Thursday, September 16, 2010

Istanbul Dispatch: Press Freedom Alla Turca (By Claire Berlinski)

In May, a ship full of civilians — but not full of humanitarian aid — sailed from Turkey to join the Free Gaza flotilla. Having warned the Mavi Marmara that it would not be allowed to breach the blockade, Israeli commandos raided the ship. In the clash, nine Turks were killed. I've lived in Istanbul for five years and I've spoken to hundreds of Turks about these events. A Turkish documentary filmmaker and I have filmed some of these conversations. Something will immediately strike the viewer: the Turkish people have no idea what happened. This is because the most basic facts about and surrounding these events have not been reported in Turkey.

In billing the flotilla as a humanitarian mission, the IHH — the expedition's Islamist sponsor — exploited the Turks' Achilles heel: their generosity. Turks think of themselves as charitable and compassionate, as indeed they are. They genuinely believe, because this is what has been reported here, that the Palestinians are starving. They know almost nothing about the reasons for the blockade. They believe that the ship was on a humanitarian mission and nothing but a humanitarian mission. They are bewildered that anyone would have interfered with such a noble-minded endeavour. They do not know that there were no humanitarian supplies on the Mavi Marmara. They do not know the most rudimentary facts about Hamas. As one man said: "These are elected people. It's not like they took over by force, via a coup."

Almost no one in Turkey understands any language but Turkish. If this obviously thoughtful man was unaware that indeed, Hamas took over precisely by force, via a coup, it is because he had no way to know. The men and women to whom we spoke were astonished when we told them that Israeli officials had invited the ship to disembark at Ashdod and deliver the aid overland. But they were not disbelieving — and importantly, when we told them this, it changed their view. Many spontaneously said that they knew they could not trust what they heard in the news, that the situation confused them and that something about the story just didn't sound right.
continue reading herrreeeee

Day Opening - September 16

Kylios, Black Sea, Istanbul. By Brian Underdown

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day Opening - September 15

Children playing Chess, Besiktas, Istanbul. By Brian Underdown

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ECHR accuse Turkey of serieus negligence

The European Court of Human Rights has Turkey this afternoon accused of serious negligence in the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. In 2007 a Turkish nationalist shot Dink dead when he left his office.
The Turkish authorities took no action 3.5 years ago after they were tipped about the imminent assassination of Dink. Even a hint about the identity of the murderer and his accomplices didn’t make the police move.
Dink caused a stir when he accused the Turkish of massacring Armenians during the First World War. He was threatened by Turkish nationalists who felt that Dink had insulted Turkishness. The Turkish public prosecutor complained to him and Dink was sentenced to six months probation.

Day Opening - September 14

Romance at the Bosphorus, Istanbul, by Brian Underdown

Monday, September 13, 2010

Human Rights Watch Amsterdam

Human Rights Watch, the US-based rights group, is opening an office in Amsterdam. The Dutch voice and influence is badly needed in the world’s problem areas according  the organisation’s director Kenneth Roth. Another more pragmatic reason for Human Rights Watch to have a presence in the Netherlands is that the Netherlands NGO’s are third largest source of donations.
“The Netherlands is a country where human rights are high on the agenda”, Mr Roth said. And the job of the Amsterdam office will be to press home Human Rights Watch’s message with the Dutch media, policy makers and government.
However,  the Netherlands also comes in for sharp criticism from Human Rights Watch. The organisation slams the exam on Dutch society which immigrants to the Netherlands are obliged to take as “discriminatory”, and is concerned that the Dutch have been sending asylum seekers back to Somalia, where they risk being tortured.
It's all about how you interpreted the facts.

Day Opening - September 13

The Whirling Dervishers, by Brian Underdown, Turkey,

Arash's World: You are what you Shop: How Clothes and Books reflect Personal Attitudes

Arash's World: You are what you Shop: How Clothes and Books reflect Personal Attitudes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day Opening - September 12

A rainy day at Istiklal, Istanbul by Brian Underdown

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Turkse AKP-regering en EU zijn onverenigbaar (Turkey's AKP government and the EU aren't compatible)

The following article 'Turkey's AKP government and the EU are not compatible is published yesterday and today in the mainstream Dutch newspaper 'De Volkskrant'.

By Hans de Wit, Okan Altinparmak and Claire Berlinski

Het referendum over de Turkse grondwet dient uitsluitend de islamitische AKP-regering.
Morgen gaat Turkije naar de stembus om, via een referendum, vóór of tegen wijzigingen in de huidige grondwet te stemmen. Althans, dat is de opzet van de regerende AKP. Iedereen in Turkije wil een nieuwe grondwet om de huidige, door de Turkse generaals in 1982 ingevoerde, te vervangen. Maar bij dit referendum worden vraagtekens geplaatst: er is geen brede maatschappelijke discussie aan voorafgegaan en de Nee-campagne wordt als subversief gezien.


Vreemd is ook dat de voormalige voorzitter van de parlementaire commissie voor Turkije en de EU, Joost Lagendijk, de Turkse en Nederlandse bevolking herhaaldelijk laat weten dat Europa de huidige islamistische regering van Erdogan moet toejuichen vanwege deze hervormingen. Een Turkije met een nieuwe grondwet maakt de weg vrij voor een Turkije in de EU, zegt de nieuwe inwoner van Turkije, Joost Lagendijk.


Waarom schrijven wij ‘de islamistische regering van Erdogan’? Islamisten zijn moslims met een politieke agenda die je eerst vertellen dat zij moslim zijn en niet bijvoorbeeld Turk of Nederlander. Zij denken niet in termen van nationaliteit, maar van religieuze identiteit. Vandaar dat zij de EU ‘christelijk’ noemen. Ook gebruiken zij Al-taqiyya: het geoorloofd liegen, ook tegenover moslims die het niet met hen eens zijn, waaronder de 20 miljoen Alevieten in Turkije. Hoe kan Turkije onder zo’n islamitische regering de EU van dienst zijn?
1960, 1971, 1980 en 1997 zijn de jaren waarin het leger de macht greep, om het communisme en om de radicale islam tegen te gaan. Als gevolg van deze coups werd Europa de speeltuin van diverse conservatieve, nationalistische en religieuze identiteiten uit Turkije. Vanaf de jaren zestig zijn er niet alleen Turkse gastarbeiders naar Nederland gekomen, maar ook veel politieke vluchtelingen: de Koerden, de fascistoïde Grijze Wolven en de volgelingen van oud-premier Erbakan, tot voor kort de leider van de Nationale Visie Beweging (Milli Görüs) die staat voor anti-westerse, anti-democratische ideeën en een antisemitisch sentiment.

More herrreeeeee

Day Opening - September 11

Cehavir shopping mall (largest in Europe) Istanbul, by Brian Underdown, Istanbulblogger

Statement #44

Everybody has the right to be insulted.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wilders or Wilders, what to choose???

The outcome of the latest national election has put the Dutch politics and the society in a difficult position. Especially for those who are able to think. The political and social landscape has never been divided as these days. People who are not a fan of the right-wing political movement called PVV (Freedom Party) of the dillusional, mayonaise-coloured wig carrying member of parliament, Geert Wilders has got all conservative political parties by the balls. The party has gained 24 seats in Dutch parliament, and has become the third largest party. Therefore, the party (actually, the leader of the pack of right extremist, islamophobic fools), is in the luxurious position to control the process of formating a new cabinet. After almost 3 months of investigating possibilities and negotiating about an agreement, the situation has worsened since the Christian Democrats, one of the three potential coalition partners, pulled out the plug a week ago. The game has to start all over again.

I'm worried.

I'm worried, because in the end one way or the other, the populist Freedom Party will step on the smoking remains of the institution called serious politics and will become a disgrace for The Netherlands. In my opinion we now can only choose between two bad options. One is to opt for a left oriented cabinet, which will be able to blow a fresh wind through the country, to set the record straight politically, economically, socially and in many more areas. Therefore the PVV is forced back into the opposition again. The disadvantage of this scenario is that the party will be able to continue its fear spreading, stigmatising ideas about the islamic population, happily encouraging extremism, so it can blame the scapegoat even more... And, if all goes 'well', after four years, the PVV will celebrate a glorious victory at the next elections and the goal to become the voice of the mass will be achieved.
The second bad option is to let the PVV form a coalition with whatever political party on the right side of the political spectrum (the Liberal Party is available for cooperation) and have them govern the country. This can either result in a stable government, which would be not bad... or it will fall apart after a few months, because of a lack of suitable people for the job and those jokers who make it as an excellence will only hunger for power (just like we saw in 2002 with the LPF of the assasinated Pim Fortuyn). After those months, the PVV will have proven that they can not be taken seriously and they will vanish off the political map faster than they set foot in Parliament.
Again this is a choice between two evils.
Personnally I would prefer the second option. In the very near future it would be bad for the country, but on the long run society would be released of this bunch of nut cases, calling themselves politicians, lead by a demagogue.

All options are open, maybe there will be a government formed of left winged parties, but in all cases I am embarrased for the 1.5 million people that put their vote on a non-democratic party, that has only one aim; to attract the attention for spreading fear among those who can't think for themselves.

Too bad those people don't (or plainly can't) read columns like this...

Imam Rauf explains it for the last time...

Day Opening - September 10 - U2 in Istanbul

U2 in concert, Istanbul; by Brian Underdown, Istanbulblogger

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 - Turkey ranks 66

Switzerland tops the overall ranking in The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 released by the World Economic Forum. The United States falls two places to fourth position, overtaken by Sweden (2nd) and Singapore (3rd). The Nordic countries continue to be well positioned in the ranking, with Sweden, Finland (7th) and Denmark (9th) among the top 10, and with Norway at 14th. Sweden overtakes the US and Singapore this year to be placed 2nd overall. The United Kingdom, after falling in the rankings over recent years, moves back up by one place to 12th position.

The rankings are calculated from both publicly available data and the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum together with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations) in the countries covered by the Report.
The Netherlands ranks 8th and Turkey 66nd.
Here moreeeeee

Day Opening - September 9

Happy Bayram!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eternal wisdom

A man walks into a tailor shop. He needs cuffs put on his trousers. Okay says the tailor, come back tomorrow. The man leaves. He comes back the next day. Sorry, says the tailor, the trousers aren't ready yet. But you said... I know says the tailor, but please come back tomorrow. The man comes back the next day. Sorry says the tailor, come back tomorrow. The man gets angry, you said that yesterday. I know, I know says the tailor, but please come back tomorrow. Three more days go by and each time the response. The man is furious. I need these trousers! he yells. If you don't...? I know, I know says the tailor, please come back tomorrow. The man comes back the next day. I've come for my trousers, says the man. The tailor shakes his head, Sorry, he says. The man explodes in rage. This is outrageous! It's only a pair of trousers! It's only a pair of cuffs! It’s been a week! It only took God a week to create the world!!! I know, I know says the tailor, but look at the world

Day Opening - September 8

Metro hal, Maslak, Istanbul, Turkey by Brian Underwood,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Turkish soccer players at war...

The (Turkish) chairman of the Turkish amateur club FC Vatanspor from Brasschaart in the Netherlands wants his own football club to shut down, as six players kicked an opponent in the hospital.
Osman Ozcan is the aggressive behavior of his players so tired that he wants the club shut down. "These guys are completely lost," he complains in the Dutch newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’.
A 35-year-old amateur player from the St. Joseph was last sunday beaten up on the field of FC Vatanspor. "After the final whistle they started the beating," said Clement Vanmensbrugge, secretary of St. Joseph. Six players threw themselves at one of our players, that boy has had to cope with a lot of broken stuff. Saint Joseph's plays will never play Vatanspor anymore, for any money in the world. "

"Not the first time '

The chance that not one team ever will play against Vatanspor, is great, because the president wants to quit the club. "This situation is no longer tenable," he says. "It is not the first time my players kick a riot."
"I do not know what my boys got into, but wherever they come, problems arise. If a Turk they feel easily offended and wronged, I think, every remark is perceived as racism, and they cannot handle themselves. I am very disappointed and sad, but I see no other solution than pulling the plug Vatanspor. A pity, but if those guys want to fight, they should find another sport. Karate or something. "

Day Opening - September 7

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, by Brian Underwood, (picture in HD)

Arash's World: You are what you Shop: How Clothes and Books reflect Personal Attitudes

Arash's World: You are what you Shop: How Clothes and Books reflect Personal Attitudes

Sunday, September 5, 2010

EU billions for Roma “go missing” (17.4 billion €)

Europe has failed to get a grip on the approximate 10 million Roma people who live within the European Union. Brussels is pumping billions into projects to improve the lives of the continent’s largest ethnic minority. In spite of this, the Roma remain a headache dossier form many European member states.

In France, police broke up Roma camps up and down the country this summer. At least 8,100 Roma were put on planes to Romania and Bulgaria, the countries where they have originally come from, with a cheque in their hands. Opponents of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s harsh policies called the operation “deportations”. President Sarkozy, supported by a large part of the population, thinks Romania and Bulgaria should do more to look after their returning citizens.
These two countries are being given a lot of European money to do just this. The European Social Fund invests 17.5 billion euros in 'vulnerable groups' in Europe. The lion’s share, more than 13 billion over a period of six years, is earmarked for use with the Roma. "That is an awful lot," says a Brussels researcher who has investigated the amounts paid out.

Self control

The money which flows to agencies in eastern Europe is extensively checked by the European Commission. But on the subject of how the money is finally spent in, for example, Romania “it is up to the Romanians themselves” says a source within the commission.
"The chance that the money is used for other purposes, is a constant risk," says Romanian MEP Renate Weber.
Her colleague Dennis de Jong of the Dutch Socialist Party goes further, he says a large portion of European money, intended for Roma integration projects in eastern Europa, “goes missing” . He adds that the European Auditor has been warning for some time that it is impossible to vouch for a lot of that money. It is often a question of corruption.

Political correctness

The political correctness with which west European politicians speak about the problems of Roma, doesn't hamper discussions in east European politics. Most East Europeans are incredibly discriminatory towards Roma. Hungarian, Czech and Bulgarian social workers are adament: it is evident that Roma are disadvantaged, but what role do Roma themselves play?
"They are responsible for their own negative image," say many people running Roma projects. Their experience is that the Roma are not particularly motivated to change their predicament.
Meanwhile, planeloads of Chinese, Vietnamese and Indians fly into Romania every day to replace the Romanians who are going to work in west European countries. An absurd situation thinks Ms Weber. The Asians are "cheaper and more disciplined workers. While the Roma reject this imposed discipline."
She thinks there is a lot of discrimination on the Romanian labour market. Ms Weber: "Romanian employers prefer to take on Chinese or Vietnamese workers."
On Monday, integration ministers from six EU member states will meet in Paris to discuss a tough deportation policy. President Sarkozy has only invited countries which already take a hard line. The Netherlands is not one of them.

EU billions for Roma “go missing” is written by Tijn Sadée

Day Opening - September 5

Woman watching the Black sea, Garipce, Istanbul, by Brian Underwoood,

Statement #43

Who are the best teachers?
Your students!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dutch formation of a new cabinet fails...

Ivo Opstelten

Tonight the negotiations for a new Dutch cabinet failed, led by counselor Ivo Opstelten. Earlier yesterday Elio Di Rupo resigned at the Belgian King, because he was not able to create a solid coalition in Belgium.

Elio Di Rupo

My suggestion would be to switch both counselors, just to see if an objective and refreshing point of view would help both countries to be able to start a serious national government.

Besides I'm very disappointed that the Freedom Party of Wilders will join the opposition once again. The risk of this is that Wilders has carte blanche again to shout at the government, so he will get more and more support until the next elections.

Day Opening - September 4

Sultanahmet, Istanbul by Brian Underwood,

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting away with a speeding ticket

Dutch speeding motorists have found a ruse to get out of paying successive fines. They just ask for the paperwork to slow down the procedure. If they can find any inconsistencies, they even get away without paying.
Requests for information under the Openness of Government Act by speeding motorists have doubled in the last three years. The trick is discussed on internet forums. The Dutch police have to prove they are qualified to use speed guns, provide photographs and even provide proof that their own vehicles have an MOT. “All this takes around 45 minutes per fine. That is going too far,” says a police spokesperson.
Around 70 percent of the requests are only made to make things more difficult for the police. Speeding motorists hope to find some fault in the procedure to get off paying their fines. Apparently with success, one persistent speeder, who only wanted to give his first name, even got 1,260 euros compensation when the police were too slow to respond.
Yes, the Netherlands is nicely over-organised.)!

Day Opening - September 3

Fisherman - Istanbul, by Brian Underwood -

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day Opening - September 2

Couple in Love at the Bosphorus - By Brian Underwood -

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

End the hypocrisy and talk Turkey

A very interesting article by one of the Financial Times columnists, Gideon Rachman.

End the hypocrisy and talk Turkey

You can gauge the importance of Turkey to the western world by the fact that both Barack Obama and David Cameron gave speeches to the Turkish parliament in Ankara within months of taking office.

The west cares about Turkey because it is a hinge state between east and west and a rare example of a majority Muslim state that is also a secular democracy. Turkey is a neighbour of both Russia and Iran, and is also a member of Nato. It has a rapidly growing and dynamic economy. And yet these days Turkey is also increasingly a source of anxiety to the west.
The country voted against new UN sanctions on Iran and has a dangerously antagonistic relationship with Israel. But it is Turkey’s faltering effort to join the European Union that has come to symbolise the country’s uncertain relationship with the west.

“Talking Turkey” is meant to mean speaking frankly and getting to the heart of the matter. But, in the European Union, “talking Turkey” has become a synonym for double-talk and evasiveness.
Since 2005, the EU and Turkey have been negotiating a treaty that is meant to get Turkey into the EU – a prospect that was first dangled in front of the Turks in 1963. But Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, have made it clear that they oppose Turkish membership. The Turkish government says it still wants to “join Europe”, yet its foreign policy betrays understandable impatience.

So perhaps it is time really to “talk Turkey” – and to be frank. It would indeed be a wonderful thing if Turkey were to join the EU. But if that is to happen, Turkish membership has to be agreed on a new basis. It cannot involve total free movement of people between Turkey and the rest of the EU.

More herrreeeee

Not a new government yet after 3 months of negotiating

“Right-wing cabinet has one foot in the grave”  sums up the atmosphere as the coalition negotiations in the Netherlands are back in the headlines with a vengeance. Doing business with Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party is beyond the pale for many Christian Democrats, and now caretaker Health Minister and senior Christian Democrat Ab Klink has walked away from the negotiating table. He’s abandoned his party leader and negotiating partner Maxime Verhagen after a day-long row, in what some describes as a clash of pragmatism and principles. Pragmatic Mr Verhagen still wants to steam ahead with a mooted coalition with the rightwing VVD, propped up by parliamentary support from the Freedom Party. Principled Mr Klink has had enough.

The coalition talks have come under heavy fire from a string of Christian Democrat elder statesmen, notably former prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who according to “sources” has “secretly sabotaged” the coalition negotiations by putting pressure on Ab Klink to pull the plug.
Here  a roundup of the objections from the Christian Democrat heavyweights: “We’re risking dependence on a party that sees the religion of 1.5 million people in this country as a political ideology” (Cees Veerman). “The Freedom Party is getting an ounce of accountability and a kilo of authority” (Doekle Terpstra). “Do we want to live on a life support machine with Wilders operating the button?” (former prime minister Dries van Agt). “Foreign governments will frown on a country where a party with opinions like those of the Freedom Party have bargained such a prominent position for themselves” (a letter from the heavyweights in chorus).

So what next? As far as Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen is concerned, the coalition talks are still on, but the press is already moving forward. Newspapers run through all the possible coalition line-ups all over again,  providing handy pie charts illustrating how the parliamentary majorities add up. One thing is clear: no one is suggesting any options that take in Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party.

Day Opening - September 1

Entrance to the harbor of Tarabya, Istanbul - by

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day Opening - August 31

The coming weeks I will upload pictures made by Brian, as day Opening, this is no 2.
Picture made in Ortakoy, Istanbul: typical Turkish faces

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turkey - Victory Day

Victory Day - Maslak (business centre) - August 30, By Brian Underwood,
Look at Dutch ING their Lion next to the huge Flag of Turkey!

Immigration Provocateur in Germany Crosses the Line

Thilo Sarrazin, infamous for his controversial comments on Muslims and immigration, has unleashed a storm of criticism after positing the existence of a Jewish gene. Chancellor Merkel has had enough and many have called for him to be thrown off the board of the German Central Bank.

Angela Merkel is mad. In a Sunday evening interview on German public television, the German chancellor was visibly irate when asked about the recent comments on integration and immigration by Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the board at the German Central Bank.
"The statements from Mr. Sarrazin are completely unacceptable," she said. "They are exclusionary in a way that shows contempt for entire groups within our society. For me, the worst part is that by confronting the issue the way he does, he makes a discussion of that issue much more difficult."
Merkel was referring to a new book by Sarrazin, excerpts of which appeared in the German press last week. In the book, Sarrazin claims that Muslim immigrants are soon going to outnumber Germany's "autochthonous" (indigenous) population because of their higher birth rates. He also suggested that, because immigrants haven't proven to be as successful in school in Germany, the country is not only shrinking, but it is becoming less intelligent. He also said that Muslims were not interested in integration and hinted that they would prefer to work illegally off the books than to pay taxes.
more herreeeeee

Day Opening - August 30

Mt. Sinabung Volcano, Sumatra, Indonesia, erupts 28 August 2010, after 400 years of dormancy

The Istanbulian: Even Cheerleading Is Censored By Erdogan

The Istanbulian: Even Cheerleading Is Censored By Erdogan

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tired of the salon socialist and the Islamists in Turkey

This was a long and hot and humid summer and it looks like the heat will continue the next days. Too bad for the people who are fasting but next year will be worse as Ramadan starts on the 1th of August. Not only is my body working on a lower speed level so are my brains. A couple of weeks ago I met with Okan K., a Turkish filmmaker and Claire Berlinski, an American writer and journalist, both living in Istanbul. We met since we all disagree with the current policies of the Erdogan dominated government and the upcoming referendum on the 12th o September. In our opinion; a big fraud. We agreed that I will take the lead and write a column in Dutch so that it later can be translated into English, Turkish and German. We support the NO vote. My first assessment was that it would take me not more than 1 week to write that column. Wrong, 6 weeks are passed. And I am not ready yet. I was almost ready last Thursday when I deleted it by accident. Hope to finalize my previous article this long weekend – Monday is a national holiday here.

In the meantime, the fight between the salon socialists (CHP) and the Islamists (AKP) carries on. Nobody knows what and nobody knows the details of the referendum. But we know now finally some facts. Hope to inform you this week that the article is published in several newspapers in Europe and of course: Turkey.

Day Opening - August 28

Prague, the Old Town and Cathedral.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Win the Clash of Civilizations

Excellent piece by AYAAN HIRSI ALI in the Wall Street Journal

What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.
The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization.

The West's universalist pretensions are increasingly bringing it into conflict with the other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China. Thus the survival of the West depends on Americans, Europeans and other Westerners reaffirming their shared civilization as unique—and uniting to defend it against challenges from non-Western civilizations.

more herrreeeeee

Day Opening - August 27

Caddo Lake, Texas

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Being Dutch and Iranian

There is grave concern about Dutch-Iranian woman, Zahra Bahrami, who may face the death penalty in Iran. The Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has asked the Dutch embassy in Tehran to try to get access to Ms Bahrami. The daughter of Zahra Bahrami in the Netherlands asks the government for support and says her “mother is panicking because she fears being sentenced to death.” She is due to appear in court on Saturday before judge Abolghassem Salavati, who carries the nickname “judge of death”. Amnesty International has only been aware of the case since a week. The family had kept quiet up to now fearing publicity could harm her case.
Ms Bahrami has been accused of possession of drugs as well as subversive activities. She was arrested in December after the clamp down on anti-government demonstrations. The 45-year-old woman has lived in the Netherlands for a number of years, and was in Iran to visit one of her children. The point is here: she dance for a living. Possession of drugs and subversive activities are just point blank stupid.
In he meantime, the relations between Turkey and Iran become cozier with the day...

Day Opening - August 25

Eiffeltower by night

Building bridges

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turkme or Turkeu!?

No, the title is not a typo.

As you might know, Turkey and the European Union have been in the process of admitting Turkey to enter the union of nowadays 27 countries. This process has been, to say the least, complicated and uncertain to be completed. Is Turkey worth of becoming an EU member or should it be focused on the Middle East?

Decades ago, Turkey showed its interest of becoming a member of the European Union. After starting a Customs Union with the EU things look promising for further cooperation between the two parties. In 2005 the negiotiations commenced. 5 years later, entrance of Turkey looks further away than ever, partly because of the behaviour of Turkish politics, ignoring agreements made earlier and partly because of the attitude of some EU members, with the French government on front, fearing the great influence Turkey will have in the union.

In my opinion Turkey should become EU member, purely based upon economic motives. Turkey provides the EU a great potential of industrial and labor force. With its relatively young population, some demographic problems in Western Europe can be tackled. For example, The Netherlands is about to experience a great lack of personnel in the care branch. The so called 'baby boomers' (people born right after the end of WWII) turn 65 soon, retire and need more care for the upcoming 20 years. Meanwhile the gap that arises can't be filled sufficiently by the local youngsters, so it seems necessary that labor needs to be 'imported' from countries like Turkey.

On the other hand, Turkey provides lots of opportunities to the EU. Although the economic activities are mainly concentrated in the western part of the country, a lot of great spots elsewhere provide investors value for money. Of course it takes guts, but if taken, Turkey can become the jewel of the EU...

So, will Turkey be part of the EU (TurkEU) or of the Middle East(TurkME)? I sincerely hope for the first, perhaps because of my own interest. It'll take lots of effort, based on one thing in particular: trust. Trust in the future, trust in stability, trust in the ability to cooperate.

Day Opening - August 23

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is France Lost?

You see a lot of ranting about France in Turkey, especially by people who never ever visit the country but have a big prejudice about the French in general and Sarkozy in particular.
Below a story of a French Muslem who simple notified what's lost in France. It's long but worth reading.
Time to leave — France is lost

by Robert Marchenoir

Alibekov has had just about enough. This 30-year-old conservative blogger, French-born, newlywed, with a good university education, has just decided to turn his back on his home country, where his grandparents hid Jews during the Second World War. He has almost completed his immigration papers for Canada. He is leaving soon. Next step, possibly: the United States.
After university, Alibekov lived and worked for six years in Africa. He returned home a short while ago to the Paris region. What he saw horrified him. Last June, he filed this post on his blog, Bouteille à l’Amer, which he shares with his friend Memento Mouloud. All the facts in the following eyewitness report are genuine, he told me — only the names have been changed:

First of all, let us extend a warm welcome to Abiba. She has just arrived from Cameroon, thanks to a tourist visa her husband got her by bribing some official. Abiba plans to give birth in France. She expects the authorities will be kind enough to grant her legal residency status, because of her child. She will spend one or two years in low-cost hotels, moving from time to time. [The government will pick up the bill.] After that, the happy family will be granted a city council flat by the social services, on the grounds of her being a single mother. They will also provide her with a job, so she can pay part of the rent.
This valuable advice has been passed on to her by her aunt, who has been living in France for five years. Her aunt had received it previously from a cousin, who has been living in France for ten years.
We are headed for the district of Seine-Saint-Denis, in order to attend a funeral in an African family.
[Seine-Saint-Denis is a district adjacent to the northern limit of Paris proper. The first bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, was buried there in the 3rd century. French kings have been buried in the basilica of the town of Saint-Denis since the 7th century. The ill-famed district, also known by its administrative number, “the 93rd”, is nowadays one of the most heavily populated by immigrants.]
We reach high-rise concrete buildings, planted next to some wasteland. I am immediately reminded of The Dormant Beast, by Enki Bilal: an apocalyptic landscape, repulsively filthy, and an out-of-this world population.
Bearded men with moronic looks, dressed as if they were in Islamabad, come out from nowhere, huddling together. I try to catch their eyes, but their gaze remains perfectly alien to me. All I can see in it is some sort of mystical fear, mixed with unfathomable stupidity.
Slouching on a bench next to tuned-up cars with blaring stereos, some youngsters listen to “Raï and B” music (so as to assume a “French” identity, as opposed to an American one). They dutifully proceed to create a tapestry of glistening spit to stamp their feet on.
Next to the front door lies a heap of refuse originating from the local McDonald’s, KFC, and grocery store. Banana peels and peanut shells degrade into a strange form of humus.

A diminutive white lady, followed by her ten years-old son, makes a desperate effort to keep the place bearable: while on her way, she stoops to pick up three discarded bags of French fries, and throws them in the bin where they belong. As soon as she walks into the lobby, a youngster dumps his uneaten shawarma right in front of the glass door.
We proceed towards the Eastern building, staircase B. The corridor is flanked by mail boxes with Arab names, sometimes barely emerging from under fading graffiti.
The stench of urine is suffocating. Tears come instantly to my eyes. It gets worse as we set foot in the elevator. I am advised to stay clear of the steel sides. Once polished, they are now stained with vertical streaks of rust. It seems the elevator’s walls react to urine as swiftly as pH test paper.

On the twelfth floor, we are faced with a choice: one door is adorned with Koranic verses, the other with photographs of Mecca and the Kaaba. We run into a couple of retired French blue-collar workers of exquisite kindness. Just the type of people the System would describe as loathsome racists and fascists. Does Konaré live nearby? Well, they say, his third wife actually lives just opposite to them on the tenth floor; however, Konaré himself lives in the Western building with his second wife.
Staircase C is already chock-full with twenty-odd people waiting their turn to pay their respects — or to get a free meal. Seventy individuals altogether have gathered at the place, coming from three families only. Some of them learn on the spot that they are relatives, because their father had children with his own cousin, or because some half-brother married his sister before wedding wife number four.

I elbow my way through to the strategic centre of the house, and I sit on the floor. Next to me are two bearded men, wearing boubous and keffiyehs. One is browsing an interactive Koran on his iPhone. The other keeps peppering the crowd with non-stop blessings. The assembly responds in kind every ten seconds.
Women bring in plastic basins full of greasy rice, soaked in mutton juice. We assemble around them by groups of five, and help ourselves with our right hand, chanting “hamdoullah” roughly every minute and a half. Each time a girl comes out of the kitchen to tend the mourners, at least one guy asks whom she is married to. I feel I am in the middle of a group of shepherds anxious to buy a few more goats.
I am informed that each member of this happy crowd lives off the child benefits granted by the state to their multiple wives. Each man owns ten to twelve children. Each wife has her own flat assigned to her, courtesy of the city council. Most Frenchmen think polygamous Africans share their lodgings with their different wives. This is absolutely wrong. The whole point is for each wife to benefit from a certain degree of material autonomy. This, in turn, shows the financial power of the husband. Welfare benefits, of course, pervert this principle, since the husband does not need to work anymore. But the wives still get the money. Let me say this once again: France hands out a city council flat to each wife of a polygamous African living in the country. It is the man, however, who collects the state benefits, of which he gives back a tiny amount to his women.
The goal is to save enough money for a new wedding, which may well involve a bride plucked directly out of Africa — usually a younger one.

People mingle and chatter. Abdallah tells his neighbour that, with the money from the child benefits, he is currently building a house in Bamako for his fourth wife, who is twenty years old.
Moussa is worried. He made the mistake of telling the Préfecture that his wife’s sister was, well, also his wife. Therefore, the police warned Abibatou that she would have to leave the country within a month. She refuses. “What will my folks think of me, back in Africa, if they see me return? They believe I have a good situation in France. If I go back with my hands empty, they will make a fool of me. No way. I’m staying here.” So Abibatou moved to a cousin’s place, and is trying to evade the authorities.
An endless string of such stories is exchanged. Malek, Oumar, Tariq… Their worries about women, money, jealousy between wives, weddings among cousins, children born handicapped due to inbreeding… (they believe it is because of sorcery).

I feel nauseous. This is not France. I cannot believe it. Some of those guys have been settled here since the 1960’s, and they still live within their own closed community, totally impervious to their host country — except when welfare benefits are concerned — ruled by Islamic superstition and by the tribal mores of the remotest African villages.
And I do not mean Africa under the French colonial rule, which was much more liveable. Schools and hospitals, at least, were functional and free. One has to infer that they immigrate in France in order to find Africa as it was before the French empire, which is depicted in horrible terms by corrupt Third-World leaders and by immigrant lobbies such as Indigènes de la République. I am trying hard to figure out what opportunity these immigrants might represent for our country. But faced with reality, I am at a loss to make something out of all that sweet talk about multiculturalism. Theories about “a French breed of Islam” are wishful thinking. Facts are facts, and it is the burden of die-hard immigration lobbyists to explain to us why it would be legitimate to impose such a presence to the French people, without, at the same time, imposing on African immigrants, as their part of the deal, a requirement to abandon upon arrival at the airport their boubous dyed in the worst of what the underdeveloped world has to offer.
From his post, you can guess that Alibekov has had his fair share of “racism” and “Islamophobia” indictments thrown at him. Whenever this occurs, he reaches for a small black box in his right pocket, and lays it on the table in front of him. It’s his own tactical nuclear weapon. He presses the big red button, and…

— My wife is a black Muslim African.

If his adversary still moves, or mumbles, he reaches for his left pocket, and out comes another small black box. He presses the big red button, and…
— I’m a Muslim myself.
— Whaaat?…
Now, I’m sure this is banned by the Geneva convention. Then again, everybody has the right to argue his case.
“I’m a cultural Christian, although I don’t go to church”, Alibekov explained me. “But my in-laws blackmailed me into converting to Islam, otherwise they would keep harassing my wife”.
So he just decided to go through the motions. He does not believe a word of what he said, and his African family does not care: as long as he said the words, he’s a Muslim to them.

You cannot sing sweet nursery rhymes about the goodness of African multiculturalism to Alibekov. He has been there, he has lived for two years in areas where civil war was rife, and he has nice stories of his own to tell you: how he saw a warrior wearing a necklace of penises sliced off the enemy; how he took pictures of some other fighters eating the limbs of people they had just killed; how, in some parts of Africa, thieves are punished by ramming a three-inch nail into the top of their skull..
You also get the sense, through his writings, that he has a real fondness for Africa. But it does not mean he likes France being turned into an African province.
And neither does his African wife.

“She was aghast when she first set foot in France”, says Alibekov. “She told me: why, this is Africa!”
“My wife also asked me, with no irony at all, whether black people were exempted from paying in public transport, when she saw the extent of the fraud taking place in ethnic enclaves.
“Every day, in greater Paris, we stumble upon people we met in Africa. They have just arrived on the back of a one-month tourist visa, and they are determined to stay permanently. I regularly get calls from Africa, telling me that Youssouf, Sissoko, or Yaya will test his luck by handing $4,500 dollars under the table for a visa, and that I will probably see him soon somewhere in the suburbs of Paris. I always do.
“By the way, my African friends who have an education or a job stay at home. The ones we see coming here are cleaning ladies, ‘musicians’, soon-to-be ‘single mothers’, so-called ‘businessmen’ who will end up selling peanuts on the pavement…”
Personal history and political analysis are interweaved in Alibekov’s decision to emigrate.
“Because I live in the Paris area, I have been in constant contact with immigrants. Since the age of twelve, I have been racially insulted fifteen times (‘filthy white’, ‘little Frenchy’, ‘little piggy’.). I was assaulted several times (always by five or seven to one).”

Almost off-handedly, while discussing with a reader in the comment section of his blog, he mentions that “the number of girls [he knew] during his studies who were gang-raped by black youths, is staggering”.
“Despite the evidence of the political disaster since the mid-seventies” he thinks, “dissidents will never be tolerated within the mainstream media. The only possible action is a form of semi-underground lobbying. I recently held a discussion with some friends and colleagues to test their limits. I realise that the law of silence still prevails. To my great astonishment, the psychological barrier is still there. Maybe people just fear being branded as Nazis if they agree with you.”

“The way things are going, whether in the workplace or because of the schizophrenia of the society at large, any country will be better than this one. My university friends who emigrated to the United States or Canada regularly encourage me to join their dream where work is rewarded, and civic virtue is promoted. France is lost. The only future it has in stock for our generation of graduates is spelled in four letters: S-M-I-C [the French acronym for the minimum wage].”
Oh, and by the way: Abiba, the “single mother” from Cameroon, has just disappeared into the woodwork. Nothing to worry about: her one-month tourist visa has now expired. She has only gone into stealth mode.

Day Opening - August 22

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

10 Head of States who managed to win serieus respect (1)

The Love-Abroad-Hated-at-Home: Nicolas Sarkozy.

Scandals and dismals plaque him in France, but give the French president a bigger stage and he shines. As EU chief in 2008, he took the lead on everything from fighting piracy to brokering peace between Russia and Georgia. Next year, Sarko will host both the G8 and G20, with Iran and the recession on his to-do list.

Day Opening - August 20

Ronda, Spain (last Sun beams)
By Gerolamo Romano

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Heroin addicts in the Netherlands

Free heroin approach is successful in the Netherlands. An estimated number of heroin users in the Netherlands dropped from 30,000 in 1983 to 17,700 in 2008. A colour diagram indicates most Dutch heroin addicts are middle-aged. Chillingly, the diagram stops at the age of 59. Ten years ago, a Utrecht city-centre shopping precinct was plagued by the nuisance and petty crime caused by heroin addicts. The city began a trial of supplying the addicts with heroin (rather than methadone) under medical supervision. Not only have the group ceased to cause trouble, but few young people appear to be becoming addicted to the drug. Now, after the approach has been introduced nationwide, heroin addicts have disappeared from the streets of Utrecht and many other Dutch cities. "The addicts are better off because of it. Utrecht is visibly better off because of this project," crows a councillor.
A man in glasses in a clean hospital room is preparing his heroin on a piece of silver foil. Tonny Gijsen was given his first heroin by "hippies" when he was just 13. Now, it's too late for him to kick the habit.
"I've got my life a bit on the rails again," he tells us. "We're a dying breed. Youngsters are more interested in cocaine and speed. If this supply stopped, you'd get a load of bother again on the streets. The dealers would find us again."
Will this solve the problem? As a matter of fact, there is an decrease of using hashies since it was legalized 10 years ago...

Day Opening - August 19

Sail Amsterdam starts today! One of the most impressive shows in the world regarding sailing/boats etc.
Here more.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Dutchman in Morocco

When he was nine his father took him with the rest of the family from the Netherlands to Morocco. At the age of 17, he returned to the Netherlands as an illegal immigrant, and was deported seven years later. The only thing Mohammed wants is to live in the land of his birth – the Netherlands.
"What am I doing here? I’m a Dutchman. Even the people here call me a Dutchman," says the 26-year-old Mohammed Htitich in desperation.
Mohammed works as a builder in a small village close to the Moroccan seaside town Al Hoceima. He works from seven in the morning till five in the evening for ten euros per day. He doesn’t have a house; he sleeps in a room of a house owned by a friend from the Netherlands. Every day Mohammed asks himself what he has done to deserve punishment.
"I think of the Netherlands all the time. When I wake up in the morning I start to cry, just like a woman."
Mohammed was born in 1984, as a late arrival in a Moroccan family in The Hague. At a particular moment, his father decided that he’d had enough of the Netherlands. With a good pension, he left on his 60th birthday together with his wife and went back to Meknes in Morocco. Mohammed was nine years old at the time. As the only minor in the family he had to go with them. But he couldn’t settle in Morocco. He left home and started living rough on the streets. Mohammed continued to dream of the Netherlands, and when he was 17 he decided to come back as an illegal immigrant.

In the Netherlands, he tried as hard as he could to make a living, which involved taking black market jobs. He went to Delft to live with his Dutch girlfriend, and they had a daughter, Fatima Zahra. But life in his beloved Netherlands was far from easy. His brothers and sisters, who all remain living in the Netherlands, disowned him because he had fathered a child out of wedlock, which is forbidden in the Qu’ran. “They called my daughter Fatima a 'whore daughter'", says Mohammed bitterly.
Also his attempts to gain legal status through a lawyer were unsuccessful. In 2007, he was arrested on the street by the police. He spent a year locked up, first on a detention boat in Rotterdam, then in a prison in Zeist. In December 2008 he was expelled. For the second time in his life, he had to leave the Netherlands under duress. On the aircraft his frustrations got the better of him. He assaulted a stewardess and tried to cut his wrist. In the Netherlands that he had left behind, the incident was reported in the newspapers.

Angry at the Netherlands

Mohammed doesn’t have a good word to say for Morocco, where he has lived for nearly two years. “Here it’s worse than prison,” he says. He’s also angry with his father, with whom he no longer has contact.
"He had the choice of returning to the country of his birth, but what about me?"
But Mohammed is especially angry with the Netherlands.
"I was born in the Netherlands and grew up there. I’ve lived most of my life there. They should treat me justly!"
In the summer the village where Mohammed lives fills up with Dutch people of Moroccan origin, who come to enjoy their vacation and display their wealth. Mohammed has a lot of friends amongst the holidaymakers. Isn’t he jealous when he sees his friends come from the Netherlands with luxury cars and expensive clothes? The bitterness drains from Mohammed’s eyes.
"No, definitely not. I’m not a hater. If I see a Moroccan with a beautiful car, it makes me happy!"

Mohammed still has a glimmer of hope. He plans to apply for a so-called temporary residence permit, in order to come back to the Netherlands legally. But the question is whether his application will be successful.

Day Opening - August 18


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sumela monastery in Turkey celebrates mass after 88 years.

The Greek Orthodox faithful flocked to the cliffside setting of Sumela monastery in northeast Turkey on Sunday after Ankara allowed mass to be celebrated here for the first time in 88 years.
"After 88 years, the tears of the Virgin Mary have stopped flowing," the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, said during the service.
The site is of particular importance to Pontian Greeks, whose ancestors fled the region around the Black Sea during fighting after World War I and dispersed in Greece and Russia.
When Turkey fought Greece between 1920-22 during its war of independence, several tens of thousands of Pontian Greeks were massacred, or died as they went into forced exodus.
Greece says 350,000 people died and describes the event as a genocide, though the term is not used by the international community and is rejected by Turkey.
On Sunday, around 500 Pontians were allowed into the fourth-century monastery while around 2,000 others come from Istanbul, Greece, Russia and Georgia, watched the mass on a giant television screen outside.
"For us the Virgin of Sumela is more important than our own mother," said Charalambos Zigas, a 51-year-old mechanic from Greece. "You have to be a Pontian Greek to understand the importance of this mass."
He said that when his grandfather fled the mountainous region for exile in Russia in 1922, he lost his wife and son who were eaten by bears.
Many of the faithful sought out houses that used to belong to their ancestors.
"Everyone here is like me, they came to see the region, find a house... we've even met two people from here who say they're Pontian and we spoke Pontian Greek," said Greek veterinarian Maria Piativou, 42.
Turkey in May sent a letter to the patriarch authorising mass to be celebrated here once a year on August 15.
The gesture appeared aimed at Turkey's own Greek Orthodox minority, thought today to number around 2,000 people, which complains of discrimination.
In a similar gesture to Turkey's Armenian minority, Ankara also authorised mass to be celebrated in September at the museum-church of Akdamar, in the eastern Van province.

Day Opening - August 15

Patagonia, Argentina

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Statement #42

Because Allah doesn’t make any covenant, he isn’t going to change you. Allah will not change the condition of the people until they change it themselves with their own souls. It is a self effort. It has nothing to do with Allah. Allah doesn’t change a man. He would not touch anybody. He is not the God of the Christian faith who will seek the lost.
If you deny the work of the Holy Spirit and if you deny that aspect of the faith and you will rely that it is a self help program, you see, that is denying the whole of Biblical theology.
Who converts you? Faith is the gift of God. It is not of you. We were children of wrath, therefore depravity of man cannot be ignored. The work of the Holy Spirit cannot be overlooked, must not be ignored. Otherwise, there is no difference between Islam and the Christian faith that people claim to have.

A former Sharia jurist on Islam and Christianity

Day Opening - August 13

Golden Mount Athos, Greece.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dutch Schiphol buys terminal 4 of JFK (New York) Airport

Amsterdam's airport Schiphol has become the sole owner of Terminal 4 at New York's JFK airport. This is the first time that a foreign company has taken control of an airport terminal in the United States. Schiphol already owned 40 percent of the terminal's shares. Now, for a further 13 million dollars, it has purchased the remaining 60 percent.

Schiphol will be able to charge fees to all airline companies wishing to make use of the terminal. In the coming years, the terminal is to be expanded from 16 to 25 gates. The biggest customer will be Delta Air Lines, which is a partner of the Air France-KLM company.
Airline companies try to transport as many passengers from a single airport on one continent to a single airport on another continent. This enables them to carry travellers via their own network, or that of a partner, to the final destination. This is known as the 'hub system'. Jos Nijhuis, Schiphol's CEO, says the purchase will, "Considerably strengthen the position of Amsterdam as European hub for the US. That will lead to extra [flight] traffic to Amsterdam."
Camiel Eurlings, the Dutch caretaker transport minister, commented that, "This is not only financially lucrative, but also strategically important. There are only a few European airports left with global importance. The rest are fading away to the regional level, handling only European flights."
FYI: Royal Dutch KLM is not the owner of Schiphol Airport Amsterdam.

Day Opening - August 12

Backbone rice terrace, China

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The new Prime Minister of the Netherlands

This is Mark Rutte, probably the new PM of the Netherlands in a week of three.
He is the leader of the Liberal party the VVD (which is, contrary withe the USA, conservative) and the guy is still a bachelor...and is only a good match for Michelle Obama (three years his senior) or the French President's wife...his age.)!

Day Opening - August 11

Penguins? By Alexander Flemming.