Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for December 18th, 2007

Applause All Round

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th December, 2007

Sincere congratulations to Nick Clegg on becoming the new LibDem leader, but also congratulations to Chris Huhne, for fighting a splendid campaign. Whatever snide remarks may have appeared in print or on the air, my fellow hacks have been duly impressed that the Party had not one but two potential leaders of such calibre. At the outset of the contest, I had assumed Nick would win by a mile (though I was backing Chris), but it increasingly became obvious that it was a much closer call. But the great thing is that Huhnites such as myself are also happily Cleggites. It was a win-win contest, either way. I was confident that either man could lead the LibDems to a new level of electoral success, and I am sure that Nick, Chris, Vince and other stars of the LibDem frontbench will give the deflated Gordon Brown and the over-inflated David Cameron a good run for their money.

  

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The Kurdish Answer

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 18th December, 2007

Over the past few years, I have found myself speaking on the Kurdish Question at a wide range of meetings, from LibDem party conferences to Kurdish community events across London. I even boast a lovely pair of Kurdish baggy pants a friend in Istanbul had run up for me at his local tailor’s. But when I went to a gathering at the House of Commons last night (ably chaired by Simon Hughes, MP, incidentally), I was looking for the Kurdish Answer. And I think we did take things forward quite positively, though there is still understandable sensitivity about the situation regarding many Kurds in Turkey and Turkey’s recent air assaults on suspected rebel fighters in northern Iraq, as well as legitimate Turkish grievances about the activities of some militant Kudish groups. There were some useful contributions at the meeting from Gulten Kisanak, a Kurdish MP from Istanbul (whose party leader has recently been taken into detention) and several British or North American experts and interested politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, and Lord (Nick) Rea. The Turkish and Kurdish-language media were out in force — TV, radio and print.

In my own speech, I stressed two elements. Firstly, that Turkey has in effect been in a state of denial over the past 80 years about its multicultural reality. I understand why Kemal Ataturk wanted to instil a national spirit in the country in the wake of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. But Kurdish and Armenian identities (to name but two of the most significant minorities) should now be acknowledged. Elements of the Turkish constitution need fundamental reform, recognising the country’s true nature. Article 301, which enables often malicious prosecutions to be taken out against writers and journalists who dare criticise the current situation, should be abolished. As Turkey aspires to EU membership, it is right and proper that the EU is pressing Ankara to make more progress on such matters, as a condition for accession.

The other point I raised was to remind the many Kurds in the packed meeting that if they are registered to vote in any EU member state, they should use the opportunity of the run-up to the June 2009 elections to the European Parliament to highlight related issues. I am a keen advocate of Turkey’s membership of the Union, as are most Kurds in Turkey, but it is not likely to happen in the short-term. Moreover, it should not happen without further reforms, both in the letter and in the spirit.  

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