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Turkey - A State of Confusion

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    Turkey - A State of Confusion

    The discussion about natural disasters in the General section turned political (leave it to Achtung!). I thought it as a good time to discuss Turkey among us and learn each other’s views about the Land of the Turks. Turkey is a major and a powerful player in the region (matched only by Israel). Asia Minor has always played a significant role in political/social and imperial makeup of the Middle East and southern Europe.

    I have had the opportunity to visit Turkey on a few occasions, couple times for business and twice for vacationing on the Anataliyan coast. Being married to a Greek Orthodox, one gets stuck with learning about the glorious past of Constantinopal, that being (still is) the seat of Eastern Orthodoxy.

    In terms of Turkey’s political makeup, there is plenty wrong. I am not a big admirer (in fact I don’t like him) of Kamal Ataturk, mainly for his treatment of the Armenians, and Kurds, and his suppression of religion. The current political structure has its roots in Ataturk’s conception of modern Turkish State (separation of religion and state affairs). The rational heard more frequently from Turkish officials for the country’s statutory restrictions on difference or dissent is grounded in what they view as geopolitical realities. Turkey is located in a tough neighborhood, encircled by such neighbors as Iraq, Iran, Syria, which seek to encroach on its sovereignty. Turkish political climate is rife with the rhetoric of conspiracy, which goes beyond the immediate threats to include the long-standing antagonisms with Greece and more recent anger at Italy for its refusal to help capture Ocelan. Turks have entered into a close alliance with Israel to counter the weight of these perceived menaces.

    I believe that Turks are very hearty, open, friendly and warm people. Although one may get an impression that Greeks and Turks hate each other. In my experience there is very little truth in that (at least at the street level). In fact, Greece was one of the first countries to send aid relief for the earthquake victims. Greek-Turk relations require a very lengthy discussion and will involve going back centuries (if not as back as the Trojans wars). We can start that if someone is interested. For now, lets stick to modern day Turkey.

    It is true that Turks are suppressing an increasing Islamic movement in certain parts of the county. While, Istanbul’s streets are filled with people who could blend easily into any Western city, only a minority of women wear head scarves, the image is reversed in the countryside, where tradition and religion have a greater hold. The ban on scarves in Universities and public offices has enforced more rigorously since the military pushed the Islamic based Welfare Party out of power some two years ago, and then had it legally banned. Men are also banned from Universities if they support beard, although some Universities enforce the regulations less rigidly than others do.

    A brief history of modern day Turkey is that after WW1, Ataturk (an Army officer) successfully fought to prevent Greece, France, Italy and Britain from carving up Turkey. He formed the Republic in 1923, and targeted two enemies that remain in the military’s sight: Kurdish separatists, and Islamists. Ataturk set out to crush both. He saw westernization as a remedy to the weakness of the Ottoman sultans and their Khalifas. He forged a constitution that created a parliament, implemented European style civil and criminal law and officially made Turkey a secular state. He disbanded religious orders, seized religious property, and forbade religious instruction. He burned Fez and the Arabic alphabet and replaced them with the hat and Latin letters. Despite all this, many Muslims around the world (most notably Pakistanis) admire him. His cult is very alive.

    In general, Turkey has its challenges, geopolitical, religious, and territorial. It will be interesting to see how long this experiment of modern day state proves to be a success.

    I personally think that Turkish political system requires a big overhaul (short of an Iranian style revolution). The Army needs to be brought under control, and EU should offer Turkey a well-deserved place in the trade block, the same status that it enjoys in NATO. Turkey also needs improvement in the area of human rights.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, I give turkey about 5.75. Or about Grade C (may be C+), of course comparing it with the Greatest Nation in the world. US A+

    What cannot be denied is that Turkey's finest days were during the Ottoman empire. Or to give it it's proper name, Khilafat...ruling state of the islamic empire. Since those days it has generally been downhill, especially since slavish mimicking of the western people as promoted by Attaturk has neither been accepted nor implemented by the proud Turks. Still, it was an interesting article.