Let’s hear it for Fergie. The Duchess of York may have done some toe-curlingly awful things in her life – not the least ghastly of which was trying to persuade someone (who of course turned out to be a journalist on the prowl) to give her half a million for an introduction to Prince Andrew. But she has done some very good things as well. One of them, little-known and wholly untrumpeted by the media, has been raising millions towards the care and resettlement of Romanian orphans. This led her to another, I think, splendid action: together with an ITV team, she encompassed the exposure of the mind-bending cruelty with which mentally disturbed children were (and presumably still are) being treated in Turkey.
The sensitivity of the Turks at the time the ITV programme was first broadcast (three years ago, when they kicked up a huge fuss) clearly had to do with their ambition to enter the EU. They even accused the Duchess herself of trying singlehandedly to scupper this ambition. As the Mirror recalls,
Nimet Cubukcu, Turkey’s minister of family affairs, said after the film aired: “It is obvious Sarah Ferguson is ill-intentioned and is trying to launch a smearing campaign against Turkey by opposing Turkey’s EU membership.”
An ITV spokesman said of the broadcast: “This is a valid area of public interest at a time when the UK government is endorsing the accession of Turkey into the EU, a process which is conditional in part on Turkey improving its human rights record with children.”
Chris Rogers, the presenter and reporter who travelled with the Duchess for the undercover trip said: “Sarah and I witnessed children dressed in rags at Turkey’s Saray Institution, which had 700 unwanted, disabled youngsters shut up within its walls.
“There was a terrible stench of urine, sweat and vomit. We saw children tied to benches like dogs, women with their arms pinned behind their back and covered in faeces.”
One thing is clear enough: that if Turkey were now a member of the EU, the Duchess of York would already have been arrested on a European arrest warrant, and would probably already be languishing in a Turkish jail awaiting trial. So far, the worst case involving these appallingly unjust warrants (against which there is no appeal in an English court) led to a year in a stinking Greek jail for an innocent man. That case could one day be horrendously overshadowed by new injustices, beginning with the most sensational of all: for if ever Turkey does join the EU, the Duchess of York will undoubtedly, soon after the country’s accession, be in handcuffs on a plane to Ankara, there to await trial and a probable jail sentence of up to 22 years, for doing something which in any other EU country would have been perfectly legal. She has, in fact, become a one-person extra argument (there are already so many) against allowing the Turks in to the EU.
If Turkey really does still want to join the EU, this attempted prosecution is, in fact, a huge own goal. The Independent, I see, ended its report on this affair with the laconic observation that “Calls to the Turkish embassy in London went unanswered yesterday”. I don’t blame them: what could they possibly say? Turkish diplomats in London are presumably well aware of the implications of this case for Turkey’s relations with Europe. I don’t say “with the rest of Europe”, you will note, since this whole grotesque affair demonstrates nothing more starkly than that these people are just not Europeans. They don’t think like Europeans, their culture, their traditions and their politics are utterly alien to the European mind-set. This is not a European country, and in the very nature of human cultures never could be.
Its continuing treatment of its own Christian minority, about which I have written here before now, is one major sign of this. You could argue, of course, that modern secularism is just as anti-Christian. But this is on a scale and of a kind which operates in an entirely different dimension. And it is getting worse: as I indicated in the headline of a previous blog post: “Despite the EU’s demands on human rights, Turkey’s persecution of Christians is escalating.” And it is important to understand that this is not simply Turkish government policy. It is deeply embedded in Turkish tradition and mores. As I wrote in that article (about 6 months ago)
There is little doubt that the Turkish government’s anti-Christian policies have a good deal of popular support: this is, quite simply, an anti-Christian culture (and therefore incompatible, I would argue, with the European culture it claims to want to be part of). … a survey [has shown] that more than half of the population of Turkey opposes members of other religions being allowed to hold meetings or to publish materials explaining their faith. The survey also found that almost 40 per cent of the population of Turkey said they had “very negative” or “negative” views of Christians.
Christ Rogers, the reporter accompanying Sarah Ferguson in her brave exposure of that disgusting Turkish children’s “home”, was yesterday “unavailable for comment”. However, as the Independent quotes him writing in 2010: “For Turkey to try to prosecute us rather than admit its failings in caring for some of its most vulnerable children is shameful. The message has been clear: if you want to expose our human rights’ abuses, there is a price to pay.”
This whole affair reveals a frame of mind so utterly and immutably alien to everything we believe in that it really is now time for European governments to declare clearly what surely they already know: that Turkish membership of the EU is simply not a possibility. Not now, not ever.