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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PKK-Turkish Military Clashes (Video)

The escalation of violence between PKK and Turkish military forces in eastern Anatolia continues. Euronews reports (see video below) on a PKK attack on Turkish forces that killed 24 or 26 soldiers (I get different figures from different reports) and wounded almost as many.

As the report notes, Turkish forces pursued PKK fighters far into Iraqi territory - Bloomberg claims that they pushed as far at 4 kilometers into Iraq - and were supported by warplanes that bombed PKK positions.

The attack and retaliation follow a statement from the jailed PKK leader - Abdullah Öcalan or "Apo" - delivered yesterday by his brother, who had visited him on İmralı island. According to the statement, Öcalan argues that "At this stage, the key is in the hands of state authorities, not ours. Negotiations will continue and everything could change in the coming process if they open the door" (from Today's Zaman). 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The TurkEU Blog now over 10 000 views

I wasn't really paying attention so I missed the fact that The TurkEU Blog passed 10 000 views a few days ago! Thanks for visiting and come back often!

Screenshot from 10/16/2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Armenia row hits Turkish-French relations | EurActiv

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
A Franco-Turkish row is erupting over Sarkozy's demand during a visit to Armenia on October 7 that Turkey recognize the Armenian Genocide before the end of his term as President. Turkey's EU minister Egemen Bağış reacted strongly, suggesting that Sarkozy should concentrate on the Euro crisis rather than play historian.

The EurActiv article has links to other sources on the issue.

Armenia row hits Turkish-French relations | EurActiv

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For Europe, a Bridge Too Far to Turkey |

I never blogged about this NYT article by John Vinocur, though I spotted it a little over a week ago. Perhaps because it rather annoyed me. In fact, I am disturbed by the very opening sentence:
There was always, at least for its critics, something preposterous about the idea of Turkey entering the European Union.
It meant, in their eyes, Europe literally extending its frontiers to the borders of Iran, Syria and Iraq, and the E.U. adding to its membership a predominantly Muslim country whose population would soon give it the biggest number of seats in the European Parliament. 
Sure, Vinocur is just conveying what Turkey's critics have been saying, but he doesn't seem very eager to examine these assumptions critically.

And with that skeptical opening, Turkey's "turning away" from the EU becomes quite a natural return to an equilibrium:
Turkey’s new stance gives Europe (with Germany and France opposing full Turkish membership) a respectable alibi and respite from an issue it cannot easily solve. But in the process, the door closes on the goal of integrating Turkey into a European-led geopolitical and economic order.
Here, Vinocur does sound vaguely critical, but then, apparently, the blame can be placed rather easily in one corner:
it is the Turks who are forcing the E.U. to turn away from its candidacy.
Given a) that the idea of Turkish EU membership was apparently always preposterous, b) that this is now prospect is now apparently dead, and c) that it is apparently only Turkey's fault that this is so, Vinocur continues:
“The majority of Europe welcomes the moment, thinking, ‘Great, the Turkey thing is off the table,”’ said a Brussels official whose country backs Turkish entry. He added, “We think Turkey is worth it, and that they’re a real risk if they sail off into the distance.”
 All the same, a new distance has unspoken pluses.
 The apocalyptic notion of Europe being overrun by Turkish Muslims, brandished by right-wing populists like Geert Wilders of the Netherlands — Turkey’s rapidly growing population is approaching 80 million — is deflated as a hysteria-making political argument.
OK, that sounds good. The right-wing populist hysteria is proven wrong. But wait a minute - why? Well, as far as I can tell from the piece, not primarily because they were wrong about their analysis of what would happen if Turkey joined the EU. Their apocalyptic visions won't come true because Turkey won't join the EU! Vinocur is (perhaps unwittingly) pretty much embracing the right-wing argument, or at the very least not challenging it.

Admittedly, I am not really doing Vinocur justice, so you should read the piece for yourselves. It has more going for it that I am letting on and there's good reason to be critical of Erdoğan's administration in many respects. If nothing else, the article is worth reading because it is indicative of the emerging consensus around an increasingly pessimistic view of Turkey's EU membership prospects and around the "going East" narrative.

I also understand that it is hard to write sophisticated and nuanced analyses under the kind of time-pressure that correspondents face (but the same goes for bloggers who have full time jobs so I guess that would excuse my one-sided reading of the piece).

Regardless, I can't help but be annoyed. Some historical perspective on the issue would serve Vinocur well.

For Europe, a Bridge Too Far to Turkey -

Saturday, October 8, 2011

US Islamophobia is Alive and Thriving (Video)

Talking Point Memo (TPM) has some Islamophobic "highlights" from a speech Saturday by a man they describe as a US "Conservative shock jock" (i.e. controversial talk radio host): Bryan Fischer.

At the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington DC, Fischer rattled off such statements as "The greatest long-term threat to our security and liberty is not radical Islam, but Islam itself" and was frequently interrupted by applause and loud audience cheers.

Other memorable observations included his assessment that:
Every single Mosque in America is a potential recruiting or training cell for Islamic terror.
This sounds just a tad exaggerated, until you realize why he believes that this is so:
I believe it's important that we have a president who understands that Islam is not a religion of peace, but a religion of war and violence and death.
What does one say? If this is not hate- and fear mongering, what is? Here is a man who has been given a podium and pulpit at the center of US politics, who essentially tells Americans to fear all Muslims, especially those who are pious. This is crossing the line. Unfortunately, it is also quite revealing.

Some might dismiss this and say: who cares what some crazy joe schmoe says at some random event? But Fischer is not only a popular radio host, but also (according to Wikipedia) the Director of Issues Analysis for an organization called the American Family Association (AFA). And the Values Voter Summit is far from a minor event. The scheduled speaker list is a veritable who's who of Conservative (Republican) politics: Rick Perry, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rick Santorum etc.

The speaker who went immediately before Fischer? Only the GOP Presidential front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Conservative Shock Jock Reels Off Islamophobia's Greatest Hits | TPMMuckraker

Monday, October 3, 2011

Islamic Community Center Opened on Manhattan

Remember all the hoopla about the proposed Islamic Community Center on lower Manhattan (a.k.a the Ground Zero Mosque) last year?

Well, it opened rather quietly a little less than two weeks ago. The center kicked off with an exhibition by Jewish-American photographer, Danny Goldfield. The exhibit, "NYC Children," featured portraits of children from 169 countries, all living in NYC. The local online newspaper reports:
Goldfield attended the opening Wednesday night, along with Rana Sodhi, a Sikh whose brother was murdered in a hate crime four days after 9/11, and whose efforts to fight prejudice in the wake of the crime inspired Goldfield's project.

Sodhi, who spoke haltingly, but emotionally, said it was appropriate for Park51 to open so close to the site of the 9/11 attacks, replacing the hatred of that day with a message of tolerance.

"We are together here today at Park51 to show the world we are still united and we respect each other," Sodhi said.
Here's a link to an AP story (on NPR's website), and to the community center's own web site: Park51
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