Sakset/Fra hofta

Da åtte tyrkiske soldater som var blitt tatt til fange av PKK_geriljaen ble løslatt, kom det en merkelig melding om at deres tilfangetakelse kunne utløst en «katastrofe». De ble derfor tatt inn til avhør. Denne forblommede tale vakte en mistanke om mishag mot soldatene, og det viste seg å stemme.

Owen Matthews forteller hvordan tyrkiske medier og medlemmer av regjeringen har spottet soldatene, som ikke hadde mot til å bli martyrer.

In most countries, soldiers returning from being held hostage in enemy territory would probably be treated as national heroes. Not so in Turkey. Last week, eight Turkish soldiers kidnapped in an Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ambush on Oct 21st were released unconditionally by their captors. But the soldiers – six privates and two non-commissioned officers – returned to their homeland to face accusations of betraying their motherland. Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said on Monday that was «not entirely happy» about the soldiers’ release – adding that they were still being questioned by Turkish military interrogators about their ordeal. «No member of the Turkish armed forces should have found themselves in such a situation,» Sahin told an audience at Ankara University. «As a Turkish citizen I cannot accept the fact that they went with the terrorists that night. Our soldier is prepared to die if necessary when he is protecting the country.» Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek yesterday denied telling ministerial colleagues that two of the kidnapped soldiers had PKK sympathies and could have gone over voluntarily.

The story says a lot about the way Turkey works – and how, despite years of EU-inspired reforms, the country has still retained many of the habits of mind formed during years of military dictatorship. For one, the Turkish press remained almost silent about the fate of the eight kidnapped soldiers – a story which in any really open society would have been daily, front-page news. There were no explicit gag orders, explains a Turkish friend who edits a section of a major national paper – rather, the military «made it clear» through private, personal chats with top editors that it «wouldn’t be helpful to the Nation» for coverage to continue. «It’s not a censorship thing – we were doing our duty as citizens,» explains my friend – an American-educated Turk – with no trace of irony. «We couldn’t endanger the lives of our countrymen just for sensational news.» Then, after the soldiers’ release, came a backlash against the captured men which placed the blame for their kidnapping not on the Army – which still retains a powerful mystique in Turkey’s national ideology – but squarely on the soldiers themselves. «Shame, shame, what shame! Eight weak soldiers. I wish they had stood and fought and become martyrs,» reads one comment left by a reader on the website of Hurriyet, Turkey’s largest circulation daily, and quoted by the BBC. «What were they doing when their comrades were martyred beside them? If I were them I would be unable to look anyone in the face after this,» says another.

The crime of not dying for your country