Amidst Hopes Of Peace With Kurds, Turkey Still Faces Scourge Of Land Mines

Mardin, one of the Turkish provinces still riddled with land mines
Mardin, one of the Turkish provinces still riddled with land mines
Ugur Ergan, Okan Konuralp and Feyzi Kizilkoyun

TUNCELI - The recent death of two Turkish soldiers by a mine blast has brought the land mine issue to the country’s agenda once more – and at a moment ripe with hope for lasting peace with Kurdish minority.

Turkey, a signatory of the Ottawa Treaty in 2003 was supposed to clear its territory of mines before March 1, 2014. But less than a year away, the deadline seems unrealistic: hundreds of thousands of mines must still be removed.

The last official recording in 2008 show Turkey had a total of 982,777 mines within its borders, of which 818,220 are anti-personnel and 164,497 are anti-vehicle, as well as another 15,150 anti-personnel mines used for training. The total means Turkey has more mines than any of the other the Ottawa signatories.

There is a land mine for every 73 people in Turkey according to the initiative A Landmine-Free Turkey. This ratio rises to a land mine for every 10 people in certain locations, such as the provinces of Mardin, Batman, Van, Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Bingol, Agri and Sirnak, where about 800 village roads are mined, including some 50% considered at “high-level threat” of detonating.

Ten more years?

The work of clearing the mines at the Turkey-Syrian border was supposed to begin in October 2011, but the civil war in Syria prevented it from beginning. Turkey is now expected to ask for an additional decade to carry out its pledge to the Ottowa Treaty. Data by anti-land mine NGOs show that the most of the Turkish land mines are at the Syrian border (about 613,000) followed by the Iranian border (about 195,000), Iraqi border (about 69,000) and the Armenian border (about 22,000).

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Leader Kemal KilicdaroÄŸlu has declared: “Let the mined areas be cleared and given to the villagers without land.” Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) made a call to both the Turkish military and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to declare the locations of the mines they have laid.

Demirtas claimed neither the military nor the rebels have mine maps. “Land mines were laid at areas close to the civilians and named conflict zones in recent years. We know hundreds of locations were mined with the logic of ambush, but there is no map for where the mines were laid," he said. "Theses mines are now a danger to everybody. Both sides have duties since we entered a period of non-conflict, PKK is preparing to begin the withdrawal and important steps are being taken for the solution of the Kurdish problem.”

Demirtas said the state should clear its own mines while the PKK should declare where theirs are as they begin their withdrawal.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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