Brave New Turkey
Two visions for the future of Turkey collide: that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who wants to create a religious state, and that of President Abdullah Gül, who believes in a pluralist regime, in which every belief and culture can find a place.
Since last June's Gezi Park demonstrations, which spread to most of Turkey, there has been no limit to the Turkish AKP (Justice and Development Party) government's paranoid attempts to suppress potential opposition. According to the Turkish press, the latest move is a new regulation, introduced jointly by the justice and interior ministries, that will allow the police to detain anyone they suspect will stage a protest from 12 to 24 hours without a court decision.
The outcry from the opposition, who spoke of "a police state" and "a return to the Inquisition," has caused Prime Minister Erdoğan to deny the reports and claim they were a fabrication.
But the mind boggles. What else does the AKP government have in mind? The creation of thought police, who would be authorized to round up and detain artists, journalists, academics and other government critics for crimes that they might commit? Or the introduction of religious police, as in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Gaza, to ensure that the population abides by the moral codes approved of by the government?
Last week, in another step towards creating an "advanced democracy," Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, unveiled a long awaited democratization package -- however, journalists present were not allowed to ask questions. The main aim was to allow fuller freedoms for Turkey's restive Kurds, although the proposed reforms -- including a reduction of the electoral threshold, the right to education in Kurdish at private schools and financial support for small political parties -- fell far short of their ultimate demand for regional autonomy.
Another important reform, which will satisfy Erdoğan's electoral base, is the removal of the headscarf ban for employees in public offices -- apart from judges, prosecutors, police officers and members of the armed forces. In the light of the latest move by the justice and interior ministries, the proposal to allow meetings and demonstrations in open areas until sunset and in closed spaces until midnight seems illusory.
Keeping in mind the recent 10-month prison sentence handed out to the pianist Fazil Say for blasphemy, it is also notable that the punishment for hate crimes will be increased from one to three years. It is believed that the proposal may be revised to allow for changes in the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law, leading to the release of Kurds imprisoned for their membership of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The AKP government's main preoccupation is the outcome of the local elections in March, as they will determine Prime Minister Erdoğan's level of support since last June's demonstrations. However, as this mainly comes from the urban grassroots in Istanbul and Ankara as well as rural Anatolia -- and not the urban middle class, who were behind the demonstrations -- he can still count on their support. It is for this reason the Kurdish vote, either for the AKP or the Kurdish BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], is important and in particular to secure the BDP's support for the government.
Now that Erdoğan's plans for an executive style of presidency have proven to be a non-starter, the question is what the prime minister's next move will be: his third term of office runs out in 2015.
President Abdullah Gül's term of office, however, runs out next August; and at the conclusion of his speech at the opening of parliament last week, he indicated that he might run for a second term of office.
The president's speech, in fact, marked the difference in approach between Gül and his old colleague and co-founder of the AKP, Erdoğan. Gül viewed the peaceful demonstrations of the young people at Gezi Park as "a new manifestation of our democratic maturity" and warned against Turkey's increasing polarization. He further emphasized that the separation of powers, a free press, and an effective opposition are also among the indispensable elements of democracy.
Not only in the Turkish parliament but also in international fora, Gül sounds more like a statesman than a politician. At the U.N. General Assembly, Gül warned of the threat posed by extremist groups to the prospects of a peaceful solution in Syria, and at the Istanbul Forum he repeated that the combination of geopolitical interests and ethno-sectarian identity politics could carry the Islamic world back to the dark ages similar to those in Europe.
Once again, Gül stated his belief that there is no dichotomy between Islam and democracy; in his view, a pluralist regime, in which every belief and culture can find a place, is attractive for all. There is no doubt that Gül can talk the talk, but if it comes to a contest with Erdoğan, the question is whose vision for Turkey will prevail.
Robert Ellis, a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute, is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press.
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|Islam and Turkey [32 words]||Sima Arnett||Oct 27, 2013 19:54|
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by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.
by Soeren Kern
European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.
by Shoshana Bryen
Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.
"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.
"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK.
by Irfan Al-Alawi
"Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi" is Abu Du'a, a follower of the late Osama Bin Laden. By adding the name "Al-Qurayshi" in his current alias, he is also seeking to affirm descent from Muhammad.
The allegation of theological sovereignty over all Sunnis extends to Indonesia and Morocco. The idea that the borders between Syria and Iraq will be dissolved by the new "caliphate" defies all Islamic theology and history. As the Qur'an states, "Allah "made the nations and tribes different." (49:13) Syria and Iraq have been distinct for millennia.
The "Islamic State" seeks to obliterate these diverse identities by expelling or killing all Shias and Sunni Sufis. And it does not invoke the Ottoman caliphate in its propaganda, demonstrating decisively the fake nature of the "Islamic State."
A caliphate is obsolete and the "Islamic State" is totalitarian. All Sunnis need to repudiate them soundly, even by force of arms.