Friday, August 1, 2008

Turkey’s coup by court

Turkey’s coup by court by Jenny White.

Running like a geological fault beneath Turkey is a long-standing split between the popularly elected government and the state.
The elected government (at present dominated by the Islam-influenced Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish acronym AKP) is at odds with the state, which includes the military, judiciary, and other administrative institutions.
Today the country is face to face with what many see as a judicial coup d’etat as the Constitutional Court deliberates whether or not to ban the popularly elected ruling party and bring down the government. This decision by seven judges (the minimum needed to convict) will change Turkey’s future.

The state sees itself as the guardian of secularism and of the integrity of the Turkish nation-state. The government, on the other hand, sees itself as representing the interests of the electorate, a large percentage of which is devout or conservative in lifestyle.
The state has consistently interfered in the working of the elected government since the first multi-party election in 1950.
There have been three coups against elected governments, several operations just short of a coup, and the Constitutional Court has shut down 24 political parties. The usual reason given is to safeguard secularism against elected parties seen as being too Islamic.

The AKP is the offspring of a series of overly Islamist, at times pro-shariah parties that all were closed down over the past twenty years. The earlier parties, led by Necmettin Erbakan, were influenced by the Nakshibendi Sheikh Mehmed Zahid Kotku and by Islamist writers like Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, whose works were translated into Turkish in the 1970s. They advocated Islam as a political project in place of Westernization. In 1975 Erbakan laid out his vision, Millî Görüş or National View, which was a nationalist form of Islamism with a strong racialist component based on Turkishness, Turkish blood and history.

Millî Görüş advocated withdrawing from NATO and the West in general, but was not against modernization. In fact, Islam provided an authentic Turkish justification of modernization that did not rely on the West, and it also provided a justification for orienting Turkey to the Middle East, that is, to its former Ottoman territories.

Continue reading herreeee

e-Hatred, e-Arguments, blogs and more

This week I came across an article called 'The Brave new World of e-hatred.' An article published in the Economist of this week. I will summarize it and put some own comments here as well, from the perspective as a communication manager.
And for those who still cling to the ideal that modern communication tools would establish new bonds of friendship divided by culture, religion, political boundaries and distance, the latest trends on internet are depressing!
Of course, as anyone would expect, governments use their official web site (and here in Turkey the military as well) to boast about their achievements and to argue their corner - usually rather clunkily - in disputes about territory, symbols or historical rights and wrongs.

What is much more disturbing is the way in which skilled young surfers - the very people whom the internet might have liberated from the shackles of state-sponsored ideologies - are using the wonders of electronics to stoke hatred between countries, races or religions (think about the ongoing war on internet in West Europe between ultra-nationalist Kurds and the fascistoide Grey Wolves).
Sometimes these cyber-zealots seem to be acting at 'their' governments' behest - but often they are working on their own.

From the earliest days of the internet the new medium became a forum for nationalists spats that were sometimes relatively innocent by today's standards. People sparred for example whether Israel could call hummus part of its cuisine. And sometimes such arguments moved to Wikipedia whose elaborate moderation rules put a limit to acrimony!
But e-arguments also led to hacking wars; for example the hacking contest between Serbs and Albanians or Turks and Armenians.

In my opinion a darker development is the abuse of blogs such as the polygazette. But also social networks, maps and video sharing sites as YouTube make it easy to publish incendiary material and form hate groups. Ultra nationalist Greeks and the Turkish Revenge Brigade are good examples of this.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre published in May that they witnessed an increase by 30% of sited that informed hatred and violence. The total was around 8.000!

Not all the news is bad; there are also sites for friendship between Greeks and Turks (Yahoo and Facebook) and Israelis and Palestinians.

And there is history (I let the Armenian democide over to others); 10 years ago, a zealot seeking to prove some absurd proposition such as the denial of the Nazi holocaust, might spend days of research in the library looking for obscure works of propoganda. Today digital versions of these books, even those out of press for decades, are accessible in dedicated online libraries!
In short, it has never been easier to propagate hatred and lies. So, be aware what you read and the internet is full of noise. People with good intentions might think harder about how they too can make use of internet.

Nobody conspires against Turkey:

Letters to the editor
Thursday, July 31, 2008

As a foreigner living his fifth year in Turkey, I was grateful for Mustafa Akyol's excellent criticism pointed out in his article, "Why the CIA funds me and other nonsense." (July 24)

I came to Turkey from Finland in 2004 to teach at the Boğaziçi University (BU) and I lectured on sociology and comparative education to over 1,500 Turkish students until January when I left to work for a private company as consultant in EU/WB development aid projects in Turkey. I was astonished how the great majority of my students were reflecting exactly the mentality of criticizing the leading political party for destroying Turkey and turning it into a religious state (with the help of evil foreign powers, of course). What was more amazing was that my colleagues at the university were fully supporting this ideology. I even witnessed how two professors from BU told the students never to vote for the AKP before last year's election. Many of our students were actually children of religious conservative families. Some female teachers further ridiculed girls wearing the headscarf during classes. It seems the mentality including conspiracies of all kind is fully supported by the education system even at the "free-thinking" university level. Even my ex-wife (a Turkish academic as well) enjoyed telling me adventurous stories about foreign powers just trying to wipe Turkey off the world. And she had been educated abroad in the U.K. at a well-known university. I have worked with the EU for six years and I'm an advisor for one of the EU's committees. I know personally many European top-level politicians, and I must say that these conspiracies that secularist Turks keep on telling me about have no grounds, especially in the minds of anyone in Europe that I know personally. Yes, there are misunderstandings about Turkey, and even xenophobia, but no systematic attempts to help create a religious state in Turkey (even though almost all European countries are not de facto secular – they have state churches).

Aki Virtanen, Istanbul, Turkey

Note: in fact, I could write this also. And Aki writes here what most of the foreigners in Turkey thinks. Excellent letter!

Day Opening - August 1

"Passage de Julien" by Vadik Suljakov.