28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for September 2011

Turks not amused by cartoon

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How does a year in prison for apostasy or heresy sound? Excuse me—a year in prison for “insulting the religious values adopted by a part of the population.” It wouldn’t seem all that bad, really, if it weren’t happening in a nominally secular state.

Turkish cartoonist Ömer Bahadır Baruter is in a lot of hot water for covertly declaring that “There is no Allah, religion is a lie” in a Penguen cartoon.

The obvious question: Is atheism, too, a “religious value” adopted by part of the population? It certainly seems so. Hopefully, the atheists will start suing the faithful for their objectionable, insulting acts of—uh—faith.

Written by M. James

September 29, 2011 at 2:03 am

C is for Cyprus

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I mentioned Turkey’s “Plan C” in relation to Israel in this post. The following is from Reuters (a few weeks ago already). Two birds with one stone?

Some Turkish and Israeli commentators have suggested Turkey might use the feud with Israel to build up naval patrols in seas between the Jewish state and the divided island of Cyprus.

Turkey has bitterly complained about recent Cypriot-Israeli energy deals and the presence of Turkish ships would have a menacing effect.

Turkey and Cyprus have been at odds for decades over the ethnically split island, whose internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government is an EU member. Turkish Cypriots live in a breakaway state in northern Cyprus only recognized by Turkey.

Asked about exploratory drilling for natural gas by Greek Cypriots, Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s European Union minister, told Turkish media last week: “It is for this (reason) that countries have warships. It is for this (reason) that we have equipment and we train our navies.”

Written by M. James

September 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

Tagged with , , , , ,

The best-laid “Plans” of Erdoğan

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It’s all happened so quickly:

The UN report on the Mavi Marmara incident was released, Israel didn’t apologize or make reparations, and Turkey promptly made good on its threats, putting into action “Plan B,” (which already demanded an end to the Gaza blockade) and now “Plan C.” Then Erdoğan ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying that the Israeli government is “the biggest obstacle against peace in the Middle East”  and that recognizing a Palestinian state in the UN is “not an option, [but] an obligation.” He said this in Cairo, of all places, at an Arab League summit. Quite a way to kick off his “‘Arab Spring’ tour.”

T-shirts and memorabilia available. But no concessions. (Reuters)

When Erdoğan was talking about having “Plans,” he wasn’t kidding. The plan for the last few weeks has clearly been drafted, redrafted, and drafted again. And Erdoğan has been executing it flawlessly. Israel is, all of a sudden, very alone as it faces the serious danger of a resentful (is that even the word?) Palestinian state springing up next door.

But how long, exactly, has this been in the works?

The following is from a post by Howard Eissenstat, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History at St. Lawrence University. He claims that the Islamic Turkish NGO,  The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), has a very close working relationship with the AKP:

Despite claims that it had no role to play, there is little question that the Turkish government supported the flotilla, facilitating the IHH’s purchase of the Mavi Marmara ferryboat from the AKP-controlled Istanbul Municipal Government.

But why, oh why, would the Turkish government support the fateful voyage of the Mavi Marmara? Could it be that they knew exactly what they were doing?

Although the flotilla was certainly designed to prompt a confrontation that would embarrass Israel and weaken the embargo of Gaza, it seems unlikely that anybody had foreseen Israel’s clumsy attack on the flotilla, which left nine activists killed and dozens injured. Despite the high human costs, however, Turkey had the excuse it needed to finally end an awkward alliance with Israel, while its moral stature in the region was now unparalleled.

Before the Mavi Marmara even set sail from Antalya in May, 2010, the “Plans” were drawn up. And what ended up happening on May 31 was probably even better than Erdoğan could have hoped, a real (as real as it could have been) reason to start dropping some diplomatic dead weight. With Turkey’s former strategic relationship with Israel no longer in line with its own nebulous East-leaning agenda, it was time to stop pretending that cooperating with Israel was a possibility.

And as the vote for Palestinian statehood looms, we come to appreciate even more the well-orchestrated performance that Turkey has given us. Perfect timing—almost as if they… “Planned” it.

Autographs after the show. Rock on, Erdoğan.

Written by M. James

September 15, 2011 at 12:15 am

Syria: Everything is normal

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A thought-provoking (in a strange sort of way) article from the New York Times: Life in Syria’s Capital Remains Barely Touched by Rebellion

Just ignore the part about Aleppo being the second-largest city (news sources have been getting this one wrong for months). Damascus is the second-largest. Aleppo is the largest. Which is not to say that Damascus isn’t important.

But Damascus, be it at the beauty salon, in its somnolent neighborhoods or in its fear-stricken mosques, remains the linchpin, a reality that even activists acknowledge. Until protests reach this capital, their thinking goes, Syria’s leadership will avoid the fate of its ossified equivalents in places like Egypt and Tunisia. And so far, Damascus — along with Aleppo, the nation’s second-largest city — has stayed firmly on the margins, as anger builds toward both cities from Syrians bearing the brunt of the uprising. “Trust me, everything is normal,” insisted a manicurist at the salon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

September 6, 2011 at 10:41 pm