One of the most striking developments of the past decade has been the rise of Turkey, not only as a regional power but increasingly as a global player. The AKP government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that it wants to see the Republic amongst the top 10 world economies by 2023 — the centenary of its foundation. This is no idle boast, as Turkey enjoys growth rates that European states can only envy. On the diplomatic front, Ankara has seized the opportunities offered by the Arab Awakenng to recalibrate and extend its relations in the eastern and southern Mediterranean. Of course the goal of EU membership remains elusive, though officially Turkey still wishes to accede, even if many Turkish voters have become disenchanted with the idea. All these issues were discussed earlier this week at a seminar organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), moderated by Jonathan Eyal, at which Omer Celik, the AKP’s Vice-Chairman with responsibility for Foreign Relations, and Ibrahim Kalin, Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan, spoke. Omer Celik pointed out that before the AKP won its first landslide election victory in 2002 the economy in Turkey had collapsed and inflation was rampant. There was no effective foreign policy. Some in Turkey have described what then happened as a Silent Revolution as the country was turned around. Ibrahim Kalin stressed how the rise of a comopolitan world has offered new challenges, not least to th eurocentrism of recent centuries. He thought the evolving relationship between Turkey, the new government in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East coul be a crucial turning point. Mr Celik said that Mr Erodgan has lobbied Bashar al-Assad to help Kurds in Syria gain equal rights, though this rather begs the enormous question of why no workable settlement with Turjkey’s own Kurds has yet been achieved.
Posts Tagged ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd December, 2012
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.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 11th January, 2012
When the Centre for Turkey Studies and Development (CTSD) invited two leading journalists/writers from Turkey over to London to speak at a meeting in the House of Commons this evening on the state of the democratisation process in their country, they could little have realised how febrile the atmosphere would be. But the 28 December attack on the Kurdish village of Reboske in south eastern Turkey (little covered by Western media) by an unmanned Turkish airforce drone, which reportedly killed 35 people, has been a devastating blow for peace efforts aimed at ending decades of fighting and human rights abuses relating to Turkey’s so-called Kurdish problem. The writer and poet Bejan Matur this evening at the meeting went so far as to describe this as Turkey’s 9/11 moment, which can only help to radicalise Kurds. She herself said she had orginally thought of the Kurdish struggle in terms of language and other cultural rights, but now realised that it has to be about equality — and that despite certain positive steps taken by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan since 2009, Kurds in Turkey are still not viewed or treated as equal by most Turks and usually they can only ‘succeed’ if everyday life and jobs if they agree to accept their ‘Turkishness’. Some of Bejan Matur’s views were echosed by the liberal Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal, best known for his columns in Milliyet, but he stressed that in his view Kurdish rights can now only be furthered if violent action (notably by the mountain-based PKK, which is viewed by the government in Ankara and some Western governments as a terrorist organisation) is terminated definitively. He said that talking to ordinary people in Kurdish-dominated cities like Diyarbakir, he had found they were tired of conflict and sacrifice. But he wasn’t given an entirely easy ride by the largely Kurdish audience at the House of Commons meeting this evening. I suspect Bejan Matur would similarly have had a less comfortable experience in front of a more nationalistic Turkish audience. As so often in conflict situations, many people have become deeply polarised. Bejan famously went up into the mountains to meet the PKK )incoluding a friend) and wrote a book about that experience, which has been selling well. Hasan Cemal also argued that the PKK have to be part of the solution, but he cautioned people with the example of the peace process in Northern Ireland, where it took nearly a decade after the Good Friday Agreement for a deal to be clinched, and even longer to get a full decommissioning of weapons. So although he had been largely optimistic about apeaceful settlement of the issue since 2009, in recrnt weeks he had become pessimistic about any positive outome in the shhort term.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Bejan Matur, Centre for Turkey Studies and Development, Diyarbakir, Good Friday Agreement, Hasan Cemal, Kurds, Milliyet, Northern Ireland, PKK, Reboske, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 13th October, 2011
Below is a summary of speech I gave at the House of Commons, alongside LibDem peer Lord Alderdice and Turkish freelance journalist Firdevs Robinson, at a seminar on Democratisation and Turkey, organised by the Foreign Policy Centre and the Centre for Turkey Studies and Development:
Turkey: A Country of Contradictions
In foreign policy terms, Turkey is the new kid on the block: assertive in its support of the Arab Awakening and determined to be acknowledged as a major regional player. The previous policy of maintaining friendly relations with all its neighbours has been replaced by a more principle-based diplomacy, in which both Israel and Syria have started to feel Ankara’s disapproval.
Domestically, Turkey has been registering economic growth rates of which most European governments can only dream. Infrastructure is being upgraded, new universities are popping up all over the country and the energetic young workforce is gaining new skills, as Turkey wins new markets abroad. So the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has much of which it can be proud.
However, there are many contradictions in its policies which are a dampener to enthusiasm among foreign observers. Though recent steps towards recognising the rights and injustices relating to minority communities are welcome, Turkey still has not gone far enough in admitting that it is a multicultural society whose long-term success can only be guaranteed by the recognition, even celebration, of that diversity. Whereas the concept of ‘one country, one people, one language’ served its purpose in the construction of the Turkish Republic, it is now out-dated, even harmful.
Mr Erdogan has made some concessions to Turkey’s Kurdish minority, including granting some linguistic and cultural rights, though much more needs to be done. Moreover, the return to armed conflict is a huge mistake – by both sides in the dispute – as there can never be a military solution to the Kurdish question. That can only come about through dialogue and compromise, in which Abdullah Ocalan must be a participant.
Until the Kurdish issue is settled it is unlikely Turkey could be admitted into full membership of the European Union, to which some European countries (notably Austria, Cyprus, France and Germany) are currently opposed. But that should not stop countries such as Britain that are firmly in favour of Turkey’s eventual membership, arguing the case, so that Turkey one day is embraced into the European family to which it belongs.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th June, 2011
Across Turkey voters are going to the polls today — and at the polling stations İ have been visiting in Diyarbakır in the predominantly Kurdish south-east, voting has been brisk. Lots of extra police and security forces have been drafted in, and outside some polling stations there is a heavy police presence. Just the other day the distance at which police must remain from ballot boxes was reduced from 100 metres to 15 metres. The police say this is to protect voters from intimidation, but many Kurds see it as a form of intimidation itself. More irregular practices have been reported from several rural areas in Diyarbakır province, however, as well as pressure being put on Kurdish voters as far away as Bursa. Despite this, the 2011 general electıon in Turkey is being seen as a landmark. Few people doubt that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and hıs AKP wıll be returned with a third successive mandate, which is remarkable enough in itself. But the crunch is what happens afterwards, when there will be an attempt to write a new constitution, which could in principle open the possibility for greater autonomy for Turkish Kurdistan (though many Turks in the rest of the country are hostile to the idea). The main Kurdish party, the BDP, is not officially contesting the election, as under current rules there is a 10% threshold that parties must cross before any of their candidates can be decalred elected. The high level of that threshold is another thing Kurdish MPs are likely to press for in post-election constitution negotiations. Meanwhile, a number of prominent Kurdish political figures are standing as independents and are likely to be returned, including here ın Diyarbakır.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 12th September, 2010
Turkish voters have given decisive backing to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s package of constitutional reforms in today’s referendum, which saw a 78 per cent turnout. By a margin of 58 to 42, voters approved plans to make the military more accountable to civilian courts, to strengthen the powers of parliament, to lift the immunity from prosecution of perpetrators of the 1980 coup d’état and a range of other changes. These are likely to be viewed favourably in Brussels, where Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union is languishing thanks to opposition from a number of countries, including France and Germany. Certainly Prime Minister Erdogan’s status is enhanced by today’s result, increasing the chances that he will try for a third term of office in elections next year. However, his constitutional reforms came under strong criticism from various opposition parties, some of which said they will politicise the judiciary. Kurdish parties largely boycotted the referendum, on the grounds that the changes do not go far enough to address the grievances of the country’s Kurdish minority, many of whom would like to see a wholesale revision of the constitution and re-definition of what it means to be a Turk.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th August, 2010
Government officials in Ankara have confirmed that talks have been held with the imprisoned leader of the banned Kurdish PKK military group, Abdullah Ocalan. In fact, according to reports in the Turkish press, such exchanges with the prisoner have been going on secretly for some time. The new openness has come about partly because Mr Ocalan — not for the first time — has called for a ceasefire in the fighting, which has cost thousands of lives directly or indirectly over the past few decades. And he has refused to endorse a boycott of the referendum that will be held next month on a new constitution for the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is gambling a great deal by promoting this Constitution, which he hopes will bring Turkey a further step nearer to a European norm, thereby perhaps enhancing Turkey’s chances of EU membership. Predictably, some opposition parties have lambasted him for this and have accused him of trying to woo Kurdiah voters by his more conciliatory approach. Kurds make up about 20 per cent of Turkey’s population, but have long suffered political and cultural oppression. Under the government, significant improvements have been made in Kurdish rights, though there is still a long way to go, as indeed is the case with freedom of expression issues generally in Turkey.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 31st May, 2010
Several thousand people gathered in Whitehall outside the entrance to Downing Street this afternoon, to voice their anger and disgust at the criminal Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla in international waters. It was impressive how many people turned up at such short notice — an interesting reflection of the power of social networking media, including Twitter. Predictably there were many Palestinian flags held aloft by the crowd, but also many Turkish ones too. There are Turks on board some of the craft in the flotilla and possibly amongst the casualties, though at the time of writing both the number and identity of the dead remain contested. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has rightly condemned the action as ‘state terrorism’ and NATO Ambassadors are going to hold an emergency meeting tomorrow, at Turkey’s request.
The crowd at the London demonstration — which later marched to the Israeli Embassy — clearly felt that the UN Security Council should also meet to discuss the crisis, as is now happening, to discuss this blatant and vicious violation of international law. There were also calls for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador from London and revulsion was expressed at the way spokesmen for the Israeli government are portraying the killings as legitimate self-defence. Among the speakers in Whitehall were the veteran radical writer and activist Tariq Ali, Salma Yaqoob of Respect and Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbkekistan and now a human rights campaigner. Most of the speakers called for a trade boycott of Israel and the suspension of the Israeli trade agreement with the European Union. Action not just words are needed to bring Israel to heel.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 6th April, 2010
London’s (Turkish) Kurdish community hosted a fundraising dinner for Southwark and North Bermondsey’s Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes at the Troia Restaurant opposite County Hall on the South Bank this evening. (Lord) William and (Lady) Helen Wallace — both experts in international and European affairs respectively — were also guests. Simon, who was a lawyer before becoming one of Britain’s most hard-working constituency MPs, spoke about the need to encourage further political and constitutional change in Turkey to facilitate greater rights for the country’s minorities. He said that both the British parliament and the EU should be doing more to encourage the process which Recep Tayyip Erdogan has initiated, in the face of fierce oppsition from ultra-nationalists and many in the military. Of course the issue also concerns the Kurdish situation in Syria, Iran and Iraq, though paradoxically Kurds in Iraqi Kuridstan have won the greatest freedoms, under the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), as I outline in my contributions to a book on the region that is due to be published by Stacey International in June.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: County Hall, Helen Wallace, Iran, Iraq, KRG, Kurdistan regional government, Kurds, Liberal Democrats, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, SE1, Simon Hughes, South Bank, Southwark and North Bermondsey, Stacey International, Syria, Troia Restaurant, Turkey, William Wallace | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 12th December, 2009
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has banned the country’s leading Kurdish political party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), in a move that is a serious setback for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy of opening up to Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The DTP elected 21 MPs at the last election, but its co-leader, Ahmed Turk, and 36 other members have now been banned from political activity for five yars. The reason for this is their alleged links to a terrorist organisation, i.e. the PKK guerrillas, whose head, Abdullah Ocalan, is in prison. While the Court’s verdict will doubtless be greeeted with jubiliation by many Turkish nationalists, it is a disaster for Turkey’s community cohesion and its chances of joining the European Union. Prime Minister Erdogan had broken with decades of tradition by not only recognising the Kurds’ cultural rights but also engaging in political dialgoue with them. I was in Diyarbakir in south-east Anatolia at the end of March, when the DTP had sweeping victories in local elections and the local Kurdish population were ecstatic. This year should have ushered in a new beginning, whereas it now seems Turkey may be going back to a situation of confrontation in which a frutrated minority may turn once more to non-democratic means.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Abdullah Ocalan, Ahmed Turk, Democratic Society Party, Diarbakir, DTP, Kurds, PKK, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Turkey's constitutional court, Turkey's EU accession | 3 Comments »