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[nebukhadhnasar@yahoo.com: Turkish events]

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  • thekoba@aztec.asu.edu
    ================= Begin forwarded message ================= From: nebukhadhnasar@yahoo.com (Abdallah Tahhan) To: thekoba@aztec.asu.edu Subject: Turkish events
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2002
      ================= Begin forwarded message =================

      From: nebukhadhnasar@... (Abdallah Tahhan)
      To: thekoba@...
      Subject: Turkish events
      Date: Sun, 3 Nov 2002 19:27:07 -0800 (PST)

      Dear Kevin,

      It looks like the Islamicist party is headed to a
      powerful win in the Turkish elections. This is
      possibly good news, since they are the least likely to
      support a US attack on Iraq. On the other hand, these
      Islamicists have been heavily watered down from
      previous parties that were banned one after the other
      for violating the secular nature of the state.

      Unfortunately the Turkish left seems to be in total
      disarray. There are a few "left of center parties"
      which means social democrats that accept NATO,
      "Israel" and capitalism, and there are lots of tiny
      ultra-leftist splinter groups that don't seem able to
      do anything other than write firely pamphlets.

      Anyhow, here are a couple stories from the pro-Western
      Turkish daily news on events there.

      By the way, to give you an idea of the inflation that
      the Turks have been experiencing, when I was in Turkey
      in 1992, the exchange rate for the Turkish lira was:

      LT 5,400 = US$1.

      Now it appears to be something like:

      TL 1,650,000 = US$1.

      Obviously that can wipe out lots of people.




      Former pro-Islamists leading polls in elections
      Polls show that the Justice anddevelopment Party is
      likely to capture 30 percent of the vote. Its closest
      rival, the left-of-center Republican People's Party,
      is polling about 20 percent. No incumbent party,
      including Ecevit's, is polling above 10 percent, the
      threshold for entering Parliament.


      Louis Meixler
      Voters at an election rally shout "We love you" and
      toss carnations at Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's most
      popular politician, whose party dominates all polls in
      the run-up to Sunday's national elections.

      But Erdogan, the former pro-Islamic mayor of Istanbul,
      is banned from serving in Parliament, and a Turkish
      court is discussing whether to outlaw his party.

      Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have
      their roots in Turkey's pro-Islamic movement. Although
      both say they have evolved and are not promoting an
      Islamic agenda, the secular establishment is

      They fear that the party will try to undermine the
      foundations of the pro-Western secular state and will
      heighten tensions with the military, which regards
      itself as the guardian of secularism and has led three

      "There are parties that are hiding their intentions,"
      Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Thursday. The
      Justice and Development Party "is first in this
      respect," he said.

      But Turkish voters, suffering from the country's worst
      economic crisis in four decades, are so fed up with
      politics as usual that they are flocking to Erdogan's
      party, which emphasizes social welfare.

      Polls show that the party is likely to capture 30
      percent of the vote. Its closest rival, the
      left-of-center Republican People's Party, is polling
      about 20 percent. No incumbent party, including
      Ecevit's, is polling above 10 percent, the threshold
      for entering Parliament.

      Justice party leaders say their program emphasizes
      social justice and conservative values and they do not
      mention religion in their speeches. They also now
      support Turkey's drive for membership in the European

      "We are not making religiously-oriented propaganda,"
      Erdogan said in an interview in his party office in

      Party members only half-jokingly call themselves
      "Muslim Democrats" after the Christian Democrats of
      Europe and say that a party with an Islamic flavor
      that is not radical could become a bridge between
      Europe and the Middle East at a time when Islamic
      radicalism is on the rise.

      The vote comes at a crucial time for Turkey.

      Washington is looking to Turkey for support of a
      possible invasion of neighboring Iraq. The United
      States also sees a secular and democratic Turkey as a
      role model for other Muslim countries and strongly
      encouraged Turkey to take its current position as
      leader of the international peacekeeping mission in

      The European Union is expecting Turkey to carry out
      dramatic reforms before the country can reach its goal
      of membership in the bloc.

      And the Turkish economy is struggling to emerge from a
      crushing recession that has left 2 million unemployed.

      For most voters, the elections are about the economy
      and change; the Justice and Development Party was only
      established last year and has never served in

      "None of the other parties that came before did
      anything," said Yunus Tarim, 22, who works in a store
      selling coal-burning stoves used as heaters by
      Ankara's poor. "We haven't tried this party before."

      Erdogan, 48, is in any ways a symbol of the successes
      and failures of political Islam in Turkey.

      The former Istanbul-area soccer player was elected
      mayor of Istanbul in 1994 as a candidate from a
      pro-Islamic party.

      He angered secularists by banning alcohol in
      municipality cafes and his party opposed entry into
      the EU.

      But even his critics say he ran the city well and he
      earned a reputation for fighting corruption.

      His Welfare Party was forced from national government
      in 1997 under pressure from the military and later
      outlawed by the courts for opposing secularism.

      Erdogan was jailed in 1999 for four months for reading
      a poem that said: "Minarets are our bayonets, domes
      are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers
      are our soldiers."

      A court deemed that the poem incited religious hatred.
      After his release, Erdogan helped form the Justice
      party, gathering reformist members of the Islamic
      movement who were more focused on the party's social
      welfare programs than religion.

      "Erdogan has seen that the people will not vote for
      you if you are an Islamist and you attack secularism
      or are confrontational," said Soner Cagatay, an
      analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East

      But the establishment is hardly convinced that
      Erdogan's change of heart is genuine.

      The national election board says Erdogan cannot serve
      in Parliament due to his conviction.

      A court also ordered Erdogan to step down as party
      leader and is now looking at closing the party due to
      his refusal to step down.

      Many critics point out that many of the party's
      activists were members of earlier pro-Islamic parties.
      They fear that if the party wins, the activists may
      press for a more religious agenda, which would anger a
      military that has already forced one pro-Islamic party
      from power.

      At a rally in Ankara, Erdogan spoke for an hour to
      supporters, not once mentioning religion.

      Standing on a platform wearing a white oxford shirt
      with the sleeves rolled up, Erdogan spoke of the harsh
      economic conditions and the need for relief for
      Turkey's poor.

      He promised running water in every home, lower prices
      for fuel for farmers and more jobs.

      The crowd cheered wildly as Erdogan spoke, tossing
      carnations at him and chanting "Prime Minister Tayyip,
      Prime Minister Tayyip."

      But the crowd of 15,000 was overwhelmingly male. The
      few women there almost all wore Islamic-style head
      scarves. Most also stood in groups separately from the

      Ankara - The Associated Press


      Growing gap between rich and poor threatens social
      stability in Turkey
      The gap between Turkey's rich and poor, which has been
      growing for the past decade, has widened dramatically
      since a financial crisis last year cut most incomes
      sharply. The crisis, Turkey's worst since World War
      II, sliced the value of the currency and added 2
      million more people to the ranks of the jobless.


      James C. Helicke
      Young bleached-blonde women in tight, designer clothes
      and freshly shaven, gel-haired men eagerly line up
      outside Reina, a posh nightclub for Istanbul's rich
      and famous.

      They are ready to foot a bill that can run into
      hundreds of dollars, but the club isn't big enough to
      let everyone inside.

      Meanwhile, Sezgin Cakmak waits outside a factory
      hoping for a night job upholstering furniture for 5
      million Turkish lira (US$3) an evening. Like millions
      of others, he waits in long lines every day for
      state-subsidized bread. And he's sick of waiting for
      things to get better.

      "If it's not me who kills or robs somebody rich, it's
      going to be somebody else," says the father of two.

      That kind of discontent is expected to play out in
      Sunday's national elections. The parties in Prime
      Minister Bulent Ecevit's coalition government are
      faring so poorly that none may get a seat in
      parliament. A new party with Islamic roots that
      stresses social justice and clean government is
      leading in the polls, appealing to Turks who are tired
      of poverty, corruption and traditional politics.

      "We're stuck in the mud, and we've got donkeys in
      parliament," Cakmak says.

      Like millions of others, he earns an average of 180
      million lira (US$110) per month - less than some drop
      in a single night at Reina.

      The gap between Turkey's rich and poor, which has been
      growing for the past decade, has widened dramatically
      since a financial crisis last year cut most incomes
      sharply. The crisis, Turkey's worst since World War
      II, sliced the value of the currency and added 2
      million more people to the ranks of the jobless.

      Many of the rich, who often earn in dollars or have
      dollar savings, have escaped the misery, unlike the
      estimated 60 percent of the population that lives
      below the poverty line.

      The gap is most evident in Istanbul, home to about a
      sixth of Turkey's 68 million people, including its
      richest and some of its poorest.

      "There's deep disillusionment with the status quo,"
      said Ziya Onis, a political scientist at Istanbul's
      Koc University. "The impact of the crisis will be felt
      in the elections."

      Experts say the income gap and the increasing
      desperation of the poor have led to an increase in
      crimes that were rarities here - drive-by muggings,
      carjackings and bank-robberies. Violent crime,
      however, is still extremely rare in Turkey.

      Despite the tensions, most experts agree that there is
      little risk of serious social unrest. Turkey's strong
      family structure and religious networks - and
      Istanbul's proliferating black-market economy which
      has provided some respite for millions of people -
      have all helped to keep social tensions from

      "The poor are getting poorer and don't have any hope,"
      said Tolga Ediz, an analyst for Lehman Brothers in
      London. The upper class "has been trying to shut
      itself off from that reality.... They're afraid."

      Social conflict has been rare in Turkey, which has
      never experienced a popular uprising against the state
      and has a centuries-long tradition of strong central

      The last time there was fighting in the streets - from
      the late 1970s until 1980 - the military intervened to
      crush left- and right-wing groups that were battling
      each other. Thousands of people were arrested and
      dozens hanged.

      Fear of Turkey's strong-handed police also keeps
      unrest to a minimum. A report by parliament's human
      rights commission two years ago showed pictures of
      soundproofed torture cells in police stations.

      Still, Istanbul's prosperous aren't taking any chances
      on social instability.

      Security firms have experienced record growth during
      the financial crisis, which saw the economy shrink by
      9.4 percent last year.

      Group 4 Security in Istanbul, for example, has doubled
      its work force from 600 to 1,200 since the year 2000
      and is looking for similarly strong growth this year.

      "The future is great," Jozef Ventura, the company's
      managing director said.

      But for Cakmak the future might not be so bright.

      While the crowd at Reina's may drive luxury cars, he
      walks more than an hour to work each day because he no
      longer can afford a one million-lira (US 60 cents) bus

      "I go to bed hungry and thank God when my stomach is
      full," Cakmak said.

      Istanbul - The Associated Press

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