Turkey. Schmidt-Eenboom was blunt in his response. Yes, the BND spies in Turkey, and also in other countries, as other foreign intelligence agencies also do. In fact, the information about Turkish support for jihadists had been obtained through wiretapping of phones in the presidential palace, by the NSA among other western agencies. Schmidt-Eeboom justified the actions thus: “Erdogan is a neo-Ottoman. He is striving to establish a Eurasian Islamist state, with territorial claims vis-a-vis Greece, Bulgaria and northern Iraq.” That is something that needs to be monitored.





Analysis: The Sick Man on the Bosporus


By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Special to the Mirror-Spectator –MARCH 23, 2017
erdogan
BERLIN — In the late 19th century, the cliché phrase making the rounds of the imperial palaces in Europe, was that the Ottoman Empire, a creature in which they all had their vested interests, was the sick man of Europe. The means the Great Powers devised to cure the problem led to world war, in the course of which they divvied up the dismantled empire, carving out new puppet states on the geopolitical map. Not a few of our contemporary political analysts trace the origins of the current wars and crises ripping through the region back to that catastrophic conflict a century ago. Today leading figures in European democracies are beginning to wonder if there might be a new form of illness manifesting itself, this time in modern-day Turkey. This time the threats of conflict are emanating from the palace of the would-be new sultan.
 
Referendum for Dictatorship  
The ostensible casus belli in the escalating conflict between Turkey and Europe, especially Germany, is the April 16 referendum on the introduction of a presidential system which would grant the Turkish president powers so vast as to eliminate checks and balances on the part of other institutions like the judiciary and parliament. In what is shaping up as a tight race, the ruling AKP seeks to win over Turkish citizens living abroad for a “yes” vote and therefore demands the right for its politicians, be they government representatives or party officials or not, to campaign freely in Germany, the Netherlands, France and other countries with a Turkish community. The AKP has cheerfully ignored the fact that such campaigning abroad is in flagrant violation of Article 94/A of Turkish electoral law.
It has been more difficult for Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party to ignore the laws of the countries which would host such campaign rallies. The rallies in the Netherlands and Germany have met resistance, either due to concerns for public safety, or to Turkish non-compliance with formal and logistical conditions for room rentals, etc. The deeper reasons are political. This year is election year in several countries, most recently in the Netherlands, and rightwing populists, like Geert Wilders, have been fueling anti-Islamic hatred and fears in their bid for votes. The concern is that fiery nationalist speeches by Turkish campaigners could provoke violent responses in the streets, and drive panicked voters to support the anti-Muslim populists at the polls.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte won the Dutch elections on March 15, in part thanks to his resolute stand against planned campaign appearances by Turkish politicians. First, Dutch authorities refused to grant landing rights to the plane carrying Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, then Family Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, who tried to enter Rotterdam by car, had her convoy turned back. The Turkish response to these rebuffs was violent, at least on the verbal plane. During an election rally in Antalya, Foreign Minister Çavusoglu said after the election results had been made known, that there was no difference between the social democrats, Rutte, and the “fascist” populist Wilders: “They are all the same.” The Netherlands was “the capital of fascism,” in his view, and he vowed that “there will be repercussions” for his having been prevented from speaking. Erdogan went so far as to accuse the Dutch of genocide, charging that they had massacred 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. (In point of fact, it was the Bosnian Serbs who did the killing of the Muslim men and boys, and the Dutch contingent of UNPROFOR soldiers who failed to prevent the slaughter.) Erdogan’s government then announced political sanctions against the Netherlands.
In Germany, the Turkish community is the largest in Europe, with 1.4 million eligible voters, enough to decide the outcome of the referendum. In response to refusals on the part of local and state authorities to allow Turkish politicians to campaign, Erdogan and other leading figures have wielded the “fascist” epithet, and have charged Germany with protecting terrorists. Erdogan first accused the Germans of using Nazi methods, then attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel personally; on March 19 at a meeting of an Islamic organization in Istanbul, he used the familiar “Du” form to say, “You [Merkel] are using Nazi methods. Against whom? Against my Turkish brothers in Germany and the ministers.” He said he ‘thanked God” that German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel had been apprehended, formally placed under arrest and sent to prison. The journalist who writes for “Die Welt” is a “terrorist agent,” Erdogan said, and would have to answer to the “independent” Turkish judiciary. According to a report in the tabloid Bild Zeitung, Erdogan also said, referring apparently to the Europeans, “If they could, they would build gas chambers again.”
 
And Berlin’s Reaction?
Chancellor Merkel is known for her rationality, and her ability to keep cool under exasperating circumstances. During her recent Washington visit, she lived up to this reputation. In the case of Erdogan, she has labored to maintain a rational attitude, resolutely rejecting all slanders he has levelled against Europe, Germany and her personally. To Ankara’s repeated accusations that the Dutch were “fascists,” she pointed out the cruel irony that it was the Dutch who suffered immensely under Nazi occupation, and pledged her total solidarity with the Rutte government. As for “Nazi methods” in the Federal Republic of Germany, she has said it is almost impossible to reply seriously to such outrages. Her spokesman Stephan Seibert dubbed the name-calling “recognizably out of this world,” (or, to put it more colloquially, “off the wall”). Seibert added that the Chancellor did not have any intention of “participating in a competition of insults.” On March 20, after the umpteenth instance of Nazi-baiting, Merkel put her foot down, reiterating that “the Nazi comparisons from Turkey must stop…. No ifs or buts.” Such comments, she said, “break every taboo, without consideration for the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis.” She said a verbal note from her foreign ministry had been delivered to Ankara in which the German government “reserved the right to take all necessary measures,” including reconsideration of certain approvals. The “approvals” refer to campaign appearances by politicians and also – most importantly – to facilities to allow Turkish citizens to cast their votes in the referendum, in polling places set up for them in Germany.
Erdogan and company have also blamed the Germans and Merkel personally for “supporting terrorists,” and by this they mean associates of the Gülen movement. In an interview to “Spiegel”, the head of the BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) Bruno Kahl had questioned the credibility of Turkish assertions that the Gülen movement were the driving force behind the failed coup attempt last year. Defense Minister Fikri Isik, according to “Anadolu” press agency, said this raised the question, “whether the German secret services are not behind the coup.”
Several German political figures have addressed the singular behavior of a national leader such as Erdogan. Newly elected SPD chairman and Chancellor candidate in the upcoming elections Martin Schulz remarked on national television March 19, “That a head of state of a friendly country should insult the head of the government of this country is a piece of impudence.” Someone has to tell Erdogan at some point, he said, that he “cannot trample on all practices of international diplomacy.” But, “that is what he does however.” And such behavior “is not worthy of a head of state,” he said, adding that Turkey was becoming increasingly authoritarian.
 
What Honor?
Among those who have earnestly sought to understand the bizarre behavior of Ankara’s political elite, Michael Martens of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has pointed to the misplaced notion of “honor” that several high-ranking representatives have displayed in their objections to being denied campaigning rights abroad. When Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag swears they will “not allow anyone to injure the honor of the Turkish nation and the Turkish state,” or his colleague in the foreign ministry characterizes the Dutch position as “an affront to the honor of the Turks,” Martens says that, to the ears of someone from northwestern Europe, this has a distant ring to it, as if coming from the days of Emperor Wilhelm. Such notions of honor may also be found in southern European countries, Spain, Italy and Greece, for example, but Martens sees this more extreme form as a relic from the heritage of Ataturk — with an Islamic touch. The state, as Martens summarizes the notion, should control everything, and if it does not, it should then rally the people around a strong leader, who defends the honor of the nation against the perceived enemies. His FAZ colleague, Rainer Hermann, a senior journalist and long-term Turkey expert, has identified authoritarian trends in other aspects of behavior among these politicians, including in hand gestures. For instance, Erdogan has been observed raising his right hand, with the four fingers upward and the thumb across the palm — this is apparently a gesture imported from Egypt, where it was used to signal opposition to Al Sisi, before becoming a standard symbol of the Muslim Brotherhood. Other leaders have been using gestures associated with the nationalist Grey Wolves.
Aside from the folkloristic flavor of such details, they serve to underline the trend towards extreme nationalism, which coheres with the aggressive name-calling directed at Merkel and Europe.
 
More than Metaphor?
The gutter level to which Ankara has dragged down political discourse is without precedent in the recent period. One is unsure whether to merely chalk up such talk to bad taste, ill manners or the like, or to read more sinister intent into the words. What should one make, for example, of the remarks made by Foreign Minister Cavusoglu about the Dutch political players, both populists and not? “They have the same mentality,” he said. “And this mentality will soon lead Europe to the abyss. Soon religious wars could and will break out in Europe.” Is this a threat or a promise? Or should one read the latest directives by Erdogan to Turks living in what he considers “fascist” Europe as sarcastic banter or serious marching orders? Speaking at a rally on March 17, he called out to Turks in Europe: “Don’t have three children, have five,” he said, “because you are the future of Europe.” This would be “the best answer that you could give to the impertinence, animosity and injustice that they are dealing you.” Does he really envision a future Europe dominated by Turks? If so, this would play into the hands of the Islamophobic populists like Wilder, Marine Le Pen and the Alternative for Germany party. Is that the intent?
Or did the CDU deputy chairwoman Julia Klöckner get it right when she asked simply, “Has Mr. Erdogan lost his senses?” Perhaps the man on the Bosporus is not well. Perhaps he is sick. Or maybe, she suggested, “Mr. Erdogan simply needs a comprehensive seminar in history, manners and understanding among peoples.” Not a bad idea; that history lesson might begin with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.