Thursday, June 19, 2008

Turkey: Too funky for their laws

I noticed this report from Turkey where a bunch of school kids faced possible prison for singing a song. Not because they were out of tune but because the song was a Kurdish anthem and therefore "anti-Turkish".

Although it seems bizarre this is actually fairly typical behavior from the Turkish State who make a habit of prosecuting those it sees as political opponents simply for expressing even the weakest form of opposition. I have a friend who was prosecuted for "dancing in an ideological manner" by the Turkish police (although in this case he was the organiser of a union rather than having the audacity to be from a banned ethnicity).

The fact that Turkey hopes to be accepted into the EU family whilst continuing to impose such horrifying restrictions upon freedom of thought is galling - particularly as EU nations seem keen on accepting them as long as they can do a good PR job on their human rights record. Thankfully the case was dropped against these children, but it's all part of a campaign of authoritarian intimidation that goes all the way up to the murder of those who are for a freer society and/or an independent Kurdistan.

Whilst we'd all agree that society would be better off if certain musicians were safely under lock and key (Daniel O'Donnell we are coming for you) I suspect we're also rather put off by the idea of imprisoning people for having a reasonable distaste for oppression - what will they get up to next, prosecute people for writing poems?

So to our own civil liberties issues. I've resisted posting on David Davis because it seems to me that not only is there a lot of headless chickening over his decision to resign but I also don't particularly see it as my role in life to praise Tories where my views happen to coincide with their's over one particular issue. All credit to him, he is not a monster, well done him - and he's raised the issue up the agenda whilst making Labour look like spineless cowards at the same time. Salute.

But the Davis issue is dangerous, because the issue is actually civil liberties, not David Davis despite the way the issue has begun to be reframed. There's been some discussion on whether to stand a candidate to his left - a "real civil liberties" candidate if you like - but this is not just a pointless distraction it is also becoming complicit in Davis' agenda rather than our own.

42 days is going to have a higher profile in the public debate because of Davis and the fact that it is rumbling its way through the corridors of power but we have our own independent and automous agenda that we can raise - one that goes beyond one particular piece of legislation or whether you're allowed to send Christmas cards to Tories.

That means, if we are serious about civil liberties, then we have an opportunity to organise public meetings, vigils, lobby MPs and use public forums to get our voice heard - something that we cannot do adequately in Davis' shadow. That means forget elections and start campaigning - which might even be a song worth going to jail for.

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