Friday, February 10, 2012

This Week in Turkey: Wrapping up week of Feb. 6, 2012

I've decided to do a weekly segment about the things that happened in Turkey this week, partially because the goings-on here can be quite amusing and partially because the original intent of this blog was to record the things that happen during my time abroad. I obviously have no idea what kind of Turkish news reaches the States, so it'll be interesting to see what you've already heard...

Three weeks ago or so, Turkey was being verbally attacked from multiple quarters. First Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan got into it over whether Turkey has been interferring in Iraqi domestic affairs after Erdogan told Maliki in a phone call that he needed to take care of his business (and essentially stop creating sectarian strife). Then, in the Jan. 16 GOP debate, Rick Perry said the US needs to reconsider whether or not Turkey is an appropriate ally and NATO member since the country is run by "Islamic terrorists." And then, probably worst of all in the eyes of the Turks, France went for the jugular and passed a law that any French national in France denying any events deemed a genocide can be fined 45,000 euros and sentenced to up to a year in jail. The only positive was that Obama recently named Erdogan one of his top five international friends.

Right on the heels of all that, right around the beginning of February, American novelist Paul Auster gave an interview saying he refused to come to Turkey because of the number of journalists jailed here. (At just over 100, it's the most of any country according to the Platform of Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists; the government says they're jailed for participating in terrorist activities but regardless, it caused Turkey to drop some 10 places in the Reporters Without Borders 2011 Press Freedom Index, putting it almost at the bottom.) The funny thing is, it's impossible to find the actual interview -- but it's quite easy to find the prime minister's reaction to it. On Feb. 1, Erdogan angrily declared in a longer rant, "As if we need you! What difference would it make if you came or not? Would Turkey lose prestige?"

I associate Erdogan with these really long, televised speeches (they're often on in our office) and the day after the Auster incident, he also gave a speech in which he said they are aiming to raise a "conservative, democratic generation." The Turkish Republic was founded on secularism, and only in the last few years, has religion really come back into obvious daily life, most evident in my opinion through the growing use of headscarves (women used to not be able to wear headscarves in universities, for example). The ruling party is an Islamic one and has wide support; however, few people seemed pleased by these comments and felt that religion was not for the government to implement. In response this week, Erdogan suggested the alternative would be a generation addicted to paint thinner. :)

The other big political news from within Turkey (because of course, everyone here is talking about Syria and to a much lesser extent, Iran) is that the opposition party essentially staged a sit-in in Parliament on Wednesday night in protest of the ruling party's attempts to amend the parliamentary charter. There were also fistfights. Yesterday, the ruling party apparently decided to freeze any decisions on changes, which for now has ended the mini-crisis. 

And last but not least, Turkey has seen a lot of snow over the past couple of days, hitting almost immediately after the last batch had completely melted. Of course. Pin It

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