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Last November, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Tripoli to receive the annual Al-Gadhafi International Prize for Human Rights. For over two decades, the blood-soaked dictator has awarded the honor to a collection of rogues, blameless victims and genuine (though, as their acceptance of the prize indicates, morally fickle) do-gooders. Past recipients include Fidel Castro, “the victim children of Bosnia & Herzegovina” and Nelson Mandela.
Given Erdogan’s campaign to simultaneously rile the West and endear himself to the Arab “street” − something that the tyrant of Tripoli obviously appreciated − the Turkish prime minister was the obvious choice for 2010. Eruptions like Erdogan’s 2009 blow-up at Davos (“When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill,” he snapped at Shimon Peres) and his obscene exploitation of the May 2010 Mavi Marmara incident have boosted his popularity throughout the Arab and Muslim world, which seems to be a crucial component of his Justice and Development (AKP) Party’s Eastern-focused foreign policy.
Erdogan never hesitates to moralize about the policies of Europe, the United States or Israel, the constant theme being that these powers are hypocritical. “Those who are chanting for global nuclear disarmament should first start in their own countries,” he has said about Western pressure on Iran to curtail its nuclear program. Yet Erdogan is selective in his outrage. He was noticeably silent when his friend Gadhafi pledged to “cleanse Libya house by house.” Indeed, turning a blind eye to mass killing has become de rigueur for the Turkish premier. In 2009 he defended Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, by stating that “a Muslim cannot commit genocide.” Tell that to the Armenians.