Turkey: Are Erdoğan’s Days Numbered?

It appears that the Islamic Gülenists and the secular Atatürkists — not friends in the past — have forged an alliance and are now ascendant.

Major political events have rocked the political scene in Turkey the past two weeks. Turkey’s once seemingly-invincible prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seems in a tailspin. A few days ago, he lashed out at U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and threatened to expel him from Turkey. Erdoğan claimed the Ambassador told other Western diplomats that the “empire [Erdoğan and his associates] is about to fall.[1]”

Clearly, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s policy of “Zero Problems With Our Neighbors” — meaning the alliance with Turkey’s Sunni-ruled Arab neighbors — has failed. Turkey now has problems with almost all its neighbors. It appears that the Gülenists and the Atatürkists — not friends in the past — are now ascendant. It is unlikely that they, or whoever might take over in Turkey, would want to continue this failed approach.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L), and Fethullah Gülen. (Image source: World Economic Forum [Erdoğan] — Diyar se/WikiMedia Commons [Gülen])

Long-brewing political struggles within the ruling AK party have also surfaced. They boil down to two radically different views of Islam. In the first, Erdoğan’s faction identifies and allies itself with the [Arab] Muslim Brotherhood. This faction was strongly supportive of the ousted Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi, and also of Syria’s fundamentalists. In the second view, supporters of the Fethullah Gülen look down upon “Arab Islam.” To them, “real” Islam is “the Islam of the Turks – meaning the people who live in Turkey, Central Asia, and Western China.”[2] [3]

To the outsider, these differences might seem to be distinctions without differences: supporters of both views understandably want Islam to be a major part of the political order. But for Turks, these differences are seismic: the question is, do they belong to the Middle Eastern Arab and Muslim political camp, or do they belong to the wider Turkish world?

Since Erdoğan and his fellow Islamic fundamentalists took power in 2002, Gülen and his forces have been in the background, building prep-schools and propagating their version of Islam — in Turkey, in the Turkic world, and also in America. It is not surprising that when Gülen faced legal difficulties in Turkey[4] in 1999, he fled to the U.S., ostensibly for medical treatment, apparently still ongoing.[5]

On May 31, 2010, Erdoğan’s government backed and encouraged a flotilla of Turkish ships supposedly to bring needed supplies to the Gaza Strip, ruled by their fellow Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalists, Hamas. Gülen may have seen this as an opportunity indirectly publicly to chastise Erdoğan. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal [6], Gülen argued that as Israel legitimately controlled the waters off Gaza, the flotilla should have asked for Israel’s permission to land there. Gülen did not criticize Erdoğan directly; people rarely criticize others directly in Turkey. But culturally, his choice of words indicated to Turks that he was blamed Erdoğan for creating the crisis.

Gülen has not been known to be supportive of the Jews, nor for that matter of the U.S. or the West.[7] But now in his battle is evidently to ensure that Turkish Islam defeats the so-called Arab-Muslim Brotherhood type of Islam supported by Erdoğan, the Jews and the West might well seem useful allies. As many Middle Easterners say, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” A friendship, or alliance, might be temporary, but may continue as long as required.[8]

Earlier this year, the enmity between Erdoğan and Gülen broke out into the open, evidently ignited by Turkey’s Gezi Park protests — weeks of riots and demonstrations against the Turkish prime minister[9]. Erdoğan encountered enormous difficulty putting them down; in so doing, he alienated large sections of Turkey’s population. Gülenists, active in this uprising[10], possibly discerning political weakness, may well have used that crisis as an opportunity to try to defeat their opponents.

Perhaps in revenge, Erdoğan — often quick to respond emotionally[11] — proposed laws to ban dershane [prep-schools], the bread and butter of the Gülen movement, and where Gülen recruits followers, who later become the political and financial backbone of his movement.[12] For the Gülenists, Erdogan’s proposed ban appears to have been the decisive provocation.

Since Gülen’s self-imposed exile, his supporters, well-placed throughout the Turkish bureaucracy, have continued to provide him with extensive influence inside the Turkish police and judiciary, and are believed also to have infiltrated the secret services, law enforcement offices and even the AK party itself.[13]

Gülen’s supporters responded to this proposed ban by arresting 52 members of Erdoğan’s closest associates, including sons of two of his cabinet ministers, and charging them with corruption. According to rumors circulating in Turkey, some of Erdoğan’s relatives are also involved in the plot ; the facts are still unclear.[14] The central figure in this corruption scandal is an Iranian Azeri, Reza Zarrab — married to a popular Turkish singer — who was illegally trading with Iran. Zarrab is charged with bribing the sons of the Turkish ministers — some of Erdoğan’s closest associates.

At the same time, the Israeli national airline, El Al, announced that, after a six-year hiatus, it would resume flights to Turkey. Apparently the Turkish government had been refusing to let Israel observe the flight security procedures it follows everywhere else in the world,[15] but out of nowhere, Turkey seems suddenly to have acceded to Israel’s security demands.

Further, the judiciary released from jail the retired General Çevik Bir, who had been strong advocate of U.S.-Turkish-NATO relations. Bir had been the central figure in the “February 28 Plot” — evidently dreamed up by Erdoğan and his associates as a means of finding some legal ground for which to prosecute opponents. Bir, it was claimed, was the central figure of this alleged plot, allegedly hatched by the Generals of National Security Council, to overthrow the Islamist government of Erdoğan’s mentor, Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.

Bir was also one of the major architects of the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement in the 1990s, and a strong opponent of Fethullah Gülen, whom he apparently saw as an Islamic fundamentalist and a long-term danger to Turkey’s secular and democratic Atatürkist Republic. Because of Bir’s outspoken animosity against the Islamists, which included the powerful Gülen, Bir seems to have been an important factor in Gülen’s decision to flee the country.

So why was Bir — an opponent of Gülen — released by a heavily Gülenist judiciary? Although the reasons behind Bir’s release are not yet clear, as an opponent of the Erdoğan government, however, he could now be an ally of Gülen.

Where Turkey’s once highly influential military stands is unclear. So far, it has been silent. It has historically been — and its senior officers still are — steeped in the Atatürkist secular and pro-Western tradition. At least for the moment, the Islamist Gülenists[16] seem to have forged an alliance of convenience with Turkey’s secularists. The beneficiaries of this political upheaval could well be the West, the U.S., NATO, and Israel. Stay tuned.

Notes

[1] “Erdoğan implies US ambassador to be expelled”, Today’s Zaman.

[2] For a further explanation of the differences between these two Islamist factions, see Harold Rhode, “Mapping Political Islam in Turkey”.

[3] We in the West use the word “Turkish” as an adjective to describe Turkey, and “Turkic” to describe Turks in today’s Russia, the Central Asian Republics, and in Xinjiang, China. Nevertheless, there is a feeling that despite their differences, all of these peoples emanate from one people, and are like close family. From their point of view, Non-Turkish and non-Turkic Muslims are not part of the “family.”

[4] See, “Fethullah Gülen’s Grand Ambition”, Rachel Sharon Krespin, and “Turkish investigation into Islamic sect expanded”, BBC News. 21 June 1999.

[5] “U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam”. 60 Minutes, CBS News, May 13, 2012.

[6] “Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla”, Wall Street Journal.

[7] From personal interviews with students educated in Gülen schools in Turkey and Central Asia, his people look for potential supporters from among their students. Those selected are invited to “sohbetler” [“conversations”] where anti-American/Western, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic views are often propagated, but kept private not to jeopardize political support abroad.

[8] This is similar to the “alliance” at present between Israel and many Sunni leaders — especially the Saudis, and the Gulf States – who oppose Shiite Iran. After “regime change” in Iran, it remains to be seen how long this “alliance” will last. Similarly, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, until America liberated Kuwait, the Saudis and Kuwaitis maintained relationships with Jewish groups in Western capitals. The day Kuwait was liberated, the Saudis and Kuwaitis severed virtually all contact with these Jewish leaders.

[9] For more on these riots and demonstrations, see, “Turkish police storm protest camp using teargas and rubber bullets,” The Guardian.

[10] This is from conversations with Gülenists throughout the country at that time.

[11] Public examples of these emotional outbursts are many. To cite just two: In June, 2009, Erdoğan lashed out at Israeli President Shimon Peres, calling Israelis killers. Earlier this year, when the Gezi Park demonstrations took place, he labeled the participants “Çapulcus” – low-life good for nothings.

[12] “Draft law aims to ban all prep schools, punish if necessary”, Today’s Zaman.

[13] “Fethullah Gulen: Is Islamic Cleric in Self-Exile Behind Turkey’s High-Profile Arrests?”, International Business Times

[14] “More arrests as power struggle racks Erdogan government in Turkey,” CNN.com

[15] “Israeli airlines to resume flights to Turkey after six-year hiatus,” The Jerusalem Post

[16] For a detailed study of Gülen’s Turkish/Turkic Islam, see “Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal ‘Turkish Islam’ Movement”, GLORIA.

Corruption Scandal Is Edging Near Turkish Premier : The Newyork Times

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Turkish protesters in Istanbul on Wednesday shouted slogans as they held signs calling for the government’s resignation.
Sedat Suna / European Pressphoto Agency
By TIM ARANGO

ISTANBUL — A corruption investigation that has encircled the Turkish government moved an ominous step closer to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, as three top ministers whose sons have been implicated abruptly resigned — and one of them, on his way out the door, said Mr. Erdogan should step down as well.

The resignations, coming only hours after the ministers welcomed Mr. Erdogan at the Ankara airport as he returned from Pakistan late on Tuesday, were enough to inspire new talk of a deepening crisis, which Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly denounced as a foreign plot.

But the words from one of the departing ministers were considered stunning, coming from a political party known for silencing dissent. That instantly raised the significance of the entire inquiry and left members of the Turkish public wondering if they were witnessing the collapse of their Islamist-rooted government of the last decade.

“Now it seems the situation has changed completely,” said Kerem Oktem, a Turkey expert and research fellow at the European Studies Center at the University of Oxford. “It seems the ring around Erdogan has gotten tighter.”

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke before images of himself and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey’s founder.

Cem Oksuz / Anadolu Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

Later, as a dramatic day came to a close, Mr. Erdogan emerged from a meeting with President Abdullah Gul in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and announced that seven other ministers would leave his cabinet, some of whom are departing as part of a long-planned shuffle so that they can run for mayors in coming elections. One of the late-night departures included the European Union minister, who has been implicated in the corruption investigation.

The investigation became public a week ago with dawn police raids on the offices of businessmen and others close to the prime minister. But Wednesday was the first time that someone who had been in Mr. Erdogan’s hierarchy — a confidant, no less — left the strong implication of the prime minister’s entanglements in some of the real estate deals at the heart of the case.

The crisis strikes a sharp contrast to the image that Turkey has projected as an exemplar of a prosperous, Muslim-majority country based on democratic principles. A NATO member, Turkey has been embraced by the United States and Europe as a force for stability in the tumultuous Middle East, and the country has sought to play an important role in shaping the outcome of crises in Syria, Egypt and with Iran’s nuclear program. With Mr. Erdogan now preoccupied with political survival, Turkey’s role in the region and its relationship with the West are in question.

The corruption inquiry has targeted the ministers’ sons, a major construction tycoon with links to Mr. Erdogan and municipal workers, and it centers in part on allegations that officials received bribes in exchange for ignoring zoning rules and approving contentious development projects. No one has been convicted, but the issue has struck a nerve among the Turkish public, especially Istanbul residents. They have become increasingly resentful over the dizzying pace of development and riches amassed by a new, pious economic elite, with a strong hand in the construction industry, which rose to power alongside Mr. Erdogan and his associates.

At the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday, protesters denounced Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr.

Adem Altan / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Analysts questioned whether Mr. Erdogan can weather the crisis by blaming foreign powers, appealing to the religious sentiments of supporters, and evoking the ghosts of Turkey’s past by likening it to the war for independence it fought after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

The developments on Wednesday came amid rumors in the local news media that more damaging allegations from the investigation were coming and would link directly to Mr. Erdogan and his family.

“We can see the prime minister is trying to take precautions against something that could be bigger,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the head of the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization. Mr. Unluhisarcikli said that as the investigation inched closer to Mr. Erdogan personally, he would “have more difficulty containing the damage.”

The public has been riveted by a flow of sordid details of the investigations leaked to the news media — with photographs of piles of cash in the bedroom of a minister’s son and reports that the chief executive of a state-owned bank had $4.5 million in cash packed in shoeboxes.

Another major worry for Mr. Erdogan now is that anger with his administration will spread to the streets, as it did in the summer with the violent suppression of demonstrators trying to protect a beloved Istanbul park from development. On Wednesday night sporadic protests erupted in some neighborhoods of Istanbul and other cities, with people calling on the government to resign and shouting: “Everywhere bribery! Everywhere corruption!”

On Wednesday morning, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler, whose sons are among 24 people arrested in the corruption investigation, stepped down. A few hours later the environment and urban planning minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, closest among the three to Mr. Erdogan, said in a live television interview that he had resigned under pressure. He also said Mr. Erdogan was personally involved in unspecified property deals that are a focus of the investigation.

“The prime minister has the right to work with the ministers he prefers,” Mr. Bayraktar said. “But I can’t accept this pressure on me to resign. The prime minister too has to resign.”

Soli Ozel, a columnist and professor at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, said: “This is extraordinarily dramatic. Bayraktar was someone who was very close to the prime minister. This is someone you’d expect to fall on his sword without question.”

The resignations came after a week in which Mr. Erdogan’s government sought to purge the police forces of those it believes are behind the investigation, which has been linked to Fethullah Gulen, a popular Muslim spiritual leader in exile in Pennsylvania who has millions of followers in Turkey, including some who hold high positions within the police and judiciary. Mr. Erdogan and others have called them a “criminal gang” and a “state within a state.”

In a televised speech on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Erdogan used some of his strongest language yet to denounce his former allies in the Gulen movement and promised to dismiss them. “We will root out the bad apples or whatever is necessary,” he said.

Dozens of high-level police officials, and hundreds of other officers, already have been removed. Reports emerged in the Turkish news media on Wednesday that prosecutors were pursuing other high-level officials, but that new police officials installed by the government had resisted pursuing them. This essentially highlights a power struggle within state structures.

Turkey has faced many upheavals, with coups and power struggles that sometimes turned violent, but the current crisis is something new: a clash between two Islamist rivals that had once been united in overhauling the political system by pushing the military from politics.

Once ruled by secularists backed by powerful military generals, Turkey has seen the rise over the last decade of Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials A.K.P., that was rooted in political Islam but also included other partners, among them liberals and some on the nonreligious right.

Most of the liberals and the nonreligious no longer support the A.K.P., and now that Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gulen, who represent different Turkish Islamist traditions, are basically at war, the party is at risk of collapsing, said analysts.

In another setback for Mr. Erdogan, a prominent A.K.P. lawmaker who was a former interior minister resigned from the party on Wednesday — not because he was implicated in the corruption investigation, but because he was disgusted by how the government was handling it, dismissing police officers and attacking the judiciary.

“It seems that within the A.K.P. things are spiraling out of control,” said Mr. Oktem, the research fellow at Oxford.

More broadly, the clash is also seen as a contest over the viability of political Islam, and comes after Islamist movements struggled to maintain power in postrevolution Egypt and Tunisia. “What we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia was a fight between Islamists and non-Islamists,” Mr. Oktem said. “What we are seeing in Turkey is between two Islamist movements.”

The question is whether the clash will upend the Turkish political system. “This kind of power struggle between two different Islamist groups might make the non-Islamist, secular groups more powerful, in Turkey’s case,” Mr. Oktem said.

Mr. Erdogan’s assertions of a foreign plot, implying American and Israeli subterfuge, have angered the United States and damaged his once strong personal bond with President Obama. The State Department, in a statement issued Tuesday, said attacks in the pro-government Turkish news media against American officials were “deeply disturbing.”

Mahmut Kaya contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Dan Bilefsky from Paris.

A Defining Statue of Ataturk

x_Ataturk-statue-in-setting

: “The new statue of Atatürk represents the first public monument in the United States honoring one of the towering figures of the 20th century.”

On December 5, 2013 Nelson Mandela died, one of the most successful fighters for social justice in history. Cut from the same cloth as Mahatma Gandhi, he helped to liberate his nation from racial and colonial oppression, and went on to unify his nation. Mandela had started his decades of struggles as a militant, though not a military hero, but embraced peace and healing in his mature years. Standing in front of the South African Embassy in Washington is a powerful bronze statue of Nelson Mandela, his right hand stretched upward in a clenched fist, symbolic of the fight that he had carried on the better part of his life. Mandela’s statue was unveiled on September 21, 2013 by his grateful nation.

A month ago on November 10, the Atatürk Society of America (ASA) unveiled a full-sized bronze statue of Kemal Atatürk. Located on the periphery of Sheridan Circle, next to the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence at 1606 23rd Street, NW, Washington, DC, this is the first public monument in the United States honoring the greatest Turk of them all. Its timing coincides with both the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the secular Republic of Turkey in 1923 and the 75th Anniversary of Atatürk’s death on November 10, 1938. He too had liberated his nation — first from occupying foreign troops and then from centuries of backward Caliphate Rule. He wanted his new democratic republic to face westward — adopt a secular system of governance with full gender equality — and he launched reform after reform that brought his nation into the 20th Century.

A full-size statue of Atatürk already stood on the grounds of the Turkish Embassy at 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, but it was not readily accessible to the public, standing on raised ground behind a massive wrought iron fence surrounding the embassy. Moreover, it was in the style of Eastern European heroic statuary, made of fiberglass, and over-painted in bronze tones. The ASA thought that Atatürk deserved better. The Turkish-American architect Nuray Anahtar drew preliminary plans for the new statue to be placed at the center of a semicircular balustrade surrounding an indentation in the wall of the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence. And she nimbly carried the applications for permits through meetings with a plethora of city officials — the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the DC Board for Public Spaces, and the Historic Preservation Commission. What made the site unique was its location squarely on DC public space donated for the statue by the City. As such, the statue represents the first public monument in the United States honoring one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

The consensus of the Board of the Atatürk Society was to have Kemal Atatürk depicted in a timeless realistic style and cast in bronze. The Board had to decide the age at which to depict Atatürk — as a young military officer struggling with battle strategy and wearing a uniform replete with a “kalpak” (a sheepskin fez); as the new President of the Secular Republic that he founded, and still wearing a fez; or as the mature statesman in the early 1930s, svelte, but an elegant modern man. There was consensus in the Committee’s decision: he would be depicted as a thoroughly modern man, determined and exuding the legendary confidence that had defined him in life. For Turks, images of Atatürk are embedded deep in their marrow. They have all spent their lives communing with images of Atatürk, and although they might have their own favorite visions of the man, they can immediately assess whether an image produced by an artist even resembles him. Finally, the finished product had to be produced in record time.

JEFFREY HALL, SCULPTOR

A small list of four talented sculptors was drawn up as candidates to be considered for the commission: one in Azerbaijan; another in Salt Lake City, Utah; and a pair of young local artists whose names were provided by Lindy Hart, the widow of Frederick “Rick” Hart” (1942-1999), one of the great sculptors of the last quarter of the 20th century. Rick Hart had carved the Tympanum, including his masterpiece, the “Ex Nihilo,” above the Western Entrance of the National Cathedral. Then a few years later, he had created the bronze statue of the “Three Soldiers” at the Vietnam Memorial, the full complex standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. The statue of the soldiers is a realistic and extraordinarily powerful portrayal of three heavily armed soldiers trudging through the jungles of Vietnam. The two younger candidates had both worked for many years as Rick Hart’s assistants.

Jeff Hall is seen working on the 34" clay model of the statue, with the original 12" maquette in the background, and the bust on the right.

Jeff Hall is seen working on the 34″ clay model of the statue, with the original 12″ maquette in the background, and the bust on the right.

Deciding to go with one of the two younger sculptors turned out to be a crucial decision. Jeffrey L. Hall lived no farther than one-hour’s distance from Washington, and he insisted that he could produce the finished piece in roughly six months. The committee came to realize quickly that he was always open to suggestions, and always willing to make changes, no matter how drastic. A few of the members made at least a dozen visits to Jeff’s studio in rural Virginia to oversee the work in progress and to offer new suggestions. Rick Hart’s comment that Jeff’s “…quality of work rivals any in history,” became a source of confidence, tempering the fear of the well-worn aphorism, “A camel is a thoroughbred designed by a committee!” Jeff knew nothing about Atatürk before he started working on his initial clay model, a 12” high maquette. But as he immersed himself in the hundreds of photos, and even old films that captured his subject’s general demeanor and movement, he became as familiar with Atatürk’s deportment as any Turk. “The Incredible Turk,” a 1958 documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite, was especially useful for this purpose. The maquette was then rescaled to a 34” tall clay model. In this second redaction, the subject’s stance could be modified in rescaling it again to a full 6’7” model. Simultaneously, Jeff started working on a full-size bust that would be integrated into the final statue.

Left: The cast bronze arms, before they are welded to the statue. Center: the details of book, "Nutuk," in the statue's left hand. Right: Wingtip shoes introduced in the early 1930s, known to have been worn by Atatürk.

Left: The cast bronze arms, before they are welded to the statue. Center: the details of book, “Nutuk,” in the statue’s left hand. Right: Wingtip shoes introduced in the early 1930s, known to have been worn by Atatürk.

After the full-size clay model is prepared, molds are created of the separate segments: the bust, the arms, the torso...  Molten bronze is then poured into the molds, before the segments are welded together. In the photo above, a worker in the foundry is seen applying the patina onto the fully-assembled bronze statue, and curing it with the heat of a blow torch.

After the full-size clay model is prepared, molds are created of the separate components: the bust, the arms, the torso… Molten bronze is then poured into the molds, before the components are welded together. In the photo above, a worker in the Lara Bronze Foundry in Philadelphia is seen painting on the patina and curing it with the heat of a blow torch.

As the author of a pair of books on Leonardo da Vinci (“Math and the Mona Lisa,” Smithsonian Books, 2004) and “Leonardo’s Universe” (National Geographic Books, 2009) I could bring suggestions based on my knowledge of the Renaissance genius’s own words. Leonardo, in painting “The Last Supper,” had emphasized the importance of the hands, “The subject should speak with his hands as much as with his facial expressions.“ From the beginning I frequently spoke about Leonardo’s dictum regarding the importance of the hands. In Jeff’s statue Atatürk is depicted as a reformer/teacher, giving a speech. In his left hand he is holding a heavy book with the title “Nutuk” (“The Speech”). The book is resting on his hip, but with his index finger he is holding his place in the book. The right hand captures the electric moment when he has paused to make a point with his index finger, the intensity dramatized by the bulging veins in his hand.

In the plaster cast made from the original mode, the sculptor has conveyed the illusion of light colored eyes by making the irises especially shallow.

In the plaster cast made from the original mode, the sculptor has conveyed the illusion of light colored eyes by making the irises especially shallow.

Among other details, Jeff captures Atatürk’s “renkli gözleri” (his blue-gray eyes) in a dark bronze statue. The illusion of light colored eyes, in distinction to those with dark color, is achieved by making the irises much shallower than they would otherwise be in depicting a subject with dark eyes. (Among the accompanying photos, a white plaster bust, cast directly from the mold for the bronze, reveals this trick.) Another subtle detail that few visitors would be expected to recognize is the direction of the stripes on Atatürk’s tie. Mathematically speaking, these stripes display “negative slope” (lower right-to-upper left). This style of stripe is known as the “American Stripe.” In distinction, the European (and other non-American) striped ties usually display positive slopes (lower left-to-upper right). In examining photos of Ataturk wearing ties, we found that his ties of choice had the American Stripe. One can only speculate about his personal collection of ties being presented to him by the American Ambassador in Ankara, or perhaps one of the Turkish Ambassadors who once occupied the Embassy in Washington. The details of the statue also include the chain for his pocket watch, draped naturally in a parabola across his vest, and in homage to his military days, his medal, partially covered by his right lapel. Standing next to the 6’7” bronze statue, perched on a 3” bronze base, one can sense Atatürk’s figure exuding that abstract quality described in Turkish as, “heybetli,” an unmistakable heroic presence.

In a day when genuinely great statesman seem to be rare, when a priestly class (whether clerics in Iran, rabbis of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, or fundamentalists preachers in the United States) endorses taking one side or another in endless internecine warfare, it might be good to remember a couplet written by the English poet William Blake (1757-1827): “Mysteries will never cease; the Priest clamors for war, and the soldier peace.” He could not have been more prescient, or more accurate, in describing Atatürk. The unrivaled military tactician and strategist, who was undefeated in the military campaigns that had consumed the first three decades of his life, became the greatest proponent for peace once he established the Republic of Turkey. On the balustrade surrounding Atatürk’s statue, are his words in bronze lettering, “Peace at home… Peace in the World.” This is also reminiscent of the late Mr. Mandela.

Gutzon Borglum's equestrian statue, of General Sheridan (left). Borglum's "Heads of Presidents" at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Gutzon Borglum’s equestrian statue, of General Sheridan (left). Borglum’s “Heads of Presidents” at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

SHERIDAN CIRCLE

The address, Sheridan Circle, is at the top of any short list of prime real estate in Washington, with the Embassy Row of Massachusetts Avenue radiating east and west from the circle. Several embassies line the rim of the circle. Along with the former Turkish Embassy (now the Ambassador’s Residence) there is the Romanian Embassy on the southern side, the Greek Embassy on the northeast, and the Embassy of Pakistan on the northwest. In front of several of the embassies stand statues of prominent statesmen, including Greece’s early 20th century Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, whose armed forces had fought Turkey until 1922, and who nominated Kemal Atatürk for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934. A statue of Gandhi stands a quarter mile to the east, and the statues of Churchill and Mandela facing each other stand a mile to the west of Sheridan Circle. The centerpiece of the circle, however, is an equestrian statue of the Union General Philip Sheridan, for whom the circle is named. The equestrian statue, weathered naturally to a green patina during the 105 years it has stood at the site, is extraordinarily beautiful in its own right. The sculptor of the statue, Gutzon Borglum, is far better known as the sculptor of the heads of Presidents at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The most recent of the four was Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th President, a good and colorful leader, but one who does not rise to the stratospheric prominence achieved by the other three. For Teddy Roosevelt, the timing was right. He was the reigning President when the monument was created, he was unusually fond of the West, and he was a friend of the sculptor.

The other three — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln — are unrivaled as the greatest among the 44 Presidents in the history of the United States. The First President, General George Washington, unfaltering military leader who ultimately defeated the British, stands as the “Father of the Nation,” The third President, Thomas Jefferson, a brilliant theorist and political writer, authored the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also strongly believed that religion was a personal choice that should be free from government interference. Then there is Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President, who held the United States together during the dark years of the Civil War. He authored the Emancipation Proclamation. Each member of this iconic trio is honored with an impressive architectural edifice in the city, his own National Monument.

Atatürk embodies the greatest assets of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln — military strategist par excellence; social, educational and economic reformer; statesman — Father of his Country — the man the distinguished professor of psychiatry, Arnold Ludwig, in his 2002 book, “The King of the Mountain,” ranked Number One among all 2300 national leaders of the 20th century.

In the waning days of the 20th century, the Editors of Time Magazine, accustomed to selecting the “Individual of the Year,” found themselves saddled with the difficult task of selecting the “Individual of the Century.” Turks expressed their exuberance by the thousands in nominating Atatürk for the honor. The editors must have reasoned first that this was a concerted effort organized in Ankara or Istanbul. Then they must have felt, Atatürk was indeed a towering figure of the 20th century, but that his influence had been limited to a small sector of the planet. Accordingly, they must have felt compelled to eliminate him from the top spot. But others in the running, both good and bad, included FDR, Churchill, Mao Zedong and Hitler… Finally, Time Magazine announced its choice for the “Individual of the Century.” It would be Albert Einstein, symbolic of science in the Century of Science. As a physicist, I was surprised, but ultimately sanguine, regarding Time’s choice. As Einstein once remarked, “Politics are temporary, but equations [describing the laws of nature] are forever.”

Three of the foregoing finalists expressed private sentiments about Atatürk:
“My sorrow is that, it is no longer possible to fulfill my strong wish to meet this great man.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The death of Atatürk, who saved Turkey during the war and revived the Turkish nation, is not only a loss for his country, but it is also a great loss for Europe…” — Winston Churchill
“Your nation produced the greatest leader of the century!” — Albert Einstein. (To Turkish graduate student, Münir Ülgür, at Princeton. Helen Dukas, who served Einstein as his secretary for 25 years, also mentioned Einstein’s long held sentiment regarding Atatürk to me at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1974.) See also ”Einstein’s Letter to Ataturk’s Turkey”
References and Acknowledgements:

• Walter Cronkite, The Incredible Turk (in the series, the 20th Century, 1958).
• Click on the following link to view the “lost wax method” employed in the Creation of the Atatürk Statue
• Peace loving Turks in America can thank Hudai and Mirat Yavalar, Founders of the Ataturk Society of America, for commissioning the statue of Atatürk. I would strongly recommend a visit to the statue.

Flanking the 6'7" clay model of Atatürk's statue, from left to right: Sculptor Jeff Hall, Hudai and Mirat Yavalar, Bulent and Carol Jean Atalay at the artist's studio.

Flanking the 6’7″ clay model of Atatürk’s statue from left to right: Sculptor Jeff Hall, Hudai and Mirat Yavalar (Founders of ASA), Bulent and Carol Jean Atalay at the artist’s studio.

Schindler makes history in Istanbul

One of Schindler’s most exciting projects came a step closer to completion with the opening of the world’s first underwater rail link between two continents, connecting Asia and Europe, in Istanbul, Turkey.

52a1a9f32b582_schindlerSchindler’s contribution of 10 elevators and 63 escalators to the Marmaray Project included the challenge of fitting 4 escalators that are among the longest in Europe at 65 meters in length.

Schindler products transport up to 75,000 commuters per hour to and from the subway line – that can be as deep as 56 meters below ground – safely, reliably and using as little energy as possible. With the support of Schindler’s expertise, the new Marmaray line gets passengers faster to their destinations. In fact, traveling the 76.3 km stretch is now 81 minutes faster than before. This will help Istanbul, one of the world’s most developing cities, to continue to grow and prosper.

“The Marmaray Project not only represents a strengthening of Schindler’s reputation for realizing landmark Turkish public transportation projects,” said Gaetano Conca, Head of Schindler Turkey, “it also contributes to the strong growth that we are currently experiencing in Turkey.”

This success in Turkey is another example of Schindler providing tailor-made passenger mobility at large transportation facilities. With products that are precision-engineered, state-of-the-art, and use green technology to lower energy use, the Swiss company has long been a supplier of choice for builders and architects of major airports and rail systems around the world.

You will find Schindler escalators, elevators and moving walks at some of the world’s busiest airports like London Heathrow, Los Angeles International Airport, Charles de Gaulle in Paris, at Frankfurt and Munich Airports, as well as in metro and rail systems in high-traffic cities like New York, Chicago, Madrid, Hong Kong and Beijing.

via Schindler makes history in Istanbul | Specification Online.

Kate Moss lands ANOTHER spot in Vogue as she poses in Istanbul with Chiwetel Ejiofor

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER

PUBLISHED: 23:04 GMT, 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 23:24 GMT, 18 November 2013

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Kate Moss appears in American Vogue’s newly-released December issue in a spread set in Istanbul’s lush landscape.

The supermodel takes to the streets of Turkey’s much-visited city in an array of designer outfits, often accompanied by English actor and 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor in a spread titled ‘The Silk Road.’

In Istanbul: Kate Moss wears a dress by Proenza Schouler and a hat by Patricia Underwood in her new Vogue spread that was photographed in Turkey

Moss looks every bit the seasoned supermodel in her newest Vogue spread.

December issue: Jessica Chastain covers this month’s Vogue

She and Ejiofor visit The Egyptian Bazaar and the Çinili Köşk, among other sites – creating a vivid scene for outfits by the likes of Dior, Ralph Lauren, and Proenza Schouler.

Moss and Ejiofor even pose with whirling dervishes mid-dance and take a sail on the Bosphorus.

Ejiofor’s film 12 Years a Slave was released last month in the United States to widespread acclaim. The film, which hits UK screens this January, also stars Brad Pitt and Steve McQueen. The movie won the People’s Choice award at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

Moss also graces the cover of this month’s British Vogue – marking her 34th career Vogue cover. Inside the issue, Moss poses with friend and collaborator John Galliano, who maintains that he is attempting a fashion industry comeback.

American Vogue’s December 2013 issue, starring Jessica Chastain on its cover, is now on newsstands.

via Kate Moss lands ANOTHER spot in Vogue as she poses in Istanbul with Chiwetel Ejiofor | Mail Online.

SUPPORT TO AMERICAN INDIANS FROM TURKEY

 

namik tan -tika

 

TIKA Awards $200,000 Grant to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to Alleviate Water Needs

November 15, 2013, Washington, D.C. – Officials from the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), representatives from Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) and tribal leaders gathered at the residence of the Turkish ambassador to the United States on Tuesday to celebrate a $200,000 grant from TIKA to CTWS. The grant was awarded after a yearlong collaboration between the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC), and TIKA.
The grant, TIKA’s first-ever to an entity within the United States, will help build a water tank for an ongoing elementary school construction project that will help the people of CTWS meet their water needs for the next 10 years.  The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs were selected after a panel of Native American judges reviewed each application to ensure the finalist would have the maximum community reach both in the short- and long-term.”This grant builds on years of growing economic and cultural ties between Turkey and Indian Country,” said G. Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition of America. “We at TCA are proud to have helped deepen the important relationship between Turkey and Indian Country by facilitating this award in conjunction with NAIHC, TIKA, and the people of CTWS.”

The event was hosted at the Turkish ambassador’s residence following the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) reception held in conjunction with the2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference. At the NMAI reception, TCA brought together Ambassador Tan and TIKA President Dr. Serdar Cam for brief meetings with Rep. Mark A. Takano (D-Calif.), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.).

“Within the framework of U.S.-Turkey relations, TIKA is happy to make a contribution to the friendly people of American Indians,” stated Dr. Cam, president of TIKA.

During the reception at his residence, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, said, “Make no mistake on our intentions, our aim is not to teach how things should be done or show off at the expense of our friends and allies. This grant is not an aid, it is a token of our solidarity with the Indian tribes and of our friendship with the US.”

Cheryl Ann Causley, chairwoman of NAIHC stated, “ It has been an honor for NAIHC to work with TIKA. Our membership is grateful for their support of our native people and we look forward to working with them for many years.”

Chief Joseph Moses of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs echoed Chairwoman Causley’s statement. “The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are deeply grateful to the people of the Republic of Turkey for their generosity in this grant.  The funding provided to our tribe will directly improve the health and well-being of our membership.”

Low-Cost Airline from Turkey Pushes Prices of Competition Lower

Following the addition of Sochi and Moscow to its list of routes, Turkish Low-Coster Pegasus Airlines has compelled other competitors in the market to lower their fares. This was the statement issued by Guliz Ozturk the director of Pegasus Airlines.

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Ozturk stated that tickets that were previously sold at $400 by the Turkish and Aeroflot airlines have dropped considerably to $300 on their Istanbul-Moscow flights. According to Ozturk, these commercial airlines are trying to curtail their prices to $233, which is Pegasus’ offer on Moscow-Istanbul flights. Pegasus also offers advance tickets from $83.99.

Since Russia’s Air Code requires that passengers are treated to free luggage transportation services and meals, Pegasus does not burden its passengers by passing this cost on to them. Instead, they place such charges on other services such as insurance, extra luggage and seat selection. Operating on a model that is inexpensive to maintain, passengers who board Pegasus airplanes with luggage weighing up to 20kg face no additional costs. Therefore, the Air Code that other competitors had cited earlier as hindrance in the market does not bother Pegasus.

Though Pegasus faced opposition from Russian authorities regarding its new routes, the food policy did not raise any problems. It was hard to convince them to allow Pegasus to land in Moscow. And eventually when they did agree to such routes, they insisted that Pegasus had to operate only three flights weekly even though it has been commissioned to operate 7.

Ozturk urged the Russian government to liberalize its air sector to take advantage of the growing traffic between Russia and Turkey. Talking to Moscow Times, Ozturk added that greater freedom in this sector would help the airlines involved reach greater heights. Currently there are three flights that Turkish low-cost airline operates on a weekly basis between Russia’s Domodedovo and Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airports with its maiden flight taking off on October 8th. Days later, Sochi-Trabzon flight was added with ticket prices starting at $27.

Apart from Sochi and Moscow flights, Pegasus also operates other routes. Since August 31st 2009, Istanbul and Krasnodar flights have been in operation with 252,111 passengers ferried on this route. Omsk and Istanbul flights launched back in June 2012 average a seat capacity of 63%. This is 20% lower than Krasnodar’s seat occupancy rate.

According to Ozturk, Pegasus did not really think much of Omsk and Krasnodar cities but only used them because the authorities assigned them. Altogether, he says that the future looks bright for Pegasus Airlines mostly because their Moscow seat occupancy rate is expected to hit 93%. On its Moscow-Istanbul flights, Pegasus hopes to hit the 50,000+ passenger mark per annum.

Daniel Burkard the Domodedovo airport manager is pleased with Pegasus flights that land at the airport. He reiterates that since more and more Russians are taking vacations in Turkey, the Turkish market is growing faster than the Russia market. With 2.5 million Russian tourists heading to Turkey, the Federal Tourism Agency has cited such growth as stemming from the visa-free regulation the two countries have.

via Low-Cost Airline from Turkey Pushes Prices of Competition Lower | .TR.

Norwegian firm to design Istanbul’s new airport

Norwegian firm to design Istanbul’s new airport

Istanbul Ataturk Airport
Istanbul Ataturk Airport

The Oslo-based architecture firm Nordic Office of Architecture has won an international competition to design what’s expected to become the world’s largest airport, in Istanbul. Gudmund Stokke, partner and manager of the firm, called it “a bit of a dream to land in this position.”

The firm, formerly known as Narud Stokke Wiig Architects and Planners, joined with the British Grimshaw firm to beat out eight other contenders for the job. Nordic Office specializes in designing modern airports and was behind Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen and its current expansion project, the Rajiv Gandhi Airport in Hyderabad, India, the Hanimaadhoo Airport in the Maldives and several in the Arctic areas of Norway.

The new airport in Istanbul will be designed to accommodate 90 million passengers a year, and 150 million within 10 years. Its first phase is due to open in 2019.

The project will also be the largest in Turkish history, opening with three runways and a terminal covering a million square meters. It aims to become a major hub, with Nordic Office in charge of the master plan and design. Stokke wouldn’t reveal the value of the contract.

newsinenglish.no staff

Is Erdogan punishing a Turkish business empire for helping protesters?

Turkey’s Koc Holding has been investigated repeatedly since helping antigovernment protesters this summer. Will that chill investment?

By Alexander Christie-Miller, Correspondent / October 8, 2013

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 1, 2013.

AP

  • In Pictures Turkey’s discontent

A string of legal and administrative actions against Turkey’s largest business empire has led some to suspect a government vendetta, risking damage to the country’s investment-friendly reputation.

  • In Pictures Turkey’s discontent
Related stories
  • Think you know Turkey? Take our country quiz.
  • Ergenekon case confronts Turkey’s past, but spawns doubts about motives
  • Turkish government hunkers down as world spotlight fades
  • Poll shows Erdogan’s popularity has taken a hit. Could he lose his mandate?

Koc Holding, whose companies account for some 9 percent of Turkey’s GDP, incurred the wrath of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when a Koc-owned hotel sheltered protesters fleeing from police during mass protests in Istanbul in June.

Since then tax authorities have launched probes into two Koc companies, the government has cancelled a contract with one of its firms to build warships, and a university founded by Koc has been threatened with eviction over disputed back rent. Last month a lawyer filed a criminal complaint calling for an investigation into the company’s possible role in the overthrow of Turkey’s first Islamist government in 1997.

While both Koc and Ankara deny any of these measures are politically motivated, analysts say the claims are tarnishing Turkey’s business image at a time when the country badly needs more direct foreign investment.

Since the start of May, the value of the Turkish lira has plunged 11 percent against the dollar, and the Istanbul stock market has lost 14 percent of its value as investors moved their money out of emerging markets like Turkey. 

The currency slump has prompted fears over Turkey’s reliance on short term foreign debt. With economists warning that the country needs to attract longer term foreign investment in order to secure itself against the threat posed by further currency devaluations, many are worried about the government’s possible targeting of Koc.

“It seems like revenge, and I believe it’s damaging the image of Turkey’s business environment,” says Ugur Gurses, an economic columnist for the daily Radikal newspaper.

RECOMMENDED: Think you know Turkey? Take our country quiz.

Others remain unconvinced that there is any vendetta. “It is a huge company with many different operations, so hard to say whether it is being disproportionately impacted by regulatory oversight,” says Timothy Ash, head of emerging market research at Standard Bank in London.

Whether or not Ankara’s hand is truly behind the measures against Koc, the perception is that it might be is adding to unease in the business community. 

“What we need is direct investment, not loans, and if the government is taking revenge against Koc, this sends out a bad message for our future,” says Gurses.

He believes the alleged targeting of Koc may fade away if more business-oriented minds in Ankara are able to appease Erdogan’s anger against the group.

Chain of events

The controversy surrounding Koc began when the Divan Hotel, close to Istanbul’s Gezi Park, opened its doors to anti-government demonstrators fleeing tear gas and riot police on the night of June 15.

As scores of demonstrators sheltered in the lobby, including a German member of the European Parliament, riot police fired tear gas and a water cannon through its revolving doors. Although the hotel’s management made the decision to shelter the protesters, Koc Holding, which owns the hotel, has supported the decision.

The following day Mr. Erdogan, who has consistently portrayed the demonstrators as violent and criminal, issued the first of a series of veiled threats against Koc.

“We know which hotel owners helped terrorists. Those crimes will not remain unpunished,” he said at a rally of his supporters in Istanbul.

The following month Turkey’s finance ministry launched an investigation into TUPRAS, the largest Koc-owned company and Turkey’s sole oil refiner, and another Koc company, Aygaz, which sells liquefied petroleum gas.

Soon after news broke of the investigations, Turkey’s Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek denied they were politically motivated.

“The Tax Inspection Board conducts 50,000 tax investigations every year. There is definitely no connection between the Gezi incidents and tax investigations,” he wrote in a message on Twitter.

Late last month a $2.5 billion contract to build six corvettes for the Turkish Navy given to another Koc subsidiary, RMK Marine, was unexpectedly canceled after it was awarded in January. The cancellation came after a rival firm that had been excluded from the bidding process filed a complaint with a business standards council within the prime minister’s office claiming the tender had been unfair.

Meanwhile, Turkish media also reported last month that the Ministry of Forestry is preparing to evict a university run by Koc from land the ministry claims to own for failing to pay disputed back rent of about 20 to 30 million Turkish lira ($10 million to $15 million).

The measures evoked comparisons with another incident of alleged government bullying of big business: a $3.8 billion tax fine levied against the Dogan group in 2009. The fine came after newspapers belonging to Dogan, which owns the country’s largest media empire, took an aggressively negative line against Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government, and the prime minister publicly rebuked owner Aydin Dogan.

A clash of power players

In an interview on Turkish television last month Koc Holding chairman Mustafa Koc, at once dismissed claims that his company was being targeted, but simultaneously defended his hotel’s ‘humanitarian approach’ during the protests.

“Any change [in our investments] or cancellation [in our contracts], to date, is the subject of mere speculation. We want nothing to do with this,” he said.

Koc Holding, founded by Mustafa’s grandfather Vehbi Koc in 1926, is among a clutch of family-owned business empires that make up Turkey’s secular aristocracy.

While they retain much of their former economic clout, the political influence they once enjoyed has reduced dramatically over the past decade in which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has governed Turkey.

The newly affluent pious class that has flourished under Erdogan views this old elite with bitter resentment, referring to them by the derogatory term “White Turks” and accusing them of complicity in past state repression of devout Muslims.

On Sept. 16, a lawyer in the conservative city of Erzurum filed a complaint against Koc Holding and Dogan, calling for both to be added as suspects to a criminal case into the fall of Turkey’s first Islamist government in 1997. The trial involved more than 100 military officers accused of using covert pressure to engineer the overthrow of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, an episode now referred to by most Turks as the “postmodern coup.”

The complaint was filed the day after Erdogan made a speech in which he seemed to call for the prosecution of business and media groups he said were involved.

“Wasn’t there a contribution of conglomerates to [the 1997 coup]? Wasn’t there a contribution of print and visual media? I’m astonished that they aren’t on trial. I wonder why they aren’t called to account,” he said in a speech to industrialists in Istanbul.

Mustafa Polat, the lawyer who filed the complaint, told The Christian Science Monitor he had heard Erdogan’s speech before acting, but was not influenced by it.

“Koc and Dogan cooperated with the coup party and they took financial advantage of the situation,” Mr. Polat says, adding that the companies are now being investigated by Turkey’s financial crimes bureau.

Polat is a complainant in the case because he graduated from a religious high school, and following the coup, legal changes barred graduates from these schools from training as lawyers, forcing him to study in northern Cyprus.

“If it wasn’t for the coup, I wouldn’t have had to go there,” he says.

He added that at this stage it is not clear what penalty – if any – the companies could face. But he believes Koc deserves punishment regardless of the economic cost, using a Turkish saying: “The finger feels no pain that is cut off according to Sharia law.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/1008/Is-Erdogan-punishing-a-Turkish-business-empire-for-helping-protesters?cmpid=editorpicks

This Turkish hotel won a “hospitality innovation award” for protecting protestors from tear gas and police

By Simone Foxman @simonefoxman October 8, 2013

Not a bad place to settle down after getting tear gassed. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

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International hospitality awards usually go to hotels with the most creative design, impeccable service and attention to amenities like ultra-plush bathrobes. But the winner of the latest “hospitality innovation award” from PKF hotelexperts was selected on entirely different criteria.

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The German hotel consultants awarded the honor to Divan Hotels’ flagship property in Istanbul in recognition for its offering refuge to protesters fleeing police tear gas.

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The hotel is adjacent to Gezi Park’s Taksim Square, the site of protests last May and June. During some of the most tense moments, the Divan Hotel’s management took in people protesting against the government of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to the chagrin of officials.

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Adding insult to injury, the hotel staff rebuffed police forces by asking whether they had a reservation at the hotel, according to Han Le, an American who observed the protests. Unsurprisingly, the police did not, and the staff—at least temporarily—prevented them from entering and arresting protesters camping out inside. The Financial Times reports (paywall) that the decision to take in protesters was initially made by the hotel’s management, but supported by the hotel’s parent company.

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The chain of 11 Divan Hotels is owned by Koç Holding, a conglomerate owned by the wealthy Koç family, which says it generates 9% of Turkey’s GDP. The hotel’s parent company’s holdings also include Turkey’s only refinery and some joint ventures with Ford and Fiat.

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The government has singled out Koç Holding, engaging in a “witch hunt” to pass off blame for the country’s struggling economy, according to an anonymous investment banker cited in Der Spiegel.  In June, Erdoğan accused the hotel of “harbor[ing] criminals.” Then, in July, tax investigators raided 77 offices of  Koç Holding’s energy subsidiaries.  The company was later named in a lawsuit alleging that it was part of a 1997 coup. In late September, it lost a government contract to build six warships.

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While the Koç family may the government’s scapegoat du jour, the tensions between the company and the government are characteristic of the animosity between Turkey’s old capitalist elite and the Erdoğan administration. Erdoğan has also taken aim at the financial services industry, accusing the “interest rate lobby” of fanning unrest in order to speculate on the economy.

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Unsurprisingly, German businessmen don’t share Erdoğan’s feelings. “Divan Hotels and Koç Family has showed solidarity and courage during Gezi Park protests and proved how important hospitality is during crisis situations,” PKF chair Michael Widman told Hurriyet Daily News.

via This Turkish hotel won a “hospitality innovation award” for protecting protestors from tear gas and police – Quartz.

​The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized?

July 2013

 

The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized?

 

Claire Berlinski

Claire Berlinski

Istanbul-based writer, author of There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters (Basic Books, 2008).

click for full bio >>

~ Also in this issue ~

  • Dreaming of a Lebanon at Peace with Its Neighbors by Michael J. Totten
  • The Map that Ruined the Middle East by Gabriel Scheinmann
  • A Tel Aviv Misanthrope Who Knows
    Where to Write by Ashley Rindsberg
  • Drilldown: Is Blue-and-White Oil on the Way? by Daniel Fink
  • The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized? by Claire Berlinski

~ Also by Claire Berlinski ~

  • The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized? by Claire Berlinski

 

Some see it as a modern democracy with an Islamic tint, an improving, reforming country. But if you were in Istanbul during the last month and a half, you’d have seen something completely different: a violent, authoritarian, increasingly suppressive and brutal regime. Tales from the Dark Side, Turkish style.

 

I’ve always been a critic of armchair reporting. But when your armchair is four blocks away from Taksim Square, it has one of the best views of the uproar in Istanbul any diligent reporter could ask for. I’m now able to calculate with great precision the time between the beginning of the screaming, the sound of the shot, and the entry of the gas through my window. It’s two and twelve seconds respectively.

 

In the past month, Americans have seen violent images from Turkey on their television screens: massive clouds of tear gas, the sound of screams and sirens, lots of Turks looking mad as hell.

 

What’s it about? Another outburst of Muslim rage? Something about kids camping in a park? Isn’t Turkey supposed to be the model moderate Muslim miracle?

 

But understanding the explosion of violence pitting demonstrators against Turkey’s authoritarian and increasingly heavy-handed state—and why it surprised so many who should have known better—requires some work. Start by forgetting most of what you’ve been hearing for the past ten years about Turkey. Don’t try to compare it to any other country: not America, not Afghanistan, not Egypt, not Syria, not Iran, not Russia, and certainly not France in 1968—not that the latter would occur to you, but the French press seems crazy for the idea.

 

Here’s what you need to know, bare-bones: The supposedly secular Turkish Republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost a century ago was an authoritarian state, although not a totalitarian one. And yes, Jeanne Kirkpatrick was right, there is a difference. I went behind the Iron Curtain when the Wall was still standing. The USSR was indeed—immediately, visibly, on first sight—an evil empire. The Turkish Republic wasn’t remotely like that; there has never been all-encompassing government enslavement of the citizenry here, nor is there now, and I pray there never will be. But since its emergence after World War I, Turkey has always had weak institutions—and a state that’s strong as an ox.

 

Over the decades, the authoritarianism has come in different flavors. Once they served it state-worship style, and from time-to-time military style; now they serve it piety style. But it’s still the same thing. They just changed the wrapping paper.

 

Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

 

Piety-style Turkey is better off economically, though not as much as you’ve been told. Still, even considering the past few weeks’ horrific events, even considering the preposterous show trials, the increasing displacement of state-worshipping authoritarians by piety-style authoritarians in Turkey’s institutions, the jailing of journalists, the censorship of the Internet, the almost unfathomable dishonesty of its government and its intellectuals, the cronyism, the corruption, the foreign policy misadventures as its government shows support for Hamas and flouts the Europeans and declares Zionism to be a form of fascism—despite all of that, it’s probably a better place to live, for most of its citizens, than it has been at many points in its recent so-called secular past.

 

And Turkey was never truly “secular,” at least not in the way Americans understand the term. True, after the founding of the Republic, Islamic courts were abolished and replaced with a secular legal apparatus, often modeled word-for-word on the Swiss, German, and Italian civil and penal codes. But a state-funded and state-controlled institution, the Diyanet, was one of the first organizations established by the Turkish Parliament after the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. It was founded “to execute works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshipping places.” Those would be the ethics of the Hanafi Sunni school of Islam, not the Eleusinian Mystery cults—or any of the religions of the 20 percent of the Turkish population who aren’t Sunni Muslims. The point is that religion in Turkey has always been subservient to, and a tool for, the state. When the state decides it’s important, the Diyanet can tell the Imams—all the imams, if they want to stay out of jail—what to put in their sermons. None too secular, that. Neither is the increasingly visible Islamic discourse of today’s ruling elites, nor that of the civil servants who work for them.

 

Turkey is a rarity in the Middle East. It’s a democracy with free elections. It has a secular constitution. It’s a member of NATO. And every so often, it goes nuts and kills its own citizens.

 

So Turkey is a rarity in the Middle East: It’s a democracy, if only in the sense that it does hold regular, free elections, and it has a secular constitution. It’s in NATO, and it furnishes NATO’s second-largest army—and its leading army, if you use the criteria of “percentage of admirals and generals in jail.” It provides a crucial energy corridor to Europe. The Incirlik air base has a vital staging point for the US military, for the most part. It has made a reasonable contribution to the coalition forces in Afghanistan, and agreed to host a radar system designed by the United States as part of its NATO shield against a missile attack aimed at Europe.

 

And every so often, as sort of a national tradition, Turkey goes nuts and kills a few—or more than a few—of its own citizens. The Dersim rebellion in 1937 and 1938 was suppressed with such vigor that historians suspect tens of thousands of souls perished. The civil war with the terrorist PKK is said to have claimed 40,000 lives. At the height of the conflict, in the 1990s, thousands of civilians were systematically rounded up and—with no trial—jailed and tortured and disappeared.

 

And shall we mention not only the military coups, but the events that led up to them, such as the clashes in the 1970s between far-left and far-right paramilitaries, which created such chaos and anarchy—killing, on average, ten people a day and toward the end, 20 a day—that the public was relieved, yes relieved, when the military finally stepped in? They whitewash that effusion of relief right out of history here these days, but ask anyone old enough to remember it, just remember to ask them in private. They wanted that junta, and badly, until the junta began doing what juntas tend to do, with one very important exception: After finishing up the torturing and the hanging, they returned the government to the civilians.

 

So we should not for a moment imagine that the events of the past weeks have been some hideous aberration from the otherwise irenic and secular history of the Turkish Republic.

 

Yet, in the past decade, since the rise of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP party, the world has decided that Turkey is finally democratizing—and this precisely as the screws have in fact tightened around crucial pieces of what you would call an ordinary democratic civil discourse and judicial norms. Indeed, Erdoğan has so thoroughly undermined free civic expression and the rule of law that a great many Turks feel that their country has been ripped from their hands.

 

Military leaders are in jail. Journalists are in jail. Professors are in jail. Elected parliamentarians are in jail. This has been going on for years now, though rather ignored by many in the West. And when the government this spring decided to go medieval on a few tent-dwelling, yoga-practicing, tree-decorating youths trying to save an Istanbul park, many of us felt a kind of stomach-churning inevitability, accompanying the breaking of bones and the unbreathable air.

 

April 2: A rumor starts going around that people are trying to organize a protest to save Gezi Park. People here protest a lot, so I don’t pay much attention. On weekends you can often see five or six protests a day in Taksim Square. Usually no one notices them. The police watch them benignly, and the protests make no difference at all, especially since they’re always uniquely boring. The slogans are ritualized, it’s always “shoulder-to-shoulder against something” (be it fascists or whale-killers), and everyone goes home at the scheduled time and nothing ever changes.

 

But this rumor is a little different, because the organizers claim that 50,000 people have already signed up for it. That’s a lot of protesters. I mention this to a friend, en passant. He’s pretty shrewd about Turkey, being Turkish. He says, “If 50,000 people actually signed something and a sizable fraction shows up, I don’t see the AKP tolerating this. Even the anti-censorship march drew inane bile from the heavyweights of the AKP newspapers.”

 

“Or they’ll be ignored,” I say. “But I wish them well.”

 

“There’s a fairly good chance they’ll get hit and gassed,” he replies. I should note that “hit and gassed” happens so often here lately that we barely notice it anymore. We just check the #dailygasreport on Twitter to see what streets to avoid. It’s like traffic: one of the hassles of Istanbul you learn to deal with.

 

“Maybe,” I say, and then make one of my less prescient predictions. “Of one thing I’m sure—unless, say, 50 Buddhist nuns set themselves on fire, or an American tourist is bludgeoned by a glue-sniffer, no one outside of Turkey will be interested.”

 

It takes a few weeks for me to be proven quite wrong.

 

May 31: The police burst into Gezi Park at dawn with tear gas and water cannons. More than a hundred protesters are injured, including three journalists. By eight that evening, some 100,000 more return to the area to try to defend it. The police block the roads leading to Taksim Square with barriers and try to disperse the crowds. Within hours, the protests spread throughout Istanbul, and then to other cities.

 

So-called "terrorists" do yoga at Taksim. Photo: Mr Ush / Flickr

So-called “terrorists” do yoga at Taksim. Photo: Mr Ush / Flickr

 

At three in the morning, a massive crowd begins marching across the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to the European side. People join the protests from their houses, shouting and clapping, and banging pots and pans—a tradition inherited from the Ottoman era, when Janissaries warned of their imminent mutiny by banging on cauldrons—

 

And as all of this is happening—and broadcast around the world by foreign news services—Turkish television is showing anything but these scenes. CNN Türk aired a documentary about penguins.

 

June 1: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in more than 40 Turkish cities keep protesting. The protesters move to the office of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Beşiktaş, providing the police with an excuse for even harsher retaliation. Every living being in the district gets showered with tear gas—including, I’m told, the officials in the office, which at least was satisfying to imagine, if it’s true. Ankara and Izmir rise up in force.

 

Snippets of conversation:

 

“They’ve got to be running low on tear gas.”

 

“They saturation bombed this part of the city with gas, how much can they possibly have?”

 

“Be careful. My brother got gassed today, too.”

 

“This is just ridiculous. What the f*** are they thinking?”

 

“I hate this f***ing gas. Was a bit late to shut the windows and now I can’t breathe.”

 

“Ok, no way to get anywhere near Taksim from here. They’ve blocked Vali Konaği Avenue with a bus. I haven’t seen any gassing, but judging how hard it was for me to breathe and the way kids were taunting the cops to take off their masks and helmets, I imagine they’re gassing them regularly.”

 

“People were walking back teary-eyed and coughing on Cumhuriyet Avenue. Halaskargazi was crowded with people in surgical masks. Folks were mumbling obscenities, but I saw no tendency towards violence or anything like that. Oh, and they blocked the rear entrance of the governor’s residence with fire trucks.”

 

“Why the f*** are they provoking this, I wonder? Completely lost it?

 

“I get gassed at home and walk by the semi-dispersed crowds and breathe the gas. I can tell you, though, the people I saw were ordinary people. Just frustrated.”

 

June 3: A Tweet from journalist Orkun Ün: “I have just spoken with a police chief, these are his exact words: ‘The country is finished, may God help us all. We got direct orders from the prime minister to break up the protests.’”

 

taksim violence 1

Violence in Istanbul. Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP / Flickr

 

June 4:Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announces that 244 police and 60 protesters have been injured in clashes. The Turkish Doctor’s Union, on the other hand, puts the number of injured protesters at 4,177, including two deaths and multiple blindings. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch suggest the number of deaths and injuries may be much higher. Journalists debate among themselves how to report the number of casualties. We’ve seen what’s going on. We know whom to trust. We settle on “more than 4,000.”

 

Later that night, heavy protests break out in the eastern province of Tunceli. The police are forced to call for help from the military in Antakya, on the Syrian border, although they end up staying on the sidelines. In İzmir, police begin detaining people for suspicion of Tweeting “provocations” and “misinformation.” “Provocations,” apparently, include such Tweets as “Please don’t act in unrestrained ways and don’t assault the police.” The state says they picked them up for taking pictures of buildings they set on fire and gloating about having done it on Twitter. Probably both are true.

 

We’re all getting paranoid. We start writing emails to each other like this: “Let me just say, once again, how much I love our police and how much I appreciate their intelligence capabilities and diligence. And their unique manliness, their rugged good looks, and their unparalleled loyalty to God and country. Fine men, one and all, and I am honored to share my correspondence with them. I only hope my small contribution might contribute to the glory and power of Turkey, I mean Türkiye.” (Once, they decided to rebrand. They’d had it with the Thanksgiving jokes.)

 

June 5: I receive an unbearable letter from a local human rights group:

 

Last night (June 3, 2013) around 9 p.m. I was detained in Beşiktaş, at traffic lights on Barbaros Avenue. I was not involved in any action like swearing or throwing stones. They took me in bending my arm the moment they saw me. Some friends of mine saw on TV how I was taken into custody. Then hell began.

 

After crossing the lights in the direction of the seaside, while I was at the edge of the platform where the IETT bus stops are at the seaside, any policeman who was there and any riot police squad member (çevik kuvvet) who saw me started kicking and punching me. For about 100-150 meters, in other words, all the way to the Kadıköy ferry station, whoever was present there was kicking and punching. Insults and curses such as “Are you the ones to save this country, motherf***rs, sons of bitches,” never ended. I could not count how many people hit me before I reached the detention bus. Just as I was taken near the buses, a few policemen called from behind a bus, “Bring him here.” They took me behind the bus and started kicking and punching me there. I learned later that because of the cameras they took me behind the bus to beat me.

 

When I was inside the detention bus (İETT) the lights were out, and I heard a girl’s voice begging inside the bus: “I did not do anything, sir.” I could not even see who was hitting me as I was taken inside the bus and after I was in the bus. The only thing I was able to do in the dark was to cover my head. Curses and insults continued. I sat. Everyone who was passing near me was hitting me. I got up and went to a corner. They wanted me to take a seat again. I told them everyone who passed by was hitting me when I was seated. They again swore, slapped and punched me and made me sit. They were hitting the girl and throttling her. A civilian policeman whose name is Suleyman told the girl, “I will bend you over and f***, right now.” Response of the girl was heartbreaking. She could only say “Yes, sir,” with a low voice.

 

And next, we, the three people present at the bus, were forced to shout: “I love the Turkish police. I love my country.” They made us yell this again and again ordered us to make it “louder, louder.” The insults and beating did not come to an end.

 

The atmosphere seemed a bit calmer, as they brought another young person. The guy’s nose was broken. When I asked him why he didn’t protect his face, he told me, “Two people held me by force and a third person punched my nose three times.” From time to time there were others brought in….

 

Once we were at the police station, an army of lawyers was waiting for us. And the policemen now were talking to us on polite terms.

 

I want to thank all the lawyers, all our friends who called the lawyers and everybody who was worried about us. There is not a bit of an exaggeration in this piece. Everything that has been experienced is true and my only aim is for everybody to hear it firsthand.

 

Oh, by the way, they detained the lawyers too. A few days ago, I think. I ask a friend whether the account above could possibly be true. He laughs at my naiveté. Laughs hard.

 

“This is not our country,” wrote Turkish novelist Tezer Özlü, “this is the country of those who want to kill us.” Indeed, the past few weeks have been Tezer Özlü weeks. The police killed five of their fellow citizens—and probably more—and blinded nearly a dozen of them in an explosion of violence so convulsive it shocked the country. It should also be noted that a policeman died, too, chasing his fellow citizens. But these words don’t begin to encompass the cruelty meted out by government agents acting against its citizens.

 

taksim protests

Protests in Istanbul, June 1, 2013. Photo: Alan Hilditch / Flickr

 

I live by Taksim Square. It is not clear what set it ablaze one Tuesday evening, but certainly something did; police stormed a crowd of some 30,000 with massive clouds of tear gas and sound bombs, setting off a stampede. Extremists in the crowd began fighting back—throwing stones, setting off fireworks, starting fires to mitigate the effects of the gas, transforming what had just the day before been an irenic, quirky festival of a protest into a nightmare of nihilism and violence, the sound of the ezan in the background adding surrealism to the sacrilege and vice-versa. The police behaved like animals. I saw it. They terrorized and maimed and wounded and traumatized a bunch of goofy kids whose only crime was camping out in a park, as well as everyone in a mile-wide range of them. God only knows what they did in the parts of the city and country where the media wasn’t looking. I’m not even sure I want to know.

 

But keep this in mind: They did not shoot them with live bullets. This wasn’t a Syrian-style wholesale slaughter, and as I said, brutality and human rights abuses in Turkey were hardly unknown before the rise of the AKP.

 

What is an aberration, and utterly inexplicable to me, is this: Since the AKP came to power in 2002, the world somehow ceased to care, or to ask any deep questions, about whether Turkey’s “democratic deficit,” as it’s euphemistically known, has really healed, or is apt ever to heal given the AKP’s style of governance.

 

Turkish brutality is not new. What’s new is that since the AKP came to power in 2002, the world somehow has ceased to care about whether Turkey’s “democratic deficit” will every get any better.

 

What is that style of governance? To amass power—of every kind—and distribute the spoils to its supporters. The media? An impediment. Lock it up, buy it up, or terrify it into silence, with a special emphasis on imprisoning lots and lots of journalists. Critics? No use for them: Sue them, slander them in the media, imprison them, or chase them out of the country to evade prosecution (for crimes that in all likelihood have been committed in one form or another by nine-tenths of the Turkish elite).

 

The Paleolithic, but at least independent, judiciary? Its independence is now gone, and I cannot believe that the West was so stupid as to celebrate the vehicle of its execution as a democratic advance, rather than see it clear-eyed for what it was—and scream bloody murder.

 

In a move underscoring Erdoğan’s skill at amassing power, the independence of the judiciary disappeared in a 2010 constitutional referendum, one with 26 items bundled into a single package. Voters couldn’t select the items they wanted: It was thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

 

Of the items, 24 were innocuous or salutary, one was dubious, and one was the poison pill. It restructured the size and membership of the Constitutional Court, raising its membership from 11 to 17, and took the power of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State to elect and appoint its members and assigned it to parliament and the president. This was in addition to Erdoğan’s pre-existing power to hand pick all of the MPs in his party (the legislative branch) and all of the ministers in his cabinet (the executive branch). So the majority of the judiciary, including the members of the Constitutional Court, are now elected by a parliament dominated by MPs entirely under Erdoğan’s control. There goes the independent judiciary.

 

What’s more, a 2007 constitutional referendum resulted in the direct election of the president, the president, a role that is often considered ceremonial but actually has the power to veto legislation and is therefore really quite crucial to the fate of the country, by the public. Before this, the president was elected by parliament, and viewed as an oppositional figure whose role was to limit the power of the prime minister through the veto. Now, however, his election is plugged into the same personality cult machine that runs everything else. To put it succinctly, in two referenda—which the world applauded like maniac penguins as great advances for Turkish democracy—the prime minister directly or indirectly took control of all three branches of the government. This is unprecedented in the history of Turkey’s post-World War I state apparatus.

 

The last leg of the balance-of-power stool was the military. So off to the clink went the top brass, who rotted behind bars for years before being convicted; they will wait years more for the European Court of Human Rights to review their appeal. Some have already died in jail, and more will surely die before the case makes it to the top of the ECHR’s overcrowded docket.

 

Gezi tree

The Wish Tree, created by artists and protesters, was burned by government forces on June 15. Photo: resim77 / Flickr

 

And the Kurds? Well, the word a few weeks ago was peace, but the word last year was war, with the highest casualties—some 700 dead—in 15 years—and it seems, though it’s hard to say, that the word may be war again quite soon.

 

Now tell me: Islamist or not, can’t you see what the problem is here? A country already cursed by its authoritarian traditions managed to hand all of the power to one single man. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this man now has absolute power.

 

To make matters worse, Erdoğan has been feted around the world, including by people who should surely know better, as the greatest democratic reformer since Benjamin Franklin, which did little to enhance his grasp on the Reality Principle.

 

So nobody should be surprised when we hear the sound of screams and sirens in Taksim Square, Turks looking mad as hell, and massive clouds of tear gas over Istanbul—not to mention Ankara, Izmir, Antakya, Adana, Eskişehir, Muğla, Mersin, Bursa, Balikesir, Kocaeli, Antalya, Rize, and God only knows where else, because the international media is focused on Istanbul chiefly and Ankara as a footnote, and the domestic media is muzzled. Really, the only surprise is that it took this long.

 

June 6: Delivering a speech from Tunisia, the prime minister defiantly vows to demolish the park and promptly crashes the stock market.

 

Here, people are going insane. There are rumors—sparked by an idiot comment posted on the CNN iReport webpage—that the cops are using Agent Orange. No one here has a clue that CNN iReport is not “official, trustworthy Western journalism,” or even what Agent Orange is. They just know it’s something really, really bad. The irony of this—that Agent Orange is a defoliant and that the very point of this protest (ostensibly, at least) is to manifest discontent with Istanbul’s near-absence of trees—is not lost on the few of us who speak English and have some familiarity with the Vietnam War.

 

We try to explain on Twitter that the gas is probably colored with something orange because the cops want to identify and arrest the people they can’t manage to catch right away. In retrospect, I suspect, this only somewhat reassured them.

 

June 7: Calm and peaceful, save for incidents in Cizre, near the Syrian border (tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets, stones, Molotov cocktails), and the Istanbul neighborhood of Gazi (unrelated to Gezi). A protester there was hit in the head by a gas canister the previous night and is still in critical condition. Clashes there continue throughout the night (barricades, tear gas, water cannon, slingshots).

 

Compared to days prior, though, my own neighborhood is quiet. The police have pulled out of Taksim. I go for a walk through Taksim and Gezi Park and can’t believe what I’m seeing: It looks like freedom. For the first time ever, maybe. I walk through Taksim all the time. I live right by it, and it’s always full of cops. Don’t get me wrong: They are there for a very good reason. The PKK and its affiliates have attacked Taksim four times since 1995—I was nearly one of their victims the last time they did it. Istanbul is a city of at least 12 million people, not all of them pleasant (though most of them are), and Turkey lives in the world’s roughest neighborhood. Obviously, yes, you do want a heavy police presence in the city’s most heavily trafficked square and its most obvious terrorist target.

 

But Taksim is a lot more fun without the cops, especially when lately they’ve been more of a threat than the PKK. The place has become a giant carnival almost overnight: Singing, dancing, improbable comity among groups that under normal circumstances would prefer to be killing each other—nationalists and communists, Turks and Kurds, Alevis and Sufis, all thrilled to be there, thrilled not to be choking on tear gas.

 

An overturned police van (the only sign that they were ever there) has been turned into a makeshift memorial to the wounded and killed, with handwritten messages promising them that they won’t be forgotten and it won’t be in vain. I hadn’t really cared about Gezi Park before, to be honest, but if it had stayed the way it was that night, I’d care.

 

Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

 

Again I’m baffled, just baffled, by the prime minister’s determination to destroy this place. What a tourist attraction this could be! “Joyful, harmless festival” versus “multiple subdural hematomas and packed casualty wards”—you’d think that would be a no brainer, right? It’s all so innocent that even the streetwalkers and the drunks I usually see on the streets around Taksim have, for some reason, decamped for seedier pastures. I keep thinking that if only Erdoğan would visit the place, he’d see there was nothing to fear.

 

But apparently that wasn’t his plan. Later that night, he returns from Tunisia. While publicly AKP officials announce that there will be no fanfare at the airport for fear of further aggravating the tension, half of Istanbul receives text messages from their local AKP branch instructing them to show up at the airport to show their support. Buses will be provided. Public transportation will be open late. Crowds of thousands greet him, chanting his name ecstatically. “I salute my brothers who are here in Istanbul,” he says, indefatigable even after all that traveling. And he continues: “In Istanbul’s brother cities, Sarajevo, Baku, Beirut, Skopje, Damascus, Gaza, Mecca, Medina. I salute Istanbul again and again with all my heart, every Istanbul neighborhood, every street, every district.”

 

The crowd, perhaps, didn’t catch that last part. “Ya Allah, Bismillah, Allahu Akbar,” they roar. “Let us go, we’ll crush Taksim.”

 

Wait, he tells them, you’ll have your chance at the ballot box.

 

June 13:The prime minister says, “This will all be over in 24 hours.” People old enough to remember the ’70s are getting worried. Yes, plastic bullets are bad. Real bullets are worse.

 

June 15: The police burst into Gezi Park. Hours before, parents were there with their kids, planting gardens. They clear out the media first, then go in with water cannons and flash-bangs and start tearing up the tents. They attack the medical tent, too. It’s rumored that one of the medics has a nervous breakdown because the wounded are being attacked. Panicked crowds run to the nearby Divan hotel. Tear gas and stun grenades are shot down neighboring roads. Police gas women with children in their arms.

 

At the Divan Hotel, the lobby is full of vomit—everyone is vomiting because the police are shooting gas directly into an enclosed space. Many are wounded. The police warn that they’ll arrest anyone who comes out. No one, but no one, has any clue why they’re doing this.

 

Thousands try to march to Taksim Square in solidarity. The police gas them all. They kick and assault a cameraman trying to film the Divan Hotel. Sound bombs and tear gas no longer seem to frighten the crowd as much as they did. I worry this will prompt the cops to move up to something that will. The police burn the “wishing tree” in Gezi Park where protesters had hung messages with their dreams, and cart everything else off in dump trucks.

 

Finally, the police allow ambulances into the Divan to take out the injured. But they keep gassing for miles in every direction. The US embassy is completely silent—not even a pro-forma call for “restraint on both sides.” The British consulate is not quite so silent. They Tweet, “@LeighTurnerFCO #istanbul 0045-tear-gas becoming eye-watering at #British Co‏nsulate-General c 1 km from Taksim Sq.”

 

Chief Negotiator and Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağış announces that anyone in Taksim Square will be “treated as a terrorist.” In Turkey, this usually means “jailed for life or shot on sight.” His years of patient negotiations with the EU are undermined when police burst into and gas the Hilton Hotel, dousing Germany’s Green Party co-chair, Claudia Roth, with astringent chemicals that leave her skin so red it’s practically fluorescent. I saw the photos. Not even fury can account for a human face turning that color.

 

gezi camp

So-called “terrorists” camping in Gezi park. Photo: Ian Usher / Flickr

 

They fire tear gas into the hospital near my apartment. I had pneumonia once; they treated me there. I think about the effect this must be having on the lung patients who are there now. If this were a war, attacking a hospital would be a flagrant violation of Article 56 of the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, if this were a war, the record of the day would include notable violations of Islamic law, too. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was exceptionally clear on this point: “Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful.” And that’s only the most obvious law that comes to mind. They’ve also violated the Turkish constitution in ways too countless to mention, but that’s been going on for so many years that pointing it out seems as obvious as noting that objects unsupported fall toward the earth. The major networks in Turkey have returned to their regularly scheduled programming. On SkyTurk 360: a fascinating history of traditional tea and coffee cups.

 

A Tweet that sums up how many are feeling: “Let me take this opportunity to thank Erdoğan’s international cheerleaders for the monster they’ve co-created. Oh, & f*** you @FareedZakaria.”

 

June 16: Yeni Şafak, said to be the prime minister’s favorite newspaper, devotes its front page to the revelation of a Jewish, Armenian, and CNN sex-scandal plot against Turkey. In Ankara, police are preventing demonstrators from approaching Kizilay square, where slain protestor Ethem Sarısülük’s funeral is to be held. It’s Father’s Day, and people in neighborhoods miles from mine are doing their Sunday shopping in gas masks. The police won’t reveal where they’re detaining the people they arrested the night before.

 

The Prime Minister is furious at the media. “If there are those who really want to know about Turkey,” he declares, “they should come and try to understand the AKP. It’s the truth.” In other words: The nation is the party, the party is the nation.

 

Meanwhile, the Istanbul governor says that while he respects medical science, he urges medics not to treat protesters. (Hey, docs, too bad about that Hippocratic Oath.) U.S. Embassy silent as an Antarctic graveyard. The Turkish journalist Ilhan Tanır, who is in Washington, tells me that he spoke to a White House official late the night before. They have no updated comment on the situation.

 

In the afternoon, the prime minister holds a massive “Respect for the National Will” rally in Istanbul. The state media news agency covers it with extra-special Baghdad-Bob-Pravda-c.1956 sauce: “LIVE: Erdoğan says international media is alone with their lies.” They report, too, that an AKP official says the Taksim protests were planned by the “American Entrepreneur Institute.”

 

The AKP rally ground is packed so tightly that, according to a Bloomberg reporter on the scene, five women have been carted off for treatment after fainting. Erdoğan scolds the European Parliament: “How dare you adopt a decision about Turkey. Know your place.” He’s furious at the media: “If there are those who really want to know about Turkey, they should come and try to understand the AKP. It’s the truth.” I’m about to faint myself just watching this on television: Turkey is the Party and the Party is Turkey. They have merged.
He claims that before he came to power, there was police abuse, but he stopped it. I wonder if I’ve misunderstood that, but my native-speaker friends confirm that I heard it just right. He promises to identify social media provocateurs “one by one.” He says that only three people have been hospitalized, one of whom was a police officer shot by the protesters. He says this while I have the medical reports from my local hospitals on my desk; all filled with accounts of blindings, brain damage, thoracic damage, testicular trauma, comas, and patients in intensive care.

 

Erdoğan is becoming more and more aggressive. The speech is going on forever. Police helicopters are hovering above me, everyone outside my apartment is screaming and whistling, and my neighborhood is yet again filling up with tear gas. Elif Batuman also lives in this neighborhood. She writes on Twitter that she sees billows of smoke rolling out of Siraselviler Avenue, “like Lord of the Rings.”

 

taksim protest 3

Taksim protest, June 2013. Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

 

There’s tear gas in the Dutch Consulate, now. A fairly trustworthy news source reports that shootings have been heard by the Istanbul Police Headquarters. The headquarters of the main opposition CHP party are apparently under attack, but no one injured.

 

The historian Jim Meyer, who specializes in the Turkic world, is in Istanbul this week. He writes:

 

These are not “clashes.” The police are attacking protesters. The protesters are building barricades, making noise, and occupying territory, then scattering in the face of water cannons and gas bombs. From everything I’ve seen, these are police riots.

 

A few loud sound bombs go off about a street away from me. At least I hope they’re just sound bombs, but by this point I’m so tired that for all I really care they could be H-bombs. All I want to do is sleep. A Christian cemetery in Şişli has somehow been damaged in all of this, details unclear.

 

Someone warns me to be careful because they’re targeting Jews and journalists, running through Asmalımescit with clubs in their hands and shouting “God is Greatest,” so I shouldn’t go out. I figure since they’re targeting half the country anyway, there’s no reason for me to feel especially threatened.

 

I don’t know what happened next. I fell asleep in my chair. I don’t know what’s happening now, because I haven’t checked the news. It’s quiet outside, from what I can see. But by the time you read this, more will be dead and more will be blind, I suspect.

 

According to legend, when the great historian Robert Conquest was asked if he wanted to rename the updated edition of The Great Terror, his history of the Stalinist purges, he replied, “How about, I Told You So, You F***ing Fools.”

 

And that’s what I’m saying now to every single lazy journalist and policy wonk, professional sycophant, diplomat and idiot pundit who’s never so much as visited this place, the duly-funded social scientists and craven Western politicians and everyone else who for years swallowed Erdoğan’s nonsense and helped to manufacture the fantasy that Turkey was getting more and more democratic by the day.

 

Taksim protest, June 1, 2013. Photo: Araz Zeynisoy / Flickr

Taksim protest, June 1, 2013. Photo: Araz Zeynisoy / Flickr

 

Only months ago, not an hour went by without some dimwit churning out an article about the economic and the reformist wonders of the AKP and its newly-emerged Anatolian middle class, the magnificent result of the AKP’s mix of moderately-Islamist daddy-state, fiscal discipline and free-market economic policies. One of the best performers of its kind in the world, a model for every Arab who felt like springing, the blossoming of Turkey’s open society, proof that Islam and democracy can mix just fine. Now, I have no idea if Islam and democracy can mix just fine. Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. But I can tell you one thing for sure: authoritarianism and democracy can’t mix just fine. And this was just obvious, blindingly obvious, years ago.

 

I have no idea what will come next, now that things that have been overwhelmingly apparent for the past decade are finally getting attention and coverage in English. But this I do know: There are real people here. They are not pawns to be moved about on a geopolitical chess board. They are not subjects for fashionable tales told by people climbing up the greasy pole of their careers in the West. They could use some honesty from the rest of the world, because they’re sure not going to get it from their government or their media and they know it. So if you had any part in creating this situation, whether by cheering the rise of this authoritarian government or promoting the fantasy of Turkey’s advanced democracy and this nonsense about it being a model Muslim nation, go look at those photos of the kids with no eyes. Then get down on your knees and ask God to forgive you—because those kids, they’re not going to.

 

Banner Photo: resim77 / Flickr

 

The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized? / Claire Berlinski

Photo: resim77 / Flickr

 

 

http://www.thetower.org/article/the-gezi-diaries-erdogans-turkey-goes-medieval/

​The Gezi Diaries: Can We Still Call Turkey Civilized?
[http://www.thetower.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/taksim-gas-975×320.jpg]

Some see it as a modern democracy with an Islamic tint, an improving, reforming country. But if you were in Istanbul during the last month and a half, you’d have seen something completely different: a violent, authoritarian, increasingly suppressive and brutal regime. Tales from the Dark Side, Turkish style.
I’ve always been a critic of armchair reporting. But when your armchair is four blocks away from Taksim Square, it has one of the best views of the uproar in Istanbul any diligent reporter could ask for. I’m now able to calculate with great precision the time between the beginning of the screaming, the sound of the shot, and the entry of the gas through my window. It’s two and twelve seconds respectively.

In the past month, Americans have seen violent images from Turkey on their television screens: massive clouds of tear gas, the sound of screams and sirens, lots of Turks looking mad as hell.

What’s it about? Another outburst of Muslim rage? Something about kids camping in a park? Isn’t Turkey supposed to be the model moderate Muslim miracle?

But understanding the explosion of violence pitting demonstrators against Turkey’s authoritarian and increasingly heavy-handed state—and why it surprised so many who should have known better—requires some work. Start by forgetting most of what you’ve been hearing for the past ten years about Turkey. Don’t try to compare it to any other country: not America, not Afghanistan, not Egypt, not Syria, not Iran, not Russia, and certainly not France in 1968—not that the latter would occur to you, but the French press seems crazy for the idea.

Here’s what you need to know, bare-bones: The supposedly secular Turkish Republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost a century ago was an authoritarian state, although not a totalitarian one. And yes, Jeanne Kirkpatrick was right, there is a difference. I went behind the Iron Curtain when the Wall was still standing. The USSR was indeed—immediately, visibly, on first sight—an evil empire. The Turkish Republic wasn’t remotely like that; there has never been all-encompassing government enslavement of the citizenry here, nor is there now, and I pray there never will be. But since its emergence after World War I, Turkey has always had weak institutions—and a state that’s strong as an ox.

Over the decades, the authoritarianism has come in different flavors. Once they served it state-worship style, and from time-to-time military style; now they serve it piety style. But it’s still the same thing. They just changed the wrapping paper.

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Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

Piety-style Turkey is better off economically, though not as much as you’ve been told. Still, even considering the past few weeks’ horrific events, even considering the preposterous show trials, the increasing displacement of state-worshipping authoritarians by piety-style authoritarians in Turkey’s institutions, the jailing of journalists, the censorship of the Internet, the almost unfathomable dishonesty of its government and its intellectuals, the cronyism, the corruption, the foreign policy misadventures as its government shows support for Hamas and flouts the Europeans and declares Zionism to be a form of fascism—despite all of that, it’s probably a better place to live, for most of its citizens, than it has been at many points in its recent so-called secular past.

And Turkey was never truly “secular,” at least not in the way Americans understand the term. True, after the founding of the Republic, Islamic courts were abolished and replaced with a secular legal apparatus, often modeled word-for-word on the Swiss, German, and Italian civil and penal codes. But a state-funded and state-controlled institution, the Diyanet, was one of the first organizations established by the Turkish Parliament after the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. It was founded “to execute works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshipping places.” Those would be the ethics of the Hanafi Sunni school of Islam, not the Eleusinian Mystery cults—or any of the religions of the 20 percent of the Turkish population who aren’t Sunni Muslims. The point is that religion in Turkey has always been subservient to, and a tool for, the state. When the state decides it’s important, the Diyanet can tell the Imams—all the imams, if they want to stay out of jail—what to put in their sermons. None too secular, that. Neither is the increasingly visible Islamic discourse of today’s ruling elites, nor that of the civil servants who work for them.

Turkey is a rarity in the Middle East. It’s a democracy with free elections. It has a secular constitution. It’s a member of NATO. And every so often, it goes nuts and kills its own citizens.

So Turkey is a rarity in the Middle East: It’s a democracy, if only in the sense that it does hold regular, free elections, and it has a secular constitution. It’s in NATO, and it furnishes NATO’s second-largest army—and its leading army, if you use the criteria of “percentage of admirals and generals in jail.” It provides a crucial energy corridor to Europe. The Incirlik air base has a vital staging point for the US military, for the most part. It has made a reasonable contribution to the coalition forces in Afghanistan, and agreed to host a radar system designed by the United States as part of its NATO shield against a missile attack aimed at Europe.

And every so often, as sort of a national tradition, Turkey goes nuts and kills a few—or more than a few—of its own citizens. The Dersim rebellion in 1937 and 1938 was suppressed with such vigor that historians suspect tens of thousands of souls perished. The civil war with the terrorist PKK is said to have claimed 40,000 lives. At the height of the conflict, in the 1990s, thousands of civilians were systematically rounded up and—with no trial—jailed and tortured and disappeared.

And shall we mention not only the military coups, but the events that led up to them, such as the clashes in the 1970s between far-left and far-right paramilitaries, which created such chaos and anarchy—killing, on average, ten people a day and toward the end, 20 a day—that the public was relieved, yes relieved, when the military finally stepped in? They whitewash that effusion of relief right out of history here these days, but ask anyone old enough to remember it, just remember to ask them in private. They wanted that junta, and badly, until the junta began doing what juntas tend to do, with one very important exception: After finishing up the torturing and the hanging, they returned the government to the civilians.

So we should not for a moment imagine that the events of the past weeks have been some hideous aberration from the otherwise irenic and secular history of the Turkish Republic.

Yet, in the past decade, since the rise of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP party, the world has decided that Turkey is finally democratizing—and this precisely as the screws have in fact tightened around crucial pieces of what you would call an ordinary democratic civil discourse and judicial norms. Indeed, Erdoğan has so thoroughly undermined free civic expression and the rule of law that a great many Turks feel that their country has been ripped from their hands.

Military leaders are in jail. Journalists are in jail. Professors are in jail. Elected parliamentarians are in jail. This has been going on for years now<http://turkey.usembassy.gov/amb_ricciardone_020513.html>, though rather ignored by many in the West. And when the government this spring decided to go medieval on a few tent-dwelling, yoga-practicing, tree-decorating youths trying to save an Istanbul park, many of us felt a kind of stomach-churning inevitability, accompanying the breaking of bones and the unbreathable air.

April 2: A rumor starts going around that people are trying to organize a protest to save Gezi Park. People here protest a lot, so I don’t pay much attention. On weekends you can often see five or six protests a day in Taksim Square. Usually no one notices them. The police watch them benignly, and the protests make no difference at all, especially since they’re always uniquely boring. The slogans are ritualized, it’s always “shoulder-to-shoulder against something” (be it fascists or whale-killers), and everyone goes home at the scheduled time and nothing ever changes.

But this rumor is a little different, because the organizers claim that 50,000 people have already signed up for it. That’s a lot of protesters. I mention this to a friend, en passant. He’s pretty shrewd about Turkey, being Turkish. He says, “If 50,000 people actually signed something and a sizable fraction shows up, I don’t see the AKP tolerating this. Even the anti-censorship march drew inane bile from the heavyweights of the AKP newspapers.”

“Or they’ll be ignored,” I say. “But I wish them well.”

“There’s a fairly good chance they’ll get hit and gassed,” he replies. I should note that “hit and gassed” happens so often here lately that we barely notice it anymore. We just check the #dailygasreport on Twitter to see what streets to avoid. It’s like traffic: one of the hassles of Istanbul you learn to deal with.

“Maybe,” I say, and then make one of my less prescient predictions. “Of one thing I’m sure—unless, say, 50 Buddhist nuns set themselves on fire, or an American tourist is bludgeoned by a glue-sniffer, no one outside of Turkey will be interested.”

It takes a few weeks for me to be proven quite wrong.

May 31: The police burst into Gezi Park at dawn with tear gas and water cannons. More than a hundred protesters are injured, including three journalists. By eight that evening, some 100,000 more return to the area to try to defend it. The police block the roads leading to Taksim Square with barriers and try to disperse the crowds. Within hours, the protests spread throughout Istanbul, and then to other cities.

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So-called “terrorists” do yoga at Taksim. Photo: Mr Ush / Flickr

At three in the morning, a massive crowd begins marching across the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to the European side. People join the protests from their houses, shouting and clapping, and banging pots and pans—a tradition inherited from the Ottoman era, when Janissaries warned of their imminent mutiny by banging on cauldrons—

And as all of this is happening—and broadcast around the world by foreign news services—Turkish television is showing anything but these scenes. CNN Türk aired a documentary about penguins.

June 1: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in more than 40 Turkish cities keep protesting. The protesters move to the office of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Beşiktaş, providing the police with an excuse for even harsher retaliation. Every living being in the district gets showered with tear gas—including, I’m told, the officials in the office, which at least was satisfying to imagine, if it’s true. Ankara and Izmir rise up in force.

Snippets of conversation:

“They’ve got to be running low on tear gas.”

“They saturation bombed this part of the city with gas, how much can they possibly have?”

“Be careful. My brother got gassed today, too.”

“This is just ridiculous. What the f*** are they thinking?”

“I hate this f***ing gas. Was a bit late to shut the windows and now I can’t breathe.”

“Ok, no way to get anywhere near Taksim from here. They’ve blocked Vali Konaği Avenue with a bus. I haven’t seen any gassing, but judging how hard it was for me to breathe and the way kids were taunting the cops to take off their masks and helmets, I imagine they’re gassing them regularly.”

“People were walking back teary-eyed and coughing on Cumhuriyet Avenue. Halaskargazi was crowded with people in surgical masks. Folks were mumbling obscenities, but I saw no tendency towards violence or anything like that. Oh, and they blocked the rear entrance of the governor’s residence with fire trucks.”

“Why the f*** are they provoking this, I wonder? Completely lost it?

“I get gassed at home and walk by the semi-dispersed crowds and breathe the gas. I can tell you, though, the people I saw were ordinary people. Just frustrated.”

June 3: A Tweet from journalist Orkun Ün: “I have just spoken with a police chief, these are his exact words: ‘The country is finished, may God help us all. We got direct orders from the prime minister to break up the protests.’”

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Violence in Istanbul. Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP / Flickr

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June 4:Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announces that 244 police and 60 protesters have been injured in clashes. The Turkish Doctor’s Union, on the other hand, puts the number of injured protesters at 4,177, including two deaths and multiple blindings. NGOs such as Human Rights Watch suggest the number of deaths and injuries may be much higher. Journalists debate among themselves how to report the number of casualties. We’ve seen what’s going on. We know whom to trust. We settle on “more than 4,000.”

Later that night, heavy protests break out in the eastern province of Tunceli. The police are forced to call for help from the military in Antakya, on the Syrian border, although they end up staying on the sidelines. In İzmir, police begin detaining people for suspicion of Tweeting “provocations” and “misinformation.” “Provocations,” apparently, include such Tweets as “Please don’t act in unrestrained ways and don’t assault the police.” The state says they picked them up for taking pictures of buildings they set on fire and gloating about having done it on Twitter. Probably both are true.

We’re all getting paranoid. We start writing emails to each other like this: “Let me just say, once again, how much I love our police and how much I appreciate their intelligence capabilities and diligence. And their unique manliness, their rugged good looks, and their unparalleled loyalty to God and country. Fine men, one and all, and I am honored to share my correspondence with them. I only hope my small contribution might contribute to the glory and power of Turkey, I mean Türkiye.” (Once, they decided to rebrand. They’d had it with the Thanksgiving jokes.)

June 5: I receive an unbearable letter from a local human rights group:

Last night (June 3, 2013) around 9 p.m. I was detained in Beşiktaş, at traffic lights on Barbaros Avenue. I was not involved in any action like swearing or throwing stones. They took me in bending my arm the moment they saw me. Some friends of mine saw on TV how I was taken into custody. Then hell began.
After crossing the lights in the direction of the seaside, while I was at the edge of the platform where the IETT bus stops are at the seaside, any policeman who was there and any riot police squad member (çevik kuvvet) who saw me started kicking and punching me. For about 100-150 meters, in other words, all the way to the Kadıköy ferry station, whoever was present there was kicking and punching. Insults and curses such as “Are you the ones to save this country, motherf***rs, sons of bitches,” never ended. I could not count how many people hit me before I reached the detention bus. Just as I was taken near the buses, a few policemen called from behind a bus, “Bring him here.” They took me behind the bus and started kicking and punching me there. I learned later that because of the cameras they took me behind the bus to beat me.
When I was inside the detention bus (İETT) the lights were out, and I heard a girl’s voice begging inside the bus: “I did not do anything, sir.” I could not even see who was hitting me as I was taken inside the bus and after I was in the bus. The only thing I was able to do in the dark was to cover my head. Curses and insults continued. I sat. Everyone who was passing near me was hitting me. I got up and went to a corner. They wanted me to take a seat again. I told them everyone who passed by was hitting me when I was seated. They again swore, slapped and punched me and made me sit. They were hitting the girl and throttling her. A civilian policeman whose name is Suleyman told the girl, “I will bend you over and f***, right now.” Response of the girl was heartbreaking. She could only say “Yes, sir,” with a low voice.
And next, we, the three people present at the bus, were forced to shout: “I love the Turkish police. I love my country.” They made us yell this again and again ordered us to make it “louder, louder.” The insults and beating did not come to an end.
The atmosphere seemed a bit calmer, as they brought another young person. The guy’s nose was broken. When I asked him why he didn’t protect his face, he told me, “Two people held me by force and a third person punched my nose three times.” From time to time there were others brought in….
Once we were at the police station, an army of lawyers was waiting for us. And the policemen now were talking to us on polite terms.
I want to thank all the lawyers, all our friends who called the lawyers and everybody who was worried about us. There is not a bit of an exaggeration in this piece. Everything that has been experienced is true and my only aim is for everybody to hear it firsthand.

Oh, by the way, they detained the lawyers too. A few days ago, I think. I ask a friend whether the account above could possibly be true. He laughs at my naiveté. Laughs hard.

“This is not our country,” wrote Turkish novelist Tezer Özlü, “this is the country of those who want to kill us.” Indeed, the past few weeks have been Tezer Özlü weeks. The police killed five of their fellow citizens—and probably more—and blinded nearly a dozen of them in an explosion of violence so convulsive it shocked the country. It should also be noted that a policeman died, too, chasing his fellow citizens. But these words don’t begin to encompass the cruelty meted out by government agents acting against its citizens.
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Protests in Istanbul, June 1, 2013. Photo: Alan Hilditch / Flickr

I live by Taksim Square. It is not clear what set it ablaze one Tuesday evening, but certainly something did; police stormed a crowd of some 30,000 with massive clouds of tear gas and sound bombs, setting off a stampede. Extremists in the crowd began fighting back—throwing stones, setting off fireworks, starting fires to mitigate the effects of the gas, transforming what had just the day before been an irenic, quirky festival of a protest into a nightmare of nihilism and violence, the sound of the ezan in the background adding surrealism to the sacrilege and vice-versa. The police behaved like animals. I saw it. They terrorized and maimed and wounded and traumatized a bunch of goofy kids whose only crime was camping out in a park, as well as everyone in a mile-wide range of them. God only knows what they did in the parts of the city and country where the media wasn’t looking. I’m not even sure I want to know.

But keep this in mind: They did not shoot them with live bullets. This wasn’t a Syrian-style wholesale slaughter, and as I said, brutality and human rights abuses in Turkey were hardly unknown before the rise of the AKP.

What is an aberration, and utterly inexplicable to me, is this: Since the AKP came to power in 2002, the world somehow ceased to care, or to ask any deep questions, about whether Turkey’s “democratic deficit,” as it’s euphemistically known, has really healed, or is apt ever to heal given the AKP’s style of governance.

Turkish brutality is not new. What’s new is that since the AKP came to power in 2002, the world somehow has ceased to care about whether Turkey’s “democratic deficit” will every get any better.

What is that style of governance? To amass power—of every kind—and distribute the spoils to its supporters. The media? An impediment. Lock it up, buy it up, or terrify it into silence, with a special emphasis on imprisoning lots and lots of journalists. Critics? No use for them: Sue them, slander them in the media, imprison them, or chase them out of the country to evade prosecution (for crimes that in all likelihood have been committed in one form or another by nine-tenths of the Turkish elite).

The Paleolithic, but at least independent, judiciary? Its independence is now gone, and I cannot believe that the West was so stupid as to celebrate the vehicle of its execution as a democratic advance, rather than see it clear-eyed for what it was—and scream bloody murder.

In a move underscoring Erdoğan’s skill at amassing power, the independence of the judiciary disappeared in a 2010 constitutional referendum, one with 26 items bundled into a single package. Voters couldn’t select the items they wanted: It was thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Of the items, 24 were innocuous or salutary, one was dubious, and one was the poison pill. It restructured the size and membership of the Constitutional Court, raising its membership from 11 to 17, and took the power of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State to elect and appoint its members and assigned it to parliament and the president. This was in addition to Erdoğan’s pre-existing power to hand pick all of the MPs in his party (the legislative branch) and all of the ministers in his cabinet (the executive branch). So the majority of the judiciary, including the members of the Constitutional Court, are now elected by a parliament dominated by MPs entirely under Erdoğan’s control. There goes the independent judiciary.

What’s more, a 2007 constitutional referendum resulted in the direct election of the president, the president, a role that is often considered ceremonial but actually has the power to veto legislation and is therefore really quite crucial to the fate of the country, by the public. Before this, the president was elected by parliament, and viewed as an oppositional figure whose role was to limit the power of the prime minister through the veto. Now, however, his election is plugged into the same personality cult machine that runs everything else. To put it succinctly, in two referenda—which the world applauded like maniac penguins as great advances for Turkish democracy—the prime minister directly or indirectly took control of all three branches of the government. This is unprecedented in the history of Turkey’s post-World War I state apparatus.

The last leg of the balance-of-power stool was the military. So off to the clink went the top brass, who rotted behind bars for years before being convicted; they will wait years more for the European Court of Human Rights to review their appeal. Some have already died in jail, and more will surely die before the case makes it to the top of the ECHR’s overcrowded docket.

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The Wish Tree, created by artists and protesters, was burned by government forces on June 15. Photo: resim77 / Flickr

And the Kurds? Well, the word a few weeks ago was peace, but the word last year was war, with the highest casualties—some 700 dead—in 15 years—and it seems, though it’s hard to say, that the word may be war again quite soon.

Now tell me: Islamist or not, can’t you see what the problem is here? A country already cursed by its authoritarian traditions managed to hand all of the power to one single man. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this man now has absolute power.

To make matters worse, Erdoğan has been feted around the world, including by people who should surely know better, as the greatest democratic reformer since Benjamin Franklin, which did little to enhance his grasp on the Reality Principle.

So nobody should be surprised when we hear the sound of screams and sirens in Taksim Square, Turks looking mad as hell, and massive clouds of tear gas over Istanbul—not to mention Ankara, Izmir, Antakya, Adana, Eskişehir, Muğla, Mersin, Bursa, Balikesir, Kocaeli, Antalya, Rize, and God only knows where else, because the international media is focused on Istanbul chiefly and Ankara as a footnote, and the domestic media is muzzled. Really, the only surprise is that it took this long.

June 6: Delivering a speech from Tunisia, the prime minister defiantly vows to demolish the park and promptly crashes the stock market.

Here, people are going insane. There are rumors—sparked by an idiot comment posted on the CNN iReport webpage—that the cops are using Agent Orange. No one here has a clue that CNN iReport is not “official, trustworthy Western journalism,” or even what Agent Orange is. They just know it’s something really, really bad. The irony of this—that Agent Orange is a defoliant and that the very point of this protest (ostensibly, at least) is to manifest discontent with Istanbul’s near-absence of trees—is not lost on the few of us who speak English and have some familiarity with the Vietnam War.

We try to explain on Twitter that the gas is probably colored with something orange because the cops want to identify and arrest the people they can’t manage to catch right away. In retrospect, I suspect, this only somewhat reassured them.

June 7: Calm and peaceful, save for incidents in Cizre, near the Syrian border (tear gas, sound bombs, rubber bullets, stones, Molotov cocktails), and the Istanbul neighborhood of Gazi (unrelated to Gezi). A protester there was hit in the head by a gas canister the previous night and is still in critical condition. Clashes there continue throughout the night (barricades, tear gas, water cannon, slingshots).

Compared to days prior, though, my own neighborhood is quiet. The police have pulled out of Taksim. I go for a walk through Taksim and Gezi Park and can’t believe what I’m seeing: It looks like freedom. For the first time ever, maybe. I walk through Taksim all the time. I live right by it, and it’s always full of cops. Don’t get me wrong: They are there for a very good reason. The PKK and its affiliates have attacked Taksim four times since 1995—I was nearly one of their victims the last time they did it. Istanbul is a city of at least 12 million people, not all of them pleasant (though most of them are), and Turkey lives in the world’s roughest neighborhood. Obviously, yes, you do want a heavy police presence in the city’s most heavily trafficked square and its most obvious terrorist target.

But Taksim is a lot more fun without the cops, especially when lately they’ve been more of a threat than the PKK. The place has become a giant carnival almost overnight: Singing, dancing, improbable comity among groups that under normal circumstances would prefer to be killing each other—nationalists and communists, Turks and Kurds, Alevis and Sufis, all thrilled to be there, thrilled not to be choking on tear gas.

An overturned police van (the only sign that they were ever there) has been turned into a makeshift memorial to the wounded and killed, with handwritten messages promising them that they won’t be forgotten and it won’t be in vain. I hadn’t really cared about Gezi Park before, to be honest, but if it had stayed the way it was that night, I’d care.

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Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

Again I’m baffled, just baffled, by the prime minister’s determination to destroy this place. What a tourist attraction this could be! “Joyful, harmless festival” versus “multiple subdural hematomas and packed casualty wards”—you’d think that would be a no brainer, right? It’s all so innocent that even the streetwalkers and the drunks I usually see on the streets around Taksim have, for some reason, decamped for seedier pastures. I keep thinking that if only Erdoğan would visit the place, he’d see there was nothing to fear.

But apparently that wasn’t his plan. Later that night, he returns from Tunisia. While publicly AKP officials announce that there will be no fanfare at the airport for fear of further aggravating the tension, half of Istanbul receives text messages from their local AKP branch instructing them to show up at the airport to show their support. Buses will be provided. Public transportation will be open late. Crowds of thousands greet him, chanting his name ecstatically. “I salute my brothers who are here in Istanbul,” he says, indefatigable even after all that traveling. And he continues: “In Istanbul’s brother cities, Sarajevo, Baku, Beirut, Skopje, Damascus, Gaza, Mecca, Medina. I salute Istanbul again and again with all my heart, every Istanbul neighborhood, every street, every district.”

The crowd, perhaps, didn’t catch that last part. “Ya Allah, Bismillah, Allahu Akbar,” they roar. “Let us go, we’ll crush Taksim.”

Wait, he tells them, you’ll have your chance at the ballot box.

June 13:The prime minister says, “This will all be over in 24 hours.” People old enough to remember the ’70s are getting worried. Yes, plastic bullets are bad. Real bullets are worse.

June 15: The police burst into Gezi Park. Hours before, parents were there with their kids, planting gardens. They clear out the media first, then go in with water cannons and flash-bangs and start tearing up the tents. They attack the medical tent, too. It’s rumored that one of the medics has a nervous breakdown because the wounded are being attacked. Panicked crowds run to the nearby Divan hotel. Tear gas and stun grenades are shot down neighboring roads. Police gas women with children in their arms.

At the Divan Hotel, the lobby is full of vomit—everyone is vomiting because the police are shooting gas directly into an enclosed space. Many are wounded. The police warn that they’ll arrest anyone who comes out. No one, but no one, has any clue why they’re doing this.

Thousands try to march to Taksim Square in solidarity. The police gas them all. They kick and assault a cameraman trying to film the Divan Hotel. Sound bombs and tear gas no longer seem to frighten the crowd as much as they did. I worry this will prompt the cops to move up to something that will. The police burn the “wishing tree” in Gezi Park where protesters had hung messages with their dreams, and cart everything else off in dump trucks.

Finally, the police allow ambulances into the Divan to take out the injured. But they keep gassing for miles in every direction. The US embassy is completely silent—not even a pro-forma call for “restraint on both sides.” The British consulate is not quite so silent. They Tweet, “@LeighTurnerFCO #istanbul 0045-tear-gas becoming eye-watering at #British Co‏nsulate-General c 1 km from Taksim Sq.”

Chief Negotiator and Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağış announces that anyone in Taksim Square will be “treated as a terrorist.” In Turkey, this usually means “jailed for life or shot on sight.” His years of patient negotiations with the EU are undermined when police burst into and gas the Hilton Hotel, dousing Germany’s Green Party co-chair, Claudia Roth, with astringent chemicals that leave her skin so red it’s practically fluorescent. I saw the photos. Not even fury can account for a human face turning that color.

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So-called “terrorists” camping in Gezi park. Photo: Ian Usher / Flickr

They fire tear gas into the hospital near my apartment. I had pneumonia once; they treated me there. I think about the effect this must be having on the lung patients who are there now. If this were a war, attacking a hospital would be a flagrant violation of Article 56 of the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, if this were a war, the record of the day would include notable violations of Islamic law, too. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was exceptionally clear on this point: “Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful.” And that’s only the most obvious law that comes to mind. They’ve also violated the Turkish constitution in ways too countless to mention, but that’s been going on for so many years that pointing it out seems as obvious as noting that objects unsupported fall toward the earth. The major networks in Turkey have returned to their regularly scheduled programming. On SkyTurk 360: a fascinating history of traditional tea and coffee cups.

A Tweet that sums up how many are feeling: “Let me take this opportunity to thank Erdoğan’s international cheerleaders for the monster they’ve co-created. Oh, & f*** you @FareedZakaria.”

June 16: Yeni Şafak, said to be the prime minister’s favorite newspaper, devotes its front page to the revelation of a Jewish, Armenian, and CNN sex-scandal plot against Turkey. In Ankara, police are preventing demonstrators from approaching Kizilay square, where slain protestor Ethem Sarısülük’s funeral is to be held. It’s Father’s Day, and people in neighborhoods miles from mine are doing their Sunday shopping in gas masks. The police won’t reveal where they’re detaining the people they arrested the night before.

The Prime Minister is furious at the media. “If there are those who really want to know about Turkey,” he declares, “they should come and try to understand the AKP. It’s the truth.” In other words: The nation is the party, the party is the nation.

Meanwhile, the Istanbul governor says that while he respects medical science, he urges medics not to treat protesters. (Hey, docs, too bad about that Hippocratic Oath.) U.S. Embassy silent as an Antarctic graveyard. The Turkish journalist Ilhan Tanır, who is in Washington, tells me that he spoke to a White House official late the night before. They have no updated comment on the situation.

In the afternoon, the prime minister holds a massive “Respect for the National Will” rally in Istanbul. The state media news agency covers it with extra-special Baghdad-Bob-Pravda-c.1956 sauce: “LIVE: Erdoğan says international media is alone with their lies.” They report, too, that an AKP official says the Taksim protests were planned by the “American Entrepreneur Institute.”

The AKP rally ground is packed so tightly that, according to a Bloomberg reporter on the scene, five women have been carted off for treatment after fainting. Erdoğan scolds the European Parliament: “How dare you adopt a decision about Turkey. Know your place.” He’s furious at the media: “If there are those who really want to know about Turkey, they should come and try to understand the AKP. It’s the truth.” I’m about to faint myself just watching this on television: Turkey is the Party and the Party is Turkey. They have merged.
He claims that before he came to power, there was police abuse, but he stopped it. I wonder if I’ve misunderstood that, but my native-speaker friends confirm that I heard it just right. He promises to identify social media provocateurs “one by one.” He says that only three people have been hospitalized, one of whom was a police officer shot by the protesters. He says this while I have the medical reports from my local hospitals on my desk; all filled with accounts of blindings, brain damage, thoracic damage, testicular trauma, comas, and patients in intensive care.

Erdoğan is becoming more and more aggressive. The speech is going on forever. Police helicopters are hovering above me, everyone outside my apartment is screaming and whistling, and my neighborhood is yet again filling up with tear gas. Elif Batuman also lives in this neighborhood. She writes on Twitter that she sees billows of smoke rolling out of Siraselviler Avenue, “like Lord of the Rings.”

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Taksim protest, June 2013. Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

There’s tear gas in the Dutch Consulate, now. A fairly trustworthy news source reports that shootings have been heard by the Istanbul Police Headquarters. The headquarters of the main opposition CHP party are apparently under attack, but no one injured.

The historian Jim Meyer, who specializes in the Turkic world, is in Istanbul this week. He writes:

These are not “clashes.” The police are attacking protesters. The protesters are building barricades, making noise, and occupying territory, then scattering in the face of water cannons and gas bombs. From everything I’ve seen, these are police riots.

A few loud sound bombs go off about a street away from me. At least I hope they’re just sound bombs, but by this point I’m so tired that for all I really care they could be H-bombs. All I want to do is sleep. A Christian cemetery in Şişli has somehow been damaged in all of this, details unclear.

Someone warns me to be careful because they’re targeting Jews and journalists, running through Asmalımescit with clubs in their hands and shouting “God is Greatest,” so I shouldn’t go out. I figure since they’re targeting half the country anyway, there’s no reason for me to feel especially threatened.

I don’t know what happened next. I fell asleep in my chair. I don’t know what’s happening now, because I haven’t checked the news. It’s quiet outside, from what I can see. But by the time you read this, more will be dead and more will be blind, I suspect.

According to legend, when the great historian Robert Conquest was asked if he wanted to rename the updated edition of The Great Terror, his history of the Stalinist purges, he replied, “How about, I Told You So, You F***ing Fools.”

And that’s what I’m saying now to every single lazy journalist and policy wonk, professional sycophant, diplomat and idiot pundit who’s never so much as visited this place, the duly-funded social scientists and craven Western politicians and everyone else who for years swallowed Erdoğan’s nonsense and helped to manufacture the fantasy that Turkey was getting more and more democratic by the day.

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Taksim protest, June 1, 2013. Photo: Araz Zeynisoy / Flickr

Only months ago, not an hour went by without some dimwit churning out an article about the economic and the reformist wonders of the AKP and its newly-emerged Anatolian middle class, the magnificent result of the AKP’s mix of moderately-Islamist daddy-state, fiscal discipline and free-market economic policies. One of the best performers of its kind in the world, a model for every Arab who felt like springing, the blossoming of Turkey’s open society, proof that Islam and democracy can mix just fine. Now, I have no idea if Islam and democracy can mix just fine. Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. But I can tell you one thing for sure: authoritarianism and democracy can’t mix just fine. And this was just obvious, blindingly obvious, years ago.

I have no idea what will come next, now that things that have been overwhelmingly apparent for the past decade are finally getting attention and coverage in English. But this I do know: There are real people here. They are not pawns to be moved about on a geopolitical chess board. They are not subjects for fashionable tales told by people climbing up the greasy pole of their careers in the West. They could use some honesty from the rest of the world, because they’re sure not going to get it from their government or their media and they know it. So if you had any part in creating this situation, whether by cheering the rise of this authoritarian government or promoting the fantasy of Turkey’s advanced democracy and this nonsense about it being a model Muslim nation, go look at those photos of the kids with no eyes. Then get down on your knees and ask God to forgive you—because those kids, they’re not going to.
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Banner Photo: resim77 / Flickr

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Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

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So-called “terrorists” do yoga at Taksim. Photo: Mr Ush / Flickr

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Violence in Istanbul. Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP / Flickr

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Protests in Istanbul, June 1, 2013. Photo: Alan Hilditch / Flickr

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The Wish Tree, created by artists and protesters, was burned by government forces on June 15. Photo: resim77 / Flickr

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So-called “terrorists” camping in Gezi park. Photo: Ian Usher / Flickr

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Taksim protest, June 2013. Photo: Burak Su / Flickr

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Taksim protest, June 1, 2013. Photo: Araz Zeynisoy / Flickr

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Erdoğan’s fall from grace in Turkey is pure Shakespearean tragedy

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoHide

Turkey’s PM has become the personification of the corrupt despotism of the regime he was elected to sweep away

  • Fiachra
    • guardian.co.uk,
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has turned ‘an insignificant protest in a scrubby little park into a national emergency.’ Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

As the protests in Turkey continue, spare a thought for the man whose personal tragedy few have the grace to acknowledge – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Until three weeks ago Erdoğan was destined to go down as one of the greatest reformers in Turkish history alongside Ataturk and Suleiman the Magnificent, despite all the bullying and the backsliding of the past three years.

Here was a man who seemed to have the power to tackle Turkey’s century of conflict with the Kurds, Armenians and Greeks, and to lead it to a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future – a model not just for Muslim countries but for other rising economic powers shaking off less than perfect pasts.

But Erdoğan’s greatest achievement – greater still than a decade-long boom that bucked global depression – was his breaking of the power of the military that had shackled Turkish democracy for so long. In pre-Erdoğan Turkey, we would have had a coup by now.

Yet the power he concentrated to defeat the generals – by foul means as well as fair – and the paranoia of that battle, has undone him. In a matter of days Erdoğan has become the personification of all the corrupt despotism and violence of the old Kemalist Turkey he was elected to sweep away.

The ironic thing is that he has done this to himself. Such was his grip on power that only Erdoğan could have destroyed Erdoğan. And that is what he has done by turning an insignificant protest in a scrubby little park into a national emergency.

I met Erdoğan twice while he was mayor of Istanbul – and there was much I liked about him. No other European leader has risen from humbler beginnings – nor had so much stacked against them.

He had the warmth and emotion of his Georgian roots, and then at least, an uncommon sincerity. He had a clear vision – to make Istanbul work and right historic wrongs he believed religious Anatolian conservatives had suffered at the hands of Turkey’s secular elite. Behind this was a hazy notion of rolling back time to an Ottoman nirvana of what might have been if Ataturk and the Young Turks – neither much troubled with democracy – had not existed.

What struck me then was how Erdoğan’s telling of his own story unconsciously mirrored Ataturk’s – and the lingering suspicion that he too believed Turks needed to be told what was good for them.

With Erdoğan’s power having become so personalised, and self-censorship so rife that a press baron openly consulted him last month as to who should edit one of his papers, it was clear Erdoğan had vanquished the generals only to adopt their methods. His response to the Gezi crisis came straight from the old Kemalist coup handbook: brutality, black propaganda, conspiracy theories and lots of bad faith. Few politicians get into people’s heads the way Erdoğan does. His hectoring manner and his way of tying logic in knots may play well with his supporters but it drives many more Turks mad.

Just as Erdoğan became all-powerful he also became personally vulnerable, battling cancer and grieving the loss of his mother who had shielded him from his frustrated and over-religious father – whose worst traits his son is now displaying as he tours Turkey to chastise his ungrateful children at a series of monster rallies: “Look what I have done for them! And this is how they reward me?” The “pious generations” he had talked of raising have spoken back.

Islamist hubris alone has not undone Erdoğan; it’s more the mile-wide authoritarian streak he inherited from Ataturk and which runs through Turkish life, filtering down to humblest officials currying favour by second guessing and zealously enforcing their superiors’ orders.

What we are witnessing here is pure Shakespearean tragedy but one that threatens to turn into a national calamity. That Erdoğan called his “people” together on Sunday in Istanbul at the place where Mehmet the Conqueror gathered his troops for the assault on the old Byzantine capital, added another layer of foreboding.

Turkey is in a dark place but Gezi may yet prove to be a turning point on the twisted path to democracy. One thing is for sure, the broad coalition that brought the AK party to power has been broken, perhaps forever.

Over the weekend I talked to a textile magnate from Kayseri, one of the many “Anatolian tigers” whose money has bankrolled Erdoğan’s party. He was sending his workers on free buses to the first of Erdoğan’s monster rallies but his headscarfed daughter was no longer talking to him over his support for him. “There are arguments in the house every day.”

When I asked if he still backed Erdoğan’s campaign to change the constitution so he could become a French or Russian-style president, his tone changed: “We cannot make this man president. Not now. Tayyip may destroy us all yet.”

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More from the Guardian
  • Turkey’s ‘standing people’ protest spreads amid Erdoğan’s crackdown 18 Jun 2013
  • Turkey’s ‘standing man’ shows how passive resistance can shake a state 18 Jun 2013

Erdogan’s response has been a political hara-kiri

by EDITORIAL
tayyip5
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has none but himself to blame for turning an apparently innocuous pro-environment demonstration into a crisis. And in doing so, Erdogan has demonstrated how inept he has been in coping with the consequences of democratic freedoms his reforms have given to Turkey. In a fit of hubris perhaps he condemned the demonstrators as “looters”, “anarchists” and “terrorists” and he was wrong. The people who had gathered at Taksim Square were demanding preservation of a park where the government had planned to allow construction of a shopping mall. It was a peaceful demonstration that protested uprooting of trees. Pulling down Erdogan or his government was not on their agenda. It could have been defused with absolute ease had Erdogan and his government been rational and seen the rationale of the demonstrators. Instead, hubris came into play, Erdogan felt insulted, panicked for no reason and saw seditious intentions which weren’t there.
Turkish Prime Minister’s reading of the situation was wrong and unwarranted which only undermined his accomplishments and offered succour to a harmless impromptu demonstration. He committed a political hara-kiri and let the situation escalate by opting for high handed means to crush the demonstration. Overnight, Erdogan fell in popular esteem from a comfortable position of being a very popular leader to an autocratic zealot who isn’t least interested in listening to justified aspirations of the people. News pouring out of Istanbul suggests that ruling AKP is considering projecting President Abdullah Gul as the new face of the country. And if this happens Erdogan may even be replaced as the prime minister which analysts feel would probably be a good move to stem an escalating crisis snowballing into Turkish Spring.
Still now Turkey has not become Egypt and Taksim Square is not Tahrir. But the belligerence with which Erdogan responded to the demonstration has not only eroded his support base among Turkey’s “conservative Anatolian population of the rural heartland” but has also put the country at a critical crossroad. Erdogan can justifiably claim credits for Turkey’s impressive economic growth; he has made the country an important bridge between Europe and Asia and has placed Turkey as an invisible partner of both Europe and the United States on several critical global issues. His high handedness in dealing with Taksim Square demonstration has, however, made Europe rethink over its partnership with Turkey. And that may, in long term, prove disastrous for Ankara.
Erdogan’s defiant and belligerent response has not helped in containing the demonstrations. He is now seeing lengthening shadows of conspiracies which may or may not be true. But, on one fact there is no doubt. Turkish opposition has now found the handle which it has long been in search of to unseat an elected government. To the ruling party it is a snowballing threat which AKP isn’t very keen on overlooking. For the ruling party the options are few and replacing Erdogan is perhaps the best means to quell the popular anger which is fast turning into a conflagration across Turkey. Erdogan has chopped off the branch on which he was sitting.

U.S. stocks dive as volatility returns


June 11, 2013, 4:42 p.m. EDT

By Kate Gibson, MarketWatch

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NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stocks declined sharply Tuesday after the Bank of Japan opted to hold its monetary policy steady, raising concerns that central banks will not provide additional economic stimulus.

The U.S. Federal Open Market Committee and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke “have introduced volatility into the market for the first time this year, and part of it has to do with when quantitative easing will start to taper, and that has caused a cascade of opinions as to when that will be and what that should mean for stocks,” said Art Hogan, market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets.

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Central bank inaction rattles markets

Paul Vigna and Matthew Walter discuss the latest on markets.

Investors have been watching U.S. economic data closely for any clues as to when the Federal Reserve may begin to scale back its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.

“It does feel like in the last couple of weeks, news has been affecting all markets, not just regional,” said Richard Slinn, an investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in San Francisco.

“As [10-year Treasury] yields (ICAPSD:10_YEAR)  rise and as that volatility increases, we’ve been rotating,” Slinn says of investors swapping into varying asset classes.

On Tuesday, the 10-year Treasury yield traded at 2.183%.

Along with Asian and European stocks, the dollar fell sharply against the Japanese yen (ICAP:USDJPY)  after the Bank of Japan decided to stay put on its policies, dashing some hopes that the central bank would extend the duration on its ultra-low interest rates to banks.

Boring stocks, exciting returns

In the stock market, boring is often beautiful. Mark Hulbert joins MoneyBeat to discuss why volatility is overhyped. Photo: AP.

Extending losses into a second session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI:DJIA)  fell as much as 152 points before briefly turning positive, then finished with a 116.57-point, or 0.8%, loss at 15,122.02 with American Express Co. (NYSE:AXP)  pacing declines that included all but three of its 30 components.

The S&P 500 index (SNC:SPX)  dropped 16.68 points, or 1%, to 1,626.13, with the financial sector hardest hit among its 10 major industries.

The Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQ:COMP)  slid 36.82 points, or 1.1%, to 3,436.95.

For every stock rising, half a dozen fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where almost 689 million shares traded.

Composite volume surpassed 3.3 billion.

• Need to Know: Crucial gut checks before the U.S. markets open

Gold futures (CNS:GCQ3)  shed $9 to $1,377 an ounce and crude (NMN:CLN3)  fell 39 cents to $95.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Inventories at U.S. businesses climbed 0.2% in April to $504.8 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Separately, the Labor Department said job openings at U.S. workplaces fell to 3.76 million in April from 3.88 million in March.

Wall Street stocks finished Monday’s session little changed after Standard & Poor’s revised its U.S. credit-rating outlook to stable from negative. On Monday, the Dow finished down 9.53 points, or 0.06%, to 15,238.59, and the S&P 500 dipped 0.57 point to 1,642.81.

In Tuesday trading, shares of Dole Food Co. (NYSE:DOLE)  jumped 22% after David H. Murdock, the company’s chairman and CEO, made a bid for the rest of Dole. Murdock controls almost 40% of Dole Food, and the $12-per-share cash offer represents an 18% premium to Dole Food’s closing price on Monday of $10.20 per share.

Shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ:LULU)  tumbled 18% a day after the yoga-clothing retailer announced quarterly results and said its Chief Executive Christine Day will step down.

Shares of Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE:S) rose 2.4% after SoftBank Corp. said it would raise its offer for Sprint to $21.6 billion from $20.1 billion.

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Strike looms at Turkey’s top airline

(CNN) — Turkey’s flagship airline is facing the threat of a strike after negotiations with the country’s main aviation workers union collapsed.

Turkish Airlines aircraft parked at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, March 16, 2013.
Turkish Airlines aircraft parked at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, March 16, 2013.

The head of the Turkish Civilian Aviation Union, or Hava-Is, said the strike against Turkish Airlines would go into effect at 3 a.m. local time Wednesday.

“All of Turkish Airlines’ functions will stop, no passenger flights, no cargo services, no connecting flights,” Hava-Is president Atilay Aycin said in a phone interview with CNN.

“All sectors starting with the tourism industry who are doing business with Turkish Airlines will be affected,” Aycin added.

Hava-Is says it represents 14,000 Turkish airlines workers.

Turkish Airlines published a statement Tuesday, acknowledging that its management failed to reach an agreement on a labor dispute “due to uncompromising and imposing approaches of the Union.”

The airline urged its employees to “disregard” the proposed strike. It also accused Hava-Is of “trying to plunge Turkish Airlines and its employees into an indefinite strike adventure which will benefit nobody.”

Hava-Is’ leadership says it is has been negotiating salaries and rest periods for long flights, which the union’s president says do not meet international standards.

Though recently privatized, Turkish Airlines is 49% government-owned. Its fleet of airplanes and schedule of routes have expanded dramatically in the last decade, as Turkey has enjoyed a period of solid economic growth.

The Turkish government has developed a pattern of using the airline as an extension of Turkey’s “soft power.” The airline has extended routes to new countries, in conjunction with bilateral diplomatic overtures from Ankara.

But the airline has also been caught up in the culture wars that frequently pit Turkey’s ruling pious Muslim elite against more secular segments of Turkish society.

This month, Turkish Airlines attracted international attention when the company announced it was banning certain shades of lipstick and nail polish among flight attendants.

Turkish flight attendants see red over lipstick policy

Outrage spilled into social media and newspaper columns, as secular critics accused the airline’s management of imposing conservative religious values on the company.

A similar uproar emerged after the company announced it would stop serving alcohol on a number of domestic and international routes.

via Strike looms at Turkey’s top airline – CNN.com.

New Istanbul Airport Offers Opportunities for U.S. Firms

The construction of a new Istanbul airport, which will be one of the world’s largest, presents more than $1 billion in U.S. equipment and service export opportunities, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Key areas for potential cooperation include: full-field architecture, design, engineering, procurement and construction; terminal and ground control radar; fire safety and security systems; energy efficient technologies; and ICT equipment, including arrival/departure notifications and reservation hardware/software.

The U.S. government, led by the Department of Commerce, is prepared to assist all U.S. companies interested in these business opportunities. Contact Michael.Lally@trade.gov, the department’s senior commercial officer in Ankara, Turkey, for more information.

via AviationNews.net.

Enerjisa Starts Turkey’s Biggest Wind Farm for 170,000 Homes

Turkey’s biggest wind farm, financed with a 135 million-euro ($175 million) loan arranged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, started producing power as the nation seeks to curb fossil-fuel imports.

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Enerjisa Enerji Uretim AS, owned by Haci Omer Sabanci Holding AS (SAHOL) and EON SE, developed the Enerjisa Bares wind park in Balikesir, western Turkey, according to a statement on the EBRD website. The 142.5-megawatt plant can power 170,000 Turkish homes, the EBRD said.

Turkey, which depends on fossil-fuel imports mainly from Russia and Iran for much of its energy needs, aims to generate 30 percent of its power from renewables by 2030 and had about 2,300 megawatts of wind power installed at the end of last year, according to the European Wind Energy Association.

via Enerjisa Starts Turkey’s Biggest Wind Farm for 170,000 Homes – Bloomberg.

Superyacht award success for Princess

Princess Yachts International is celebrating the success of its Imperial Princess yacht at the eighth annual World Superyacht Awards, held in Istanbul.

During the event, Neptune awards were presented to the owners of the “finest” sail and motor yachts delivered in 2012.

The Princess 40M was the winner in the Three Deck Semi-Displacement or Planing Motor Yachts category.

It is the first Princess 40M from the yard’s M Class range of 100ft plus yachts.

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Princess described the accolade for what is its first superyacht build, as “an incredible achievement.”

Managing director Chris Gates said: “The standard of yachts within her class were exemplary and we are delighted to receive this internationally recognised accolade. This is a tremendous achievement for all involved.”

The yacht, built at Plymouth’s historic South Yard, is described as combining cutting-edge technology with superb performance and on-board opulence.

Her twin diesel engines are capable of 23 knots and its is the largest composite motor yacht ever built in UK.

The shipyard said it continues to invest in its South Yard site, which is dedicated to the production of 100ft-plus yachts and their its M Class product range, with a new launch scheduled for 2014.

Princess was awarded £4.6 million from the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) in 2011 to back a major investment to turn South Yard into a world leading boat building facility.

It says the investment has already created 290 jobs and helped safeguard a further 400.

via Superyacht award success for Princess | This is Cornwall.

Turkish Airlines bans bright lipstick on hostesses

Turkish Airlines has banned air hostesses from wearing brightly-coloured lipsticks such as red or pink, a move which has sparked fierce debate as the government is accused of trying to Islamise the country, according to reports.

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In recent months the booming airline – which is 49 percent state-owned – has also stopped serving alcohol on internal flights Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Agence France-Presse in Ankara

3:30PM BST 01 May 2013

Numerous women posted pictures of themselves wearing bright red lipstick on social media websites to protest at the measure, part of a new aesthetics code for stewardesses working for Turkey’s main airline.

The lipstick ban is the latest in a string of conservative measures adopted by the airline, which have sparked the ire of fiercely secular Turks.

“This measure is an act of perversion. How else could you describe it?” said Gursel Tekin, vice-president of the main opposition party CHP.

Turkish Airlines defended the ban, saying in a statement yesterday that “simple make-up, immaculate and in pastel colours, is preferred for staff working in the service sector”.

In recent months the booming airline – which is 49 percent state-owned – has also stopped serving alcohol on internal flights.

In February, images of proposed new uniforms for flight attendants bringing in ankle-length dresses and Ottoman-style fez caps were criticised as too conservative. The skirts of Turkish Airlines stewardesses once came in far above the knee.

However the more conservative new uniforms have not been adopted.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyin Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, in power for over a decade, is often accused of creeping efforts to coerce the country to be more conservative and pious.

Turkey is a fiercely secular state, despite being a majority Muslim country. Under Mr Erdogan’s rule headscarves – banned in public institutions – have become more visible in public places and alcohol bans are more widespread.

Edited at telegraph.co.uk by Sarah Titterton

Turkey honors Israeli company

Adam Elktronik, based in GOSB Teknopark built by Israeli industrialist Stef Wertheimer, receives prize for innovative project from Turkish industry minister

Ofer Petersburg

Published:  04.26.13, 14:47 / Israel Business

Turkey’s industry minister has awarded an Israeli company with a prize for an innovative project during a technological parks convention in Istanbul.

 

Trade Ties

MPs: Erdogan’s son doing business in Israel / Itamar Eichner

Members of Turkish opposition say ship owned by prime minister’s son docked at Ashdod Port three months before reconciliation between countries

Full story

The company, Adam Elktronik, is based in the GOSB Teknopark – an industrial park built by Israeli businessman and philanthropist Stef Wertheimer in Turkey.

 

The Turkish minister even promised to send a team from his office to visit Wertheimer’s industrial parks in Israel.

 

The GOSB Teknopark was built at a total investment of $10 million according to the model of the Tefen industrial park in northern Israel, and includes an art gallery.

 

The Istanbul ceremony was attended by the director of Wertheimer’s industrial parks, Arieh Dahan.

via Turkey honors Israeli company – Israel Business, Ynetnews.