Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

What in the world is going on in Turkey?

June 24, 2013

Turkey demosFour weeks ago a small group of environmentally-minded Turks staged a demonstration, or an occupation, of tiny Gezi park in Istanbul, where the government had stated its intent to build a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks to house a shopping mall.

The government responded by attacking the protesters violently with water cannon and tear gas. The disproportionate attack on the peaceful protesters crystallized widespread hostility to the government of Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced ER-duh-wan). The protests grew and spread all over Turkey, and everywhere the protesters were met by violent police action. So far five have died, and the protests have died down.

Erdoğan blames the trouble on outsiders, including CNN and the “interest lobby,” and has called out his supporters into massive counter demonstrations.

Erdoğan was first elected to head the government in 2002, with 34% of the vote. He was reelected in 2007 with 46%, and again in 2011 with just under 50% of the votes cast. He is a practicing Muslim—rare for a Turkish leader—and has steadily moved to make Turkish society more congenial to pious Muslims. He wants to amend the Constitution to allow women to wear headscarves in public buildings (now forbidden), and has had laws passed that allow early religious instruction in elementary school, limit the sale of alcohol, and has proposed bans on abortion and even on kissing in public.

Some fear Erdoğan’s goal is to introduce Sharia law, a la Iran or Saudi Arabia, while others (including The Economist) call him a “moderate Islamist” and believe his intent is simply to (more…)

Should you beware of your tour guide? Even in Turkey?

January 2, 2013

 

150 RustemP P1000074I think Turks are more honest than most, and I’ve written several times about how hard it is to lose a wallet in Turkey because some Turk will always pick it up and track you down to return it. In contrast, when a friend lost her wallet in front of the Whole Foods market in Westwood—an upscale part of Los Angeles, right by UCLA—it vanished without a trace. I wouldn’t be surprised if Turkey was the only place in the world where you just can’t lose a wallet.

So what to think when Today’s Zaman, Turkey’s top English language newspaper, runs an exposé headlined, “Beware of your tour guide”?

The article, along with a follow-on piece, gives several examples of

“tourists who are taken advantage of by a licensed, professional tour guide, someone who they have hired to show them the historic sites of the city, who builds up a sense of trust and who then knowingly fleeces them out of additional money after they have already paid a sometimes hefty fee for a guided tour.”

The scams mainly involve kickbacks from shops and restaurants who jack up their prices and share the loot with the unscrupulous guides who bring the poor trusting tourists to be fleeced.

So should you beware? No and yes. No, because you’ll forego an enriching experience if the warning makes you avoid guides altogether. Some of my most rewarding travel experiences have been with licensed guides, particularly Arzu Tutuk Altinay in Istanbul and Atil Ulas Cuce in Cappadocia.

But yes as well. Use common sense, check them out, and don’t give someone you don’t know carte blanche to choose your restaurant, carpet dealer, jeweler, or spice shop. Even in a country where honesty predominates there are sharpies and crooks looking for you. So hire a guide, be enriched by the knowledge she has, and—always—think for yourself.

 

 

Nobody ever loses a wallet in Turkey. It always gets returned

April 17, 2012

 

I’ve visited Turkey eleven times, and always return in awe of the honesty of Turks. I’ve written here about the lengths Enver Beyazyuz went to in order to return my wallet, which he had found in the men’s room at an Istanbul Starbucks. And here, about the Gaziantep cab driver who trusted us to call him for a return trip so we could pay him after he had been unable to change the TL 20 bill (about $12) I had offered.

On my latest visit my daughter, Susan Le, was lingering over breakfast coffee when Johann, a fellow guest at our hotel in Cappadocia (the Esbelli Ev—visit Cappadocia and stay there if you can!) sadly recounted how he had lost his wallet, stuffed with IDs and credit cards, at the huge Goreme Open Air Museum (photo).

“No problem,” Sue replied cheerfully. “Nobody ever loses a wallet in Turkey. It always gets returned. Tell Atıl (our guide, Atıl Cuce of Middle Earth Travel, hire him when you visit Cappadocia), he’ll know what to do.”

Two minutes later Atılhung up the phone. “They have your wallet.”

My friend Arzu Tutuk (best guide in Istanbul, hire her when you go there) says if you lose your mobile phone in Turkey the finder will first refill with additional minutes, then track you down and return it. I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

Can the outside world intervene to stop the slaughter in Syria?

February 17, 2012

Last March a few young Syrian boys— all under 17 — wrote on a wall in the farm town of Dara’a in southern Syria, a slogan that had appeared first in Tunisia, then quickly in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya:  “The people want the regime to fall.”

The local governor threw the boys in jail, and so the Syrian revolution started.

Thirty years ago Syria’s brutal president, Hafez al-Assad, put down an anti-government demonstration in the city of Hama by killing 20,000-40,000 residents. His son and successor, Bashar al-Assad, appears to be made of the same stuff. His forces have killed 5,000-7,000* in towns all over Syria, and his killing machine seems to be gaining momentum.

The Arab League and the UN General Assembly have called for an end to the killing and for Assad to leave power. Assad’s answer has been to double down.

It’s anguishing to watch the newscasts or read about the slaughter of innocents and feel helpless to stop it. Until the past few weeks outside help was impossible: unlike Libya, where the rebels controlled large chunks of territory and could be supplied and aided easily, in Syria the opposition was scattered and controlled no territory.

Now that’s changing. CNN’s Ivan Watson is reporting that militants in northern Syria hold substantial territory (more…)

Perry says Turkey’s leaders are Islamic terrorists, links Turkey to Iran and Syria; State Department “absolutely and fundamentally” disagrees

January 17, 2012

 

Sometimes when a politician says something stupid it’s just something stupid. But Rick Perry’s remarks at last night’s Republican debate are fifteen yards beyond stupid. They’re dangerous and unethical.

Unethical because a Presidential candidate should know something before he maligns an American ally—or anyone, come to think of it. Thoughtless or ignorant words damage America’s power in the world

Debate moderator Bret Baier asked Perry whether he thought Turkey should continue to be part of NATO.

Perry jumped in by calling Turkey’s leaders “Islamic terrorists.”

“Well, obviously when you have a country that is being ruled by, what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists, when you start seeing that type of activity against their own citizens, then yes, not only is it time for us to have a conversation about whether or not they belong to be in NATO, but it’s time for the United States, when we look at their foreign aid, to go to zero with it.”

Perry further promised to send a message to “countries like Iran and Syria and Turkey” that the United States is serious and will have to be dealt with. (more…)

My ten favorite posts of 2011

December 31, 2011

 

There were 112 Ethics Bob  posts in 2011, and 14,000 page views. Here are my ten favorites:

  • Ex-Auburn Prof Jim Gundlach gets a mythical Sam Goldwyn award* for speaking truth to power—to Auburn football http://goo.gl/x3ro4
  • Turks trust strangers, and the trust is repaid http://goo.gl/4UBW6
  • Drew Brees: ethics hero and football hero. He lives by “If not me, who? http://goo.gl/RMzsV
  • Tim Pawlenty announces for President, grabs third rail of Iowa politics, earns mythical Edmund Burke Award. http://goo.gl/yBdXS
  • Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) defends Muslim judge Sohail Mohammed, calls opponents “crazies.” Hooray for an ethics hero http://goo.gl/KtCCQ
  • Three cheers for Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Byron York of Fox News, and for Rachel Maddow of MSNBC http://goo.gl/gsXAx
  • Ethics: I’m giving it away http://goo.gl/Rl1jB
  • LSU Tigers Coach Les Miles gets a mythical Chip Kelly Award* for suspending three stars for the big game with Auburn http://goo.gl/rjns5
  • Report from Zuccotti Park, and what’s next for Occupy Wall Street http://goo.gl/Sk5sV
  • Rose Bowl, BCS Bowl, Ethics Bowl http://goo.gl/MxGYu
  • The lesson from Penn State http://goo.gl/Tnn03

 

Istanbulite Arzu Tutuk explains the issues of the Kurds in Turkey and the PKK

October 26, 2011

I wrote last week about the deaths of 24 Turkish soldiers at the hands of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers party, and included a short poetic summary of the conflict by my friend Arzu Tutuk, a Turk from Istanbul.

The conflict is important to America because it threatens the peace of Turkey, the most important Muslim ally of the United States. The campaign is creating a wedge issue that can poison relations between Turkey and all her neighbors as well as between Turkey and the rest of NATO.

 I invited Arzu to expand on her thoughts about the conflict. Here they are: 

For most of the Turkish people, it is difficult to face the truth. There is a PKK issue in Turkey. PKK is a terrorist organization. There’s also a Kurdish problem in Turkey. It’s another issue, but not totally different.

I have many Kurdish friends who live in Istanbul. They went to good schools, got a good education, have proper jobs and great families. They grew up in families where the mother only spoke Kurdish. They did not hear a word of Turkish until primary school. At primary school it is forbidden to speak any other language (more…)

Good out of tragedy? Turkey and Israel after the earthquake

October 25, 2011

“Earthquake diplomacy” is a term coined after two huge earthquakes struck first Turkey, then Greece in 1999. Putting aside years of mutual distrust, the Greek government immediately offered aid to Turkey when a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck the major Turkish city of Izmit, with severe damage as far as Istanbul. Two weeks later a 5.9 earthquake struck in Athens, and the Turks quickly reciprocated. Ordinary Turks and Greeks rushed to donate blood and money to their stricken neighbors. Official relations between the two countries warmed considerably.

Now earthquake diplomacy may heal relations between former allies Turkey and Israel, seriously breached this May when Israeli forces attacked a Turkish ship attempting to run an Israeli blockade of Gaza, killing nine Turks in a botched attempt to take over the ship.

When a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey last week, killing hundreds and destroying thousands of homes, Israeli President Peres was the first to offer aid to his counterpart, Turkish President Gul. (more…)

Kurdish terrorists kill 24 Turkish soldiers near Iraqi border. Why?

October 21, 2011

The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed 24 Turkish soldiers and wounded 18 Wednesday in simultaneous attacks in Hakkari province, southeastern Turkey, 1,200 miles from Istanbul.

This attack is the most serious in years, in a battle that’s been on and off since 1984. The violence has been confined to remote areas near the border with Iraq, where the PKK takes sanctuary. Areas favored by western tourists and travelers have been free of violence.

Turkey has a population of 79 million, of whom about 14 million are Kurds, a largely Sunni Muslim people with their own language and culture, which Turkish governments have feared and repressed for decades.

Why should Americans care about this? Because the violence threatens the peace of Turkey, a friend of the United States, a member of NATO, and the Middle East’s only functioning democracy, a secular one at that. And because most Americans who have visited Turkey, especially including me, have fallen in love with the country and with its people.

The roots of the conflict are many and I thought, hard to follow, until my friend Arzu Tutuk, who makes a living showing Westerners the wonderful attractions of Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, clarified it in this crisp and poetic fashion:

Remember how happy we were when the Kurds elected members in the Parliament back in June?

Erdogan’s party did everything they could to not admit these members.

Some are in prison.

What do these people want? Broadcast in Kurdish, name their kids Kurdish names (more…)

Israel whistles, the United States comes running. No matter what’s right

September 23, 2011

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, told a cheering UN General Assembly today, “I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for full admission to the United Nations.”

Who can disagree? The government of Israel, for one. And if the GOI objects, the American right will come right along. And so, sadly, will President Obama. Conscience takes a back seat when votes are about to be counted.

Obama’s speech to the UN was a craven surrender to the Israeli government’s demand that we oppose the Palestinian request. This is an ethical disaster, as well as a realpolitik one. It will wipe out the good will Obama earned with his earlier calls for honorable treatment of the Palestinians and his once-brave insistence on a halt to Israeli expansion into the West Bank. Forgotten, too, will be his siding with the Arab Spring, outweighed as it is among most Muslims and young people everywhere (including in Israel) by his opposition to Palestinian rights.

Obama did have support for his position. To Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama’s speech was a “badge of honor.” This is the same Netanyahu that President Clinton blamed, as recently as yesterday, for preventing a peace deal.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman liked the speech even more, telling a news conference, “I congratulate President Obama, and I am ready to sign on this speech with both hands.” Lieberman is widely despised in Israel as a racist for his proposal to rid Israel of its Arab citizens by “redrawing its map to ‘exchange’ part of the Arab population and create a more ‘homogenous Jewish state,’ as a solution to Israel’s Arab minority ‘problem.’ ”

Having sabotaged Israel’s own relations with Turkey over Israeli refusal to apologize for killing nine Turkish activists running the Gaza blockade, Israel is now sabotaging American relations with the entire Muslim world, which will have a hard time accepting that America preaches freedom for all, but not for occupied Palestine.


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