11 Temmuz 2009
Although especially nowadays, one does not need to have a specific reason to talk and analyze the movement, because it is truly a phenomenon in Turkey and is becoming one in the world as well. The presentation was still an important opening up of the movement, which needs to be pondered upon carefully, diligently and if necessary, harshly. I will do so by trying to follow a path of constructive criticism, rather than a destructive one.
Today, in its glorious days, the movement is becoming increasingly unbounded against any criticism in a sense that it either appears not to care about the outsiders’ observations or, maybe most of the time, it takes any criticism that is being played out as a crusade by some grand coalition and conspiracy. Confusing the real world with the cosmic one, the movement sees itself many times as self-righteous and blessed in every occasion, and surrounded with miracles. Consequently, when hearing any criticism against its wishes and work, it equates suspicious inquirers either with iniquity or having ulterior motives. "Itaat," or obedience, therefore becomes the first and the most important characteristic of a "good" and "trusted" member. It can be safely said that any member who cannot prove his fealty to the elders, also cannot be trusted with handling sensible issues. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether one is an editor-in-chief of the movement’s newspaper or manages a few students in a humble "lighthouse," one has to have a deep understanding of obedience. This sense of commitment to the elders and taking their orders in a cultural setting without objection along the years leads to ill-fated personalities and docile followers. Living in such an environment for so long, many of these people simply become afraid to face the outside or are too weak to live in a real world.
Most of the time, the state of self-righteousness in the movement is so apparent that one can witness it in any discussion one engages with its members. Apart from the details, it is almost impossible to convince or make sense to the members on many issues, especially those that relate to the movement. Though this shouldn’t come as a surprise, because as we all know that as long as one believes that one is following the quasi-sacred decrees, the work one does must be also sacred and cannot be understood by outsiders. And amid this detachment, the movement justifies any conduct to achieve its ends at any cost. For instance, if passing school entry test questions to the movement’s pupils is a justifiable way to ride into any kind of school that is important to attend even it can be done for years, even if it means usurping the rights of other pupils. But again, others are just others.
Like many organizations, the Gülenist institutions too are very vulnerable to incompetence of their staff. The incompetence becomes especially evident among the people who run various organizations of the movement. Many of the relatively older generation elders within the movement, unless they are standing up and criticizing the superiors, would keep their jobs for a lifetime. And this kind of cronyism has been choking the efficiency of many of its institutions. The worst part is that we might be already or will be witnessing this incompetence in the ranks of different institutions of the Turkish State. Therefore, one of the worst scenarios is for the movement to weaken not only their own institutions, but amid this disease of cronyism and incompetence, some significant state institutions as well, at some point.
It is true that the schools of the movement are very successful. Whether in Turkey or abroad, these schools are very attractive and giving a better education than its peers, most of the time. Thus the question is: How is it possible to have this incompetence and mediocrity of the movement’s members on the one hand and this apparent success on the other? The answer is: This incompetence displays itself mostly in social sciences, not the hard sciences. In the field of the hard sciences Ğ chemistry, mathematics, etc. Ğ the pupils and alumni of the movement fare much better. However, when it comes to the sciences that require free thinking, debating and opposing, the movement’s institutions fare very poorly. One of the best examples of this naked truth is apparent in the media and TV arms of the movement. These arms have great cutting-edge technologies in form, but in substance they do not have even the courage to ask pertinent questions. They mostly look like a broken megaphone that keeps singing the same song. That does not mean that the song is bad, but singing the same song over again, makes it painful to listen.
Let me return to Aslandogan's remarks: I would argue that one of the most crucial U-turns his presentation showed was when he talked about the movement's relation in respect to Turkish politics. From now on, Aslandogan announced, the movement will side with a political party that is submissive to its demands. This U-turn erodes greatly the credibility of the movement, because the movement claimed its innocence and immunity from the political parties, thus the stormy conditions of the political life for decades, with this very premise of staying away from politics. For years, the movement vehemently opposed, protested or accused anyone who wanted to prove a link between the movement and politics. The movement claimed again during these years of growing that its members are free to vote for any political party they deem fit. But now, suddenly we hear that the rules of the game have changed. Now we are being told that the movement is becoming more involved with politics and it will not shy away to back up one party or another according to their behavior. I will come back to argue why the movement's change of attitude and visible support for any political party is not exactly the same as those religious groups of America. But for now, I would like to say that I am not sure how it is possible for the movement to assure the outsiders which stance of it is never-changing and which one is temporary.
So far it seems that the movement makes up rules as it goes along. The movement wants more tolerance and understanding from the outsiders, but it shies away from telling the whole story. Or maybe the movement, itself also doesn’t know the whole story. Instead, the movement is twisting and changing the rules once it has enough power to make and impose arguments on any issue. This is not good news for anybody. More to follow in the next columns.
7 Temmuz 2009
Although I received an invitation for the discussion, I chose not to participate in the meeting. It was not because I did not care or that I am biased. On the contrary, it was because I did not expect to benefit from the presentation. Last time around, a year ago or so, I went to listen to the Gülen Movement's conference at Georgetown University, here in Washington, D.C. However, that experience was painfully boring. First of all, since I was part of the movement for a long time in the 90s while the movement was still very young, unknown and relatively in the making, I felt that listening to remarks on the movement that I was involved in on many levels, in another language, by the "outsiders" in Georgetown felt pretty wasteful. So in brief, I opted for reading that afternoon instead of listening and making sense of the politically correct, thoroughly vetted words that were going to be articulated about the movement.
But, I listened to Mr. Aslandogan's presentation attentively from the link that is provided by the CSIS website. The talk sounded relatively brave and forthright. Forthright does not necessarily mean open and honest all the way, but still Mr. Aslandogan's meticulous remarks gave some insights about the Gülen movement of today.
Let's not kid ourselves: Aslandogan and any other representative from the movement, in essence, cannot respond to some of the tough questions that come from outsiders. And this first of a kind conversation proved me right when it embodied many controversial premises, rather than answers. For example, the remarks that were given about the Gülen movement's relation with Turkish politics and the political parties exemplify some disturbing and problematic ideas about the notion of democracy that the movement values or appreciates. If this is a first signal that the movement wants to open up and talk more about the activities they do and their history or goals, and if we should take this meeting as a start of this kind, in the future, the movement will have to find not only methodically vetted and politically correct answers, but some tangible and satisfactory ones as well.
The Gülen movement attracted a lot of attention in recent years, both in and out of Turkey, and it is because the movement is just too big to ignore now. In the 80s and 90s, while vigorously working under the radar and in very humbled circumstances, seeing an article on Mr. Gülen, or anything related to the movement, was a notable event in the 'light houses' where the students of the movement stayed or the dormitories of the movement. Now, it seems, everybody feels compelled to talk about the movement and the commentaries are published in every kind of periodical, as predicted decades ago by its leader. Therefore, today, taking a picture of any significant episode or occurrence in Turkey without the possible effect of this movement seems incomplete to the majority of observers.
Actually, the CSIS meeting’s realization is also a result of this "too big to ignore" status. This impressive presence must have pressured the movement to go out and explain themselves and dodge or be pre-emptive about the questions before they came their way. Even amid this simple pre-emptive act, one can see how orderly and strategically the movement thinks, progresses and takes guard if needed, and with that, the movement also displays why it is way ahead of the others. Though, the movement must recognize, if they are ready to go on this path, they have to be more sincere and responsive to the some real concerns and questions. Answering Bülent Aliriza’s "ultimate goal" question for example, Aslandogan said, the movement enjoys a successful journey and there isn’t necessarily a final destination. This journey analogy would be adequate for him, but certainly not for people out there that want to hear more specific answers on this end goal issue. The presentation still was stimulating in many ways. First off, Aslandogan showed that the movement is more at ease in terms of talking about many structural terms of the movement that while in the making were closed to the outsiders before. Aslandogan explained terms such as "hizmet," which is what you call the movement while you are within; "sohbet," which is the circle of people gathering for weekly conversations that are being organized among the neighborhoods or different vocational sectors, which were strictly underground gatherings for a long time; and "himmets," which are the fundraising gatherings among the students, businessmen and various sectors, such as teachers, doctors or engineers.
All those terms have been, for years, for only insiders to know and use. Only a few years ago, none of these terms could have been explicit parts of a conversation while talking to the outcast. Thus the movement, it shows, has decided to open up and talk about these history-making sacred terms now. There was even reference to "kestanepazari," which is also very revered to the members of the movement as the starting point for Mr. Gülen to shape the first pupils and today’s most respected "abiler," or elders. However, there are other terms as well that have been used within the movement since the beginning and I am very curious to see how and when those terms will be explained to outsiders. For example, the term "tedbir," or being cautious, comes to my mind at first. There are many gaps that the movement is navigating through carefully and questions they are opting not to answer. However, it is not possible to go on this path and not answer some of the legitimate questions and concerns. I am certain that the movement has already planned the next move now. And it should not come by surprise if we see more of these vetted presentations in the future. I will go on with my questions on problematic premises of the presentation, the movement’s relation with politics and some other aspects of the movement in my next columns.
* İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington D.C. http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/
6 Temmuz 2009
In the evening, everyone watched big fireworks displays or set off their own, attended concerts, wished each other "Happy Fourth of July" and once again remembered their country’s founders and foundations. Independence Day is truly a celebrated event held dear by Americans.
In the mid-1700s, the 13 colonies that made up part of England’s empire in the New World were finding it difficult to be ruled by an English king who lived on the other side of the ocean. After a series of actions against King George III, the colony of Virginia took the first step toward independence by voting to set up a committee to represent the colonies. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress debated, and then signed, what has come to be known as "The Declaration of Independence."
The Declaration of Independence set the moral foundations of the American Revolution. It said every individual possessed basic rights, including the pursuit of happiness, which became the pillar of these rights. Of course, it is also painfully true that these fundamental rights were not recognized for the black citizens of this new country until only a few decades ago.
Since I came to live in America at the beginning of the current decade, each Fourth of July has made me ask myself questions about the difference between this holiday and the way Turks celebrate our national holidays, especially our Independence Day or the Aug. 30 Victory Day that marks the extraordinary triumph of brave Turkish soldiers over invading forces. For some reason, Turkish people do not seem to care much about the importance of that day. The Turkish Victory Day celebrations consist more of military parades and other "military-only" events, rather than being a celebration that must be cherished by all the people of Turkey. I why our people do not celebrate their "Independence Day" as people in many other countries do. Until I graduated from university, I lived in Turkey, first as a religious child and then as a young man. I did not care about Victory Day at all, even though I knew it commemorated a life-and-death war in which our grandparents pushed all the enemies out of the country to establish the nation in which the people of Turkey live today. Though I knew all this, something always nagged at me. We never said "Happy Victory Day" or "Happy Independence Day" to each other. And what is worse, we made fun of anyone who did. After years of pondering and talking with many Turkish and Turkish-American friends, I came to the conclusion that there are many reasons that prevent us from being conscious of and celebrating such holidays wholeheartedly in our country. These are significant issues that go to the heart of many problems that Turkey is currently going through.
First, it can be argued that our new Republic, in its early years, could not, for a variety of reasons, make life easy for the majority of its people in many ways. The new Turkish state was also not able to prepare the groundwork for its citizens to pursue their happiness as they expected. Though when one compares the young Turkish Republic with its contemporaries, taking the then-existing conditions into consideration, Turkey was faring okay. For example, most of the Western states did not even have a vision of equals, much less appropriately established watchdog institutions or other foundations of a modern liberal democracy.
Turkey also achieved universal suffrage earlier than most countries in the West. I know some of the root causes of my dislike, which I partly described above. For instance, it is true that our ruling elite mismanaged the country for a long time and offended a segment of the people of Turkey. Even the closest confidant of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Falih Rifki Atay, wrote in his book "Cankaya" that the worse thing the country could do was to make its founder into a god. Yet we have done just that.
Atatürk was the last person who would have wanted to be seen as a god. He was with his people, drinking and living among them. He had good days and bad days. He divorced his wife and had other personal problems too. He was a man. But he was a great man. He had faults and made mistakes, but what he did for Turkey was a remarkable achievement for his time. He brought secularism, admittedly a drastic variety. But it was much better than kings’ rules or emperors’ dictates.
All I want to say is: Why is it that we do not celebrate our Victory Day like Americans do theirs? Victory Day does not have much to do with personalities. It is about our grandparents who bravely sacrificed their lives for a better future. Why can we not celebrate their courage?
The answer is, no, we cannot, because some of us have problems not only with part of the country’s foundations, but with all of them. It seems that angry, smart, young writers, who most of the time are powerful enough to convince me on many issues with their diligent and articulate arguments, which I respect, have an undiminished anger toward this Republic, which they seem to dislike passionately. Especially some writers of the younger generation, whether they write in conservative papers or not, seem to make every possible argument to try and prove that Turkey’s past is a terrible one, and that its founders are akin to North Korean leaders and other dictators.
Why do these liberal, supposedly unbiased, intellectual writers seem never to remember any of the good things that this country has been able to achieve? Today’s intellectuals go so far to prove how bad the Turkish state is in a reactionary fashion that they seem to get lost in their own arguments. They seem to forget that they are the intellectuals of this country and that they have a mission to tell and teach youngsters not only one-sided truths, but many-sided ones as well. By not doing this, they continually fail to lead and to teach. Many times, only emotions are reflected in their writings, primarily disgust with everything about Turkey. This scares many; it most certainly scares me. With this attitude, they torpedo the foundations of the Republic and make youth dislike everything about their pasts.
If this attitude continues, nobody will come together to sit and talk. Because it seems that neither side is concerned with talking and finding common ground, instead perusing the old books and settling ancient scores. Today, people who complain about gangs and "deep states" actually create their own ones, just like the other side did. Everybody knows the dynamics of Turkey are changing profoundly, but the change certainly is not going to be easy. I will return to these changing dynamics on many more occasions. But for now, I would like to leave on one note: If we want to preserve this Republic, the people of Turkey must first start to examine their own mistakes and then go from there. Their religions and honest thoughts actually tell them to do just that. We need to obey them, at least this one time.
* İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, D.C. His blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com.
30 Haziran 2009
Amid the latest row between Obama and Ahmadinejad, Obama’s supposed period of better relationships with Iran seems to have taken a big hit, even before they actually started. Obama, in the first few days of Iranian events, seemed to resist calls to take a more hardliner stance on Ahmadinejad; instead he wanted to see how the situation in Iran would "play itself out". In that sense, Obama went a little too far in saying that there was not much difference between the main candidates of the elections, Ahmedinejad and Mousavi. Even if this is a true statement in essence, the equalization imprisoned within this statement seemed to diminish the protestors’ brave uprising against the repressive regime. Obama only changed this mistaken tone last Friday to say Mousavi did indeed capture the hope and imagination of an opening up and might in fact be different from Ahmadinejad.
With Obama’s new tougher line on the events in Iran, Ahmadinejad, the chance grabber, did not miss the opportunity to lash back at Obama in the hope of defusing tensions on the streets. There is no doubt that he also wishes to return to the old days of playing the role of enemy. Though this time Obama is just too smart to let that trap haunt him. Obama will continue to do more to reach out to Iran; because he knows that the other way benefits the opponents and more chaos, rather than his country and peace.
During these turbulent days in Iran, Turkey played its hands according to a "strategically deep" scenario. In this scenario, the West, with the irregularities of the elections in Iran on top of everything, will start working to place tougher sanctions on Iran. In the meantime, this "strategic thinking" foresees that Turkey, as a last resort, will grasp the opening to play the mediator role between these two sides. As many know, Turkey has been longing for this role for sometime. The question is what happens if the West does opt for tougher sanctions on Iran? What would Turkey do in that case? In the past most gamblers would have bet on Turkey to safely ally itself with the traditional Western alliances. Though now, nobody is so sure. Turkey has been looking for alternatives for some time and what kind of an alternative Turkey will come up with at such time is a big question that nobody dares to gamble on.
Beside this diplomatic thriller scenario, it seems the Turkish leaders are pretty happy with what they are seeing in Iran. Davutoğlu explained the situation best when he said: "The emergence of very different interpretations of results after the election [should be taken] as a sign that the political process in Iran is very healthy." Let’s repeat that again, Davutoğlu’s reading, since there are two completely different interpretations for the election results, in which one claims the votes were rigged and the outcome was not the peoples’ wish, and the other, the Islamic regime claims everything was just fine. So Mr. Davutoğlu concludes, according to these interpretations, we can securely say that the election process was healthy! Is this a joke?
On the other hand, the press reports that, the person known as "the butcher of the Press" in Iran, was appointed to investigate the Iranian protestors.
Maybe this is another sign that we should take as to how healthy the after-elections process in Iran is! Because now with the special interrogating techniques in his tool box, Mr. Butcher will find the real provokers to confess that indeed this uprising was planned by outsiders to bring a mischief in to their heavenly country. Iran’s good-old confession tapes will top the charts again, as we see.
Another miserable fall out of Iran’s election process in Turkey is to display the Islamic or pro-Islamic media’s trouble with taking a stance when the ones that are deprived of their rights are not necessarily on their side. In other words, during this gloomy chapter of the Iranian people, the pro-Islamic Media of Turkey flunked the democracy test miserably amid not showing any mercy on people when the Islamic regime kept striking them. One of the very few outspoken writers of this media has been Mr. Andrew Finkel from Today’s Zaman.
By criticizing the Turkish officials as well as his own newspaper on how they reacted to what happened in Iran, he said: "I am not entirely sure that [Neda’s] family shares this same high opinion [of Justice and Development Party, or AKP, officials]. It is one thing not to interfere. It is another to pretend to like what you see." The Turkish officials seemed from every angle that the occurrences in Iran suited their taste and did not bother them one little bit.
With this flunked democracy test, the Islamic media didn’t seem to realize that they are also losing moral credibility on the issues of human rights that they always seem to be so sensible, especially because of the headscarf issues. Instead of calculating "what kind" of people were protesting in the streets of Iran and whether these people could be identified with those that have taken to the streets in the Republican rallies in Turkey, or jumping on the bandwagon of the AKP as they always do, many wished to see they were with the people who were looking for their human rights and fair elections.
The period of the elections in Iran has given many lessons about our country. It taught us that Turkey still has self-confidence issues. The fears that come from our own problems makes Turkey remember and go back to the old days. Until Turkey solves its own problems it cannot step up to the plate when it comes to the human rights issues. And the media that supports this administration has also real issues with the notion of democracy.
If not, the other possibility, which I hate to say, is the Turkish administration and the administration's media really liked what they saw in Iran. Maybe they think Iranian democracy is something they could fit into in many ways and live happily ever after.
İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, D.C. His
blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/
27 Haziran 2009
Up until two months ago, Davutoğlu was still kind of a behind-the-scenes man to fix and power the Turkish foreign affairs in recasting Turkey's role in the multidimensional political arena. Thus, many unbiased observers were happy without much reservation when Davutoğlu was appointed the new foreign minister at the beginning of May. Amid high expectations, he started his new post and with the same speed, he delved into the first crucial foreign relations test to prove that he indeed will live up to the expectations. Many, including myself, hoped that he was going to end the period of cheap shots and will bring our country to the same level of first class democratic nations.
There is no need to make the story longer. Davutoğlu failed to deliver miserably. To begin with, he let Turkey congratulate hurriedly Iran’s Ahmadinejad as one of the first to do so, and subsequently backed up his stance. While the respected leaders of the world were releasing statements and giving press conferences to let people know how sorry they were with the shameful episode the people of Iran have been going through, Turkey, on the other hand, busied itself to support the merciless regime against its own people. I was curious to learn which other countries besides ours rushed to convey their good wishes to Ahmadinejad. The official Web site of the government of Iran informs us that, possibly according to calling order, the following list of countries cheered Ahmadinejad’s reelection (!): Afghanistan, Turkey, Venezuela, China, Russia and Syria. Oh, and the leader of Hamas and a few "other" countries of kings and dictators. If nothing else, this list alone tells us and provides enough evidence to show in which and whose pattern our foreign official’s mind works.
Notwithstanding that I still wanted to see and read what is the reasoning behind Davutoğlu’s hurry and subsequent backing of Iran’s Islamic regime, I must say that in my view it is a plain disgrace for Turkey and the people of Turkey. I thought after all Davutoğlu was a "deep" academic and might have some profound comprehension beyond our imagination. According to the interview Der Spiegel conducted with him this week, his reasoning is as follows: "It was politically important for the elections in Iran to have taken place dynamically and in competition among multiple candidates. When it came to the post-election discussions, [Davutoğlu] underlined that this is an internal matter for Iran, adding that they hoped for a strong base on which the security of the people of Iran can be achieved." Internal affairs of other countries, so Davutoğlu says while describing the events that are taking place in Iran after the elections, much like Russia’s, China’s and others’ congratulating letters to Iran. On the other hand, the American media mocked Turkey as a "friend of Mahmoud" and sadly describes us as a kind of low life country with the other countries mentioned above, that only looks after its own interests. It is true; each country pursues its own interests in the international arena; however, values and notions exist that reflect a country’s stand within the international community. In other words, once the human factor is weighed, modern states tend to restrain themselves in many ways. Ours did not bother to do so.
This miscalculated congratulation of and embracing Iran’s rulers is a "deep" blow for Turkey’s image. It seems that Turkey somehow cannot go beyond this narrow-mindedness. In the past, Turkey failed to cope with its center parties’ corruption practices and always with its never-changing opposition leaders. Either the nationalistic parties of the country corner Turkey and don’t let Turkey open its arms to all of its people, or the ultranationalists stroke it with their endless gangs and scenarios. Though now, with the AKP, Turkey is going through another kind of disappointment. And the list does not end there. Turkey needs a new generation of statesmen. Davutoğlu and his party’s miscalculated reading of the occurrences will cost the people of Turkey so dearly and will be felt for years to come. The real statesman should be able to on the right side of the history, or with the people who are on the right side of the history. Davutoğlu misses both and chooses to gain some near term benefits in expense of bigger and longer ones. Davutoğlu could have taken care of this business if he wanted to do so. With doing so, he and Turkey would have won so many hearts and minds in the international arena and in the West. But again, maybe the target was a different kind of audience.
Davutoğlu, the architect, starts to build the foundation of his legacy as a foreign minister on misread previsions and shallow seas, which are the direct opposite attributions of his perceived image. People of Turkey, who also watch what happened in Iran, will have grasped how their administration hugs the crushers of innocent people. The AKP will pay the cost of this misery. Alas, along the way, Turkey as well.
* İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, D.C. His
blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/.
23 Haziran 2009
We used to have these long discussions on Iran and Iran’s history. It was apparent from his passionate arguments how mad he was at the Islamic regime that pushed his family far away from their home. Iran’s articulated and intellectual people always tell outsiders something about their enormous potential. Therefore the question in my mind has been why is it that this country has been under this oppressive regime for so long. If one carefully digs through this question, one can also come up with the answer. The answer is the rareness of Iranians amid bringing the Islamic state to life from its rhetorical status. They wanted to act upon something that they believed in so dearly to give it a chance. And this incomparable audacity alone grabs the attention of outsiders for the admirable courage of this nation.
The young and bookish Iranians must have figured out that the time of the ruling with divine revelations ends by now to get its place in the history books. Instead of abiding to the divine revelations, today’s Iranian youngsters are blogging, twitting and uploading to reveal what they are capable of. And this latter attitude is crushing the other in the streets of Tehran.
Now the Iran we know, which doubts and challenges and rises up. After all, the Shiite belief of Iranians exactly represents these very ideas of second guessing, longing for merit and justice starting from the beginning of their faith with the fourth caliphate Ali. The developments that are happening in Iran don’t have to decisively end the Islamic regime now. Though this uprising decisively diminishes or even concludes the legitimacy of the regime and starts the beginning of its closing stages. And we will all witness this historic episode in the coming days, weeks and years.
I called Said A., an Iranian-American who has lived in America since the 80s and truly symbolizes an immigrant success story. How do I know him is a long story and I wish to elaborate it one day, though I would like to talk about his cautious excitement and happiness here. Over the phone, he didn’t agree with me on the impact of Obama’s Cairo speech to these events. Though he claimed that what is happening in Iran today is about the people of Iran and their being fed up with the mismanagement of their country in so many aspects. He argued that his countrymen only want their votes to be counted. He was wary not to say in definitive terms about what happened and how the elections were rigged or not. Though he was raising the issue of fairness and justice, which is to say, people must be heard.
Today, like Said, Iranian dissenters are playing the game with its rules and they are on the right side of history. This is why they will come out as victors from these difficult times, in one way or other, sooner or later.
When the ’zero problem’ policy falls short
The question is where Turkey is going. Starting with the Turkish media, why is it that we are so clumsy about covering the historic episode of Iran? While the-once-in-a-generation events are happening there, the Turkish administration is rushing to congratulate Ahmedinejad and his unmerited victory without hesitation. We do understand the importance of famous ’zero problem’ principle of Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister of Turkey, which is an approach that I think should be praised. However I do not agree if this policy also comprises overtly supporting the current Iranian regime’s ruthlessness to just get along with it. I can’t help but ask if this support finds its roots through the many energy contracts that have been signed between the two countries. Or even the scarier scenario is the question of whether our administration officials identify themselves more with Ahmedinejad than the dissidents of the regime? Maybe the Iranian police and security forces’ oppressive and unbalanced use of force seems friendlier to the AKP than the protestors who are believed to be secular? We should not kid ourselves and confuse the situations: not meddling in the internal affairs of another country doesn’t mean being dead-quiet on the issues of the human right problems. Even if, sadly, historically Turkey doesn’t have much moral authority over the subject.
Mr. Ibrahim Kalın, who has recently replaced Mr. Ahmed Davutoğlu as top foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, writes weekly columns for a couple of newspapers, including, Today’s Zaman. Leave aside the problems with writing as high foreign affairs official in such a controversial newspaper, when we read Mr. Kalın’s latest article that appeared on June 19, we see that the most important problem of the week for Mr. Kalın is the "healthy dialogue between religion and science" and how to develop "an ethic of scientific inquiry and nourish a moral framework É for dealing with the natural environment in a humane manner." After a week of uprising in Iran and many dead, Turkey’s top foreign affairs adviser sees no need to dwell on these incidents; instead he spends his time on how the scientific inquiry can be ethical. In fact, skipping to write and not advising his new boss of speaking up against the cold-blooded confrontation of the protests is a behavior that needs some ethical inspirations.
Iranians are just coming from the backwardness to catch up with the rest of the world, finally. Though I am not sure about approving these "unjust and violent acts" in a neighboring country, what it is that the Turkish administration wishes to accomplish? All in all, Turkey worries me more in these riotous days of Iran than Iran itself. Really, whose side is Turkey on?
* İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, D.C. His blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/.
20 Haziran 2009
If only one single reason needs to be spelled out to underscore why the Cairo speech made such an impact on the Iranian elections, it is because, as anyone who follows Iran knows, the country has a young, erudite and increasingly Internet-savvy new generation. And for them to hear words of respect from an American president might have done much to get to this day. Otherwise, there is nothing unusual happening in Iran. Iranians, like citizens of any other nation, wish to evolve with the global community, and to rise up against any kind of dogmas that have been levied against them for too long. But their national pride makes them do this historic unlocking at a time of their own choosing.
With these thoughts, I went to the Washington, D.C., campus of Georgetown University to witness the Iranian-American students’ protests and reactions to the election results. Banuo, one of students I met, told me that she was able to follow the latest protests and communicate with her cousin Faraz, who lives in Tehran, through Twitter, a new social-networking Web site. She also said that she and her cousin have been exchanging e-mails for years and that these chats made it clear that her cousin’s ideas about equality, freedom of (or from) religion and many other issues in world politics are very similar to those held by her and many other American college students.
On the national level, the Obama administration has chosen to be surprisingly quiet about the events that are taking place in Iran. And this unfamiliar American tranquility is dividing politicians and commentators into two camps. One of these camps, which does not appreciate this stillness at all, claims that the American administration should openly defend the Iranian opposition and the street protests. For example, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal likened Obama to former President Jimmy Carter, an equation that strikes a heavy blow because Carter’s ineffective policies during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis in Tehran are still fresh in many Americans’ recollections.
Despite of the pressure, Obama and his cabinet have been able to restrain themselves from meddling in Iran’s internal affairs. Obama seems to have taken necessary lessons from recent history: As recently as 2002, the U.S.-Venezuelan relationship was thrown over a cliff when America recognized the interim Venezuelan President Pedro Carmona, who replaced Hugo Chavez for less than two days in a coup d’tat. Iranians, with many worse memories of the U.S. jumbling their internal affairs, would have had no stomach for such an attitude. Hence the Obama administration, by not lending support to either side, is able to keep up hope for better relations with Iran in any scenario. So far, the other significant result of the Iranian elections has been to show the country’s ever-increasing importance in the region. Since the elections took place, the world media has focused on the affairs between Iran and the United States. Both in Europe and in the Middle East, commentators and policymakers spent more time on Obama’s reactions than anything else. However, a chilling result of Iran’s nuclear ambitions has been to open a new thriller sequence for autocratic leaders or those who have autocratic aspirations.
To these leaders, appearing as an important player on the world stage, as Ahmadinejad appears now, is an irreplaceable attraction. You can bet that they will surely take the necessary lessons from this excitement.
When George Bush was elected for the second time in 2004, the majority of the world could not believe the results they heard. This second time around, Bush, his administration and his policies departed further from the American people's positions, taking them far from their comfort zones to next choose a completely different president whose election, in many aspects, could be considered world-shattering. Iran is also going through a set of changes. Ahmadinejad and the status quo in Iran might brush off the current tumultuous days and start another term. But Iran today is not the same Iran of just a couple of weeks ago, even if the Turkish administration has already, happily and hastily, congratulated the rigged elections, victory and presidency.
İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, D.C. His blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/.
16 Haziran 2009
The one who speaks his/her mind anytime and anywhere. He/she is the one who can say "no," can stand up and argue. That is the one who can call it the way it is supposed to.
The other one, who always loves to abide, is willing to serve and please.
This one can disagree within only specified limits. S/he can only ask by the given length. This one can only call whatever name he or she is told to use.
Some can only follow the leader, love the leader, adore the leader.
Others watch the leader, question the leader, care for the leader.
Some only see the good sides, blind to perfection and strive to rationalize the leader’s inconceivable faux pas. Others, at least, weigh all sides, question the perfection and respect human nature with its fault lines.
Preferring one or the other makes you who you are.
You either desire to be with a ’yes’ man or to be challenged by a ’maybe’ man.
Would you only wish to console the cheerleaders, backers and thus the liars, or to wrangle with the challengers and debaters, cavaliers?
Today, sadly, powerful ones love to be surrounded by hollow-footed soldiers. The ones who cannot tell the truth neither bellow the sappiness nor dare to object.
If you have read it so far, you will recognize that I am not dwelling on leaders.
This is because,
Leaders are merely one of us.
Leader depends on us.
While fairly rarely, if we are lucky occasionally, and helped by extraordinarily,
We come across great leaders.
Those great leaders have no nationality, particular identity and ideology.
They might appear anytime and anywhere, may be from somewhere or nowhere, could be part of whatever religion or non-religion.
Though there is still much common ground: They may rise above us while respecting us; yet they are shaped by us and descended upon us.
They are from us.
Here is the bottom line: I read last week that the prime minister of Turkey said his party should not be called the AKP.
And he went on to say that those who call the AKP as the AKP are the ones who have no shame and those are a shameless bunch.
I am bewildered, shocked and awed.
My personal response
It is inexplicable and such a riddle: How can a leader call us "shameless" simply because we fail to meet his holy summon and fall short of naming a party as he wishes?
Moreover, why, in return, should people not slap him back or the intellectuals who ought to be the conscience of the masses remain silent?
The prime minister believes that thereby he brings the lexicon of the people to his own level!
How can one divide people so easily, yet so arrogantly and hurtfully, when his mission ought to unify the people very carefully and dutifully? Here is my response to those who wish to pigeonhole me, treat me as a slave and consider me an inferior being.
As long as I am mindful of the base lines, who can decide, I ask, what I may or may not say, what I believe in, what I can tell and yell?
If someone else decides, then why should I write?
Or why do all writers write,
And journalists ask?
I can only be loyal to my own writings and can rest easily, if I delve
Into what I think,
Hence, here I am daring to call it the AKP.
I slap back.
I can’t be hushed anymore.
I can’t be scolded anymore.
I can’t be pushed around anymore.
Times have changed.
We, the people, govern.
We, the people, question.
We, the people, slap back.
I am not a sheep to be herded.
The prime minister made a grave mistake.
If he really wants to educate! People,
He better start with an apology.
There are so many upright people who slap back.
Every day and all the time.
Simply by calling it the way as they wish.
For they know that "AKP" is just a name.
Whoever is a free man, with a free will, will call it as he wills.
It is easy, just three letters.
It is the AKP.
Though this call frees the soul,
Makes one calm and happy.
Integrity is such a virtue.
I swear I will protect it as long as I can write to you.
İlhan Tanır lives and works in Washington, DC. His blog is at http://ilhantanir.blogspot.com/