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Can Turkey Learn Tolerance?

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    1ST SEMESTER 2007

    European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Avenue de la
    Renaissance, 10 Bruxelles 1000 Belgiques Tel. : +32 (0)2 732 70 27
    Fax. : +32 (0)2 732 70 27

    1. Threats and Murders Against Armenians & Christians 2 2. Persecution
    - Destruction - Oppression 3 3. Gloomy prospect for intellectuals 4
    4. The Alarming Deep State Connection 5 5. Genocide denial and other
    foreign activities of Turkish government 6 6. Creeping fascism and
    other HOME activities of the Deep State 7 7. Recommendations 7

    Appendix: Chronology - 1st Semester
    2007------------------------------------------------- 9



    The perception and treatment of Christians - and foremost of Armenians
    - today in Turkey and by the Turkish authorities has been brutally
    demonstrated to the Western public opinion by the killing of columnist
    Hrant Dink (19/01/2007). A few days after the mark of compassion
    displayed by a small minority of Turkish citizens (who were mainly
    Ethnic Armenians or Kurds themselves), evidences of racial hatred
    against Armenians erupted all over the country. The famous white cap
    worn by the killer Ogun Samast immediately became a fashionable symbol
    which rapidly became out of stock.

    Shortly after, hate demonstrations took place during football games
    when supporters shouted "We are all Turks, We are all Ogun Samast"
    or "Those who aren't standing are Armenians." Later, the Armenian
    Patriarch received anonymous threats and was even targeted by
    gunshots. Some Armenian columnists were also dismissed by their
    employers because of alleged "negative attitude".

    This hostility spread to other Christian minorities and especially to
    the small Protestant population. Turkish Protestants are often from
    former Christian families (Armenians, Assyrians or Greeks) who were
    converted to Islam and who come back to their original faith. After
    Dink' s murder, many Protestant priests denounced the threats they
    endured in the general indifference. These threats finally led to
    the murder of three Protestants in Malatya in April 2007.

    The hate sentiment against minorities in general and against Christians
    in particular is tolerated - if not encouraged - by the Turkish
    authorities. Dominant media continue to describe these people as
    second-class citizens, if not enemies. For instance, in April 2007,
    Reverend Ahmet Guvener was interviewed by a local TV station in
    Diyarbakir. The interview and the montage were conducted in a way
    giving the impression that Reverent Guvener was paying Muslims to
    convert to Christianity. His own children have even been introduced
    by the TV as kidnapped children compelled to convert! This kind of
    incitement to hatred is amplified by the authorities: at the very
    end of April 2007, a high ranking official from the Ministry of
    Justice stated that activities of "congregations' are more dangerous
    than terrorists". In the very same way and during the same period,
    the Council for National Security (MGK) threatened the minorities as
    "enemies of the Republic".

    Ultranationalist organisations, notoriously xenophobic and hostile
    to minorities, such as Ulku Ocaklari or Ataturk Dusunce Dernegi
    (Association for Ataturk thought !), also play a notable role in the
    social fabric of Turkey and are regularly honoured by the government
    or even associated with its strategies.

    Given the backdrop of the Armenian genocide, hatred towards Armenians
    is especially important in Turkey where it plays the role of an
    oriental version of anti-Semitism. Racial stereotypes are widespread
    about Armenians, who are described as deceitful, stingy, cowardly
    and so forth. "Son of Armenian" or "Armenian bastard" are common
    insults. In the same way, conventional anti-Semitism is also widespread
    (Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are regular
    best-sellers in Turkey) but is actually less significant since the
    Jewish community is now nearly vanished. This gloomy situation leaves
    the Armenian and Christian minorities in total dereliction. The last
    known episode is the issuance to 32 Armenian schools of anonymous
    death threats (14 May 2007). None of these facts triggered appropriate
    reactions from the European Union.


    Beside the direct threats described above, the overall state of
    oppression against the Armenian and Christian minorities has been
    tolerated if not reinforced.

    Despite so-called "reforms," Armenians and Christians are still
    prevented from freely teaching their language, culture and history
    to their children. Though officially ruled by a director, minority
    schools are today always directed by a Turk Muslim deputy director
    who acts as a kind of political commissioner.

    Armenians and Christians are still banned from official positions
    in the administrations and continue to endure severe discrimination
    especially in the remote areas where they are actually persecuted.

    They have to finance their own their priests and places of worship
    whereas Sunni Muslim clerics and Mosques are granted by the Diyanet,
    the Ministry of Religion. Local Christian priests are also not allowed
    to train new priests and foreign teachers are prohibited too.

    Christian places of worship are strictly monitored and restricted. They
    are also economically strangled: Despite numerous announcements,
    the law dating from 1936 and prohibiting donations to Churches is
    still in force. Thus, countless donated buildings and assets that
    have been given to the Christian churches from the 70s' were looted
    by the government and never returned to these churches. The legal
    framework behind this organized desecration is deliberately complex
    and obscure and attempts of reforms didn't change the situation.

    The latest episode of organized desecration is the "inauguration"
    of the Aghtamar Island's church. This church is one of the most
    famous Armenian Churches of Turkey. It is located on the Aghtamar
    Island in Lake Van in historical Armenia. It dates back from the Xth
    century and it is one of the few remaining Armenian churches that
    miraculously escaped destruction in 1915, during the genocide. Its
    legal owner remains the Armenian Church since its representatives
    never left Turkey even in the aftermath of the Genocide. For a while
    the official name given by the authorities to this architectural
    monument was turkified in Akdamar and presented as typical of the
    Bagratid dynasty to avoid the name "Armenian" .

    Recently, under the pretext of so-called reconciliation, the church
    was " restored" by erasing all its Christian Armenian symbols. For
    example, centuries-old khatchkars (cross-stones) around the church
    were displaced (if not destroyed since nobody knows where they are
    now) and the cross at the top of the dome was removed. To avoid utter
    provocation, the " inauguration" of the desecrated church was moved
    to late March 2007 instead of the initially forecast date: 24th April,
    the anniversary of the Genocide! The initial reaction of the Armenian
    Patriarch of Constantinople was to denounce this scandal and he stated
    that he will not attend the "inauguration". Nevertheless, he attended
    to diffuse the threats against his community. This soft looting is
    up to now the last phase of the desecration and destruction process
    against the Armenian Church in Turkey, a country that appears as a
    lawless area from this point of view.


    Dink's murder and the nationalist wake-up of Turkey sounded the
    end of Istanbul's spring. It triggered a brutal censorship and
    even self-censorship of frightened intellectuals who were used up
    to then as a democratic showcase by the authorities. One of the most
    noteworthy reactions was the escape of Nobel Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk
    who also transferred all his bank accounts in the United States. In
    the aftermath, so-called "controversial issues" were banned from the
    public debate. Prominent intellectuals such as Ismaïl Kaboglu, Etyen
    Mahcupyan, Elif Safak, Ismet Berkan, or Baskin Oran were put under
    police protection. Columnist Gulay Gökturk described the atmosphere
    as resurgence of the "Union and Progress spirit", the one that finally
    led to the Armenian genocide in 1915.

    In the framework of this nationalist blow compared by some newspapers
    as an "ending Weimar republic", repressive legislations were

    For instance, the Grand Assembly adopted a package of laws allowing the
    censorship of Internet websites supposed to propagate "insults to Atatu
    rk". This package of laws was enacted by President Sezer in May 2007.

    Beforehand, many websites mentioning Kurdish or Assyrian issues or the
    Armenian genocide had been blocked in Turkey, including the popular
    website Youtube.

    Additionally, progressive newspapers such as Nokta or Gundem were
    closed as well as some radio broadcasting stations. Columnist Ozkoray
    who published articles in these papers on militarism in Turkey is
    now in exile in France. Ozkoray and others fear major pogroms. These
    views are shared by Turkey's specialists from abroad such as Hamit
    xxxarslan who heads the prestigious French "Ecole des Hautes Etudes
    en Sciences Sociales".


    The inquiry on Dink's murder gave evidence for strong connections
    between the killer Ogun Samast and his accomplices Ehran Tuncel
    and Yasin Hayal with high-rank military officials such as Veli
    Kucuk. Major General Veli Kucuk was responsible for the JITEM, the
    Gendarmerie's Special Forces. His name was previously mentioned during
    the investigation on the attack against the Constitutional Court
    (May 2006).

    Kucuk was known to be in close connection with Muzaffer Tekin, a
    former lieutenant-colonel of the Turkish army who was also member
    the so-called "Turkish resistance group" a notorious paramilitary
    organisation known for having performed murders of Turkish and Greek
    pacifists in Cyprus.

    Muzaffer Tekin is suspected of having headed Erhan Timuroglu and
    Alparslan Arslan who made the attack against the Court. Pictures
    recently disclosed give evidence of direct connections between Tekin,
    Kuc uk and Arslan and also with Kemal Kerinciz, the ultranationalist
    lawyer who filed cases against Dink and against numerous other
    intellectuals. Ku cuk' name was previously mentioned during the
    Susurluk scandal but civil prosecutors were forbidden to launch
    investigation against him. Kucuk was also present during the last trial
    of Hrant Dink. This very unusual and concerning fact was perceived
    as a direct threat.

    Recurrent usage of concepts, methods and wordings referring to
    and taking pride from the Armenian genocide is a significant
    feature of these groups. For instance, Tekin is nicknamed "cete"
    which literally means "gangster". Cete was also the denomination
    of the Special Organisation mobs which implemented the genocide in
    1915-1916. In April 2006, Kucuk, Tekin, Kerinciz, former minister
    of culture Namik Kemal Zeybek and others paid tribute to Kemal Bey,
    a high ranking official involved in the genocide. Those people are
    also linked to Kizilelma (Red Apple) a group gathering leftist and
    rightist extremists. The name " Kizilelma" is also a direct reference
    to the "Turan" - the Turkish world, an expansionist project dating
    back from the Ottoman time. Last but not least the very same groups
    made projects to foster the denial of the Armenian genocide in Europe
    (see next chapter): one of these projects was named "Talat Pasha"
    after the name of the genocide's main architect.

    Reliable analysis considers that these gangs are controlling the
    narcotic transit from Central Asia to Europe via Nakhichevan, a lawless
    area in Azerbaijan, and via Trabzon. Their opposition to Turkey's EU
    application would be motivated by their will to withdraw Trabzon from
    the EU custom controlling practices. For instance, Kucuk and Arslan
    have attended a worldwide Azeri congress in Stockholm and Arslan
    declared that activists are trained in training camps in Azerbaijan
    "to kill Armenians". After the Constitutional Court attack, Timouroglu
    also declared "we should have killed Armenians".

    Facing this reality, Turkish Premier Erdogan recognized that there
    is a Deep State ("derin devlet") in Turkey. In the aftermath of
    Dink's murder, he stated "We can describe it as gangs inside a state
    organization, and this kind of structure does exist since the Ottoman
    time. Our state and our nation have paid a high price because we have
    not been able to crack down on such networks."

    In the very same vein, Mete Gökturk, the former prosecutor of Istanbul
    State Security Court, declared on the 9 February 2007 that he doesn't
    " think that the inquiry [about Dink's murder] will come to its term
    because the ideological profile of the involved criminals is the same
    than the one of the persons who are within the State institutions
    and who are in charge of the investigations."


    The denial of the Armenian Genocide is the most constant and
    aggressive policy of Turkey abroad. It never slowed down even during
    the Istanbul's spring from the end of 2003 to the end of 2005. It is
    nearly impossible to report countless initiatives taken by Ankara
    for the sake of this policy. From the beginning of 2007, the most
    notorious initiatives were: ~B to hinder an exhibition on the Tutsi
    Genocide in the UN (New York) under the pretext that one of the posters
    was mentioning Raphael Lemkin' s stance on the Armenian genocide,
    ~B to trigger a threadbare "reconciliation" initiative eluding
    the Genocide issue - through some mislead Nobel prize laureates,
    ~B to attempt capitalizing on Hrant Dink's murder in organizing
    superficial evidences of "reconciliation" but in covering again the
    Genocide issue and their own responsibility both in Dink's murder
    and in the Genocide, ~B to organize denial conferences in Europe,
    especially in Brussels (Belgium) and Paris. This last operation is
    particularly notable since it has been planned and achieved by the
    notorious Talat Pasha committee (the equivalent of what would be
    a Hitler committee for the Jewish Holocaust). This committee has a
    executive board headed by Dogu Perinc ek, the denier who was recently
    condemned in Lausanne (Switzerland) and a board of trustees gathering
    representatives of all the major Turkish political parties (AKP, CHP,
    MHP, DYP, ANAP and IP) and headed by Rauf Denktas, the former president
    of the unrecognized Turkish entity of Northern Cyprus, ~B to send
    various missions to Washington to derail the recognition process of
    the Genocide initiated by the U.S. House of Representatives; to press
    as well various governments to avoid either to recognize to genocide
    (Israel) or to penalize its denial (the Netherlands) - to similarly
    threaten Chile for having recognized the Genocide or to leverage
    Turkish-speaking brethren in Bulgaria to derail the recognition
    process in Bulgaria, ~B to place pressure even on the European
    Council to try to exclude the Armenian genocide from the field of the
    EU framework decision against racism and xenophobia so that only the
    Armenian Genocide would be denied, - to inspire physical aggressions
    against Armenians in Europe. On the 23rd April 2007, a young Armenian
    boy was wounded by knife by a young fanatic Turk.

    It should be emphasized that all these initiatives are not standalone
    actions led by unconnected groups but are generally headed and
    coordinated by governmental bodies. The global aim of this policy is
    to make the world (and especially the EU) endorse the racist position
    of Turkey against the Armenian (a good illustration would have been
    the framework decision penalizing all genocide denial but the one of
    the Armenian genocide).

    To fulfill 7. RECOMMENDATIONS The most recent elements regarding
    Turkey and the rise of intolerance, xenophobia and ultranationalism
    in this important country should be an actual concern of the European
    Union. It is not only a matter of moral principles but this evolution
    is endangering the whole regional stability from Iraq to Eastern
    Mediterranean Sea, from Armenia to Eastern Europe.

    Henceforth, we recommend the European Parliament and the European
    Commission: - to demand that Turkey continue Dink's murderers'
    trials throughout its due process. The preceding similar cases about
    Susurluk and Semdinli just ended on sanctioning second mates and
    have not allowed to punish the backers ; to envisage if needed an
    International Court as for the murder of Rafic Hariri in Lebanon, -
    to record notorious Turkish criminal organisations such as ADD, Grey
    Wolves, Alperen and Ulku Ocaklari in the EU terrorist organizations
    list, to closely monitor them and to ban their activities in Europe,
    - to make a comprehensive and fair assessment of the Turkish legal
    texts (Constitution, penal code and other various codes) legalizing
    the past and present discrimination and destruction of the Armenians
    of Turkey, - to condition the financial support of the pre-accession
    strategy to actual progress in freedom of speech, withdrawing of
    denial policy and respect of minorities rights ; to set up mandatory
    educational programs within this pre-accession strategy to teach
    tolerance and genocide history to Turkish pupils and scholars, -
    to address these issues and especially the official recognition of
    the Armenian genocide by the Turkish government among the top-level
    political priorities of the negotiations chapter.

    - to avoid cautioning counterproductive Turkey's strategies of
    fake dialog. Past experiences show that so-called "reconciliation"
    initiatives involving dialog between civil societies or experts
    committees or historians committees are merely tactical way to delay
    the issue and to avoid fair and frank political recognition of the
    Armenian genocide by Turkey.
    General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.



      July 4, 2007

      Turkey: Converts to Christianity subjected to official harassment
      More signs of the encroachment of Sharia in secular Turkey.

      "Turkey: Converts Subjected To Official Harassment," from Compass Direct:

      ISTANBUL, July 3 (Compass Direct News) In a bizarre twist in the criminal prosecution of two Turkish Christians for insulting Turkish identity, an administrative district authority in Istanbul has ordered the converts from Islam fined for illegal collection of funds.
      Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal, on trial for insulting Turkishness under the nations notorious Article 301, were summoned to Istanbuls Beyoglu police headquarters on Sunday morning (July 1) just before church services began at the Taksim Protestant Church, where Tastan is a member.

      Three plainclothes policemen were waiting for me at the church, Tastan said, saying I was wanted at the police station.

      With their lawyer out of town, he telephoned Topal, and the two agreed to go along to the police station.

      I thought probably the police were acting on last weeks Interior Ministry decree, Tastan told Compass, referring to a June 28 directive sent to all the nations governors ordering extra security for Turkeys religious minorities in the wake of rising violence against non-Muslims. But it turned out to be something entirely different.

      The two Christians were both presented with a separate penalty sheet from the security police division linked to the Beyoglu district, ordering each one to pay 600 Turkish lira (US$461) for breaking a civil law.

      According to the one-page decisions, the two men were guilty of violating section 29 of civil administrative code 2860, which forbids the collection of money without official permission from local district authorities.
      General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.


      • Dirty electoral tricks escalate

        Turkish opposition party says Erdogan is going to pass Erzerum to Armenia
        09.07.2007 17:18 GMT+04:00

        /PanARMENIAN.Net/ Turkish Peoples Republican Party in opposition has accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having intentions to pass Erzerum to Armenia. Candidate from that party Erbaşar zsoy accused Erdogan of being one of the co-chairs of the so-called Great Middle East project, according to which Erzerum is part of Armenia. At the same time he added that if the Peoples Republican Party were elected, the country would not be split, reports.



          Is Turkey tolerant of non-Muslim religions?
          Intolerance could have serious consequences for Turkey, which is seeking admittance to the EU. It has not tackled xenophobia and hostility to religious minorities, even after the 2006 murder of a Catholic priest and the 2007 murders of Protestants.

          Tuesday, July 10, 2007
          By Otmar Oehring

          The Turkish government has long failed to tackle deep-rooted discrimination against religious minorities by refusing to guarantee their position in law or to crack down on intolerance from officials, the media and in school curricula. This has left religious minorities dangerously exposed, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio. For, as Dr Oehring observes in this personal commentary for Forum 18, hostility to religious minorities is stoked by widespread xenophobia. Following the brutal murder of three Protestants in Malatya in April, attacks on and threats against religious minorities have only increased. Official "protection" for religious minority leaders and places of worship seems designed as much to control as to protect them.

          A shadow still hangs over Turkey's non-Muslim religious minorities, following the brutal murder in April of three Protestants in the eastern town of Malatya. The murders have not so far produced any serious effort by the state to tackle the underlying causes of the murders. No effort has been made to tackle the xenophobia and hostility to religious minorities, which Turkish Protestants are convinced is a major factor in the murders. This official Turkish indifference looks bad to the outside world, notably to the European Union (EU).

          Indeed, the situation for religious minorities is getting worse. Threats by telephone and in writing against churches, religious minority (e.g. Armenian Apostolic) schools and individuals are mounting. Ethnic minorities especially the Kurds are also seeing rising numbers of threats. Public discussion is increasing over who should have the right to live in Turkey. Should the country only be the home of ethnic Turks?

          Whenever there is a bomb attack, journalists focus on the place of origin of the suspects. When Istanbul airport became a target for bombers, journalists eagerly pointed out that the suspects came from the Lazistan region close to the border with Georgia. The suggestion is that they were not real Turks.

          A wider range of religious minority individuals and institutions including Catholic and Protestant churches and their clergy - are now being directly threatened with physical attacks. In February 2006, Catholic priest Fr Andrea Santoro was murdered in his church in the Black Sea port of Trabzon.

          Then in April this year came the murder of the three Protestants in Malatya two Turkish Christians, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, as well as a German, Tilmann Geske. The publishing house, Zirve, where the three Protestants were found, had been the target of protests in 2005, demanding that it be closed down as its activities were "proselytism" of Muslims. But as Turkish Protestants have pointed out with appreciation to Forum 18, the Criminal Code has been changed to allow the sharing of beliefs if there are no demonstrable political motives.

          However, as Ertugrul Ozkok, editorial writer for Turkey's largest newspaper, Hurriyet, wrote the day after the murders: "While only a handful of actual murderers is involved, there are many, many assistants." Ozkok described the many newspapers who publish intolerant articles about Christians and politicians making such statements as "agents of provocation".

          These politicians include government ministers, such as Minister of State Mehmet Aydin - who controls the government's Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). He claimed on 27 March 2007 that "the goal of missionary activity is to break up the historical, religious, national and cultural unity of the people of Turkey". Schools are also a source of what EU officials have privately described to Forum 18 as "massive nationalistic indoctrination".

          Politicians repeatedly speak of "missionaries" (usually Christian) as a threat to the country and a danger to its people. In a live program on NTV in May 2006, Professor Ali Bardakoglu, who heads the Presidency of Religious Affairs, declared: "We are not only telling our people in Turkey that Islam is the right (only) religion, but we also inform them about missionaries' activities threatening our people." The state-sanctioned mufti in the eastern town of Erzincan held a panel discussion on missionary activity, Satanism and "dangerous and destructive activity". In November 2006, one deputy Muharrem Kilic warned Parliament about missionaries who have "attacked the Turkish people".

          Even when reporting attacks on religious minorities, media coverage is often hostile to the victims and their communities. Such coverage could be seen as excusing the attacks or at the very least sympathizing with the motives behind them.

          Most recently, two Georgian Orthodox priests from neighboring Georgia were in late spring visiting Borcka in the remote north-east, close to the border with Georgia, as part of a tourist group. Although in civilian clothes, they were wearing crosses. Recognized as priests, they were set upon by three local men in a brutal attack. Turkey's coastal area in the north-east is known for its fierce nationalism and xenophobia, routinely stoked by the local press. Journalists regularly stir up fears over Georgians seeking out fellow ethnic Georgians in local villages by asking if visiting Georgians have come on missionary trips.

          In this region, any non-locals attract hostile questions about what they are doing. Questions are asked about whether they are ordinary missionaries with a hidden agenda. Minister of State Aydin, quoted above, made the often repeated claim that "a significant part of missionary activity is done in secret".

          The local ethnic Georgian and Laz minorities have long been converted to Islam. Although they are now less wary of revealing their Georgian roots, no-one would dare to openly admit that their people were originally Christian. Turkish intellectuals and some media are prepared to accept that they are ethnic minorities, but almost no-one is prepared to accept that they can be anything other than Sunni Muslims.

          Certain individuals and institutions have always been a target of attacks, most notably the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the residence of the most senior patriarch in the worldwide Orthodox Christian community. For years it has been threatened with attack and it could be highly dangerous for Patriarch Bartholomew or other senior bishops to walk the streets of the city. The Armenian Patriarch Mesrop the leader of Turkey's largest Christian community is also under threat and is not as well protected as the Ecumenical Patriarch.

          Police officers assigned to protect religious minority leaders in the wake of the murder of Fr Santoro are often unarmed. When Patriarch Mesrop pointed out publicly in February 2007 the lack of security, the state authorities told him he should hire a guard from a private security company, which he has now done.

          But religious minorities fear being "protected" by the police, an institution known as a hotbed of nationalism. Such minorities sometimes ask whether it is wise to be protected by their enemies.

          Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) secret police had a flat facing the Trabzon church where Fr Santoro was murdered. Presumably, MIT has similar observation points close to other minority places of worship. Are such observation points to protect the minorities or to control them, as religious minorities argue privately? MIT officers also frequently turn up at places of worship unannounced. When challenged, they do not deny they are from the security apparatus but insist they are there to observe and check up on security measures. Some minority places of worship have asked such MIT officers to leave.

          Some MIT officers do believe in protecting religious minorities, but others are staunch nationalists and signed-up members of the "deep state", the nationalist circles in state bodies which regard themselves as the custodians of the Ataturkist legacy. Such nationalists are unlikely to offer genuine protection. Even with such MIT observation there is no full protection, as the murder of Fr Santoro demonstrated, so many doubt the value of such observation. Indeed, when a grenade was thrown into the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul in 2005 only police and security officials were present outside. Mosques as well as Cem Houses where Alevi Muslim communities worship - do not have such MIT "protection".

          Religious minorities need real protection because of growing nationalist hostility and growing threats. But for religious minorities, this is a dilemma as the "protection" the state offers is equally bound up with control.

          The Turkish authorities have not taken effective steps to either protect non-Muslim minorities or address the mass media and education system's intolerance of them. As the example of Ertugrul Ozkok of Hurriyet shows, there are some Turkish voices from outside the minorities calling for the intolerance to be tackled.

          One religious minority that does not appear to face increased pressure in the current intolerant climate is the Alevi Muslim community. The government continues to refuse to accept that they are a distinct Muslim community it insists either that they are Sunni Muslims or, as senior officials of the Presidency of Religious Affairs assert, the question needs further study. Alevi Cem Houses are not considered places of worship but cultural centers. Indeed, the governing AKP Party views the Alevis as a source of votes in Turkey's forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

          But religious minorities Forum 18 has spoken to do not think that the elections will bring to power any political party willing to tackle the dangerous media intolerance of religious minorities, or to take the dramatic changes necessary to usher in genuine religious freedom.

          No legal improvements are likely. The Foundations Law which might have resolved property problems for the foundations at least partly allowed to some non-Muslim ethnic/religious communities - was vetoed in December 2006 by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a committed secularist but a staunch nationalist.

          After the veto, the Law was reintroduced to parliament in the same form soon after. With the dissolution of Parliament the process has now come to a halt. Any progress will depend on the composition of the new Parliament to be elected on 22 July. Current signals do not look hopeful that the positive elements of the Law will survive.

          Turkey's application to join the EU has stalled and the prospect of Turkey's entry seems as far away as ever. Tentative progress to improve human rights and religious freedom has ground to a halt. Even on minor issues to help religious minorities, where the Turkish authorities promised to make progress several years ago, nothing has happened.

          Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that fundamental reform of the Turkish Constitution, not of individual laws or legal problems, is essential for genuine progress. So it is not surprising that minorities are increasingly turning to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, not the Turkish authorities, to protect their fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief.

          The Catholic Church was specifically promised that at least some of the problems it faces would be resolved, when members of the Bishops' Conference met Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2005. During Pope Benedict's high-profile visit at the end of 2006, Turkish officials agreed to establish joint working groups to resolve the difficulties over legal status and property. But nothing has happened, despite public prodding by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in January.

          No progress has been made on legal rights for other non-Muslim minorities. In a 1986 ruling, the Turkish Supreme Court in Ankara recognized that the Jehovah's Witness are a distinct religion. But the problem for the Jehovah's Witnesses just like all the other religious communities - is that they have no legal status whatsoever. All the Supreme Court did was to recognize that Jehovah's Witnesses exist but without recognizing that they have any legal rights.

          After the Jehovah's Witnesses sought to register a religious association in 2005 with the Istanbul Associations Directorate (Dernekler Mudurlugu), two cases against them were lodged in the courts. The Jehovah's Witnesses were accused of violating the Constitution, though no concrete violations were ever specified. The Jehovah's Witnesses won both cases, but in 2006 the Associations Directorate lodged challenges against these rulings in the Supreme Court.

          This denial that Turkey's non-Muslim religious communities have any legal status has a very practical impact on the intolerance and physical attacks they experience. For example, two young men, Yunus Ercep and Feti Demirtas, are among the Jehovah's Witnesses who have been maltreated and repeatedly prosecuted in recent years for refusing compulsory military service on grounds of religious conscience. One captain told Demirtas: "Pray not to be assigned to my military base, since I will make you lead a dog's life. I will force you to perform military service." Another told him: "Leave Turkey if you do not want to be in the military." In 2003, Ercep was even incarcerated for 11 days in a psychiatric hospital for "religious paranoia".

          In 2004, Ercep lodged his case over repeated sentencing for conscientious objection at the ECHR in Strasbourg (Application No. 43965/04), while Demirtas lodged his case in January 2007 (Application No. 5260/07). Despite their insistence that their decision to go to Strasbourg is not political, taking their cases to an international body could lay Ercep and Demirtas open to accusations that they are traitors to their country. The Army General Staff called on the people in May 2007 to fight the enemy Kurds, so Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse military service are doubly seen as traitors.

          The ECHR issued a crucial judgment in January 2007 in favor of a Greek Orthodox community foundation (Fener Rum Erkek Lisesi Vakfi) running a High School in Istanbul's Fener area (No. 34478/97). In what is a common occurrence, the government had confiscated a building from it, but the Strasbourg court upheld the community foundation's rights and punished the Turkish government with a large fine.

          As neither side appealed against the Strasbourg judgment, it became final on 9 April. This meant that the government had until 9 July to pay the fine.

          In earlier cases the state has simply paid the fine and taken no action to change the legal situation to avoid similar violations from happening in other cases, or to make restitution to those whose rights have already been wronged. This signals to those who encourage intolerance that the rights of people who belong to Turkey's religious minorities do not really matter.

          One test will come over the Yedikule Surp Pirgic Ermeni Hastanesi Vakfi, a foundation recognized in law as managing Armenian religious property. The ECHR struck out the case on 26 June 2007 after a "friendly settlement" with the Turkish government (Nos. 50147/99 and 51207/99). The foundation complained that its title to certain properties had been declared void. It contended that Turkish legislation and its interpretation by the national courts deprived foundations belonging to religious minorities within the meaning of the 1923 Treaty of Laussane of all capacity to acquire immovable property. This incapacity, in its view, amounted to discrimination in relation to other foundations.

          Under the friendly settlement, the Turkish government has undertaken to return the relevant properties in their current state to the foundation and to pay it 15,000 Euros (26,435 Turkish Lira, 119,522 Norwegian Kroner or 20,490 US Dollars) for costs and expenses.

          This settlement shows that the Turkish authorities have seen that they must reach agreements with religious communities over their minority foundations. However, the underlying restrictions on religious minorities' foundations seem likely to remain. Still less will such settlements help religious minorities achieve full rights to practise their faiths freely.

          Intolerance of religious minorities is growing within Turkish society, and just as with the legal protection of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief Turkey's main political parties and state institutions show no interest in effectively dealing with the root causes of this. Indeed, some within the state are encouraging this intolerance. I fear that this will have increasingly dangerous consequences for Turkey's religious minorities, and for freedom of thought, conscience and belief for all Turkish citizens. Copyright

          Dr Otmar Oehring, head of the Human Rights Office of Missio, a Catholic charity based in Germany, contributed through the courtesy of Forum 18 News Service.
          General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.


          • The answer remains "no". Apparently having an ethnic Armenian individual as part of the ownership structure of a interested buyer of a Turkish company is not accepted

            MIT to investigate the partnership purchasing Petkim

            National Intelligence Agency has taken the mysterious structure of the Russian and Kazakhstan partnership purchasing Petkim tender.

            The mysterious structure of the Russian and Kazakhstan partnership purchasing Petkim tender and the claims of Armenian partner and black money activated M?T (National Intelligence Agency). M?T (National Intelligence Agency) will prepare a detailed report about the partnership structure and activities of the purchasers of Petkim, TransCentralasia Petrochemical Holding, which made the highest bid in the amount of $2 billion.

            Referring to the security investigation, the authorities of privatization administration said: "the institution investigates the preliminary competence and competence criteria, financial and technical dimensions. It is not our job to investigate such claims."

            Publish Date: 19.07.2007
            General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.



              Spotlight: Article 301 - Touching the nerve of Turkisness

              Financial Times

              By Vincent Boland
              Updated: 18 minutes ago
              In Istanbul tomorrow, in the splendid surroundings of the Ottoman-era Dolmabahce Palace on the European shore of the Bosphorus, three people who have done their bit for freedom of expression in Turkey will receive a small but important acknowledgement. They will receive the Turkish Journalists' Association's annual press freedom prize. It is a ceremony that coincides with a critical moment in the country's continuing battle for and with free speech.

              At first glance, the Turkish media seems to be as free, colourful, irreverent, partisan, corporate-dominated, and occasionally irresponsible as its British counterpart. Newsstands groan under the weight of available titles. All-news TV channels proliferate, offering a nationwide forum for an informative debate during the general election campaign of the past few weeks. Facts can sometimes be hard to find in this free-for-all, but there is no shortage of opinion.

              Then there is Article 301 of Turkey's penal code, which changes the terms of the debate about freedom of expression. This article, slipped into a revision of the fascist-era code three years ago while the European Union was looking the other way, aspires to protect the concept of "Turkishness" the essence of the republic, its institutions and its accepted historical narratives from criticism or denigration. In practice, this means that any critical questioning of sensitive historical issues, from Armenia to Cyprus to the Kurds, can lead to the writer's prosecution.

              Story continues below ?

              The article has been used most assiduously by a group of nationalist lawyers to prosecute writers, journalists and commentators whose books, views or articles touched some reactionary nerve or other. This group makes no apologies for rushing to court at the merest hint of a slighting of the nation, as if Turkey were a delicate girl whose honour needed protecting at all costs. Although Turkey has many of the outward trappings of a liberal democracy, its governing institutions are steeped in authoritarianism. They have little truck with those whose patriotism they would question.

              Kemal Kerincsiz, chairman of the jurists' union that has brought most of the prosecutions, says: "Some countries can survive without this type of law, but Turkey cannot. It is vital to protect the Turkish nation if it is to remain standing." Turkey's original penal code in effect prohibited everything that was not specifically authorised. The revised version has remnants of this thinking, which is why Article 301 seems to fit so snugly into it.

              Most of the cases brought under Article 301 have failed, but not before the defendants have gone to the expense and trouble of putting up a defence against such a slippery charge. The recipients of tomorrow's award, a citation that has been given since 1989, are not the only people to have had to endure this painful and degrading process, but they are among the most prominent and admired. They are being given the award "in the name of all journalists and writers who have suffered under Article 301".

              One of the recipients is Ragip Zarakolu, one of Turkey's leading publishers and the frequent target of prosecutions and attacks by the far right. His firm, Belge, has published historical books that enrage die-hard nationalists especially on the painful subject of Armenia and the mass murder of Ottoman Armenians in the last days of the empire. Another is Gulcin Cayligil, a prominent lawyer who has defended many journalists facing prosecution under the article.

              The third recipient will be present only in spirit. Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian publisher of Agos, a weekly newspaper in the Turkish and Armenian languages, was murdered in January on an Istanbul street. He had been a pioneer in urging Turkey to come to terms with the mass murder of Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. A 17-year-old boy is on trial for his murder and has cited Dink's opinions and comments, as reported on nationalist websites, as a motive.

              The measure remains on the statute book in spite of condemnation from bodies such as the EU, which Turkey is hoping to join, and Amnesty International, and in spite of an occasional half-hearted promise from the outgoing government that it might amend it. So Turkey's commitment to freedom of expression will always be less than it seems, critics and victims of the article say. As Orhan Erinc, chairman of the committee that chose this year's winners, says: "The fact we keep having to give this prize is proof that, despite what the politicians say, freedom of expression is still not guaranteed in Turkey."

              Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.
              General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.


              • Turks and Armenians should try to understand each other

                Interview by Aydogan Vatandas

                He was the US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1915, during the troubles with the Armenians.

                He witnessed how the Turks, desperately hoping to stop further losses, and even regain some of their territory and prior prestige, finally succumbed to German influence and were dragged to collapse.

                The ambassadors name was Henry Morgenthau.

                He was a German Jew, who arrived in New York as an immigrant when he was 10. He was successful in the new country, and through his eventual rise in prominence, he gained President Woodrow Wilsons trust and respect. This ability to gain the confidence of others was characteristic of Ambassador Morgenthau, and greatly contributed to his experience as an ambassador in Turkey.

                Despite his ties with Turkish leaders, though, his experiences, recorded first in his diary and then in his book, Ambassador Morgenthaus Story, regarding the political environment and the tense situation with Armenia, led him to change his opinion of his Young Turk associates.

                The ambassadors book became a key source for those who acknowledge an Armenian genocide, as it indicated that the government, hiding behind World War I, had planned and carried out an elimination of the Armenian minority. Ambassador Morgenthaus book was published in Turkish for the first time in 2005 by Belge Publishing Co. Turkish readers can now judge his words for themselves.

                Many things have been written about the book from different points of view. Professor H. Lowry in his book The Story Behind Ambassador Morgenthaus Story (1990), stated that some of the explanations and arguments in the ambassadors book were inconsistent with the official reports and telegrams that the ambassador sent to the US secretary of state, and inconsistent with entries in the diary that he wrote during the 26 months he spent in Turkey. Lowry also claimed that US journalist Burton J. Hendrick wrote the book.

                Approximately half Ambassador Morgenthaus book focuses on the relationships the ambassador developed during his time in İstanbul. This includes his record of how the Ittihat Terakki government became engaged with that of the Germans as, at that time, each believed that their own imperialist aims would be supported by joining forces with the other. The other half of the book contains details of events around the time of the Armenian controversy that Ambassador Morgenthau personally witnessed or that were reported to him from his consuls, Christian missionaries and others in different parts of Turkey.

                We talked with Dr. Pamela Steiner, great grandchild of Ambassador Morgenthau, about the memoirs and her approach regarding the current Turkish/Armenian relationship, at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative of Harvard University, where she is a senior fellow.

                Can you please tell us about your family roots?

                My mothers parents were Maurice Wertheim and Alma Morgenthau. Alma was one of Ambassador Morgenthaus three daughters and the sister of Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who became secretary of the treasury under President Franklin Roosevelt. Almas (first) husband, Maurice Wertheim, was a banker, art collector, chess player, sportsman and remarkable philanthropist. Alma and Maurice had three daughters. The eldest, Josephine, was my mother. She worked to ban the testing of nuclear weapons and halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. My father, Ralph Pomerance, a second generation Polish/Lithuanian Jew, was a fine architect.

                Can you tell us about yourself? What do you do at Harvard?

                As a senior fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, I direct the fledgling project, Inter-Communal Violence and Reconciliation. Primarily my work aims to contribute to improving the relationship between the Turkish and Armenian societies. My background includes prior work on the relationships between Germans and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians. I have a psychotherapy practice, which is private, not connected to Harvard -- I specialize in seeing people with psychological trauma

                How are you carrying out this work with Turks and Armenians?

                My colleagues and I -- people rarely do this work alone -- invite individuals who are influential members of both Turkish and Armenian civil societies to participate in confidential dialogue workshops. We structure the workshops to enable participants to learn about each others perspectives and hear about each others experiences regarding the relationship of the two communities. After the workshops are over, participants may talk publicly about what they learned, but they have agreed not to reveal the identities of the other participants even then. But, sometimes, at the end of a workshop, participants decide to collaborate on a joint statement or some other project.

                Facilitators for these dialogue workshops, such as myself, do not state historical facts or offer opinions about facts. The job of facilitators is to enable participants to talk productively about their communities history of hurts and losses and their communities basic needs, fears, concerns and hopes in relation to the community with which they are in conflict. The next step in the workshop is for participants to see if they can contrive a solution that addresses the basic needs, fears, concerns and hopes of both communities.

                The participants, not the facilitators, do state the facts, and the characterizations and meaning of those facts, as they know and understand them. I have an educated lay persons opinion about the issues in the Turkish/Armenian relationship, but it is unimportant in this context. What does matter very much is that, while facilitating, I am even-handed and am perceived by participants to be so.

                I am well aware, of course, that the use of genocide in the context of the Armenian/Turkish relationship has an enormous but different meaning to each community and different meanings to different sub-groups within each community. I might ask participants in a workshop to discuss the importance of these different meanings with each other.

                But your great-grand father did not use the term genocide in his book, right?

                Yes, thats true. The word genocide did not exist when my great grandfather wrote his book. He wrote some now famous descriptions of what he witnessed and learned. Here are two examples from his book that we are discussing, Ambassador Morgenthaus Story:

                Talaats attitude toward the Armenians was summed up in the proud boast which he made to his friends: I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in thirty years! (p. 234)

                From him (Dr. Lepsius, a German missionary) Enver scarcely concealed the official purpose. Dr. Lepsius was simply staggered by his frankness, for Enver told him in so many words that they at last had an opportunity to rid themselves of the Armenians and that they proposed to use it. (p. 235).

                What is your impression about the book generally?

                Its such an extraordinary close up history about a fascinating period. Its the sum of the many aspects of the book that I find so remarkable. He knew everybody and was an acute observer. Theres a tremendous amount of detail about his relations with the diplomatic community and the Young Turks. He did not go to İstanbul aiming to do something in particular for the Turks or Armenians over and above what an ambassador does. He did not arrive with a personal interest in the Armenians. He got along very well with the Turks and talks about what he admired in them. He stresses how sincere the Young Turks were initially in their aim to put Turkey on a democratic path. He notes how they failed at this and how this failure partly led these leaders to revert to what he characterized as much more primitive governance.

                As one of the top people, he bore witness to the fate of the Armenians, and protested about it widely. It was also emotionally painful for both him and his wife to witness. He records his efforts to stop the killings of Armenians and how his failure led him to leave İstanbul.

                Yet, at the same time, he conveyed a deep understanding of the Turks struggles. He understood how the Turkish leaders felt humiliated by their losses of territory. He saw and was horrified by the suffering of ordinary Turks during this period, as a result of their leaders attempts to regain by going to war that lost territory and prestige. He reported in detail all he learned about how the Germans manipulated and drew the Turks into the war. However, I understand that contemporary historians consider that he overrated the influence of the Germans, though I believe that most agree that German influence was great.

                So why then does nobody mention the responsibility Germany bears for the incidents that took place in 1915?

                This is a very important question, as is the question of responsibility more generally, though the word would need to be defined first. It would be interesting to discuss this question with historians, which of course I am not, but also with group psychologists, which I am. But it isnt true that no one mentions German responsibility if responsibility is understood as Germanys exercising influence on and acting in complicity with the commitment of certain acts. For example, Taner Akcams A Shameful Act and Donald Bloxhams The Great Game of Genocide both discuss Germanys role. And one of my great grandfathers books chapters is actually entitled Germany forces Turkey into War. Whatever German responsibility was, though, does not ease the responsibilities of the Ittihat Terakki Party.

                It has been claimed that the book was not written by your great grand-grandfather, but by Burton J. Hendrick, the famous journalist of the time. Is that real?

                I dont know that. But I know that Hendrick stayed at my grandfathers house and they worked together on the book. My grandfather had a diary. In the book he mentions when he is quoting from the diary. My grandfather was not a trained writer. So it is very natural to get some professional support, a ghost writer. But you very easily notice his voice while reading the book.

                Is Armenian identity constructed on hostility towards Turks? Is this something healthy?

                Some Armenians feel hostile to Turks as a whole. Some Armenians feel hostile not only to the Turks of that time, but also to Turks today who do not know and do not acknowledge what the Turks did to the Armenians in those years. But not all Armenians today feel the same about all Turks, although for perhaps all Armenians the memories of the past are very painful. Their pain increases when people minimize those hurts.

                So what do you think should be done?

                I think 1915-23 were particularly terrible years and there has been an important gap between the two sets of communities since then. My understanding is that most members of these two sets of communities dont now know each other. They need to know each other. What happened in 1915-1923 should be discussed today, and they all should gain greater understanding of each other.

                What else?

                We have already been talking about conflict resolution and reconciliation processes. One element in the process is the creation of public knowledge of what happened. The past must be dealt with. This includes, of course, the historical facts and the different narratives incorporating those facts, the different meanings of those facts to the different communities. There must be greater such knowledge and understanding of each other.

                A second element is public acknowledgment of those facts and perspectives. Not only do both communities need to tell what happened, and how they understand it, but each party must acknowledge the others narrative -- assuming they believe that the other is being sincere. Such a process can lead to deep understanding and empathy, and eventually to solutions.

                I believe that the achievement of these two elements, truth and acknowledgment would make an enormous, positive difference in the Armenian/Turkish relationship.

                Interview by Aydogan Vatandas
                22 July 2007

                2007-07-22 05:39:44
                "All truth passes through three stages:
                First, it is ridiculed;
                Second, it is violently opposed; and
                Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

                Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


                • Check out the text in bold lettering

                  Nationalism casts shadow over Turkey's poll battle

                  Today's crucial election is pitting the secular against the Islamic. But growing ethnic tensions and violence are emerging that could prove to be the decisive factor

                  Nicholas Birch in Istanbul
                  Sunday July 22, 2007
                  The Observer

                  Standing in front of a crowd in the north-eastern Turkish city of Erzurum, Devlet Bahceli waved a length of greased rope. 'If you can't find any,' he yelled, addressing the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, 'you can hang him with this.'
                  The man he wanted hanged was Abdullah Ocalan, captured in 1999 after the Kurdish separatist war he started had killed an estimated 35,000 people. Turkey sentenced him to death, but under pressure from the EU commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

                  Article continues

                  Turkey today holds perhaps the most important parliamentary elections in its history. The poll was called four months early after the political deadlock over a suitable presidential candidate that paralysed the country in May.
                  The governing AKP has based its campaign on its economic record. The opposition parties have focused on accusing the Islamic-rooted party of threatening Turkey's secular system.

                  But it is the reigniting of the Kurdish conflict, which has killed more than 70 soldiers this summer, that has become the unexpected big issue for voters in today's elections, bolstering nationalist candidates such as Bahceli.

                  Head of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) that is likely to win at least 80 seats in parliament today, his supporters are descendents of the semi-fascistic 'Grey Wolves' of the bloody civil conflict of the 1970s. MHP has mellowed with age. The same cannot be said of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, set up by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, and torch-bearer of his secularist legacy. In the 1990s, at the height of the Kurdish war, CHP wrote one of the most liberal reports on Turkey's gangrenous Kurdish issue. Now, it has slid into overt nationalism, and leads the growing band of Turks opposed to EU membership.

                  'We're a social democratic party,' said CHP spokesman Onur Oymen. He insists that nationalism in Turkey has none of its European connotations of racism. 'It simply means defence of national interests,' he said.

                  It is a curious way of describing the comments of another CHP deputy, Bayram Meral, during recent debates on a law to enable non-Muslim Turks to reclaim properties confiscated by the state. 'What's this law about? It's about giving "Agop" his property back,' Meral railed, using a common Armenian name. 'Congratulations to the government! You ignore the villagers, the workers and the farmers to worry yourself with Agop's business.'

                  CHP opposed the law, as it has opposed countless efforts by Turkey's government to reform a system where the rights of individuals limp in a distant second behind laws protecting the state.

                  Much of the blame for the secularists' slide into authoritarianism lies with Europe, whose growing Islamophobia and bungling over Cyprus has convinced many Turks that their three-year-old accession bid is going nowhere.

                  'I fought all my life for Turkey's EU bid,' says Onur Oymen, a former ambassador to Germany. 'Now some European friends are saying we can only ever expect secondary status. We cannot accept that.'

                  There is much talk of European hypocrisy. but the roots of CHP's malaise are much older. Most left-wing parties are born out of opposition, but CHP began its life as the state, and it retains the authoritarian mindset of the early years of the republic. It increasingly suggests that time can be turned back to the party's 1920s heyday, when Ataturk cut all ties with the Ottoman past and replaced them with imported 'contemporary civilisation'.

                  Onur Oymen is a case in point. 'Is Erdogan capable of doing what Ataturk did?' he angrily replied to a governing party deputy who had the temerity to suggest his party was modern.

                  There was the same sense of time warp at the huge secularist marches in April and May, pointed out by Segolene Royal, unsuccessful candidate in France's recent presidential elections, as evidence that Turkey should join the EU. In fact, the ubiquity of pictures of Ataturk, and the rhetoric, created an atmosphere redolent of the 1920s.

                  'We won the Liberation War despite the fanatics and we won't lose now,' ran one poster, referring to the war leading to Turkey's foundation in 1923. Others had badges reading simply: 'Ataturk will win the war.'

                  'We are today's mad Turks,' schoolteacher Hasan Devecioglu said, referring to a popular novel about the liberation struggle published in 2005. Turgut Ozakman's Those Mad Turks tells of how, while the Sultan and his government collaborated with Great Power plans to carve up Turkey, Ataturk's Turkish nationalists fought from the depths of Anatolia. For today's secularists, it is the pro-Western, pro-market government that is collaborating in foreigners' efforts to divide the country.

                  It all leaves Turks without a viable civilian alternative to AKP. Without the reforms AKP has pushed through, Turkey would not have its place on the ladder to Europe. Since then, it has lost its way. Doubts are growing as to whether it has any vision beyond the criteria defining whether a country is eligible to join the EU.

                  Erdogan appears increasingly irascible, and today's election is unlikely to open the way to change. Polls show the government well ahead and CHP second, similar to the 2002 results that polarised the secular and the religious-minded. Noose-waving Bahceli is set for parliament, and a possible coalition with secularists.

                  It reminds Murat Belge, a prominent left-wing intellectual, of Weimar Germany. 'With its constitution and its government, Weimar represented the high-tide mark of German democracy,' he wrote in the liberal daily Radikal on Friday. 'Within ten years ... Hitler was installed as Chancellor.'

                  The comparison seems unduly pessimistic, but it should ring a warning to Europe, whose ambivalence to Turkey has undermined the reform process.

                  Turkish election: Q & A

                  Why the early poll?

                  Today's voting was brought forward after a deadlock in the political system in May when the governing AKP's (Justice and Development Party) attempt to elect a new President was blocked by judges. The choice - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul - brought millions of secular Turks out in protest and infuriated opposition parties. Gul, whose wife wears the headscarf, was seen as too close to the religious Prime Minister, Recip Tayyip Erdogan.

                  What is at stake?

                  Opposition parties say this is a referendum on a secular or an Islamic state, and that a second term for the AKP threatens the heritage of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular Turkey.

                  The Islamic-rooted AKP says it is a vote for democracy or for authoritarianism. It says five years of annual economic growth and a series of radical reforms will be ruined by disunited opposition groups.

                  But Turkey is not a truly secular state. Religion is not divided from the government. Since the 1980 military coup, schoolchildren attend obligatory religious classes.

                  What have been the issues?

                  AKP swept to power in 2002 thanks to its promise to reform and pull Turkey into Europe. AKP delivered both economic growth and a start to EU negotiations. But the mood today is different. Nobody talks about the EU any more. People are more concerned about unemployment (now high at 10 per cent), the collapse of agriculture and on whether to invade northern Iraq to suppress any violent Kurdish bid for independence. The conviction that Washington supports Iraqi Kurdish goals means anti-Americanism is sky-high, strengthening authoritarian secularist and nationalist calls to break with the West.

                  The tax system is also in chaos - Turkey's unregistered economy is though to be worth almost 50 per cent of GDP.

                  Who are the key players?

                  The AKP has mass support among the religious and conservative population, but says that rather than Islamist it is pluralist - defending the rights of religious Muslims against constitutional restrictions. It backs EU entry, democratic reform and extending the rights of the large Kurdish minority.

                  The main opposition Republican People's Party is left-leaning and firmly secular, sceptical of reforms promoted by the EU and of extending Kurdish rights. It promoted May's mass rallies. The far-right, nationalist National Action Party (MHP) is the only other party likely to overcome the 10 per cent threshold needed to enter parliament. It is hostile to the EU and Kurds, and wants military intervention in northern Iraq to root out bases of the separatist Kurdish PKK group.

                  What results are likely?

                  Most polls suggest AKP will pick up around 40 per cent of today's votes, 6 per cent more than in 2002. The chief opposition RPP party is polling roughly 20 per cent, followed closely by the right-wing nationalists of the National Action Party. The new parliament is also likely to contain at least 20 Kurdish deputies.

                  So with three parties competing this time, AKP is likely to lose seats despite extra votes. It will almost certainly fall short of the two-thirds quorum needed to elect a President and make constitutional changes.
                  General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.


                  • Turks & Tolerance By Joshua Trevio

                    July 27, 2007 10:00 AM

                    Putting Islamist victory in Turkey in context.

                    By Joshua Trevio
                    The ballots are in, and the Turkish electorate this week decisively reelected Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a second term as prime minister in Ankara. Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development party rose to power — first as the Welfare Party, till it was forcibly disbanded, and then in its current guise — amid fears that it would depart from the Kemalist vision that undergirds the modern Turkish state. (The party is more commonly known by its Turkish acronym, “AK.”) Certainly it did not help that he was prone to public statements such as, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers,” nor that he has declared that he seeks God’s forgiveness each time he shakes hands with a woman. When Westerners envision Muslim leaders with whom they may do business, Prime Minister Erdogan is not the sort who comes to mind. Still less, despite his stated ambition for his country, are he and his the men who will lead Turkey into Brussels’ version of “Europe.”

                    But if Turkey’s elected leadership seems an unwelcome religious throwback after decades of familiar generals and gray-suited bureaucrats, and if Turkey itself has not been a model of pluralist democracy under AK rule, neither has it slid backward into the much-feared Islamist grand vision. The popular metaphor for Turkey has it poised between two worlds: Europe on the one side, and Asia on the other. The media narrative in the U.S. and Europe would have us believe that Erdogan and the AK party represent the latter, drawing Turkey away from us in its ambition and program. Their opponents, therefore, are our friends, or at least are benign toward the West. This narrative is simple and comprehensible. It is also false.

                    The reality is that Turkish state and society are precariously balanced between three distinct visions: the aggressive chauvinism of its Kemalist founding; the Islamist ambitions of its resurgent religious consciousness; and the secularist ambitions of its burgeoning entrepreneurial and urban classes. Each of these strands has its pull, and barring unlikely catastrophe, none will wholly dominate the others. For all the ink spilled over the pros and cons of Islamist rule in Turkey, it is the Kemalist element that represents the most meaningful threat to a Turkey that may join Europe. Understanding that threat is key to understanding AK’s victory this past weekend.

                    The maverick Turkish historian Taner Akam, in his book From Empire to Republic, explains the basic premises of the Kemalist worldview. Turkish nationalism as expounded by Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatrk, arose in the context of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. The empire’s loss of territory in Africa and the Arab Middle East was discouraging, but not nearly so traumatic as its dramatic rollback in Europe, where millions of Turks and Islamized Europeans lived. (Atatrk himself was a native of the now-Greek city of Thessaloniki.) As the empire tottered and fell, the Entente powers of the First World War decided to extend the process of dismemberment to Turkey’s Anatolian heartland. The Allies occupied Istanbul; Woodrow Wilson advocated an Armenian state on the eastern third of modern Turkey; France and Italy attempted to carve up southwestern Asia Minor; and most famously, Greece landed an invasion force at Smyrna (modern Izmir) and advanced nearly to Ankara in pursuit of a reborn Byzantine Empire. It was only the organizational and political genius of Mustafa Kemal that saved Turks from having nothing more than a rump state deep in the interior: He cowed the Allies into abandoning the country, and crushed the Greeks in a campaign that ended in the massacre of thousands on the quays of Smyrna.

                    The lesson that Kemal’s Turkish nationalists drew from the trauma of their republic’s birth was twofold: first, that religion in public life is a retrograde force; second, that non-Turks are a tremendous existential danger to Turkey. This outlook contained in itself its own contradiction: the definition of a “Turk” in this context is a Muslim who speaks Turkish. Given the polyglot nature of the Ottoman Empire, this means that those considered Turks are not all ethnically Turkish: Slavic, Caucasian, Arab, and Greek blood are all part of the national heritage. Thus, the Kemalist project attempted to simultaneously suppress faith, and posit faith as the defining characteristic of national identity. Though the state formally recognized non-Muslim citizens, it also suppressed and expelled them as much as possible, in a process beginning with the expulsion of Greeks from Asia Minor in 1923, continuing with the pogrom eliminating the Greek community of Istanbul in 1955, and proceeding into the modern day with the slow push to eliminate the Orthodox Christian Patriarchate in Istanbul. Muslim citizens of the Turkish state would receive similar treatment if they dared seek autonomy — see the Kurds for a prime example — but if they refrained, they were generally left to pursue a quiet existence, as the thriving Arab population of Antakya, near the Syrian border, testifies.

                    The baleful effects of this sort of nationalism are on display today. Religious freedom is severely restricted, and the country has a history of outright prohibition of missionary activity. As previously noted, the Turkish state actively seeks to eliminate the patriarch, senior bishop of the world’s Orthodox Christians, whose place of office has been in Istanbul since a millennium before the Turks conquered that city. A combination of legal restrictions and tightening controls mean that the pool of state-approved candidates for the patriarchate is rapidly shrinking, and unless these policies change, there will probably be no one left to become Patriarch before this century ends. The slow ending of an ancient Christian institution may seem, in the modern media narrative, an ambition of Islamists, and perhaps it is: but the responsibility here is squarely on Turkey’s Kemalist heritage, and its legacy of nationalist paranoia.

                    It is not merely the patriarchate that is under threat: Anyone deviating from the accepted mode of Kemalist Turkishness is liable to harassment or worse. Turkish converts to Christianity Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal are presently on trial under Article 301, a newly drafted (as of 2005) Kemalist legal legacy that prohibits “insulting Turkishness.” Turkish media fixture Kemal Kerincsiz, who is participating in the case, has told the press, “Christian missionaries working almost like terrorist groups are able to enter into high schools and among primary school students … They deceive our children with beautiful young girls.” Though this may sound like Islamist rhetoric, the impetus for the prosecution comes from nationalist adherents of Kemalism who are vastly more concerned with the protection of Turkey than the defense of Islam. Kerincsiz himself represents an element of Kemalism so zealous that he regularly seeks the prosecution of Muslim Turks who do not hew to the strict Kemalist line: the authors Elif Safak and Orhan Pamuk are among many hauled before courts in recent years to defend their fidelity to Turkishness.

                    For all their misfortunes, at least Tastan, Topal, Shafak, and Pamuk are alive. Father Andrea Santoro, a Roman Catholic priest, is not: He was shot dead in the Black Sea city of Trabzon by a Turkish youth motivated by a mixture of nationalist and Islamist sympathies. An April 9, 2006, Washington Post story on the killing laid forth in stark terms the perceived linkage between Turkish patriotism and Islam:

                    [Isa Karatas, spokesman for Turkey’s perhaps 80 evangelical Protestant churches], said fellow Turks often ask him: “‘If there is a war, whose side are you going to fight on?’ I just couldn’t get them to understand that even though I’m a Christian, my feeling for my country is the same. They just don’t understand this.”

                    Behnan Konutgan, an official with the Bible Society in Turkey who has said every Christian is obliged to spread the Good Word, has been arrested repeatedly. “When I am preaching,” he said, “people think I’m an enemy of the country.”

                    That the consequences of this perceived enmity are dire is illustrated in more than just Fr. Santoro’s case. This past April, in the city of Malatya, deep in the eastern Turkish interior, a German minister and two Turkish Christians were tortured and murdered. A July 12, 2007, editorial in Christianity Today described the horrifying event: “The two Christians were bound hand and foot to chairs, and the Muslims began stabbing them, slowly and deliberately … Finally, three hours after the torture began, police were called. The captors then slit the Christians’ throats, killing all three.” The killers’ note explaining the deed was not one of jihad, but of plain Kemalist nationalism: “We did it for our country. They are trying to take our country away, take our religion away.” Within days of the killings, anonymous Turks sympathizing with the murders were reportedly threatening media outlets in Ankara who dared report on the case.

                    Finally, the murder of Istanbul newspaper editor Hrant Dink has attracted some notice in Western media. Dink was Turkish by citizenship, and Armenian by ethnicity — and as such, he was something of an alien figure to both milieus. He made his name by challenging the nationalist tropes of both Turkey and Armenia, demanding that Turkey acknowledge its history of repression, and asking Armenians to let go of their bitterness. For his lifetime of effort, he was repeatedly put on trial, and on January 19th of this year, he was shot dead by a Turkish nationalist youth named Ogn Samast. The killer was swiftly apprehended by authorities clearly sympathetic to his blow for Kemalism: on February 2nd, the Turkish publication Radikal published photographs of Samast in custody, flanked by smiling policemen as he hoisted a Turkish flag. A mere ten days before, a hundred thousand Turks had turned out for Dink’s funeral in Istanbul. In the throng were placards reading, “We are all Hrant Dink.”

                    The hundred thousand of Dink’s funeral are the hope of Turkey’s future: They are the third element of the three-way struggle for the national destiny, mostly young and mostly educated men and women who reject the paranoid strictures and heavy-handed demands of Kemalist nationalism. This past weekend, they mostly voted for Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK party, not because they are Islamists, but because in the Turkish context, it’s not the Islamists who have brought repression to modern Turkey. Though it is true that many of the incidents of Kemalist-inspired repression cited here occurred under Islamist governments in Ankara, past and present, it must be understood that the Turkish parallel state, in which the military and nationalist elder figures assume the role of guardian of the republic, remains tremendously strong — and the Kemalist ethic is profoundly powerful and enduring. Even in leadership, the AK party is not able to impose a non-Kemalist society upon Turkey any more than American Democrats may work their unfettered will as a Congressional majority.

                    Our true friends in Turkey are neither the Kemalist nationalists nor the Islamists, but the post-nationalist secularists who enliven Istanbul’s trendy districts, populate the Aegean resorts, and produce the literary genius of the likes of Pamuk. For now, that group has endorsed the AK party’s Islamists. It is a choice we should respect — even as we hope for more.

                    This is not to be nave or starry-eyed about Erdogan or the Islamists. They may proclaim their desire to join the European Union, and they may model themselves after the Christian Democrats in Europe. But Islam and Christianity make rather different claims on the state and society; and we should have enough experience with political Islam by now to regard it with wary skepticism until given reason to trust. And — let us note — we do not know whether, in a generation’s time, Turkish minorities may still be repressed, only in Islam’s name rather than Mustafa Kemal’s. This is regrettably possible, but it is not inevitable. If Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to show that it will not happen, than he would do well to begin by listening to the message of the hundred thousand of Hrant Dink. He could give the patriarchate in Istanbul its liberty; he could give Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal their freedom; and he could seek the old Ottoman tradition of social pluralism over the Kemalist legacy of homogenization. It would not be an easy thing for him to do — but it would be right.

                    — Joshua Trevio is the vice president for public policy at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, California. He has professional experience in the Muslim world in Asia and Africa. In fall 2006, he led a delegation to attend the papal-patriarchal events in Istanbul, Turkey.
                    "All truth passes through three stages:
                    First, it is ridiculed;
                    Second, it is violently opposed; and
                    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

                    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


                    • Still a big "no"


                      Agence France Presse -- English
                      July 30, 2007 Monday 11:05 AM GMT
                      Diyarbakir, Turkey

                      Turkish prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to three years for
                      two Kurdish mayors and 17 aldermen who introduce Kurdish and other
                      languages in office, court officials said Monday.

                      According to the constitution, Turkish is the sole official
                      language and no other languages can be used in government offices
                      and municipalities.

                      The accused include Osman Baydemir, one of Turkey's most popular
                      Kurdish politicians and the mayor of Diyarbakir, the main city in
                      the Kurdish-majority southeast.

                      The other politician charged is Abdullah Demirbas, who was removed
                      last month from his post as mayor of Sur, Diyarbakir's multi-ethnic
                      old town, after the city council in January allowed the use of Kurdish,
                      Armenian, Arabic, Assyriac and English in municipal services.

                      The charge sheet accused the defendants of "abuse of office" and
                      sought prison sentences ranging from one to three years.

                      The trial of Baydemir, Demirbas and the 17 city councilmen who voted
                      for the municipal bill is scheduled to begin on November 7.

                      Diyarbakir's governor, Ankara's top representative in the area,
                      has asked a district court to scrap the multi-lingual service.

                      Anakara has in recent years -- under European Union pressure to
                      improve its human rights record -- legalised broadcasts in Kurdish
                      and allowed private institutions to teach the Kurdish language.

                      The law, however, still requires Kurds to use solely Turkish, the
                      only official language, in official communications and politics.

                      Kurdish activists insists that Kurdish should be taught in schools
                      and used in all spheres of public life.

                      Ankara fears that broader Kurdish cultural freedoms may embolden
                      the armed separatist campaign of Kurdish rebels fighting the central
                      government since 1984. The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
                      General Antranik (1865-1927): I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.