Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Nazi Jibes Hurt Turkey

Turkey is going through a sticky patch as far as its international image is concerned.

Last week a lot of publicity attended a brutal police clampdown of a women's demo, this week we learn how Hitler's Mein Kampf is a runaway bestseller in Turkey.

The EU is watching all this with a beady eye, wondering which politically correct attitude to assume. The unpleasantness compromises Turkey's EU accession ambitions.

Another incident is muddying the waters: on February 25th 2005, Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily stopped the distribution of Vakit, a Turkish paper in Germany (circulation in Turkey: 60,000). The paper had been reported for anti-semitism last year but had continued to write anti-Jewish, Holocaust-denying pieces - a crime in Germany.

Germany's interior minister has the power to close down papers without the need for a court order or other formalities. The Turkish paper clearly believes this power is overweening and has been mocking Schily since the shutdown - writing of his "Hitler-methods" and saying "The Oven's Ready!" in reference to Schily's alleged desire to burn the paper. Vakit is positioning the issue as one of freedom of speech; the German political mainstream sees it as shutting down a fount of criminal anti-Jewish propaganda.

Schily is now asking his Turkish counteparts to help him out in taming the paper's Nazi comparisons. It'll be interesting to see how much power his Turkish colleagues have to modulate a paper's stance in light of Turkey's wish to be salonfähig for the EU. But it's a shame that this censorship is being foisted onto the Turks at a time when they may have hoped they'd finally put such things behind them.

(Link in Turkish only: H?rriyetim)

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