Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The eyes and ears of the Netherlands in Turkey

Some time ago I wrote here and here about the journalist/writer Bernard Bouwman his book 'Mijn Istanbul' (My Istanbul) which will be translated into Turkish and available in Turkey early 2009.
Below an interview with Bernard by ALİ ÇİMEN.
The eyes and ears of the Netherlands in Turkey, Bouwman: I became more humanistic in Turkey.
Bernard Bouwman, a Western correspondent living and reporting in İstanbul, is the eyes and ears of the Netherlands in Turkey. Indeed, his is a name synonymous with Turkey.
He has been reporting for the Netherlands’ NRC Handelsblad daily and for Radio 1 from İstanbul for eight years.
I recently spoke with Bouwman about his personal adventure and observations about Turkey and the Netherlands.

How did your İstanbul adventure begin?
Let me start by saying that I did not have a journalistic education. I studied something different, finished my doctorate at Oxford and returned to Holland. While looking for jobs, I ended up in journalism. I was at the European Integration Desk at NRC, for whom I still work. But almost everyone in the media was dealing with bureaucracy, which eventually started to bother me. I told my superiors: “Look! I do not want to do be a correspondent anymore. I will look for something else.” Just then, in 2000, a post in İstanbul became available and, of course, I jumped on it. Why? Because Turkey was quite an interesting country; a journalistic heaven with its dynamic agenda, including Turkey-EU relations; the democratization process; the place of religion in society and the question of where it should be; the ethnic groups and how these groups should be integrated into the mainstream; natural disasters; and Turkey’s relations with its turbulent neighbors, like Iran, Iraq and Syria. Simply, whatever a journalist wants!

But you had been to Turkey before you had been stationed here, right?
Sure, I had been as a tourist, a few times. But living permanently was something different. But, you know what? My boss sent me to İstanbul for one week, saying, “You are free to do anything you want, don’t bother with the expenses and just see if you could live there.” It was really an excellent week. But newspapers can’t do such things anymore, as circulations in the Netherlands have decreased. Well, at the end of that week, I made up my mind. İstanbul was the place where I wanted to live.
When you look back, do you see any changes on the issues that you said brought you here?
Well, there is one thing that never changes: Turkey’s rapid change on economic and social issues. This is taking place at an amazing speed. And just at this point I would like to share one of my observations. Look, I do not share the concerns of some ultra-secular circles about Turkey becoming an Islamic state day by day. On the contrary, I believe that religious people have started to lead a more liberal and relaxed life and that in 10-15 years time they will become like Europeans!
Continue reading here.
Note: I met both Ali and Bernard. When I met Bernard for the first time we started talking and talking for 4 hrs. Ali is a fine and interesting journalist! Writing for Zaman doesn't mean that you are a political Islamist. On the contrary!

Day opening - April 29

Kizkulesi - Istanbul