Turkey’s political alliances are changing quickly

Turkey’s political alliances are changing quickly
Posted: Saturday, Mar 20th, 2010

In my college sociology text (decades ago) was a surprising survey asking who would American fathers most object to their daughters marrying. At the top of the list came Turks — yet few of these fathers had ever met one. This reflected a fear so old that it was buried deeply in the Western memory bank.

In 1452, the Ottoman Turks conquered the old Byzantine Empire, that eastern part of the Roman Empire that had been a great power for a thousand years. They overran Constantinople and then conquered much of Eastern Europe (the Balkans and Greece), getting as far as Vienna, when turned back. They also took over the southern Mediterranean region that the Arabs had originally taken. They ruled with an iron hand, but permitted some self-governance of non-Muslims, some of whom flourished by knowing whom to buy off. Corruption was rampant.

Europe had much to fear from the Turks, but as Europe became stronger, they feared them less and in many ways were enchanted by Turkish culture.  In the 18th century, this interest was apparent in a flourishing of harem-fantasy art and even a comic opera by Mozart: “Abduction from the Seraglio.” Although in treating such an abduction as comedy, it was still a real possibility that travelers in the Mediterranean could be so abducted and wind up on the Muslim slave market or in a harem.

The Ottoman Empire was beginning to fall apart in the 19th century and finally collapsed after World War I. Out of this crumbled empire emerged a new country, modern Turkey.  In 1923, Turkey’s first president (with dictatorial powers), an admired general, was Kemal Ataturk.

Ataturk created a modern state — which he envisioned as part of Europe, rather than part of the Muslim world. He changed the alphabet from Arabic to Latin (much opposed by the Muslim clerics), abolished women’s veils, established public schooling and a civil service, and modernized the military, giving it the duty to preserve the new democracy for secular, not religious governance. His remarkable transformation of Turkey served them well over many decades. They had a strong alliance with the United States, which brought them into NATO as a defense against the Soviet Union (despite protests from Greece).

Turkey also had a fruitful relationship with Israel, contrary to the inflamed passions of the Arab world, as well as a solid relationship with Iran, whose own shah/dictator modernized that country on a model established by Ataturk. Both countries thrived during that period.

For the past decade, however, Turkey has changed. Demographics have played an unforeseen role here: secular Turkey has only a modest birthrate, but the less educated eastern part of the country, more conservative and more religious, has flooded into Istanbul and Ankara, and through voting they are transforming Turkish society. The military intervened in a prior election of an Islamist party, but because of Turkey’s desire to enter the European Community, the military has refrained from interfering this time with what appears to be a creeping Islamization of the government.

Under what some Europeans call “mild Islamism” (like being a little pregnant?), an Islamist government not only came to power, but has changed the country’s direction. They have cooled toward the United States and are freezing out Israel. Their new best friends are Iran and the rest of the Muslim world. So far, some of the more draconian social legislation they have proposed has failed, but they fully intend to add control of the military to that of the courts and other institutions. Even worse, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was recently awarded the Saudi King Faisal “International Prize for Service to Islam.” How will that sit with secular Turks?

In February, the government supposedly quashed a military plot to stage a coup and have rounded up Turkey’s most distinguished top military. A show trial is guaranteed — and Turkey’s secular population will be gradually suppressed. Ataturk is turning over in his grave, and Turkey’s former friends had better rethink their alliances.


Laina  Farhat-Holzman is a writer, lecturer and historian. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or http://www.globalthink.net. The opinions of columnists are not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.

Going Cold Turkey

Going Cold Turkey



Posted By David Solway On February 26, 2010 @ 12:04 am In FrontPage | 7 Comments

One of the major questions confronting Western strategists and politicians today has to do with the political direction in which Turkey, a presumed ally and Western lynchpin in the Middle East, seems to be heading. Is it the beacon nation it has long been assumed to be, a stalwart democracy firmly rooted in Islamic soil? Or is it, on the contrary, a fundamentally Islamic nation now shaking off its Western trappings and faux identity to re-enter the theological orbit of the past? Who are we treating with, the Young Turks or the old Ottomans?

As Dinesh D’Souza writes in The Enemy at Home [1], it is time “to retire the tiresome invocation of Turkey as a model for Islamic society. No Muslim country is going the way of Turkey, and even Turkey is no longer going the way of Turkey.” But is not Turkey an electoral democracy and does it not therefore merit our approval and support? We in the West appear to have forgotten that elections in themselves do not constitute democracy. In the Muslim world, elections are only mechanisms for regulating the balance between competing tribal, ethnic and religious blocs intent on political domination, social coercion and economic exploitation—to be suspended the moment it seems opportune to do so. They are pretexts for structures of autocratic or theocratic control. It should come as no surprise that under the auspices of an ostensible democratic apparatus, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party [2] (AKP) is steering Turkey towards ever closer ties with the totalitarian regimes of Iran, Syria and Sudan and re-introducing Islamic norms of behavior.

The unpleasant fact of the matter is that in an Islamic context, democracy as we understand it does not work very well, if, indeed, it works at all. It is not a reliable or enduring phenomenon. Secular institutions in such a cultural and historical framework can survive only if they are imposed and backed by a strong military determined to check the influence of the clerical establishment and suppress the circulation of Islamic doctrine and extremist sentiment among the laity. Thus the folly of The European Commission’s 2005 report [3] which declares that the Turkish army should concern itself exclusively with “military, defense and security matters…under the authority of the government,” ignoring the fact that the secular aspects of the state were achieved and protected only by internal military interventions.

The unwillingness of the West to recognize the true state of affairs regarding Turkey is encapsulated in an AP report on the recent arrest by the government of fifty Turkish commanders alleged to have planned a coup d’état. The article [4] states: “Erdogan also has dramatically curtailed the military’s power, under EU pressure, and reinforced civilian rule while bolstering democratic institutions.” Apart from the reference to (typically misguided) EU pressure, the reality is very different.

By all reputable accounts, Turkey is inexorably being Islamized, which was already evident when it refused to permit American flyovers and the use of military bases and staging grounds during the second Iraq war. As noted above, political and economic relations with Iran are growing ever more intimate; a $3.5 billion natural gas deal has recently been confirmed [5]. There has been a rapprochement with Syria and the principal bone of contention between the two countries, the status of the Turkish province of Hatay [6] claimed by Syria as the historical Iskandaron, has been quietly buried. Turkey launched a venomous propaganda campaign against Israel over Operation Cast Lead in the terrorist statelet of Gaza and refused to cooperate with Israel in long-planned war games, leading to the U.S. dropping out as well. Erdogan boasts [7] that Turkey has “opened a new approach to foreign relations…We have a philosophy of strength.”

Domestically, the Turkish parliament has cancelled the ban on the hijab, prompting even the Russian journal RiaNovosti [8] to speculate on the danger of radical change in the country. As RiaNovosti wryly points out, “the [pro-hijab] bill will burnish Turkey’s democratic credentials, hastening its accession to the European Union”—a clever move, no doubt, given Eurabian [9] sympathies. Turkey has recently attempted to pass a law criminalizing adultery in order, according to Erdogan, to preserve the family [10]. The law did not carry but the current atmosphere in the country suggests it will be proposed once again. The fact that Mein Kampf has become a bestseller in Turkey is equally worrying.

For a sense of what to expect in the future, Turkey’s premier novelist Orhan Pamuk furnishes a rather disturbing speculum in his novel, Snow [11], which anyone interested in taking the pulse of the country should consult. The snowstorm which cuts off the town, where the central action occurs, from the secular West is more than meteorology; it is an emblem and parable of the gradually closing mindset that prevails in the country.

We should no longer delude ourselves about Turkey. Barring a successful military insurrection and a Kemalist [12] revival, it is arguably lost to the West, or soon will be. Turkey should be met with forceful economic and diplomatic measures if we wish to prevent or at least defer a deteriorating situation. It would have to be made to realize that joining the Islamist axis is not to its long-term advantage. Significant countervailing pressure needs to be brought to bear and the secular command of the country’s military should be effectively supported.

But the problem, of course, is not only Turkey—or Iran for that matter, or Russia or any other nation against which we refuse to exercise leverage. The problem is us. We are addicted to the drug of appeasement. It is high time we showed a little character and took steps to bring about our long-overdue political and moral detoxification. For the reflex posture the West adopts of conciliation and procrastination, which in the case we are examining entails indifference to or even complicity with Turkey’s current domestic and foreign policies, will only hasten its departure from the fraying nexus of the Western alliance.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine: http://frontpagemag.com

URL to article: http://frontpagemag.com/2010/02/26/going-cold-turkey/

URLs in this post:

[1] The Enemy at Home: http://www.amazon.com/Enemy-At-Home-Cultural-Responsibility/dp/0767915615/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267018605&sr=1-1

[2] Justice and Development Party: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_and_Development_Party_%28Turkey%29

[3] The European Commission’s 2005 report: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/multimedia/publications/publications/annual-reports/2005_en.htm

[4] article: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=169375

[5] confirmed: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=206226

[6] Turkish province of Hatay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria

[7] Erdogan boasts: http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=169410

[8] RiaNovosti: http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080214/99215548.html

[9] Eurabian: http://www.amazon.com/Eurabia-Euro-Arab-Axis-Bat-YeOr/dp/083864077X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267101561&sr=1-1

[10] preserve the family: http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc/turkeyadulterylaw2.htm

[11] Snow: http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Orhan-Pamuk/dp/0375706860/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267019078&sr=1-1

[12] Kemalist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustafa_Kemal_Atat%C3%BCrk

Turkey’s Future: Veils and Sharia

A Message to Ankara: Open Up to Free Trade (or Forget Europe)

A Message to Ankara: Open Up to Free Trade (or Forget Europe)

On Wednesday 8 November, the European Commission recommended that the Turkish membership talks proceed through to the end of the year. But, how long should the Turkish EU membership talks last? Given the embarrassingly weighty opposition and the lack of serious commitment by any other EU member state to fully back the Turkish government, why are the discussions still set to continue? Since Turkey shows little willingness to embrace the free exchange of ideas (opposed by Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code) or free exchange of labour (opposed by closure of airports to Greek Cypriots) or free exchange of trade (opposed by breaking the customs union agreement), why have European states not walked away from the negotiation table before now?

The day should have been up for Turkey since it does not seem ready to open its doors to Cyprus. After a year or negotiations, it continues to block off trade with Cyprus. In the past few days, the EU was expected to have called a judgement on whether Turkish membership talks should halted based on the resistance to trade with Cyprus. The publicly evasive EU has now moved that judgement day until December, when the European Council are due to meet. 

So, the laboured Turkish membership discussions are still continuing. Despite resistance from Turkey to amend any of its current legislation, the EU is ploughing on with the membership talks. With Turkey still blocking airports and ports to Greek Cypriots, offering no reform of Article 301 (currently a major curb to free expression), and a stagnancy on amending human and property rights standards, the Finnish presidency has been desperately attempting to patch together a diplomatic deal.

However, since Turkey refuses to recognise the importance of its opposition to Cypriot trade, it is likely that the talks will lead nowhere. In fact, even the European Union itself sees the opening up of ports (and airports) as a necessary condition for talks to continue, as well as handing over small Northern Cypriot territories to UN and EU administrations. Accordingly, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel warned that if Turkey could not address the Cypriot trade issue, the talks would prove worthless.

“We need the implementation of Ankara protocol on the freedom of movement of goods also with Cyprus. Otherwise, a very, very serious situation arises regarding the continuation of the accession talks […] I appeal to Turkey that it does everything in order not to end up in such a situation and in order not to lead the European Union into such a situation” said Merkel.

It is time for Turkey to make things happen on Cypriot trade, or to forget the European talks. More to the point, it is urgent that the German-Finnish-EU triad issues an ultimatum – ‘open up to free trade or leave the talks.’ What’s more, it would be a perfect occasion on which to offer this advice. Given this situation, what did the EU choose to do? The European Commission has chosen to extend the meaningless discussions until the end of this year.

On Thursday 2 November, the next-step Turkish EU membership talks were cancelled. The Greeks would not attend. In reaction to the perceived absence of the Greeks, the Turkish refused to attend. Whatever the reason, these talks are long overdue and the absence of Cyprus from the negotiation table is completely understandable. It must be extremely difficult for Cyprus since, in the background, the Greek Cypriots are the legitimate heirs of the island of Cyprus; the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is nothing but an illegitimate rabble of Ottoman henchmen.

From the position of Greek Cypriots, it would be pointless to attend another set of talks with Turkey if it cannot open up ports to Greek Cypriots in addition to settling disagreements on Turkish ownership over Greek Cypriot land. (The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is still not internationally recognized precisely because of its illegitimacy following the invasion of Cyprus). Thus, it is notable that Cyprus probably will continue to refuse to turn up to meaningless talks with Turkey since nothing of any substance is being said.   

Of course, when the European Council sit in December, they are unlikely to say anything of significance. By shifting the goalposts forward, the EU will be as evasive as ever in making any firm and substantial rejection. The EU Finnish presidency calls it ‘diplomacy’; most others call it fraud. Sure, Rome was not built in a day but I’m positive that the first brick of Rome was laid within the first year of its founding.

The EU-Turkey romance is on the rocks

The EU-Turkey romance is on the rocks

November 08, 2006

Islam, Politics

Los Angeles Times Tracy Wilkinson November 7, 2006

After early promise, the Muslim nation’s membership bid appears headed for limbo. Both sides’ ardor has cooled.

ANKARA, TURKEY — They’re calling it a train crash here, the seemingly inevitable collision between this large Muslim nation and the Europe it has courted for years.

Those gauging Turkey’s once promising program of reforms, aimed at modernizing its democracy and facilitating membership in the European Union, see a troubled landscape: Turkish writers, journalists and even a 93-year-old academic are hauled into court on charges they insulted their country. Military commanders known for staging coups make veiled threats.

Anti-Western nationalism is on the rise, conservative Islam is spreading, and public opinion in favor of joining the EU has plummeted to an all-time low.

At the same time, many in Europe have soured on the prospect of welcoming a poor, officially Muslim country of 70 million people to their 25-nation club.

On Wednesday, the EU will issue its annual progress report. It is expected to sharply criticize Turkey as failing to sufficiently improve human rights, freedom of speech, cultural rights for minority Kurds and civilian control over the military, according to portions that have been leaked to the media.

It now seems likely that Turkey’s EU bid will be put on hold — not formally suspended, but frozen for possibly as long as a year.

Islam challenges secularism in Turkey’s east

Islam challenges secularism in Turkey’s east

As I have long noted, any secular, democratic or republican or semi-democratic government in the Islamic world — indeed, any government that does not fully implement Sharia — faces mounting pressure from forces that believe that no non-Sharia government has any legitimacy at all. And that is true even in the country that is most often held up as the model and proof that Islam and democracy can coexist (despite the fact that its secularism was established in an atmosphere of war with Islam): Turkey.

“FEATURE-Islam challenges secularism in Turkey’s east,” by Paul de Bendern for Reuters:

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, Oct 30 (Reuters) – In the heartland of Turkey’s southeast, plagued by decades of conflict between separatist Kurdish rebels and the state, a new threat to secularism is emerging — Islamist groups.Local politicians say these organisations are becoming more active in the poor region that borders Iraq and Syria, and some fear this could fan fundamentalism, especially among young people who have grown up with violence.

As in the rest of predominantly Sunni Muslim Turkey, practising one’s religion here long took a backseat to a public espousal of the secularism of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the republic’s founder.

However, since the AK Party, which has roots in political Islam, swept to power in 2002, Muslims are now being more open about their faith.

We feel much freer to practise Islam,” said Engin Aydin, a teacher and physics graduate who was selling religious books near Diyarbakir’s 11th century Ulu Cami mosque. “It’s getting better by the day.”

In the southeast’s largest city, mosques are welcoming more worshippers, non governmental organisations (NGOs) with a religious overtone are helping the poor and the number of unofficial prayer rooms is on the rise, say politicians and lawyers.

“In every poor neighbourhood, new radical Islamic associations are giving hot food, they have meetings at people’s homes. They pay for students to go to school,” said Firat Anli, mayor of a district of Diyarbakir and member of the main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP).

I’m very worried … I fear they’ll become more powerful and could turn to violence like the (Turkish) Hezbollah,” he said, referring to a defunct armed group, active in the 1990s.