Mines and the Constitutional Court Card

Imagine, you have about 600,000 mines along a border hundreds of kilometres long with a neighbouring country, and you want to get rid of the mines before 2014, since you promised to do so by signing an international treaty. But you don’t have enough money, and your own army doesn’t have enough specialists and specialized equipment to do the job. What do you do? This is what the Turkish government did: they asked NATO, of which they are a member, to help them get rid of the mines along the Turkish-Syrian border. But NATO didn’t have enough capacity either, so they put out a tender for private companies to help. In return they will get not money, but the right to use the cleared area for agricultural purposes for 44 years. Doesn’t sound too stupid to me. I might even say: creative.

But the opposition is, of course, against the plan. They use rhetoric that always works well in Turkey: the AKP is selling off land to foreigners! In the public eye, it’s even worse that the tender will probably be won by an Israeli company – Israel has a lack of agricultural land, so for them it’s a good deal. But selling off land to Israelis! It’s true that Syria might not like it too much if specialized military personnel from Israel are working on their border, but is that a reason to not put the plan into practise? Some others still argue that the Turkish army itself should do the job, but the army admitted they can’t do it. Others say that 44 years is way too long a period, but I think it takes quite some investment to work on such huge areas of ground that have been a no-go area for decades. Or should the land be given to locals, so they can work on it? It’s a possibility, but for them, there is no shortage of land to work on, and the government has tried to find a way to get rid of the mines without using up too much of the country’s budget.

But the AKP has a majority in parliament, doesn’t it, so they can pass the law. Yes, they can. But then the main opposition party CHP will play the Constitutional Court Card: they will take the law to the Constitutional Court, and since they have no problem functioning as a joint opposition party, the law will be rejected.

So the AKP will probably have to amend the legislation and can’t bring it to a vote in parliament yet. Which, in the end, just means that the mines will not be cleared as quickly as they should be. More people will die because of them, for example children who crawl underneath the fences to play in the fields, or smugglers, or Turkish soldiers – just this week six of them died near the Iraqi border because of a mine placed there by the PKK. What’s the CHP going to say to these people? Sorry, but our nationalistic and anti-AKP stance was just more important then clearing our land of lethal mines?

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