May 17th, 2013
A lot can change in two years, and—looking back on my first few posts in May and June of 2011—I would say that a lot has changed. This is not to say that the Syrian crisis has been resolved, that energy pipelines have become less crucial, or that Arabs have stopped watching Turkish soap operas, but that the blog itself has changed. Where the first year primarily made “news analysis” its goal, the second year was unapologetically less focused. Though I still posted the occasional headline as a sort of mental bookmark, it was rarely accompanied by meaningful analysis. As of this writing, I haven’t read a newspaper properly in several months.
What the missing “news analysis” was supposed to be replaced by was “on-the-ground experience.” But even this didn’t regularly make its way to the blog, especially after my trusty laptop unceremoniously kicked the bucket. I described myself as “cut loose.” I hardly know how to categorize what has happened in the meantime, but it has led me to a number of interesting places and situations: Like conversations with communists outside rickety bars, late-night fights with kitchen-knife-wielding cab drivers, and short stays in seedy Trabzon hotels. Or like this desk with this old computer and this Turkish keyboard (getting used to it) on this hill overlooking a halogen-lit Ankara.
It also led me to a hard-hitting realization.
With my attempt “to actually start using the blog’s ‘Culture’ category” still a matter of great difficulty, it should have been obvious: I was missing the most crucial aspect of the culture—the language. Greetings, transaction terminology, and a basic grasp of grammar may be enough to blend in with the crowd, but it’s apparently not enough to know what the crowd is thinking. If Turks think in Turkish, then understanding Turkey requires a real understanding of Turkish. By now it seems obvious, it having been beaten into my head unrelentingly for the past six months, but it had never seemed as crucial as it does now. Accordingly, this post will be the first in the “Language” category, which will likely have a significant—if not central—role in the future of the blog.
But despite these obvious shifts in the method, or the means, of the blog; I’d like to emphasize—as I did last year today—that the aim, the end, remains the same:
This is merely an outlet, and a motivation, for thought. The reader is welcome to engage in, and improve on, this thought.
A sign in the window of a closed-down shop in Urfa reads: “Syrian money accepted.”
The sign was, presumably, the first and last of its kind.
Turkey favorable if Greek Cyprus wishes to switch to Turkish Lira: EU Minister
Hürriyet; Mar. 23rd, 2013
Turkey would support an eventual transition to the use of the Turkish Cyprus Lira in Greek Cyprus, the currency in the northern part of the island, should Greek Cyprus be forced to exit the eurozone, EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış said, March 22.
An excerpt from Şerif Mardin‘s Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought, p. 302:
All considered, Namık Kemal’s political system is based on a peculiar idea of the state as a rather amorphous entity, but some of the peculiarity of this approach vanishes when its origins are investigated. The Islamic roots of this attitude can be stated as follows: Nothing in the Koran indicates that a state is to be formed which has been granted the right to protect itself or foster its own growth qua state, i.e., without reference to the individuals who make it up. One of the things that never permeated Islam was a real theory of the state. This is the meaning of Namık Kemal’s use of the term “community” when European writers would have used the term “state.”
And from Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Alternative Paradigms, p. 192:
The philosophical foundations of the Hegelian nation-state were absolutely alien to Madinan political imagination because it is impossible to mention the existence of a transcendental and abstract understanding of state which is independent from the existence of the society and superior to it in this first political society in Islamic history. Institutionalization of power was assumed as a political instrument to realize the ethical and social ideals of the belief system. Hence, political mechanisms to control individuals and society on behalf of the state could not emerge and exist within the framework and environment of this political mentality.
The politically necessary façade of confrontation, post Mavi Marmara, would not have served anyone’s interests as Turkish influence comes geographically nearer and nearer to Israel. A timely concession (here):
AMMAN, Jordan — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday apologized in a personal phone call to Turkey’s prime minister for a deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship in 2010, in a sudden reconciliation between the two countries that was partly brokered by President Obama during his visit to Israel this week, according to Israeli, Turkish and American officials.
In the call, Mr. Netanyahu expressed regret for the raid, which took place as Israeli troops were enforcing an aid embargo on Gaza, and offered compensation, Turkish and Israeli officials said. And after years of holding out for a public apology for the deaths, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accepted Israel’s gesture in the phone call.
Afterward, officials from both countries said that diplomatic relations had been fully restored and that ambassadors would be reinstated.
“We have reached the point where the guns must be silenced and where ideas must speak. A new era has started, where it is politics, not guns, which is at the forefront.”
Which is all well and good, but calls into question whose politics, exactly, will be at the forefront. A sensible prediction is that with Öcalan’s letter begins a hurried process of horse-trading between the Kurds and the AKP government, which has reined in the military in preparation for such talks. Though significant concessions regarding Kurdish rights — such as language — may be made, of real significance will be the means by which such concessions are made.
Likely, this will be the start of the AKP’s efforts to reform the constitution in its favor — a bid for the much-spoken-of presidential system. With cooperation from the Kurdish ministers (nobody else wants to help), constitutional referendi become a real possibility. Either way, the Kurds will remain a minority in parliament, so this is their chance to bargain for whatever they conceive of as “ethnic rights.” Meanwhile, the AKP will try to seize a guarantor of its own power stability through a more suitable constitution.