Jonathan Fryer

Will İstanbul Become a Global City?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 6th May, 2012

İt was odd to go straight from the London elections to an academic conference on multiculturalism in İstanbul, organised by the İslington-based Dialogue Society, but at least London was the subject of the paper İ presented at it at Fatih University. The precise topic was ‘How successful a multicultural model is London?’ I showed how London had developed its multicultural nature empirically through immigratıon over the centuries from the Empire, as well as through refugees from central and eastern Europe and more recently migrants from the New Commonwealth and other EU member states. But London’s multiculturalism is normative as well, in the sense that successive governments — at national, regional and local level — since the 1980s have stressed the need to celebrate diversity as well as extending service provision to take into account the diverse population. That remains true despite comments by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in Germany last year, subsequently contradicted by his Liberal Democrat Deputy Nick Clegg. İn my paper, İ judged that London has become a successful example of multiculturalism, though whether it can be a model for others is maybe a different matter. To an extent London is sui generis, not least because it is now an indisputably global city, whose inhabitants can see themselves as not only living in the UK but also as being global citizens. Therein lies much of the city’s economic and financial success. But which other cities in the world might emulate that? New York, possibly, and, interestingly, İstanbul. During Ottoman times, İstanbul was the captital of a multicultural empire embracing many peoples, religions and languages. Everything changed after the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of a new Turkish Republic with its capital ın Ankara and a state-driven policy (in the interest of nation-buıldıng) of One Country, One People, One Language. But despite the departure of signifıcant numbers of Turkey’s minority inhabitants — not least the Greeks — Turkey is still de facto multicultural. The question now is whether the AKP government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the courage and the confıdence to not just acknowledge this but follow through the consequences. İstanbul meanwhile has become empirically more multicultural, with many foreigners, including Arabs – as well as a huge number of Kurds from Anatolia – setting up homes here. So maybe indeed it can aspire to being a multicultural global city, as well as Turkey’s largest urban centre. The benefits would be considerable.

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2 Responses to “Will İstanbul Become a Global City?”

  1. Luis Vega said

    Yes and No. Istanbul never really stopped being a global city, it was the West that ignored Istanbul.

    Having being a center of power for the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman’s Empires; it is perhaps a current Europe in decline that sees new potential in the resurgence of an ‘Old Empire’ – Turkey. In modern times ancient civilizations are successfully re-branding themselves for the new millennium – another example is China – while recently dominant ones recalibrate in public.

    Although the ARP is a more conservative party and PM Erdogan appears to be taking Turkey in a more Islamic direction, he cannot erase history. Contemporary history informs the former Ottoman Empire was at the forefront of modernization, secularization and women rights long before even Europe walked that path. Turkey is one of the few Muslim nations today (most Turks are Sunni) not going thorough internal revolts like the Arab Spring. Erdogan formula works because he is a pragmatic nationalist leader. Like Putin.

    I guess we both agree a resurgence of Istanbul/Turkey in the global radar is good for the region and the world. Especially now that so many of the Ottoman Empire’s former colonies in North Africa are going through political turmoil, or others (parts of Greece) go bankrupt. General Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, its Founding Father, would be proud. I am.

  2. [...] a wrong key, I will instead direct readers to posts on it here (from Turkish News Agency) and here (from leading London Lib Dem Jonathan Fryer). Luckily the programme was well designed enough to [...]

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