Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey’

Elif Safak’s Women

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th March, 2013

Elif SafakInternational Women’s Day fell during the Liberal Democrats Brighton Conference and among several events pegged to the occasion was a fringe meeting with the Turkish writer Elif Safak, which was put on by Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey. Elif won many friends among London Liberal Democrats when she spoke at our autumn conference in Croydon in October, when she read from her latest novel. This time, she spoke of the two women who had made a big impression on her in her childhood: her mother, a Westernised, free-thinking woman who went on to do university studies; and the grandmother who subsequently raised Elif — a much more conservative, irrational, superstitious woman. In a sense the two personified different aspects of Turkey, an immensely complex and changing society. In principle the theme of the Brighton Conference fringe meeting was women and post-feminism in the Muslim world, which is a subject that fell within Elif’s own postgraduate studies, as well as the sort of thing I teach at SOAS in the summer term. But as usual with her much of what she talked abut was autobiographical, weaving into the story both considerations of the multilayered aspects of self as well as elements of Turkey’s Ottoman past, in which there was far greater diversity than is acknowledged today and there was an indigenous women’s movement. We should also not forget that Turkey gave women the right to vote before France did, for example. And women fill high positions in all sorts of sectors in the labour force. And yet much of Turkish society, whether ethnic Turk, Kurdish or Armenian, remains patriarchal and there are still occasional so-called honour killings, often involving brothers killing sisters who have formed a romantic relationship with someone deemed unsuitable or, worse still,who have lost their virginity. Such contradictions in a country that has an enviable growth rate and is making its mark in the modern world are part of Turkey’s fascination, of course, and will provide Elif with many more themes for her novels. Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey, meanwhile, is playing a crucial role in reaching out to the extensive Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish Cypriot community in Britain, much of that based in London.



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The EU, Turkey and the MENA Region

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 24th September, 2012

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey hosted an unusually sparky fringe meeting at the party’s Brighton conference today at which Andrew Duff MEP outlined a proposal which he said the European Parliament was working on to offer Turkey a form of (admittedly second class) associate membership of the European Union. The urbane Turkish Ambassador, Unal Cevikoz, slapped that suggestion down firmly, saying Turkey wanted all or nothing when it came to EU membership. But the two men — and a third panel member, the political analyst Daniel Levy — found more ground for agreement when it came to arguing for closer EU-Turkish cooperation in assisting the progress of the Arab Spring. Turkey has upped the ante in its foreign policy with regard to the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, partly because the EU and the West in general have not really done as much as they could to facilitate democratic change and economic cooperation in the southern and eastern Mediterranean. One of the questioners in the audience at today’s fringe meeting rightly highlighted the hypocrisy and double standards that have characterised much of the West’s dealings with the Arabian Gulf states, Israel and Iran. And there was a meeting of minds among the panel members when it came to encouraging a more mature European approach to Iran, rather than seeing it simply through the prism of the country’s nuclear programme. Of course it was not possible in the short space of one hour to formulate much of a coherent strategy for the improvement of the relations between the EU, Turkey and the MENA region but the gathering gave everyone plenty of food for thought.

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Getting the Chinese in Britain to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th April, 2009

chinese-voting-initiative-chinatownYesterday afternoon — between a Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey social in Hackney and meeting up with the Tamil demonstrators in Parliament Square — I took part in a Chinese community event in Gerard Street, Chinatown, Westminster, to urge ethnic Chinese in Britain to play a fuller part in public life in this country. The first step is to get thousands of them to register to vote. Hence the ‘Get Active Get Voting Campaign 2009’ , which will try to maximise enrolment in the run-up to June’s Euro-elections. As Leslie Ng, President of London Chinatown Chinese Association, commented, ‘A lot of Chinese did not vote partly because of the language difficulties and partly because they didn’t know how or who they should vote for. ‘ Leslie and several colleagues kept up a lively running comentary over a sound-system as volunteers handed out leaflets from a colourful stall. The organisers even inveigled me into speaking a few phrases in my (now rusty) Mandarin. And the event was covered by the People’s Daily in Beijing!

The tide is beginning to turn, from apathy to participation. Liberal Democrats in London had a welcome boost to ethnic Chinese representation in London local politics when Linda Chung won the Hampstead Town by-election a few months ago, while in Northern Ireland, Anna Lo won a seat on the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast for the Alliance Party at the last assembly elections.

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Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 8th December, 2008


The newly-founded Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey (LDFT) has had a festive launch, at a hostelry in Upper Street, Islington. The local PPC, Bridget Fox, and I were delighted to join Turhan Ozen and an ethusiastic group of Turkish-speaking young people, mainly from North London. There is a sizeable Turkish and Turkish Cypriot community in the capital, many of whom are now keen to get more involved in local life. The Liberal Democrats, of course, strongly support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, once it has made sufficient progress in a number of economic and political areas. Quite how many years that will take is anybody’s guess at the moment, but it is important that the goal be kept clearly in view and that the Turkish-speaking population in London is in the meantime able to play its due role in this extraordinary multicultural city.  

A LDFT Facebook Group has been set up: ‘Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey’

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