Age Islam Edit Bureau
13 January 2017
Unified Moral Stance Is The Only Path To Peace
By Samar Fatany
And Anti-Semitism In British Politics
By Avi Shlaim
Liberals Embrace Anti-Trump Trumpism
By Jeff Sparrow
Muslims, Swimming Lessons, And European Secularism
By H A Hellyer
First Promising Signal For Erdogan From Tillerson
By Murat Yetkin
Unbearable Fragility Of The Turkish Lira
By Günes Kömürcüler
Of Truth For Cyprus
By Yusuf Kanli
Education Is Possible In Turkey
By Melis Alphan
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 January 2017
The whole country is mourning the Saudi martyrs
of the barbaric terrorist attack carried out by criminals and the enemies of
humanity in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King
Salman condemned the cowardly terror attack and expressed his grief to the
families of those killed and to the dozens who were wounded. For three days
residents of Jeddah and Madinah flocked to offer their condolences to the
families of the innocent souls who were brutally murdered by the cold-blooded
May Allah rest in peace the innocent souls
of the 24-year-old twins Mohammed and Ahmed Saud Bin Abdul Wahab Al-Fadl, the
young mothers Wissam Al-Jafri and Lubna Ghaznawi and the young lawyer Shahad
Samman. Our sincere prayers go to the families who lost their loved ones; may
Allah grant them the strength and the patience to overcome their grief.
Meanwhile, the nation is praying for the
speedy recovery of 12 other Saudis who are in critical condition and are
currently receiving treatment for injuries in different hospitals in Istanbul.
The victims also include people from Morocco, Lebanon, Libya and Jordan and
other countries. They are all innocent people with no grudges, no prejudices
and no hate who went to Turkey to celebrate life and had hopes for a happy new
year. The killer willfully premeditated their murder and robbed them of their
youth devastating the lives of their loved ones.
What cruelty and what wicked, crooked and
twisted mind can justify such cold-blooded murder? For those who keep repeating
the rhetoric of the criminals and identify them as ISIS, I say enough is
enough. The Muslim world has labeled these criminal terrorists as Daesh and
rejects referring to them as ISIS.
To The Faith
I speak in the name of all Muslims who
believe in God, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Day of
Judgment. Only imposters to the faith can justify the actions of these
criminals. All Muslims today speak loudly and clearly against the defamation of
Islam by the criminal perpetrators of terror and those who associate them with
Muslims do not have to defend their faith
with every satanic attack that goes against every principle of Islam. “O you
who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the
footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you.” (Holy Qur’an – 2: 208).
The word “Islam” is derived from the word meaning “peace” in Arabic.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) used to recite a
prayer of peace every day after every prayer: “O God, You are the original
source of Peace; from You is all Peace, and to You returns all Peace. So, make
us live with Peace; and let us enter Paradise: the House of Peace. Blessed be
You, our Lord, to Whom belongs all Majesty and Honor!”
The Prophet (pbuh) taught good manners and
preached mercy, compassion, peace and love for all humanity. “We have appointed
a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made
you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to
you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God
and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed.” (Holy
Qur’an – 5: 48)
It is obvious that the goal of the criminal
outcasts is to terrorize people and create chaos throughout the region
destroying the peace and harmony of its people. There is clearly nothing
Islamic about that. The criminals who claim to be Muslims are nothing but
imposters who have evil intentions and are using religion for their own selfish
If they were true warriors of justice they
would be headed to liberate Palestine and rescue the innocent Palestinians who
are being ejected from their homes and whose women and children are suffering
at the hands of Israeli occupiers and the injustice of the Zionist state.
Security experts maintain that the Kingdom
and the Arab world are facing grave security issues. According to Dr. Jibreel
Al-Areeshi, a professor of informatics at King Saud University, “Some are
trying to drag the Kingdom into the quagmire of the wars going on in the Middle
East and divert its attention from focusing on its economic progress and
playing its leading role in the region. Economic progress is closely associated
with national security. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.”
Our world can never be safe until the dark and
destabilizing forces terrorizing the Middle East and the world at large are
eliminated. A unified moral stance by the Muslim world and the global community
is the only path to peace.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English
section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has
introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted
several interviews with official delegations and prominent political
personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions
in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has
been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s
role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions
& Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi
Challenges & Reforms.”
and anti-Semitism in British politics
There is no denying that from time to time
anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other
What is striking, however, about
contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence
legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government
and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.
Word On Definitions Is In Order.
The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin
defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly
This definition has its humorous side but
it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone
who hates Jews as Jews.
An anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is someone
who opposes Israel as an exclusively Jewish state or challenges the Zionist
colonial project on the West Bank.
Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes
deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit,
bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in
order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel's
apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and
its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists
persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one
In British politics there is a striking
disconnect between the public which is largely pro-Palestinian and the
political elite which is overwhelmingly pro-Israeli.
Our last four prime ministers have all been
proud partisans of the state of Israel. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were
honorary patrons of the Jewish National Fund UK, a body which, as its name indicates,
caters exclusively for the Jewish and not the Arab citizens of the state of
Israel. So was David Cameron until he decided to resign. Theresa May, the
current prime minister, is one of the most pro-Israeli leaders in Europe.
In a recent speech she hailed Israel as
"a remarkable country" and "a beacon of tolerance". Rubbing
salt in Palestinian wounds, she called the Balfour Declaration "one of the
most important letters in history".
Large segments of the British public,
motivated by the traditional British values of fair play and sympathy for the
underdog, increasingly side with the Palestinians.
Media reports of Israeli land
confiscations, house demolitions, the siege of Gaza, and settler violence on
the West Bank all reinforce this sympathy for the victims and provoke anger
against the oppressor.
Indeed, the failure of western governments
to protect the Palestinians against these never-ending Israeli depredations
goes a long way to explain the growing activism at the level of civil society.
The clearest manifestation of this anger
with Israel is Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), the global grassroots
movement whose goals are to end Israel's occupation of all Arab lands, to
ensure full equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and allow Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes. BDS is thus a response to Israel's denial of
Palestinian rights. The movement holds the moral high ground because its goals
are grounded in international law and its methods are non-violent.
The success of BDS in mobilising support
against the occupation is viewed with alarm by Israel's leaders. They see it as
part of a broader international campaign to delegitimise not just the
occupation but the state of Israel itself. Their response to BDS is not to
engage with its arguments but to tag it as shorthand for Jew-hatred.
In June 2015, the Israeli government set up
a special task force with a budget of around $25.5m to fight the movement
worldwide. The worse Israel behaves, the more aggressive are its efforts to
disqualify and discredit anyone who holds her to account.
In Britain the majority of Israel's
opponents are on the left of the political spectrum.
In the past year the Labour Party became
the main target of attack for allegedly harbouring a large number of
anti-Semites within its ranks.
These attacks originated with what might be
loosely termed "the Israel Lobby". This lobby consists of the Israeli
embassy in London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and other bodies such
as the Community Security Trust and BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications
and Research Centre.
It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the
charges of anti-Semitism began to be levelled at the Labour Party soon after
the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. For Jeremy Corbyn is the first leader
of a major British political party to make an unqualified stand in support of
Palestinian rights and Palestinian statehood. He is also opposed to the sale of
arms to Israel.
Corbyn's Jewish detractors did not directly
accuse him of anti-Semitism because they could not find even the flimsiest
evidence to substantiate such a charge. Corbyn has been in public life for a
third of a century and he has a consistent and an entirely commendable record
of opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.
The detractors, with the extensive research
facilities at their disposal, probably went through Corbyn's speeches of the
past three decades with a fine-tooth comb but found no incriminating evidence.
So they resorted to the old ploy of guilt by association: to smears and
innuendos that he consorted with Jew-haters and Holocaust deniers and that he
shared platforms with them.
The other "evidence" produced by
the detractors was an offensive cartoon posted on Facebook by Naz Shah, the
Labour MP for Bradford West, and a bizarre claim by Ken Livingstone, the former
London mayor and long-time Palestinian rights campaigner, that Hitler supported
Zionism in 1932 "before he went mad and killed six million Jews".
Yet Corbyn was sufficiently rattled by the
furore in the media to appoint an independent inquiry. Although the report
concluded that there is no endemic anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, the
In truth, the crisis in the Labour Party
was not primarily about anti-Semitism. It was part of a broader effort by a
group of disgruntled Blairites and their allies outside the party to overthrow
Jeremy Corbyn and to reverse his progressive policies. In short, the crisis was
manufactured to serve the ends of a right-wing faction within the Labour Party
as well as those of the Israel lobby.
This is the broader context in which Al
Jazeera's four-part series on "The Lobby" should be viewed. It is a
remarkable piece of investigative journalism, packed with concrete evidence of
murky manipulations by Israel's envoys and friends in Britain to empower its
supporters and undermine its critics.
"The Lobby" not only alleges but
documents covert operations by the Israeli embassy and improper interference at
every level of British politics. It exposes the way in which the Israeli
embassy "infiltrated" both the Conservative and the Labour parties in
flagrant violation of diplomatic protocol.
The most shocking revelation is that Shai
Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy, set up a number of
political organisations in the UK that operated as though entirely independent.
He was also secretly caught on camera plotting to "take down" MPs he
regarded as hostile to Israel. Among the MPs that Masot wanted to "take
down" was Sir Alan Duncan, the foreign office minister and vocal supporter
of a Palestinian state.
Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, made a
full apology to Sir Alan for the incident and stated that Masot will soon be
sent back to Jerusalem. Regev had little choice but to apologise: Al Jazeera
produced the smoking gun.
Before being posted to London, Regev had
served for eight years as chief spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu. Regev is essentially a PR man and a notoriously pugnacious one. He
personifies his master's mantra that the best defence is offense.
The British government seemed satisfied
with the apology and declared the matter closed. But a number of MPs from all
parties have expressed their concern over this gross interference in British
democracy and called on the prime minister to launch a public inquiry.
It is a fair guess that despite the recent
setback, the Israeli embassy under Mark Regev's leadership will continue its
campaign of targeted political attacks and that in its Hasbara - a polite
Hebrew word for propaganda - it will continue to equate legitimate criticism of
Israeli policies with visceral hatred of the Jewish people.
But in the long run, Israel and its envoys
abroad have no chance of winning the battle for hearts and minds for the simple
reason that Zionism itself has already ended up on the wrong side of history.
Avi Shlaim is an emeritus professor of international
relations at Oxford University and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the
"The nation and all of our freedoms
hang by a thread and the military apparatus of this country is about to be
handed over to scum! Who are beholden to scum! … Those who ignore these
elemental, existential facts - Democrats or Republicans - are traitors to this
country and will immediately and forever after be held accountable."
The passage above comes from a clip
recorded for GQ magazine by former CNN presenter Keith Olbermann. It’s a case
study in what we might call "anti-Trump Trumpism".
Railing against the incoming
administration, Olbermann apes the distinctive tics associated with Donald
Trump's media supporters. The steely gaze directly into the camera; the
emotional oscillation between chest-puffing bravery and lachrymose despair; the
enraged thumps on the table: The whole performance eerily channels Infowars'
Alex Jones, the doyen of the "alt right".
The resemblance isn't merely stylistic.
When Olbermann insists that a "bloodless coup" has taken place, with
conspirators in the political elite jeopardising America's very existence, he’s
arguing against Trump with rhetoric identical to that used by Infowars and Breitbart.com
to make the case for Trump.
The response to the intelligence dossier
released by Buzzfeed illustrates the same phenomenon. The claims by a former
spy remain entirely unverified, in a document commissioned by political
opponents and riddled with obvious errors. Editor Ben Smith himself
acknowledges that "there is serious reason to doubt the allegations".
Nevertheless, Buzzfeed justifies
publication by insisting that Americans should "make up their own
minds" - which, for better or for worse, is precisely the rationale that
Infowars gives when it covers FEMA camps and chemtrails.
Indeed, the uncritical embrace of such a
dubious artefact by anti-Trump liberals recalls the enthusiasm of Trump's
supporters for the equally lurid "Pizzagate" conspiracy, with
progressives revelling in prurient allegations about Trump's sexual peccadilloes
with just as much glee as conservatives once showed for equally fanciful
exposes about DNC involvement in "spirit cooking".
During the Bush years, the comedian Stephen
Colbert coined the term "truthiness" for assertions that could be
accepted without facts or evidence simply because they felt true "in the
gut". He was parodying the Right - but truthiness has become integral to
liberals embracing anti-Trump Trumpism.
According to an Economist/YouGov poll, 50
percent of Clinton voters believe that the Russians somehow manipulated voting
tallies - an almost exact replication of the pre-election Trumpite fantasy that
widespread voter fraud would deliver the presidency to the Democrats.
In reality there's precisely zero evidence
of Russian ballot tampering. Nevertheless, the truthy notion that Vladimir
Putin "hacked the vote" continues to circulate throughout both
mainstream and social media, in a curious liberal echo of the "fake
news" widely blamed for Trump's victory.
Olbermann's feverish rhetoric about a coup
rests on intelligence reports about Russian involvement in the election -
reports that, as Masha Gessen shows in the New York Review of Books, contain
far less than meets the eye. Traditionally, progressives denounced the CIA and
other agencies of the Deep State not just because of their role in (to borrow
William Blum's phrase) "killing hope" around the world through
assassinations, blackmail, torture and similar methods, but because of their
pernicious influence on democracy in the US.
In the 1960s, for instance, the FBI
circulated a dossier on Martin Luther King's sex life in an attempt to shame
the civil rights leader into suicide (though, in those pre-Buzzfeed times, the
press refused to publish it).
Today, liberals laud what they call the
"intelligence community" and denounce anyone who questions the
agencies' motives and honesty. What kind of political climate does this create,
in an era in which the Deep State has become larger and far more powerful than
Anti-Trump Trumpism drives progressives to
embrace a militarised nationalism: Think of Olbermann's hysterical calls for
"traitors" to be held to account, a rhetoric reminiscent of the John
In 2003, anti-war progressives were
consistently slurred as unwitting agents of Saddam. Back then, though, those
hurling charges of treason were still inhibited by the backlash against
McCarthyism. What will happen during the next war, now that so many liberals
have normalised accusations of disloyalty?
The most credible allegations about a
Putin-Trump nexus pertain to the supposed role of Russian intelligence in
providing Wikileaks with emails from John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton
Again, as the Intercept's Sam Biddle
explains, the available evidence on this remains perilously thin.
In any case, whatever Russian hackers did
or didn't do, their efforts pall next to the NSA's global intercept programme,
which, as well as sweeping up the private information of millions of citizens,
allowed the US to monitor the personal calls of world leaders.
As Juan Cole reminds us, George W Bush once
had German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's phone hacked so as to check his
position on the Iraq war.
More importantly, the Podesta files aren't
fakes or forgeries. The argument that the publication of genuine emails cost
the Democrats the White House thus amounts to an assertion that Clinton lost
because the voters learned too much about her.
To put it another way, those claiming that
Russia stole the election are arguing that the Democrats were robbed because
they were prevented from concealing the difference between what their candidate
said and what she truly believed.
It's an extraordinary argument for
so-called progressives. But it's indicative of the fundamentally anti-democratic
logic underpinning anti-Trump Trumpism.
Millions of Americans voted for Donald
Trump, one of the most odious candidates of modern times, not because they were
hypnotised by Putin but because they thought (wrongly) that the billionaire
represented their interests.
That's why there's a desperate need to
build a mass constituency for progressive, anti-racist and anti-sexist ideas.
Anti-Trump Trumpism represents a refusal to face that reality, an attempt to
sidestep the hard work necessary to rebuild the Left.
Rather than offering a genuine alternative
to the Right, the anti-Trump Trumpists are helping to entrench conservatism's
authoritarian, conspiratorial nationalism within the US mainstream.
Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster, and
an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Melbourne.
In a judgment handed down on Tuesday, the
European Court of Human Rights rejected a claim brought by a Muslim couple in
Basel, Switzerland, who had refused to allow their daughters to attend
compulsory mixed swimming lessons at school.
The ruling itself is unsurprising, and
doesn't come in a vacuum. The European court has been called upon to weigh in
on issues of religious freedom before - and a pattern has emerged, which is
difficult to ignore.
Two basic trends have materialised - the
first is one where the court has adopted a more neutral kind of secularism, and
where the judges have prioritised the individual consciences of the plaintiffs
over that of the different authorities that, invariably, call to notions of
"public order" to justify certain restrictions.
But this trend has typically been
associated with religious freedom cases lodged by members of Christian
communities, including, for example, the British Airways employee who had been
told by her employers that she couldn't wear a crucifix. Indeed, even state
authorities have, in order to protect a visible manifestation of Christian
heritage, appealed to the court to allow for crosses to be openly displayed in
state schools - and were successful in doing so.
There is, nevertheless, another trend at
work - one which is far more aggressively secularist, and which has,
invariably, affected Muslim communities. French and Turkish citizens have
applied to the court to protect their right to use certain types of clothing -
particularly the head-scarf or hijab and the face veil or niqab.
In light of such cases, as a former
employee of the European Court has pointed out: "… some consider that the
Court has more frequently sustained a form of strict secularism, or even a sort
of intolerant secularism or enlightenment fundamentalism. This is especially so
in cases when individual religious manifestations do not display any signs of
political intentions but are performed bona fide making these prohibitions
difficult to reconcile with the necessity to protect a democratic
In that trend, the court has prioritised
the state's rights over individual freedom of conscience - to the point where
it seems that the court has taken the state's arguments around what it
considers as legitimate aims as a given.
It's not quite clear cut, though. In this
particular case, the girls were children - they hadn't even met the age of
puberty - and the school had said that a full length wetsuit, popularly known
as a "burkini", could be worn. One would have thought that a
compromise might have been found. But the precedent has now been set - and the
court is clear.
Burkini, no burkini - below or above the
age of puberty - it seems that Muslim parents who wish to withdraw their
children from mixed swimming lessons will be unable to do so.
The ramifications of the case are more than
just a swimming lesson issue. The reasoning mentioned by the court enshrines
much more than that. It claimed, in a rather sweeping statement, that
Switzerland's right to facilitate "successful social integration according
to local customs and mores" took precedence.
Further, "The Court observed that
school played a special role in the process of social integration, and one that
was all the more decisive where pupils of foreign origin were concerned,"
the statement read.
It's a very sensitive and delicate argument
- and not one made very well by the court in this regard. How "social
integration" is served by forcing families to put their children into a
very specific type of sporting activity - one that only a few years ago would
have been segregated according to gender in many European countries - is
It is difficult, also, to separate this
ruling from the wider anti-Muslim sentiment in terms of "visible
Muslim-ness" across Europe. Remember: Switzerland was the country where a
few years ago a national referendum was held on mosque minarets (though there
were barely any minarets in the country) - and the Swiss banned minarets as a
But this isn't simply about the Swiss -
generally a tolerant nation and accepting of diversity - far from it. The Swiss
are part of a wider discussion, where three things are being hammered out
across Europe. The first is how to recognise religion in an increasingly
secularised Europe, a continent where there are now only eight recognised
state-churches. Norway, for example, just disestablished their own national
church a few weeks ago. Religion is no longer considered as important in the
national sphere in most European countries as it once was.
Secondly, how is Europe to acknowledge
Islam as a religion in the European public sphere? There is a great deal of
resistance to that, historically and today, but whether we like it or not,
Islam is a European religion, and its adherents are not excluded from being
European just because they are Muslim. Europe as a whole has to come to grips
Finally, how does Europe incorporate
Muslims as individuals and as communities, visible ones or not, even when they
are different from what is now more commonly acceptable? Even when reluctance
to engage in mixed-gender sports has only recently went "out of
Where does it end and who decides? Are
Muslim Europeans actors in that decision, with as much a European voice as any
other European? Or are they simply subjects to be told that this is the way it
is and if they don't like it, their European-ness is rejected and they can
"leave"? To where, nobody knows because, like it or not, they are
All of that is taking place against the backdrop
of major issues such as terrorism and migration - and while these should be
segmented out, they're not going to be. The fears of Eurarabia remain, as
preposterous as they may be.
Right-wing populists - and even many on the
left - make a good deal of political hay on these issues. That is very likely
to continue - and, alas, this court ruling just makes the situation all the
Europe is going through a very challenging
period and Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to be creative about how best to
move forward. This latest outcome isn't a good example of that at all.
Dr HA Hellyer is senior non-resident fellow at the RH
Centre for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and at the Royal United
Services Institute in London. He is also author of "The 'Other' Europeans:
Muslims of Europe".
The first concrete words that Turkish
President Tayyip Erdogan wants to hear from the Donald Trump administration,
scheduled to take office on Jan. 20, came from Trump’s pick for Secretary of
State, Rex Tillerson, during his Jan. 11 testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Foreign
While responding to questions on Syria,
Tillerson said the U.S. “has to re-engage with President Erdogan in Turkey … In
the absence of American leadership, he has gotten pretty nervous about his
situation and turned to … Russia.”
This single sentence summarizes a great
part of the current situation quite well.
Another statement by another U.S. authority
at about the same time shows how little the outgoing Barack Obama
administration understood the current situation, and why Turkey-U.S. relations
have regressed to the state described by Tillerson.
That statement was a tweet by the U.S.
Central Command saying that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had “confirm[ed]
that it has no affiliation or ties with the PKK,” referring to the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers’ Party and quoting a Jan. 10 statement by the SDF.
“Is this a joke or has CENTCOM lost its
senses?” replied Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for the Turkish Presidency. “Do
you believe anyone will buy this? The U.S. must stop trying to legitimize a
There are a few reasons why the statement
was indeed a desperate move by the CENTCOM, aiming to prove that it is doing
the right thing in Syria.
Firstly, the SDF is a front organization
founded in October 2015, after Turkey opened up of its strategic Incirlik air
base for U.S.-led coalition flights against the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL) after a series of contacts between Erdogan and Obama and after
the Russian air force had started to be deployed in Syria.
Secondly, the main component of the SDF,
according to its manifesto, is the People’s Protection Units (PYG), the militia
of the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian branch of
the PKK. The PKK is engaged in a four decade-long fight with Turkey, a NATO
ally of the U.S., which also officially designates the PKK a terrorist
organization. PYD leader Salih Muslim has on a number of occasions - most
recently during a conference in Brussels on March 6, 2016 - said that he considers
Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned founding leader of the PKK, as his own leader.
Thirdly, speaking during a Senate panel on
April 28, 2016 about supplying military material to the YPG, U.S. Secretary of
Defense Ashton Carter said “yes” when asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham whether the
PYD and YPG were aligned with the PKK.
The U.S was absent at the beginning of the
Syria civil war and then jumped onto the stage with the worst possible partner.
Going back to Tillerson’s Senate testimony,
he also said that after the elimination of ISIL the West world be able to deal
with other organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and
Iran-affiliated groups, possibly implying Hezbollah or Hashd al-Shaabi.
Perhaps Erdogan might have reservations
about any fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah, (as a legal
political force in Lebanon). But Turkey’s biggest problems now are the PKK and
ISIL - the rest will be negotiable.
The Turkish Lira has recently become the
worst fragile currency of 2017, even performing worse than the Mexico peso,
which has been under big pressure since Donald Trump was elected as the new
After falling over 10 percent in the first
weeks of 2017, the currency has exposed Turkey’s greatest economic risks, from
an obvious slowdown in economic reforms to its high dependence on foreign
capital and investments to keep the economy afloat. More significantly, all of
these are happening at a time when political uncertainties, social tensions and
economic slowdown have peaked.
Nothing happened overnight for the Turkish
currency. The lira, along with a number of emerging currencies, started to lose
its ground after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would end the high liquidity
party in the global markets in May 2013. Of course, there were several times
when the lira was seriously hit in the following years after this date amid
many elections, terror attacks and even a failed coup attempt.
The lira has not, however, faced such a big
hit as it saw this past week.
This dramatic plunge in the Turkish
currency’s value has coincided with the launch of parliamentary talks over the
constitutional amendment, which has resulted in serious concerns among
investors that it will be a key step paving the way for President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan to increase his power in a dramatic manner. And I’m not even mentioning
a number of terror attacks that have hit the country. In just the last month,
Turkey has been hit by four massive terror attacks.
The Turkish people, who wanted to forget a
terrible 2016 and celebrate the coming of the new year, were all shocked in the
first hours of 2017 by an armed attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant (ISIL) on a top nightclub that left at least 39 dead and 65 injured.
Moreover, economic activity has decelerated
significantly in recent months, almost halting completely following failed coup
attempt in July 2016.
This environment is actually sending very
important messages that need to be understood and thoroughly evaluated.
First of all, when the country’s inflation
has been on the rise and the questions over the independence of the Central
Bank have risen, nobody should make any comment regarding the rates. It is not
good for any country to blame some groups for the worsening of the economic or
other situations. Yes, Turkey has tried to overcome a terrible coup attempt,
but its officials must accelerate the investigations and uncover the secret
links and actions of the organization behind this coup. After such
uncertainties are eased, the country will likely start to lure foreign
investment once more.
Second, the government has taken a series
of measures to cause a rebound in the economy, but the main point here must be
to maintain the rule of law, meritocracy, pluralism, justice, robust
bureaucratic institutions and freedom of speech in order to enhance economic
recovery and attract foreign investments, as the country’s top bosses have
The Turkish Lira and economy have,
unfortunately, been subjected to massive pressure, especially ahead of a Fitch
assessment in late January, but they still retain some key structural
advantages that must be revitalized. Otherwise, a fatal cylinder for the
economy could erupt if businesses cease paying their foreign exchange debts.
Today marks the fifth death anniversary of
Rauf Denktas, the founding president of the Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus. Today may also be a new start for Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Thursday
was a very important day for all Cypriots, irrespective of ethnical divides,
and all those who are still bothered with the prospect of peace in the eastern
Mediterranean island. For the first time ever since the 1960 creation of the
Republic of Cyprus, the two communities and the three guarantor powers; Turkey,
Greece and Britain, came together.
What was the result of the meeting? Did not
you hear? The multinational, international or five-party conference is still
underway, but because Hürriyet Daily News is printed early, this article had to
be penned down earlier than the result. Yet was it not clear enough from such
statements like “Geneva will not be the last stop” or the “no one should expect
date of a referendum on a Cyprus deal to come out of this meeting” said by U.N.
Envoy Espen Barth Eide? The expectation that the Geneva round of talks might
bring about a settlement was brushed aside long-ago. Why was there a meeting
then? Was it not obvious that there was no sufficient progress for a landmark
Obviously, these and many other questions
might be asked and very pessimistic or optimistic remarks might be made. The
clear fact is that for the first time ever representatives of the three
guarantor states and the two communities of the island came together. Did they
come to finish off the Cyprus problem with a single magical touch or will this
be the start of yet another inconclusive process, which is very much similar to
the previous almost-half-a-century-old intercommunal talks.
There is no need for pessimism. Personally,
I would not expect success from Geneva or the possible subsequent round of
talks, irrespective whether they are bi-communal or multinational, only unless
Greek Cypriots agreed to share the territory and sovereignty of Cyprus with
their Turkish counterparts on the basis of political equality.
There were signs yesterday just before the
multilateral conference convened that indeed Greek Cypriots, at least verbally,
agreed to deliver the “effective participation in governance” as well as the
“rotation of presidency” demands of the Turkish Cypriot side. But the two sides
presented their respective territorial perspectives accompanied by a set of
maps, without fulfilling the terms agreed in the previous Mont Pelerin rounds
of talks. Those terms included the completion of bilateral talks on property,
governance, EU matters, federal legal affairs, and making a settlement to be
reached as the primary law of the EU and such issues. It was considered an
unacceptable development by the Turkish Cypriot government which strongly
protested the presentation of a map on territorial adjustments without actually
providing their input in a memorandum issued in Geneva.
The government was against Mustafa Akinci who
agreed to take down the Turkish Cypriot territory from the present 36 percent
to a 29.2 percent level, while Greek Cypriots considered that one percentage
point above their offer of 28.2 percent. According to unverified reports in a
written reservation, the Greek Cypriot side notified the U.N., which has locked
the maps in a safe place until the international conference reaches a stage of
discussions, that it would not accept the Turkish Cypriot side’s control of
Morphou (Güzelyurt) area – the richest aquifer of the island – and the tip of
the Karpasia Peninsula, which houses the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, and is
considered important for the control of eastern Mediterranean and its
A key remaining sticking point is the
guarantees issue. While Greece has been stressing that its participation in the
Cyprus International Conference was totally aimed at discussing liquidation of
the 1960 guarantee scheme for which there was “no place in an EU-member
country.” Greece, as the “motherland” of the numerically-larger Greek Cypriot
population of the island enjoys access to all Greek Cypriot military facilities
and ports. Besides, through bilateral security arrangements, they have
considerable military presence at all levels separately as well as the control
of the Greek Cypriot National Guard. Greece giving up the guarantor status
would not make any difference. Besides, like Greece and the outgoing Britian,
Cyprus is an EU-member country.
Britain has two sovereign bases, a portion
of whose territory it declared would relinquish to Cypriots as a bonus of the
resolution. Those bases will continue to be on the island and function as a
guarantor when required. Britain giving up its guarantor power status will not
make much change.
For Turkey, however, not only for the
security and wellbeing of Turkish Cypriots, Cyprus is strategically important.
When in some other forms Greece and Britain will be staying in Cyprus, Turkey
would withdraw from the island. The International Conference will have to find
an answer to that question apart from going over the unresolved issues and if
it can encourage the two sides for a grand give-and-take which might bring
about a resolution.
If that can be achieved, then, at least
three months will be needed to write a new constitution, prepare conditions and
start a referendum campaign that may carry the two populations to separate
simultaneous referenda late this summer.
Let’s wait and see the outcome of a
multinational summit, what will come out of it, and whether there would be
further summits as anticipated, or perhaps a collapse…
Art critic Aysegül Sönmez has long pursued
her dream of an art school. It is now becoming a reality with a fledgling
Sönmez has been a lecturer at the Fine Arts
Department of Okan University for eight years, while also tutoring groups and
the staff of various institutions on contemporary art and collectorship.
In addition, she has a background of
teaching at Belgium’s HISK art school. HISK is a school where post graduate and
doctoral level art students are able to select their own teachers. Within this
structure, teachers are able to visit their students at their own studios and
discuss their work.
With the influence of this experience,
Sönmez has been envisioning an idealistic and free art education. In a way, she
has come up with an anti-academic structure, rather like the Tavanarasi
phenomenon in Turkey in the 1950s, from which artists such as Atif Yilmaz and
Ömer Uluç sprung.
“Sanatatak Egitim” (Art Attack Education),
which will launch on Jan. 14, was born out of these thoughts. Its aim is to encourage
independent artists, designing an education program that would address a social
sciences student as well as a fine arts student, or a white-collar worker
casually interested in philosophy, art and literature.
In this education model there are no titles
such as professor or associate professor; there are simply trainers who hold
classes with passion and people who want to attend class.
“Sanatatak Egitim,” in short, says another
education is possible. It is one small step on the path to Sönmez’s school
It has prepared a different curriculum from
different disciplines and has posted an appeal on its website
www.sanatatak.com. Some of the trainers on the project come from among the
respondents to the call, and readers of the website came forward with some
wonderful suggestions. Professional educator Deniz Erben from Marmara
University helped them evaluate these suggestions.
“For example, the Modern Greek course will
be taught by Melike Karaosmanoglu. The architects Mustafa Kemal Yurttas and
Esra Ertan will give lectures on cities and civilizations. The writer Vivet
Kanetti will teach about why she loves F. Scott Fitzgerald so much.” Sönmez
There are also courses on Internet
journalism, 3D techniques, social media expertise, and creative critique.
Sanatatak.com editor Ali Murat Ergül will give the classes on Internet
journalism and social media expertise.
Musician Efe Demiral, meanwhile, will help
attendees listen to music with a critical eye. In the Eroticism and Politics
class, attendees will look into the relationship between women, men and power
from the end of 19th century until today.
What’s more, architect Volkan Taskin will
teach on Turkish architect and city planner Turgut Cansever, Suna Dirikan will
teach on Divan Literature, and Ayse Zeynep Hatipoglu will teach on Turkish
tambour virtuoso Cemil Bey.
Classes are due to come to an end on June
15, after which a camp will be held for students and educators in Palamutbükü
in southwestern Turkey.
This is just one initiative, but it feels
like a light in the darkness.