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The man subsequently amended his statement such that the object of hatred became “terrorists” rather than a full 20 percent of the Turkish population. The lexical overlap of the two terms was however underscored when he reverted to a discussion of “Kurdish” insistence on making martyrs out of Turkish soldiers.
The Turkish word for martyr, şehit, is the subject of a national rhyme—“Şehitler ölmez vatan bölünmez”—according to which martyrs never die and the homeland will never be divided. Shouted at patriotic rallies and emblazoned on Turkish hillsides, the slogan wards off any secessionist aspirations harbored by members of Turkey’s largest ethnic minority—who, it bears reiterating, were formerly promised autonomy by none other than the iconic founder of said indivisible homeland: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Today’s edition of the Turkish newspaper Zaman reports that Israel has recalled its Heron drone operators from the southeast Turkish city of Batman, where they had been training Turkish officers on the unmanned aircraft. The action occurs in the wake of the deadly May 31 attack on the Mavi Marmara and ensuing diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
In 2005, Turkey agreed to purchase 10 Heron drones from Israel at a total price of nearly 190 million dollars. Following a delay of over 2 years, 6 of the promised aircraft were delivered to Turkey earlier this year. According to Zaman, the removal of the Israeli operators at this particular time, before the Turkish officers have completed their training, appears to be driven by more than mere concern for the operators’ safety. As infiltrations and attacks by “terrorists”—i.e. Kurdish separatists—along Turkey’s southern border tend to peak during the summer months, the Turkish military’s potential inability to use the drones may be viewed as a sort of punishment.
Following the May 31 massacre by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of 9 Turkish humanitarian activists—one also an American citizen—on board the Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza, the Turkish daily Taraf sent reporter Tuğba Tekerek to Tel Aviv to assess the mood on the street. In the paper’s Saturday edition, Tekerek reports on her interactions with Israelis, which are alternately characterized by insistence that the aid boat was in fact a terrorist boat, threats to boycott Turkey as a holiday destination, and suggestions for a military coup against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Tekerek also reports excessive exposure to the number 12,500, which her interlocutors claim is the quantity of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past 3 years. As for other figures invoked to justify Israeli behavior toward its neighbors, these are advertised by a protester across from the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv who translates his poster for Tekerek, accusing the Turks of the following fatalities: “1.5 million Armenians, 37,000 Kurds, and North Cyprus.” Adolf Hitler might have engaged in a similar sort of auto-exoneration by directing international attention to the victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
A 62 year old Turkish acquaintance of mine recently informed me that he had erected an empire and was now going by the title İmparator Mustafa.
The empire currently extends from Mustafa’s ground-level apartment in the seaside town of Fethiye in southwest Turkey to the three rental apartments he has just constructed above it. The creation of novel territorial entities has apparently been necessitated by Mustafa’s conviction that, prior to the rise to power of the Islamic-oriented Justice and Development (AK) Party, Turkish girls roamed the streets in bikinis.
In order to construct the apartments, Mustafa tore down the restaurant he had operated since the 1970s but that had in recent years failed to subsidize his daily consumption of rakı, the national alcoholic beverage, serving instead as a forum for Mustafa to spout political wisdom to the gang of loyal companions that arrived each night with bags of sunflower seeds and beer. His attempts to seduce European tourists with a misspelled banner advertising the “Ottoman Fantazy Kebab”—the distinguishing characteristic of which was that it was cooked on a cast-iron contraption Mustafa swore was an Ottoman army relic—proved fruitless, and the novelty was discontinued after one too many wooden chairs had been sacrificed to maintain the kebab oven’s flame.