- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

ISTANBUL — With the death toll from Turkey’s incursion into Iraq rising daily, one of the country’s most famous pop stars was in serious trouble this week after she questioned the campaign on prime-time television.

“I am not a mother, nor ever will be, but I would not bury my child for somebody else’s war,” Bulent Ersoy said during a broadcast of Star TV’s popular “Popstar Alaturka” program.

Visibly shocked, another presenter intervened to try to shut her up.

“May God give me a son so that I can send him off to our glorious army,” Ebru Gundes said, adding a nationalistic phrase repeated without fail at every military funeral.

“Martyrs never die, the fatherland cannot be divided.”

Ms. Ersoy, a transsexual who was banned from television by a military junta in the 1980s, was not put off.

“Always the same cliched phrases,” she said, “children go, bitter tears, funerals. … And afterwards, these cliched phrases.”

An Istanbul prosecutor promptly began investigating Ms. Ersoy for alienating the people from military service, a crime punishable by up to three years in jail.

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog announced that it was considering banning Ms. Ersoy from the screen.

In profoundly nationalist Turkey, criticizing the army is always risky.

Yet, the packed audience in TV studio applauded her warmly.

It is just the latest sign that, after 24 years of war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and 40,000 deaths, people are beginning to question the state’s traditional view of the Kurdish issue merely as a matter of security.

The issue also troubles the U.S., where President Bush urged NATO ally Turkey yesterday to end its offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq quickly.

At the same time, Washington said it would not threaten to withdraw intelligence help.

The United States fears prolonging the Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq, which began on Feb. 21, will undermine stability in the region, particularly Iraq.

It also backs Turkey’s mission to crush PKK rebels.

His comments came shortly after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wrapped up a brief visit to Ankara, where he failed to pin down a possible timetable for a Turkish withdrawal.

Before arriving in Ankara, he had made clear that he wanted the mission to be short days or a week or two — not months.

Turkey’s military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, was quoted by Turkish television as saying: “A short time is a relative concept; it could be one day or one year.”

Thousands of Turkish troops, backed by warplanes and attack helicopters, crossed the border on Feb. 21 to root out PKK fighters and destroy their bases.

Iraqi Kurds, long suspicious of neighbor Turkey, fear Ankara is seeking to undermine the autonomy of oil-rich Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Ankara says it only wants to end terrorism.

A senior Turkish military source told Reuters news agency that about 10,000 troops were involved in the Iraqi operation, much of which is centered in the Zap Valley.

Turkey’s military yesterday put the death toll among the PKK rebels at 237 since the campaign began.

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