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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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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

The Coup-that-was-no-Coup according to Ahmet Şık

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Recently, the co-editor of Muftah’s Iran, Iraq, and Turkey pages Claire Sadar published an “interesting” piece on the Coup-that-was-no-Coup. Sadar starts off as follows: “On September 30, Turkish journalist Ahmet [Şık] spoke to a packed seminar room at Harvard University as part of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs’ annual iTurkey in the Modern Worldi seminar. [Şık] is a longtime critic of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the AKP, and has been arrested and tried multiple because of his work. [Şık] was jailed for a year in 2011 as a result of his then unpublished book The Imam’s Army [in Turkish, İmamın Ordusu], which examined the Gulen movement’s penetration into the Turkish government and security forces. At the time, the Turkish government used the book to connect [Şık] to an alleged secret, anti-government organization known as Ergenekon”.[1]

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Sadar continues that Ahmet Şık’s “conclusions are based on his own observations, as well as his sources in Turkish political circles. [Şık] believes the roots of the coup attempt lie in the break between the Turkish government and the Gulen Movement. He does not, however, agree with the Turkish government’s description of the coup attempt as a purely Gulenist plot. [Şık] believes those involved have a much more complex set of backgrounds and motives, and likely include ultra-nationalists, Kemalists, and Gulenists united in their shared opposition to Erdogan and his government, as well as their overtures to the Kurdish PKK guerrilla organization”.[2]

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Claire Sadar explains that according to Şık “the Turkish government was likely alerted to the imminent coup attempt about 4 or 5 pm local time on July 15. Once the alarm was sounded, the head of the Turkish intelligence services, Hakan Findan, paid a visit to the general in charge of Turkey’s land forces. Together, these two men decides to suppress the coup attempt by relaying orders down the ranks (Şık did not specify what kind of orders these might have been). Şık believes that between the time the coup plot was uncovered and the rebellious officers began to move on Istanbul and Ankara, that is between approximately 4 and 10 pm, there were ongoing negotiations between the Turkish intelligence services and civilian government and nationalist officers who were part of the coup alliance. The coup failed not because it was poorly planned, or civilians took to the streets to oppose it, but, rather, because the Turkish government successfully broke the alliance between the non-Gulenist officers and those affiliated with the Movement. One of the crucial pieces of evidence, or lack thereof, is the fact that no organizational chart or plan for the planned military junta has surfaced since the coup was foiled. Such a chart has been a crucial part of every other coup plot in Turkish history. Şık believes this is evidence the Turkish government is trying to cover up the extent of the coup and the specific officers involved. The picture Şık paints of Erdogan and the AKP is very different from their portrayal in the Turkish and international media, since the coup attempt. In Şık’s version of events, Erdogan is still in power only because a compromise was reached with the Turkish military’s nationalist and secularist elements. According to Şık, between the time when the coup was uncovered and when it was crushed, Erdogan’s government likely secured its survival by agreeing to give the military more influence in government decision-making”.[3]

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And in a surprising twist, Sadar argues that rather that “the military’s remaining independence, the failed coup, in fact, has brought the Turkish military back into the political system”.[4]

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[1] Claire Sadar,” A Fascinating Theory About What Really Happened During the Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey” Muftah (s,d,). http://muftah.org/turkish-journalist-ahmet-sik-proposed-fascinating-theory-really-happened-recent-coup-attempt-turkey/#.WAPGmT7_o3z.

[2] Claire Sadar,” A Fascinating Theory About What Really Happened During the Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey”.

[3] Claire Sadar,” A Fascinating Theory About What Really Happened During the Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey”.

[4] Claire Sadar,” A Fascinating Theory About What Really Happened During the Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey”.

Eren Erdemin Meclis Konuşması: AKP-IŞİD İlişkisi

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‘CHP İstanbul Milletvekili Eren Erdem, İstanbul Atatürk Havalimanı dış hatlar terminalinde gerçekleşen saldırının ardından IŞİD’in Türkiye yapılanması hakkında konuşması, TBMM Genel Kurulu’nu karıştırdı (30 Haziran 2016)’.

 

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Cihangir Vakası

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‘20.06.2016 – Medya Mahallesi – 1. Bölüm. Konuk: Süleyman Çelebi / DİSK Eski Genel Başkanı – Siyasetçi. (20 Haziran 2016)’.

‘20.06.2016 – Medya Mahallesi – 2. Bölüm. Konuk: Süleyman Çelebi / DİSK Eski Genel Başkanı – Siyasetçi. (20 Haziran 2016)’.

Cihangir’de dünyaca ünlü müzik grubu Radiohead için ‘Velvet Underground Records’ isimli mekanda düzenlenen etkinliğe “Ramazan’da alkol tüketiliyor” gerekçesiyle saldırıan gruptan üç kişi gözaltına alındı.

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TRT World on the World Humanitarian Summit

‘This special edition is hosted from the first World Humanitarian Summit. The Newsmakers’ Imran Garda talks about disaster management and the global security challenge, and how it impacts what’s being described as the worst humanitarian situation in history.  DISASTER AID: The Newsmakers’ Francis Collings reports on how the international community responds to disasters. EU-TURKEY DEAL: The Newsmakers’ Yvette McCullough reports on the deal that critics say is on the brink of collapse. Published on May 24, 2016.

 

Agenda for Humanity

Joe Biden ziyareti – Barış Doster, Mehmet Ali Güller ve Gürkan Hacır ile Şimdiki Zaman

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 30.01.2016 – Gürkan Hacır ile Şimdiki Zaman – Konuklar: Doç. Dr. Barış Doster / Araştırmacı – Yazar Mehmet Ali Güller / Araştırmacı – Yazar.

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