Belgian court angers Turkey with PKK ruling

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said the government’s position was that the PKK was a terrorist organization. (Courtesy Twitter)
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Updated 30 January 2020

Belgian court angers Turkey with PKK ruling

  • The ruling from the country’s top appeal court blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the PKK
  • The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey for decades that has claimed the lives of around 40,000 people

JEDDAH: Turkey has condemned Belgium’s top appeal court for saying that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terror group and that people affiliated to it cannot be prosecuted by anti-terror laws.

The Tuesday ruling from the country’s top appeal court, which ratified a ruling of a lower court from last March, blocked the prosecution of 36 suspects linked to the PKK and asserted that the group’s armed struggle was “Turkey’s own domestic dispute.”

The PKK has waged an insurgency against Turkey for decades that has claimed the lives of around 40,000 people. It is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US. The Council of Europe also has the group on its terror list.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin said the government’s position was clear and that the PKK was a terrorist organization, but the ruling has upset Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the decision and said it was an “explicit attempt to undermine the law” and accused Belgium of “hypocrisy.” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted that the decision was “hypocritical” and “political.”

Tens of millions of Kurds are scattered across Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia but they do not have a state of their own. Attempts to set up their own state have been repressed, and the PKK was set up to fight for Kurdish independence in Turkey. 

“The decision of the court is the expression of the judiciary, which is strictly independent of the executive, and as such must be understood by all actors,” Goffin said. “Belgium will continue to defend the inclusion of the PKK and other Turkish terrorist groups on the European list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts and its judicial authorities will continue to cooperate with their European and other partners involved in the persecution of people at the PKK, as they have for years.”

Belgium’s ambassador to Turkey, Michel Malherbe, tweeted that the legal ruling was unconnected to the government’s position, and that the PKK “is and will continue to be” a terrorist organization.

Kurds in Belgium welcomed the court’s ruling, however, with community spokesman Orhan Kilic saying it would set new standards for further debate on the Kurdish issue and the actions of the Turkish state.

He also said Western governments and the EU may be in a better position to pressure Ankara for a peaceful solution.

Barin Kayaoglu, from the American University of Iraq Sulaimani, said the court decision would affect Belgium-Turkey relations.

“From now on, it is very unlikely that Belgium will receive any verbal or operational support from Turkey in counterterrorism,” he told Arab News. “Another side effect of this decision might be Turkey’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Belgian government in counterintelligence sharing to identify and track foreign fighters of Belgian nationality. Ankara has begun learning how to play hardball in recent years.”

The deadliest terror attack in Belgium was in Brussels in March 2016, when Daesh-claimed assaults killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.


Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

Updated 21 February 2020

Cross-class marriage urged to tackle Indonesia poverty

  • Country ranks sixth among those with greatest wealth inequality: Oxfam

JAKARTA: A senior Indonesian minister has suggested that poor people should marry someone of higher social status to reduce poverty.

Muhadjir Effendy, the coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs, told a meeting on the national health program in Jakarta on Wednesday that he would ask Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi — who also attended the meeting — to issue an edict recommending the move.

Effendy said that the edict could prevent the emergence of “new poor households” and provide Indonesia’s majority Muslim community with a new interpretation of the principle that one should marry a person with a compatible socioeconomic background for the sake of equivalence (kaf’ah) between prospective spouses.

The principle, he said, makes poor people marry among themselves and “automatically give birth to a new poor household.”

The minister on Thursday clarified that his intention with the “intermezzo” statement was to kick-start a social movement to break the cycle of poverty in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s poverty rate declined to below 10 percent for the first time in the country’s history, in September 2019, according to the latest data available from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS).

The BPS sets the poverty line at $32.13 per person per month, or an average of $1.07 per day.

FASTFACT

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the anti-poverty programs and close the country’s income inequality gap.

President Joko Widodo frequently requests his ministers to come up with ideas to accelerate the implementation of poverty alleviation programs and close the country’s income inequality gap, which has widened over the past 20 years.

In September, the level of inequality in Indonesia measured by the Gini coefficient stood at 0.380, improving by 0.004 points from the previous year, according to the BPS. The index ranges from 0 to 1, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 representing perfect inequality.

An Oxfam report in 2017 showed that in the past two decades, the gap between the richest and the rest of the population in Indonesia had grown faster than in any other country in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is ranked sixth among the countries with greatest wealth inequality, according to the UK-based NGO.

Oxfam said that the four richest men in Indonesia have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people. Inequality is slowing down poverty reduction, dampening economic growth and threatening social cohesion, it said.

However, economists said that suggesting the poor pursue a Cinderella story to graduate from their low-socioeconomic status was not the solution that Indonesia needed to reduce poverty and tackle income inequality.

“How would the state manage such domestic affairs? Even parents could not choose for their children,” Enny Sri Hartati, a senior researcher at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), told Arab News on Thursday.

Indef Deputy Director Eko Listiyanto said that there was no guarantee that Effendy’s proposal, if approved, would be effective in tackling poverty. “There is no urgency for such an edict . . . the root of the problem lies with the issuance of economic policies that widen inequality as they only benefit a small group in the society,” he said.

Listiyanto said that the government was unable to drive upward mobility as the majority of its policies revolved around populism rather than empowerment. He called on the government to stop making regulations that served only oligarchs.

“It would be better to improve the national education system to prepare the next generation for their economic leap. That move would be far more sustainable compared with issuing the marriage edict,” he said.

Pieter Abdullah Redjalam, research director of the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia, said that Effendy’s idea of a cross-class marriage edict showed that he was out of touch with reality.

“He seems to forget that there is a very wide gap between the poor and the rich,” Redjalam said. “The poor are generally trapped in the poverty cycle. They cannot go to school, so they stay poor.”

Redjalam echoed Listiyanto’s recommendation of opening access to and improving the quality of Indonesia’s education system to reduce poverty in the long term. “It is a shame if the former education minister does not understand that,” he said, referring to Effendy.