TIME Nominates Erdogan and his Crimes for Person of the Year
For TIME magazine’s world-renowned recognition for most influential person of the year, the international publication has selected a variety of people from all walks of life and asked their readers to vote to help them make their choice. Among the politicians and celebrities is one name that should never be recognized as an influential force, much less as a positive one.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of the leading contenders for the position of Person of the Year, supposedly for his hand in the democratic aspirations of the Middle East uprisings and for his moderate Islamist leadership. Not one mention of the Kurds and of the years of discrimination against Kurds is ever brought up. Should TIME magazine name Erdogan Person of the Year, they would once again be denying the Kurdish people the suffering that they felt under Erdogan’s government, and would contribute to a major step backwards to activists passionate about the Kurdish cause everywhere.
The following is a statement that the Alliance for Kurdish Rights has compiled in protest of the nomination. Please endorse this statement, and then pass it on to TIME magazine, at letters(at)time.com. We cannot let the Kurdish struggle once again be sidelined.
TIME magazine’s Person of the Year award is an internationally recognized achievement that despite its original intention, awards a certain amount of honor and prestige onto its recipient. At the very least, it is an indication that the recipient has changed the world, usually for the better, but always in a significant and deep way. The nomination of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as TIME’s Person of the Year is not an innocuous statement. Erdogan has been nominated for supposedly being an icon of the Arab Spring, a protector of justice and human dignity, and a strong leader not just in Turkey but in the Middle East.
However, for Turkey’s Kurdish population, Erdogan is recognized for overseeing the countless crimes committed against human dignity by his government. Erdogan’s reputation as a positive leader contradicts the fact that there are presently thousands of Kurds in Turkish prisons, and that the Turkish army, under the policies of his government, regularly carries out military assaults in Iraq and Iran, which often result in civilian casualties and the destruction of innocent people’s livelihoods. Additionally, Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws remain among the strictest in the world, and are often used to target Kurdish activists and censor both Kurdish and non-Kurdish journalists, professors, and even those that merely choosing to defend the Kurdish people’s rights. Under Erdogan’s leadership, anti-terrorism laws have been strengthened rather than overturned. In fact, according to the International Press Institute, Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world, including China. Despite assuming power on a platform of democratic reform for the entire country and an open dialogue with regards to the Kurdish question, Erdogan’s eight years in office have proven to be a step backwards for human rights and dignity.
Considering how rarely the plight of the Kurds is acknowledged in mainstream media, the nomination of Erdogan for the Person of the Year award will further normalize his image as a proponent rather than a frequent abuser of human rights. Erdogan’s crimes are already concealed behind a reputation of innovation and change. In fact, Foreign Policy magazine nominated him as one of the top 100 Global Thinkers of our time, waxing poetic about his influence in the region and his supposed stance on behalf of freedom in the Arab world without a single mention of the Kurds. If TIME were to join the ranks of Foreign Policy Magazine in singing Erdogan’s praises, 15 million Kurds in Turkey will again see their voices silenced, their suffering invalidated, as the person responsible for their injustice once again gets rewarded.