From Turkey: We’re not Dead Yet

 

I’m waiting for the May Day rallies to pass through my neighborhood, after which I’ll report. So far the day’s been dramatic, but not violent. Fingers crossed.

While I wait, though, I wanted to share a response I received to my article about Turkey’s referendum. Actually, two responses. The first was from a friend in the States who wrote on my Facebook page, “So much sadly accurate retrospective analysis … but what do we do now?”

The second was from a Turk with an answer. Ege Yildirim is an urban planner in Istanbul. I thought her response deserved a hearing, so I asked her for permission to publish it:

I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation. But I have to say that all these diagnoses about the death of a country’s democracy are still dishonorable and meek.

Here in Turkey, we still exist, as citizens who said, “No,” the intelligentsia who did not succumb to brain drain, the economic powerhouses of the big cities, the inheritors of the practice of true civil society, and believers in democratic values. We have not disappeared just because of a fraudulent, Pyrrhic victory at the referendum; and actually, many are hopeful that “This is the beginning of the end” … for some things. To declare Turkey beyond help or hope at this point is just another escapist trap the West is falling into. This is actually the darkest hour before dawn. This is when you can step up and help us pull this unique and critically strategic country out of the hole it has been sinking into.

We will continue to live, produce, and hold on here, maybe keep our heads down for a while, but persist until better days come, because this is too precious a country to abandon to the wolves. And anyone in the world with awareness and conscience should support us in this struggle. Do better than just watch from the sidelines with nodding heads and long faces.

As for what exactly one might do to support us, here are some ideas:

  • Don’t consider and declare Turkey a lost cause;
  • Acknowledge the civic and official opposition. Focus on their brave stance, their point of view, make it get heard louder;
  • Support a revival of tourism to Turkey. (It is the citizens, and the tourism sector’s smaller players, who have suffered the most from the blow the sector has taken. And it’s the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism!)
  • Exert pressure on decision-makers, opinion leaders, and the media to avoid making deals with Erdoğan. I think the former are afraid of the consequences, particularly of losing their stakes in their relationships with Turkey.
  • For global opinion leaders: Visit Turkey and meet the opposition groups to show your solidarity and moral support. Emphasize the importance of secularism, both in the Muslim, Christian, and any other context. And redeem the reputation of Turkey’s so-called “secular elites” (rather, the middle and upper-middle classes), who should not be blamed for being skeptical of AKP all along — just for their ineptitude in effective organizing. (You were quite right about that in your article) …

Thanks.

So let me do my part to support the revival of tourism in Turkey — which really is too precious a country to abandon to the wolves. It’s such a beautiful place that looking through these videos, trying to choose the right one, was almost painful, like thinking of a love affair from which you just can’t fully recover.

It’s also a very inexpensive place to go right now. The collapse of the lira’s awful for Turkey, but great for your budget! And it’s the most hospitable country you’ll ever visit. Everything this article says is true:

When you come visiting Turkey, no matter which place, you will be overwhelmed by a kind of hospitality you never experienced before. The people will go out of their way to assist and help you, wherever they can. During my stay in Istanbul I experienced that hospitality, which is a cornerstone of the Turkish way of life, many times, and learned to love it as one of the best things in Turkey.

So go to Turkey, meet the civic and official opposition, and show them your solidarity and moral support. See what the people there are really like. They’ll be happy you did. You’ll be even happier. Just be prepared to miss them forever when you leave.

 

 

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  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Go visit Turkey?  I generally prefer not to travel in fundamentalist Muslim nations (which is where Turkey appears headed) without a minimum of 100 of my best friends with heavy machine guns and mortars.

    After Turkey restores its farce of democracy, I might consider visiting.  Not before.

    • #1
  2. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Now that you’re writing about Turkey again, a question about the French elections: What’s up with this position of Macron’s?

    Macron, the favourite in the race to become the next French president, has suggested that he would want to renegotiate an agreement that allows British border police to operate in Calais.

    The centrist politician, who will go head to head against Marine Le Pen in the final round of the election on 7 May, said: “I want to put the Le Touquet border deal back on the table. It must be renegotiated, especially the parts that deal with the fate of isolated child migrants.”

    • #2
  3. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    That a Turk so expertly schooled in my language would think I would find “it’s the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism!” persuasive is pretty sad.

    Turkey is good on the eyes – the Mediterranean coast is wonderful, and Mt. Ararat is exceptional; in a country full of mountains, that one manages to be unique – but I have never got sentimental about it. That’s just me; I have met a good number of Americans who have visited Turkey and absolutely loved it and intend to go back. Maybe I rode too many trains! Anyway, what Turkey is to me is exotic. I mean that in a mostly good way, although I expect Western-oriented Turks would be appalled by any such characterization. Even worse for them, I’m not thinking about the West. I’m thinking about the hotel I stayed in my very first full day in Turkey, after a 13-hour bus ride from Ankara to Trabzon. The room’s windows had been crudely weatherstripped with a newspaper printed in Georgian. It reminded me, not that I’d ever forgotten, that I was truly in the Eastern Hemisphere.

    Turkey is so. Lots of really unfamiliar things are not that far away. Or if they are far away, they are not so unfamiliar. From Greece to China, Asia is dotted with Turkic-named places. That feels like a cultural achievement.

    • #3
  4. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I’m of course glad that there remains active opposition in Turkey. But I’m confused. Do they want Western imperialism or not? Because it sounds like we are being asked to either sign off on foreign elections or to frustrate them according to our own values.

    Perhaps we should apply pressures of various sorts. But clarity about our role in global politics would be nice.

    Turkey’s not so far gone that its rich visual history is inaccessible to Western tourists. A war on the border does dampen a tourist’s enthusiasm, though.

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    I’m of course glad that there remains active opposition in Turkey. But I’m confused. Do they want Western imperialism or not?

    My guess: not.

    But that includes not propping up Erdogan with deals because they need him to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.  Vain hope.

    (Also – Turkey was never colonised, it colonised other countries – so its sensitivities about this may be a little different from, say, Egypt or India’s.)

    • #5
  6. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation.

    So it’s our fault if we get involved and it’s our fault if we don’t.

    • #6
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation.

    So it’s our fault if we get involved and it’s our fault if we don’t.

    NATO, a gazillion coups (no not a gazillion, I just can’t remember how many) – you’re already involved : – )

    • #7
  8. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    Now that you’re writing about Turkey again, a question about the French elections: What’s up with this position of Macron’s?

    Macron, the favourite in the race to become the next French president, has suggested that he would want to renegotiate an agreement that allows British border police to operate in Calais.

    The centrist politician, who will go head to head against Marine Le Pen in the final round of the election on 7 May, said: “I want to put the Le Touquet border deal back on the table. It must be renegotiated, especially the parts that deal with the fate of isolated child migrants.”

    I’m not sure what you’re asking exactly — are you familiar with the basics of the Le Touquet deal and how it’s been, or might be, affected by Brexit?

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Because it sounds like we are being asked to either sign off on foreign elections or to frustrate them according to our own values.

    Well, when the elections were so obviously held under unfair conditions and marked by fraud — as the OSCE concluded unequivocally — I see no reason enthusiastically to sign off on them, especially since they’re revolting to our values.

    • #9
  10. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    are you familiar with the basics of the Le Touquet deal and how it’s been, or might be, affected by Brexit?

    To some extent, and I know this isn’t the first time he’s said it.  My question is why this, why now in the campaign, what advantage does he think this will give him against Le Pen?

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    To some extent, and I know this isn’t the first time he’s said it. My question is why this, why now in the campaign, what advantage does he think this will give him against Le Pen?

    Oh, I don’t think he’s saying it for advantage vis-à-vis Le Pen — I think he’s saying it for advantage vis-à-vis May; it’s aimed at the Brexit negotiations.

    • #11
  12. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    are you familiar with the basics of the Le Touquet deal and how it’s been, or might be, affected by Brexit?

    To some extent, and I know this isn’t the first time he’s said it. My question is why this, why now in the campaign, what advantage does he think this will give him against Le Pen?

    I’m wondering if Claire has or had a favorite candidate?

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    are you familiar with the basics of the Le Touquet deal and how it’s been, or might be, affected by Brexit?

    To some extent, and I know this isn’t the first time he’s said it. My question is why this, why now in the campaign, what advantage does he think this will give him against Le Pen?

    I’m wondering if Claire has or had a favorite candidate?

    You mean in the French election? There’s only one candidate: Macron. That’s the absurdity of this — in making it to the second round, the FN succeeds only in obviating the constitutional two-round system and depriving voters of a real choice.  It would have been excellent at this stage of the campaign to have had two serious candidates debating the best way to solve France’s problems. While those problems aren’t nearly as apocalyptic as you’d think from reading the Sputnik-influenced sectors of the press, they’re serious enough to merit vigorous democratic debate and a serious election campaign. Instead, France is being asked, “So, which would you prefer tonight: the chicken or the plate of raw monkey eyeballs dipped in Ebola?” And Ebola doesn’t stand a chance (no matter what anyone’s telling you), so Macron will win handily, by default. That’s not what an election is supposed to be about.

    The question is how badly she’ll be defeated. If she’s defeated badly enough, we’ll at least have a chance of having a real two-round election in 2022. If she’s not, though, she’ll be be like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, and we’ll have to go through the whole damned thing again. (Though anything could happen by 2022, so who knows.) She probably won’t be defeated badly enough to persuade her and her family to get out of politics, unfortunately.

     

    • #13
  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I spoke too soon — riots just a few blocks where I was walking, just a few minutes ago, injured a policeman. I managed neither to see nor hear what happened.  The sound for some reason didn’t travel down the street. But it’s in the news.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    As far as Turkey goes, I don’t know how to convince them that their Erdogan problem isn’t a case of the US State Department playing three-dimensional chess with their elections or the nature of their government. Just “keeping up” strains Foggy Bottom to its limits. If diplomatic shenanigans were all it took to effect regime change, some North Korean general would have given Kim Jong-Un a 9mm retirement gift years ago.

    Turkey is an important country and a key ally, but what exactly was the red-flag moment that was supposed to move us to “withdraw support” and how would that have worked?

    • #15
  16. Mikescapes Member
    Mikescapes
    @Mikescapes

    From what I’ve read, Macron is soft on immigration. And I don’t understand how re-negotiating le torquet stems the flow of refugees to France. Could be he favors weaker border security.

    Assuming Le Pen is the monster you and many others characterize her as, at least she has a strong position on the refugee crisis.

    According to one of your posts, most of France is worried about the impact on society of an influx of Muslims. So what’s the value of a slam dunk victory for this so-called moderate? Sounds like more of the same liberal policy.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    • #16
  17. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation.

    So it’s our fault if we get involved and it’s our fault if we don’t.

    NATO, a gazillion coups (no not a gazillion, I just can’t remember how many) – you’re already involved : – )

    Does NATO dictate internal politics beyond military spending?  It’s an alliance, not an empire.

    What coups are you referring to?  Are you saying the coup attempt against Erdogan was our fault?

    Get some documentation instead of throwing around conspiracy theories.

    • #17
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    For your convenience:

    http://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/history-of-coups-in-turkey-2917050/

    One can look up US responses to each of these as well.

    • #18
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation.

    So it’s our fault if we get involved and it’s our fault if we don’t.

    NATO, a gazillion coups (no not a gazillion, I just can’t remember how many) – you’re already involved : – )

    Does NATO dictate internal politics beyond military spending? It’s an alliance, not an empire.

    What coups are you referring to? Are you saying the coup attempt against Erdogan was our fault?

    Get some documentation instead of throwing around conspiracy theories.

    The Turkish Army was left by Atatürk with two basic commandments: keep out of politics and preserve the constitution. Unfortunately, doing the second has meant violating the first. There have been coups in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. This time they didn’t do it until it was too late. A lot of the secular army officers had already been purged, and whatever ones were left did a miserable job of it in July.

    • #19
  20. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    I spoke too soon — riots just a few blocks where I was walking, just a few minutes ago, injured a policeman. I managed neither to see nor hear what happened. The sound for some reason didn’t travel down the street. But it’s in the news.

    It certainly looks quite bad, of course this being France one has to wonder if this is just standard Mar Day hijinks.

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Roberto (View Comment):
    It certainly looks quite bad, of course this being France one has to wonder if this is just standard Mar Day hijinks.

    It wasn’t as bad as this makes it sound. This makes it sound as if there was city-wide chaos. There wasn’t. I was actually a block away from this, and must have missed it by minutes. I went there to see if everything was calm. I figured if there were going to be problems, they might happen at the Bastille — and I was right. But somehow I managed to miss this. I guess it was confined really quickly. I didn’t even hear it. So I thought, “Okay, peaceful May Day, thank God,” walked home,  and read about it in the news.

    I’m guessing it’s only owing to the preparation of the police (who were out in massive force) that it was so quickly limited. This is not standard May Day hijinks, no. This wasn’t spontaneous. It was obviously a very serious incident, and possibly the kind of deliberate pre-election provocation we’ve been fearing.

    Because the assailants were masked, I don’t have a clue who they were.  I’ll write more about it tomorrow. Right now all I can say for sure is that it wasn’t city-wide, and definitely wasn’t normal, either.

    • #21
  22. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Percival (View Comment):

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Matt White (View Comment):

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I appreciate Berlinski’s pointing out the gross negligence of the West in the past decade related to Turkey’s political situation.

    So it’s our fault if we get involved and it’s our fault if we don’t.

    NATO, a gazillion coups (no not a gazillion, I just can’t remember how many) – you’re already involved : – )

    Does NATO dictate internal politics beyond military spending? It’s an alliance, not an empire.

    What coups are you referring to? Are you saying the coup attempt against Erdogan was our fault?

    Get some documentation instead of throwing around conspiracy theories.

    The Turkish Army was left by Atatürk with two basic commandments: keep out of politics and preserve the constitution. Unfortunately, doing the second has meant violating the first. There have been coups in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. This time they didn’t do it until it was too late. A lot of the secular army officers had already been purged, and whatever ones were left did a miserable job of it in July.

    I’m looking for a US led coup as the comment implied.

    • #22
  23. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Zafar (View Comment):
    For your convenience:

    http://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/history-of-coups-in-turkey-2917050/

    One can look up US responses to each of these as well.

    Still on the conspiracy theory level here.

    Just because a coup happened doesn’t mean it was done by the USA.

    • #23
  24. Richard Harvester Inactive
    Richard Harvester
    @RichardHarvester

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Also – Turkey was never colonised, it colonised other countries – so its sensitivities about this may be a little different from, say, Egypt or India’s.)

    It was colonized. By Greeks, Romans and even Turks. Even 100 years ago, people on the coast identified themselves as Roman.

    I’d rephrase. The Turks – not Turkey – were never colonized. They colonized others.

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Richard Harvester (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Also – Turkey was never colonised, it colonised other countries – so its sensitivities about this may be a little different from, say, Egypt or India’s.)

    It was colonized. By Greeks, Romans and even Turks. Even 100 years ago, people on the coast identified themselves as Roman.

    I’d rephrase. The Turks – not Turkey – were never colonized. They colonized others.

    Sure. Like America and Americans.

    • #25
  26. Richard Harvester Inactive
    Richard Harvester
    @RichardHarvester

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Richard Harvester (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    (Also – Turkey was never colonised, it colonised other countries – so its sensitivities about this may be a little different from, say, Egypt or India’s.)

    It was colonized. By Greeks, Romans and even Turks. Even 100 years ago, people on the coast identified themselves as Roman.

    I’d rephrase. The Turks – not Turkey – were never colonized. They colonized others.

    Sure. Like America and Americans.

    With one difference. No Americans came to America. They became Americans afterwards and then colonized westward. Turks long pre-existed Turkey.

    • #26
  27. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Pedant.

    You can add Indians and India if you wish.

    • #27
  28. Richard Harvester Inactive
    Richard Harvester
    @RichardHarvester

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Pedant.

    You can add Indians and India if you wish.

    A much longer timeline and a less organized effort. Turks came to Turkey with the decline of the Byzantines. They were organized conquerors. Indo-Aryans kinda migrated in in a less organized fashion about 2,000 years earlier.

    • #28
  29. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Mikescapes (View Comment):
    From what I’ve read, Macron is soft on immigration. And I don’t understand how re-negotiating le torquet stems the flow of refugees to France. Could be he favors weaker border security.

    Assuming Le Pen is the monster you and many others characterize her as, at least she has a strong position on the refugee crisis.

    According to one of your posts, most of France is worried about the impact on society of an influx of Muslims. So what’s the value of a slam dunk victory for this so-called moderate? Sounds like more of the same liberal policy.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Mikescapes, I’d swear I wrote a comment in response to this. It was kind of a long one, so I’d hate to think I didn’t press “comment” or otherwise save it. I guess asking whether you saw a response is dumb. If I don’t, you didn’t. I’m just going through the grieving process for the answer I wrote, I guess.

    I’ll just start by re-writing one point. The Le Touquet treaty allowed the UK and France to set up immigration controls in each other’s Channel ports. And it was actually worked out between the two countries, rather than being an European Union arrangement. The French government has been saying for a while it wants to close the UK border post in Calais after Brexit. It doesn’t want the burden of taking care of migrants aiming to cross the Channel who have been detained on French soil. This is just basic politics; no French politician can now say to French people, ‘Well, sadly, the British have decided to leave but we still have to enforce their border on our border.” That would simply not go down well.

    The build-up of thousands of refugees and migrants on the French side of the Channel is not popular here, to put it mildly. It’s been terrible for France’s image, and rightly so, it sounds like, the conditions there have been described by everyone I’ve heard as appalling. And the people of Calais haven’t been happy at all with the economic and security consequences of this happening where they live.

    I think the official FN position is that Le Touquet shouldn’t be abandoned, because then they’ll wind up with dead people in the Channel. Migrants will try to cross because then the border will be in Dover. And I suspect that’s Macron’s real position, too, but since he knows he’ll be the one doing the renegotiating, not the FN, he’s got to start by putting that issue on the table. Ultimately I doubt the agreement will be torn up — because it’s true that then you’ll end up turning the Channel into the Mediterranean, in terms of deaths at sea — but Macron is going to have to get something in exchange to bring home to the public, because the French won’t like feeling screwed — which under the terms of this agreement, they kind of are.

     

     

    • #29
  30. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed. (View Comment):
    Macron is going to have to get something in exchange to bring home to the public, because the French won’t like feeling screwed — which under the terms of this agreement, they kind of are.

    From the British standpoint, isn’t a France under “Schengen is madness” Le Pen who pledges to limit immigration a very different Le Touquet renegotiation partner from a France under Macron who is pretty much an open borders internationalist?

    • #30

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