Earthquake Illustrates How Governments and the Media Geopolitically Divide, Denying Kurdistan’s Existence
Since my mid-20s, I have been studying two things that fascinate me:
- How someone uses language—the words they chose.
- How political self-interest creates and maintains geopolitical divides.
I believe humanitarian aid should be accessible to anyone—much more so than military aid, which Western governments incur debt to provide almost instantaneously—regardless of background, ethnicity, or geographical location.
As someone who constantly studies the “feel of language,” word usage is extremely important to me, especially when it comes to what words are used and omitted. Therefore, knowing the geopolitical divides that exist in the region where last Monday’s devastating earthquake occurred and how it serves Turkey, Syria and the West’s interests, it is not surprising that Western media outlets and governments fail to mention that the autonomous region of Kurdistan was also affected by the earthquake.
Mainstream Western media outlets are referring to the earthquake as the “Turkey-Syria Earthquake,” omitting any mention of Kurds even though Kahramanmaraş and Gaziantep, where the epicenter was located, are not majority Kurdish cities but do have a significant Kurdish population. Further east, cities badly affected by the earthquake, such as Urfa and Diyarbakir, the world’s biggest Kurdish city and where the Kurdish movement to declare an independent Kurdistan was born, have a Kurdish-majority population.
A Moral Compass
I was raised on a Western media diet. (I am not going to say, “I turned out okay.”) It was not until I lived for several years in what is considered “the east” that I saw firsthand the stark contrast in how events are reported. Consequently, I learned that journalism does not have universal ethical standards.
The omission of Kurdistan occurred to me—admittedly not immediately—when Halime Aktürk, a former Kurdish journalist, now an upcoming filmmaker, texted me, “There is no word to describe the pain people are going through in Turkey, Kurdistan and Syria right now.”
I had used Halime’s words as a moral compass before.
The realization, thanks to Halime, that Western media outlets cherry-picked which regions, geo-cultural territories and ethnicities to mention and that Kurdish was never mentioned, while disappointing, was not surprising. This was another example of the Kurdish ethnicity being unrecognized. (READ: erased)
In the West, minds are influenced by media-sold narratives in the following way:
Question: After the massive earthquake, how many people changed their bio emoji flag from Ukraine to Turkey, Syria, or Kurdistan’s flag?
Because they were not instructed to do so. (We are social creatures and want to conform to the norm.)
Where are all the social media virtue signalling for earthquake victims? There certainly was immediate social media virtue signalling when Russia invaded Ukraine, when Will Smit slapped Chris Rock during the Oscars, and when Iran’s morality police murdered Mahsa Amini.
Since I am on a tangent, I will ask: Why is the US able to send $115 billion in “aid” (tongue in cheek) to Ukraine yet not find some political heart to lift crippling sanctions on Syria, even temporarily, in the wake of the earthquake?
Geopolitical divides determine whether you are a friend to the US, hence “the West,” or expendable and, in many instances, unrecognized. (e.g., Kurdistan)
Sometimes I feel we are all just selfish pieces of work.
As I write this, we have, on the one hand, a devasting earthquake that has killed to date more than 33,000 which will inevitably increase and an election scheduled to take place on June 18 in which Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is running for re-election. (NOTE: Erdogan had said, prior to the earthquake, that the election might be held as early as May 14.) Talk about a dichotomy!
History is instructive. In 2011, twin earthquakes near the Kurdish-majority city of Van led to the deaths of at least 600 people. The Turkish government’s aid provision was “questionable,” as officials decided, on a case-by-case basis, who would receive emergency tents. Moreover, the Turkish government systematically prevented aid from reaching Kurdish-majority cities.
Just as in 2011, Turkey’s issue with its Kurdish population is influencing humanitarian assistance to the February 6th earthquake. In response to Erdogan’s cracked down on visible instances of intra-Kurdish solidarity, Kurdish relief foundations have had to work covertly.
I see Erdogan’s actions as a waste of an opportunity to gain international goodwill, something Turkey desperately needs, especially with Erdogan’s attempts to impose his will on NATO.
However naive, there is an argument to be made that the conditions are right for Turkey and Kurdistan to engage in “earthquake diplomacy” if Erdogan would only see the earthquake as an opportunity to reimage Turkey’s relationship with its Kurdish citizens. (It would be too wild of a stretch to expect Turkey’s government, under Erdogan, also to take a step towards recognizing Kurdistan’s existence.)
I present this thesis because Greek and Turkish foreign ministers George Papandreou and Ismail Cem capitalized on the earthquake in Izmit near Istanbul on August 17, 1999, which killed over 17,000 people, to reconfigure Turkey-Greece relations. Erdogan’s reputation would be bolstered by a new peace initiative in the run-up to Turkey’s Presidential elections.
Unfortunately, the present situation is very different from that of the 1990s. In 1999, Turkey leaned more towards Europe. Today, Erdogan plays the tension card with the Kurds and anyone who opposes his political ideology and has not forcibly shoved Russia away when it invades Ukraine, away like the West has.
I know what I just described is wishful thinking. The above-mentioned can only occur if Erdogan is convinced that his self-interest and political survival depend on a dialogue with Turkey’s estimated 14,000,000 Kurds. Unfortunately, it does not. Turkey’s history, and Erdogan’s personal record, have shown that in the aftermath of natural disasters, more, not less, anti-Kurdish repression is likely to follow.
Additionally, Erdogan is astute enough to know that the main opposition party, The National Alliance, has failed to convince voters that they are a force for change. Furthermore, millions of Turkish citizens affected by the earthquake are currently homeless; they are far less likely to be able or want to turn out to vote. When voter turnout is low, hardliners profit; thus, a low turnout would give Erdogan’s right-wing coalition a winning edge.
To show that his self-interests take priority over helping his citizens, in a move meant to bolster rescue efforts and reconstruction Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency covering the country’s 10 southern provinces hit by the earthquake and then went ahead with Turkish forces bombing Kurdish militia positions in Syria.
Due to Erdogan’s targeting of Kurds, Turkish society has become militarized as well as divisive between Turks and Turkey’s citizens of Kurdish origin. Promoting divisive narratives is an effective political strategy worldwide, not just in the West. Why people keep buying into such narratives has me questioning the nature of humanity.
Furthermore, Erdogan has undermined US-Turkey relations because Kurds in Syria are America’s main ally in a multinational coalition against ISIS, which is why he accuses the West of enabling terrorism, which is why I believe no US administration while Erdogan has been in power, has made any serious attempts to mediate an end to Turkey’s war on Kurds. Optics plays a critical role when it comes to navigating when and how to cross geopolitical divides.
The Turkish government has its self-interests. The US government, which undeniably leads the West, has its self-interests. Here is another dichotomy, if someone sins differently than you, who are you to judge them? The world is full of contradictory truths that keep our discourses alive.
For the moment, the earthquake has relieved much of the mounting political tension for upcoming elections. Besides the blatant xenophobic resentment of Kurdish and Syrian refugees, Turks of all political stripes were finger-pointing at each other regarding Turkey’s hyperinflation, censorship, high housing costs, and security issues. Once the impact of this tragic event is over—reporting on the earthquake is already dimming—becoming I am sure Erdogan will return to evangelizing highly nationalistic and divisive policies that he feels will win him the election.
It is puzzling that Erdogan still fails to recognize the damage his government’s treatment of the Kurds has done to Turkey’s international standing as a democracy and an economic leader. While the US most likely will not exert its diplomatic and economic leverage on Turkey in the wake of this week’s natural disaster to advance Turkey socially and economically, which ironically would serve its interests, this does not mean Erdogan cannot put aside geopolitical and cultural divides and view the earthquake as a historic opportunity for Turkey to change course, thus creating a legacy of peace rather than oppression.
Unfortunately, as with most political leaders, Erdogan’s story is about power. Every politician wants to be seen as a powerful leader in the face of a problem, especially during a crisis. However, millions of people are homeless, looming medical disasters, and a death toll expected to surpass 50,000, according to the UN relief chief Martin Griffiths. This natural disaster is beyond Erdogan’s power.
However, putting aside differences—Yes, I am putting it mildly—is not beyond his power. It is well with his power to do what’s right for all those within Turkey’s border and its surrounding neighbours who have seen their lives destroyed in a matter of moments. I hope Erdogan soon sees compassion as another avenue to serve his self-interest at home and abroad.
Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan
Canada: Fatal stabbing in Vancouver leaves city shaken – Hindustan Times
An Indo-Canadian has been arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder. The victim has been identified by the Vancouver Police Department as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt
Toronto: The city of Vancouver in British Colombia was left shaken after a person at Starbucks cafe was fatally stabbed, with an Indo-Canadian arrested for that alleged murder.
The incident occurred on Sunday, around 5.40pm and followed a brief altercation outside the outlet between two men.
The victim was identified by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Monday as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt. Meanwhile, Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police continue to seek additional witnesses to the crime. “We believe this homicide was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, and there may be people with information who have not yet come forward,” VPD Sergeant Steve Addison said, in a release.
“We particularly want to hear from anyone who was present in the moments before the stabbing, or anyone who has cell-phone video of the incident.”
Investigators don’t believe the victim and suspect knew each other. The release added that the “the circumstances that led up to the fatal stabbing remain under investigation”.
A police constable patrolling the area was flagged down “moments after” the stabbing occurred. The suspect was arrested at the crime scene. Officers attempted to save the victim’s life but he did not survive and succumbed to the injuries sustained after being rushed to hospital.
Raw footage of the incident posted online have gone viral throughout Canada, as they show the victim lying outside the Starbucks, surrounded by his own blood, and also the alleged murderer, walking in and out of the glass doors to the establishment. Another video shows Gosal being arrested and taken into custody by police.
Schmidt was the city’s sixth homicide victim of this year.
The apparent random act of violence attracted criticism of the law and order situation in Vancouver, among the major cities in Canada. Filmmaker Aaron Gunn tweeted, “Things are not getting better. They are still getting worse.”
Is femicide in Canada's Criminal Code? – CTV News
Advocates are pushing for the term femicide to be added to Canada’s Criminal Code, saying it would help raise awareness on the issue.
In 2020, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada. Femicide refers to homicides that target women and girls because of their gender.
Understanding the violence females face specifically, advocates are hoping for more awareness of femicide at the federal level.
“It’s really important that we name femicide,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Ont, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “There are some unique traits about femicide. It’s really about men’s violence against women.”
Hutton believes femicide should be in the Criminal Code to prevent tragedies through better understanding.
“Until we name it, then how can we change it?” she said.”When it’s a separate part of the Criminal Code, then we have better data to track it, so we know just how prevalent it really is.”
Femicide can include instances when a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner, a non-intimate partner, or in an armed conflict. The term can also include women who are not the intended victim, but are killed in the femicide of another woman, too.
For Indigenous women and girls, Hutton says they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women and girls.
Hutton is partnering with Jenna Mayne, who hosts the podcast “She is Your Neighbour” focusing on femicide in Canada.
“We hear from survivors, we hear from family members who have lost women to femicide, and we hear from experts,” Mayne said. “I think these stories are difficult to hear, but they’re so important to hear too.”
To listen to the full interview click the video at the top of this article.
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time “grocery rebate” for Canadians with lower incomes who may be struggling with the rising cost of food, CTV News has confirmed.
According to sources, the new measure will be unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget and will help nearly 11 million lower-income Canadians.
The new measure would see eligible couples with two children receive a payment of up to $467, a senior would receive $225, while a single person would receive $234 dollars.
The benefit will be rolled out through the GST rebate system, once a bill implementing it passes in the House of Commons, according to sources. This move is essentially re-upping and re-branding the recent GST rebate boost.
The amounts expected to be offered are exactly what the Liberals offered through last fall’s doubling of the GST credit, a boost that was estimated to cost $2.5 billion and got all-party backing. It’s not expected that there will be a requirement to spend the rebate on groceries.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report, food prices rose 11.4 per cent year-over-year in January, nearly double the rate of inflation of 5.9 per cent and up from 11 per cent the previous month.
The increased cost of food has been the focus of a parliamentary study that’s seen grocery CEOs, including Loblaw chairman and president Galen Weston, grilled over grocery profits.
“I’ve been talking with Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast over the past many months hearing directly concerns around affordability, around the high cost of food, of rent, of so many different things. That’s why a big part of the budget will be focused on measures to help Canadians in targeted ways,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Groceries will certainly be part of it but, there’s other things as well that we’re going to continue to do to be there for Canadians…I look forward to a great budget tomorrow.”
The NDP had been calling for the Liberals to double the GST tax credit. Reacting to the news, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said this measure “looks very much like… what we’ve been asking for, for a long time.”
Both Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have been hinting for weeks that the 2023 budget would include targeted affordability measures to directly help those feeling the pinch of inflation the most.
“This support will be narrowly focused and fiscally responsible. The truth is, we can’t fully compensate every single Canadian for all of the effects of inflation or for elevated interest rates,” Freeland said last week in a pre-budget speech signalling her priorities. “To do so would only make inflation worse and force rates higher, for longer.”
On Monday afternoon, the finance minister took part in a long-standing tradition of picking out a new pair of shoes to wear on budget day.
This year, Freeland opted for a pair of black heels that were on sale at Canadian retailer Simons, from the store’s in-house brand. She placed them in a reusable tote bag after purchase.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BUDGET 2023?
With the economy expected to continue slowing in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, Freeland is facing calls for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.
Amid Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching 8.1 per cent in June.
“What Canadians want right now is for inflation to come down and for interest rates to fall. And that is one of our primary goals in this year’s budget: not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” Freeland said in her pre-budget positioning speech.
At the same time, she signalled the 2023 federal budget will still be prioritizing “two significant and necessary investments”: the $46.2 billion in new funding included in the $196 billion federal-provincial health-care funding deals, and new measures to boost Canada’s clean industrial economy.
It’s the latter that government officials have signalled will get some attention in tomorrow’s budget, with several news outlets reporting there will be sizable—30 per cent, according to Reuters— new clean technology-focused tax credits to generate growth in the electrical vehicle supply chain and in critical mineral extraction and processing.
The November 2022 fall economic update had telegraphed that these kinds of credits and investments were ahead.
“Tomorrow…we’re bringing forward a budget that is focused on affordability and supporting Canadians… and creating great jobs for the middle class in a clean and growing economy. Those are the focuses that we’ve been laser focused on over the past many years,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Monday, fresh off of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit, where the green economy was a central piece of discussion.
Canada’s clear focus on the clean transition comes in part out of a need for these sectors to remain competitive in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
The Canadian Press has also reported that Tuesday’s budget will include an increase to the withdrawal limit for a registered education savings plan (RESP) from $5,000 to $8,000; and a plan to go after hidden or unexpected consumer fees known as “junk fees” that inflate the overall cost of a product or service.
Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.
“We still want to see confirmation of the dental care expansion to include seniors, people living with disabilities and kids 18 and under. We really want this budget to save money for people, and that’s something really important for us,” Singh said.
With this budget, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to lower taxes, end “inflationary” spending, match new spending with savings, and improve housing affordability.
“He wants to take away everybody’s money, centralize it in his own hands, and promise that it will trickle down through his mighty bureaucracy… And there will maybe be a few little drops that get down to the people who actually earned it in the first place,” Poilievre levelled at the prime minister during Monday’s question period. “Will he cap government spending and put an end to the inflationary deficits, tomorrow?”
The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28.
The 2023 federal budget is coming just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons, allowing Liberal MPs to then descend on their ridings to promote it to their constituents before coming back to the capital to work on getting the budget implementation legislation passed through the minority Parliament.
With files from CTV News’ Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos, and CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee and Spencer Van Dyk
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