- Geopolitics/ Is Turkey Lost ?
- Why Sell Out Turkey, A Faithful Ally?
- Some Thoughts On The Armenian ‘genocide’
- Open Letter To Members Of The Us House On The Armenian 'Genocide' Resolution
- The Oxygen of Democracy
- Armenians Urge Eu To Echo Swiss ‘genocide' Ruling
- US Armenian Resolution ‘Indigestible’ To Turkey
- Ilter Turkmen: It Is Wrong To Apply To International Court In Issue Of Armenian Genocide
- Turkey Needs To Express Itself Better To The World
- R. Suny: Armenian-Turkish Relations Can Be Normalized Without Genocide Recognition
- 'Incirlik May be Closed if Armenian Resolution Passes'
- 'Turkey Could Close Incirlik Base'
- The Importance of Emotion in Turkish-American Relations
- The emotion factor in Turkish-US relations
- Ancient Armenia Fights To Survive Isolation
- Armenian Diaspora Groups Face New Azeri Challenge
- Business Leaders See Improved Chances To Stop Genocide Measures
- Dangerous Liaisons : Genocide Bill Divides US & Turkey
- Island Church Of Akhtamar Has Hosted Many Dignitaries In Its 1,086-Year History
Geopolitics/ Is Turkey Lost ?
Under Atatürk, Rumelia (European Turkey) took over Anatolia (Asiatic Turkey). Now, the Anatolians are claiming their country back. .
Until very recently, Turkey was everything an American would want a place in the Middle East or East Asia to be: an ally of the United States; a member of NATO; a quasi-democracy, enlivened by occasional military coups aimed not at disposing of but rather at reinforcing democratic rule; a country with a booming (if chaotic) economy and a vibrant civil society; and, last but not least, a country both Muslim and modern, enjoying a secular constitution and confident enough to maintain a friendly relationship with Israel.
These considerable achievements were compensated in kind. Throughout the cold war, the United States provided for the core of Turkey’s national security and welfare. More recently, both the U.S. government and influential Americans of every stripe lobbied for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, despite much European resistance.
Now, however, the romance looks over. If one were to name a single turning point, it would be the sweeping electoral victory of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development party (AKP) in late 2002. Overnight, the most marginal group in Turkish politics, people with very limited experience in international affairs, scant knowledge of English, and very little understanding of or sympathy for the West—people, moreover, displaying an alarming affinity for Islamist fundamentalism—had been placed in charge. Or so it seemed.
To any outside observer, it was clear that the turning point was soon translated into harsh facts. Turkey did not support the Iraq war in 2003. Nor did it support the American-French intiative to restore an independent Lebanon after 2004. Nor, at least at first, did it share Western concerns over a nuclearized Iran. Turkey’s relations with Israel also began to erode.
Finally, Turkey undertook a reassessment of its European ambitions. Having finally secured EU approval of their country’s candidacy for membership, Prime Minister Erdogan and his foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, proceeded to warn the Europeans that Turkey would not forever make adjustments and concessions to EU demands on matters like human rights or the status of Cyprus. Some foreign-policy intellectuals began to float alternatives to EU membership, including an alignment with the oil-rich Arab states, or with Russia, China, India, South Africa, and Latin America, or with the “emerging Islamic Far East,” that is, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Even more telling has been the rise of a rabid anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian mood within every level of Turkish society. The first sign of this was the official treatment of Eric Edelman, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara from 2003 to 2005. Both Erdogan and Gül kept him at bay throughout his tenure. The press, both Right and Left, both Islamic and secular, reveled in Edelman-baiting. A columnist for The New Dawn, a pro-AKP newspaper, accused him, absurdly, of behaving like a “colonial governor.” In Hürriyet, a leading secular paper, a columnist wrote that “If Turkey happens today to be one of the foremost America-hating countries, it is mostly because of him.”
After eighteen months, Edelman resigned. But anti-Americanism hardly abated. In 2005, a sensationalist novel, Metal Storm, featured characters drawn from real life—George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, etc.—and a plot set in the near future that was sheer paranoia: a surprise American invasion of Turkey complete with the bombing of Anit Kabir, the majestic mausoleum in Ankara of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey. The book sold heavily—450,000 copies in less than a year.
Hard on the heels of Metal Storm came a movie: Valley of the Wolves, Iraq. Taking off from a popular TV serial, it depicted the U.S. presence in Iraq as a nightmare of brutality. According to the movie, the U.S. was engaging in mass murder and then trafficking in the victims’ organs. Much of the action was devoted to a supposed joint American-Kurdish operation to “cleanse” northern Iraq of its Turkmen (i.e., Turkish) minority. If Metal Storm was a best-seller, Valley of the Wolves could be the Turkish film industry’s biggest commercial success ever.
Then there is anti-Semitism. Kavgam, a Turkish translation of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was published at about the same time as Metal Storm. Almost two years ago, as I and other European and American visitors saw on a fact-finding trip sponsored by the Nixon Center, it was on prominent display in airports, shopping malls, academic bookstores, at the archeological museum in Ankara—everywhere. And Kavgam is hardly the only example of the new anti-Semitism in the Turkish media. The worst character in Valley of the Wolves is an American Jewish doctor who supervises organ traffic from Iraq to the United States and Israel. Another recent best-seller is a book called Hitler’s Leadership Qualities. Turkish newspapers are rife with anti-Jewish innuendo and worse.
No less salient is anti-Christian prejudice. Both Metal Storm and Valley of the Wolves “explain” alleged American designs on the Turkish people as part of a Christian crusade to convert Muslims or to restore Istanbul to its former status as Constantinople, the Byzantine metropolis. The Turkish government has sought to curtail the missionary activities of American Protestant organizations, and last year a Roman Catholic priest from Italy was shot in Trabzon in the wake of the controversy over the publication of the “Muhammad cartoons” in a Danish newspaper. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Istanbul in late November, the press indulged in an orgy of verbal abuse.
The American analyst Zeyno Baran, who led the Nixon Center tour in 2005, published her reflections on Turkey’s mounting xenophobia and enmity toward the West in the National Interest. In the Istanbul theater where she watched Valley of the Wolves, she writes,
I was wondering what the young men sitting in the row behind me must be thinking. There were seven of them, ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen. With their formative years shaped by the Iraq war, Metal Storm, and now this film, they and other members of their generation are beginning to believe that the portrayal of the Americans on screen is reflective of American society as a whole.
Baran asks whether the “paranoid fears” propagated by works like these will not “be reflected in government policy sooner than anyone might think.” There is another way to pose the question—namely, is the new mood a cause, or rather a consequence, of government policy? Or is the whole picture much more complex—and, possibly, more promising—than either of these propositions suggests? To grasp the main currents and cross-currents roiling contemporary Turkey, some history is in order.
The modern Turkish state was created by one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th century, Mustafa Kemal. Old Turkey, also known as the Ottoman empire, had been collapsing for decades. The final blow came in the wake of World War I, when the Sèvres treaty of 1919 reduced the empire to the environs of Constantinople and some parts of Anatolia to the East.
Kemal, who had been the most effective Ottoman general in the war—it was he who defeated the British at Gallipoli—rallied the Turkish population against both the treaty and the sultan who had signed it. In less than five years, he managed to set up a new army; crush the royal Greek forces who had ventured into Ionia and northwestern Anatolia; convince the British, French, and Italians to withdraw; and win a new peace treaty at Lausanne that restored a sizable Turkish state on both sides of the Sea of Marmara and eastward over all of Anatolia.
Even more importantly, Kemal transformed a hitherto multiethnic and multireligious country into an almost monoethnic, Islamic one. He accomplished this by “trading” 1.5 million Christian Greeks, the largest minority still to be found in Anatolia, for a parallel transfer of the few hundred thousand Turks still living in continental Greece. (The large Armenian population of Anatolia had been murdered or driven away earlier, in 1915, when the imperial Ottoman government was still in charge.)
Kemal then embarked on a drastic exercise in social engineering, recasting the country he had salvaged into a Western nation-state, the Turkish republic. He abolished the sultanate in 1923 and then the caliphate in 1924. Over the next five years, the new government was secularized; the Anatolian city of Ankara replaced Constantinople as the capital; traditional Arabic writing, clearly impractical for the Turkish tongue, was replaced by a Latin phonetic alphabet; European dress was made compulsory; women were emancipated; and “brotherhoods,” the backbone of Islam as a social force, were banned. In 1935, by a unanimous vote of parliament, he was anointed Atatürk, “father of the Turks.”
Most of the country had supported Kemal as a charismatic military leader or “holy raider”—a Gazi, in Turkish parlance, from the title bestowed upon the earliest Ottoman sultans in the Middle Ages—against the Western invaders. Very few resisted actively as he overhauled their way of life and enforced modernization from above. And yet, most Turks would have settled for a much less radical process of Westernization. Some secretly prepared to revert to a more traditional way of life at the first opportunity. Morevover, this passive resistance to Kemalism dovetailed with a longstanding geographic and social divide.
From the 14th to the early 20th century, Ottoman Turkey had been a polity with two separate centers of gravity. On the one hand, there was the Balkan peninsula, known as European Turkey or Rumelia (“the Land of the Romans”). On the other hand, there was Anatolia, or Asiatic Turkey. Rumelia, the cradle of the imperial elite, was rich, sophisticated, ethnically half-European; two-thirds of its population was neither Turkish nor Muslim. Anatolia, which provided the bulk of the imperial armies, was poor, backward, and Eastern, with a largely Turkish and Islamic population.
As long as the empire as a whole remained militarily formidable, the demographic imbalance in Rumelia could be largely ignored. But once the Ottomans lost their military edge, by the beginning of the 19th century, a very different situation emerged: large parts of Rumelia were progressively chopped away to become autonomous and then independent Christian states, with the Turks or other Muslims forced into what remained of Rumelia or into Anatolia and beyond. Finally, in 1912, a short, bitter war between the new Christian nations and the Ottoman empire wiped Rumelia off the map (except for Constantinople and Andrinople). Legendary Ottoman cities like Salonica, Üsküb, and Monastir (now Thessaloniki, Skopje, and Bitola) were overrun. The remaining Turkish gentry and upper class were forced to flee, while Turkish peasants were given four years to accept a debased minority status or sell their property and leave; most left.
The Jews, a sizable minority in Rumelia, were hit too. In the late Ottoman period, they had enjoyed support as the only loyal non-Muslim community in the Western part of the empire, and especially in Salonica. Now they were at the mercy of Christian Orthodox governments that (with the exception of Bulgaria) were largely anti-Semitic: many upper-class Jewish families fled to Constantinople, just like their Muslim peers. There was also a very active and influential community of Sabbateans or Dönme, who combined an outwardly Turkish-Muslim identity with crypto-Jewish traditions. It, too, had to go.
All in all, several hundred thousand refugees flooded Constantinople and the largest cities of Anatolia on the eve of World War I. They were an elite group. In the prevalent chaos, they were also the only ones with a clear political project. From their own tragic fate, they had learned that in order to survive, the Turkish people had to Europeanize in full and, for the first time in their history, become ethnically and even racially exclusive. And they believed this should be achieved at any cost, including revolution and coup d’état.
The first radical Rumelians to seize power were the “three pashas” (generals): Ismail Enver Pasha, who as minister of defense in the Ottoman empire had helped turn Turkey into a Germanic protectorate on the eve of World War I; Mehmet Talat Pasha, minister of the interior from 1913 to 1917 and then grand vizier; and Ahmet Cemal Pasha, a ruthless and quite effective warrior. All of them believed the Turkish race was essentially European—if not Aryan—and thus destined to effectuate a final synthesis between Islam and European civilization. They also believed that the Great War was a God-given opportunity to rebuild Turkey as a “Panturkic” empire: a homogeneous entity reuniting the western Turks of Anatolia with their more distant brethren of the Caucasus, the Volga, and Central Asia.
One wonders where these policies—which explain in part the tragedy that befell the Ottoman Armenians—would have led had the Central powers prevailed in 1918. What happened instead was a further decline in Turkey’s fortunes and the second Rumelian dictatorship—the one to last, the one led by Mustafa Kemal.
The Gazi was born in Salonica, the very capital of Rumelia. He was a pasha, but his background was different from that of the others. For one thing, it has been long thought that his family was linked either to the Dönme or to the Bogomils, a Manichean group who had nominally converted to Islam in the 15th century while retaining much of their old faith. (At his school in Salonica, almost all the pupils were Dönme or Jews.) For another thing, he preferred France over Germany, and French secular rationalism over German romantic vitalism. Once the master of Turkey, he showed no patience either for the Islamic heritage or for pan-Turkish daydreaming.
In Atatürk’s new nation, the Rumelians and those who wished to identify themselves with them were represented by the Republican People’s party (CHP), the one and only legal political group in the country. Any activists brazen enough to enter into real dissent or to express the cultural and religious aspirations of the Anatolian populace at large were dealt with by the national gendarmerie or the political police. As for the economy, the bulk of it was either seized by state trusts or put under direct state control. These new state assets were quickly allocated to managers who happened to be CHP members—and Rumelians. “For the people, in spite of the people,” Rumelians and quasi-Rumelians used to say half-smilingly. The real meaning of this motto was: for Anatolia (the new Turkish homeland), without and in spite of the Anatolians.
While Kemal himself remained above explicit criticism (like most “good” dictators, he was shrewd enough to chastise his own followers from time to time), there was a lot of popular resentment, if not hatred, directed toward the CHP regime. Some Turks clearly regarded it as a kind of foreign occupation. Others saw it as an “oppressor regime” (zalim) that preyed on the oppressed and downtrodden.
Kemal passed away in Istanbul on November 10, 1938. He died of cirrhosis: heavy drinking and womanizing had been his private vices or safety valves. His successor was Ismet Inönü, a Smyrna-born pasha with a Rumelian background who had been, among other things, his very loyal and effective prime minister. The CHP nation-state was now quickly transformed into a near-fascist system. With Atatürk posthumously given the title of Eternal Leader and turned into a semi-god, Inönü was made party leader for life.
Plans were drawn up to redesign Ankara as a Mussolini-style capital, with Atatürk’s mausoleum at its center. The old racial and pan-Turkic element in Turkish nationalism, strong under the three pashas but downplayed by Kemal, was now revived with a vengeance. Discriminatory measures were passed against non-Muslim minorities, including a 1942 capital tax targeting Jews specifically. (Many, unable to pay, were sent to labor camps in the East.)
It went on like that for most of World War II. Then Inönü, who had hitherto kept his country strictly neutral, initiated an effort at rapprochement with the Western democracies. This culminated a few years later in Turkey’s entry into NATO and the Council of Europe and a turnabout in the country’s political and ideological profile. Blatantly fascist or racist aspects of the regime were dropped, an internal purge disposed of the most pro-fascist elements in the armed forces and the civil service, and steps were taken toward a multiparty democracy. In 1950, free elections were held in which the opposition Democratic party (DP) won 53 percent of the popular vote and 408 out of the 487 seats in the national assembly. Inönü resigned.
In practical terms, the Democrats were the party of Anatolia, and their agenda was to reclaim the country for the Muslim Anatolian majority, restore some aspects of the traditional way of life, and reallocate wealth from the statist elite to the ordinary bourgeoisie and even the peasants. In no small measure this succeeded, despite the fact that the Democrats’ tenure ended in 1960 in a pro-CHP military coup and the hanging of DP Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and some of his ministers.
Over the following half-century or so, from the mid-1960’s to the 2000’s, Turkish life has constituted a never-ending reenactment of both the trends and the tensions of the DP era. In the course of this drama, the DP’s heirs have constantly offset their CHP or post-CHP rivals, up to and including the crushing victory of Erdogan’s AKP in 2002.
Demographics has played a key role in these developments. The rural areas of central and eastern Anatolia had enjoyed strong growth under Atatürk and Inönü, and were primarily responsible for the rise in the Turkish population from 14 million in 1923 to 21 million by 1950. Since then, the overall population has more than tripled to 70 million, with most of the growth occurring in the rural areas or among first-generation rural migrants to the big cities. As a consequence, the political heirs of the Democrats—they include Süleyman Demirel’s Justice party in the 1960’s and the 1970’s, Turgut Özal’s conservative Motherland party in the 1980’s, and finally the Islamists—have enjoyed an ever-growing edge over the old CHP and its heirs.
Turkey’s big cities, once strongholds of Kemalism, have thoroughly “Anatolized” and gone Islamic. Istanbul, which once held a million inhabitants, is now a conurbation of some 15 to 17 million, stretching from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea area. Ankara has risen from fewer than 300,000 inhabitants in 1950 to 5 million today. Both cities have had Islamist mayors since the 1990’s, and their landscapes blossom with twin-minaret mosques. Even Ankara now has a huge Ottoman-style Great Mosque, just opposite Atatürk’s mausoleum.
The second factor that has shaped Turkish political life since the days of Menderes has been the country’s gradual involvement with the United States, an emerging united Europe, and even Israel. The thrust of Ankara’s foreign policy under Atatürk and Inönü had been to keep Turkey away, as much as possible, from foreign alliances and even foreign trade. They wished to maintain strict neutrality and to turn Turkey into an economically self-supporting, if not autarkic, nation.
Though Inönü had started the drive toward Western integration, it was Menderes and the Democrats who finalized Turkey’s alliance with the United States in the 1950’s. That alliance produced in turn Turkish participation in the Korean war and a local economic boom that lifted the fortunes of private entrepreneurs and small businessmen. As a result, the conservative Anatolian parties have been strongly anti-statist and often more pro-American than the rest of the political class. By the same token, they developed a keen interest in joining the European Common Market, to which Ankara applied in 1963, and then the European Union, to which it applied even more insistently in 1999.
No less stunning has been Turkey’s opening to Israel. In its relations with both the United States and Western Europe, Turkey was countered by the influential Greek and Armenian diasporas and had no diaspora of equal standing of its own to act on its behalf. On the other hand, Israel—whose independence Inönü recognized from the outset—was enormously interested in relations with a big Muslim neighbor like Turkey. An informal deal was reached. Many pro-Israel leaders and activists started to lobby for Turkey in the West. Turkey, in turn, quietly started cooperating with Israel. At a certain point, the relationship with Israel not only became one of the Kemalists’ dogmas but was also put forward as a priority by many Anatolian conservatives. These included Turgut Özal, the prime minister and then president in the 1980’s and early 90’s.
A third factor that goes back to the Menderes years is the steady rise of a very particular brand of Sunni Islam. Menderes outdid Inönü in enshrining the memory of Atatürk as a secular leader, and formally upheld the separation of state and mosque. At the same time, however, a religious comeback was allowed, or even encouraged. Religious instruction was made compulsory in school, and the “brotherhoods” were once again legalized, albeit as “cultural” or “educational” rather than as religious organizations.
The first groups to benefit from this were the traditionalist brotherhoods dating back to Ottoman times or rooted in other Islamic countries, especially the powerful Naksibendi order. Soon enough, though, new and fully Turkish brotherhoods emerged, among them Said Nursi’s “Enlightened,” or Nurcu, and the followers of Fettullah Haci Gülen, known as the Fettullahci. Using various loopholes, these new groups gradually set up an enormous private educational system, from preparatory schools to universities and business schools, which today parallels and at times overshadows the state system. They went on to found newspapers, television stations, and American-style foundations. Since the 1990’s, the new brotherhoods clearly have become Turkey’s leading cultural power, both at the academic and the popular level.
Hardline Kemalists see these new groups as the Trojan horse of a coming Islamic revolution—or regression—and have tried on various occasions to disband them or to close their facilities. But what strikes foreign observers is how different these brotherhoods are from standard revivalist groups in the rest of the Muslim world. They seem less interested in enforcing shari’a law in the public sphere than in fusing Islam and modern civilization. The foundations of the Fettulahci, for example, foster interfaith dialogue in earnest, and have sent scholars and students to the West and even to Israel. Their newspaper, Zaman, is arguably the best and most balanced in the country.
The Turkish establishment, and what has come to be known as the Derin Devlet or “deep state”—influential networks in the army, the senior civil service, and the security apparatus, as well as parts of the intellectual elite and even some mafia-like groups—have tried in many ways to counter the gradual disruption of the Kemalist model and the Anatolization of Turkey.
One strategy has been to resist the political effects of population growth by promoting “quality democracy” as against “big-numbers democracy.” This odd doctrine was the rationale for the military coups of 1960, 1971, and 1980. It led to the present constitution of Turkey, drafted in 1982, under which the National Council of Security (MGK), an unelected monitoring body drawn largely from the “deep state,” enjoys supremacy over the parliament and the government and almost exclusive control of the armed forces and the internal security apparatus.
A second strategy has been to coopt Anatolians into the establishment. After the 1980 coup, General Kenan Evren embarked upon a systematic redrawing of Turkish politics, banning all then-existing parties. He then encouraged the emergence of two new parties that were to be politically and economically moderate while eschewing the old Kemalist/Anatolian divide: the Social-Democrats on the Left and the Motherland party on the Right. Having arranged for himself to be elected president, Evren cast his lot with the Motherland leader Turgut Özal, who became prime minister.
A devout Anatolian Muslim, Özal (who succeeded Evren as president in 1989) engineered Turkey’s final economic big bang, transforming it from a developing third-world nation into an emerging modern economy. A shrewd privatization program allowed many Kemalists to secure their positions in the statist economy while, at the same time, also giving the Anatolian newcomers a share of the pie, often with some help from Saudi or Gulf Arab investors. Both sets of interests supported Özal’s bid to have Turkey join the European Union. Both acquiesced in a vigorous pro-American, pro-NATO, and pro-Israel policy. A new concept of Turkish conservatism was in the making.
But there were problems. The banning of the old parties could not be sustained indefinitely. By 1990 they were permitted again, and the bipartisan system devised by Evren instantly collapsed. This, in turn, triggered the growth of more radical groups on both sides. Among the Kemalists, chauvinistic ultranationalism reemerged, marching under the parliamentary banner of the National Movement party (MHP). In the opposite corner of Turkish politics, an explicitly Islamist movement gained even more dramatic momentum, despite the deep state’s repeated efforts to suppress it. By 1996, the electoral tide could no longer be resisted, and the Islamist leader Necmetin Erbakan was appointed prime minister over a coalition cabinet. Erbakan’s behavior, however, was so gratuitously provocative—for instance, he called for mass demonstrations against the army’s ties with Israel—that within a year the Kemalists of the National Council of Security had evicted him from office and banned his party.
The Islamists’ failure in 1997 had a profound impact on their strategy, and by 2001 they had deserted Erbakan and founded a more moderate party, the AKP, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Whereas Erbakan had been linked to more traditional Islamic organizations, and even to radical Arab groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdogan and other leaders of the AKP were closer to the new, modernizing brotherhoods of Turkey, and appealed to a larger swath of the electorate. Many former supporters of the moderate Özal rallied to their cause. In 2002, the AKP won 44 percent of the national vote, which translated into an overwhelming parliamentary majority.
According to Zeyno Baran (who is now associated with the Hudson Institute), the AKP’s “key concern” is to stay in power as long as possible, and to that end the party has shown “a lot of pragmatism.” As an Istanbul businessman recently told me, Prime Minister Erdogan “certainly comes from the Islamist fold, but he has matured a lot. He understands by now that Özal was right, and that Turkey’s real challenge is to get the entire population, not just the elite, out of underdevelopment and poverty.”
Over the past four years, Erdogan and the AKP have indeed managed the economy remarkably well, with the help, until the beginning of 2006, of a talented central-bank director. During Erdogan’s tenure, Turkey’s GDP has grown at an average rate of 7.5 percent, reaching a remarkable 9 percent in 2005. A new currency, the New Turkish Lira, was introduced in 2005, and has helped to cut inflation to under 10 percent. Annual exports from Turkey now amount to $70 billion. What is most significant about the present Turkish boom is that it is not based on natural resources like oil or natural gas but rather on manufacturing and services. To use George Gilder’s famous distinction, it represents “wealth” rather than “riches.”
With respect to foreign policy, the government’s record has been more worrisome. Relations with Israel have been especially problematic. Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gül have extended full support to the Palestinian Arabs, even under the leadership of the terrorist organization Hamas, and have rolled out the red carpet in Ankara for Khaled Meshal, the group’s exiled hardline leader. During the recent war in Lebanon, the AKP government sided with Hizballah and routinely accused Israel of “state terror.” It also canceled a $500-million deal with Israel Aircraft Industries to upgrade the Turkish air force.
Still, Erdogan has also made noteworthy efforts to keep the relationship with Israel alive—no small feat when only 10 percent of Turks express sympathy for the Jewish state and Zionists are routinely described as ruthless oppressors by the country’s religious Muslims. Both Erdogan and Gül, the foreign minister, have visited Israel and insist that bilateral cooperation must go on. Erdogan also intervened on behalf of an Israeli businessman who had been barred from important contracts in Turkey. Even more telling was an incident at the annual convention of Müsiad, the Council of Muslim Business, this past fall. The organizers had displayed a large picture of the Palestinian father who lost nineteen members of his family in Israel’s counterterrorism attack at Beit Hanoun in Gaza. Erdogan, the guest speaker, was incensed. “You should come down from your high platform and help the victims on the ground,” he told the conference, “rather than engage in such rhetoric.”
Later this year, two elections will take place in Turkey in quick succession and may force Erdogan to make clear whether he is a shrewd Islamist revolutionary, biding his time, or an heir to the moderate Anatolian conservatism of Turgut Özal. In April, a new president will be elected, and Erdogan himself is the leading contender. The present head of state, the secular Ahmet Necdet Sezer, has so far checked the Islamist-dominated parliament. If Erdogan wins the job, the stage could be set for an Islamist sweep when parliamentary elections are held in November.
It is rumored that hardliners in both the AKP and the “deep state” are preparing for a dramatic confrontation. Such is the fear expressed by Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s leading writer and the 2006 Nobel Prize laureate. Indeed, in a scene foreshadowed in Pamuk’s novel Snow, a young Islamist entered a Turkish courtroom last May and shot a judge who had ruled against women who wished to wear Islamic veils in public places. Thousands of secularists took to the capital’s streets to protest the assassination, and the army, which had hitherto refrained from interfering with the Erdogan government, also made known its unhappiness.
Erdogan seems aware of such dangers and determined not to give in to provocations. Last year, he approved the appointment of General Yasar Büyükanit, a staunch secularist and the most pro-American and pro-Israeli officer in the Turkish armed forces, as military chief of staff. More recently, he has implied that he may not run for the presidency after all, and would rather concentrate on his current job as prime minister. Both moves have been calculated to defuse Kemalist anxieties over the prospect of a monolithic Islamist regime.
As for Turkish-American relations, there is no getting around the fact that the romance is indeed over. Special relationships do endure between nations, but once there is a feeling of betrayal or a breach of trust, they must be reconsidered and downgraded to less fervent connections. This is what has happened between America and France since de Gaulle, and the same estrangement is now occurring between Turkey and the United States.
Regrets can be found on both sides. Whatever the reasons for the crisis with the previous American ambassador, the new one, Ross Wilson, has been treated in a friendly, respectful manner. As for American policymakers, they may have been naïve to expect Turkey to serve in the war on terror as an unquestioning ally against other Muslim countries, especially in light of the Iraq war’s exacerbating effect on Turkey’s problems with the Kurds. All the same, Turkey remains a very important partner in a crucial region, and there is much to be learned of a useful nature both from the recent crisis and from Turkish history.
What Erdogan and the AKP stand for is not some passing phenomenon in Turkish politics. Whatever the achievements of Atatürk and the secular republic, they belong to a different period in the country’s development. Demographics and the inner workings of Turkish society have brought Islam back. What remains to be seen is the extent of this revival. In particular, the real faultline within Turkish politics may no longer lie between Kemalists and Islamic traditionalists but rather between contending varieties of an authentically Turkish conservatism, with the status or (as the Turks say) vision of Islam as the key point of division.
Is the AKP regime a danger to the West? Certainly there are disturbing elements to be found within it, as in every contemporary Islamist party. But there is also the possibility, if no more than the possibility, that Erdogan, the AKP, and their allies in Turkish civil society represent a check on radical Islamism. Nor, in considering the balance of internal forces, should one underestimate the contrary danger of Turkish fascism. If Turkey should indeed leave the Western fold, it might well be the work not of Islamists but of a hypernationalist, secular-minded military determined to align the country with the post-Communist regime of Russia or China. It is worth noting that in January, after the assassination of a Turkish-Armenian editor by a nationalist fanatic, the AKP took a more conciliatory stand toward the country’s aggrieved Armenian populace, and toward Armenia itself, than the Kemalists would ever contemplate.
For Turkey itself and for Turkey’s Western friends, the best outcome is evident: a fusing of the most dynamic elements in Turkey’s modern heritage—Rumelian openness with Anatolian traditionalism, cosmopolitan modernism with the mores of Turkey’s indigenous brand of Islam. The question to be decided is whether the country’s current leadership is equipped for this difficult but essential task.
By Michel Gurfinkiel
March 10, 2007
Why Sell Out Turkey, A Faithful Ally?
America's relationship with one of its most important allies, NATO member Turkey, is near the breaking point due to repeated insults and blunders by our administration. Now Congress may soon put the final nail in the coffin. .
Congress is preparing to vote on a mean-spirited resolution accusing Turkey of committing genocide against Armenians during World War I. This is just not true, and any suggestion of it justifiably infuriates the Turks.
During World War I, the Turkish led, multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire was in a struggle for its very survival, fighting the French, English, and Russians on four fronts. Wanting to partition the Empire, these countries fomented insurrection and guerrilla action on the part of the many Ottoman ethnic groups. The powder keg blew, and all ethnic groups, including Turks, Kurds, Greeks, Azeris, Arabs, Russians, and Armenians were killing each other.
Atrocities occurred on all sides. This was wartime. Many Armenians acted as a fifth column for the Russians and they slaughtered many Turks, Azeris, and Kurds. No one denies that many of them also died. To label these actions on the part of any of these groups as genocide is absurd.
The Turks have been busy creating a modern, dynamic, peaceful democracy, seeing no point in complaining about provocations against them that occurred 90 years ago. They are understandably upset by this patently untrue and insulting accusation by the Armenians. But their real shock is that their longtime ally and friend, the United States, would be so un-American and unfair as to even consider dignifying this unfounded claim.
In our arrogance, and by using one-sided propaganda, we are about to sell out one of our few remaining faithful allies, damaging the security of both countries. Is it worth it for some votes and campaign funds from the Armenians?
The Toledo Times ®
Some Thoughts On The Armenian ‘genocide’
I am a living victim of the Holocaust even though I was lucky to be born in 1980.I have never been to Germany, even though I have an eternal right to receive German citizenship; I have inborn fear of stepping on that land because a part of my soul was buried and slaughtered with six million Jews there, along with those tortured, starving, desperate people who were born to be free but ended up as a bar of soap or leather gloves. .
What makes up nations? When do we start calling a group of people a nation? Nations are born only when the people who don’t even have to share the same territory have a common mythos, history and heroes.
A nation is united when it has common grief, national days of mourning and solidarity. In the same way as an Arab living in Gaza cannot be called a Palestinian since he wasn’t part of the endless struggle for the land and all the pain surrounding this story, being a modern Turk means sharing the memories of Çanakkale and the Turkish War of Independence and being Armenian is to believe that the Armenian “Genocide” is de facto.
An Armenian will never accept that the events of 1915-1917 were caused by the forced exile that had not been done on purpose and whose goal was not the immediate destruction of his nation. By denying the “genocide” an Armenian will eliminate his Armenian identity and will be excluded from being a part of his nation. Therefore, dialogue between the Turks, who have their own mythos, and Armenians, whose mythos completely contradicts the Turkish one, seems to be fruitless.
If so, shouldn’t we attempt to find a compromise? Does it appear to be an abortive task? Doubtless we should, but the biggest problem is that the international community’s attitude on this issue is based on the epistemological mistake that the truth can be found in the past and the only truth is the Armenian one.
In addition to the epistemological misinterpretation of the problem, there is an ontological speculation with the word “genocide.”
The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide: the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” and the physical element that includes killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
This legal definition does not mention the deportation or exile of any nation in war conditions as it happened with the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. This act was not single in its kind in the history but it seems that only the Turkish case wasn’t in the world’s blind spot: the rights of the northern Caucasians exiled by Tsarist Russia in the 19th century have not been pursued yet: neither the former U.S.S.R nor contemporary Russia has faced any pressure or weighty international claims.
Armenia is the country with the world’s highest rate of people living in diaspora. The usage of “genocide” keeps them united, makes them feel they belong to the same place and share in the same grief. Believing in a common mythos makes them remain a nation.
However, should the entire world be persuaded to believe in the same mythos and in the same truth? Why does the world not try to understand that looking for the one Armenian truth can not be the fair act since sometimes there can be more than one fidelity?
11 Mar 2007
Open Letter To Members Of The Us House On The Armenian 'Genocide' Resolution
Madam Speaker and Distinguished Members of the House of Representatives,
I am taking the liberty of writing to you as a deeply concerned Turk, to put the record straight about the falsehoods submitted for adoption to the House of Representatives in Resolution 106, and to share, if you allow me, some of my important misgivings: . .
Unfortunately, this resolution, if it has a purpose at all to serve, is intended to poison Turkish-Armenian relations as well as the Turkish-American alliance and friendship. If the members of the U.S. House of Representatives wish to play a positive and constructive role in the promotion of these relations, this is the wrong resolution to consider. If it is passed, it will beyond a shadow of doubt immeasurably harm these relations, I am afraid, beyond repair.
The resolution before the House is categorically devoid of a historical or legal base and merely serves narrow political interests. It prejudges, telling only one side of a wartime tragedy of infighting which took place in the years 1915-16 when Turkey was at war with Russia for its very survival. This tragedy, without doubt, cut both ways, with Ottoman Christian subjects of the sultan fighting against Ottoman Muslim subjects. Armenian gangs were armed by the imperial Russians, some wearing Russian uniforms in Orthodox solidarity and fraternity, attacking their Muslim Turkish neighbors, and the Ottoman Turks retaliated, attacking in return. The government of the day, as a measure designed for their safety, deported the Armenians from the warfront of the Russian border with eastern Turkey to Syria, then part of the Ottoman Empire. This decision caused immeasurable hardship and proved in hindsight to be an ill-advised move during the catastrophic war conditions, because most regrettably many Armenians died on the way from adverse weather and even Kurdish attacks on the convoys, a fact we all deplore and still mourn today. It had been intended for them to return to their homes after the war, and indeed the wisdom or defensive necessity of this deportation, which came to be a such a human tragedy, is still debated in Turkey today. Exactly how many lost their lives in the process is beyond proof, but is kept by the Armenian diaspora as a bone of contention against successive Turkish governments, fanned as a burning issue and misused to build the "genocide" claim against Turkey.
From the legal point of view, as I am sure you know, the 1948 Genocide Convention of the United Nations cannot be applied retroactively. The important point of the convention is that the existence of an effort or intent to exterminate an ethnic group as such, in whole or in part, is essential to build a genocide claim. The Armenian side has persistently tried, even with forged documents, and miserably failed, to prove the intention to exterminate on the part of the then Ottoman government. Another fact the convention points out is that only a penal tribunal, either local or international, can be instrumental in processing genocide claims. The Armenian side has never felt sufficiently legally confident of their genocide claim to apply for the jurisdiction of any tribunal, because their claim is political and they cannot substantiate it legally in a court of law. The U.S. House of Representatives cannot assume the powers of a penal court, to decide on the veracity of an Armenian genocide claim.
It is public knowledge that neither the people of Turkey, nor successive Turkish governments, have ever denied the existence of a wartime tragedy in the midst of the Ottoman Empire in which Turks and Armenians killed each other, caused by Armenian subjects of the sultan wrongfully aligning themselves with the Russians and the British, enemies of Turkey in World War I, encouraged by the promise of a separate Armenian state to be carved out of the Ottoman Empire once the war was over.
My simple proposal to our Armenian friends was and is to look to the future and not to the past, to shake hands and apologize by simultaneously saying "sorry" for what happened some nine decades ago in loving memory and on behalf of our ancestors, as God knows how many of our Ottoman Turkish forefathers in eastern Turkey also suffered and were murdered in the infighting where Christian killed Muslim and vice versa.
I am sure you will agree with me that there should be an end to the acrimony and blame, but alas there was no reply from our Armenian friends to this personal proposal. The leadership of the Armenian diaspora are apparently determined to keep this enmity burning through the "genocide" claim, rather than help Turkey-Armenia relations prosper. Indeed, keeping the anti-Turkey genocide claim alive may itself be the reason for keeping a national Armenian identity abroad through the Armenian diaspora.
We in Turkey deeply mourn the recent heinous assassination of the Turkish-Armenian journalism Hrant Dink, whose confessed killers are before the criminal courts to account for their abominable crime. There are more than 40,000 Turkish nationals of Armenian living in Turkey and about 70,000 Armenian guest workers in Istanbul, which is connected by daily flights to Yerevan. Turkey recognizes the Republic of Armenia, although diplomatic relations still depend on the solution of the Karabakh problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the renouncing of Armenian territorial claims over eastern Turkey and compensation against genocide claims. The Turkey-Armenia border will be opened, and normal relations established and enjoyed, when Turkey's goodwill is reciprocated by Armenia.
The United States House of Representatives can adopt this resolution with disregard for these legal and historical facts, and by doing so will contribute absolutely negatively to Turkish-Armenian relations while at the same time harming irrevocably the Turkish-American relations which have deteriorated over the last few years from friendship, cooperation and alliance, to popular discontent, distrust and uneasiness, which is already a sorry state of affairs which we are trying hard to mend. It will be rubbing salt into the wound.
Historically, the Christian world has sympathized blindly and unquestioningly with the Armenian claims out of co-religious sentiments while disregarding the hard facts of who was right and who was wrong. Historical facts cut both ways, and we must first ask the question why, for what reason, this tragedy happened. In today's international atmosphere of global terror, for which the world of Islam is in toto and outright blamed by the non-Muslim world, I fear that if this resolution is passed as a show of yet more Christian support for Christian Armenians against Turkish Muslims, it will be seen as yet another affront to the Islamic world by hurting Muslim, but secular, Turkey.
I hope and pray that in its wisdom the House will act responsibly with regard to objective history, the rule of law and American national interests against short-term political gain.
May I ask you as a matter of urgently kindly to circulate a copy of this letter to all members of the House of Representatives,
With my thanks,
This is the text of the letter I sent on March 3 to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, whose email is firstname.lastname@example.org
12 March 2007
The Oxygen of Democracy
In the 18th century, the French philosopher Voltaire defined freedom of speech in a statement that succinctly conveyed both the complexity and the simplicity of the concept. “I may disagree with what you have to say,” he said, and added, “But I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.” . .
This notion has since been enshrined in national legislation around the globe. After the debacle of World War II, freedom of expression was included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the concept itself goes back much further. In the late 17th century, the English Parliament secured a Bill of Rights that granted “freedom of speech in Parliament,” and in the US, the founding fathers introduced the First Amendment of the US Constitution in 1791, guaranteeing freedom of religion, press and expression.
Yet, in the 21st century, freedom of expression appears to be in danger of being eroded everywhere. It is somewhat ironic, given that communication technology allows ideas to spread faster and more easily. But judging from the flurry of court cases that are taking place around the world, the limits of freedom of expression are constantly being tested and challenged, even in the most advanced of democracies.
Here are some recent examples:
In Thailand, a Swiss man faces 75 years in prison for insulting the king by defacing his portraits while drunk. The Thai king is protected by law from criticism;
In Turkey, a court suspended access to the Internet Web site You Tube for a few days because a Greek teenager uploaded a video insulting Atatürk;
Last week, a Swiss court in Lausanne sentenced Dogu Perinçek, the leader of Turkey’s Workers’ Party to a heavy fine for saying that the Armenian genocide was an “imperialist lie” under the terms of a law devised to combat racism;
In Turkey, a court case has been launched against a group of young people who wrote the lyrics of a song criticizing the university entrance exam system;
In France, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is facing defamation charges for reprinting the Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that caused protests across the Muslim world;
In 2006, an Austrian court jailed British “historian” David Irving for denying that the Holocaust against the Jews had ever taken place.
At stake here are not the ideas themselves, but the freedom to express them. Clearly, one can only reject the vile position adopted by Irving, yet it is questionable whether jailing him was the best way to protect Austria from a resurgence of anti-Semitism. For the same reason, Germany’s proposal to introduce a Europe-wide ban on Holocaust denial should be approached with caution. And while the Armenian question should be open to free debate, a Swiss court may not be best placed to issue a judgment on a historical matter. Meanwhile, in Turkey, the debate on Article 301 continues.
Should freedom of expression be unlimited? If not, where should it end? Finding the right answers to these questions is one of the most crucial issues facing liberal societies. Democracy cannot survive without the oxygen of free speech, but the fear that is gripping the world threatens to smother it. Napoleon Bonaparte believed that “a people which is able to say everything becomes able to do everything.” Perhaps we should all remember that freedom of expression is the best antidote to all forms of radicalism.
13.03.2007 Nicole Pope Zaman
Armenians Urge Eu To Echo Swiss ‘genocide' Ruling
Buoyed by a Swiss court's decision condemning Dogu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers' Party, for denying the Armenian "genocide," the Armenian lobby has called on the European Union to follow suit and also criminalize genocide denial. . .
In a written statement yesterday the European Armenian Federation called the Swiss verdict "an unprecedented legal victory." This is the first time a court has given a verdict on the Armenian "genocide" and is also the first time the alleged genocide has been recognized by a court of criminal law.
EU president Germany wants to criminalize the denial of recognized genocides, war crimes and crimes against humanity under a pan-EU law, with prison sentences for offenders of between one and three years. Though the Armenian lobby strongly supports the bid, several member states like Britain, Italy and Denmark oppose such legislation on the basis of freedom of expression.
"At the time when the EU is considering EU legislation aiming at penalizing genocide denial, the Swiss case shows the path to follow, i.e., the one in which denials of all clear instances of genocides are fined -- including those, such as the Armenian genocide, that have never been previously sanctioned by international jurisdiction," read the statement.
A controversial figure in Turkey, Perinçek immediately made it clear he would appeal the Swiss court's decision. He also signaled that he could take the verdict to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the verdict is upheld by the Swiss Supreme Court. Perinçek was fined 3,000 Swiss francs and has to pay another 1,000 in damages to the Switzerland-Armenia Association.
The Swiss press has criticized the verdict, arguing it has created the potential for future problems.
US Armenian Resolution ‘Indigestible’ To Turkey
The Turkish prime minister's foreign policy advisor has said insulting the Turkish nation with a genocide that their ancestors did not commit would be "indigestible," referring to the Armenian genocide resolution pending in the US Congress. . .
Speaking to Today's Zaman in Istanbul before leaving this weekend for the US with a group of Turkish legislators to lobby in Washington against the resolution, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Egemen Bagis said at a time when Turkey and the US have numerous joint projects going on, including Iraq's reconstruction, the resolution's passage would be unacceptable for the Turkish public, whose support for America's foreign policy has been extremely low.
"Adding these genocide allegations on top of the current bad situation would be like adding insult to injury. It would make things more complicated. This is not a threat. It would put the government in an awkward situation."
Bagis recalled that 80 percent of the logistical goods that the US troops use in Iraq go through Turkey and that 60 percent of them are made in Turkey.
"Turkey is the country with the second-highest casualties in Iraq after the US. Although we don't have any troops in Iraq, the Turkish truck drivers, engineers, construction workers and contractors who lost their lives in the efforts to rebuild Iraq, have reached about 150," he said, adding that the Turkish government has to take public opinion into consideration and take measures if such a resolution passed in the US Congress.
"We're hoping that those lawmakers in the United States understand the implications of the resolution, which they think is just a local issue to please their local Armenian constituency and has no binding effect on Turkey. But it's more than that. It can really inflect long-lasting damage to the relationship."
That's why he and a second parliamentary delegation visited to Washington on Sunday, Bagis said. He is joined by AK Party deputies Reha Denemeç and Vahit Erdem, and main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies Ersin Arioglu and Bihlun Tamayligil.
Also the chairman of Turkey-USA Interparliamentary Friendship Caucus, Bagis said the delegation will participate in a meeting of the Turkish-American Council today. The delegation will talk with members of Jewish organizations and travel to Chicago, which has very strong Turkish-American and African-American Muslim communities.
The Armenian genocide resolution was introduced on Jan. 30 and currently has about 170 cosponsors.
Turkey rejects the "genocide" label and argues that 300,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife, when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with Russian troops invading the crumbling Ottoman Empire during World War I.
US President George Bush will have to persuade the new Democratic-controlled Congress, which does not need presidential approval for such a resolution.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will decide whether to offer the bill for a full vote if, as expected, it is approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has expressed support.
Ilter Turkmen: It Is Wrong To Apply To International Court In Issue Of Armenian Genocide
ANKARA ARMENIANS TODAY. Former Turkish Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen treats sceptically current Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's and different politicians' proposal that applying to UN International Court for counteracting the "assertions" of Armenians on Armenian Genocide can be favorable for Ankara. .
Turkmen published an article in the Hurriyet daily, in which he mentioned that though the UN Court found Serbia guilty in the issue of committing a "genocide" towards Albanians, nevertheless, "that decision does not mean that Turkey can also register success in the issue of assertions on Armenian Genocide."
The Turkish diplomat considers that "they must not unconditionally believe legal rules" during international trials. "Every one knows that during such trials the political factor plays a more important role," Turkmen asserted.
"So, how can we be sure that the International Court will not blame the Ottoman state for committing the crime of genocide or even will not cause problems of compensation for Turkey?" the retired diplomat asks.
Ilter Turkmen considers that in the issue of Armenian Genocide Turkey should rely on the assertion that the UN International Convention on the genocide "is not retroactive." "If Turkey applies to the International Court, it will resist very serious dangers. Even if Armenia accepts this proposal of Ankara, this can last 10-15 years and during this period Turkey will again have many troubles. Let's not forget that Yerevan declined the proposal to create a joint commission of historians and this did not become a reason for another states' criticizing Armenia."
Turkmen concludes that for neutralizing the damages of Armenian Genocide his country should give preference to struggle on the political plane.
Mar 13 2007
Turkey Needs To Express Itself Better To The World
What Turks miss is that the promotion of a country is most effectively done by its individual citizens. Turkish patriots would do a better job if they stopped hacking Greek and Kurdish Web sites, and start launching their own blogs that will give the taste of Turkey to foreigners . .
Turkey might not have diamonds but it sits on silver, gold and bronze: Many civilizations have left traces in Turkey. However, it looks like the Turks are the last to acknowledge it, or simply they don't care. Turkish history books are heavily focused on Atatürk. Yes, Atatürk was a visionary, but Turkey should focus on its real culture and heritage. There is a lot to discover without falling into political debates all the time, damaging once again Turkey's image by sending out dualistic and schizophrenic signals.
The land of Turkey, of course, existed much before the establishment of the modern republic. While Europe, the Middle East and many other parts of the world were reshaping their borders in the beginning of the 20th century, Turkey was in the center of turmoil. After its victory in the War of Independence, and after establishing the Republic of Turkey, it forgot much of its heritage. It seemed to deny that civilizations are never built without foundations. Just like a wall made of bricks, they are all established upon former civilizations.
Discovering the Turkish heritage:
Michel Foucault once asked, “What system of relations, the hierarchy, its dominance, its stratification, and equivocal determination or circular causality may be established or separate us?” In simple words, the unity and glory of a nation lays not in its blood, but in its soul. And that soul is created when people work, live and love together and have a common goal - the survival of its cultural heritage.
So, if you want to speak about the cultural heritage of Turkey, you have to begin by going back to the very early ages. The present country of Turkey is an extension of the Hellenic, Armenian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations. They all built monumental sites - Palaces, churches, mosques, marinas, etc. - on the land now called “Türkiye.” Turkey should be proud that it bears all these layers of civilizations within its borders. But is Turkey ready to explore its mysterious history? Can she “communicate” this, or better, to say, can she “communi-care?”
Turkey's biggest asset is the Turkish people. This is a bold statement that I can make based on my working experience among them for the past five years. I should also add that in my professional carrier, I have worked with people from about 40 different nationalities.
But it looks like the Turkish people don't want to believe that they are in general a nice and warm society. Actually some of them constantly put Turkey under a bad spotlight. The Turks don't deserve this, as all the tourists who have visited Turkey know.
Moreover Turkey is an open-minded country. Not what we understand as “open-minded” in general, but open-minded to foreigners. It welcomes people from abroad with open arms, like the Americans do. But Americans just open their arms for you, while Turks “open and close” them around you. Even when they don't speak a foreign language, which is not one of their strengths, some kind of conversation always is possible. As a foreigner, traveling to a foreign country, several things count immediately: the taxi drivers, hotels and the restaurants. They are the business cards of each country, and Turkey's are fine.
Of course much can be said about the craziness of the traffic in Turkey - especially in Istanbul - but the average taxi driver is patient and gentle. While in many countries they are reluctant to help you with luggage, it is just natural in Turkey. And when you give them a tip, they are sincerely thankful, whereas in my home country, the Netherlands, you have to give a big tip to avoid angry faces.
Hotels in Turkey have some of the highest standards in hospitality management. No instant service with a Colgate smile, but real attention for quests and their wishes. Especially Americans visiting Istanbul get a culture shock since they think that they invented the word “service.”
And while visiting a restaurant, don't worry to bring your four children with you. Turkish people love them. No matter if you go to an ordinary kebab place or a fancy restaurant. There is always room and attention for children.
Airline, beer and football:
"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline,” said Frank Zappa, the famous U.S. musician. “And it helps further if you have some kind of a football team.”
Turkey scores well on all. It has a good airline, the Turkish Airlines with it 3 stars. It has a beer that can compete with Heineken, i.e., Efes. And Turkey sports teams are doing pretty well. And it has even more.
But unfortunately, according to the National Brand index, which gives a country a ranking regarding how foreigners perceive another country, Turkey bungles at the last place. How come? Well, Turkey is terrible in promoting and organizing itself - although it pays so much for PR campaigns and advertisements.
What Turks miss is that the promotion of a country is most effectively done by its individual citizens. Turkish patriots would do a better job if they stopped hacking Greek and Kurdish Web sites, and start launching their own blogs that will give the taste of Turkey to foreigners. What matters most in the new world is what appears about a country when it is “Googled” and “Yahood.” ……….
Hans A.H.C. de Wit is an international communication manager based in Istanbul.
Hans A.H.C. de Wit
March 15, 2007
R. Suny: Armenian-Turkish Relations Can Be Normalized Without Genocide Recognition
Recognition of the Armenian Genocide by scholars, the general public, and even officially by governments is an important step towards clearing the air that fouls relations between Armenians and Turks, Armenia and Turkey, Professor of Social and Political History of the University of Michigan Ronald Grigor Suny stated to the PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. .
He said, efforts to prevent such recognition only pollutes the atmosphere and makes progress in improving relations more difficult. "But this does not mean that official recognition of the Genocide by one or another government should be a prerequisite for discussion, negotiation, or other kinds of relationships. Armenian-Turkish relations can be normalized without official recognition. Indeed, relations can lead to recognition rather than the other way round," Suny noted.
At the same time he thinks that opening the Armenian-Turkish border would be a very useful first step to improving relations between the two neighboring countries, it would help the economies of both countries. "Trade can have positive political and social effects. Armenia's official position on Turkish membership in the EU is a sound and correct one: Turkish membership will aid democratization in Turkey and therefore improve the situation for Armenians in Turkey and relations between Turkey and Armenia.
However, at the moment Europe is reluctant to open itself to Turkish membership, particularly given the dismal human rights record in Turkey, the repression of the Kurds and other non-Turkish peoples, the murder of Hrant Dink, and the persecutions of Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, and other intellectuals. Turkish democracy and membership in the EU go hand in hand, and as they develop, Turkish-Armenian relations will also be affected positively," Professor Ronald Suny underscored.
'Incirlik May be Closed if Armenian Resolution Passes'
A senior US State Department official warned Congress yesterday against passing a resolution supporting Armenian claims of genocide, saying the move could result in Turkey closing the Incirlik air base that is used by the US military.
Daniel Fried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe that Turkish officials have informed the US that approval of the resolution could lead to a shutdown of the base or a restriction on US overflight privileges granted by Turkey. He also said the US has been informed that Ankara would respond with "extreme emotion" if the Armenian resolution were approved.
He added that such a step would undercut voices in Turkey calling for a "truthful exploration of these events in pursuit of Turkey's reconciliation with its own past and with Armenia."
In what appears to be one of the strongest appeals to the Congress from the administration against passage of the resolution, Fried also said it runs counter to the views of the 60,000 to 70,000-strong Turkish-Armenian community, which has been warning that the measure would "raise popular emotions so dramatically as to threaten their personal security." He added the US fear was that "passage of any such resolution would close minds and harden hearts."
Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent identical letters to the speaker of the House of Representatives and two other senior House members. They contended in the letters that the security of the US was at risk from proposed legislation in the House of Representatives that would declare up to 1.5 million Armenians victims of genocide on Turkish soil almost a century ago.
In the letters, dated March 7, Rice and Gates also said the resolution could inflict significant damage on US efforts to reconcile the long-standing dispute between Ankara and Yerevan, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The appeals went to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and representatives John Boehner, leader of the House's Republican minority, and Tom Lantos, the Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
A Democratic aide said Pelosi, who controls the House agenda, has no immediate plan to bring the proposal before the House.
New resolution before Senate
In the Senate, however, Republican John Ensign and Democrat Richard Durbin presented a draft resolution that, similar to the one in the House, calls for official recognition of the alleged Armenian genocide.
The draft had been signed by 21 senators when it was presented to the Senate on Wednesday.
"The Armenian genocide was the 20th century's first genocide, a vicious, organized crime against humanity that included murder, deportation, torture and slave labor. US clarity on this historical fact is of utmost importance and long past due," Durbin was quoted as saying by the Armenian media on Thursday.
Democratic 2008 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, who are known for their support of the Armenian diaspora in the US, didn't sign the draft resolution, though the Democratic Party's 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, along with Edward Kennedy and Joe Lieberman, did.
The US administration assures Ankara that it is opposed to the resolution, although it has limited means to convince Congress not to vote for it.
Turkey categorically denies charges that Armenians were subject to genocide during World War I and says there were deaths on both sides after Armenians took up arms and revolted against the Ottoman Empire.
Egemen Bagis of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), who is in Washington with a group of Turkish deputies to convey Turkish feelings toward possible passage of the resolution in the US Congress, said that two members of the Congress -- Democrat Dennis Moore and Republican Phil English -- have already withdrawn their support from the resolution.
Bagis also said that he was more optimistic than on his last visit to the US capital eight weeks ago that the resolution would not be approved by the House of Representatives. "Americans are aware of the gravity of the situation. They don't want to lose an ally like Turkey," he said.
Today's Zaman with wires Istanbul
'Turkey Could Close Incirlik Base'
The New Anatolian with agencies / Washington
17 March 2007
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried warned Congress yesterday against passing a resolution supporting Armenian claims of genocide, saying the move could result in Turkey closing the Incirlik Air Base used by the U.S. military
A bill on the so-called Armenian genocide was introduced in the U.S Senate on Thursday. The bill was drawn up by Democrat Richard Durbin and Republican John Essington. Senators John Kerry, Edward Kennedy and Joe Lieberman also signed the bill. It is interesting that supporters of the bill including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and Joseph Bidenin have not signed the bill this time. A total of 21 out of 100 senators have declared their support for the bill.
The bill was submitted to the House of the Representatives on Jan. 30
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told a hearing of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe that Turkish officials have informed the U.S. that approval of the resolution could lead to a shutdown of the base or a restriction on U.S. overflight privileges granted by Turkey.
He also said the U.S. has been informed that Ankara would respond with "extreme emotion" if the Armenian resolution were approved.
Turkey provides vital support to U.S. military operations. Incirlik Air Force Base, a major base in southern Turkey, has been used by the U.S. to launch operations into Iraq and Afghanistan and was a center for U.S. fighters that enforced the "no-fly zones" which kept the Iraqi air force bottled up after the 1991 Gulf War.
He added the U.S. fear was that "passage of any such resolution would close minds and harden hearts."
At the same time, Daniel Fried has described the events that happened in 1915 during the Ottoman Empire as a massacre.
Robert Wexler, chair of the Europe Subcommittee and the U.S.-Turkey Friendship group also underlined that anti-American mood has increased in Turkey and if the genocide draft is adopted U.S. opposition would increase.
Joseph Ralston, the U.S. special envoy for countering the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Daniel Fata, a Pentagon representative said that cold relations with Turkey would affect U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This is an incredibly sensitive issue inside Turkey, and what we are trying to encourage the Turks to have is meaningful reform of their dealings with Armenia," said Ralston
In joint identical letters to the speaker of the House of Representatives and two other senior members, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the resolution also could inflict significant damage on U.S. efforts to reconcile the long-standing dispute between the West Asian neighbors.
In the letters, Rice and Gates drew attention to the consequences of French Parliament's passing genocide bill that made it crime to deny Armenian genocide claims.
"Turkey cut off all relations with France, including the military sphere and refused military contracts under discussion due to the adoption of that resolution. The resolution could inflict significant damage on the U.S. soldiers located in the region and create problems for the divisions deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and inflict significant damage on U.S. efforts to reconcile the long-standing dispute between Turkey and Armenia," they said.
The appeals went to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representatives John Boehner, leader of the House's Republican minority, and Tom Lantos, the Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Turkey strongly opposes the claims that its predecessor state, the Ottoman government, caused the Armenian deaths in a planned genocide. The Turkish government has said the toll is wildly inflated and that Armenians were killed or displaced in civil unrest during the empire's collapse and conditions of World War I. Ankara's proposal to Yerevan to set up a joint commission of historians to study the disputed events is still awaiting a positive response from the Armenian side. After French lawmakers voted last October to make it a crime to deny that the claims were genocide, Turkey said it would suspend military relations with France.
The Importance of Emotion in Turkish-American Relations
Former US Consul General in Istanbul David L. Arnett
(Dr. Arnett retired from the U.S. Department of State in November 2005 after 31 years in the Foreign Service, including nine years in Turkey. He served as the Consul General in Istanbul from 2002 to 2005. He is now actively engaged as a writer and speaker in the U.S. This article of his originally appeared in the Winter 2006/07 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly, and is reprinted with permission.). .
I am not giving you an order to attack. I am ordering you to die." Atatürk stated in later years on more than one occasion that he had thoroughly understood the mentality of his Anatolian soldiers. He was able to draw upon their patriotism, sense of honor, and raw emotion to elicit the heights of heroism that were displayed by his troops at Gallipoli. American leaders have too often ignored those same fundamental and magnificent elements in their dealings with Turkey - patriotism, honor, emotion. And Turks have too often allowed those same elements to devolve into something less admirable in their dealings with the United States -nationalism, pride, anger.
Practically all of the conflicts between the United States and Turkey, both past and present, can be explained by American lack of sensitivity to Turkish emotional responses and Turkish overreaction to perceived American arrogance. There is also a tendency by Turks to focus heavily on their own sense of outrage while downplaying the emotional effects of their own actions. I will draw upon a series of key historical events to demonstrate these points.
At the outset, however, I wish to avoid the irony of emotional responses elicited by an article dealing with emotional responses. This article touches upon sensitive issues that need to be brought into the open and discussed much more thoroughly in both Turkey and the United States. I raise them with the greatest of respect and genuine love for both my native country and the country that I now know has provided much of my genetic heritage.
Sevres and Lausanne:
Any discussion of emotion and modern Turkey must begin with the abortive Treaty of Sevres (1920) and the honored Treaty of Lausanne (1923), and American diplomats and political leaders must be thoroughly familiar with both in order to work successfully with Turkey. Against all odds at the end of the First World War, Atatürk rallied his countrymen from the heart of the Turkish homeland and beat back the Western powers that had tried to divide the last remnant of the Ottoman Empire with the Treaty of Sevres-and defeated rebellious minority groups that tried to secede and carve out separate countries from the Anatolian heartland. Consequently, the modern Republic of Turkey was held together in the beginning by the will of Atatürk and a strong nationalism based upon pride in being a Turkish citizen. All other ethnic identification became suspect, and the undeniable ethnic and religious minorities within Turkey have been viewed to this day by many, sadly, as internal threats that might fracture the unity of the state.
Sevres ignited the nationalist movement that led to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, and Lausanne codified the new country's borders and international responsibilities. Both treaties lie at the very heart of Turkish national identity, and both are wrapped in such iconographic emotional fervor that they are still referred to on a daily basis in the Turkish media and in political speeches. The problem is that very few people have actually read them, particularly the operative Treaty of Lausanne.
Turkish government leaders have boycotted American diplomatic receptions in honor of Greek Orthodox leaders from the United States because the invitations have referred to his All Holiness Bartholomew as the Ecumenical Patriarch. They fear that the word "Ecumenical" will provide the basis for claims of extraterritoriality in Turkey and subsequent expropriation of Turkish land. Both editorialists and high-ranking politicians have insisted that the Patriarch's title and status have been fully and finally delineated in the Treaty of Lausanne, and they have invariably referred back emotionally to the Treaty of Sevres to justify their fear of foreign claims on Turkish land. The Patriarchate in Istanbul has been physically attacked as a result of the emotions fanned by the editorialists.
The ‘non-Muslim minorities':
Similarly, when the United States has raised the issue of religious freedom and places of worship for such American Christian denominations as the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, their lack of status in the Lausanne Treaty has been mentioned on occasion officially -and frequently unofficially in emotional editorials and political speeches that cite the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Jewish faiths as the only officially recognized minorities in the Lausanne Treaty.
However, there is no mention at all of the Patriarchate, the Patriarch, or his title in the Lausanne Treaty, just as there is no mention of any specific religious or ethnic minority in the Treaty. The only reference is to "non-Muslim minorities." Moreover, all such "non-Muslim minorities" are provided with protections in the Treaty that appear not to have been honored in practice. Quite contrary to the fear that the Patriarchate might somehow expropriate Turkish land, it is the property of the Patriarchate, the Armenian Orthodox Church, the Jewish community, and other non-Muslim religious denominations that has been expropriated or controlled by the Turkish government, in apparent violation of the terms of the Lausanne Treaty.
Article 37: Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained in Articles 38 to 44 shall be recognized as fundamental laws, and that no law, no regulation, nor official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation, nor official action prevail over them.
Article 40: Turkish nationals belonging to non-Muslim minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other Turkish nationals. In particular, they shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense, any charitable, religious, and social institutions, and schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein.
Article 42: …The Turkish government undertakes to grant full protection to the churches, synagogues, cemeteries, and other religious establishments of the above-mentioned minorities. All facilities and authorization will be granted to the pious foundations, and to the religious and charitable institutions of the said minorities at present existing in Turkey, and the Turkish government will not refuse, for the formation of new religions and charitable institutions, any of the necessary facilities which are guaranteed to other private institutions of that nature.
Those who argue that the phrase "minorities at present existing in Turkey" limits discussion to the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Jewish faiths neglect to note that the Syriac Christians and other faiths were equally present in Turkey at the time. Nor does it make any difference, since "new religious and charitable institutions" are guaranteed full protection anyway. Any reference to the minutes of the Lausanne Treaty negotiations is essentially meaningless, except for historians, since it is the Treaty itself that carries the force of law, not the debates that led to the Treaty, and Article 37 confirms the primacy of the Treaty language over any subsequent national law or official action.
The Halki Seminary:
The issue of the completely counter-productive closure of the Halki Seminary on Heybeliada in 1971 remains an open sore in Turkey's international relations, despite the clear right of the Church to "establish, manage, and control" such a school as spelled out in Article 40 and the primacy of Lausanne Treaty rights over national education laws as affirmed in Article 37. Nevertheless, any resolution of the Halki issue and other matters concerning religious minorities appears to lie in the indefinite future, as nationalist emotion and xenophobia stemming from the treaty of Sevres prevent consideration of just solutions by the government.
Regrettably, the problem also extends more broadly to non-religious minorities. For example, meaningful language rights still denied in practice to Turkish Kurds are also fully protected in the Lausanne Treaty:
Article 39: …No restriction shall be imposed on the free use by any Turkish national of any language in private intercourse, religion, in the press, or in any publications of any kind or at public meetings.
In short, the honored Treaty of Lausanne, which is referred to constantly and emotionally in Turkey as the sacred foundation of the modern Republic, imposes societal obligations on the state that have simply not been met. The "understanding" of the Treaty by the public at large is emotional, rather than rational. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the ongoing problems with the treatment of minorities in Turkey is a direct consequence of the failure of successive governments to honor the requirements of the Lausanne Treaty, and the great irony is that nationalists who refer emotionally to the Treaty for justification of the suppression of minority rights are actually citing the document that enshrines those rights.
Similarly, the very image and memory of Atatürk himself have been expropriated by those who fear their own citizens. Everyone can understand Atatürk's need to forge unity from division in order to establish and maintain the new Republic under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Eighty years later, however, few can understand the need to demonize Turkish minorities and even on occasion to deny that they exist. Atatürk himself, an avid reformer and one of the greatest visionaries of the 20th century, would surely resent his artificial image of stern ultra-conservative as crafted for him by contemporary nationalists. When such elements speak out emotionally against Turkish membership in the European Union because of the social liberalization required by such membership, they are undercutting Atatürk's grand dream of westernization for Turkey and full participation in "contemporary civilization."
IIReality has been subverted by emotional shorthand that does not withstand the test of examination. Those who shout "Lausanne" are referring to a document that actually refutes them. Those who loudly invoke "Atatürk" attempt to use his memory as an obstacle to change, although the man himself was the very embodiment of change. Those who deny the existence of "minorities" in Turkey refuse to honor the dictionary definition: "Minority: a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment." Oddly, they insist that minorities must be named in the Lausanne treaty in order to exist but have no difficulty locating the Turkomen in Iraq, ethnic Turks in Greece, and even Turkish Americans in the United States.
The task of the United States is to be aware of such emotionalism in Turkey and to acknowledge it in ways that are positive and productive for both countries. For example, the decision to send the body of Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Münir Ertegün home to Turkey in honor aboard the battleship Missouri in 1946 arose not only from a wish to warn the Soviet Union away from Turkey but also from a conscious recognition of the positive impact that the humanitarian gesture would have on the Turkish people.
Such gestures are worth far more than any amount of aid or even political support in terms of strengthening Turkish-American relations. For example, the genuine affection of the Turkish people for Bill Clinton stems not from any policy decisions that he made in regard to Turkey when he was President but rather from the simple human act of picking up a Turkish baby and allowing it to play with his nose when he was visiting the region struck by the devastating 1999 earthquake.
It would not be difficult for the United States to seek out opportunities for such gestures and to include them as a major component of its ongoing relations with Turkey. However, too many American officials focus far more on "hard policy" issues and strategizing than they do on basic human relations and the importance of emotional impact. That is a mistake, particularly in regard to Turkey.
The ‘Johnson Letter':
A case in point is the infamous "Johnson Letter" of June 5, 1964. Certainly, it was written in haste, as the United States had been advised that Turkish troops were on the verge of moving on Cyprus, and, just as certainly, it was not written by President Johnson himself, although he approved it. The primary American goals at the time were to prevent a war between NATO allies Turkey and Greece and to forestall any possibility of involvement in the conflict by the Soviet Union. The U.S. succeeded in those aims but at the cost of alienating Turkey and damaging the partnership to such an extent that it never really recovered the initial closeness generated by NATO membership and joint participation in the Korean conflict. The message itself was tough -do not invade or the U.S. and NATO may not be able to assist if the Soviet Union becomes involved- but the primary damage was done more by the cold and blunt tone of the letter. Greater reliance on "emotional intelligence" and far greater knowledge of Turkish pride and emotional response could have produced a letter conveying the intense American concern without the slap in the face, particularly since the Turkish intervention was motivated by the ongoing violence against Turkish Cypriots and sanctioned by the 1960 Cyprus Treaty of Guarantee.
As a people ruled for centuries by sultans who embodied the state within themselves, and as a people who still rely on the practice of "torpil," or personal "influence at court," Turks tend to personalize official contacts and international relations. Countries themselves are personified, and the United States has been thought of at times as a friend and brother and at other times as an untrustworthy foreigner and outsider.
There is no more important institution in Turkey than the family, and there are still intricate traditions and customs that rule family relationships. Even the Turkish language testifies to these intricacies, as there are separate words for paternal and maternal grandparents, as well as paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, and even older brothers and sisters, as opposed to other siblings. When the United States has assumed the role of benevolent older brother ("agabey") or even that of a kindly "Uncle Sam," the relationship has flourished. The Johnson Letter, however, was perceived in Turkey as a completely unexpected and treacherous blow leveled by one brother on another.
There are countless Turkish proverbs attesting to the importance of family and friendship. One of the most peculiarly resonant today follows: "Ana gibi yâr, Bagdat gibi diyar olmaz." [To a man there is no friend like a brother, and no land like Iraq.] Conversely, when a brother has betrayed his brother, "Kardes degil, kara tas." [He is not a brother; he is a black stone.]
None of this would have been suspected by President Johnson and his advisors. The letter was meant to be a strong warning between allies about the consequences of Turkish intervention on Cyprus. Instead, it was perceived as a personal affront to Prime Minister I.nönü and the Turkish nation, as well as a violation of the norms of friendship and brotherhood, and it remains a black mark on Turkish-American relations to this day.
The Sulaimaniye affair:
The contemporary parallel to the outrage felt in Turkey in response to the Johnson Letter has been the intense national reaction to the arrest of Turkish soldiers by American troops in Sulaimaniye, Iraq, on July 4, 2003. It is far too late for facts to moderate the emotional fervor that now surrounds the incident. It has led directly to massive loss of support for the United States in Turkey, and its ripples can be felt in such damaging and emotion-laden works as the film "Valley of the Wolves - Iraq," in which the Americans are unspeakable villains.
On the other hand, what actually happened in Sulaimaniye? Part of the problem from the beginning has been that only one side of the story ever reached the Turkish public. The reasons for the American action remain classified, and the full story may only reach the public through future historians. It has been noted, though, that the arrests were conducted to prevent imminent destabilization in the area. A series of questions has never been answered in Turkey or even posed publicly: Who leaked the one-sided story to the Turkish media and with what intent? Why were the Turkish soldiers in civilian clothes and without identification? What were they doing there?
On the American side, ignorance of Turkey and the special role of its armed forces in the national consciousness played a pivotal role. None of the American soldiers directly involved in the arrest would have known that the Turkish military is by far the most respected public institution in the country and that "Mehmet" embodies the honor of the entire nation. Even if the intent were to prevent a serious act of violence, the "bagging" of the soldiers should have been avoided. It does not help to emphasize that handcuffing and bagging are standard procedures when arresting suspected militants in Iraq, as troops from a NATO ally are clearly in a very different category. On the other hand, "troops" do not wear civilian clothes while on duty, and there is a genuine question about whether the American soldiers could differentiate between the Turkish soldiers and anyone else who may have been on their compound.
Emotional response has now rendered all such argument useless. "Sulaimaniye" will remain a burning emotional symbol in the Turkish consciousness of American disrespect for Turkish honor no matter what the facts may be.
The trouble with Iraq:
In all matters regarding Iraq, however, emotional response is a two-way street, and Turkish commentators and politicians have too often not taken into account American emotions and American honor. With American soldiers dying in northern Iraq in an attempt to prevent further violence and destabilization in the region, is it any wonder that firm action would be taken against any group believed to be undercutting that effort?
It is clearly just as important for Turkish policymakers to understand and respect allied sensitivities and emotional responses as it is for American policymakers to do the same in dealing with Turkey. It would be a mistake to underestimate the belief held by American defense officials that fewer American soldiers would have died in Iraq if Turkey had participated as expected and that the entire complexion of the resistance that followed would have been different if more of Saddam's military forces had been eliminated in the expected pincer movement from the north.
In addition, one country in particular that might well hesitate to speak about lack of UN authorization for military operations in Iraq is Turkey, because its own military forces have been operating in Iraq without international sanction for many years. The one country that spoke up repeatedly on Turkey's behalf when it pursued the PKK into Iraq and received international condemnation for it was the United States. American diplomats addressed the international media on the subject on many occasions, noting that the incursions were temporary and limited and that Turkish forces were taking special measures to avoid civilian casualties. The United States also took pains not to condemn or fault Turkey when it stationed its troops well inside the border of Iraq years ago.
In return, however, Turks on all sides of the political spectrum have condemned the United States for acting in Iraq without additional UN approval (while neglecting to note that the United States and NATO acted both in Bosnia and Kosovo without full UN approval to protect the Muslim populations from genocide. Moreover, some Turkish politicians have accused the United States -not just emotionally but hysterically- of genocide in Fallujah and of targeting civilians in Iraq in general.
The emotional double-standard:
Therefore, it is also incumbent on Turkish leaders and opinion-makers to recognize the lasting scars that can deface the Turkish-American relationship when American sensitivities are discounted. A further example of the emotional double-standard: When a handful of American cartoonists satirized Turkey's wish for greater economic support in the lead-up to the vote on the "tezkere," the entire country became inflamed by the presumed insult, particularly since one of the cartoons depicted a figure resembling the Prime Minister in the guise of a belly dancer with dollar bills sticking out of his belt. The American cartoonists quickly moved on to other subjects, of course, and the furor passed. In Turkey, however, the American President is caricatured mercilessly every day in the Turkish media, either as a bloodthirsty vampire or far worse. Does no one perceive this as an insult in Turkey, or are such things only insulting when directed at Turks?
With the feared clash of civilizations looming on the horizon, Turkey and the United States have a particular responsibility to help dispel it, first and foremost through the example of their own close relations, in addition to their shared history of providing religious sanctuary to oppressed believers. The emotions that arise from religion are the strongest known to mankind. However, the mass murder of innocents committed by suicide bombers in the name of God can only be counted as evil and sinful in every religion despite the religious fervor that may have motivated it. As the Prime Minister noted publicly after the terrible bombs exploded in Istanbul in November of 2003, "Those who bloodied this holy day and massacred innocent people will account for it in both worlds. They will be damned for eternity."
The future of religion in Turkey will do no less than determine whether the clash of civilizations can be avoided, and it is the ability to channel religious emotion in positive directions that will determine the future of religion. We must first admit that someone who shares our religion in name may very well not share our religion in his heart. When Sunnis and Shiites kill each other in Iraq or Catholics and Protestants kill each other in Northern Ireland, is it possible to believe that any of the people involved actually carry the teachings of Islam or Christianity in their hearts?
Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria, and Iran:
Emotions arising from religious differences clearly need to be controlled, and religious labels are a poor substitute for an objective evaluation of national interests. Would the Turkish public's view of the struggle in Iraq be different if a Shiite minority under a bloodthirsty Shiite dictator had been oppressing a large Sunni majority for decades? Are some in Turkey overlooking terrorist actions or terrorist support tied to Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria, and Iran simply because of the emotional connection to Islam?
What is not in question is that religious passions and religious labels in Turkey have led to brutal acts of murder in recent years. The most infamous has been the attack on a hotel in Sivas in 1993 and the resultant burning to death of 36 people, almost all of them Alevis. It was a violent act of hatred motivated by uncontrolled religious emotion. Turkey is not unique, of course, in its experience with such emotional attacks. We need only think of far worse clashes between Muslims and Hindus in India. And the United States is far from immune from "hate crimes."
Nevertheless, the geographical and historical position of Turkey at the nexus of Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East demands special responsibility in resolving the negative passions driving the conflict of civilizations. There are simply too many instances in Turkey of people charging ahead with murderous intent aroused out of deluded belief and blind emotion. The synagogue bombings in Istanbul connected to al-Qaeda in 2003 were committed by Turkish citizens against Turkish citizens, apparently in the belief that all Jews are Israelis and that all Israelis deserve to die. The attack on the Masonic Lodge in Istanbul that followed on March 9, 2004, again was committed by Turkish citizens against Turkish citizens in the belief that all Masons are Jews and that all Jews should be murdered. The killing of Father Santoro in Trabzon by a Turkish teenager on February 5, 2006 was apparently an emotionally deluded response to the publishing of newspaper cartoons of the Prophet in Denmark.
The path from one heart to another:
Emotions run close to the surface in Turkey, and little is needed to provoke an aggressive response. Insults can be detected where none is intended. An admirable sense of honor can too easily be transmuted into raw hatred. Why should the outrage voiced by the Muslim community against the Pope's thoughtless quotation of a medieval emperor on the subject of Islam have been led by Turkish voices in the international media? Should the Deputy Head of the ruling party in Turkey not have waited a day or two and ascertained the facts of the matter before declaring in public, "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."
This is the challenge in Turkish-American relations: American leaders must always remain aware of emotional response in Turkey, and Turkish leaders must always do their best to moderate the tendency to react too fast and too strongly to perceived slights or insults. Otherwise, the enormous potential for positive international action that is inherent in the Turkish-American relationship will be forever limited and stunted.
American leaders cannot hope to match the brilliant understanding of the Turkish people demonstrated by Atatürk. But they can and should be aware of the all-important emotional connections between friends and allies. Turkish leaders should forgive the periodic emotional blindness of their American counterparts and seek out the ties of abiding friendship that connect our two great nations: "Gönülden gönüle yol vardir." [There is always a path from one heart to another] That is the heart of the matter
March 17, 2007
The emotion factor in Turkish-US relations
March 17, 2007
Sami Kohen, Milliyet
Reasons for disaccord and tension in Turkish-U.S. relations have been scrutinized for a while by Turkish and U.S. analysts. In general, difficulties and crises in bilateral relations are evaluated as an outcome of different - and sometime counter - attitudes the two countries adopt for specific political issues due to their contradicting interests. The latest example is a serious shake in relations caused by the conflicts about Iraq and northern Iraq specifically. If we go back a little more, from the Cyprus issue causing the known U.S. sanction to the so-called Armenian genocide bills frequently served in the U.S. Congress, many incidents might be uttered among reasons harming bilateral relations. However, it is inadequate trying to explain the rage and public wave of indignation in particular along with occasional shakes in Turkish-U.S. relations by these political factors only. In fact, many diplomats and analysts are surprised by how the relations reach such critical points and are having a hard time to understand the scale of reactions showed…
Beside political differences of opinion, aren't there some other reasons that play role in the relations' easily getting fragile in the presence of certain issues and reaching critical points? A former U.S. diplomat who is closely familiar with Turkey gives several thought-provoking hints on the subject in an analysis.
Retired two years ago after completing his term of duty at the U.S. General Consulate in Istanbul, David Arnett in his article published in "Turkish Policy Quarterly" by the ARI Movement asserts that a significant factor determining developments in Turkish-U.S. relations is the emotional character of Turkish society and that sensitivity is not considered well enough by the United States. Therefore, unenviable outcomes emerge.
Arnett, who is fluent in Turkish and has many friends in Turkey, clarifies at the beginning of his article that he doesn't want to receive emotional reactions just because of this “article on emotional reactions,” and his purpose is to bring “sensitive issues” to the fore and open up a discussion on them. In the article, characteristics of Turkish society, which have not been dwelled upon in similar articles so far, are shed light on to. In the article, Arnett mentions the traces of phases from the Treaty of Sevres to the Lausanne Treaty that Turkey went through in the near past and sensitivities they have created. After this detailed background, Arnett explains that in recent years the United States turned a blind eye on that factor and lashed out at Turkey, and the Washington-Ankara ties were harmed by the effect of emotional reaction the United States caused in Turkey. In this context, numerous examples are listed such the “Johnson letter” dated 1964 and the “Sulaymaniya sack case.” However, these reactions in Turkey go to extremes sometimes due to lack of information or misinformation that causes distress in bilateral relations, Arnett asserts. The conclusion he reaches is: U.S. leaders should be aware of Turkey's emotional reactions and Turkish leaders in turn should be able to prevent a tendency to exhibit reactions fiercely.
In short, in a period that Turkish-U.S. relations enter a critical phase again, the message of this analysis is that both parties should better know and understand each other and act less emotional and more rational…
Ancient Armenia Fights To Survive Isolation
March 17, 2007
KHOR VIRAP - AFP
Tantalisingly close and cruelly distant, Armenia's national symbol, the legendary Mount Ararat, soars just beyond reach for a country fighting to escape isolation.
The snow-capped mountain -- named in the Bible as the place Noah's Ark grounded after the Great Flood -- dominates the horizon from as far away as Armenia's capital Yerevan. .
But that proximity is an illusion. The extinct volcano lies just across Armenia's hostile border with Turkey, turning a centuries-old source of inspiration into an emblem of this Christian people's growing difficulties.
"Ararat symbolises all Armenia, all the pain in our soul," Arsen Yegikian, 32, an auditor, said as he visited the church of Khor Virap, a popular viewing point on the frontier.
All four of Armenia's borders are either closed or problematic, forcing this landlocked and resource-poor state of three million people to struggle for access to the world.
Turkey shut its land border in 1993 in support of Armenia's eastern neighbour, Azerbaijan, which lost a war in the early 1990s with Armenian forces for control of Nagorny Karabakh and a swath of other Azeri territory.
On the Azeri-Armenian border, the cut-off encompasses air, rail, road, telephone and postal links.
Meanwhile, Armenians can only access their main economic and military ally, Russia, through Georgia to the north and the road route is all but excluded due to Russian-Georgian tensions.
The way south to Iran is open and a new pipeline bringing Iranian gas is about to enter service, but with Tehran and Washington in a dangerous stand-off many here are afraid that border could also shut.
"If something happens tomorrow with Iran -- God forbid -- it will be even harder," Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakossian told AFP.
Increasingly Armenia, a proud nation with an ancient language and unique alphabet, finds itself left out of projects that are transforming the rest of the ex-Soviet Caucasus.
New oil and gas pipelines snaking from Azerbaijan to Western markets bypass to the north. Just last month, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey agreed to build a new east-west railway route -- again missing Armenia.
The people of this starkly beautiful and rugged land are trying to fight back and last year gross domestic product (GDP) posted double-digit growth.
One key to salvation has been a diaspora estimated at almost nine million people scattered across the United States, Russia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
These are descendants of refugees from the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century and about a million others who left the poverty of post-Soviet Armenia during the last 15 years.
Their donations and transfers to Armenia amounted to 1.2 billion dollars (900,000 euros) last year, an impressive chunk of the country's 6.5-billion-dollar (five-billion-euro) GDP, economist Tigran Jrbashyan said. "Emigres are Armenia's version of oil."
About 30 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank, and the countryside beyond Yerevan is littered with shut-down ex-Soviet factories.
But according to Jrbashyan, the cutting of Armenia's traditional trade routes has also forced the economy to switch from cheap bulk exports to more profitable high-tech sectors, such as IT and diamond processing.
Construction is also booming -- rising 43 percent last year -- and Yerevan is being transformed into a sophisticated city.
"I don't want to exaggerate, but in conditions of a blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as a conflict, we have still managed economic success," Kirakossian said.
Such confidence, however, masks widespread fears about Armenia's vulnerability. Many ordinary people, for example, worry how Russian investors are gobbling up strategic enterprises, including most of the energy network.
Yegikian, standing by the stunning church of Khor Virap, said his people were desperate to join the outside world.
"Everyone here is for opening that border," said Yegikian, gazing across no-man's land to a Turkish village. "Globalisation is happening and we can't stay outside."
Armenians may "never" trust Turks, Yegikian said, "but when you talk in the language of business, then everything else falls into second place."
Of course, even reopening the border would not change the fact that Mount Ararat is likely always to remain Turkish.
From Khor Virap you plainly see the border fence and watchtowers. Chimney smoke rises from a Turkish village.
"Of course this is hard to bear," said Kirakossian, whose office is decorated with a picture of the iconic mountain. "But if we had normal relations with our neighbours, then people could at least visit."
Military Officials Worry about Fallout if U.S. Passes Genocide Resolution
STUTTGART, Germany — Military officials are worried about the fallout if Congress passes a symbolic resolution to recognize the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey as “genocide.”
The Turkish government claims the deaths, which mostly occurred from 1915 to 1918 during World War I, were not genocide but part of civil war, disease and famine as the Ottoman Empire was falling apart. Armenians, who originate from Armenia on Turkey’s eastern border, want the deaths acknowledged for historical and moral purposes as atrocities and genocide at the hands of Turks.
Post-empire Turkey, a moderate, Muslim-majority nation and NATO member since 1952, hosts Incirlik Air Base, home to 1,500 U.S. troops and an important cargo and refueling hub. A resolution could sour Turkish public sentiment toward the U.S., possibly leading to restrictions regarding Incirlik and Turkish air space.
“I’m worried about the potential impact to our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. Robertus Remkes, director of strategy, policy and assessments at the U.S. European Command.
House Resolution 106, introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and backed by House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among others, could come to a vote in April.
A number of nations have already recognized the deaths as genocide. France passed a similar resolution in October, which the Turks viewed as an insult, and it sparked threats of Turkish boycotts and sanctions against France.
“If you see Turkish public opinion going away from the West, where do you see it going?” Remkes said.
Remkes made his comments as weeklong meetings in Germany were concluding between mid- to senior-level officers from the U.S. and Turkish militaries.
The meetings, which took place in Stuttgart, Heidelberg and Ramstein, were to strengthen ties among the officers, whose jobs are to prepare their respective generals for high- level discussions and decisions. The meetings with their Turkish counterparts were pleasantly frank, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Jordan Thomas, the planning directorate’s Turkey desk officer.
“We didn’t agree on everything, but we walked away saying, ‘Yes, we understand you,’” said Thomas, adding that the next round of talks will be held in Turkey.
A number of analysts agree that the resolution, if passed, could damage relations between the U.S. and one of its most important allies in the volatile region.
“Some 60 percent of all U.S. military equipment destined for Iraq goes through the territory or airspace of Turkey,” according to a February article by F. Stephen Larrabee and Suat Kiniklioglu of Rand Corp.
“If this route to Iraq were restricted or closed entirely, the ability of the United States to effectively combat the insurgency and violent militias in Iraq would be impaired.”
Philip Gordon and Omer Taspinar of the Brookings Institution wrote in August that the U.S. and Europe must do what they can to ensure that Turkey sees itself as aligned with the West.
“An Armenian genocide resolution would certainly trigger a tremendous nationalistic backlash in Turkey and a deep rift with the United States,” they wrote.
But Schiff, who like Pelosi has a large Armenian constituency in his congressional district, has said the long-tried resolution needs to finally be passed.
“How can we take effective action against the genocide in Darfur if we lack the will to condemn genocide whenever and wherever it occurs?” Schiff said when introducing the bill.
© 2007 Stars and Stripes
By Charlie Coon, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, March 19, 2007
Armenian Diaspora Groups Face New Azeri Challenge
On March 9, the first meeting of a new “Forum of Azerbaijani-Turkish Diaspora Organizations” convened in Baku, Azerbaijan. But as one participant described the event, “Lots of talk, but I wonder if all of this will turn into a real action. Perhaps the real goal of the event is to send a message to Armenians that ‘we are coming’.”
The forum was a significant accomplishment for the Azerbaijan State Committee on Relations with Azerbaijanis Living Abroad. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, attended the forum and delivered rousing speeches regarding the importance of unity among all Turkic-language-speaking diaspora organizations around the world. “This forum shows our unity. We deserve it,” said President Aliyev.
Baku hosted 513 delegates from 48 countries who came to Azerbaijan’s capital city for the event. Approximately 140 delegates came from Turkey, 14 from Turk-Meskheti groups, 23 from Iraq, and five from Northern Cyprus. Other participants came from Germany, the United States, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Romania, Norway, Lithuania, and Ukraine. Participants adopted three major resolutions: a “Joint Strategy on the Activities of the Azerbaijani and Turkish diaspora organizations,” an “Appeal to the Turkic-speaking Peoples,” and a broader “Baku Declaration.” In addition, the forum sent protest notes to countries that have adopted resolutions on the controversial Armenian genocide issue and provided information about the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region by Armenia.
Although not openly listed on the agenda of the forum, it was clear that the strong and effective Armenian lobby was the real target of the forum. Witnessing the pressure that the powerful Armenian lobby can bring to bear on the legislative bodies of many countries, the Azerbaijani and Turkish governments have realized that they should unite and coordinate the efforts of their diaspora communities to withstand those pressures.
“There is not much information about us in the world. The strong Armenian lobby is working against us,” noted President Aliyev. “The representatives of the diaspora organizations should actively take part in the political processes of their respective countries, be represented in those legislative bodies, and take an important place in the political life.” He also added that the Azerbaijani and Turkish diasporas have realized several achievements that need to be further developed and expanded. “We are ready to provide the needed assistance and carry out our tasks. But the diaspora organizations also need to work closely with their motherlands and further act as a united body. Only in this way we can prevent the work of the Armenian lobby against us,” Aliyev argued.
The presence and participation of a delegation from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus attracted particular comment. Mehmet Ali Talat expressed satisfaction with the logistics of the forum, adding, “For the peoples of Northern Cyprus, it is very important to participate in this event. This shows that we are not alone in the world.”
The timing of the forum was particularly important. The U.S. Congress is once again planning to discuss a resolution on the Armenian genocide issue, and April 24, which Armenians commemorate as the day of genocide, will be the highlight of heated discussions between Armenians and Turks on the accuracy of these claims.
“They [Armenians] have committed a genocide against us themselves and now accuse us with the invented genocide claims,” President Aliyev said during the forum, referring to the Khojali massacre in 1992 by Armenian military troops, in which 613 people were massacred overnight, and the 1918 massacre of more than 30,000 Azerbaijanis in Baku by Armenian Dashnak soldiers. Azerbaijani diaspora groups in Canada, Japan, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden have commemorated the Khojali massacre on February 26, and Azerbaijanis living in Washington and New York usually organize protest rallies in front of Armenian diplomatic missions on that date.
The Baku forum concluded with a series of small group discussions, allowing delegates from different countries to discuss various plans and projects for collaboration. Similar “World Azerbaijani Congresses” were held in Baku in 2001 and 2006, but analysts have noted little progress in the effectiveness of the Azerbaijani diasporas abroad. This year, however, the purpose might be slightly different: to scare before acting. Azerbaijani political scientist Rovshan Novruzoglu agrees, “The first forum of Azerbaijani and Turkish Diaspora organizations is the first serious political storm in the fight against Armenian terrorism.”
(Diaspora.Az, Day.az, Khalq Qazeti, Zerkalo, Ekho, Yeni Musavat, March 7-14)
By Fariz Ismailzade
March 19, 2007
Business Leaders See Improved Chances To Stop Genocide Measures
Chief of US-Turkish business group hopeful that Armenian resolutions won't be brought to vote in US Congress
The head of a key U.S.-Turkish business group, including top U.S. defense companies dealing with Turkey, said he hoped that two Armenian genocide resolutions pending in the U.S. Congress would not be brought to a vote.
"I'm hopeful that we've made significant progress that the leadership of the Congress will not bring either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives this legislation to the floor for vote," James Holmes, president of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) said in an interview with the Turkish Daily News.
Separately, the top official from the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSIAD) said the situation on the Armenian resolutions was nowmore positive from Turkey's standpoint compared to what it was some two months ago.
"It is more positive than the situation two months ago, but unfortunately we cannot say that the issue is out the agenda," Arzu Dogan Yalçindag told reporters here on Tuesday after a TÜSIAD team had talks with a congressman, State Department officials and think tanks on the resolutions.
The two legislations pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate call for official recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. It is not clear if or when the resolutions could be discussed and voted on in Congress' two chambers.
Turkey is involved in a major effort to prevent the passage of the measures, with top officials, including Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yasar Büyükanit, telling administration officials and lawmakers here the risks involved with passage of the resolutions.
In identical letters sent to congressional leaders earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the House to drop the genocide legislation. The Armenian resolution was introduced in the Senate afterthe Rice-Gates letter, but President George W. Bush's administration is also working to dissuade senators on the measure.
The secretaries emphasized that the House resolution's passage would jeopardize U.S. national interests, including a disruption of Turkey's assistance to U.S. forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"All of this together, I think, has finally begun to have an effect with the members of Congress that this is not a free vote, this is a vote which would have political consequences and commercial consequences and that they need to take greater care in addressing such issues," said Holmes, a former U.S. ambassador.
"We have a lot of business with Turkey and we have a lot of prospective business with Turkey, which doesn't merit being risked on such a resolution. So from the perspective of U.S. interests, the legislation is completely unwanted," he said.
His ATC has sent an open letter to all lawmakers, arguing against the genocide measure, and the group's members are seeking to use their influence on legislators representing their states and districts.
"We urge members of the House and the Senate not to vote in favor of the resolutions and the leadership not to bring these measures to the floor," Holmes said.
Qualifying the genocide resolutions as a "black cloud" hovering over U.S.-Turkish relations, Yalçindag said that the measures' passage would very badly affect economic and business ties. "No one will benefit from this," she said.
Rejecting U.S. Armenian arguments that U.S. recognition of genocide would force Turkey into a closer relationship with Armenia, Holmes said: "No one in their right mind could believe that support for this resolution will advance Turkish-Armenian ties."
On their part, U.S. Armenians believe that they have found a unique opportunity for genocide recognition in Congress at a time when both chambers' newly-elected Democratic leaderships are sympathetic to their cause.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pledged backing for the Armenians before nationwide congressional elections last November. But since she took office in January she has made no public remarks on Armenian-related matters.
The Armenian National Committee of America, a large and hardline U.S. Armenian group, has invited hundreds of fellow activists throughout the United State heretoday (Thursday) and tomorrow to put pressure on Congress.
Holmes' ATC will be holding an annual conference on U.S.-Turkish ties here next week. Top participants will include Gates, Turkey's Economy Minister Ali Babacan, Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. Ergin Saygun and Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Edmund Giambastiani.
March 22, 2007
WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News
Dangerous Liaisons : Genocide Bill Divides US & Turkey
An Air Force cargo plane lands at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. If US Congress passes the Armenian genocide resolution, military relations could suffer. .
Ankara is deeply unhappy about an effort in the US Congress to pass a bill declaring the 1917 massacre of Armenians by the Turks to be a case of genocide. Turkey has warned it could sever military ties if the law goes through. .
A push in the United States Congress to pass a bill condemning the 1915 Armenian massacre under the Ottoman Empire as a case of genocide is threatening to put yet another strain on ties between Turkey and the US, which are already strained.
Turkey has threatened to take dramatic steps against its NATO partner if the bill passes, including a curtailing of military cooperation between the two countries.
"The consequences of such a step would go beyond the imaginable and would have a lasting effect," the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara warned last week. Mehmet Dulger, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee in the Turkish parliament as a member of the ruling AKP party, warned that Turkey might even go so far as to restrict American access to Incirlik Air Base.
The base is of major strategic importance to the US, which uses it to supply its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ankara's refusal in 2003 to permit US troops to cross into northern Iraq through Turkey triggered the current tensions.
For its part, the Bush administration is seeking to stop Congress from pushing through the resolution. In a March 7 letter, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned leading members of Congress about the potential fallout the bill could have for US-Turkish relations. And on Wednesday, Rice cautioned that the US should not get involved in the dispute over the mass-killings, which resulted in the deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians.
In February, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the general staff for the Turkish Armed Forces, began a political offensive against Washington, saying that Ankara considers the massacre to be a tragic act of violence that happened in the context of World War I but not genocide.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House, made her view very clear: She didn't even receive Foreign Minister Gul.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007
Island Church Of Akhtamar Has Hosted Many Dignitaries In Its 1,086-Year History
A new beginning for Akhtamar
Built on the orders of Gagik Artsruni, ruler of the kingdom of Vaspurakan, it was the seat of (decreasingly influential) Armenian patriarchs from 1116 until 1895. In the 19th century several noted European travellers paid visits. Layard, the British archaeologist . . cum diplomat, describes being rowed across the blue waters of Lake Van to Akhtamar in the company of “four sturdy monks.” Some years later, the intrepid Isabella Bird made the same trip, writing disparagingly that the incumbent patriarch “has the reputation of extreme ignorance, and of being more of a farmer than an ecclesiastic.”
Tomorrow, it will be officially opened by dignitaries from the contemporary political scene -- with top brass from the military joined by representatives from the Ministries of Culture and Tourism, the Interior, the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and a former governor of Van. They’ll have a long way to travel, as Van lies some 1,237 kms southeast of Ankara. The $1.5 million restoration of this beautiful church, which began in May 2005, was government funded -- an allocation of resources that has significance well beyond the rescue of an important historical building. Since the inception of the Turkish republic in 1923, the country’s Armenian past has been either ignored or denied. That doyen of female travellers, Freya Stark, visiting Van in the late 1950s, wrote that she planned to extend her stay as “the island of Akhtamar, with a famous 11th century church which no one for years was allowed to visit” had just been opened to visitors.
Cynics will suggest that it was only after the EU made funds available and invited proposals for this project that the Turkish government stepped in. Whatever the reason, the restoration of an Armenian Christian building is a promising sign that a balanced view of Turkey’s past is taking root at the highest levels. In a gesture of reconciliation, officials from Armenia have been invited to the ceremony -- even though Turkey and Armenia severed diplomatic ties years ago.
Political ramifications aside, what is it that makes Akhtamar (or more properly Surb Khach -- the Church of the Holy Cross) so special? Not its size -- this is a gem of a church, not a giant of a cathedral. Built on a cruciform plan, with four apses, it measures only 15m by 12m. Yet it is wonderfully proportioned, its central polygonal drum surmounted by a pyramidal roof straining towards the heavens, its reddish sandstone perfectly complementing the glimmering snow on the mountains ringing the azure lake.
What makes it unique, however, is the profusion of relief carvings -- based on scenes from the Old and New Testaments -- which liberally decorate the exterior. Although the execution of the carvings is rather naive, the depictions Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale and King Gagik presenting a model of the church to Jesus (amongst many other scenes) are delightful. They also show a distinct eastern (Iranian and Islamic) influence, not surprisingly given that the monophysite Armenian church was at theological odds with the mainstream Byzantine Orthodox Church in Constantinople, and preferred to be ruled by the Islamic Abbasid Caliph based in Baghdad. A team of five architects were in charge of the recent restoration, including a Turk of Armenian origin. The roof, cracked, leaking and sprouting grass and moss, has undergone a major overhaul. The faded, defaced murals of saints have been carefully patched-up and repainted, new floorboards laid and the relief carvings on the exterior walls restored to their former glory.
Over the years Akhtamar has been targeted by treasure hunting villagers (convinced that the departed Armenians must have buried their valuables near the church), trigger happy local hunters who used the relief carvings of biblical figures for target practice, and thoughtless youths who daubed the interior with crude graffiti. The region’s severe winters had also taken their natural toll. Restoration was imperative. Those of us, however, who had grown used to its isolated, crumbling yet romantic glory will find it hard to accustom ourselves to the spruce new pier, ticket office, walkways, guard posts and shop (please, no Akhtamar tea-towels!) -- not to mention the scrubbed-up facade and gleaming interior.
Lovers of the remote and romantic can take solace in the fact that the impossibly blue waters of Lake Van hold another jewel of an island church -- that of Surb Hovhannes (St John) on the islet of Çarpanak/Ktuts. An hour and a half from Van’s harbour by a tiny, rusting ex-fishing vessel, it is completely deserted bar a colony of screaming gulls. Be warned, though. Local rumours suggest that this charming monastery church, dating back to the 15th century, has been earmarked for an Akhtamar style makeover. A 779-year era ended on Akhtamar with the death of its last patriarch in 1895. Another, much shorter, concluded with the departure of the last monks in the vicissitudes of 1916. Until the end of the 1950’s Akhtamar was forbidden to foreign visitors. For the last fifty odd years it has been the goal of adventurous travellers seeking out a remote, infrequently visited ruin in one of the world’s most austerely beautiful spots -- Lake Van. What the future holds for this unique island church is uncertain, but if its restoration leads to any further rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia, it will have been $1.5 million well spent.
Getting to Van: Turkish Airlines from I.stanbul and Ankara - daily flights. Atlas Jet daily from Istanbul. Sunexpress Mondays and Wednesdays from Antalya. Regular coaches from all parts of Turkey
Getting to Akhtamar: A ferryboat leaves from the quay on the mainland opposite the island at frequent intervals in the summer; on demand at other times of the year. Prices were YTL 2.5 per person in 2006, but may well have risen for 2007
Getting to Çarpanak: Currently the only way is to hire a boat from Van harbor, which costs around YTL 150. The boat holds up to 20 people, and will wait for you to explore/picnic on the island. If you visit in June/July you’ll be mobbed by nesting gulls.
Admission and opening hours: Akhtamar dawn-dusk, the price of YTL 2 in 2006 is likely to rise considerably following the official opening. Çarpanak island/church has neither site guardian nor entrance fees at present
Where to stay
Akdamar Hotel; central Van. Best of the city hotels
Merit Hotel; 12km from Van, on the way to Akhtamar. Beautiful lakeside location
S,ahin Hotel; central Van.
Where to eat
Besse; central Van on Melek I.s, Merkezi, Sanat Sokak. Excellent value, traditional food and soothing surroundings, but no alcohol
Saç? Beyaz; central Van, junction of Kaz?m Karabekir Caddesi and Cumhuriyet Caddesi. Poshest of Van’s many patisseries, with some tables outside for people watching
Guides and Maps
The Ahtamar Reliefs (published by Turizm Yay?nlar?); Armenian Van/Vaspurkan (Mazda Publishers Inc) Blue Guide: Turkey; Rough Guide to Turkey; Lonely Planet:Turkey; Kartographischen Verlag Reinhard Ryborsch map series no:6
TERRY RICHARDSON VAN
Van prepared as restored Akhtamar Church to re-open
Akhtamar Church, restored in a project headed by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, will be officially re-opened to the public as a museum at a ceremony tomorrow.
Akhtamar’s restoration was ordered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an when it became evident that the church, first built between 915 and 921, would otherwise face collapse.
The church, which is located on Akhtamar Island on Lake Van, will host domestic and international authorities and representatives at its opening. In the meantime the Van police authority has taken considerable precautions against any possible action or provocation that might occur during the high-profile ceremony.
The Armenian church was built between 915 and 921 during the time of the Vaspurakan dynasty on the orders of King Gagil I and is considered an important example of Armenian architecture. The church’s restoration was ordered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an when it became evident that the church would otherwise face collapse. The restoration process began on March 24, 2006, and finished in November of last year. The church will, according to the ministry, remain as an official monument museum. Many see it as a cultural response of sorts to the so-called Armenian genocide resolution being voted on in the US Senate.
Members of the Armenian religious community, representatives from the Armenian diaspora and many foreign envoys number among the 277 people invited by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to attend the re-opening of the church. So far 170 journalists have been accredited to attend and cover the opening for various domestic and international newspapers and media sources. As for preparations in Van itself, serious security precautions have already been put into place for the flow of visitors expected later this week. Gendarmes will be guarding the road into the city from the Van Airport, while police forces will take responsibility for security on Akhtamar Island itself.
Local organizations have voiced their support for the historical message inherent in the re-opening of the Akhtamar Church, with Van Industry and Trade Chamber head Zahir Kandasoglu commenting that the city had to uphold its cultural and historical treasures rather than deny them.
Speaking against possible acts of provocation that are a source of worry for officials in connection with the church’s re-opening, Feridun Irak of Van’s Trade Stock Exchange said, “There will be no advantage in anyone’s creating tension. Our religion is one of tolerance. There may be some factions who have no confidence in themselves that wish to create paranoid provocations and protests, but the people of Van will give no support to these factions. Our people believe in their own religion and country, and in doing so understand that we need to support and stand behind the treasures of all the cultures that we share histories with.”
Akdamar Church to remain without a cross
March 28, 2007
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News
Upon the completion of restoration works, though the opening date changed three times, first as April 24 then April 11-15 and finally as March 29, the Aktamar Sourp Haç Church (The Church of the Holy Cross) located on Aktamar Island in Lake Van is finally due for official re-opening as a museum on March 29.
The discussions about whether or not the original stone cross of the church will be replaced have flared up again just before its opening. Architect Zakarya Mildanoglu participates in restoration works on behalf of the Armenian community. We have asked for his views to clear the discussions as he approached the issue professionally. Mildanoglu said the cross is a significant symbol of churches and the silhouette of the structure will be incomplete if the stone cross is not replaced. “As you can't say Solomon for Sulayman, you can't say Akdamar for Aktamar either,” says Mildanoglu while he draws attention to speculations over the church's name.
Restoration of the Surp Church is a significant development, according to the architect who believes both Armenians and Turks should bestow great diligence to refrain from turning this issue into political gimmicks.
In between of discussions, Mildanoglu points out that a funnel-like pedestal has been replaced; however, proportions in the architecture are as significant as they are in human physiology. With the assistance of Jan Gavrilof, sketches were prepared by the Armenian historian of arts, experts were brought from Armenia and that conical pedestal was substituted by the one concordant with the original. The discussions over the cross are absurd, Mildanoglu says as he touches on the existence of fairly enough sources about the shape and position of the cross. The photographs taken in 1908 proved the stone cross was in place then; however, it disappeared somehow years latter, the Architect adds… The drawings by Yakup Hazan, who prepared the restoration project, also show the cross existed.
As for the speculations on the belfry, Mildanoglu says, “The belfry is where it is supposed to be, the only thing is that there is no bell in it.” After a series of researches, Mildanoglu located the historic bell of the Church in the Armenian Museum in the province of Tabriz, Iran.
Let's open it in time for the Feast of the Holy Cross:
Mildanoglo also touched upon the issue of putting the church in use as a “museum” and in service as “church.” He said though there is no chance to see the structure in service as a church, it could be opened for a few times a year; at least services would be allowed during the Feast of the Holy Cross and this is spiritually important. If the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry or related directorates issue a statement about whether or not the structure would be open for service and about the replacement of the stone cross, this will put an end to speculations, Mildanoglu believes.
Monastery and school complex emerged:
The details of the restoration tender included the “Aktamar Surp Haç Church and its outbuildings,” Mildanoglu noted, so archeological excavations are also in process. During the excavations, a third staircase emerged on the apse (where the altar is located). The diggings under the auspice of Van Museum ended with the emergence of a monastery and school complex to shed a light on history. At the end of the excavations, jars, ceramic pieces and tandoories were found.
Palace ruins of King Gagik reign should be brought to daylight:
Construction of this cathedral church was begun in 915 and it is known as a center for religion (which means Gatogigos in Armenian). The region became the scene of peerless examples of stone engraving, miniatures and manuscripts. As a result of his research, Mildanoglu shows a palace dating back to the King Gagik I… If the historic ruins of the palace are brought to daylight, another important archeological remain would be added into the world heritage list.
Turks and Armenian experts work together:
Mildanoglu informed the section called Jamadur included in the church complex in the 1700s was converted into an exhibition hall. Photographs of Aktamar, restoration works and archeological findings are displayed in this hall.
Affiliated with the International Council on Monuments and Sites of UNESCO (ICOMOS), Armenian and Turkish architects conducted studies on the subject together, said Mildanoglu. ICOMOS-Turkey President Zeynep Agunbay, a professor at Istanbul Technical University, and experts on fresco and stone engraving coming from Armenia run inspections and determined the points in error. An ICOMOS member and stone engraving specialist from Italy Paulo Agnini made a great deal of contributions in restoration works with the reports and applications he prepared.
Earlier restoration project failed:
Mildaonoglu also noted that he attended restoration works earlier in 2005 as an expert observer by the request of Turkish Armenians Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan, and before that Armenia and Turkey studied together, exchanged reports. However, preparation of a report by the Armenian Ministry of Culture Undersecretary of the time and the Historical Heritage Preservation Foundation ended in a dead street. He spends three days a week in Van since the restorations began and Nazaret Binatli, Sasmuhi Musliyan, Alin Pontioglu in addition to Jan Gavrilof from Istanbul also give him support, Mildanoglu concluded.
Turkey’s Dislike Of Systemic Powers
The BBC World Service and the Maryland University International Political Behaviors Program have conducted a joint survey, with the help of GlobeScan, on opinions and perceptions in 27 different countries. . . The results were made public on March 6. Some 28,000 respondents described how they perceive the United Kingdom, Canada, China, France, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia, the US, Venezuela and the European Union. This selection is meaningful. Some of these actors are power centers of the international system. North Korea and Venezuela were chosen as anti-systemic countries. If a majority of public opinion believed these two countries’ actions to be acceptable, then a revision of the system would be an urgent matter.
The most trusted countries in the world are Canada and Japan. The most disliked countries are Israel, Iran and North Korea. Most Russians think that Russia, and most French think that France, act positively. This important survey also has interesting data on Turkey. The survey does not ask how Turkey is perceived by others but how the selected 12 countries are perceived by Turkey. Accordingly, Turkey is not happy about any other country’s attitudes, political choices or impact. In other words, respondents from Turkey do not trust any actor playing an important role in the international system. Turkey especially dislikes Israel’s policies. Only 2 percent of Turks are favorable about Israel but 76 percent of them say they are opposed. It’s not surprising that the second “worst” actor is the US. Those in favor are 7 percent and those against are 69 percent. In third place is France. Only 9 percent of Turkish respondents have a good opinion of France while 69 percent do not approve of its policies. The same ratio for the UK is 21 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
On average, only 21 percent of Turkish respondents agree with the policies of these countries and 43 percent disagree. Unfortunately, Turkey harbors some of the most negative perceptions about other countries. The most positive country for Turkish public opinion is Japan with 51 percent of respondents. But in fact, this country is not that well known in Turkey. The most deplorable situation is about the European Union and the European countries. Even if Turkey is a candidate country, it has a very negative perception of the EU as a whole and distrust of France and the UK in particular. Thirty percent of Turkish respondents see the EU positively and 32 percent negatively.
There are many reasons that explain this attitude. First of all, the European Union’s general attitude toward Turkey and the Cyprus issue must be mentioned. The law on the recognition of the Armenian “genocide” and French presidential candidate Sarkozy’s rhetoric also explain why France is so badly perceived in Turkey. The UK is not in that bad a situation thanks to its support for Turkey’s European Union membership process, but it’s still badly perceived by Turks because of its policies around the globe. We should also note that Turkey’s negative perception about everyone is unfortunately closely connected with the rise of nationalist, defensive and distrustful feelings across the country.
BERIL DEDEOGLU email@example.com
Erdogan's Akhtamar Gambit: Will It Pay Off?
Akhtamar Island will be opened tomorrow as a museum. The program of renovation on the island has generated a great deal of interest in recent months, with two key questions surrounding the issue:
1) Did Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an adopt this project as a cynical smokescreen . . to project a positive Turkish image abroad regarding the Armenian issue, or did he have a more honorable intention? 2) Are Armenians refusing to give credit to Prime Minister Erdog(an over the Akhtamar issue because of real concerns about Turkish intentions, or are they doing so in order to push what they consider their current political advantage regarding the passage of a US Congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915?
Certainly Prime Minister Erdog(an is playing the ambiguity of his position quite well. He is allowing Turkish nationalists to declare the Akhtamar project a symbol of Turkish tolerance of minority institutions from Seljuk to modern Turks. Only a few weeks ago Yusuf Halaçog(lu, the head of the Turkish Historical Society, said that Akhtamar proved how well Turks have always treated Christian minorities and their institutions under Turkish rule, unlike the Balkan Christians who destroyed the Mostar bridge only a decade ago. Turkish parliamentarians have also been brandishing the Akhtamar issue in Washington, D.C. to argue that there never was an Armenian genocide and that modern Turkey has been protective of Armenians and their heritage.
The assertions by the head of the Turkish Historical Society in Turkey and Turkish parliamentarians in Washington have played into the hands of Armenian skeptics and nationalists. The latter have simply argued that not only were Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, but that their material heritage was then desecrated and destroyed in modern Turkey, right up until the present day. This has not been a difficult assertion to sustain. I have visited many famous locations in different parts of Turkey. Practically all the ancient Armenian monasteries that were functioning in 1915 have been destroyed, with a handful still standing in the final stages of complete collapse and destruction.
However, despite these ambiguities, it is important to give credit to Prime Minister Erdog(an as a politician and a peacemaker.
Until recently the official Turkish histories of the Van basin simply presented the Armenians as cutthroats who murdered Muslims (i.e., mainly Kurds) in 1915. The museum of Van, for example, mentioned Armenians only in a special section dedicated to the genocide of Muslims by Armenians in 1915. There was no mention of a past Armenian civilization in this region. When I last visited Van Museum last October, the whole museum was empty. The official reason for the closure was that the museum was being renovated. The unofficial reason on the street was that the civilian authorities wanted to remove the anti-Armenian exhibit, while the nationalists (i.e. the army) wanted it to remain. So the whole museum was closed for renovation. If the word on the street is true, the empty museum represents a microcosm of Turkish politics today, as the country muddles through a difficult process of openness and democratization.
No doubt even this increasing openness will be decried by some diaspora Armenians as a Turkish ploy to deceive the world, but actions will speak louder than words. The prime minister and his advisers have taken a substantial step towards reconciliation. They have broken with the denial of the past, adopted a new opening to Armenians, and presented Armenians with a peace offering with the renovated Sourp Khach church on Akhtamar Island. The Erdog(an government discussed, prior to March 14, the opening of the Alican frontier gate for two days to let visitors enter Turkey from Armenia by bus or to fly directly to Van, while the General Staff wanted them to arrive only via I.stanbul. The fact that the General Staff won is enough to demonstrate how hard the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) tried and how difficult Erdog(an’s position has been in this double-election year. Perhaps most remarkably, Prime Minister Erdog(an has taken these steps while remaining popular and on course as a Turkish leader.
Now if he is able to take the next logical step and allow the protection of other Armenian architectural treasures in Turkey he will buttress his position as a peacemaker and will win support from significant sections of the Armenian diaspora, if not the Republic of Armenia itself. He should not be allowed to fail.
by ARA SARAFIAN*
*Ara Sarafian is an archival scholar and the director of the Gomidas Institute. For more information about the Gomidas Institute visit www.gomidas.org
Karekin Refuses To Attend Opening Of Akhtamar ‘Museum’
The head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, has refused to attend a reopening ceremony of a restored Armenian church in eastern Anatolia because the church will operate as a museum but not as a church.
The Armenian Orthodox Church released a written statement yesterday and brought to mind that the invitation for the ceremony on March 29 [tomorrow] for the reopening of the ancient Akhtamar Church was extended by Van Governor Mehmet Niyazi Tan?l?r to Karekin II, whose official title is Catholicos of All Armenians, via the Armenian Foreign Ministry. Karekin II will not participate in the ceremonies after having considered that “the Holy Cross Armenian Church, recently renovated by the Turkish authorities, will not operate as a church under the spiritual authority of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople and instead will be designated as a museum, and that the opening ceremonies will be conducted solely with a secular program and not in accord with the canonical rites of the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church,” the brief statement said.
“In this new century, when there is a universal desire for mutual understanding and collaboration between peoples, as well as in the context of dialogue between religions and cultures, this action of the Turkish authorities against the pious Christian beliefs and emotions of the Armenian people cannot be perceived as a positive step on the path of bringing the two nations closer,” the statement added. Karekin II, who had paid a week-long visit to the Armenian community in Turkey last year in June, in the past angered Turks by saying their ancestors committed genocide against Armenians around the time of World War I, an allegation vehemently denied by Turkey. Turkey, which has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, denies that Turks committed genocide, saying Armenians who lived in the Ottoman Empire were killed in internal fighting among ethnic groups as the empire collapsed.
Today’s Zaman Ankara