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Archive for the ‘Turkey’ 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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Jihad goes to School in Turkey

Hamdi

AKP member Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, who used to be a driver of Turkey’s President but at present seems to be a member of the Youth, Sports and Culture Commission of the Ministry for National Education,(1) has now also made the news in Turkey.

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And this driver-turned-official has namely made a number of remarks relating to the Ministry for National Education’s decision to include the teaching of the concept of Jihad in Turkey’s schools. On Friday, 21 July 2017, Çamlı told the press the following: “[w]hen you look at the Ottoman sultans, almost none of them performed the pilgrimage in order not to take a break from jihad . . . There is no use in teaching math to a kid who does not know the concept of jihad”.(2) While it is true that no Ottoman Sultan has ever undertaken the holy pilgrimage to Meccah, the reasons were more likely practical that concerned with upholding jihad. The Ottomans did not see themselves as mujahids (practitioner of jihad or striving in the way of God), and did not employ the concept of jihad in their war efforts till the late 18th century. Quite some years ago now, I talked about the concept of jihad (Originally published on 18 September 2010): “[n]owadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a ‘mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time’. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards”.(3)

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Ghaza not Jihad

Back in the 1930s, the Orientalist Paul Wittek ‘proposed his Ghazî thesis to explain the sudden and apparently inexplicable emergence of the Ottoman state at the end of the 13th century. The Austrian historian and Orientalist argued that the Ottomans, [had been] imbued with a Ghazî spirit, meaning a zealous warlike attitude brimming with a glowing fervour for Holy War [or Ghaza, in Wittek’s wording], necessarily carried the day at the time. Wittek thought that Ottoman Ghazîs possessed a clear advantage over their contemporaries as members of a polity that had always been inspired by a fanatic enthusiasm for conquest, booty, and expansion’. Ghaza and not Jihad had been the Ottomans’ raison d’être acccording to this Orientalist. And this opinion was adopted by historians and Ottomanists alike. In due time though, authors like Rudi Lindner and Cemal Kafadar offered a somewhat different perspective, basically debunking the whole Ghazî ethos and spirit, but popular opinion still seems largely beholden to this interpretation. With regards to the application of the concept of jihad in an Ottoman context, we have to wait till the year 1774. At that stage, Sultan Mustafa III (1757-74) was waging war against Catherine the Great (1762-96) and the Ottomans were on the losing side. As a result, Mustafa III had his Sheik-ul-Islam issue a call for jihad to defend the Ottoman Empire against a victorious infidel, the Russian Empire. After all, according to Islamic theory jihad is a defensive mechanism . . . following the Prophet’s death in 632, the first time Muslims declared a jihad was in the year 1099. The Crusaders besieged the city of Jerusalem in the period 7 June – 15 July 1099 before conquering the third holy site in Islam. In response to this calamity, Muslims rulers called for a universal jihad to liberate Muslim lands from the hands of Christian infidels . . . but the reconquest of Jerusalem did not take place until 2 October 1187.(4)

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(1) ‘Mil.Eğit. Genç. Spor ve Kültür Kom. Üyesi’ “Ahmet Hamdi ÇAMLI” Twitter. https://twitter.com/ahmethamdicamli.

(2) “Ruling AKP’s Deputy: Useless To Teach Math To A Kid Who Does Not Know Concept Of Jihad” SCF (22 July 2017). https://stockholmcf.org/ruling-akps-deputy-useless-to-teach-math-to-a-kid-who-does-not-know-concept-of-jihad/

(3) “The War in Afghanistan: Jihad, Foreign Fighters and al Qaeda” The Erimtan Angle (04 Feb 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/the-war-in-afghanistan-jihad-foreign-fighters-and-al-qaeda/.

(4) Cfr. Wikipedia.

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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The New Turkey: Captal Flight

Sakoc_DownloadBloomberg’s Tiago Ramos Alfaro and Ercan Ersoy noted a couple of days ago that “[m]embers of the families that own Turkey’s two biggest groups of companies sold a combined total of about $575 million in shares in their respective groups, as the benchmark Turkish stock index closed at a record high on Wednesday [, 24 May 2017]. The Koç family, which runs the most valuable company on the Borsa Istanbul, sold 107 million shares for about $475 million in Koç Holding AŞ, according to a term sheet seen by Bloomberg News. In a separate deal, some members of the Sabancı family sold about $100 million in shares in Sabancı Holding, bookrunner Ünlü & Co. told Bloomberg”.(1)

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Alfaro and Ersoy added that [s]pokesmen for the two companies didn’t immediately respond on Wednesday to questions about their motivations for the sales”.(2)

RİNDLERİN AKŞAMI

Dönülmez akşamın ufkundayız.Vakit çok geç;

Bu son fasıldır ey ömrüm nasıl geçersen geç!

Cihana bir daha gelmek hayal edilse bile,

Avunmak istemeyiz öyle bir teselliyle.

Geniş kanatları boşlukta simsiyah açılan

Ve arkasında güneş doğmayan büyük kapıdan

Geçince başlayacak bitmeyen sükunlu gece.

Guruba karşı bu son bahçelerde, keyfince,

Ya şevk içinde harab ol, ya aşk içinde gönül!

Ya lale açmalıdır göğsümüzde yahud gül.

Yahya Kemal BEYATLI

RİNDLERİN AKŞAMI

(2) Tiago Ramos Alfaro and Ercan Ersoy , “Turkey’s Richest Families Sell Almost $600 Million in Shares”.

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

Berna2

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

Fighting the Caliph: U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the Kurds

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On 9 May 2017, while holding a joint press confererence with the Danish Minister of Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen in Copenhagen, General Mattis told reporters the following in response to a query regarding the decision to arm Syria’s Kurds: “Yes, they — we had very open discussion with the Turks. It’s a NATO ally, and NATO allies stick together. That’s not to say, we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward. We work that out through extensive dialogue. We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks, and it was a very, very useful discussion today. We’re getting — as you know — into the position where we will have Raqqa surrounded. The idea is, ladies and gentlemen, that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe. By taking, for example, Manbij away from the enemy, that was the spoke of the hub and spoke of their terrorist effort against Europe, and that’s how they conducted the attacks against Brussels and Paris. So our intent is to work with the Turks, with — alongside one another to take Raqqa down and we’re going to sort it out and we’ll figure out how we’re going to do it, but we’re all committed to it and that’s what came out of today’s discussion”.i

Tr-Syria

The U.S. Secretary of Defense clearly sidestepped the thorny issue of Turkey’s opposition to the Pentagon’s decision by means of simply ignoring the question and talking about the U.S.-Turkish relationship as if everything were hunky dory. Still, as reported by Reuters: “U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday [, 9 May 2017]”.ii Ankara regards the YPG as but the Syrian incarnation of the PKK, Turkey’s homegrown Kurdish terror group. In this connection, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White made the following declaration: “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally . . . We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey”.iii

YPG Flag

Bülent Alirıza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, on the other hand, made the following observations: “There have been bad episodes in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, but this one is serious because it gets to the heart of Turkish security priorities . . . You’ve now got a question mark over the U.S.-Turkish security relationship that is pretty serious”.iv Now, all eyes are on Tayyip Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to Washington, D.C.

Trump on Tayyip

i “Joint Press Conference with Secretary Mattis and Minister Frederiksen in Copenhagen, Denmark” U.S. Department of Defense (09 Mauy 2017). https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1177882/joint-press-conference-with-secretary-mattis-and-minister-frederiksen-in-copenh/.

ii Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire” Reuters (10 May 2017). http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-usa-kurds-idUSKBN18525V.

iii Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire”.

iv Phil Stewart, “U.S. to arm Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State, despite Turkey’s ire”.

The Coup-that-was-no-Coup: Some Queries

Coup-that-was-no-Coup

On twitter, an anonymous user calling himself “sakıncalı binbaşı” and using the handle “@NickTachon” posted the following interesting queries regarding the events of 15 July 2016.i

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Sak2

Sak3

Sak4

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sak6

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Sak8

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i C. Erimtan, “The Failed Coup Attempt – or the Dawning of Sharia Law in Turkey?” The Duran (18 July 2016). http://theduran.com/failed-coup-attempt-dawning-sharia-law-turkey/.