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
Where Turkey stands today is a perfect example of how, when Islamists -- mild or otherwise -- rule a county, even the most basic liberties are systematically suppressed.
"A climate of fear has emerged in Turkey." — Hasam Kilic, President, Turkey's Constitutional Court.
The prosecutor demanded a heavier penalty for the victim than for her torturers.
The European Commission identified government interference in the judiciary and bans imposed on social media as the major sources of concern regarding Turkey's candidacy for full membership.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."