Pay Attention to Turkey!

I'm guessing most of us only pay attention to foreign countries when there's a crisis. Well, today there is. Turkey faces a political standoff over the role of religion in public life... the secularists versus the Islamists. And, while it's not page one news here at home, Turkey's importance to the United States makes this a story worth watching. They're a NATO ally that wants to be part of the European Union, a secular democracy in the Muslim middle east, and border Iraq, Iran, and Syria, among others. There's also that issue of U.S. energy policy, and Turkey's strategic location as a bridge between the middle east and Europe.

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I'm curious to know can Turkey's form of government work in Iraq?

Sent by William B | 2:11 PM | 5-3-2007

I think attention would be given to this, atleast in the rest of the world, as to test the true motives of US and western foreign policy. This seems a case of secularists and military coming together, threatening to derail the democratic process on, so far, unproven alleged Islamist agenda. So is enforced secularism to be preferred over democracy? this indeed would be considered a war on religion in the muslim world rather than the champions of democracy.

Sent by Khurram | 2:27 PM | 5-3-2007

I can completely understand the suspicion of many Turks of the AK party. My husband was born in Turkey and is a dual citizen. He is very patriotic and proud of his country as well as being a great American. We have visited Turkey many times and it it truly a wonderful country. It is unfortunate that it takes a crisis to spur US interest in such a wonderful country. There are a few things we in America should ponder. It is probably unlikely that this so-called crisis would have occurred if Turkey had been a willing participant in support of the war in Iraq. Also, on my husband's last visit to Turkey, he noticed that there were far more women wearing the more severe burkas than in the past. When he discussed this with the families, who by the way were poorer people, they told him that they received money from Saudi Arabia to dress their women in that way. Because they are poor, they succumb. We in America need to know that much of this turbulance is coming from the outside with the goal of weakening Turkey. Turkey must remain as it is, a proud and strong democracy. It is for the good of the entire world.

Sent by Laura | 2:46 PM | 5-3-2007

Over the many years, Turkey has been governed by the nonperfectionist leaders. After 1995 Turks wanted to give a try for Ak Parti to see how things can be done by them. Without thinking how the secularism can be damaged by them, folks just wanted economic relieves. Since Ak Parti arrived whether with coalition or not, they wanted to apply their hidden agenda which will take Turkey to more Islamic structure. If they take over both the presidency and prime ministry position, Turkey will be one step away of being Iran, Morocco, or any other Islamic country. What will be the series of reforms accomplished by Ataturk? Once the line is crossed in favor of Islamic administration going back to modernization will be almost impossible. For example, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has been dieing to accomplish at least 20% of Ataturk's Reforms in his country. Will Musharraf see any progress in his life time? No and never will be. Turkey has to stay secular and will stay secular as long as the souls of Kemalism kept alive. If Mustafa Kemal Ataturk would have been a leader of any western countries in the world, he would have been treated like a God in their own nation.

Sent by Nalan Erol | 3:50 PM | 5-3-2007

I completely agree with Laura's comments in Blog of the Nation. I am a proud Turkish American married to an American; have lived in this country for over 30 years but go to Turkey to visit as often as I can to educate my children about that part of their heritage. As a travel destination Turkey is an ideal place: incredible beaches, amazing historical and archaeological sites, very reasonable priced accommodations, delicious food, hospitable people....this will all be gone if an Islamic party takes the reigns. All along, AK party has harbored the intention of moving Turkey towards a more fundamentalist, Islamic state. Interestingly, this party holds 62% of the parliamentary seats with just 34% of the people's vote. Low voter turnout a few years ago resulted in such an imbalance. In addition, currently seven different political parties plus 11 independents have seats in the parliament; these political parties range in ideology from socialist democrats to Islamic fundamentalist groups. Sadly many of the politicians have abused their power and accommodated their own interests above the people's interests. Last week, the Military issued a warning that has western countries concerned because of their lack of understanding of how things work in Turkey. Besides protecting the nation's sovereignty, the Military's primary goal is to protect democracy and secularism of the Turkish Republic. With AK party's trend towards Islamic fundamentalism, not only is Turkey's secularism at jeopardy, but so is it's democracy. Simply stated, Turkey is a democratic republic because it is secular. A government that leans towards Islamic principles and laws cannot function as a democracy. Islamic law (sharia) and democracy are not compatible. This is what the recent protests are about; the general public wants their secular democracy, not to pick between democracy and secularism (as the Economist front cover article that is linked in Scott Cameron???s blog suggests). Although western opinion is that Turkey is the best example of a Islamic country that is also democratic, this is a misleading statement. It is true that the vast majority of Turkish citizens are of the Islamic faith but Turkey is not an Islamic country. For the last 84 years, it has been a democratic, secular republic where the vast majority of people are of Muslim faith. Turkey was able to be democratic by not being "Islamic", by keeping religious affairs out of laws and government, and instead leaving religion up to the individual and their God. This democracy is different than western secular democracies where Christianity has been woven into social and cultural life for two millenniums and has co-existed somewhat peacefully with governments. Islam is a relatively new religion. It has not gone through the reformations that Christianity has. It's Islamic laws are not compatible with 21st century life. Islam existed peacefully in Turkey because Islamic law was not allowed to interfere in government affairs. The current protests are to keep religion out of the government. The secularists believe this is the only way this democracy can survive. Islam and democracy are only compatible IF the government is secular!!!

Sent by Deniz | 2:05 PM | 5-4-2007

I'm writing from Istanbul. I'm sure that it's not easy to follow all the things that are happening nowadays in Turkey. But as a young Turk, I can say that I'm afraid of losing my rights, my independence, my freedom of speech and my lifestyle. We have to be aware that democracy can turn into a totalitarian, fundamentalist regime if it cannot or does not defend itself against radicals. That is why millions of people are protesting the so called democrats -the islamists with their hidden agenda- in cities accross our country. We, the followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, will never let these islamists change Turkey's secular,democratic and independent regime. It is a pity to see the US and some of the western countries supporting the radical islamists rather than backing up the democratic and secular people of Turkey. Don't you see that you're creating new enemies and losing the friendship of people who once called you friends? (btw. Deniz, thanks for that wonderfull, informative comment!)

Sent by erlik | 10:10 AM | 5-5-2007