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Gila Benmayor - English

PM wrongly comments on ’women’s quota’

29 Kasım 2008
At the conference organized by the women’s branch of the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeated that he is against a "women’s quota" in Parliament.

"We acknowledge that applying quota is being disrespectful toward women. This means submitting women to men’s control. In other words, men will ask and women will enter Parliament.

This cannot be. What should be done instead is to clear the way for women and to provide a decent competition environment for them," he precisely said.

But Mr. Prime Minister is awfully wrong.

Without setting a "women’s quota" in Parliament, it is impossible for women to take the political stage.

In many European countries, starting with the Scandinavian countries, and in Latin America, applying quotas for women has given successful results.

It was also extremely useful to define "50-50 election parity" in French and Belgian constitutions.

Someone should tell this to Erdoğan

Questions to the prime minister
Someone should also show him the "Gender Gap-2008" report by the World Economic Forum, or WEF, and tell him that Turkey is ranked 123rd in the 130-country list, falling behind Iran, Bahrain, Ethiopia and Nepal.

And one should ask Mr. Prime Minister the following questions:

"Why is Turkey, bragging about being the 17th biggest economy in the world, when ranked among the lowest when it comes to the gender gap?"

"Why is the AKP government not giving a green light to the formation of a parliamentary sub-committee to follow gender equality?"

"Why is the AKP government allowing a melt-down of women organizations’ gains?"

The last example for this is about the Mor Çatı (Purple Roof) women’s shelter located in Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

Women’s shelters are the most critical tool in the fight against violence toward women in Turkey and in the world.

"Mor Çatı" is the first nongovernmental organization established for this struggle.

Established in the 1990s, Mor Çatı runs shelters to world standards. The translation is that the organization is significantly experienced in the subject matter.

Considering the fact that there is not enough women’s shelters in Turkey, as voiced by Emine Bozkurt, member of the European Parliament who has prepared reports about women in Turkey several times, the importance of Mor Çatı’s mission becomes crystal-clear.

Consequently, Mor Çatı signed a protocol with the Beyoğlu District Administration in 2005 to open a women’s shelter, to make this fight a state policy.

With the financial support of the World Bank, Mor Çatı made its mark with the first ever collaboration between a women’s organization and a state institution in Turkey.

The World Bank rewarded Mor Çatı for the project in Beyoğlu.

However, the organization began to struggle with financial issues after the World Bank support was cut. The Beyoğlu District Administration informed Mor Çatı a short while ago that they will not be able to work with the organization after Dec. 31 due to insufficient state subsidies.

We are destined to hit the bottom of the list
Mor Çatı is now in a hard spot.

Mor Çatı said in the statement sent that politicians, with the understanding of a social state, should create funds for the organization, already providing knowledge and experience.

The example clearly shows that the AKP government is pushing aside cooperation with women’s civil society organizations on women’s issues.

But without these NGOs, the government in Turkey cannot be successful in eliminating the gender gap. And the WEF reports will then always give the same result for Turkey concerning the gender gap.
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Norwegian visit to Turkey

22 Kasım 2008
No matter what you say or think, it is good to see such moves amid the economic crisis.

Visits from Dutch and Norwegian delegations will be almost on the same days.

The Netherlands Foreign Trade Minister Frank Heemskerk will lead a crowded group during a visit to Turkey from Nov. 24 to 28.

Norway Crown Prince Haakon and his delegation will be in Ankara and Istanbul between Nov. 25 and 27. New investments and the cooperation of Holland and Norway will likely make new investments in Turkey and seek cooperation. For instance, in Prince Haakon’s team, State Minister for Oil and Energy Liv Monica Stubholt signals energy investments.

Ahead of the Norwegian visit to Turkey, I had the chance to have contact with a group of journalists from this country and to exchange views with Norwegian authorities during the week. I met Rune Rafaelsen, the Barents Cooperation’s secretary general, to discuss future horizons of the region in Kirkenes, the sister city of Kars that inspired its Mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu on the "Caucasus Cooperation."

Future scenarios
What kind of a future do the oil fields in the Sea of Barents and the Arctic Ocean prepare for the region? According to 2004 data, Russian oil exports amount to 19,700 tons and the amount will be increased to 150,000 tons in the next two decades. How will this fortify Russia’s power?

Rich oil and natural gas fields in the Yamal Peninsula are enough for Russia to have more trump cards in energy in the upcoming years.

Melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean due to global warming will open new channels. How will opening new channels for maritime traffic affect maritime trade and energy?

Established by the former Norwegian Defense Minister Thorvard Stoltenberg in 1993, the Barents Cooperation has been pondering these questions for years, preparing various scenarios. But in the mean time, Norway is building up an excellent dialogue and collaboration with Russia, beginning from the border region.

Norway, as the secret architects of innumerable numbers of agreements including the Oslo Peace Accord, is quite successful in "dialogue diplomacy." Rafaelsen said something quite intriguing in Kirkenes. There is no word like "war" in the native Sami language of Norway. If Alibeyoğlu’s biggest dream, the "Caucasus Cooperation" project, is put into force through the Barents Cooperation model, peace birds will fly from Norway to our region.

I also met Ms. Stubholt, who is in the Norwegian group soon to pay a visit to Turkey, in the Norwegian capital Oslo. She says Norway is the sixth biggest hydropower in the world and in the lead in Europe. The country makes hydropower investments in a vast area from South America to Central Europe. A Norwegian-Turkish hydropower forum will be held in Ankara next Wednesday and that increases the possibility that Norway will invest in Turkey. As for oil, Minister Stubholt says her country supports the European Union’s policy on energy security. Norway turned down membership to the Union twice in referenda but, as the minister points out, Norwegians see themselves as part of Europe. But on the other hand, we also know that Russia is not pleased with the European efforts to diversify energy sources. And I think the world will need the "dialogue diplomacy" of Norway more in the coming years.
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Turkish-Russian relations and Laleli

15 Kasım 2008
Years after studying there, I went back to Laleli on the invitation of the Laleli Industrialists and Businessmen Association, or LASIAD. We met with LASIAD President Orhan Altun and some members of the board.LASIAD was formed in the 1990s when Laleli was in a quest for a new identity. The district happened to be the center of the "suitcase trade" in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviets. Home to about 10,000 businesses between the Beyazıt and Aksaray districts, Laleli was disturbed by being labelled the "center of suitcase trade".

Your oil is your textile
There is no other production hub in the world like Laleli that exports 100 percent of all goods produced in the district, according to Altun who said even Japanese visitors had come to Laleli to examine this phenomenon. "They were surprised by our potential," they told us, "your oil is your textile and read-made clothing." Central Bank data records annual export from Laleli as worth between $5 billion to $6 billion.

In short, the days of only a suitcase trade have been left behind, with 80 percent of sales realized through official export channels. As the Japanese examined what was going on in this district, the Chinese and even Italians were checking out the place for fashion espionage.

Laleli has been transformed into a fashion center, it determines new trends. Halil Kanpak, LASIAD board member and owner of "Romano Botta," owns 11 stores in Russia and plans to add four more in 2009. Alright but why is the name of the company Italian?

Although Italy feels competition from Turkey in the ready-made clothing sector, Italians are still fashion giants and most importantly, Italy is a fashion brand. So, Turkish firms getting more famous each day, prefer to have Italian names. "Romano Botto" is the name of a very close Italian friend of Kanpak.

Osman Kaplan, another LASIAD board member, who named his companies with Italian sounding nouns, such as "Doramafi" and "Sicilyalı" (Sicilian), has a franchise on the Aruba Island in the Caribbean. But, is Laleli not far away from Aruba?

Businessmen from Laleli are all over the world, mostly doing business with Russia. As a former Russian ambassador to Ankara said once, Russia learned how to trade mostly from Turkish businessmen. For businessmen in Laleli, the course of Turkish-Russian relations is extremely important after Turkish trucks carrying textile goods were kept for days at the Russian border in August. That was due to policies Ankara followed in the short Russian-Georgian war. This is not a secret.

The issue of truck lines at the border now seems to have been resolved, but the higher taxes Russia applies are on the agenda. LASIAD hopes the problem will be overcome through a dialogue between the Moscow and Ankara administrations. But LASIAD members in Laleli are keeping an eye on Turkish-Russian relations as the honeymoon atmosphere will mostly help them.
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