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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS (2011-03-09)

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS

CAN ERİMTAN

Some time ago, the Turkish government made public that it planned to alter the way in which alcohol is being sold in the country. According to some, the current Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has been waging a war against the consumption of alcohol in the country in a bold-faced attempt to bring Turkey more in line with Islamic rules and regulations.

Two vocal critics of the AKP and its government, Soner Çağaptay and Cansın Ersöz, researchers affiliated with the Turkish Research Program at the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, categorically write that since “the AKP rose to power in Turkey in 2002, special taxes on alcohol have increased dramatically, making a glass of wine or beer one of the most expensive in Europe, and for that purpose anywhere in the world.” In June 2002, the AKP adopted the Special Consumption Tax, or ÖTV, which raised the tax on alcoholic beverages from 18 percent (the standard VAT rate) to 48 percent, and as time went by, the ÖTV rate increased more and more until it reached 63 percent in 2009. Subsequently, the government came under fire for its policy and in 2010, some ÖTV taxes were eliminated.

But now the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, or TAPDK, has issued new regulations restricting advertisements for alcoholic beverages as well as its sale tactics. The decree requires catering companies that organize events that serve alcoholic beverages to get a license before each event. While it also prohibits supermarkets and grocery stores from placing alcoholic products for sale near goods aimed at children and youngsters. In addition, the sale of alcohol will be banned at municipally owned establishments and along roads designated as highways and state routes in the traffic code. However, no such provision in the regulation will apply to the sale of alcoholic beverages at venues in coastal zones. Draconic measures which restrict access to a product which is already restricted as a result of its high price?

Çağaptay and Ersöz opine that in “2003, Turkey’s per capita alcohol consumption rate was 1.4 liters per year. For that same year, this amount was 10.9 liters in Belgium; and 11.5 liters and 9.0 liters in neighboring Cyprus and Greece respectively. Even, Qatar, which implements a rigid version of the Shariah under the Wahhabi school, had higher per capita alcohol consumption rates than Turkey, at 4.4 liras per capita.” In other words, Turkish citizens do not appear to partake of alcoholic beverages all that much to begin with.

Arguments claiming to protect the young are very popular when it comes to restricting access to “forbidden” products such as pornography and/or drugs the world over. Mehmet Küçük, the head of the TAPDK, has publicly said that the aim of the new decree was not to restrict individuals’ freedoms but to lessen alcohol’s incentive. In other words, Küçük merely wants to limit the availability of attractive seducers, arguably in a way somewhat similar to the effect of laws that eventually prohibited the Marlboro Man from riding into the sunset while willingly exposing his body to carcinogenic substances in Europe and elsewhere. Küçük is thus suggesting that Turkish citizens require a nanny-state that knows best what is right or wrong. Turkey, a country that straddles the Balkans and the Middle East with a population that is officially 99.9 percent Muslim, is arguably the only country with an Islamic population and culture that allows its citizens unrestricted access to alcoholic beverages. Are the new regulations regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages in Turkey a somewhat cynical ploy to increase the state’s tax revenues or is there more than meets the eye?

In my opinion, the whole debate surrounding the consumption of alcohol in Turkey is primarily about perception. Opponents of the AKP government accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ministers of secretly planning to introduce Islamic codes and attitudes via the backdoor. They thus regard this new TAPDK decree as a direct attack on the country’s “secular constitution.”

Is this really the case, and if so, why? In my book, “Ottomans looking West?” I posited that the “proclamation of the Republic . . . liberated Turkish citizens from the restrictions of Islam and the Şeriat [Shariah].” As a result, Republican Turks were meant to enjoy this world and its delights to the fullest and the decision to let Turkish citizens “partake of the delights of the mortal world was arguably crystallized in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. A strict interpretation of Islam explicitly prohibits the drinking of intoxicants in this world.” Hence, the issue of unrestricted access to beer and other alcoholic intoxicants has now assumed political, if not ideological, importance.

Turkey’s Muslim citizens have had legal access to alcohol since 1926. Turkey’s Islamic neighbor states do not grant their citizens equally easy access to the forbidden delights of alcohol. As a result, some Turks regard the issue as critical to the definition of secularism in the country. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also defines secularism as “Concerned with the affairs of this world, wordly; not sacred.”

But nowadays, the term, particularly in its French form of laicité (at the root of Turkey’s laiklik), denotes a strict separation of church (or religion) and state. And, the theory is that Turkey, as a result of the reform movement, known as the İnkılap, is a secular state. In reality, however, ever since the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic has regulated its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister.

Consequently, proponents of secularism in Turkey quite naturally feel the need to attach a lot of importance to certain symbolic issues: the availability of alcoholic beverages springs to mind, as well as the thorny headscarf issue, or rather the notion that women possess the freedom to don more or less revealing outfits (arguably, to please the male gaze). Let us call these charged matters “beer and bikinis” as a shorthand for the contentious topic of Turkish secularism in the 21st century.

Ali Bardakoğlu, the president of the Diyanet until recently, publicly called for the establishment of an independent religious authority in Turkey in an interview he gave to the self-avowed atheist Ahmet İnsel of daily Radikal (Oct. 23-24, 2010). After he made these statements, Bardakoğlu was replaced by Mehmet Görmez as the head of the Diyanet (Nov. 11).

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Grenfell Tower Disaster: Diane Abbott and a Woman called Donna

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Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and shadow Home Secretary, has now come out to say that “Grenfell Tower is not just an accident; Grenfell Tower is not just an unfortunate incident. Those hundreds of people that died are a direct consequence of Tory attitudes in social housing . . . The Tories think people in social housing are second-class citizens. And, as we have seen from Grenfell House, they are offering them second-class standards of safety. So, a direct consequence of that. A direct consequence of outsourcing . . . and a direct consequence of deregulation”.(1) In contrast, the official narrative of the disaster holds that its death toll is limited to 79 . . . As Abbot points out though, “I think we are going to find that the numbers of people that have died will be in triple figures, just because it’s a 23-storey [sic] block”.(2)

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Adding insult to injury, as noted by the Independent‘s Greg Wilford, a “wealthy Kensington resident claimed she would leave her luxury block of flats if victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy were given shelter there, telling a radio host the accommodation ‘shouldn’t be given for free’. The woman, called Donna, asked LBC listeners to ‘stand in my shoes’ as she complained that her council tax bill might increase if people were re-housed in her building, which she said has a £15,500 annual service charge. She told radio host Shelagh Fogart she would be ‘resentful’ if those who lost their homes in the recent fire were allowed to move in because she has worked ‘very hard’ to afford her property”.(3) Trying not to appear like the heartless bitch that she is, the woman called Donna explained that her “service charge bill, and this is a low one this year, is £15,500, and I would feel really resentful if someone got the same thing for free. I feel sorry for those people, but my husband and I work very hard to be able to afford this”.(4)

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In a clear effort to convince the world that even moderately rich people are scum of the earth, the woman called Donna next went to great lenghts explicating her lack of humanity on the radio: “And for someone to get it free . . . I would move. Our council tax bill is very, very high, our service charge bill is very, very high, so why should someone get it for free? I know it sounds harsh, believe me I feel sorry for those people, but I work very, very hard and so does my husband . . . I’m not hard-hearted, but When I’m paying that kind of money and someone else is getting it for free, if you stand in my shoes you can say that because you’re not. It’s like paying a rent to stay in your house, £15,500 a year”.(5)

Donna May

(1) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-fire-diane-abbott-victims-number-hundreds-labour-shadow-home-secretary-a7806106.html.

(2) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott”.

(3) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-victims-kensington-row-rehoused-lbc-luxury-flats-a7806026.html.

(4) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

(5) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

Turkey and the EU: Words of Warning?!??

PIRI, Kati (S&D, NL)

On 20 June 2017, the EU Rapporteur on Turkey Kati PIRI (S&D,NL) made the following remarks: “All the groups in this Parliament have a different position about what should be the future of EU-Turkey relations. While we see that the Commission and the Council are actually silent about what’s going on in Turkey I am proud and of course it was the toughest battle to make sure that Parliament speaks with one voice. One voice of concern about the human rights in Turkey and one voice that it will have consequence’s on the accession process. So, what we adopted today says, if the constitutional package will be implemented unchanged this means that we will have to lead to the formal suspension of the accession talks with Turkey . . . If there is a suspension of the accession process, automatically you also have a suspension of the so-called pre-accession funds. We also indicated that in case that scenario comes into reality, the money that is now allocated to Turkey should be spent directly on civil society in Turkey. So, not back to the EU budget but the money that was meant for the Turkish population should be directly also dispersed to the Turkish population . . . Turkey to be honest over the last 6 years, of course, have done a lot when it comes to hosting refugees. There is still 3.2 million refugees today in Turkey and we also urge in the report. The member states of the EU, they made a promise with the EU-Turkey deal to take more vulnerable refugees from Turkey to the EU. So, it is not just critical when it comes to the Turkish government but we also clearly insist that the EU sticks to its part of the deal”.(1)

European Commission: Daily News 20 / 06 / 2017

EU Syria Trust Fund: new assistance package to support Syrian refugees and host communities crosses €1 billion mark

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis adopted new projects worth €275 million that will support refugees and their overstretched host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, the Western Balkans, and Armenia. Projects will focus on education, health care, support of local community, social inclusion, gender equality. The newly adopted assistance package brings the current overall volume of the EU Trust Fund up to over €1 billion which was the goal set by President Juncker on 23 September 2015 at the Informal meeting of the European Council on migration and in the Communication on Managing the Refugee Crisis. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini said: “We are giving a lifeline to millions of Syrians inside the country and across the region, helping create a future for Syrian refugees and host communities. By enabling girls and boys to access quality education, we are helping to prevent a lost generation of children whose lives have been devastated by the Syrian conflict […]”. EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn commented: “Thanks to the EU Trust Fund, children in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are able to go to school and have access to safe spaces for non-formal education, protection and psycho-social care. […] The EU will continue to respond to the needs arising from the Syria conflict, as testified by the fact that more than €1 billion is being channelled to improve lives via this Trust Fund”. The full press release is available online as well as the dedicated factsheet. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887).(2)

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Panic in the Streets of London: PM statement following London terror attack: 4 June 2017

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Following the rapid police response of eight minutes on Saturday night, the PM came out the next day to tell the world that Britain’s had enough and that Mrs Merkel’s harsh words of yesteryear are now more valid than ever. But, she started off quite circumspect: “Last night, our country fell victim to a brutal terrorist attack once again. As a result I have just chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee and I want to update you with the latest information about the attack. Shortly before 10:10 yesterday evening, the Metropolitan Police received reports that a white van had struck pedestrians on London Bridge. It continued to drive from London Bridge to Borough Market, where 3 terrorists left the van and attacked innocent and unarmed civilians with blades and knives. All 3 were wearing what appeared to be explosive vests, but the police have established that this clothing was fake and worn only to spread panic and fear. As so often in such serious situations, the police responded with great courage and great speed. Armed officers from the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police arrived at Borough Market within moments, and shot and killed the 3 suspects. The terrorists were confronted and shot by armed officers within 8 minutes of the police receiving the first emergency call. Seven people have died as a result of the attack, in addition to the 3 suspects shot dead by the police. Forty-eight people are being treated in several hospitals across London. Many have life-threatening conditions. On behalf of the people of London, and on behalf of the whole country, I want to thank and pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the police and the emergency services – and the courage of members of the public who defended themselves and others from the attackers. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and with their friends, families and loved ones. This is, as we all know, the third terrorist attack Britain has experienced in the last 3 months. In March, a similar attack took place, just around the corner on Westminster Bridge. Two weeks ago, the Manchester Arena was attacked by a suicide bomber. And now London has been struck once more”.(1)

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In the next instance May gave a brief overview of terror attack to then outline the UK government’s response to the threat of “Radical Islamic or Islamist terrorism”, as the Drumpf has now named the enemy. In factm she also maneged to make some pretty value-laded statements: “In terms of their planning and execution, the recent attacks are not connected. But we believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face, as terrorism breeds terrorism, and perpetrators are inspired to attack not only on the basis of carefully-constructed plots after years of planning and training – and not even as lone attackers radicalised online – but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack. We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change, and they need to change in 4 important ways. First, while the recent attacks are not connected by common networks, they are connected in one important sense. They are bound together by the single, evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism. It is an ideology that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth. Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time. But it cannot be defeated through military intervention alone. It will not be defeated through the maintenance of a permanent, defensive counter-terrorism operation, however skilful its leaders and practitioners. It will only be defeated when we turn people’s minds away from this violence – and make them understand that our values – pluralistic, British values – are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate. Second, we cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide. We need to work with allied, democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online. Third, while we need to deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online, we must not forget about the safe spaces that continue to exist in the real world. Yes, that means taking military action to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it also means taking action here at home. While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out – across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism – and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom. Fourth, we have a robust counter-terrorism strategy that has proved successful over many years. But as the nature of the threat we face becomes more complex, more fragmented, more hidden, especially online, the strategy needs to keep up. So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat, we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need. And if we need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences, even apparently less serious offences, that is what we will do”.(2)

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May ends her speech on a programmatic note, arguably even somewhat invoking the spirit of Winston Churchill: “Since the emergence of the threat from Islamist-inspired terrorism, our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. But it is time to say enough is enough. Everybody needs to go about their lives as they normally would. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. But when it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change . . . As a country, our response must be as it has always been when we have been confronted by violence. We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies”.(3)

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(1)“PM statement following London terror attack: 4 June 2017”.https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-following-london-terror-attack-4-june-2017.

(2)“PM statement following London terror attack: 4 June 2017”.

(3)“PM statement following London terror attack: 4 June 2017”.

The Manchest Bombing and Libya

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Posting on his Facebook page, on 27 May 2017, the intrepid Pepe Escobar this time gives his readers and followers the lowdown on the Libyan backstory to the suicide attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester:

THE MANCHESTER-LIBYA CONNECTION IN FIVE MINUTES

Let’s focus on Ramadan, father of the Manchester “martyr” Salman Obeidi; now that’s a nasty piece of work. He hails from the al-Obeidi tribe, from al Gubbah in eastern Libya. Under Gaddafi he was a Sgt. Major, very pious and Islamist-connected. He left Libya in 1991 and settled down in the Saudi Wahhabi paradise where – crucially – he trained mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against the Najibullah government, after the Soviet retreat. In 1992 the mujahideen enter Kabul, as in bomb it to death, including the recently ‘normalized’ Hekmatyar. Ramadan goes to London and then Manchester, joining the Libyan Islamist diaspora that coalesces around the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Ramadan connects with none other that Abu Anas Al-Libbi – who also lives in Manchester – and will become the brains behind the al-Qaeda attacks on Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Ramadan also connects with the infamous Abdelhakim Belhaj – former mujahid in Afghanistan and VERY close to… Osama Bin Laden. Belhaj convinces Ramadan to go back to Libya. After the Cameron/Sarkozy/NATO “liberation” of Libya, Ramadan joins the Al Umma party, whose leader is Sami al Saadi, one of the LIFG’s top commanders, and gets very close to the Grand Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariani, the spiritual guide of hardcore Islamist militias linked to Belhaj. Three years ago Ramadan was part of the Islamist militia raid that re-conquered Tripoli’s airport; son Salman flew from Manchester for this one, was shot, and treated in Turkey. Ramadan was also part of the Benghazi Defense Brigades; a mish mash of Islamists from Katiba 17 (financed by Qatar and instrumental in the Benghazi revolt against Gaddafi) and Ansar al Sharia. You all remember what happened on 9/11, 2012; it was Ansar al Sharia operatives who attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. Arguably the key point in all this mess is that Ramadan profited from the MI5 rat line transporting Libyans back to the home country to fight Gaddafi. The minister in charge of authorizing this ‘policy’? Theresa May. MI5 and the British government always knew, all along, what Ramadan was all about. He was certainly an asset; the Brits were heavily involved in eastern Libya from the start. He has not been arrested; he’s now under protection, Mafia-style. His ‘arrest’ took place – how lovely! – just as a shadow flight carrying US Special Forces landed in Misrata. The only missing link is why son Salman ‘betrayed’ his al-Qaeda Dad by converting to Daesh. This is just an ultra-concise summary of the whole stinking-to-high-heavens scam. But you get the drift”. (1)

We Can Survive 2014

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENTS ERDOĞAN, JUNCKER & TUSK

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‘As European leaders prepare to meet Turkey’s President Erdoğan at the NATO summit this week, [the Cartoonists Rights Network International] is just one among many human rights orgs urging the Presidents of the European Commission and Council of Europe to ensure that protection of human rights and detention of journalists in Turkey remain a central point of discussion’.

The CRNI published a public letter addressed to the Turkish Prez and his European interlocutors:

Your excellencies,

Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe for almost sixty years and is party to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a meeting with the European Committee on Foreign Affairs held in Strasbourg on May 15th Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council made the following statement with reference to journalists arrested in Turkey on charges pertaining to support for terrorist organisations:

“… there is case law [in the European Court of Human Rights]… that one cannot have a journalist in pre-trial detention for more than four months.”

Staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper including our colleague the acclaimed and internationally respected cartoonist Musa Kart were formally arrested on November 5th 2016. They were finally indicted on April 4th 2017 – a gap of five months.

Last week they spent their two hundredth consecutive day in custody. When the first hearing of their trial takes place, scheduled for July 24th, they will be approaching the end of their ninth month. And their circumstances are far from unique; Amnesty International’s figures indicate that a third of the world’s imprisoned journalists are in Turley.

By any measure of jurisprudence the protracted detention of these journalists constitute a violation of rights accorded to those awaiting trial.

Furthermore we reject the charges levelled against Kart and his colleagues, who have done nothing more than pursue careers in journalism.

We urge President Tusk and his delegation to press President Erdoğan on conditions for journalists and media workers in Turkey and remind him that, in the word of Sec.Gen. Jagland:

“… [the ECHR] has communicated to the journalists that their[s] are cases of priority.”

Finally we call upon President Erdoğan to consider his own words last year following the attempted coup against his government:

“I feel that if we do not make use of this opportunity correctly, then it will give the people the right to hold us by the throat.”

Time for Turkey to behave “correctly” i.e. like the robust, mature, lawful democracy and valued world player her friends in Europe know her to be.

Joel Pett, President, CRNI”.(1)

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(1) “AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENTS ERDOĞAN, JUNCKER & TUSK” CRNI. http://cartoonistsrights.org/JaAJH

Gazi ve Afet İnan

Sakli-Anilar

Tarih profesörü olacak Afet’in durumu [Atatürk’ün] öbür [manevi] kızlardan öbür farklıydı. Gazi onu evlat edindiği zaman artık çocuk değil yetişmiş bir genç kızdı. Yavaş yavaş Gazi için bir eşin alabileceği yeri aldı. Sade, iyi huylu, ciddiydi. Gazi’nin eviyle meşgul oluyordu. Masanın başına oturuyordu. Gazi’yle birlikte geziyor, yabancı elçilerin başına protokol meseleleri açıyordu. Gazi’nin fikirlerini gayretle benimsiyor, Türk Tarih Kurumu ve çeşitli toplumsal reform kurumlarının görüşmelerinde bunları yorumlamak için çabalıyordu. Hepsinden önemlisi onun için dinlendirici bir arkadaş olmasıydı. Latife Hanım gittikten sonra Çankaya’daki evde açılan boşluk böylece doldurulmuştu. Gazi ölünceye kadar Afet yanından ayrılmadı. Ancak onun ölümünden sonra evlendi”.a

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a Ahmet Kemal Doğançay, Saklı Anılar (Istanbul 2008). 90.