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 Burak Bekdil
The Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, along with other terrorist groups.
The Financial Task Force, an international body setting the standards for combating terrorist financing, ruled that Turkey should remain in its "gray list."
While NATO wishes to reinforce its outreach to democracies such as Australia and Japan, Turkey is trying to forge wider partnerships with the Arab world, Russia, China, Central Asia, China, Africa and -- and with a bunch of terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Nusrah Front.
Being NATO's only Muslim member was fine. Being NATO's only Islamist member ideologically attached to the Muslim Brotherhood is quite another thing.
by Samuel Westrop
British politicians seem to be trapped in an endless debate over how to curb both violent and non-violent extremism within the Muslim community.
A truly useful measure might be to end the provision of state funding and legitimacy to terror-linked extremist charities.
by Soeren Kern
"My son and I love life with the beheaders." — British jihadist Sally Jones.
Mujahidah Bint Usama published pictures of herself on Twitter holding a severed head while wearing a white doctor's jacket; alongside it, the message: "Dream job, a terrorist doc."
British female jihadists are now in charge of guarding as many as 3,000 non-Muslim Iraqi women and girls held captive as sex slaves.
"The British women are some of the most zealous in imposing the IS laws in the region. I believe that's why at least four of them have been chosen to join the women police force." — British terrorism analyst Melanie Smith.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
"Armed robbery in broad daylight." — Palestinians, after Hamas "seized" $750,000 from Gaza bank.
Fatah accused Hamas of "squandering" $700 million of financial aid earmarked for the Palestinian victims of war. Fatah wants to ensure that the millions of dollars intended for the Gaza Strip will pass through its hands and not end up in Hamas's bank accounts. Relying on Fatah in this regard is like asking a cat to guard the milk.
The head of the Palestinian Authority's Anti-Corruption Commission revealed that his group has retrieved $70 million of public funds fund embezzled by Palestinian officials. Arab and Western donors need to make sure that their money does not end up (once again) in the wrong hands. Without a proper mechanism of accountability and transparency, hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to find their way into the bank accounts of both Hamas and Fatah leaders.
by Mudar Zahran
"If Hamas does not like you for any reason all they have to do now is say you are a Mossad agent and kill you." — A., a Fatah member in Gaza.
"Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar." — T., former Hamas Ministry officer.
"They would fire rockets and then run away quickly, leaving us to face Israeli bombs for what they did." — D., Gazan journalist.
"Hamas imposed a curfew: anyone walking out in the street was shot. That way people had to stay in their homes, even if they were about to get bombed. Hamas held the whole Gazan population as a human shield." — K., graduate student
"The Israeli army allows supplies to come in and Hamas steals them. It seems even the Israelis care for us more than Hamas." — E., first-aid volunteer.
"We are under Hamas occupation, and if you ask most of us, we would rather be under Israeli occupation… We miss the days when we were able to work inside Israel and make good money. We miss the security and calm Israel provided when it was here." — S., graduate of an American university, former Hamas sympathizer.