13 Mart 2008 Perşembe

Pay attention. It's going to happen

In London, from where I write this entry, the Iraq war has a numbing effect. Most people know it is happening, but rarely any longer do they acknowledge it. And after four years of death and destruction on an almost daily basis in a faraway land, they can hardly be blamed for it.

The mood is reflected in British TV news: Iraq does still feature in bulletins, but the reports of carnage normally appear in the middle, the least-watched bit, following all those stories about councils wanting to empty bins less frequently. It's not that people don't care, but they are numbed by the news that never differs.

But things are about to change in Iraq. It will not be a change for the better, and it will not come from America's Congress, with its new multi-billion dollar aid package, or from Iran, with its alleged backing of the insurgency. The change will come from Turkey, which is threatening to invade the north of Iraq. And anyone who remotely understands the region knows that Turkey can - and will - do it.

The predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq is a stark contrast to the rest of the country. While British and American troops face attacks by the day, the Kurds have set up a stable, autonomous government, with greater freedom than they ever had under Saddam Hussein. They even have one of their number as Iraqi president. Iraqi Kurdistan is a comfort to coalition forces, but Turkey wants to intervene.

Why? Because, largely unnoticed to the outside world, Turkey is under attack. Attacks against the state and army have been at least monthly occurences since the PKK renounced its unilateral ceasefire three years ago. Yesterday, six soldiers were killed by remote-controlled mine during a land search operation in the southeastern town of Şırnak. Even as I type, Turkish radio said that a state security chief in nearby Tunceli was targeted today in a bomb attack.

Turkey's army says the attacks come from secret bases over the border in northern Iraq. It accuses figures in the Kurdish administration, and even US military chiefs in the region, of turning a blind eye to their existence. The army chief, Yaşar Büyükanıt, said at a press conference on April 12 that a swift operation was needed to remove the bases and stop the attacks. The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has indicated in the last week that he agrees.

To put things in perspective, Turkey's southeast is not Iraq's southeast. The attacks are not as frequent, nor as reckless. They target security officials and soldiers, not civilians. The region is not the danger zone it was twenty years ago, and there is little talk of imposing another state of emergency. But none of this justifies the PKK attacks. They are still taking lives, and Turkey wants to stop them.

Both America and the Iraqi government in Baghdad have opposed the idea of a Turkish intervention for months. Both have favoured solving the problem among themselves, and there have been a number of three-way meetings. But the attacks have not stopped, and not a week has seemed to go by recently without television pictures of another flag-draped coffin being buried. No one was hurt in the Tunceli attack, but patience is wearing thin. Amid rising nationalism and anti-Americanism, more people than ever before are saying that Turkey needs to solve the problem alone. And with an election just around the corner, Mr Erdoğan might just agree.

No one doubts Turkey has the capability to strike northern Iraq. Its army, after all, is NATO's second largest. But it is hard not to feel that the United States is not taking the threat of an intervention seriously enough. It can happen, and unless something changes soon, it will happen. Someone needs to take notice.

It's fascism! It must be!

(written on the morning of Wednesday 4th April)
A number of newspapers were taken aback by the surprise decision on Sunday to requisition the property of Ciner media group. The state's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) seized 63 companies, including Sabah, which has a somewhat unfair reputation as the housewives' newspaper, and atv television, one of Turkey's "big four". The reason for the swoop was a series of secret - and apparently illegal -agreements signed between the group's owner, Turgay Ciner, and former chairman Dinç Bilgin.

There was outrage at the decision yesterday. "The TMSF's executive is tied to the government" was Cumhuriyet's claim yesterday, quoting an opposition MP. "The Fund's broader authority should be examined." In plain English - or Turkish, as it were - the opposition believes the government has seized Sabah and atv for propaganda purposes, just months before the general election.

This isn't the first media group to be impounded in recent years. In 2004, the TMSF seized the assets of the Uzan group, which included television and radio stations, newspapers and Telsim, the country's second largest mobile phone operator. The companies all went into public ownership for a number of months before being sold off individually. Star TV, another of Turkey's big four channels, went to the Doğan Group; the newspaper of the same name went to Turkish Cypriot businessman; and Telsim was sold off after a fierce bidding war to Vodafone.

The TMSF promises that, like the Uzan assets, the Ciner companies will be sold off in a few months. But that hasn't stopped politicians from accusing the government of orchestrating the media.

"The press should not be under government control," insisted DYP leader Mehmet Ağar. "Regardless of what is said now, (the companies) will still be in government control". The deputy leader of the far-right Nationalist Action Party declared it "a crime against democracy", in a comment that not enough people snorted at. And Kemal Anadol, head of the main opposition CHP's parliamentary group, went so far as to use the F-word: "There is intent here to keep the press under unilateral pressure, to suppress the opposition. It is a fascist mind that is doing this."

Many seem to have forgotten in the scramble to cry "media intervention!" that the Ciner group was impounded on suspicion of dodgy deals. Tax avoidance continues to be a big problem in Turkey; the greatest culprits have been some of the country's largest holding companies. Putting an end to their dirty work can only be a good thing.

Anavatan's leader, Erkan Mumcu, seemed to be the only voice of reason in all this. He said the reasons behind the operation were not yet clear, and it would not be right to comment until the court case is over. Perhaps more of us should listen to him.

Siamese observations

(this entry was written late last night)
Two press conferences, two different leaders, two very different styles. The country's best reporters were already poised for a press conference from Turkey's army chief, Yaşar Büyükanıt, which was to address issues that "the public needs to know about". What everyone wanted to know what whether General Büyükanıt would clear up his position on the presidential election - Radikal, for instance, went this morning with the headline "What will he say to the Çankaya question?"

Barely a half hour before General Büyükanıt began, parliament speaker (and rumoured presidential candidate) Bülent Arınç was just finishing a press conference of his own, and it was interesting to see how the two leaders compared.

Bülent Arınç's command of Turkish is what I would call near-perfect. He is articulate, has an excellent tone and speaks practically without hesitation. His press conference was similarly well-handled: he made his statement on Saturday's rally in Ankara, with his pauses as if timed to complete a soundbite, and then took questions from reporters. He gave absolutely nothing away about his potential candidacy.

Yaşar Büyükanıt's press conference, on the other hand, lasted well over an hour and was spectacularly successful in recreating the "bored in the classroom" effect. That was until around three o'clock, when he announced that he was fully in favour of sending Turkish troops into northern Iraq. It wasn't a particularly surprising revelation, but producers at the umpteen television channels showing the conference took the opportunity to splash "breaking news" captions on the screen. Perhaps they were trying to make things a little more exciting.

What interested me was the stark difference in style: where Mr Arınç was succinct and to the point, General Büyükanıt resorted to those outstretched Turkish sentences that seem to knock down all hope of a full stop any time soon. While Mr Arınç had me hanging on to his every word, General Büyükanıt frequently made me pick up this morning's Radikal, trying to remember why I was watching him.

Bülent Arınç is, of course, not the first smooth talker of Turkish politics. But it can't have only been me who has noticed that more and more politicians seem to have that gift of talking directly to the public, while those traditional stalwarts of the state bring us all back to school in an instant.

No doubt the Büyükanıt conference was the leading story of the day, and it deserved the near-blanket coverage it received in the evening news bulletins. But I just wonder - if the speaker's conference had somehow been shown first, how many viewers would have switched over when the general came on?

Presidential nominations: day six

The halfway point has now been crossed in the period to nominate candidates for Turkey's presidency. This morning, the official candidate count stands at zero, the number declared is no greater than two, and the speculation for others is more intense than ever before.

The deadline for nominating candidates is, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has often reminded us, midnight on the evening of Wednesday 25th April. Not one person has gone to the specially allocated office in the Turkish parliament to nominate either themselves or another, although yesterday the first MP to declare revealed himself to the press.

Ersönmez Yarbay (right) is an AK party deputy for Ankara. He told excited reporters yesterday that he was putting himself forward because he was feeling increasingly uncomfortable at the lack of candidates. His candidacy should be taken about as seriously as that of Metin Uca, the former gameshow host who fielded himself as a compromise candidate a couple of weeks ago.

Both say they are compromise candidates: Mr Uca says he is not an MP and has a greater chance of being politically neutral, while Mr Yarbay says he will go and register if no other AK man does. The problem is not whether an AK deputy will register. Everybody knows there will be somebody; it is now a question of who, and when.

Mr Erdoğan's candidacy is still nothing but guesswork. I myself am still not committed on the issue. Just on Thursday, I was convinced that he would be running after his notable absence - and foreign minister Abdullah Gül's notable presence - at a meeting announcing Turkey's EU reform programme. But this morning's papers have the story of a group of Istanbul fishermen happily greeting the prime minister rather than the president. Mr Erdoğan apparently welcomed the sentiments. Oh, I am confused.

The other substantial development in Ankara yesterday was a meeting between Mr Gül and parliament speaker Bülent Arınç. Both men left the meeting saying they were concerned at the level of media speculation, that there were no differences of opinion between them or with Mr Erdoğan, and that the two of them were agreed upon the same candidate. Of course, they did not say who that candidate might be.

So as we enter day six, there is little new of substance to report. Mr Erdoğan is still the leading candidate, in that there is no doubt he will win if he runs. Mr Arınç and Mr Gül are second-placed. The other serious AK candidates are those whose wives don't wear headscarves. There is also talk of an woman candidate - Nimet Çubukçu, the cabinet minister for women and family affairs, would be the obvious AK choice there.

There is still faint hope of a compromise candidate, selected from outside parliament. Some newspapers have picked up on the speculation this morning: Sabah's headline is "I wouldn't object to a fourth candidate", quoting Mr Arınç yesterday, while Star went for "Everyone will be astonished", saying Mr Erdoğan feels their candidate will be a surprise choice.

Has anyone heard from Hikmet Çetin recently?

Is this Turkey's new president?

April 23rd is always a funny day in Turkey. It is national holiday because it marks the day, now eighty-seven years ago, when the National Assembly was founded in Ankara, formally breaking away from the Sultan's government in Istanbul. The man who orchestrated that break, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, dedicated the day to all children, which is why it is known throughout the country as "April 23rd National Sovereignty and Children's Day".

The drill tends to be pretty much the same each year. In the morning, the prime minister announces to a mass of reporters that he is handing over his duties, albeit temporarily, to a child. The new junior prime minister then speaks of his hopes for Turkey's future, and takes a few light-hearted questions from the press. In the afternoon, there are festivals and performances by children at stadia across the country.

By the evening, it is time to mark that serious business of national sovereignty, with a reception at parliament. These have been strained affairs since the AK party's election, with intense speculation on whether any headscarved wives might turn up, and why the prime minister so insists on wearing a necktie rather than a bow tie. This year, as day eight of presidential nominations drew to a close, things were a little different. The AK MPs gathered at the reception (opposition attendance was particularly low) were guessing who they thought the next Commander-in-Chief was to be.

The name on many people's lips was Vecdi Gönül. The defence minister, who stood for president in 2000 and withdrew only after Ahmet Necdet Sezer's name was thrown into the ring, is not a complete surprise. He had been included several weeks ago in an internal AK party survey of potential candidates. His cabinet portfolio certainly makes him more acceptable to military chiefs. Oh, and his wife doesn't wear a headscarf.

Parliament speaker Bülent Arınç confirmed that a name had been decided: "I know who the candidate is. I am comfortable." Such a pity he could not spill the beans and let the rest of feel that. One of the reporters swarming around the parliament speaker, perhaps also frustrated, tried to egg him on by calling him "Mr President". Mr Arınç's response was clear and staccato: "Don't twist words. I know I am one of the candidates. I was informed of the candidate today. I know the candidate. I am comfortable. Wonderful things will happen."

Is that candidate Vecdi Gönül?

There are, as ever, other names swirling around. One that has been spoken quite often is Nimet Çubukçu, the cabinet minister for women and family affairs. When asked, all she would do was ask for "a little more patience", nothing more. She tried to parry the questions by saying she had a cold, and was not feeling particularly well. There are some countries where that sort of answer is enough to declare you unfit for the job.

With just under 48 hours to go until nominations close, the AK candidate seems decided. All that remains now is for the name to be revealed, and it is the prime minister who has the pleasure - and the discretion - to make the announcement. Some do think the name will be revealed at a parliamentary group meeting tomorrow, but it seems more likely that it will be held off until Wednesday. Following that, the first round of voting could be as early as Thursday.

You can't deny it, it's democracy in action.

Now we know

Foreign minister Abdullah Gül was revealed as the unexpected, but not entirely surprising AK party presidential candidate just a few minutes ago. Mr Gül's name was announced by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to rapturous applause at a meeting of the party's MPs.

Also confirmed is the election schedule: the first round of voting will be held this coming Friday 27th April, with the next three rounds taking place on May 2nd, May 9th and May 15th. The likelihood is that Mr Gül will be elected in the third round on May 9th, when he will need 276 votes, a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds majority of 367 required in the first two rounds.

It must be a sad loss for those who work at the Foreign Ministry - they are parting with one of the most competent foreign ministers in Turkey's recent history. Speculation in Ankara will in time surely turn to who might become his successor, though for now even the relentless gossiper should be satisfied. It is also important to acknowledge what Mr Erdoğan has done: by rejecting the presidency for himself, he has avoided the Turgut Özal scenario. It was a shrewd move and should not go unnoticed.

However, there are some serious questions that need to be addressed very soon. Some columnists have said that this election has paralysed the business of government. This is true to a certain extent, but only natural. After all, this is the selection of a man who will see through not just the general elections this November, but also those that follow five years afterwards. A much more serious issue is the presidential election process itself. It is vital that this becomes the last time Turkey's president is elected indirectly.

Turkey is functioning free democracy - the diversity of press coverage during the last few months is testament to that - but the country's presidency is not. The system must be changed well before 2014 to ensure the country's top man is elected directly by the Turkish people. The AKP certainly has the parliamentary majority to make such a change - is it too optimistic to hope it could happen before November?

A more detailed assessment of Abdullah Gül's presidency will follow shortly. For now though, here's something to think about: we all know that Mrs Abdullah Gül wears a headscarf, but fewer might remember that she took Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 over the headscarf ban in universities. She withdrew her case after her husband became prime minister. Mr Gül said at the time that it was because the matter had become a political issue rather than a judicial one.

It seems the matter of headscarves is to become another public debate. That can only be a good thing.

Electing number eleven

The day has come. Turkey's 542 members of parliament have been called in for 3pm today to vote for the man they want to become the country's next president. They have a choice between two members of the ruling AK party. The first is the party's official candidate, foreign minister Abdullah Gül. The second is Ersönmez Yarbay, an Ankara MP not endorsed by the party. In this first round, a candiddate needs 367 votes to win.

The election is a critical one, perhaps the closest Turkey has ever seen, because each and every vote counts. Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition CHP, had said his party would boycott the vote long before Mr Gül's candidacy was even announced.

Mr Baykal has further threatened to take the election to the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest judicial body, if there are not 367 MPs present when voting takes place. AK leaders have dismissed the threat as a technicality, pointing to the article in the constitution that say only 184 MPs are needed to start a session of parliament.

But despite the strong show, AK leaders have been shaken by the threat, and Mr Gül has visited opposition leaders in an attempt to find support. As it stands, AK has 353 seats in parliament. Parliament speaker Bülent Arınç will be leading the session, and therefore cannot vote. AK therefore needs at least fifteen other MPs to be present in the chamber, regardless of how they vote, to scupper a CHP legal challenge.

Mehmet Ağar, leader of the True Path party (DYP), has just appeared on television saying his party's four MPs will also not be taking part in the vote. Mr Ağar repeated his view that AK has a sufficient majority to get their candidate through in the third round, and that he did not believe the CHP's challenge was legitimate.

Mr Ağar's words have added weight because his party has agreed to operate in conjunction with Erkan Mumcu's Motherland party for this vote. Mr Mumcu himself is due to give a press conference at 2.30pm - he is expected to give his twenty MPs a free vote.

AK have also failed to win support from the Youth Party, Social Democrat People's Party or the People's Ascent Party, all of which have a seat each.

Mr Gül has been meeting independent MPs in an attempt to add up the numbers. There are also reports of CHP MPs breaking away from party lines to attend the vote.

It's tense. I'll bring more soon.

Mumcu decides: We're out

Erkan Mumcu, leader of parliament's third-placed Anavatan party, has just announced his party too will not be taking part in this afternoon's presidential election. Anavatan has twenty MPs in parliament.

Today's vote will be going ahead regardless. The CHP will be watching it very closely, and is to demand a register as soon as voting is over. Their legal challenge will most likely be launched before the day is over.

It is very unlikely now that Mr Gül will be elected in this round, or indeed in the second round, but the other AK candidate Ersönmez Yarbay did say he would withdraw if all the opposition parties boycott the vote. They have just done that.

AK party MPs have now started to enter the parliament chamber. It's probably a sensible idea: with, 353 of them, it must be a bit of a squeeze.

This is not a crisis

The past week will go down as one of the most exciting in Turkey's history. It began on Tuesday with the ruling AK party's nomination of foreign minister Abdullah Gül as its presidential candidate. It ended yesterday with a high court challenge and a stark military warning.

Here is what has happened in the last 48 hours: there were 361 votes cast in Friday's first round. Abdullah Gül received 357 votes, ten short of what he needed to win. Of the remaining four ballots, three were spoilt and one was blank.

The main opposition CHP took the election to the Constitutional Court, claiming the legal requirement for attendance (367 MPs, they say) was not met. AK says the 367 figure is irrelevant, but also slyly claims the attendance was 368, thanks to CHP members coming in to observe the ballot.

The court has promised a judgement before Wednesday's second round. If the CHP claim is upheld, the first round will be annulled and all further rounds cancelled. The likely route from there is an immediate general election. If, however, the court dismisses the CHP claim, Wednesday's second round will go ahead as planned, and Mr Gül will be elected president by round three, when the vote requirement is dropped to a simple majority of 276.

Hours after the CHP's case was handed to the court, the military weighed in. In a statement released at midnight, timed so that it would miss the evening news bulletins but appear on the morning front pages, the army said that the presidential election was turning into a discussion of the secular system. It went on: "The Turkish Armed Forces is watching the situation with concern. It must not be forgetten that the armed forces is party to these discussions and is the absolute guardian of secularism."

The government's response to the statement was just as blunt and angry: "We cannot accept an anti-government declaration from the General Staff, an office answerable to the prime minister. This midnight statement can only be interpreted as an attempt to influence the judicial process." The European Union responded too, saying that the presidential election was a test case for the army to respect democracy.

Today, tens of thousands of people have gathered in Istanbul for a secularist rally. It follows a similar demonstration in Ankara two weeks ago, when around 300,000 people attended to protest Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's potential candidacy.

Three important points must be made about this weekend's developments. Firstly, this is indeed the first presidential election in Turkey's history to be taken to court, but that is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it demonstrates that Turkey is a democratic state operating under the rule of law. Politicians frequently bicker; the fact that the judges have been called in to settle this dispute shows that power in Turkey does operate horizontally as well as vertically.

Second, there might be more to the army's position than meets the eye. It is true that this is the bluntest statement since Yaşar Büyükanıt became Chief of the General Staff, but it could have been a preemptive measure. Today's secularist rally is sure to feature demonstrators calling for the army to intervene. Perhaps the statement was designed to placate those demonstrators.

Where the army is most certainly wrong is in its resolute insistence that the secular system can never be up for discussion. To discuss does not mean to dismantle. In fact, discussion could strengthen the secular system. A public debate on the role of religion in the state can help remind Turks why secularism is important without having to resort to Kemalist dogma. More on that in a later post.

Third - this is not a crisis. It is a serious debate concerning issues far more fundamental than a voting technicality, but everyone is playing calmly and by the book. Talk of a direct military intervention is, at this stage, nothing but rumour.

It is difficult to predict what the Constitutional Court's decision - expected on Tuesday - will be. My personal opinion is that the CHP challenge is baseless, because the constitution contains nothing to suggest the attendance for a presidential vote should be any different from any other session. My feeling is that the case should be dismissed, but I cannot wholeheartedly say that I expect the court to rule against the CHP. As BadTyrpist wrote in a comment on Friday, the text of any pro-CHP ruling will have to be read very closely.

Freedom for dictators to speak

There is a handy little phrase popular among Turks which can be used to explain away anything. People have become accustomed to saying "Burası Türkiye - This is Turkey" whenever something outrageous or ridiculous happens. It is a phrase of complacence, the understanding being that authorities in this country are capable of just about anything.

So when the government tried to outlaw adultery, "This is Turkey" resounded from the country's restaurant tables. When newspapers publish their annual pictures of a family sacrificing a goat near the Bosphorus bridge, "This is Turkey" is not far off. And when an Istanbul construction company has dug so deep it pierced a metro tunnel? This is Turkey.

But I have to say I was too incredulous to use the phrase when I read yesterday that the chief prosecutor of Muğla, the province on Turkey's southwestern coast, had ordered an investigation into a recent interview given by former president Kenan Evren. Mr Evren had revealed how, after coming to power in September 1980, he had considered collecting Turkey's 67 provinces into eight "super provinces". This would have made for better localised administration, he said, but his plans were scuppered by Turgut Özal, who became prime minister in 1983.

The story was all over the Turkish front pages this week. "Evren wanted an American state system" was Sabah's interpretation, although Mr Evren later insisted he used the phrase "regional governorship" and not "state".

It is likely that Mr Evren will be charged with inciting separatism. He might even face trial. It seems that not even former presidents are free of the recent scourge that has engulfed this country where people are prosecuted for saying what they think. This is Turkey.

Readers of this blog who are familiar with Mr Evren's illustrious career will note that I have neglected to mention one aspect of his rise to power. Kenan Evren was Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces when they toppled Süleyman Demirel's government, abolished all party politics and suspended the constitution on September 12th 1980. He ruled as "head of state" for two years, wrote a new constitution and presented it to the public in a referendum. He then installed himself as the country's seventh president, a post in which he remained until 1989.

Kenan Evren stands accused of unseating a democratically elected government and of uprooting Turkey's entire political system. It was under him, for instance, that the senate was abolished and a single-chamber system of government was adopted. Many older people have charges that are less material: they accuse him of changing the Turkish way of life forever. From 1980, they say, Turkish people became silent and wary of the impact of their words, even after democracy was restored in 1983. They say Mr Evren spawned a "soulless" post-1980 generation of Turks, a generation that never knew the Turkey of before. A generation that coined the phrase "This is Turkey".

The 7th president of the Turkish Republic, as he is now styled, has never stood trial for the 1980 coup d'état. Now aged 89, it is unlikely he ever will. But it is beyond satire that such a man could face criminal charges for daring to suggest how the Turkish state should be organised.

It is pointless to simultaneously defend his right to speak his mind and demand his trial for crimes as a soldier. But one observation must be made: there is an ingrained understanding in Turkey that a conflicting thought is a dangerous one. Not even a CV that reads "Absolute power, 1980 - 1983" can save you from the consequences. And I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Is this Turkey?

And the underdog withdraws

Ersönmez Yarbay has just withdrawn from the election in support of Abdullah Gül. He had said earlier that he would do this if opposition parties boycotted the vote.

It has been a good publicity stunt for him, though.

Presidential election: the candidates

In less than a month from now, the process for the election of a new Turkish president gets underway. From Monday 16th April, MPs will have ten days to nominate their man for the top job. Elections to the post will take place in the twenty days that follow.

A candidate needs a two-thirds majority to win. If no one person receives that after the first two rounds, the winning threshold is dropped to a simple majority for the next. The ruling AK party doesn't quite have two thirds of all the votes in parliament, but they do have a comfortable majority. Few commentators think the election itself will last more than three rounds.

It is perfectly clear how the president will be elected, but still not clear who. The AK majority makes it almost certain that one of their number will get the job. The party circulated an internal survery only last week asking members which party figure they would prefer as president. On the list were five cabinet members, including the prime minsiter, but two prominent members of the AK administration were absent.

So with the confusion reigning supreme, here's my guide to a few of the many candidates to become Turkey's 11th president:

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister, AKP — mooted for months as his party's natural candidate. Would certainly be elected if he runs, but is very strongly opposed by Deniz Baykal's CHP. Has also been urged by high-ranking members of his own party to serve another five years as prime minister.

Bülent Arınç, parliament speaker, AKP — At the centre of intense media speculation. He is something of an unofficial leader of the party's more religious wing. Likely to face intense opposition from the military. Was noticably absent from the AKP's internal survey.

Abdullah Gül, foriegn minister, AKP — A former (temporary) prime minister and number two in the government, he is more likely to be in the running for prime minister again if Mr Erdoğan becomes president. Noticably absent from the AKP internal survey.

Vecdi Gönül, defence minister, AKP — His portfolio puts him in daily contact with military figures, which could suggest an indirect way of being groomed for the job. His wife doesn't wear a headscarf. Could be given illicit approval by the military. Present on the AKP internal survey. Serious contender.

Beşir Atalay, state minister, AKP — Also present on the AKP survey. His wife doesn't wear the dreaded headscarf. Not a particularly remarkable figure.

Hikmet Çetin, former CHP leader and foreign minister — this blog's candidate. Has kept something of a low profile recently. Unlikely candidate, as Bülent Arınç has said the next president will not be elected from outside parliament.

Ertuğrul Yalçınbayır, MP for Bursa, AKP — defected from Anavatan to the AKP in 2001. Endorsed by Anavatan leader Erkan Mumcu, who defected with him and then defected back. An outside possibility, perhaps?

Missing from this list is the main opposition CHP's candidate. Deniz Baykal has been very vocal in who he doesn't want to see as president - namely, Mr Erdoğan - but he's been far quieter in who he does support. Mr Mumcu has urged him to co-operate in naming a joint opposition candidate, but there seems to be no sign of that happening yet.

The thin red line

Turkey's national football team came back yesterday from a goal down in Athens to defeat Greece 1-4. It was a convincing victory, taking Turkey three points clear at the top of its Euro 2008 qualifying group, and leaving the last European Champions with plenty to think about. Thousands of Turkey fans, as is traditional, took to the streets with their flags and loud voices to celebrate the victory.

Such a pity there was more to it than the football.

"Love thy neighbour as thyself" - part of Christianity's commandments - is an oft-used phrase in Britain. Most British people do take it to heart, in spite of conflicts over garden fences, mumblings over how differently they behave, and fierce arguments about who has a suspiciously greener lawn during a hosepipe ban.

The principle applies on a wider scale, too. Britain and France have a history of bloody warfare, and despite fighting two World Wars alongside each other there remains little (cultural) love lost between the two.

Greece and Turkey are not much different from the cross-channel entente. They argue over their fences (the Aegean), mutter over their petty differences (Greek delight, anyone?) and clash over the fortunes of their backyards (Cyprus). A football match between the two was sure to be charged - neither side had beaten the other in a competitive match since 1949 - but yesterday's Turkish sports newspapers told a different story.

Fanatik yesterday splashed a huge Turkish flag on its front cover with one of Atatürk's less endearing quotations: "the power you need exists in the noble blood of your veins". Fotomaç too used the some quotation. Onikinci Adam went with another Atatürk quotation rallying the Turkish youth, while Fotospor opted for the stereotype: "We'll puncture Athens, we'll kiss Yorgo". The tone was one of going to war.

Fotospor's eloquence continued in this morning's edition with "Be quiet and kneel" next to a picture of the Greek goalkeeper on his knees after conceding a goal. Fotomaç, awash in red, had another Kemalism - "Happy is the one who calls himself a Turk" - while Fanatik's headline was "Here are Mustafa Kemal's children".

Turkey's sports newspapers aren't exactly aimed at an intellectual audience. They aren't all that balanced either - all are heavily football-orientated, and the bulk of their pages cover the country's biggest teams: Beşiltaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. Most also contain advertisements for pornographic hotlines on their inner pages. But they do sell well - Fanatik, for instance, shifts nearly 200,000 copies daily - and a rallying cry before a national football match has certainly been published before.

But what if things had turned violent in Athens, before or after the game? How inappropriate would the headlines be seen, had the fans clashed overnight? There is a broader question to ask as well - what do the headlines say about the recent upsurge in Turkish nationalism?

Today's Birgün quotes Yüksel Gülsoy, of Fotomaç, as saying, "These are the basic elements used in a national match. It is called a national match, after all. These are words that have been used hundreds of times over. In our match with Greece these words must be seen as empty."

Birgün - itself an independent newspaper with a tiny readership - describes the events as provocation. At a time when the traditional Turkish hospitality towards foreigners has never been quite as patchy, it is difficult to gauge whether the front pages demonstrate football hooliganism or rampant nationalism.

Nearly two years ago, a Women's Day celebration in Istanbul turned very ugly when police decided the women were demonstrating without permission, and were therefore doing it illegally. When the group refused to disperse, officers dived in with pepper spray. 29 women were arrested, countless more were beaten with truncheons. Turkish television filmed it all.

It just so happened that EU leaders were in Istanbul too. They were stunned by the violence, and were shocked further when the government shied away from criticising the police. The press was outraged. Istanbul's police chief did weakly claim the demonstrators were chanting pro-terrorist slogans, but the damage was done and the force's already dismal reputation sank that little bit further.

A month later, the national police office did something it hadn't done before. It launched an advertisement campaign. The intention, no doubt, was to remind those of us who might have forgotten about what the police actually did.

It wasn't so much a campaign, more a healthy spot of instilling Orwellian fear. I provide my translation below; the attached photograph is of a billboard on Turan Güneş Boulevard in Ankara, taken by me in April 2005.

What if it did not exist?

Perhaps your children
would know only
a dark world

A world of pitch black
where street law applies.

But these are only bad dreams.

Even if you only remember it
in times of woe
the police is always by your side.


Now, I'm sure most of you have seen how the suspected killer of Hrant Dink, Ogün Samast, was not immediately returned to Istanbul upon his arrest. Instead, police officers decided to give the suspect a Turkish flag and have their photo taken with him (see The Guardian's story). There are also reports Samast was given a hero's welcome when he eventually was transfered to Istanbul.

Ismet Berkan says in today's Radikal that the idea of terror being praised by people wearing official uniforms is like a punch in the stomach. But it is the truth. Turkish police already has a notorious history of thuggery; this week, it added to that a conspiracy with murderers. The force will find it very difficult to try and claim the moral highground in this one. After all, if some of its officers seem to think Hrant Dink's killer is a hero, why should the Turkish people want the police at their side?

Presidential election: the candidates (part two)

Sometimes, to see if things are really changing, it helps to leave a marker behind you as you walk along. This is what I did last week when I produced a brief guide to the candidates, as speculated by the media at the time. How things can change in a week.

The biggest development is that Bülent Arınç, the parliament speaker, appears to have pulled out. Or so the press seem to think. He was on Italian television over the weekend, and when the interviewer began by asking whether he was addressing Turkey's future president, Mr Arınç said "no".

But it's not entirely a wrap: when the interviewer asked, "Not even theoretically?" Mr Arınç said that any MP could theoretically be a candidate, and "as parliament speaker my potential ratio might be a little higher". Nothing clearer there, then.

Elsewhere, the presidential campaign has its first officially declared candidate. Metin Uca, who until recently spent his days lecturing the ills of contestants on his TRT-1 gameshow, has thrown his hat into an otherwise empty ring. "I have had a positive response from parliament's liberal MPs. I have (the support of) 110 MPs, including some from the governing party," he told reporters last week. "I am serious and confident."

With just over two weeks to go until nominations open, here my revised list of official and potential candidates:

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister, AKP — was urged by today's Financial Times not to stand.

Bülent Arınç, parliament speaker, AKP — appeared to signal he would not stand, but who knows for certain?

Abdullah Gül, foriegn minister, AKP

Vecdi Gönül, defence minister, AKP

Beşir Atalay, state minister, AKP

Hikmet Çetin, former CHP leader and foreign minister — remains this blog's candidate.

Ertuğrul Yalçınbayır, MP for Bursa, AKP

Metin Uca, journalist and former gameshow host — declared last week, claims to have the support of 110 MPs.

Election 2007: Being aware of the danger

Anyone who happened to see a copy of Cumhuriyet this morning will have seen the paper has relaunched its advertising campaign of a year ago. The paper's name translates literally as "Republic"; the slogan they've recycled for their latest push for more readers is "Are you aware of the danger? Own up to your Republic!" A clever pun, you see.

Last year they wrote it backwards in a green font that resembled Arabic. This time around, they opted for a bog standard sans serif instead. "1881 - 2007", it reads. "The May 2007 Presidential election is taking place. Are you aware of the danger?" 1881 was the year Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, was born.

Both versions, of course, allude to the perceived threat to secularism. It's not much of a campaign: Cumhuriyet's circulation hardly budged from its usual 60,000 during the Arabic phase last year, and this year is no different. They're not getting the readers. It's not exactly the Great Moon Hoax, is it?

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP is on the verge of launching an Islamic revolution in Turkey. They will begin, god protect us, by installing one of their number as the new President. Then, before we know it, our alcohol will be outlawed and our women will all be forced into headscarves. That at least is what a large part of Cumhuriyet's target audience would have us believe.

I can't begin to count the number of people who believe a coup is nigh for Turkey. "If (parliament speaker Bülent) Arınç becomes President, the tanks will start rolling.....guaranteed." was the textbook comment from an anonymous reader in this blog a few weeks ago. Many have the same prognosis for an Erdoğan presidency too.

I have spent an awfully long time waiting for that Islamic revolution. Surely it must be soon that my place of work becomes legally obliged to operate minibus services to my local mosque, five times a day? And the day of rest should be switched back to Friday, like in all proper countries, yes? Oh, and is it not about time that we bring a healthy spot of polygamy back into marriage?

If that's the AKP's secret agenda, they're doing a good job of hiding it. Turkey has had plenty of things to distract itself with since 2002 - an economy in dire need of reform, a war on its southeastern doorstep, and a huge, corrupt state network made up of bureaucrats, soldiers and mafiosa. And on top of having all that, there has been the start of talks with a supranational bloc that has brought Turkey closer to the West than Atatürk could have possibly dreamed.

But if the Islamic revolution is upon us, but the voters certainly don't seem to care. The latest SONAR poll gives the AKP a 28.26 percent share of the vote. The main opposition CHP are at 13.21, followed closely by the MHP on 12.23 and the DYP on 11.68 percent. The results point, unsurprisingly, to another AKP victory and a greatly reduced CHP share in seats. AK too will probably lose a number of seats, as can only be expected after such a crushing majority, but might just be able to continue a single party government. It also seems very likely that there will be more than one party in opposition this time.

If the polls are to be believed, Turkey is looking at five more years of stable government and greater representation of the electorate in parliament. Tell me, where is the danger in that?

Not a very normal threshold

The European Court of Human Rights reported back yesterday on the case of Mehmet Yumak and Resul Sadak, who had taken Turkey to the court over the 10 percent electoral threshold. Both Mr Yumak and Mr Sadak were candidates for DEHAP - the predominantly Kurdish People's Democratic Party - in the 2002 general election. They stood in the province of Şırnak and won a considerable majority, nearly 46 percent, but did not enter parliament in Ankara because their party failed to cross the 10 percent national electoral threshold (see "Will the electoral threshold ever fall?").

The injustice of the threshold is plain: after that 2002 election, around 45 percent of Turkish voters found their vote didn't really count. All five of the parties that had vaulted the barrier three years previously this time stumbled at it. They included the three parties that had been in government. True, they were all subject to an overwhelming protest vote, but they still did have around eight million votes - nearly a fifth of all those cast - between them. Add to that the ballots for the other parties that failed to cross the threshold, and you get nearly 14 million votes. That is almost one in every two votes disregarded. Never in the history of Turkish democracy have so many been represented by so few.

All this was why I rather stunned when I saw this morning's headline in Türkiye: "European Court of Human Rights say 10% threshold is normal". The ECHR surely couldn't have ruled in favour of a measure that smothers broad representation - could it?

It seems it could, although I have to make one thing clear: the Court did not refer to the threshold as normal. In fact, in the text of its judgement, it says it considers it "very regrettable to prevent political parties which represent millions of voters from entering the national legislature". The threshold, the Court says, is "twice as high as the European average" and there is a lack of corrective counterbalances to ensure the free expression of all people, however they voted.

But the Court does also say that it cannot order the lowering of the barrier. Electoral barriers are in place in many other European democracies, and although Turkey's is among the highest, the Court has no specific threshold law on which it can depend, nor any examples it can suggest.

So that's that. The ECHR has avoided wading into the debate, and the Turkish press has chosen to interpret it as an approval of the barrier. Radikal's headline, for instance, is "ECHR visa for 10 percent threshold". But closer inspection of the judgement text reveals the Court's real thinking: "the electoral system, including the threshold in question, is the subject of much debate within Turkish society and ... numerous proposals of ways to correct the threshold’s effects are being made both in parliament and among leading figures of civil society".

That is perhaps the most important sentence in the entire document. The electoral threshold is wrong, yes, and it needs to be lowered, yes. But it is not a problem that will be solved with an instinct order from a distant court. The threshold can only be lowered in Turkey, by Turkish politicians. The more pressing question is whether it will happen before this November's elections.

I was in London when I found out. Having emerged from the cellular blackout of the London Underground, my phone beeped back into life with a voice message. "Call me back as soon as you get this," said an urgent voice. It was my friend in Ankara. "They've shot Hrant Dink. He's dead." I called her back and she told me what little she knew: "It was apparently some boy. Eighteen, maybe nineteen years old. He died instantly."

I had to hang up and continue my tube journey. Frustrated and away from a computer, I sat twiddling my thumbs. I needed to write. So I wrote this, with a pen I found in my pcoket, on the back of the London Underground Customer Charter. It was the only piece of paper I could get my hands on. I had to record my utter disgust and revulsion somewhere. A man was shot today for speaking aloud. It is an incredible tragedy, and I'm desperate that people know that.

Hrant Dink was a journalist. He was a Turkish citizen. His origins, however, were Armenian. He was among the first to be tried under Article 301, that notorious clause in the Turkish penal code that makes it a crime to denigrate "Turkishness". Like Orhan Pamuk, the nobel laureate, Dink too faced trial for his thoughts. Unlike Mr Pamuk, Dink was found guilty. The court gave him a deferred six month prison sentence.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today said it was significant Dink was targeted. "A bullet has been fired at democracy and freedom of expression," he said. "Our nation, most particuarly our citizens of Armenian origin, have the sense and forethought to overcome this test."

The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) made just a written statement calling for the Turkish people to not be provoked by the incident. "We invite (all) to behave with the utmost responsibility."

I am angry. I am angry because there are people out there who seem to think it is perfectly justified to kill a man who speaks contrary views. I have a perfectly clear idea of who I think is responsible, but there is little use in churning out conspiracy theories now. Suffice to point out that it was in a crowded street, on a busy morning. This was no impulsive killing.

Election 2007: Predictions

The election of a new president in May, and of a government in November, will focus minds. If the parliament, dominated by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, elects an Islamist as president, secularists will be appalled. Either way, the AKP will win the general election.
Turkey prediction from "The World in 2007", published by The Economist
Many of the visitors to this blog in the last few months have come having searched "Turkey election 2007", or something similar, in Google. There is little need to question why: the two upcoming elections are events that will eclipse all others in the Turkey of 2007. We can only hope the two votes will indeed focus minds.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer has 99 remaining days in office, and it is still no clearer who his replacement might be. It is unlikely a candidate will emerge until at least February; we may even have to wait until March. This blog has already endorsed Hikmet Çetin as Turkey's next president, but I'm curious to know what the remainder of the blogging community has to say on the matter.

What do you think? Do you agree with a recent Hürriyet interview in which Süleyman Demirel said he expected Mr Erdoğan to become the next president? Do you think I'm right to push for a Hikmet Çetin presidency? Or perhaps, even though it is highly unlikely, would you support an overhaul of Turkey's presidential system that would allow presidents two terms of five years each, thus giving Mr Sezer another three years in power? Such a motion was tabled at the end of Mr Demirel's presidency seven years ago; it failed, and the result was a crossparty compromise in Mr Sezer. Can there be a compromise this time?

The second election of the year is due in 301 days. The Economist is almost dismissive of what will happen in that election ("the AKP will win") but they are right. In a political scene where there is no strong challenger to the governing party, and not enough of a reason to vote them out, why shouldn't they win?

Signing in

After thinking about it for the best part of two minutes, I've decided to submit to the tidal wave and join the world of blogging. I'm not expecting this to be read by great hordes of people - I'll be surprised if I get many readers at all - but I, like so many in the world, am a man with something to say, so I will simply say it and hope someone listens.

For the sake of introductions, my name is James Vincent, I'm an Englishman born not far from London, and I'm a freelance journalist currently based in Istanbul. I have several years experience of living in Turkey and watching Turkish politics, and through this blog I intend to monitor and comment on developments in this staggeringly large, unnecessarily proud and yet uniquely beautiful country.

Turkey is a country of overwhelming potential, and with each passing day the Turkish people become more and more aware of it. The past few years have brought about change that many here would not have thought possible just a decade or two ago. This change has, on the whole, been for the good, although there is a long list of things to be concerned about.

At the top of this list is Article 301 of the new Penal Code, which brings in prison sentences in particular to writers and journalists who defame and degrade "Turkishness". This is not a new concept - censorship has always existed here in varying degrees - but that does not mean it should continue, and it should certainly not be part of a penal code that is meant to make Turkey more acceptable to the European Union.

This blog will contain my views, my rants, my praises, my disappointments. This does not mean I won't allow the opinions of others - quite the contrary, I encourage them, and I hope that if anyone gets around to reading this blog on a regular basis, some healthy debate will emerge. To this end, I will not be moderating comments before they appear beneath my entries - at least for the moment. I am new to the blogging scene though, so treat me nicely.

All best for now,

Shrinking Armies

Day one, post two, and something interesting has happened already. The newly-appointed chief of the General Staff, General Yaşar Büyükanıt, has announced that the Turkish army is to shrink in size by up to 30 percent over the next eight years.

Speaking to the latest issue of the military's Defence and Aviation (Savunma ve Havacılık) magazine, he said he wanted to reduce the number of employed staff and condense the land forces' "structure of power". NTVMSNBC quote him as saying that under his aptly-titled "Force 2014" plan, he wants to create an army that is small in quantity but modern in quality. The new force will, he says, be made up of modern weapons systems and brigades with high firepower.

This is an interesting announcement from the man poised to take over as head of one of the ten largest armies of the world. You don't have to travel far in any part of Turkey to see a military outpost, a gendarme or at least one of those rectangular red signs outside a military zone that warn trespassers away. This omnipresence is easily explained by the fact that the army regards itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular system.

The role has won it much respect - the Turkish Armed Forces are probably held in higher esteem than any other organisation in the country - and the military knows this. It is for this reason that its notorious history of intervention in government has been regarded by many Turks as necessary, even welcome. Military interference has ranged over the years in degree from a few polite words in the defence minister's ear to an all-out coup d'etat and suspension of party politics - although to its credit, whenever a coup did take place, efforts to restore democracy were launched immediately afterwards.

However, even the army could not completely avoid the unprecedented winds of change that have swept Turkey over the last few years. Two years ago, spending on the military - traditionally higher than any other branch of state - was cut for the first time into second place, behind education. The military's influence has also been substantially reduced over the National Security Council, a body which The Economist once called a place "where military leaders barked orders". There have been rumours of friction between soldier and statesman ever since; until his appointment two weeks ago, for instance, certain circles in Ankara were convinced that the government did not want General Büyükanıt to be the next chief of staff.

Büyükanıt's restructuring programme is a clear indication that he would rather have a modern and efficient military force, rather than three quarters of a million men, at his disposal. It can also be interpreted as a response to changing times and changing circumstances - after all, the kitty is a little less full than it once was.

But it does also raise certain questions about compulsory military service, specifically, "What will happen to it?" As it stands, all Turkish men have to serve for eighteen months, or nine if they manage to get into university education first. There have been rumours of a gradual abolition of compulsory service; could this be an indication of things to come?

Why, for once, I agree with Bülent Arınç

There's been a considerable amount of excitement in this morning's Turkish newspapers over a few words uttered by the speaker of the Turkish parliament. Bülent Arınç told reporters this morning that he believed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should remain prime minister for the next term: "with his charisma and dynamism, there is much that he can give to Turkey over the next five years. Turkey shouldn't be drawn back into coalitions. Drawing from the experience of the last five years, (Mr Erdoğan) can achieve the unachieved."

You can imagine how the pulses of several reporters around that breakfast table quicked. A flurry of questions followed: "Are you saying Erdoğan shouldn't be president? Are you nominating yourself? What about (the foreign minister) Abdullah Gül? Does the president have to be one of you three?" Mr Arınç did answer the first by saying he would support an Erdoğan presidency, if that's what he wanted, but he managed to avoid directly answering all the others.

Taha Akyol in Milliyet writes that the reporters then asked him to define what a president should be. The speaker reeled off a list: "He must have experience in the state, he must have a vision, he must support freedom, he must be on the side of the people and he must be someone who allows discussion of his own position.

"The president," Mr Arınç went on, "has a list of duties that covers four pages of the consitution. He has more power than necessary. The opposition are turning this into a regime feud, a discussion over secularism." He gave the example of Abdullah Gül willingly relinquishing his premiership to Mr Erdoğan in 2003. "We don't fight over positions. I myself have proposed a change to parliament's internal regulations to allow votes of no confidence in the speaker."

Some newspapers have taken Mr Arınç's words a step further by saying he has unofficially acknowledged his own presidential prospects. His candidacy would create more unease than even Mr Erdoğan's - he is regarded with more suspicion, having been more involved than the present AK leader with the religious wing of the former Welfare Party. But there is no Arınç candidacy yet. His comments were simply too vague to be interpreted as a declaration of any kind. There is no new presidential candidate, nothing has changed there.

What has changed is that the speaker of parliament, second only to the president in the state hierarchy, has agreed with the views expressed in this blog last month. Mr Erdoğan has proved himself remarkably adept as prime minister since taking the post in March 2003, and for all his faults he remains more popular a figure than any other politician in the country.

At this stage in his career, he needs to put aside personal ambition and pursue national interests. The presidency, like nearly every Turkish institution, is in dire need of reform. Mr Erdoğan's role at this stage is not one of being reformed, but of making reform.

Will the electoral threshold ever fall?

As it stands, any political party hoping to send MPs to Ankara must win at least 10% of the national vote first. It is generally understood, although never blatantly said, that the threshold is kept in place to prevent parties with Kurdish roots such as the Democratic Society Party (DTP, formerly DEHAP) from having a say in the country's direction.

The measure backfired on its architects in glorious fashion, however, when some of the country's biggest parties - including those that were in government - failed to cross their own barrier in November 2002. In fact, only two parties succeeded: propelled into government was the Justice and Development Party (or AKP, with 34% of the vote) while the Republican People's Party (CHP, with 19%) were joined by a handful of independents in opposition.

Nearly four years have passed since that election, and it has produced the country's most stable government in decades. Coalition governments in Turkey, particularly in the 1990s, have been a mishmash of different ideologies. They have never lasted particularly long either, and there is no doubting that much good has come from having a single party in power.

But among all this talk of stable politics, it is very easy to overlook the fact that a massive 57% of Turkish voters were not represented by their party of choice in parliament. How much of a mandate does the current parliament have if it is not even representing half of all votes cast? It is a question that Turkish journalists frequently ask, but politicians don't like to answer.

The problem lies with the threshold. It is simply too high.

But lowering it is not easy. Many argue that lowering the threshold would allow the election of Kurdish MPs affiliated to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party. They say that such MPs could speak in parliament in support of terrorists - it would even be possible to elect terrorists themselves.

Such arguments are clearly rubbish. Not all Kurds are terrorists - and in a change from the nineties, even Turkish politicians agree. And as Altan Öymen points out in today's Radikal, if they really were terrorists, they certainly would not be allowed to form a legal political party liken the DTP in the first place.

So if the main objection to lowering the threshold is not a fear of Kurds, what is it? Both the prime minister and main opposition leader support the current system, saying it brings stability to parliament. But the fact remains that had the threshold been lowered to the European norm of 5% ahead of the 2002 elections, there would have been not two but seven parties in parliament. It would have meant fewer seats for the AKP and CHP. It would probably have meant another coalition government. But it would have also meant that twice as many - 80 percent - of Turkish voters would be recognised in parliament.

Neither the AKP nor the CHP want to make the change, and you can see their point of view. After all, why change the system that brought them power, and so much of it?

An encouraging sign is that AKP and CHP leaders admit parliamentary representation is a problem. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister, has suggested introducing a national electoral district alongside Turkey's 81 existing provincial districts. This national district would be exempt from the 10% threshold, and seats would be allocated to parties according to their share of the national vote. That way, he says, even smaller parties can have a voice in parliament. CHP leaders aren't keen on the idea, and neither are other opposition parties.

Mr Erdoğan has also spoken of introducing a threshold for independent MPs, which is currently the only way that minorities can enter parliament. Unsurprisingly, independent MPs are less than enthusiastic.

Both of the prime minister's suggestions ideas are riddled with complications just waiting to happen. They seem to be an attempt to fix around the problem rather than address the core of the issue. But there is reason to be optimistic: Mr Erdoğan has promised to discuss the issue when parliament reconvenes in the autumn. A lower threshold might be long way off yet, but at least there is hope of talk about one. And that is an encouraging sign.

Bülent Arınç

Bülent Arınç, the speaker of Turkey's parliament, has waded into the discussion over the election threshold. He slated the idea of introducing a threshold for independent MPs, saying it would be "antidemocratic to try and stop an independent candidate from entering parliament". He is absolutely right.

More interesting was his point about the national threshold: "10 percent is too high. Political parties should be represented in parliament according to their share of the vote."

These are encouraging words from a man who, while not quite AKP leader, is ranked above the prime minister in Turkish hierarchy, and is second only to the president. His words contrast those of the PM (see yesterday's entry) and suggest that, rather than there being a rift, there is no official party line on the matter of election thresholds. It is time for cautious optimism - the threshold might just drop yet.

Trying Orhan Pamuk - yes, I daresay?

I spent a hurried few minutes this afternoon in Istanbul's İstiklal street, buying a few CDs ahead of my trip to London in a few days time. I wasn't surprised to see a few demonstrators gathered not too far down from the French Consulate - after all, it was a Sunday afternoon, and the street was as crowded as ever.

I do normally stop for quick chat when I come across them, but today there was no such time for that. As I passed by one young lady, though, she called after me, "Come on, a signature on this petition from you too - Orhan Pamuk should face trial".

I didn't stop to answer. This was not because I was in a hurry, but because I genuinely didn't know what to say. I walked down the street thinking about it. My first reaction was "no, of course he shouldn't be tried, he's done nothing wrong". All he did was tell a Swiss magazine: "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it." He was put on trial under that wonderful Article 301, it attracted massive international attention, and it folded before it could get underway. Regardless of whether what he said is true or not, he shouldn't be punished for saying it.

But my opinion changed while the demonstrators were still in earshot. Orhan Pamuk himself had expressed disappointment at how he had not been able to argue his case. The trial did collapse over an obtuse technicality involving the Justice ministry, owing no doubt to the world attention focused on the case. Countless other people including Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, have been tried and sentenced under the same charges that the judge dismissed for Pamuk.

So by the time I passed the demonstrators again, CDs in hand, I found myself agreeing with them, though not necessarily for the same reasons. Orhan Pamuk should be tried. Orhan Pamuk himself thought he should have been tried. Perhaps he should be tried so that the ineffectiveness of 301 can be laid before the eyes of the world.

Sending Turkish troops to Lebanon

Interesting article in today's Sabah:

Foreign Minster Abdullah Gül met the families of the Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah and Hamas during his visit to Israel on Sunday, it has emerged.

During the meeting, the families asked the foreign minister for his help, saying that they simply did not know whether their sons were even alive. Mr Gül promised to do all he could to help.

This is interesting for both domestic and international reasons. On the home front, it should go a little way towards dispelling some of those absurd conspiracy theories about undercover AKP plans to establish an Islamic republic in Turkey. Surely it wouldn't go down too well back home at the hotbed of imminent revolution if the de facto number two of the governing party meets a number of Israeli families out of his own free will?

Conspiracy theories aside (but just for now, these do need to be addressed before long), there is a more substantial, international reason why Mr Gül's meeting is so important. Israel's government is delighted that the closest thing they have to a Muslim ally has taken things to a personal level. They strongly support a Turkish contribution to the upcoming UN peacekeeping force and, according to Sabah, say it wouldn't be too bad if they did a spot of hostage-rescuing too.

If you look just a few inches up on that same newspaper page, you see a wider splash about Syria's support for a prospective Turkish force in southern Lebanon.

Now, if two countries on opposite ends of the spectrum - Israel and Syria - support Turkish presence, surely this is a very strong reason why troops should be sent? Turkey is a unique position: Syria rejects Israeli or American troops in southern Lebanon, Israel rejects troops from any country that does not recognise it, whereas Turkey is one of the few countries that enjoys support from both sides - enthusiastic support, at that.

The AKP government should overcome domestic opposition and pass a bill in parliament that sends a Turkish peacekeeping force to Lebanon. It won't be like the Iraq vote of 2003, when MPs denied US troops entry to Iraq from the north. The benefits this time around are clearly there.

Israeli hopes of a rescue operation may be a bit far-fetched, but the other benefits are not. Sending troops will be good for Turkey and good for the Middle East.

Troops to Lebanon: a presidential wade-in

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer placed himself firmly in the "no" camp yesterday over the matter of sending Turkish troops to southern Lebanon.

"It is not our job to solve the security problems of others when we have our own internal security issues," he told reporters yesterday. And then he hit back at those who argued, this blog included, that sending troops could only benefit Turkey's international position: "If Turkey is a great state, this image will not be altered whether troops are sent or not."

He said his objection lay in the fact that the upcoming UN force did not have a mandate for humanitarian aid. What is more, he argues, "why should we be in Lebanon while we are not supported in our battle with (the PKK)?"

The government responded through parliament speaker Bülent Arınç: "Sending troops is the government's business. The president has no authority or responsibility at this stage." It's true, too. Under the constitution, parliament can bypass the presidential veto when it comes to such matters as sending troops.

While Mr Sezer is constitutionally entitled to his views as president, it does not make him right. Comparisons with the PKK are simply not relevant, but if they must be made, focus should be on how hundreds more have been killed in Lebanon and Israel than in southeast Turkey over the past month. The upcoming UN force will stop the fighting that has caused those deaths. Turkey will be saving lives simply by being there.

In the meantime, time is running out. The UN says it is now close to receiving all the pledges it needs for a full peacekeeping force - Turkey has yet to promise anything. A parliamentary vote is needed, and quickly.

Talat on Formula 1

Having just pipped Fernando Alonso to the chequered flag in Istanbul's Formula 1 Grand Prix, Felipe Massa took to the podium and turned to his right expecting to be handed a strange oval-like prize from one of Turkey's political elite - the prime minister, perhaps? - but instead received the object from some man called Mehmet Ali Talat. Who was he? Anyone important? Did it even matter? Massa had just won his first ever F1 race, he didn't care if Turkey's finest wasn't there to award it to him.

The trouble is, there are some who do care. All of Greek Cyprus, for one. You see, Mehmet Ali Talat is the president of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a country recognised by no-one save Turkey, and Turkish officials seem to have taken the opportunity yesterday to give it a spot of promotion. Mr Talat was identified on-screen as "President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" to two billion viewers in 203 countries. He gave over the deformed trophy and disappeared - it must have been all of thirty seconds, but the Greek Cypriots weren't happy.

Politis used the headline "Talat forced into the presidency". Fileleftheros called it a "provocation with Formula 1 - Turkish officials have used the world's largest sporting organisation to political ends". Greek Cypriot officials have already complained, and Turkey now faces an official warning or even a fine.

They deserve it. Using Mr Talat to present the prize was a cheap and sad ploy, and Turkish officials did it in full knowledge of the reaction it would provoke.

What I fail to understand is the motive - did anyone really think that groups of Formula 1 fans watching across Germany, Singapore or Brazil would really sit up and exclaim, "Eureka! My stance on the Cyprus issue has changed!"? Answers on a postcard, please.

Southeast Turkey: Ceasing fire. Again.

Speculation has been mounting that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, is on the verge of unilaterally declaring a ceasefire. Kurdish political figures in Turkey and Iraq's president have both called for it, and they were joined earlier today by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in a Turkish prison for seven years but still remains an influential figure among many Kurdish militants.

An end to the bombing is of course what any sane person would want. It might even be the only course of action left to the PKK; it lost what little sympathy it had over the summer when it blew up minibuses in Turkish tourist resorts or bombed bus stops in Kurdish towns. What is less clear is whether this ceasefire will last.

There have been two PKK ceasefires before. The first was announced by Ocalan himself in 1993, while he was still riding high in Lebanon, while the second was immediately after his capture six years later. The latter of these held for a few years into the new century, until fighters declared the government hadn't done enough to increase the rights of Kurds in Turkey.

In a way, the fighters were right. 'Enough' had not been done - it was after all only with EU-orientated reforms that such changes as Kurdish broadcasting were grudgingly introduced. But where the fighters were wrong, so desperately wrong, was in their choice to resort to violence again. Since then there have been countless bomb attacks on police stations and military outposts. Tens of soldiers and officers were killed, with each death helping to fuel a resurgence in Turkish nationalism.

There is nervous talk of offering an amnesty to some PKK leaders, including Öcalan, in return for an end to the bombing. Nervous, because no Turkish political leader would ever openly advocate it. But there are some both in government and opposition who privately accept it is the only way to end the bloodshed. Those same people have come to accept that Turkey's Kurdish population should be further embraced, not distanced, as a result of PKK militancy.

There are of course circles that would be outraged at the mere idea of talks of any kind with the PKK. But even Turkish generals have admitted that the PKK threat cannot be elimated by purely military means. Öcalan is far too high profile to ever be released from his prison island in the country's northwest, but other wanted militants aren't. If allowing them back to their homes in southeastern Turkey will stop the attacks, then so be it. It is not as if those militants would suddenly be living in full liberty; more likely they'll be watched by the state from a certain distance for the rest of their lives. But if it stops the killing, then it has to be done. And if the PKK is on the verge of declaring a ceasefire, then that is precisely what has happened.

Article 301: Victory, but beware the nationalist

It took forty minutes at an Istanbul court to acquit Elif Şafak of all charges against her, and this without the defendant even having to set foot in court. The judges dismissed the case because "the legal components of the offence had not been established" - or, to put it simply, the prosecution could not prove Elif Şafak had broken the law.

It means that yet another case has fallen through one of the gaping holes in Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. Save the case of Hrant Dink, who was given a delayed prison sentence, no trial has reached a successful conclusion. Surely this means the law is not watertight? Surely this means it should go?

This evening, the prime minister welcomed the ruling and finally gave way: "We can sit down and talk (about Article 301), just so long as government and opposition reaches some kind of consensus." CHP leader Deniz Baykal made an attempt, of sorts, to jump on the bandwagon; when asked whether the article should change, he responded with a question: "Does the problem come from the article, or the application of the article?"

The answer to Mr Baykal's question is "both". Though despite his less than clear response to today's ruling, opposition party sources in Ankara were saying tonight that they would consider supporting a change.

But nothing is ever black and white, and Nazif İflazoğlu in today's Radikal went some way to show that the AKP might not have been entirely driven by a stubborn desire to protect the apparent sanctity of Turkishness. It seems there are fears that by scraping the article, the AKP will have served a strong campaign issue straight into the hands of the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) ahead of next year's general election. "The government has permitted the freedom to insult Turkishness", the MHP will be able to cry. The government's concern is that such a line of campaigning will go down rather well in rural parts of the country, at the AKP's expense.

Their concern is a legitimate one. The MHP is not an unpopular party; they were a partner in government until 2002, when they failed to cross the election barrier and enter parliament. While there was widespread relief at having kept the extreme right wing out of parliament, many overlooked the fact that the nationalist vote was split almost equally between the MHP and the Youth Party, the latter of which has since become a non-entity. Their combined share of the vote is 15 percent, which - had they been united - would have placed them comfortably behind the CHP as parliament's third party.

Regardless of whether the election barrier falls, the MHP will almost certainly re-enter parliament in 2007. Article 301 could help them even further.

It seems Abdullah Gül, the foreign minister, has conceded Article 301* of the Turkish Penal Code could change. "If there is no violence behind a thought," he said yesterday in New York, "then we are in favour of that thought being expressed".

His words follow up on those of Ali Babacan, the chief EU negotiator, but clash with those of Cemil Çiçek, the government spokesman. Speaking before parliament met today to discuss urgent EU reforms, Mr Çiçek said again that Article 301 was not on their agenda. Radikal today picked up on the differences of opinion with the headline "Cracks in AKP over 301". The prime minister, it seems, is also against changing the law.

But the government's voice is not one of unity on the matter. State Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin has admitted that "it would be easier" if the courts did not produce "conflicting rulings" on cases of 301. He's suggested waiting a little more to see what the Court of Appeals has to say.

Except time is not something the government has. Tomorrow begins the trial of Elif Şafak, author of "The Bastard of Istanbul", a rather controversial title that has not gone down well among the hawks of Turkishness waiting for a sign of blasphemy. Ms Şafak herself will not be present on the opening day, but all the same it will be closely watched by the media. An EU delegation headed by Joost Lagendijk, the head of the EU-Turkey Joint Commission, will be there as well. And the Istanbul governor has said there will be extra security precautions in place to avoid a repeat of the scenes outside Orhan Pamuk's trial in December.

Tomorrow might not find as much international coverage on the scale of Mr Pamuk's abortive case, but the urgency is ever greater. The opposition CHP has said the article should be changed so that it creates "no further problems". The EU has taken things a step further, insisting it be scrapped completely.

It will take two weeks before parliament can even discuss the law, which is why a shift in government position is needed now. With a critical progress report from the EU on the horizon, a modified Article 301 could be just the small symbol of readiness for change that Turkey needs.

Formula One: A deserved punishment

The governing body of Formula One, FIA, fined Turkey $5 million this afternoon for using the president of a country that doesn't exist* to present a trophy to the winner of this year's Turkish Grand Prix. TOSFED, the Turkish Motorsport Federation, will be footing the fine; it is a fine they deserve, and they should be grateful the race itself wasn't pulled completely from the F1 calendar.

TOSFED have yet to react to the ruling, although their website does contain a feeble explanation about why President Talat was used to present the award in the first place. "When a country's president or prime minister, or the FIA president, are unavailable, the host country invites either a figure who represents them or an individual of international stature. In line with these conditions, our organisers MSO invited Mehmet Ali Talat."

Some might call that a fair argument. But it doesn't quite check in with the words of Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, chairman of a major MSO shareholder, who unashamedly said, "if we are fined, we'll pay it. The promotion of (North) Cyprus is far more important for us."

Many people in Turkey, of course, think five million dollars is worth paying for a victory over the Greek Cypriots. But a sizeable contingent is not waving the flag of nationalism. The government, for one, has stood well away - when asked for his response to Mr Hiscıklıoğlu's words, state minister Mehmet Ali Şahin refused to comment.

There is also anger among members of the Istanbul Chamber of Trade, another major MSO shareholder. Writing on the NTVMSNBC website, Kerim Suner said, "I think the fine should be paid by those who came up with the idea. I pay my membership fee to the chamber every year. I am against my fees being used to pay off this fine."

Turkey has escaped with minimum damage from a diplomatic stunt they knew was provocative. I still have to ask - was it all worth it?

The Pope, and whether he has a big mouth

So a man who leads a branch of the largest religion in the world quotes something said by some emperor six hundred years ago and manages to offend followers of the world's second largest religion in the process. Is that an accurate summary?

Pope Benedict XVI would probably not have expected such a ferious response to his lecture as he stood up to deliver it at the University of Regensburg, in the German state of Bavaria. He's been compared to Hitler and Mussolini, he's had effigies of himself burned, and several churches in the Middle East have been attacked. Yesterday, an Italian nun living in Somalia was shot in the back and killed. So far, the backlash has not reached the levels of demonstrations against Danish cartoonists earlier this year, although the risk has been there.

I read a copy of the lecture on Saturday, soon after the story of the first protests broke, and although I did not have a chance to update this blog at the time, I do remember thinking that the Pope's words had been misunderstood. Yes, he does quote a Byzantine emperor who says that the Prophet Mohammed's teachings are "evil and inhuman". And yes, the rest of the lecture does consider the matter of spreading faith by force. But just as importantly, he never does say that he agrees with the Emperor's words. I would wager that protestors in India or angry AKP politicians in Turkey had hardly read the quotation, let alone the entire speech.

The Pope did make a mistake by failing to make a clear distinction between the thoughts of Emperor Manuel II and those of his own. He has since apologised through a statement, and then in person, for the mistake and for the reaction it caused. He needs to make no further apology for daring to discuss the matter of spreading faith through violence. It would help though if he visited a mosque when he comes to Turkey in November.

In Turkey, there has been some genuine anger, but many have taken the opportunity to use the backlash for political gain. Yestrday, True Path Party (DYP) demonstrators appeared outside Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara with a banner reading "Easy to be the Pope, Hard to be the Human", as foreign press cameras clicked away. The Pope's words were condemned by Deniz Baykal, the CHP leader, and Mehmet Agar, the DYP leader, as well. It's funny how staunchly secular parties have suddenly jumped on the religion bandwagon.

But it was Salih Kapusuz, the head of the AKP paraliamentary group, who rocketed to international attention as the face of Turkey's reaction when he compared Benedict XVI to the first fascist dictators that sprang to mind. His words were lapped up by an eager foreign press - "angry words from a high ranking Turkish official", they cried. Mr Kapusuz is no such thing, and in his full statement he said the Pope's "insolent words" had shown he was ignorant and had "a mentality left behind from the darkness of the Middle Ages". He was livid, and clearly had no idea that simply by using Hitler's name he would catapult himself into the pages of every broadsheet in the West.

Response from the higher levels have government has been far more measured. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday thtthe Pope had made "an unfortunate statement" and should apologise, while foreign minister Abdullah Gül confirmed November's papal visit would not be called off. It is a commendable response, one that showed there are people in govenment who understand that running amok will do them no favours, however offended they might be.

I won't call the last few days a PR victory for Turkey, but it could have been a lot worse. Imagine if Mr Kapusuz was prime minister.

Article 301: Release Michael Dickinson

This is the image that landed Michael Dickinson in police custody in Istanbul yesterday. The British artist unfurled the banner while demonstrating outside the trial of an anti-war activist charged with displaying similar images of the prime minister. He refused to put it away when approached by police.

Mr Dickinson is charged with "insulting the prime minister's dignity", an old chestnut from Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. It is this article that makes it a criminal offence to insult "Turkishness". It is this article that has spawned nearly 70 trials against apparent enemies of the state.

Having lived in this country for twenty years, Michael Dickinson will have been fully aware of how individuals in Turkey do not enjoy civil liberties at the degree they do in, say, his native homeland. The moment his banner was unveiled, he would not have expected anything but to be approached by police. Any romantic claims that he is a martyr of free speech are, frankly, rubbish.

His poster might be stupid and immature, but Mr Dickinson certainly does not deserve arrest or trial for it. What the Turkish authorities have failed to understand for decades - and particularly since the law criminalising Turkishness first passed - is that by detaining artists and authors they are doing little else than promote their work.

Orhan Pamuk, for instance, is Turkey's most popular author abroad. His abortive trial last year only helped fuel his image. The cartoon above of President Bush alongside Prime Minister Erdoğan's head on a dog's body appeared in all its glory in today's Guardian. The article goes on to mention how Mr Erdoğan "is believed to have earned at least £115,000 in damages from insult cases" since he first sued a cartoonist for personal damages last year. In Mr Dickinson's homeland, it would be that fortune, and not the cartoons,that are brought into public scrutiny.

Article 301 does not need alteration, nor any kind of public review. It needs to go, plain and simple.

Troops to Lebanon: An approval

After some fiery political debate, protests on the streets of Ankara and even the occasional scuffle in parliament, Turkey has decided to send troops to Lebanon. It means that up to a thousand soldiers will be sent before the end of the month, probably to the region surrounding the Litani river, 30 kilometres from the Israeli border. 340 MPs voted in favour of sending troops, 192 voted against, while one government MP abstained.

The government's victory might have been easy, but the parliamentary sitting that delivered it last night was anything but. Government ministers were heckled, opposition parties derailed the debate for a few hours over a technicality on speaking times, and a few MPs even threw their briefcases at each other.

The opposition took every possible opportunity to exploit the overwhelming public mood against sending Turkish troops abroad, and were not ashamed to admit it afterwards. CHP leader Deniz Baykal said after the vote: "today's meeting was beneficial in the sense that the public has become aware of the opposition's stance".

This morning's papers were not nearly as outraged as the opposition seemed to be in parliament. Sure, fringe newspapers like the staunchly nationalist Milli Gazete did scream "This is the actual treachery", while Vatan's splash read "None of their children are going to Lebanon". The more reputable secular Cumhuriyet went with "In spite of the people", but aside from these, the outrage in most mainstream papers simply wasn't there. The headline in Posta, the country's most popular, was "An appropriate step to Lebanon". Other newspapers in the influential Doğan Media Group, including Hürryet,Milliyet and Radikal, went with similar leaders. Other pro-government papers quietly reported the result, and said little else.

Opposition parties might have picked up brownie points for uniting to put their weight behind public mood, but the reality is that the anti-war mood will pass. Yesterday's vote will have little effect on AKP poll ratings - after all, it was this same AKP government that supported opening Turkish borders to American troops ahead of the invasion of Iraq, lost the vote in parliament, and went on to sweep the board at local elections the following year. In the meantime, it is important to recognise that Mr Erdoğan's government has taken a difficult decision - but the right decision.

Southeast Turkey: The bubbling pot

There's something about terrorism involving children that makes my blood boil. It's not that attacks on adults are any less gruesome, but it is an outrageous, filthy, disgusting act to use children to make a violent statement. I remember feeling I had lost all possible sympathy for Chechens after 2004's Beslan siege, when hundreds of schoolchildren were taken hostage. I won't say that I still take such a one-sided approach today, but it does go to show that using children does introduce a numbing, inhuman aspect to any struggle.

Something similar happened in Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey, earlier this evening. At least seven people were killed when a bomb was detonated at a busy bus stop. 17 people were wounded. Five of the dead were children. Few people doubt that PKK extremists were involved.

Attacks like this one, alongside recent attacks in Mediterranean tourist hotspots and elsewhere in southeastern Turkey, are doing little to help the cause of moderate Kurds in Turkey. The AKP government has so far proven itself far more able than its predecessors in making the vital distinction between a PKK militant and a Kurdish-speaking Turkish citizen. It has also appointed a former general to head a new division dedicated to eliminating the PKK - and crucially, the United States has done precisely the same thing.

But understandably, the response of Turkish public opinion to the attacks has not been as rational. A resurgence of nationalism has swept the country over the past year and a half, deepening divisions that some might never have thought existed. When a Turkish flag was burned during a normally peaceful Kurdish spring festival last year, the public responded by draping every possible window, square, even car bonnets with the star and crescent. This year's shooting of a high court judge involved in a ruling over Muslim headscarves in schools provoked similar nationalist sentiment. And just this week, the prime minister's entourage clashed with supporters of the right wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) at a memorial in the northwestern town of Söğüt, triggering a bitter war of words.

The PKK needs to be stopped to prevent further loss of life. The PKK needs to be stopped before the government, as it enters election year 2007, finally succumbs to public opinion and adopts a nationalist policy in the southeast. The consequences for the Kurdish population would be dire.

Armenia: New cards at play

Turkey has made a historic concession to Armenia, the neighbour it does not recognise, during secret talks in Vienna, according to CNN Turk reporter Barçın Yinanç. She says in her blog entry that the Turks have stopped demanding a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute before diplomatic relations are established. The two countries are now on track to setting up a high commission to look into relations between them. "It is an important step that could be considered historic," says Ms Yinanç. But is it really that?

Turkey was the first country to recognise Armenia when it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Things faltered after that; diplomatic relations never really got off the ground, and while Turkish embassies sprung up in nearby former Soviet republics like Azerbaijan and Georgia, relations with Armenia remained unofficial. When war broke out in 1994 between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey sealed shut its 268km border with Armenia. Azerbaijan did the same.

Neither border has opened since, and it has been Armenia that suffered most. The country is hopelessly poor. Its only realistic avenue for trade with the west is through a small border with Georgia, hundreds of kilometres north of the capital.

In the 12 years since the border was sealed, the Armenians missed out on the opportunity to be a corridor for one of the largest oil pipelines outside of Russia and the Middle East. The pipeline in question goes from Azerbaijan to southern Turkey via Georgia; taking it through Armenia would have been a far more sensible route, and cheaper too. Think of the millions of dollars that could have resuscitated their economy. All because a closed gate.

With the situation as gridlocked as it is, it is interesting that the Turks seemingly blinked first yesterday. They have always had the upper ground: sure, the closed frontier does not help the regional economy in eastern Turkey, but the effect on the country's national economy is small, and the enthusiasm to resolve the dispute has consequently been smaller still. So why the concession?

It might be a case of preemptive action. See, for all their weaknesses, the Armenians have one powerful bargaining chip - that of a potential genocide in 1915. The facts are disputed; the Armenians say it was part of a centuries-long conspiracy to eliminate their kind in Ottoman Turkey, the Turks deny it with arguments that range from "it didn't happen" to "we didn't do it". Armenia's influential diaspora has exploited it abroad to considerable success over the years, be it with Canada's recognition of the events as genocide or French motions making it an offence to deny it ever happened. But it wasn't really until talk popped up of including genocide recognition in Turkey's EU accession talks that the diaspora began to pose a serious diplomatic threat.

Perhaps Turkish authorities are beginning to see that the diaspora can make things even more uncomfortable for them. Perhaps they see that Armenia can no longer be ingored. Perhaps they are aware that a stricter definition of their position over the massacre - or genocide, or non-entity, or whatever - might be needed very soon.

Yesterday's Turkish concession is actually tiny. With it, they have simply agreed to meet and talk about the possibility of meeting again, perhaps that time with someone keeping the minutes. That means little on its own. But it might be the starting point for a greater concession, an admission of the vaguest sort that something horrible happened 91 years ago. Now that would be historic.

Armenia: French bills and Nobel laureates

There is some strange, twisted irony in the fact that France's parliament passed a bill outlawing genocide denial on the same day that the Nobel prize in literature went to Orhan Pamuk, a man who himself went on trial for saying genocide did happen.

The French bill was passed by an overwhelming majority - 106 votes to 19 - after weeks of often fierce debate on the issue. It provides for a €45,000 fine and one-year prison term for anyone who denies a genocide of the Armenians. This puts it on a par with sanctions for denying the Jewish Holocaust, which is already law in France.

Note that the Armenian legislation has not passed into law yet. It needs approval first from the French senate, then from the president before that can happen. But in a country where elections are but a year away and Turkey's EU membership is one of the top campaign issues, it is not clear if either senate or president will go so far as to put freedom of speech before national interest.

If there is no veto, it will be France that suffers more than anyone, particularly as Turkish leaders have already threatened to block French companies from business ventures in Turkey. And the trial of anyone charged under the new legislation would attract wide media coverage, not unlike the trial of a British historian tried and sentenced in Austria last year for holocaust denial.

But for all its injustice, the potential law could have positive effects too. There is greater talk today than ever before about a meeting of Turkish and Armenian historians to unearth the truth of what happened in eastern Anatolia more than ninety years ago. Just this week, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said (in reference to the French bill), "You cannot clean dirt with dirt; you can only clean dirt with clean water." The focus of that statement should be not the fact that he likens the French bill to dirt, but that he acknowledges there is dirt that needs to be cleaned up in the first place. For the Turkish political elite, this is a great step in the right direction. The next step must be abolishing Article 301 of the penal code.

Just under twenty minutes ago, Orhan Pamuk became a Nobel laureate for literature. The Swedish academy awarding the prize said that "in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city (he) has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures." It is a remarkable achievement for a man who champions the cause of freedom of speech.

Congratulations to Orhan Pamuk. He has done himself proud, he has done Turkey proud. Now Turkey should recognise what he stands for

Election 2007: Early beginnings

"Hustings" is a British term used to describe those political activities and speeches that are made before an election - the ones meant to bring in the votes. It isn't a term used very often outside of the UK, but its definition applies very well to what's happening in Turkey at the moment.

It all began with something Mehmet Ağar said last week. During a visit to the southeast, the True Path Party (DYP) leader said that PKK members should be doing politics on the plains rather than roaming the mountains with guns. When asked by Sabah whether this was a call for an amnesty, Mr Ağar said "if necessary, yes".

Mr Ağar's suggestion is interesting and worthy of a national debate at the very least. It did not go unnoticed that his words were cautiously supported by the government. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül pointed out that Mr Ağar was a former interior minister and had experience in such affairs, and said "his words should be carefully read".

But those words provoked a fierce backlash from nationalist circles. The new army chief Yaşar Büyükanıt violently condemned his words, while the news website 8sütun screamed: "Ağar wants to forgive the terrorists!" The response from the political arena was quite the same. Anavatan leader Erkan Mumcu said it was "an attempt to form a government at the next election that will act as a patron over the Kurdish state in Iraq". Even Recai Kutan, leader of the religious Felicity Party (SP), said Mr Ağar had suggested negotiations with terrorists. Mr Kutan was also careful to dismiss rumours of a post-election coalition with the DYP.

Mehmet Ağar's words came a matter of days after the date for the next general election was finally set: November 4th, 2007. That may well be a year away, but opposition parties know perfectly well that they have some serious catching up to do if they want to re-enter parliament, let alone government. Four years on from its landslide victory, the governing AKP is slightly weakened, but still commands by far the largest bulk of support nationwide.

A number of parties have used the recent resurgence in Turkish nationalism to boost their popularity, trampling on ground traditionaly occupied by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Being nationalist is not a particularly difficult thing to do. "The EU is out to destroy us," you can say, with dashes of "Cyprus is slipping away from under our very noses" and "the government wants to legalise the insulting of Turkishness". It's easy stuff really. The thinking is you can't go wrong with belting a few nationalist sentiments here and there, and all the opposition parties have therefore tried it. It is why Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition CHP, finally got around yesterday to criticising Mehmet Ağar. After all, doesn't the man want to forgive terrorists?

But publicly worshiping Turkishness will only get you so far in the eyes of the electorate, and Mehmet Ağar's recent actions suggest he is aware of that. By going to the predominantly Kurdish southeast and talking openly about negotiating with PKK members, he has joined the select few who have publicly advocated more politics and less military in the region. If he sticks to his position without submitting to the initial fierce backlash, it will win him support among Kurds desperate for a lasting solution, and perhaps some forward-thinking Turks too.

Erbakan hoca







Thousands of people were in Istanbul's Cağlayan neighbourhood today to protest Pope Benedict XVI, who is due in Turkey in Tuesday. There was widespread booing, quite a lot of flag-waving, and many women turned up wearing headscarves and bandanas, clutching bemused babies. It was all organised by the Felicity Party (SP), the successor to the Welfare and Virtue parties that were closed down over the last ten years.

In his frail state, former party leader and prime minister Necmettin Erbakan made an appearance via videolink to say he had no doubt the Pope was coming to resurrect Byzantium in Turkey. Other party officials egged on chants along the lines of "Don't turn the Hagia Sophia back into a church", as current SP leader Recai Kutan spoke out against the European Union.

Security was high at the demonstration, as anyone not carrying SP credentials had their banners confiscated. It did not go unnoticed either that separate protest areas had been allocated for men and women. It was a rather large gathering, with participants from all over the country. It caught the international headlines too - the BBC went with "Turkish protests at Pope's visit" while CNN said 20,000 people attended.

All in all though, it was a rather minor protest from what has become a fringe party. Benedict XVI's visit - a first papal visit to Turkey in many a year - is set to go ahead from Tuesday, and the good news is that he might just meet the sitting prime minister after all. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had earlier made his excuses for not meeting the Pope, pointing to the schedule clash with a NATO summit in Latvia.

It was slated by domestic commentators as a convenient excuse from a man with a history in political Islam. In its leading article tomorrow, The Times calls it a "snub". But in an eleventh hour rescue, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül announced the Pope's timetable had shifted forward, and the two are likely to meet at Ankara airport after all. It sends out a positive signal - far from avoiding the Pope, Mr Erdoğan's government has worked to make a meeting, albeit a short one, possible.

"As a government we see the visit as an opportunity," said Mr Gül. "There are many misconceptions about Turkey, but Turkey is a country where tolerance occurs. We hope the visit helps dispel some of the misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians."

The tension that so clearly exists over the upcoming visit has not been helped by Pope Benedict himself, and the lack of forethought over his words for which he becoming notorious. Aside from his controversial Bavarian lecture in September, Benedict XVI managed recently to reiterate his views against Turkey's EU membership, and several Turkish newspapers have him saying at this Sunday's mass that his visit to Istanbul is "another crusade". Ho-hum.

There's a lot hanging on this next week, and the The Times's leading article is absolutely right: to achieve (it all) against a background of rising Muslim suspicion will demand all Benedict's tact, adroitness and humility.
The following was written on an easyJet flight from Istanbul on Sunday 12th November 2006, the day after Bülent Ecevit's funeral in Ankara. My apologies about the recent break - normal service has been resumed!

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was visibly annoyed after his party's general conference yesterday, having spent the morning with a hundred thousand people who really don't like him. He was at the funeral of his immediate predecessor, Bülent Ecevit, a man so staunchly secular that when a woman MP dared to enter parliament wearing a headscarf in 1999, television pictures were able to pick up his trademark moustache quivering violently. "Nobody interferes in a woman's choice of dress in her private life," he had thundered from the podium, "but this is no private residence. This is the state's most supreme institution. Please inform this woman of her limits."

Mr Erdoğan, conversely, is everything Mr Ecevit was not, and the funeral crowd knew it. "Turkey is secular, it will remain secular" they chanted all day long, occasionally swapping "Turkey" for "The President" to make a dig at Mr Erdoğan's supposed hopes for the country's top job. It certainly wasn't what he wanted to do with his Saturday morning - his party conference was just a few hours later, after all - but as sitting prime minister it was his duty to go.

When he did finally get to the sports hall hosting his party conference, he found no flag-waving crowds cheering his second unopposed election as leader of the AK party; instead, his audience was subdued and miserable. The entertainers failed to impress, and Mr Erdoğan even had to ask the crowd to cheer up and shout a little more. You could be forgiven for thinking it was all part of the funeral.

Clearly, having conference and funeral on the same day was not a good idea. But Mr Erdoğan wasn't about to shift an already much-delayed party conference, and his efforts to persuade Mrs Ecevit to choose an earlier date proved unsuccessful.

He did respond to the crowd's slogans ("Are you saying that there is someone behaving outside [the bounds of secularism]?") and he did try to set his party's agenda ("We will base our politics on the social centre ground, without repeating history's mistake of swinging to the fringes") but it was really the secularism movement in town that stole the front pages.

Given the massive funeral attendance, it is easy to slate the prime minister's influence, saying the walls are closing in and the AKP is set to lose power in next year's general election. A hundred thousand is a huge figure, yes, but it is tiny next to Turkey's population of 70 million. Not all of the country agrees with yesterday's funeralgoers. It was indeed a bad day for the prime minister, to quote Radikal commentator Murat Yetkin, but it certainly wasn't his end.

As Mr Yetkin wrote just a few days previously, the AKP remains the only one of Turkey's four political ideologies to have broken from its past and embraced the new. Mr Erdoğan and his followers separated from the near-extremist politics of Necmettin Erbakan to create a party that campaigned not on a religious platform but one that understood the electorate. Of the other three ideologies, the centre-left remains bullishly split between Deniz Baykal's CHP, Murat Karayalçın's SHP and Mr Ecevit's former party, the DSP; the centre-right is composed of a True Path Party (DYP) and a Motherland Party (Anavatan) that have spent the last twenty years insisting they are not essentially the same thing; while the extreme right has shown itself to be very good at preaching nationalism, but not so effective in government.

Only the AKP has demonstrated it can put voters before ideology, and the voters have in return made it the largest governing party Turkey has seen since the 1950s. They are likely to do so again next year, if the opinion polls are to be believed.

Yesterday's funeral was not the beginning of the end for Mr Erdoğan; it was the cry of a political class that is out of touch, but has yet to realise it.

As the progress report looms...

In a matter of hours, the European Commission will release its latest progress report on Turkey. It seems likely the Commission will criticise Turkey in its strongest language yet, particularly on the matters of Cyprus, Article 301 and human rights. The report will stop short, says NTVMSNBC, of recommending a halt or suspension of membership talks.

The contentious matter of Cypriot access to Turkish ports will be left to a summit of EU leaders to be held in the middle of December. This gives Finland, as term president of the Union, the opportunity to push forward its plans for a solution in Cyprus. They are the likeliest leaders yet to coin a solution - they have, after all, done more to solve the Cyprus issue than anyone since Kofi Annan and his ill-fated plan of 2004.

On the matter of Article 301, it is now too late to change any laws in time for the EU report. But Prime Minister Erdoğan has publicly said a change is necessary, and has called for concrete suggestions on how best to do it.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül appeared to be comfortable as he spoke Can Dündar on NTV last night. He said talk of a crisis was simply sensationalism, and pointed to the important steps Turkey had taken thus far.

One interesting point was his insistence that the government was well aware of its responsibilities to the EU. This is a point so easy to overlook: after all, Turkey can hardly be accused of neglecting the EU issue. It is not a Serbia, nor indeed a Croatia. Turkey and Europe are well aware of what each side wants of the other; where they disagree is over whose terms come first.

The focus of Turkey-EU relations now should not be the upcoming progress report, but what will happen after it. There is a month of serious negotiating ahead, and much more than Turkey's EU membership depends on it.

A dove takes flight

Bülent Ecevit, poet, journalist, and five times prime minister, died last night after a six-month coma. He was 81. Succeeded by his wife, Rahşan Ecevit, and his now greatly diminished Democratic Left Party, he leaves behind perhaps the greatest career in Turkish politics since Atatürk.

His tragedy is that he will be remembered not for his achievements, of which there were many, but for the disasters that occurred during his time in power. In 1974, during his first tensure as prime minster, it was he who ordered the invasion of Cyprus by Turkish troops in response to a Greek-backed coup. He resigned shortly afterwards in an attempt to take his rocketing domestic popularity to an election, but was surprisingly not granted a request to dissolve parliament. Instead, his staunch rival Süleyman Demirel became prime minister. Condemned to oppositon, he was held responsible for the poverty and isolation that struck Turkey as a result of international sanctions.

He returned to office several times after 1977, but was not in office at the time of the 1980 military coup. He was imprisoned and banned from politics all the same, his Republican Left Party (CHP) closed down along with all others. But he continued his political life nonetheless through his wife, launching a new party, the Democratic Left Party (DSP). When his suspension expired, he took the helm himself, refusing calls to merge with a reinvigorated CHP. In the medium term, it turned out to be a shrewd move: while the CHP did quickly return to power in coalition led by Demirel in the early 1990s, it was the DSP who won power in 1999, with Ecevit back in charge after twenty years.

His last term in power was not a happy one. Disaster first struck in August 1999 with a devastating earthquake in northwestern Turkey. Over 20,000 people died in what was considered the country's richest, most properous region. And in 2001, an infamous row with the Turkish president triggered one of the worst economic crises in the country's history. The economy shrank by 10 percent, tens of thousands of jobs were lost, countless more savings rendered worthless. It was a crisis from which he would never recover; his refusal to resign over health grounds in 2002 was simply the last straw.

By dismissing any chance of left-wing unity and campaigning instead as a leader not tainted by corruption, Ecevit did secure his return to power. But his failure to tackle corruption while in power, and his refusal to accept a left coalition even in the wake of an electoral threat from the mildly Islamic Justice and Development Party was to be his downfall. The CHP was returned to parliament as the main opposition; the DSP became little but a fringe party.

But Bülent Ecevit is unjustly associated with shame alone, whereas his achievements were many and will largely go unrecognised. It was he who managed to defy what was in effect the theocracy of Ismet Inönü, toppling Atatürk's ailing right-hand man in a leadership contest in 1973. Despite the disasters that shook his terms in power, he managed to maintain an honest personal image, with his trademark black cap and refusal to be driven around in anything more glamourous than a Renault Safrane. Even President Sezer, the other half of that blistering row in 2001, today praised his politeness. "He was an example," Mr Sezer said, "with his democratic position and intellectual indentity".

Turkey woke up today to newspapers carrying the same picture, that of Ecevit holding a white dove at an election rally. The dove, a universal symbol of purity, was the symbol of his party and the symbol associated with his character. "A dove takes flight" was Hürriyet's headline, Vatan went with the splash "Goodbye, Karaoğlan", using Ecevit's popular nickname.

The head of Radikal's Ankara desk, Murat Yetkin, was on NTV a little while ago, calling him "one of the four or five greatest figures in Turkish history, alongside Atatürk and İnönü and Demirel". There are few who could disagree with that. The legacy may still be in contention, but there's no denying a legend left this world last night.

Reforming Republican People

Copyright Circassian Canada, 2006Deniz Baykal is an excellent director. He must be. He is a man who can craft, and weld, and manoeuvre. Surely that makes him excellent politician. How else can you explain the 13-year leadership of Turkey's most sacred political party by a man so incredibly disliked?

Deniz Baykal was only the fourth leader of the 69-year-old Republican People's Party (CHP) when he first took the helm in 1992. He resigned twice, first in the wake of an impending merger with the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) and later after an embarrassing showing in the 1999 elections. But in each case he returned to defeat his successor. It amounts to a cumulative thirteen years as leader.

In the summer of 2002, when hordes of MPs resigned Bülent Ecevit's governing party and triggered yet another crisis in the Turkish left, Mr Baykal saw the opportunity to rebuild his position. He persuaded countless former Ecevitites to switch to the CHP, knocking the wind out of Ismail Cem's attempts to establish a new political force on the left wing. He also scored a big coup in Kemal Derviş, the man credited with resuscitating Turkey after the latest economic crisis, by snatching him away from Mr Cem's clutches.

His tactics worked. When the election came, the country was far too distracted by the prospect of a single party government - and an Islamist one, at that - to notice the CHP's showing. Ataturk's party was back with 178 seats. It was their best result in thirty years.

The result was a personal victory for Mr Baykal, propelling him into a position more influential than when he was deputy prime minister a decade ago. He had become the de facto leader of the secular Turkish left in the face of a resurgent religious threat. He is no longer that leader.

Mr Baykal's failure is partly because he is not an endearing man. He is staggeringly unpopular, especially among secularist Turks who say they vote for him because he is the only viable challenger to the AKP. He is a man driven by his ideology, unable to empathise with the average voter. He is, in fact, a member of that "old guard" of Turkish politics - among the likes of Bülent Ecevit, Mesut Yılmaz and Tansu Çiller - that was purged in the 2002 election. The reason Mr Baykal survived is because he is not as well-known.

But there is more to it than personality. If Mr Baykal's pre-election resurgence was shrewd and calculated, his post-election performance was rash and tactless. He failed to recognise that his party's return to parliament was not from an electorate endorsing his policies, but from part of an electorate worried about an Islamic future. The CHP was not the party of choice, it was the only choice.

Deniz Baykal has done little since to consolidate his party's position. He has not pushed hard enough to unify the Turkish centre-left. He has not made a serious attempt to endear himself to the voting public. He has even lost his badge as leader of Turkey's Kemalists. That title is now shared by Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the president who has vetoed more parliamentary laws than any other in Turkish history, and General Yaşar Büyükanıt, the chief of the army.

The CHP has paid for Mr Baykal's mistakes already. His party performed badly in the 2004 local elections, losing council seats nationwide and barely holding onto traditional strongholds like Ankara's Çankaya district. Mr Baykal, however, refused to accept a defeat, prompting a bemused Radikal headline: "CHP wins victory - apparently".

The downward trend looks set to continue, too. Opinion polls ahead of next November's general election all suggest the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) will return to parliament. But the resurgent nationalist vote, it seems, will not be at the expense of the governing AKP, but of the CHP.

Deniz Baykal has to go, and he has to go soon. But who to come in his place?

There have been mutterings of President Sezer joining active politics. There is, though, a far more sensible replacement in Ismail Cem, who still commands a certain degree of respect in Turkey. He joined the CHP two years ago after his new party experiment failed. When it comes to dismissing Mr Baykal, however, the only solution might be to field him as the compromise successor - to Mr Sezer.

How skipping Antalya could help solve the Cyprus problem


Tony Blair was in Ankara yesterday to offer Britain's support at a time when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's case for Turkey's EU membership has never looked quite as bleak. The visit came as the EU confirmed eight chapters of Turkey's entry negotiations would be suspended in response to Turkey's staunch refusal to open up to Cyprus. There is little hope of those chapters - or indeed of other unrelated topics, such as Education and culture - being opened anytime soon.

Mr Erdoğan needed a boost in the face of growing EU antagonism at home, and that boost came in the form of a direct acknowledgement from Mr Blair that Britain was looking into - and had therefore not automatically rejected - a Cyprus Turkish Airlines request to fly directly to the UK. Mr Blair said he personally supported the idea, and that they were looking into the legalities of starting direct flights.

As it stands, the only planes flying out of Ercan Airport go to Turkey. There are flights to places such as Britain and Germany, but these legally have to call at a Turkish airport - usually Antalya - before proceeding on to their final destination. Save a few token flights to Azerbaijan, there have been no other flights out of North Cyprus since the trade embargo was first placed in the 1970s.

Tourism is Northern Cyprus's largest source of income - even now, when the only route of entry is via Turkey, it overtakes agriculture. This was the principal reason behind Turkey's insistence on opening more than just a single seaport in the north: it is, after all, far easier to bring the tourists in by air.

If Britain's civil aviation authorities approve the Turkish Cypriot request, it would start the first direct flights between North Cyprus and Europe in decades. It would pre-empt an EU review of Northern Cyprus planned for the end of January, which looks likely to be vetoed by the (Greek) Cypriot government. It would give a much-needed injection of cash at a time when even EU aid is set to be derailed by a southern veto.

But perhaps most importantly of all, it would demonstrate to the EU that the Cypriot issue is not one that can be solved merely by enforcing existing treaties a month before a summit deadline. It would show that a dedicated push - perhaps the efforts of an entire six-month presidency - is needed to solve the Cyprus issue once and for all.

The next rotating president is Germany, whose foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has promised to personally involve himself in the Cyprus issue. He says he is hopeful the problem can solved by June. His optimism provides little reassurance, but what else can be done but hope?

Presidential election: It is not Erdoğan's time yet

Deniz Baykal appeared on NTV with something of a threat earlier this afternoon. If the prime minister emerges as a presidential candidate, he said, the CHP will not take part in the vote. His exact words were: "in such a scenario, we will not be standing by as decoration."

The reality of next year's presidential election is that Mr Baykal's party is going to be decoration regardless of who is on the ballot paper. The governing AK party has an overwhelming presence in parliament, just a handful of seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to elect a president in the first two rounds. Even that isn't much of a problem: the rules dictate that if there is no clear winner after the second round, the winning threshold is dropped to a simple majority for the next ballot. That's 276 votes, which the AK party can supply comfortably.

With the mathematics beyond dispute, it really isn't a question of whether the AK party will win, but rather with whom. Prime ministers have certainly become presidents before - look no further than Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel - which suggests Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the most obvious candidate. But it does not necessarily mean he is the right candidate.

Turgut Özal was a remarkable prime minister. He was not a remarkable president. Visibly frustrated by his former party's defeat in the 1991 general election, he never bridged the gap with the victors, the party of longtime rival Süleyman Demirel. Before his untimely death, Özal had a firm vision of what direction Turkey should take forward. It was a vision suited to a prime minister, a man accountable to the general public, but not to a president who serves only as a final check on parliament.

For all his faults - and there are many - Mr Erdoğan too is a competent politician. He has done more to encourage reform, challenge state taboos and raise living standards than any other politician since Özal. But that does not mean he has the indeterminate qualities needed in a head of state. The president is a unifying figure, a statesmanlike individual who embodies all aspects of the country and represents it at home and abroad. Mr Erdoğan is no statesman. Like Özal twenty years before him, he does not have the experience. He has been in national politics for barely half a decade - again, not unlike Özal.

But brushing aside vague ideals of statesmanship, the Turkish constitution offers a far more concrete obstacle in front of Mr Erdoğan's candidacy: impartiality. "Upon election," the constitution reads, "the president must sever all ties with his party." It is one thing to tear up a membership card - like they did with Özal's Anavatan party membership - but actually severing those ties altogether is another matter. At this difficult time in Turkish politics, it will be immensely difficult for Mr Erdoğan to prove he is a Turkish president and not an AK president. And while the electorate might be happy to give him a chance, the state establishment will not.

The Turkish presidency has been ailing for decades. It is the office of a distant figure, disconnected from the public, a man who lives in a high security base in south Ankara and vetoes laws. These were problems less noticeable when the position was occupied by a prominent individual - say, a prime minister or an army chief. But when the post was taken by Ahmet Necdet Sezer, an obscure judge, the presidency was exposed as nothing short of elitist.

The way to change that is to make the president more endearing to the public, by letting the public elect him directly. Despite calls from the opposition, it is unlikely there will be a direct presidential election this time around. Far more likely is for a president to be directly elected in 2014, after Mr Sezer's successor.

In the meantime, someone must be found to become that successor. The candidate must have experience (which rules out Mr Erdoğan for now), he must be known by the public (which, it is hoped, will deter the election of another judge), and he must be liked by the public (which is Mr Baykal's come-uppance). But in these times of political polarisation, the candidate must also not be deeply infused in party politics.

It is time for both parties to nominate - and endorse - Hikmet Çetin to become Turkey's 11th president. Mr Çetin has formerly been foreign minister, deputy prime minister, CHP leader and parliament speaker. He left domestic politics to serve as NATO's highest civilian representative in Afghanistan for two terms, and returned in August of this year. He has never been endearingly close to Mr Erdoğan, but there has not been much love lost with Mr Baykal either.

Hikmet Çetin is a capable, experienced statesman, and the most suitable candidate for Turkey's next president. By nominating Mr Çetin now, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would not only intercept Mr Baykal's cheap threats of withdrawal, but also establish himself as the man who had the opportunity to rise to the top, and decided to wait. He is not an old man, and 2014 is only seven years away.


How skipping Antalya could help solve the Cyprus problem

Tony Blair was in Ankara yesterday to offer Britain's support at a time when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's case for Turkey's EU membership has never looked quite as bleak. The visit came as the EU confirmed eight chapters of Turkey's entry negotiations would be suspended in response to Turkey's staunch refusal to open up to Cyprus. There is little hope of those chapters - or indeed of other unrelated topics, such as Education and culture - being opened anytime soon.

Mr Erdoğan needed a boost in the face of growing EU antagonism at home, and that boost came in the form of a direct acknowledgement from Mr Blair that Britain was looking into - and had therefore not automatically rejected - a Cyprus Turkish Airlines request to fly directly to the UK. Mr Blair said he personally supported the idea, and that they were looking into the legalities of starting direct flights.

As it stands, the only planes flying out of Ercan Airport go to Turkey. There are flights to places such as Britain and Germany, but these legally have to call at a Turkish airport - usually Antalya - before proceeding on to their final destination. Save a few token flights to Azerbaijan, there have been no other flights out of North Cyprus since the trade embargo was first placed in the 1970s.

Tourism is Northern Cyprus's largest source of income - even now, when the only route of entry is via Turkey, it overtakes agriculture. This was the principal reason behind Turkey's insistence on opening more than just a single seaport in the north: it is, after all, far easier to bring the tourists in by air.

If Britain's civil aviation authorities approve the Turkish Cypriot request, it would start the first direct flights between North Cyprus and Europe in decades. It would pre-empt an EU review of Northern Cyprus planned for the end of January, which looks likely to be vetoed by the (Greek) Cypriot government. It would give a much-needed injection of cash at a time when even EU aid is set to be derailed by a southern veto.

But perhaps most importantly of all, it would demonstrate to the EU that the Cypriot issue is not one that can be solved merely by enforcing existing treaties a month before a summit deadline. It would show that a dedicated push - perhaps the efforts of an entire six-month presidency - is needed to solve the Cyprus issue once and for all.

The next rotating president is Germany, whose foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has promised to personally involve himself in the Cyprus issue. He says he is hopeful the problem can solved by June. His optimism provides little reassurance, but what else can be done but hope?


Reforming Republican People

Copyright Circassian Canada, 2006Deniz Baykal is an excellent director. He must be. He is a man who can craft, and weld, and manoeuvre. Surely that makes him excellent politician. How else can you explain the 13-year leadership of Turkey's most sacred political party by a man so incredibly disliked?

Deniz Baykal was only the fourth leader of the 69-year-old Republican People's Party (CHP) when he first took the helm in 1992. He resigned twice, first in the wake of an impending merger with the Social Democrat People's Party (SHP) and later after an embarrassing showing in the 1999 elections. But in each case he returned to defeat his successor. It amounts to a cumulative thirteen years as leader.

In the summer of 2002, when hordes of MPs resigned Bülent Ecevit's governing party and triggered yet another crisis in the Turkish left, Mr Baykal saw the opportunity to rebuild his position. He persuaded countless former Ecevitites to switch to the CHP, knocking the wind out of Ismail Cem's attempts to establish a new political force on the left wing. He also scored a big coup in Kemal Derviş, the man credited with resuscitating Turkey after the latest economic crisis, by snatching him away from Mr Cem's clutches.

His tactics worked. When the election came, the country was far too distracted by the prospect of a single party government - and an Islamist one, at that - to notice the CHP's showing. Ataturk's party was back with 178 seats. It was their best result in thirty years.

The result was a personal victory for Mr Baykal, propelling him into a position more influential than when he was deputy prime minister a decade ago. He had become the de facto leader of the secular Turkish left in the face of a resurgent religious threat. He is no longer that leader.

Mr Baykal's failure is partly because he is not an endearing man. He is staggeringly unpopular, especially among secularist Turks who say they vote for him because he is the only viable challenger to the AKP. He is a man driven by his ideology, unable to empathise with the average voter. He is, in fact, a member of that "old guard" of Turkish politics - among the likes of Bülent Ecevit, Mesut Yılmaz and Tansu Çiller - that was purged in the 2002 election. The reason Mr Baykal survived is because he is not as well-known.

But there is more to it than personality. If Mr Baykal's pre-election resurgence was shrewd and calculated, his post-election performance was rash and tactless. He failed to recognise that his party's return to parliament was not from an electorate endorsing his policies, but from part of an electorate worried about an Islamic future. The CHP was not the party of choice, it was the only choice.

Deniz Baykal has done little since to consolidate his party's position. He has not pushed hard enough to unify the Turkish centre-left. He has not made a serious attempt to endear himself to the voting public. He has even lost his badge as leader of Turkey's Kemalists. That title is now shared by Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the president who has vetoed more parliamentary laws than any other in Turkish history, and General Yaşar Büyükanıt, the chief of the army.

The CHP has paid for Mr Baykal's mistakes already. His party performed badly in the 2004 local elections, losing council seats nationwide and barely holding onto traditional strongholds like Ankara's Çankaya district. Mr Baykal, however, refused to accept a defeat, prompting a bemused Radikal headline: "CHP wins victory - apparently".

The downward trend looks set to continue, too. Opinion polls ahead of next November's general election all suggest the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) will return to parliament. But the resurgent nationalist vote, it seems, will not be at the expense of the governing AKP, but of the CHP.

Deniz Baykal has to go, and he has to go soon. But who to come in his place?

There have been mutterings of President Sezer joining active politics. There is, though, a far more sensible replacement in Ismail Cem, who still commands a certain degree of respect in Turkey. He joined the CHP two years ago after his new party experiment failed. When it comes to dismissing Mr Baykal, however, the only solution might be to field him as the compromise successor - to Mr Sezer.

A moment of hope for Cyprus

On a day when the world was more occupied by more momentous events in another part of Europe, there has been a subtle change on the island of Cyprus.

The Greek, southern, internationally recognised part of the island was holding presidential elections that would effectively determine the next five years of relations with the north. The incumbent running for re-election, Tassos Papadopoulos, was by no means a shoo-in, but he was leading all the opinion polls. They turned out to be wrong - Mr Papadopoulos came third in today's vote and failed to progress to next week's run-off.

Greek Cypriots will choose next Sunday between Ioannis Kasoulides, a former foreign minister, and Demetris Christophias, leader of the communist AKEL party. Both have said they want to restart talks with the Turkish north, after negotiations stalled in the latter years of the Papadopoulos administration.

The precise policy of the eventual winner will not be clear for a while. Just 900 votes separated Mr Kasoulides and Mr Chirstophias today; as both will be courting Mr Papadopoulos's supporters over the coming week, neither is likely to detail their plans for talks or reunification. But it is an encouraging result. Turnout was very high - at almost 90 percent - and more than two-thirds voted for the top two candidates, which shows that Greek Cypriot voters strongly favour a more conciliatory approach to the Cyprus problem.

What is certain is that Mr Papadopoulos will not be Cypriot president come next week. He is no loss. He was a source of frustration not just for leaders in Turkey, who found EU accession chapters suspended on his insistence, but also for leaders in Europe, who felt betrayed by his opposition to the Annan plan for Cypriot reunification in 2004. His pledges for a second term offered little change from this approach, and Cypriot voters have now told him what they think of them.

Headscarves at universities

As I write, a second round of voting is underway in Turkey for the easing of the headscarf ban in universities. The bill has the support of the governing Justice and Development (AK) and opposition Nationalist Action (MHP) parties. It will pass, just like a first round did earlier in the week. The real question is what happens next.

Normal procedure is for laws such as this - a constitutional ammendment - to be taken directly to the president, Abdullah Gül, who can either approve it or exercise his one-time veto. It won't be that simple this time, because the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) says it will take the bill to the Constitutional Court, arguing the bill itself infringes the constitution. Once again we return to a situation where a panel of judges hold a remarkable say over a major political issue.

But is it a political issue? The protestors gathered outside parliament today certainly think so. The MPs voting inside the chamber certainly think so. But we're talking here about relaxing a ban on a choice of clothing that prevents a group of women from attending university - it is surely a social question too.

To isolate the matter for just one moment: there should be no question of whether women should be allowed to wear their headscarves at university. If it represents a personal faith, it should be no obstacle to education. But like so many things in Turkey, this is a highly symbolic issue, and secularists say it goes to the root of everything Turkey stands for.

There is no doubt that secularism has made Turkey unique. From an empire that even at its weakest was the indisputed leader of the Islamic world, it was transformed into a nationalist republic, its religious element entirely removed, and set firmly on a westward course. The Turkey of today is an official candidate for EU membership. Never before has a country so predominantly Muslim been this close to a group of countries that so predominantly are not. There is no other country in the world like it, and secularists are rightly proud of that.

But for all its benefits, Turkish secularism does not help illuminate the boundary where public life ends and personal life begins. Universities represent part of that boundary: are they public spaces that should be religion-neutral, or centres of learning where personal faith is irrelevant?

Many headscarf-wearing women do, it is true, attend university. While some fumble with wigs, others just remove the scarf before entering the classrom and put it back on immediately after leaving. There was even talk last summer of lecturers at Sabancı University in Istanbul who cast a blind eye at those who sport it.

Two major issues that exist in Turkey have been exposed by this latest debate. They are issues that will not be resolved anytime soon.

The first is the secular structure itself. Many in Turkey would have you believe that secularism is the country's most important principle. It supercedes everything else, they say, including democracy if necessary. The army chief, Yaşar Büyükanıt, frequently warns that "secularism is becoming a matter for debate", implicitly suggesting that it shouldn't be. He is wrong.

Turkey's secularism is not sanctified, it should be justified. The concept of keeping apart mosque and state should be explored and debated, not committed to memory in endless platitudes. Part of the reason for hawkish generals and Ataturk statues is an intrinsic fear that the system could be lost. The way to prevent that is to talk about it rather than defend it with a gun.

The second issue is the oil-and-water manner in which politicians operate in Turkey. Today's response to the long-running headscarf debate has been typically Turkish: a decree from above is made, and those below are left to sort out the details. There was a small cry that the AK-MHP committee putting together the bill contained not one woman, but then again, there isn't a single woman MP in parliament who wears a headscarf. There couldn't be.

What politicians in this country have yet to understand is that social politics involves actually talking to those people whose lives you intend to change. This would mean public consultations, campus debates with ministers, perhaps even a televised seminar or two attended by the prime minister - the kind of thing at which European hearts beat a little faster. Mr Erdoğan himself attended a meeting with Turkish students and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday. He looked uncomfortable, but he was there. He wouldn't do the same thing in Turkey.

james, This is my first time to visit your blog and I was pleasantly suprised. This was an outstanding post, well documented with much to be disected. I posted a small post on this subject, but had not the background that you have available. I think this might be the tip of the iceburg so to speak. Once a start is made it opens the door and it will increase until All pre Ataturk advances will be thought outdated and obsolete...just my thoughts... I love Turkey and its people, when I was there many moons ago I was treated with respect and my oldest daughter learned Turkish before she learned English. I ramble.....stay well

Hello there from Australia. I think the headscarf points to deep issues. Similar to what is happening in Kosovo. The issues are Islam, demographics and democracy - the vehicle for stealing a country. Mark Steyn:

"Ataturk’s modern secular Turkey has simply been outbred by fiercely Islamic Turkey. That’s a lesson in demography from an all-Muslim sample: no pasty white blokes were involved. So the fact that Muslim fertility is declining in Tunisia is no consolation: all that will do, as in Turkey, is remove moderate Muslims from the equation too early in the game."

I think your view entertains the idea that there can be some reconciliation between the scarfed and the secular. But what if there can't? What if it is an impass? Irreconcilable differences? In a marriage, that would be grounds for a divorce.

Looking at the masses that protested last year (I think about Gul's appointment?) they looked like a people in fear of losing their country. A fear of being ruled by Islam, and all its potential for retrograde fundamentalism. And who wouldn't, given Erdogan's past and the things he has said?

Its the same problem all Western countries with rising Muslim populations now face: the slow Islamification of their countries through birth rate imbalances. Politics follows demographics.

"They are issues that will not be resolved anytime soon." I do not believe the issues will ever be resolved - for one reason. The notion of "distance". It was Erdogan who said (I think of PKK): "Those who are unable to distance themselves from terrorism cannot avoid being adversely affected by the struggle against terrorism."

Ironically, he and fellow pios Muslims fail to apply this notion of distance to their own religion (intentially or innocently, I don't know). Secularists want to keep Islam at a comfortable distance, because they believe Islam is inherently trouble - it needs to be kept at arms length.

Erdogan again:
"These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it."

Contrast this to scholars in the West who are trying to bring moderate Muslims to account for the violent nature of Islam. Robert Spencer:

"... peaceful Muslims have never formulated an Islamic response to the jihadists' claim to represent pure and true Islam -- and as long as they do not and apparently cannot do so, the jihadists will continue to hold the intellectual initiative within Islamic communities worldwide. "Moderate" Muslim spokesmen such as those above have not just not answered me; they've done nothing to seize that intellectual initiative and blunt the force of jihadist recruitment among Muslims ...

... no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, has ever yet refuted the contention that Islam teaches warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. And so one thing is certain: that warfare will continue."

And ...

"The Qur'an, on the other hand, quite clearly does teach believers to commit acts of violence against unbelievers -- see 2:190-193, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, etc. There are no equivalents to such open-ended and universal commands, addressed to all believers to fight unbelievers, in the Bible.

... all of the schools that are considered orthodox teach, as part of the obligation of the Muslim community, warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers ..."

The issue secular Turks face is the same as the West: Islam is at heart a violent religion with no inherent restraining mechanism. An Islamic community only remains peaceful in spite of the violent and retrograde beckoning of the Koran.

Faced with rising demographics and a belief that Islam is inherently retrograde, secular Turks - like the West - are wise to be concerned about living as a minority within an Islamic regime. That is why some in Turkey and the West will not even open up for debate: they believe Islam must be contained, not entertained with liberties.

Myself, I concur with Robert Spencer that moderate Muslims have done nothing to sieze the intellectual intiative away from radicals. Hence we hold moderates to account for being the face of a violent religion - whether they intend to be or not. No liberties should be granted to a religion that has done nothing to distance itself from trouble.

The end result? If the army will not save secularism in Turkey then you face the same fate as the West: increasing polarisation, independence movements, separatists, etc. Nothing but trouble.

Lana's views are very clearly put. It is quite a common viewpoint in Turkey, I think. Differences are irreconcilable, so we need to suppress the headscarf and any islamic expression to avoid polarisation.

However, there are a couple of points worth keeping in mind. One is that a quarter of the human race are muslims. Let's say, purely for the sake of argumnet, that only a quarter are believing muslims. That's still a lot of people. If there is no reconciliation, no point of contact between Islam and the "secular", then we are well and truly screwed.

Second, there are numerous non-violent strands in Islam. To criticise such "moderate" ıslam for not fighting with "immoderate" Islam is to misunderstand the debate within in Islam.

One is, what it means to be a muslim. If you call a muslim a "moderate" muslim, it means someone who is only a bit muslim. No muslim can accept such a description. Erdoğan's point is that non-violent muslims are just as much muslims as violent ones - perhaps even more so. So why do you denigrate them by calling them "moderate"? The insulting nature of the term "moderate" is underlined by the fact that in Turkish, it translates as "ılımlı"....which has connotations of "lukewarm".

"peaceful Muslims have never formulated an Islamic response to the jihadists' claim to represent pure and true Islam" quotes you.

Well, that is not true. What Erdoğan and Gül are doing is just the latest in a long line of such attempts. The real problem is that secularists will not accept any such formulation unless the formulators recant their basic beliefs. Which they are not going to.

Tyrpist, I've had this debate elsewhere, and it involved a lot of talk about Muslims but none about the ideology of Islam, so I'll be blunt. Spencer contends:

"all of the schools that are considered orthodox teach, as part of the obligation of the Muslim community, warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers."

Disprove it. Give me some names, some Islamic scholars, some schools. Something that contains a refutation of the above statement. Something that deals with the violent, supremist passages of the Koran - instead of ignoring them.

Of course there are non-violent Muslims. But secularists want ALL Muslims to be accountable for the violent religion that they front. To account for the fact that jihadists and the Taliban quote from the same book as the non-violent do.

"What Erdoğan and Gül are doing is just the latest in a long line of such attempts". There you go again, talking about Muslims but not about Islam. Where do Erdogan and Gul talk about the Koran? How do they defend the fact that Muhammad was a violent warlord? Serge Trifkovic:

"The simple preacher eventually morphed into a vengeful warlord, who jubilantly exclaimed that the spectacle of severed enemy heads pleased him better than "the choicest camel in Arabia." Killing prisoners was divinely condoned by Allah. (8:68) Fresh revelations described the unbelievers as "the worst animals" (8:55) and "the vilest of creatures" (98:6) undeserving of mercy. The enemies' heads were to be cut off. (47:4) Killing, enslaving and robbing them was divinely sanctioned and mandated."

Show me where the debate within Islam is please.

I disagree with the view that "moderate Muslim/Islam" is a denigrating description, or that it means "a bit Muslim" and "watered-down Islam." While such may not be too apt a self description on the part of a Muslim person, it is nonetheless a legitimate differentiation that many non-Muslims are forced to seek given the senseless acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. So, our angry PM's words don't always carry that much weight, besides being reflections of his personal views or frustrations. For example, Erdogan said and Lana quoted above:

"These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it."

Well, apparently that is not true, and a massive official effort has been undertaken by Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs repudiating these very words. I am agnostic about the prospects of such an effort, but here is a BBC report about that for your information.

hi james, you say:

"The Turkey of today is an official candidate for EU membership. Never before has a country so predominantly Muslim been this close to a group of countries that so predominantly are not. There is no other country in the world like it, and secularists are rightly proud of that."

Are they really?

They were shouting like this while protesting Justice and Development Party in their meetings:
Neither US, Nor EU
We want an independent Turkey!

Today it's clear in Turkey that; the ones who resist against European Union and integration are seculars, not religious people. Mr. Erdogan is the political leader who took the most important steps for EU membership in Turkey's history.

I recommend you to try to understand demands of Turkish people better who are insulted for years by a group of furious minority who mostly kept bureucratic and pecuniary power in their hands.

If this legislative action is really something unwanted for modernization of a country,
why, in western countries, can the girls wearing headscarves are allowed to enter universities?

I am also skeptical of the reform initiatied by Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs. Comments from Jihad Watch ...

Robert Spencer:

Could this be what we have all been waiting for? Possibly. It will be interesting to see its content, and what reception it receives from Islamic authorities outside of Turkey. My guess would be that that reaction will be hostile, because to accept this would be to assume that Islam has gone drastically wrong almost from its inception -- militating against all the claims of Allah's careful protection of his umma. But we shall see ...

Certainly Muhammad never uttered a significant number even of the ahadith that are generally considered sahih, or reliable. Whether the Turks will be able to convince any significant number of Muslims of that is another matter ...

... So to say that this whole process represented a "hijacking" of Islamic tradition is tantamount to saying that the whole thing was "hijacked" from the very start, before it even got off the ground.

Of course, that may be the only way of selling the idea that ahadith considered authentic should be junked ...

Hugh Fitzgerald:

Those waiting with bated breath should keep carefully in mind that a rearrangement, as to assigned rank of authenticity, of the Hadith, is the easiest of the tasks of those who would make less dangerous the texts of Islam.

But since the Hadith were spun, quite naturally, out of the Qur'an, it is the text of the Qur'an itself that will need changing. Eliminating the doctrie of "naksh" or abrogation will soften the many blows delivered, in the Qur'an, against Infidels, but the dangerous passages will remain. The task will still be that of somehow managing to interpret such passages as 9.29 -- unambiguous passages -- so that their clear meaning is made only "symbolic."

And then there is the figure of Muhammad himself, the Model of Conduct, uswa hasana, the Perfect Man, al-insan al-kamil. Just how will those scholars bent on reforming Islam by changing the texts manage to eliminate so much of what is recorded as being part of Muhammad's life. Will they declare his participation in the decapitation of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza to be a fiction? The attack on the inoffensive farmers of the Khaybar Oasis? The seizure of loot, and the women of those whom he and his followers killed? The murders of Asma bint Marwan and Abu Akaf? The marriage to little Aisha? Will all of this somehow disappear?

And even if these Turkish scholars manage to re-assign levels of authenticity, presumably through their own study of the isnad-chains, there is a question of authority and of acceptance. How many of the world's Muslims are likely to accept what these latter-day Bukharis and Muslims suggest, rather than to stick with what, in history-haunted fossilized Islam, was decided long ago, by the real Bukhari, and the real Muslim, and the other celebrated muhaddithin whom presumptuous twenty-first century moderns, in still-Kemalist Turkey, dare to re-arrange, dare to second-guess?

De Gaulle's laconic comment on another proposal for a similarly large undertaking:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In they march


This is the photo that is splashed across the front of nearly every Turkish newspaper this morning. Released on the Turkish Armed Forces website, it shows troops marching over the snowy border into Iraq. There are reported to be another ten thousand of them.

Newspapers outside Turkey have been covering it too. This morning's Independent called it "the new invasion of Iraq ... it threatens to destabilise the country's only peaceful region". It is indeed, as The Times says, Turkey's biggest incursion into the country for more than a decade. And as Radikal points out, the operation is taking place under "assurances" from Ankara and "understanding" from the rest of the world. No major political leader - not even the Iraqi president, himself a Kurd - has called this an illegal invasion.

Details of what is happening remain sketchy. The terrain is mountainous, temperatures are subzero, and the constant exchange of fire means there are no independent reporters in the region. All we have is what the Turkish army and sources close to the PKK tell us and, perhaps predictably, the information conflicts. The Turks say five of its troops have been killed in action, the PKK puts that figure at twenty. The Turks say they've killed 24 fighters, the PKK says it has no losses. Who to believe?

Alone in its opposition to the incursion was Birgün, which carried the headline "No! - to war, to conditions of war, to the noise of war". It says the land operation will "affect our side of the border more than it does the other. The powers of peace and democracy are wary for young lives and the spirirt of living among one another." There is, in this, a message that is conceded even by Turkish generals: Turkey's Kurdish problem cannot be solved purely by military means.

Murat Yetkin writes in today's Radikal that the time is right to take measures "other than military steps, to take political, legal and economic steps to combat those conditions that create the PKK." Iraqi president Jalal Talabani was invited yesterday to Ankara, he says, with this in mind. This diplomacy is perhaps more important than the strikes.

Turkey has so far been playing this effectively, and by the book. The current operation is expected to last a fortnight; there might be more to follow in the coming months. But it is vital not to lose perspective, and ensure that any solution is a lasting one. Diplomacy and reform is the way to do it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A moment of hope for Cyprus

On a day when the world was more occupied by more momentous events in another part of Europe, there has been a subtle change on the island of Cyprus.

The Greek, southern, internationally recognised part of the island was holding presidential elections that would effectively determine the next five years of relations with the north. The incumbent running for re-election, Tassos Papadopoulos, was by no means a shoo-in, but he was leading all the opinion polls. They turned out to be wrong - Mr Papadopoulos came third in today's vote and failed to progress to next week's run-off.

Greek Cypriots will choose next Sunday between Ioannis Kasoulides, a former foreign minister, and Demetris Christophias, leader of the communist AKEL party. Both have said they want to restart talks with the Turkish north, after negotiations stalled in the latter years of the Papadopoulos administration.

The precise policy of the eventual winner will not be clear for a while. Just 900 votes separated Mr Kasoulides and Mr Chirstophias today; as both will be courting Mr Papadopoulos's supporters over the coming week, neither is likely to detail their plans for talks or reunification. But it is an encouraging result. Turnout was very high - at almost 90 percent - and more than two-thirds voted for the top two candidates, which shows that Greek Cypriot voters strongly favour a more conciliatory approach to the Cyprus problem.

What is certain is that Mr Papadopoulos will not be Cypriot president come next week. He is no loss. He was a source of frustration not just for leaders in Turkey, who found EU accession chapters suspended on his insistence, but also for leaders in Europe, who felt betrayed by his opposition to the Annan plan for Cypriot reunification in 2004. His pledges for a second term offered little change from this approach, and Cypriot voters have now told him what they think of them.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Headscarves at universities

As I write, a second round of voting is underway in Turkey for the easing of the headscarf ban in universities. The bill has the support of the governing Justice and Development (AK) and opposition Nationalist Action (MHP) parties. It will pass, just like a first round did earlier in the week. The real question is what happens next.

Normal procedure is for laws such as this - a constitutional ammendment - to be taken directly to the president, Abdullah Gül, who can either approve it or exercise his one-time veto. It won't be that simple this time, because the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) says it will take the bill to the Constitutional Court, arguing the bill itself infringes the constitution. Once again we return to a situation where a panel of judges hold a remarkable say over a major political issue.

But is it a political issue? The protestors gathered outside parliament today certainly think so. The MPs voting inside the chamber certainly think so. But we're talking here about relaxing a ban on a choice of clothing that prevents a group of women from attending university - it is surely a social question too.

To isolate the matter for just one moment: there should be no question of whether women should be allowed to wear their headscarves at university. If it represents a personal faith, it should be no obstacle to education. But like so many things in Turkey, this is a highly symbolic issue, and secularists say it goes to the root of everything Turkey stands for.

There is no doubt that secularism has made Turkey unique. From an empire that even at its weakest was the indisputed leader of the Islamic world, it was transformed into a nationalist republic, its religious element entirely removed, and set firmly on a westward course. The Turkey of today is an official candidate for EU membership. Never before has a country so predominantly Muslim been this close to a group of countries that so predominantly are not. There is no other country in the world like it, and secularists are rightly proud of that.

But for all its benefits, Turkish secularism does not help illuminate the boundary where public life ends and personal life begins. Universities represent part of that boundary: are they public spaces that should be religion-neutral, or centres of learning where personal faith is irrelevant?

Many headscarf-wearing women do, it is true, attend university. While some fumble with wigs, others just remove the scarf before entering the classrom and put it back on immediately after leaving. There was even talk last summer of lecturers at Sabancı University in Istanbul who cast a blind eye at those who sport it.

Two major issues that exist in Turkey have been exposed by this latest debate. They are issues that will not be resolved anytime soon.

The first is the secular structure itself. Many in Turkey would have you believe that secularism is the country's most important principle. It supercedes everything else, they say, including democracy if necessary. The army chief, Yaşar Büyükanıt, frequently warns that "secularism is becoming a matter for debate", implicitly suggesting that it shouldn't be. He is wrong.

Turkey's secularism is not sanctified, it should be justified. The concept of keeping apart mosque and state should be explored and debated, not committed to memory in endless platitudes. Part of the reason for hawkish generals and Ataturk statues is an intrinsic fear that the system could be lost. The way to prevent that is to talk about it rather than defend it with a gun.

The second issue is the oil-and-water manner in which politicians operate in Turkey. Today's response to the long-running headscarf debate has been typically Turkish: a decree from above is made, and those below are left to sort out the details. There was a small cry that the AK-MHP committee putting together the bill contained not one woman, but then again, there isn't a single woman MP in parliament who wears a headscarf. There couldn't be.

What politicians in this country have yet to understand is that social politics involves actually talking to those people whose lives you intend to change. This would mean public consultations, campus debates with ministers, perhaps even a televised seminar or two attended by the prime minister - the kind of thing at which European hearts beat a little faster. Mr Erdoğan himself attended a meeting with Turkish students and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday. He looked uncomfortable, but he was there. He wouldn't do the same thing in Turkey.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A crash course in Turkey's headscarf debate

Not for the first time in recent Turkish politics, the headscarf is all anyone can talk about. That piece of fabric that Muslim women use to wrap around their heads has been banned in universities and public buildings de jure since 1980, and de facto since 1997, meaning that Turkish women wearing it are not allowed to work in most civil service positions. Many, including the president's wife, were given a place at university but were unable to go because of the headwear.

The issue has been raised very often over the last decade, in particular since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) came to power in 2002. But for all the fierce political debate, there have been few attempts to find a political solution. That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when one party took the initiative. Perhaps surprisingly, it was not AK who piped up. If they had, it surely would have triggered accusations of a hidden Islamic agenda faster than it takes to wrap a headscarf.

No, it was Devlet Bahçeli and his right wing Nationalist and Action Party (MHP) who first said some arrangement had to be made. AK officials jumped at the opportunity and now, two weeks later, we have a bill that would lift the ban on wearing the most basic form of headscarf in Turkish universities.

The changes involve modifying two articles of the constitution, which concern equality before the law and the rights to education, to say that no person shall be deprived of an education except for reasons openly laid out in the law. There is a more explicit revision to the law for higher education, which says: "No-one shall be deprived of their right to higher education because their head is covered, nor can any enforcement or arrangement be made in this regard. However, the covering of the head must leave the face open and allow for the person to be identified, and must be tied beneath the chin."

Voting takes place in parliament at the end of next week. Together, AK and MHP have enough of a majority to pass the bill through, although they have been lobbying the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the small left wing DSP to come on board. The CHP's Hakkı Suha Okay described the proposal as "insufficient", and added, somewhat bizarrely, that the AK and MHP had clearly not come to any consensus on how to solve the problem. He also confirmed a return to their tactics of last spring, saying that they would fulfil their duty of opposition by challenging the bill in the Supreme Court, after it passes. The DSP were a little more cooperative, refraining from comment until they had reviewed the proposal.

The process is by no means over - President Abdullah Gül has hinted at putting the matter to referendum even if the bill passes, and there is little appetite for that in any party - but it is nevertheless encouraging that the matter is being discussed, the CHP's guerilla threats aside, in such a mature manner.

The Turkish headscarf debate is complicated by the fact that there are more styles than just the loose headscarf and the full veil. Under the new arrangement, Mr Gül's wife, Hayrünnisa (pictured at the start of this article), would still not be permitted to enroll at a university, because her choice of headscarf covers the neck. Rather, it will be the so-called "traditional" style of headscarf that is permitted. No-one knows precisely what that is, although some media outlets have dubbed it the "grandmother headscarf", in reference to what is predominant among Turkey's OAPs.

A firm definition of what separates a headscarf (başörtü) from what Mrs Gül is wearing will not be decided until later. How, for instance, should the headscarf be tied under the chin: in a knot, as is popular in the countryside or in the home, or with a special kind of pin, which is more widespread in the cities and tightens the scarf around the face?

The word "secularist" in Turkey is a collective term that tends to refer to the Turkish state, the CHP, and the army, although definitions vary (the MHP would describe itself as 'secularist' too - but then again, so would AK). These secularists argue, with some degree of justification, that the headscarf has become a symbol of political Islam. They point to the fact that some women attend university wearing wigs over their headscarves which makes it not a symbol of faith but a blatant protest. CHP leader Deniz Baykal YESTERDAY described it as a "foreign uniform" and the entire issue as "an incident provoked from outside the country, an Arab symbol targetting the secular Turkish republic."

Part of the secularist position is that the whole point of a Muslim headscarf is to conceal a woman's beauty, rather than becoming an accessory for it. Why, they ask, is there a whole industry in headscarf fashion (see right)? They say the whole concept is paradoxical and only reinforces the argument that it is a political symbol.

There is also the open-ended question of where it will all end. Now that the first lady sports a headscarf, and universities might be permitting them, there is a fear that the next step will only further dismantle Atatürk's legacy.

That doesn't seem likely at the moment. Government spokesman Cemil Çiçek told this morning's Hürriyet in the clearest terms I have ever seen him speak that the restriction would be lifted solely for universities, and not for public offices or primary and secondary schools. He said the permitted headscarf would be tied beneath the chin, and revealed that they were even thinking of attaching photographs of a regulation headscarf to the law.

There is a lot of scaremongering going on, and Radikal's front page today played very effectively on it by modifying Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" to wear a headscarf, under the headline "Republic of fear". With the army openly opposed, AK are being very careful. But in this ruling, they might succeed.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What was the point?

Before and after: this is what Cardiff's memorial to the Armenian victims of 1915 now looks like. It had been unveiled at a ceremony I attended in November, to the accompaniment of noisy Turkish protests. At the time, I wrote there had been "no incursion into the temple, nor any attempt to reach or deface the memorial."

It appears the cross on the khatchkar was smashed off the stone with a hammer on Saturday night, before a ceremony the following morning to mark Britain's Holocaust Memorial Day. The damaged cross were abandoned at the scene, and has been taken away for prints. There is a police investigation underway, although it appears the nearest CCTV cameras were pointing in the wrong direction at the time.

The Wales-Armenia Solidarity group called it "a despicable racist attack" and called on the British government and the Turkish Embassy to condemn it. Eilian Williams, from the society, said he blamed Hal Savaş and his Committee for the Protection of Turkish Rights, who organised the Turkish protest at the November unveiling.

A press officer at the Turkish Embassy in London, who would not give me his name, told me he had seen the story carried in some Turkish newspapers today, but had no comment of his own to make. When pressured on whether it was a regrettable incident in terms of Turkish-Armenian relations, he said: "We think it is regrettable that there was a memorial built there in the first place."

Stephen Thomas, director at the Temple of Peace where the memorial is based, said Sunday's service "wasn’t specific to the Armenians", but it featured a reading to mark the assassination of Hrant Dink. The first anniversary of his death was the previous weekend, and there were tense protests in Istanbul for it.

It was an ugly attack and surely took any wind out of the Turkish protest planned to take place during the service. Mr Savaş was there at the service, rather than leading the protest. He told the South Wales Echo: "Whoever has done it should be ashamed of themselves. We would condemn any damage done to any religious monument."

It is unclear whether anyone will be caught, but it is even less clear why the attack took place at all. The finger can easily pointed at extreme Turkish nationalist groups - to put it politely, such circles can be irrational on occasion - but destroying a cross in some far-off country is utterly pointless. The perpetrators were hardly even recognised for it: Milliyet covered the story deep on an inside page; few other papers bothered. Coverage was scant in Britain too, save the BBC and South Wales Echo.

The blunt reality is that the right people simply don't care. If there needs to be change in Turkish-Armenian relations, it has to come from the top. But Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is busy lifting restrictions on headscarves in universities, and Armenia is in the midst of presidential elections. The Cardiff incident is just another episode of mudslinging.

As it did in November, the plain piece of Welsh stone symbolises the gulf between Turkey and Armenia. Sunday went to show once again that it will not be bridged any time soon.

Second photo from the BBC News article "Memorial to 'genocide' vandalised", published Monday 28 January 2008.

James in Turkey took a very long break from November, involving lots of research and reading, as well as the occasional fish supper by the Bosphorus. Normal service - if there ever was such a thing - resumes now.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Polar opposites

Memorials don't tend to be particularly exciting. They are superficial things: grand, but instantial; attractive, but symbolic. They don't do anything. Their role is just to sit and be an aide-mémoire.

The trouble with symbolism is that it makes for an easy target, and target practice was exactly what fifty-or-so Turks were doing when they gathered outside the Temple of Peace in Cardiff. They were there to protest the unveiling of a memorial dedicated to the victims of what so many call an Armenian genocide.

It was meant to be a sombre, religious affair. The idea was for the Armenian ambassador and Welsh presiding officer to unveil the memorial (a "khatchkar"), to have Britain's leading Armenian bishop bless it, and to celebrate the burgeoning Welsh-Armenian relationship. Then everyone would be happy: the Welsh would celebrate a rare moment of internationalism, the Armenians would have something bearing the word "genocide" on British public land. All very symbolic.

The Turks did not ruin the event (the khatchkar was blessed, as was this blogger, a sole recipient of holy water on the nose) but they certainly made their voice heard. "What is the Armenian genocide? Pack of lies" was the dominant chant of the day, others called it a "monument of shame". One thoughtful banner read: "Armenian genocide: fact or fiction?" But there was no incursion into the temple, nor any attempt to reach or deface the memorial. The Welsh police contingent, about 10 officers strong, seemed almost unnecessary. Everyone was so well behaved.

But things did appear ugly, particularly when a Turkish camera operator was confronted shortly before the unveiling. "Would you please not speak in Turkish?" she was asked. "This is our place at the moment, okay?" The event organisers were then alerted and a brief squabble broke out. It ended only when a police officer came to escort not just the camera operator, but all the Turkish journalists away from the memorial. They co-operated, but were not happy. One Anatolia news agency reporter said she would complain to Britain's National Union of Journalists.

It was embarrassing for all, not least Stephen Thomas, the director of the Temple of Peace. It went against all the messages of peace and sincerity that had been given just moments before. There was a definite anti-Turkish feeling in the air: one visitor pointed to my t-shirt (which read "Polskie Morze byc najlepsze", purchased in Poland) and said that it was Turkish, and that I must be a Turk. There are only so many times you can say "gift from my mother" at the unveiling of a memorial before you draw the crowd's attention.

The eviction of Turkish journalists was despicable. It was also symbolic: it showed how clearly the lines are drawn, how far apart the sides have become. It is not the existence of a memorial that is controversial, it is that Wales has picked a side. And it is not the word "genocide" that is so sacred to Armenians and so taboo to Turks, it is the consequences of accepting that word.

This plain piece of Welsh stone symbolises the gulf between Turkey and Armenia. Yesterday went to show that it will not be bridged any time soon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A time to be rational

Yesterday saw the acceptance by the Turkish people of a package of reforms that brings about some important changes to Turkey's executive command, and more subtle - but no less substantial - changes to the workings of parliament. Unofficial results gave a solid "Yes" vote (69 percent), although turnout (67 percent) was the lowest recorded for a Turkish referendum.

The public consultation comes as Turkey is in the news for very different reasons, be it terrorism on the Iraqi border or Armenian bills in the US House of Representatives. The referendum has its roots in a government angry at not being able to elect its choice of president. Since then, there has been a general election, followed by a president one, and the number of dead in the southeast has been topped up by another few hundred. So the original motive for a public vote is gone, and there are other pressing things to worry about. Was the referendum worth it?

Of course it was. One of the reforms - electing the president by the people - is material to the way Turks are governed, and we now know Turks do want to choose their president in future. Turkish presidents from now on, including the incumbent Abdullah Gül, will serve no more than two five-year terms.

A less-trumpeted reform reduces the term of parliament to four years. This serves to formalise what has already been something of a tradition for Turkish parliaments for decades; it also reduces the possibility of a new president and parliament being chosen in the same year.

The other changes relate to quorum and voting procedures in parliament. The number of MPs needed for a session to be quorate is explicitly set out at 184 - a third of the total number of members plus one. This should prevent future brawls over the constitution like the one in the spring that annulled an attempt to elect Mr Gül and triggered an early general election.

Critics have dismissed the last change - and therefore the entire referendum - as a redundant, technical matter. They point to Mr Gül's election, the fresh AK mandate, and the work on a new constitution. One critic on NTV last night described it as "madness" that any party would willingly want to reduce its own parliamentary term. But let it not be forgetten that it was a mere "technical" argument over 184 or 367 votes that gridlocked Turkish politics for a fortnight. It was all worth it if only to prevent that from happening again.

The decision to push ahead with the referendum is also a show of principled politics on the part of the AK party: it shows consistency and a belief that a public vote is a way to put issues to the people, not just an avenue to push their man to the top.

The critics do have one very important point. It had not been entirely clear whether Mr Gül would have to immediately step down and contest a direct president election if there was a yes vote. Parliament voted just last week to clear up that anomaly, but voters based outside of Turkey had already been voting on the original text at border checkpoints since September. You can't change the rules after the game has started, however small the change might be.

The Turkish press has been remarkably uninterested in the news this morning, and that is unsurprising. The referendum coincided with the deaths of twelve Turkish soldiers in a PKK attack on the village of Dağlıca, close to the Iraqi border. Up to thirty terrorists were killed in the hot pursuit that followed, but army sources estimate there were up to 150 PKK members involved and most of them had disappeared back over the border. No country can tolerate attacks of this size and frequency for long.

The big question is whether the AK government will use its fresh parliamentary approval to launch a cross-border raid into Iraq and seek out the PKK camps. The answer is that Turkey has about as much right to enter Iraq as coalition forces did in 2003. The reality is that a raid would probably have little effect, just like the twenty-four attempts that preceeded it. But this is a country that is getting impatient and insecure. Acumen doesn't come into it.

Hotels in Amerika-Travel

Paramount
Milford Plaza
Hotel Pennsylvania
New Yorker Ramada Plaza
Wellington Hotel

Omni Houston Hotel
Intercontinental The Barclay
The Hay Adams Hotel
Hilton Checkers Hotel
The Westin La Cantera
The Westin Galleria Hotel
Omni Shoreham Hotel
Intercontinental Central Park


Adlon Hotel San Jose California
Le Merigot Beach Hotel Santa Monica California
Anaheim Marriott Suites California
L'Horizon Hotel Palm Springs California
Bacara Resort Santa Barbara California
Los Willows Resort and Spa California
Best Wester Mission Bay Inn California
Maison 140 Beverly Hills California
Best Western Bristol Hotel Campbell California
Mandarin Oriental San Francisco California
Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel Los Angeles California
Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel California
Cambria Pines Lodges California
Mason Beach Inn Santa Barbara California
Campton Place Hotel San Francisco California
Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles California
Casitas Laquita Palm Springs California
Miramonte Resort and Spa California
Catamaran Resort Hotel San Diego California
Montecito Inn Santa Barbara California
Comfort Inn Downtown Los Angeles California
Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa California
Coronado Beach Resort California
Nob Hill Hotel San Francisco California
Crowne Plaza Anaheim Resort California
Paradise Point Resort and Spa California
Crowne Plaza Hotel Beverly Hills California
Paso Robles Inn California
Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach & Marina
Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club California
Crowne Plaza Union Square Hotel California
Radisson Hotel Midtown California
DoubleTree Hotel San Diego California
Radisson Wilshire Plaza Los Angeles California
Embassy Suites Napa Valley California
Red Lion Hanalei Hotel San Diego California
Executive Hotel Vintage Court California
Renaissance Hollywood Hotel California
Fairfield Inn & Suites Ukiah Mendocino
RiverPointe Napa Valley California
Fess Parker's Wine Country Inn California
Royal Sun Inn Palm Springs California
Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley California
Santa Barbara Ramada Limited California
Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort
Santa Ynez Inn Santa Barbara California
Harbor View Inn Santa Barbara California
Shadow Mountain Resort and Club California
Hilton Checkers Los Angeles California
Shelter Pointe Hotel and Marina California
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines California
Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf California
Holiday Inn Anaheim-Resort Area California
Sheraton Gateway Hotel California
Holiday Inn Carlsbad by the Sea California
Silverado Resort Napa California
Holiday Inn Express-Cahuenga California
Sterling Hotel Sacramento California
Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf California
Stonepine Estate Valley California
Holiday Inn Golden Gateway California
SW Hotel San Francisco California
Hotel Bel-Air Los Angeles California
The Ayres Hotel Anaheim California
Hotel Cosmo San Francisco California
The Bristol Hotel San Diego California
Hotel De Anza San Jose California
The Claremont Resort and Spa California
Hotel Del Coronado San Diego California
The Hayes Mansion San Jose California
Hotel Drisco San Francisco California
The Lodge at the Torrey Pines California
Hotel Griffon San Francisco California
The New Otani Hotel and Garden California
Hotel Majestic San Francisco California
The Palace Hotel San Francisco California
Hotel Milano San Francisco California
The Pan Pacific San Francisco California
Hotel Nikko San Francisco California
The Peninsula Beverly Hills California
Hotel Oceana Santa Monica California
The Prescott Hotel San Francisco California
Hotel Palomar San Francisco California
The Sutton Place Hotel California
Indian Wells Resort California
The Warwick Regis San Francisco California
Kensington Park Hotel San Francisco California
Westgate Hotel San Diego California
La Valencia Hotel La Jolla California
Wilshire Grand Hotel Los Angeles California
Lake La Quinta Inn California
Lemon Tree Hotel Suites and Apartments
Hotel Pepper Tree Anaheim California USA

What is Forex?

What is Forex?

The foreign exchange market, often referred to as forex, is the market for the various currencies of the world. It is a market which, at its core, is rooted in global trade. Goods and services are exchanged 24 hours a day all over the world. Those transactions done across national borders require payments in non-domestic currencies.

For example, a US company purchases widgets from a Mexican company. To do the transaction, one of two things is going to happen. The US firm may, depending on the contract terms, make payment in Mexican Pesos. That would require a conversion of Dollars in to Pesos to make payment. Alternately, the payment could be made in Dollars, in which case the Mexican company would then exchange the Dollars for Pesos on their end. Either way, there is going to be some transaction which takes Dollars and swaps them for Pesos.

That is where the forex market comes in. Transactions like that take place all the time. The market maintains a rate of exchange between the US Dollar and the Mexican Peso (and between and amongst all other world currencies) to facilitate that activity. Consider the amount of global trade which takes place and you can see why the forex market is the biggest in the world, dwarfing all others. Literally trillions of dollars worth of forex transactions take place each and every day.

How is the Forex Market Different?

There are some significant differences between the forex market and others like the stock market. While it may be the feeling that a good trader should be able to handle any market, the fact of the matter is that some structural differences in forex can require a different trading approach.

Time
For most stock traders, the first difference they will notice between the forex market and equities is timeframe. Although the hours of stock trading have been expanding in recent years, the forex market is still the only one which can truly be viewed as 24-hour. There is ready forex trading activity in all time zones during the week, and sometimes even on the weekends as well. Other markets may in fact transact 24-hours, but the volume outside their primary trading day is thin and inconsistent.

No Exchanges
The lack of an exchange is probably the next big thing that sticks out as being different in forex. While it is true that there is exchange-based forex trading in the form of futures, the primary trading takes place over-the-counter via the spot market. There is no NYSE of forex.

On the largest scale, forex transactions are done in what is referred to as the inter-bank market. That literally means banks trading with each other on behalf of their customers. Larger speculators also operate in the inter-bank market where they can execute multi-million dollar trades with ease. Individual traders, who generally trade in much smaller sizes, primarily do so through brokers and dealers.

This is something which can trouble stock traders. There is no central location for price data, and no real volume information is attainable. Since volume is an often reported figure in the stock market, the lack of it in spot forex trading is something which takes a bit of getting used to for those making the switch.

Transaction Processing
Also, the lack of an exchange means a difference in how trading is actually done. In the stock market an order is submitted to a broker who facilitates the trade with another broker/dealer (over-the-counter) or through an exchange. In spot forex much of the trading done by individuals is actually executed directly with their broker/dealer. That means the broker takes the other side of the trade. This is not always the case, but is the most common approach.

Transaction Costs
The lack of an exchange and the direct trade with the broker creates another difference between stock and forex trading. In the stock market brokers will generally charge a commission for each buy and sell transaction you do. In forex, though, most brokers do not charge any commissions. Since they are taking the other side of all the customer trades, they profit by making the spread between the bid and offer prices.

Some traders do not like the structure of the spot forex market. They are not comfortable with their broker being on the other side of their trades as they feel it presents a type of conflict of interest. They also question the safety of their funds and the lack of overall regulation. There are some worthwhile concerns, certainly, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of forex brokers are very reliable and ethical. Those that are not don't stay in business very long.

Margin Trading
The forex market is a 100% margin-based market. This is a familiar thing for those used to trading futures.

In fact, spot forex trading is essentially trading a 2-day forward (futures) contract. You do not take actual possession of any currency, but rather have a theoretical agreement to do so in the future. That puts you in a position of benefiting from prices changes. For that your broker requires a deposit on your trades to provide surety against any losses you may incur. How much of a deposit can vary. Some brokers will asked for as little as 1/2%. That is fairly aggressive, though. Expect 1%-2% on the value of the position in most cases.

Now, unlike the stock market, margin trading does not mean margin loans. Your broker will not be lending you money to buy securities (at least not the way a stock broker does). As such, there is no margin interest charged. In fact, since you are the one putting money on deposit with your broker, you may earn interest in your margin funds.

Interest Rate Carry (Rollover)
When trading forex, one is essentially borrowing one currency, converting it in to another, and depositing it. This is all done on an overnight basis, so the trader is paying the overnight interest rate on the borrowed currency and at the same time earning the overnight rate on the currency being held. This means the trader is either paying out or receiving interest on their position, depending on whether the interest rate differential is for or against them.

This is commonly handled is what is referred to as a rollover. Spot forex trades are done on a trading day basis, and as such are technically closed out at the end of each day. If you are holding your position longer than that, your broker rolls you forward in to a new position for the next trading day. This is generally done transparently, but it does mean that at the end of each day you will either pay or receive the interest differential on your position.

The type of trader you are and the way your broker handles rollover will be the deciding factors in determining whether the interest rate differentials are an important concern for you. Some brokers will not apply the day's interest differential value on positions closed out during the trading day. By that I mean if you were to enter a position at 10am and exit at 2pm, no interest would come in to play. If you were to open a position on Monday and close it on Tuesday, though, you would have the interest for Monday applied (the full day regardless of when you entered the position), but nothing for Tuesday. (Note: There is at least one broker who calculates interest on a continuous basis, so you will always make or pay the interest differential on all positions, no matter when you put them on or took them off).

It should also be noted that although some folks will claim there is no rollover in forex futures, the interest rate spread is definitely factored in. You can see this when comparing the futures prices with the spot market rates. As the futures contracts approach their delivery date their prices will converge with the spot rate so that the holders will pay or receive the differential just as if they had been in a spot position.

Intervention
Fixed income traders know that central bankers, like the Federal Reserve, are active in the markets, buying and selling securities to influence prices, and thereby interest rates. This is not something which happens in stocks, but it does in the forex markets. This is known as intervention. It happens when a central bank or other national monetary authority buys or sells currency in the market with the objective of influencing exchange rates.

Intervention is most often seen at times when exchange rates get a bit out of hand, either falling or rising too rapidly. At those times, central banks may step in to try to nullify the trend. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

The US has traditionally taken a hands-off approach when it comes to the value of the Dollar, preferring to allow the markets to do their thing. Others are not quite so willing to let speculators determine their currency's value. The Bank of Japan has the most active track record in that regard.

21 Eylül 2007 Cuma

TRAVEL & TOURISM


Travel & Tourism

Reminder: new posts are going up at upgradetravelbetter.com
Just a short reminder (especially if you're seeing this on a feed reader): Upgrade: Travel Better has moved to http://www.upgradetravelbetter.com/. Same blog, different location. If you want to stick with a feed, go with this one.


Blog moving: Please visit UpgradeTravelBetter.com
Nine months after starting this blog, almost to the day, it's time for Upgrade: Travel Better to move to a new home. The new address: http://www.upgradetravelbetter.com/If you read the blog via a feed, make sure you're subscribed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/UpgradeTravelBetter and not to one of the many feeds generated by upgradetravel.blogspot.com. The blogspot feeds will *not* be updated, going forward. Existing FeedBurner subscribers should be transitioned automatically.If you haven't subscribed to the feed, you're invited to do you. You also have the option of receiving new posts via e-mail; there is a sign-up option in the "Syndicate" section of the right column on the new site.The "legacy" blogspot site will stay up, as-is, but all future updates will appear at the new site.All in all, Blogger and Blogspot.com have been generally good to me, and I feel a little bad moving the site away (especially after they named the site a "Blog of Note" a few weeks ago...) But the interface has its limitations, and I've been frustrated with repeated site downtime and general reliability.For those who might care, the new site will run WordPress and is hosted on BlueHost (<-- affiliate/referral link), which I can recommend as a fantastic bang for the buck. All the old content will appear on the new site. The text is all already there. I'll be tinkering with layout, updating categories, transferring images, etc., for weeks to come, but the transition is underway. Comments and suggestions on the new site are welcome.

TRAVEL & TOURISM

TRAVEL & TOURISM

Travel is the transport of people on a trip/journey or the process or time involved in a person or object moving from one location to another. Reasons for travel include


Tourism is travel for predominantly recreational or leisure purposes or the provision of services to support this leisure travel. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people who "travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited". Tourism has become a popular global leisure activity. In 2004, there were over 763 million international tourist arrivals.[1]
Tourism is vital for many countries, due to the income generated by the consumption of goods and services by tourists, the taxes levied on businesses in the tourism industry, and the opportunity for employment in the service industries associated with tourism. These service industries include transportation services such as cruise ships and taxis, accommodation such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, and other hospitality industry services such as spas and resorts.

FOREX is.

FOREX is.

FOREX (FOReign EXchange market) is an international foreign exchange market, where money is sold and bought freely. In its present condition FOREX was launched in the 1970s, when free exchange rates were introduced, and only the participants of the market determine the price of one currency against the other proceeding from supply and demand.As far as the freedom from any external control and free competition are concerned, FOREX is a perfect market. It is also the biggest liquid financial market. According to various assessments, money masses in the market constitute from 1 to 1.5 trillion US dollars a day. (It is impossible to determine an absolutely exact number because trading is not centralized on an exchange.) Transactions are conducted all over the world via telecommunications 24 hours a day from 00:00 GMT on Monday to 10:00 pm GMT on Friday. Practically in every time zone (that is, in Frankfurt-on-Main, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc.) there are dealers who will quote currencies.FOREX is a more objective market, because if some of its participants would like to change prices, for some manipulative purpose, they would have to operate with tens of billions dollars. That is why any influence by a single participants in the market is practically out of the question. The superior liquidity allows the traders to open and/or close positions within a few seconds. The time of keeping a position is arbitrary and has no limits: from several seconds to many years. It depends only on your trading strategies. Although the daily fluctuations of currencies are rather insignificant, you may use the credit lines, that are accessible even to currency speculators with small capitals ($ 1,000 - 5,000), where the profit may be impressive. (You can learn more about it in the section: The main principles of trading.)The idea of marginal trading stems from the fact that in FOREX speculative interests can be satisfied without a real money supply. This decreases overhead expenses for transferring money and gives an opportunity to open positions with a small account in US dollars, buying and selling a lot of other currencies. That is, on can conduct transactions very quickly, getting a big profit, when the exchange rates go up or down. Many speculative transactions in the international financial markets are made on the principles of marginal trading.Margin trading is trading with a borrowed capital. Marginal trading in an exchange market uses lots. 1 lot equals approximately $100,000, but to open it it is necessary to have only from 0.5% to 4% of the sum.For example, you have analyzed the situation in the market and come to the conclusion that the pound will go up against the dollar. You open 1 lot for buying the pound (GBP) with the margin 1% (1:1000 leverage) at the price of 1.49889 and wait for the exchange rate to go up. Some time later your expectations become true. You close the position at 1.5050 and earn 61 pips (about $ 405). For the calculation of 1 pip click here.Everyday fluctuations of currencies constitute about 100 to 150 pips, giving FX traders an opportunity to make money on these changes.In FOREX, it's not obligatory to buy some currency first in order to sell it later. It's possible to open positions for buying and selling any currency without actually having it. Usually Internet-brokers establish the minimum deposit such as $ 2000, for working in the FOREX market, and grant a leverage of 1:100. That is, opening the position at $100,000, a trader invests $1,000 and receives $99.000 as a credit. The major currencies traded in FOREX, are Euro (EUR), Japanese yen (JPY), British Pound (GBP), and Swiss Franc (CHF). All of them are traded against the US dollar (USD).In order to assess the situation in the market a trader has to be able to use fundamental and/or technical analysis, as well as to make decisions in the constantly changing current of information about political and economic character. Most small and medium players in financial markets use technical analysis. Technical analysis presupposes that all the information about the market and its further fluctuations is contained in the price chain. Any factor, that has some influence on the price, be it economic, political or psychological, has already been considered by the market and included in the price. The initial data for a technical analysis are prices: the highest and the lowest prices, the price of opening and closing within a certain period of time, and the volume of transactions.A technical analysis is founded on three suppositions:Movement of the market considers everything;Movement of prices is purposeful;History repeats itself. That is, technical analysis is a statistical and mathematical analysis of previous quotes and a prognosis of coming prices.A number of technical indicators have been installed into the PRO-CHARTS trading system. Analyzing the indicators one can come to the conclusion about further movements of the quoted currencies. For a more detailed de******ion of the indicators, analyzing price charts and volumes of trading, click here.Fundamental analysis is an analysis of current situations in the country of the currency, such as its economy, political events, and rumors. The country's economy depends on the rate of inflation and unemployment, on the interest rate of its Central Bank, and on tax policy. Political stability also influences the exchange rate. Policy of the Central Bank has a special role, as concentrated interventions or refusal from them greatly influence the exchange rate.At the same time one should not consider fundamental analysis just as an analysis of the economic situation in the country itself. A far bigger role in the FOREX market belongs to the expectations of the market participants and their assessment of these expectations. Various prognoses and bulletins, issued by the participants, have a strong influence on the expectations. Very often an effect of the so-called self-filfilling prophecy occurs when market players raise or lower the exchange rates according to the prognosis. But a deep and thorough fundamental analysis is available only for big banks with a staff of professional analysts and constant access to a wide field of information.In spite of these different approaches, both forms of analyses complement one another. Traders who act on the basis of a fundamental analysis, have to consider some technical characteristics of the market (the main rates of support, such as resistance and resale), and supporters of the technical approach to the market must track the main news (interest rates, important political events).The main merits of the FOREX market are:The biggest number of participants and the largest volumes of transactions;Superior liquidity and speed of the market: transactions are conducted within a few seconds according to online quotes;The market works 24 hours a day, every working days;A trader can open a position for any period of time he wants;No fees, except for the difference between buying and selling prices;An opportunity to get a bigger profit that the invested sum;Qualified work in the FOREX market can become your main professional activity;You can make deals

FOREX NEDİR?

FOREX NEDİR?

Forex piyasası(ingilizce Forex, Foreign Exchange kelimenin kısaltılması) – uluslararası döviz piyasasıdır.Forex piyasasında döviz kurları farkli faktörler üzünden hep değişmektedir. Piyasanın ana katılımcıları bankalar ve broker şirketleri, ithalatçılar, ihracatçılar, finans kuruluşları ve bireysel katılımcılar bir para birimini diğer para birimine değiştirirler. Forex piyasında operasyonlarının bir kısmı uluslararası ticaretinin ve kapital akışının servisi için, bir kısmıda döviz kurlarının değişimini yararlanarak kar alma amaçlı yapılmaktadır. Bireysel katılımcıları ilk önce Forex piyasasında kar alma fırsatları ilgilendirmektedir. Forex piyasası işlem hacmi bakımından dünyanın en büyük finansal piyasadır. Burada günlük işlem hacmi 1,5 trilyon ile 3 trilyon dolar arasında değişir. Karşılaştırmanız için dünyanın en büyük borsası olan New York borsasındaki günlük işlem hacmi 20 milyar dolar civarındadır. İnanılmaz büyüklükteki toplam işlem hacmi, Forex piyasasını dünyanın en zengin adamı veya en zengin insanlar grubunun dahi kolaylıkla manüple edemeyeceği bir hale getirmiştir. Böylece bu piyasa dış etkenlerden korunup sadece iç kurallarına göre çalışır. Forex piyasasında işlem veya başka kelimeyle Forex piyasasında trading – bir para birimini diğer para birimine değiştirme operasyonunun yapılmasıdır. Forex piyasasında işlem yapmak için sadece internete bağlı olan bilgisayar ve biraz para lazımdır. Başlangıç paranız ne kadar büyük olursa o kadar da karınız büyük olacak. Forex trader – Forex piyasasında işlem yapam kişidir. Serbest çalışma grafiği, üstünüzde yöneticinin olmaması, büyük kazanç potansiyeli: geliriniz asla sınırlanmaz herşey traderin kabiliyetine ve bilgisine bağlıdır işte bunlar trader mesleğinin önemli artılarındandır. Trading – çekici, yaratıcı, kendinize çalışma işidir. Forex piyasasının çalışma prensipleri.Forex piyasası – döviz değiştirme piyasası olunca, çalışma prensiplerini kolayca anlatmak için bir döviz bürosuna benzetebiliriz. Nasıl günlük hayatta döviz bürosuna gider alır satarsınız; buda aynen ona benzeyen bir takım kolaylıkları ve üstünlükleri olan gerçek bir iştir. Döviz bürosuyla Forex piyasası arasındaki benzerlikler. Döviz bürosunda ve Forex piyasasında bir dövizin diğer dövize değişimi yapilmaktadır ve değişim işlem yapıldığı anda verilen kura göre gerçekleşmektedir. Döviz bürosunda ve Forex piyasasında alış ve satış kurları mevcuttur. Alış ve satış kurları arasındaki farka spread deniliyor. Spread müşteri için operasyon değerini ve diğer taraftan da döviz değiştirme hizmetini veren banka veya şirket için kari belirlemektedir. Döviz bürosunda ve Forex piyasasında kurlar değişmektedir çünkü çok bir faktöre bağlıdırlar. Eğer ilerdeki kur değişim yönünü doğru tahmin edebilirsek kar alabiliriz. Döviz bürosunda ve Forex piyasasında operasyonlar aracı üzerinden(banka veya forex brokeri) yapilmaktadır. Döviz bürosuyla Forex piyasası arasındaki farklar. Döviz bürosunda bütün operasyonlar nakit parayla yapılmaktadır, Forex piyasasında ise operasyonlar nakitsiz yapılıyor. Operasyonlar Forex şirketinde açılan ticari hesapta yapılmaktadır. Bu hesap banka hesabına benzer. Döviz bürosunda yapılan operasyonun amacı bir para birimini diğer para birimine değiştirmek.Bunun için büroda tek operasyon yapılmaktadır, mesela dolara euro almak gibi. Forex’te yapılan işlemin amacı değişim operasyonu sonucunda gelir elde etmek. Bu yüzden Forex piyasasında genelde iki operasyon yapılmaktadır, önce dolara euro almak ve sonrası biraz zaman geçince başka kurdan euroyu satmak. Bu paritedeki ilk operasyona pozisyon açılışı deniliyor ikinci operasyonada pozisyon kapanışı. Döviz bürosünda sadece elinizde olan parayi değiştirebilirsiniz. Forex piyasasında hesabınızda olan paradan daha fazla parayla işlem yapabilmektesiniz. Bu mümkün çünkü forex şirketi müşteriye kaldiraç vermektedir. Kaldıraç sayesinde yapılan yatırımın çok üzerinde bir pozisyon alarak daha yüksek oranda kâr/zarar elde edebilirsiniz. Örneğin, EUR/USD partesinin 1,2670’ten 1,2671 seviyesine yükselmesi 1 piplik hareket anlamına gelmektedir. Yine, paritenin 1,2670’ten 1,2663 seviyesine gerilemesi 7 piplik hareket anlamına gelmektedir.Mesela başlangıç depozitonuz 1 000 dolar ve kaldıraç 100 ise 100 000 dolarlık pozisyon açabilirsiniz. Döviz bürosünda döviz kurlari günde bir veya birkaç kez değişmektedir, Forex piyasasında ise hergün dakikada bir kaç kez değişmektedir. Forexin bu özelliğine dinamik diye deniliyor. Grafikleri görmek ve döviz kurları değişimi analiz etmek için real zamanlı çalışan özel programlar kullanılıyor.

28 Şubat 2008 Perşembe

Turkey's physical geography


Geographically, Turkey forms a natural bridge between the old world continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. The Anatolian peninsula is the westernmost point of Asia, divided from Europe by the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. Thrace is the western part of Turkey on the European continent.

Examination of Turkey's topographic structure on a physical map of the world shows clearly the country's high elevation in comparison to its neighbors, half of the land area being higher than 1000 meters and two thirds higher than 800 meters. Mountain ranges extend in an east-west direction parallel to the north and south coasts, and these are a principal factor in determining ecological conditions. This also means that apart from the Asi river in Anatolia and the Meriç in Thracian Turkey, all Turkey's rivers have their sources within its borders and flow into the sea, into neighboring countries or into interior drainages. Turkey has seven river basins. The principal rivers in the Black Sea basin being the Sakarya, Kizilirmak Yesilirmak and Çoruh. There are also several rivers with short courses but high water flows in the Eastern Black Sea region, such as the Ikizdere, Hursit Cayi and Firtina. The highest waterfall in Turkey is on the Totum river here.

The Marmara basin has fewer rivers, the longest being the Kocaçay (whose upper and middle reaches are called the Simav and Susurluk respective) which rises on Mount Murat and flows into the Marmara Sea from the south.

The Kücük Menderes, Büyük Menderes and Gediz rivers in the Aegean basin lend their names to the plains which they water.

In the Mediterranean basin the principal rivers are the Aksu, Köprüçay, Manavgat, Göksu, Ceyhan and Seyhan. The Manavgat waterfall on the Manavgat, Düden waterfall on the Düden and Yerköprü waterfall on the Ermenek are among the scenic attractions of the region. The Aladag waterfall springing directly from the mountainside are one of the sources of the sources of the Seyhan river.

Two major rivers flow from Turkey into the Caspian Sea basin, the Aras and Kura.

Water from Turkey flows into the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Basra via the famous Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

Turkey also has two inland drainage basins. The first is the Central Anatolia basin which contains the Tuz Gölü (salt lake) in Konya, and the Yay, Seyfe, Kulu and several other satellite lakes. The major river in this basin is the Çarsamba which is out flow of Beysehir Lake and contributes a large volume of water for irrigation of the fertile Konya Plain, and is linked by a canal to Tuz Gölü.

The Karasu, Incesu, Deliçay and Bendimahi rivers flow into the interior drainage basin of Van. There are waterfalls on the Bendimahi.

Another significant aspect of Turkey's topography is its continental character, preserved in the ancient name of Asia Minor. This land mass is indeed a small scale continent in many respects, above all with respect to the climate of the interior. In some provinces the temperature difference over 24 hours can be as much as 20 degrees Centigrade. During the spring months it is not unusual to find weather typical of two or even three seasons at different locations around Turkey in a single day. The Mediterranean coast may be enjoying summer heat while the temperate Black Sea region gets as much as 2000 mm of precipitation in some places, there are parts of Central Anatolia with an average precipitation only one eighth of this total.

These wide variations in temperature and precipitation affect the country's flora and fauna, both in quantity and in range of species. some parts of Turkey consist of arid highlands whereas others are thickly forested, and differences such as these play a crucial role in the distribution of wildlife around the country.

The fact that Anatolia is surrounded on there sides by sea, its situation in the temperate climatic zone, its geological and geomorphic structure, and topography are all contributing factors. The four seas around Turkey each reflect a different ecological character. Salinity is 18 per thousand in the Black Sea, 23 per thousand in the Marmara Sea, 32 per thousand in the Aegean Sea and 38 per thousand in the Mediterranean Sea. There is no other country in the world with such a wide variation of salinity levels along its shores, and the variations in ecological structure of these seas affects the life forms which inhabit them, from phyto planktons and seaweeds to fish and marine mammals such as dolphins.

Geological and topographic structure are among the main factors affecting diversity of species in terrestrial ecosystems. While the mountain ranges running parallel to the Black Sea and Mediterranean create a barrier for rain clouds moving inland, they cause abundant rainfall on the mountain slopes facing the coast. On the Aegean the mountain ranges run perpendicularly towards the coast, divided by broad valleys which allow the maritime climate to prevail several hundred kilometers inland. Alluvion carried by the rivers has created fertile plains in this Aegean region. Eastwards these mountain ranges move closer together in Central Entail, spreading apart once more in northeast and southeast Turkey. The height of plains and plateaus in Central Anatolia varies from 700 to 1100 meters, while in Eastern Anatolia this rises to 1100-19 hundred meters, and drops to 700-500 in Southeast Anatolia. Despite the existence of broad plains and plateaus, the topography is largely hilly and mountainous across Turkey as a whole.

Turkey has one peak of over 5000 meters in altitude (Mt. Ararat), three over 4000 meters and 129 peaks exceeding 3000 meters. Such an irregular topographic structure has created a wide diversity of ecological conditions and species. Now let us take a look at the geological history of the country, which has also played a part in creating the natural diversity which exists today.

Towards the end of the Quaternary Era the earth underwent four ice ages. During the cold periods when the glaciers expanded, animals seeking warmer climes moved southward into the Iberian peninsula, the Anatolian peninsula and Southeast Asia. This migration enabled these species to survive periods of glaciations. While some later returned to their former habitats, others remained in their new homelands, which explains why Turkey's wildlife today includes species of northern origin.

The distribution of flora and fauna species along a north-south axis during these glacial periods shifted to an east-west axis during temperate intervals. This further increasing the biological diversity.

The main migratory routes for birds between Asia, Europe and Africa pass over Turkey, and this has also been a factor in expanding the number of species found here for part of the year.

The combination of all these factors has resulted in a diversity of native plant animal species which is one of the highest in the world. While in terms of bio-geographic region Turkey lies in the Palaeartic zone, native species include those typical of the Oriental and Ethiopian regions. When we remember that bio-geographic regions cover vast areas, the significance of a species range drawing on there different regions can be better appreciated.

A comparable diversity can be seen in the human history of Turkey, where since prehistoric times many different peoples have settled, some to build civilizations and others to pass on to other continents. As a consequence this soil has been fought over time and time again so strategic in geopolitical terms. Over the past ten thousand years more than twenty peoples have left their mark on Turkey. Civilizations have risen and fallen in successive waves some falling victim to invasion by newcomers, some to disease epidemics, and others to natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Fresh water sources have always been a key determinant in human settlement, and where these sources have been related to tectonic faults. they have attracted settlers into areas close to earthquakes centers.

Natural resources which have benefited mankind in various ways for thousands of years have gradually been used up. Forests and their wildlife have suffered most from this process. Not only have trees been felled for timber and firewood, but set alight deliberately by ancient peoples as a means of capturing enemy towns. Even using primitive axes, people were able to destroy vast tracts of forest. Deforestation has led to serious erosion, which began around 2700 years ago. Yet despite thousands of years of destruction by logging, herds of goats, and fire, Turkey still has large tracts of beautiful natural forest land.

flag

Current law on the Turkish flag
Law #2893, adopted September 22, 1983, published in the Official Gazette September 24, 1983 No 18171, Series 5 Volume 22, p. 599

Purpose
Article 1 - The purpose of this Law is to identify the principles and procedures about shape, construction and protection of the Turkish flag.

Shape and Construction of the Flag
Article 2 - The Turkish flag shall be a red flag with a white moon - star which is in the shape and proportions shown in the attached table. The standards, the fabric and material of the making of the flag and special flags (symbolic flags, special signs, pennant, ship's pennant and official flag) are shown in the charter.

Hoisting and Lowering the Flag
Article 3 - Flag shall be hoisted on public associations and foundations and their abroad representatives, sea vehicles of public foundations, real and judicial persons. It shall be hoisted on vehicles of the authorities in and out of the country. Hoisting and lowering of the flag shall be done with ceremony. Making of the ceremony in appropriate way shall be under the responsibility of the authorized chief in that place.

The Turkish flag shall be hoisted on national holidays and general holidays, starting from holiday start and ending in the sunset of the end of the holiday. (A recent modification of the law changed this rule. The flag shall now be hoisted on the official buildings all the time.). Permanent hoisting of the flag, the closed places in which the flag shall be placed, the places where the flag shall be used as background, the way of hoisting the flag in private places, the schedules and subjects about hoisting of the flag on the vessels of the Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish merchant ships are shown in the charter.

Flying the flag at half staff
Article 4 - The Turkish flag shall be flown at half staff as a sign of mourning on November10. (Note: November 10 is the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1938, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey). The other instances and time of flying the flag at half staff shall be announced by the Prime Minister.

Saluting the flag
Article 5 - The flag shall be saluted when hanging and lowering or during transfer of power ceremony.

Places that can be covered with flag
Article 6 - The coffins of former Presidents, martyrs and other civilians or soldiers who are identified in the charter; the statues of Atatürk in opening ceremonies and the desks in official oath ceremonies can be covered with the Turkish flag. In addition, the ways and places of usage of the flag according to national customs and traditions are shown in the charter.

Prohibitions
Article 7 - The Turkish flag shall not be used as torn, unraveled, patched, with holes in it, dirty, faded, wrinkled or in a situation that will bruise its spiritual value.

Except for official oath ceremonies it shall not be used on desks and podiums as a cover for any purpose. It shall not be put on places where people sit or stand. The shape of the flag shall not be made to these places and similar things. It shall not be worn as a dress or uniform.

Any political party, organization, society, club, association or foundation other than the public associations and those foundations that are determined in the charter shall not use the flag on their emblems, pennants, symbols or similar things that will form base or background on either side. The Turkish Flag shall not be insulted or shown disrespect by speech, writing, action or any other means. The flag shall not be torn, burned, thrown or used without care. Any action that is against this law and the charter shall be prevented and relevant investigation shall be performed.

Sanctions
Article 8 - Making, selling and using flags that is against this law and the charter is forbidden. The flags that are done against this prohibition shall be collected by the local authority. People who behave against the rules of this law shall be penalized according to Article 526 of Turkish Penal Code if their crime does not require a heavier punishment.

Charter
Article 9 - The matters that are said to be prescribed in the charter and other principles concerning the application of the present law shall be shown in the charter that will be prepared within six months after publication of the present law.

Abrogated Law
Article 10 - The Law on Turkish Flag dated May 29,1936 (#2994) shall be abrogated.

Validity
Article 11 - This article shall become valid after six months of its publication.

Enforcement
Article 12 - The articles of the present law shall be enforced by the Council of Ministers.


Meaning of the flag
It's very difficult to explain the real meaning of a flag; there are legends, actual stories, and outright misinformation about the reason of certain colors or designs were put on national flags. Also individuals may have their own interpretation of their own national flag. Religious symbolism can also be expressed via color, such as the crescent moon which is a traditional Islamic symbol.

Historical facts:
"Red has been prominent in Turkish flags for 700 years. The star and crescent are Muslim symbols, but also have a long pre-Islamic past in Asia Minor. The basic form of the national flag was apparently established in 1793 under Ottoman Sultan Selim III, when the green flags used by the navy were changed to red and a white crescent and multi-pointed star were added. The five-pointed star dates from approximately 1844. Except for the issuance of design specifications, no change was made when the Ottoman Empire became the Republic of Turkey and the Caliphate (religious authority) was terminated by Ataturk. Many traditions explain the star and crescent symbol. It is known that Diana (Artemis) was the patron goddess of Byzantium and that her symbol was a moon. In 330, the Emperor Constantine rededicated the city - which he called Constantinople (today's Istanbul) - to the Virgin Mary, whose star symbol was superimposed over the crescent. In 1453 Constantinople (Istanbul) was captured by the Ottoman Turks and renamed Istanbul, but its new rulers may have adopted the existing emblem for their own use"

Legends:
"A reflection of the moon occulting a star, appearing in pools of blood after the battle of Kosovo in 1448, the battle during which the Ottomans defeated the Christian forces and established the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe until the end of the 19th century, led to the adoption of the Turkish flag by Sultan Murad II according to one legend. Others refer to a dream of the first Ottoman Sultan in which a crescent and star appeared from his chest and expanded, presaging the dynasty's seizure of Constantinople (Istanbul). There are other legends explaining the flag."

How to buy property in Turkey?


Buying a real estate in Turkey is quite simple, but there are certain rules to follow of course. Today, many foreigners continue to buy properties in Turkey for their holidays or for the retirement, especially along the Aegean and Mediterranean coast, as well as in some major cities such as Istanbul and Izmir. In most of the country, except in the big cities of course, land prices are very reasonable when you compare it to the rest of the world. If you're planning to buy a property in Turkey, you should be aware of the State Law copied below. You can also contact the Turkish Embassy in your country and get more information from the Office of the Economic Counselor. If you're in Turkey, you should apply to the local offices of the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre, known as "Tapu Kadastro" in Turkish. Foreigners seeking for real estate in Turkey can contact either real estate agencies or the owners directly. You can also get some professional help from solicitors and then the Law offices before the purchasing stage.

LAW ON THE REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION OF FOREIGNERS IN TURKEY

Land Registry Law no:2644

Renewed and effective after 7 January 2006

1. REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION OF FOREIGN REAL PERSONS IN TURKEY

Real estate acquisition of foreign real and legal persons in Turkey has been regulated in the article 35 of the Land Registry Law numbered 2644 and then with law numbered 5444 and dated 12 December 2005 which was established in the Official Gazette numbered 26046 and dated 7 January 2006. New fundamental principles were regulated with this new law for the real estate acquisition of foreign real persons and trade companies having legal personality and established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries.

New form of the article 35 of the Land registry Law is as follows:

With the reservation of reciprocity and compliance with legal restrictions, foreign real person can acquire real estates for the purposes of using as residence or business aims in Turkey that are separated and registered for these purposes in the implemented development plans or localized development plans. The same conditions shall be stipulated in the establishment of limited real rights on real estates. The total area of the real estates and limited real rights on real estates that a real person of foreign nationality can acquire all over the country can not exceed 25.000 square meters (6,17 acres). Within the same conditions set out in this paragraph, the Council of Ministers is authorized to increase the area up to 30 hectares (74,13 acres).

Companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries can acquire real estates and limited real rights on real estates in Turkey according to the provisions of special laws.

In case of establishing mortgage in Turkey in favor of foreign real persons and trading companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries, the conditions and restrictions set out in the first and second paragraphs shall not be applied.

With the exception of foreign real persons and trading companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries, no one can acquire real estates and limited real rights on real estates in Turkey.

For the real estates acquired through legal inheritance by citizens of a country that have reciprocity with the Republic of Turkey, the conditions and restrictions set out in the first paragraph shall not be applied. For the real estates acquisition by means of transactions depending on death apart from legal inheritance, the conditions and restrictions set out in the above paragraphs shall be applied. Real estates and limited real rights on real estates acquired through legal inheritance by citizens of countries that do not have reciprocity with the Republic of Turkey shall be liquidated after their transfer transactions are performed.

De jure and de facto circumstances shall be taken as basis in determination of reciprocity. In implementation of this principle for the citizens of countries that have not granted land ownership rights, it's stipulated that the rights granted by a foreign country for real estate acquisition to its own citizens should also be granted to the citizens of the Republic of Turkey.

The Council of Ministers is authorized to determine the places where foreign real persons and trading companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries can not acquire real estates and limited real rights on real estates within the areas in terms of irrigation, energy, agriculture, mine, and protected areas, and belief and cultural featured areas, and special protection areas and sensible areas due to flora and fauna features, strategic areas due to public interests and national security by means of the proposals of relevant public institutions and organizations with the registry based coordinated maps and plans, and the rate of the areas where foreign real persons can acquire real estates are not more than 5 per thousand according to the provinces and provinces' areas. Proposals of the public institutions and organizations within these scope shall be examined, appreciated and submitted to the Council of Ministers by means of a commission that carries out studies within the authority set out in this paragraph and constitutes of relevant representatives of administration in the structure of the Ministry that General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre is related to.

Map and coordinate values concerning the military forbidden zones, military and private security zones and strategic zones that are determined after the enforcement of this law and their alterations shall be given without any delay by the Ministry of National Defense to the Ministry that General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre is related to.

The parcels needed to be expropriated or to be annotated on land register due to be in the areas determined in the above paragraphs shall be notified by relevant institutions to relevant Land Registry Offices.

The real estates and limited real rights on real estates acquired contrary to the provisions of this article or determination of misuse according to the purpose of acquisition without legal necessity shall be converted to value and paid to owner of this property, unless the real estate is liquidated by the owner within the period given by Ministry of Finance.

1.A. RECIPROCITY PRINCIPLE

In the new regulation, instead of exact equivalent implementation of reciprocity principle, it's stipulated that the rights given by a foreign country to its own citizens or trade companies having legal personality and established according to its own laws, should also be given to citizens and trade companies of the Republic of Turkey.

The Council of Ministers expressed what should be understood from the reciprocity principle in its decision dated 29 May 1940, and numbered 2/13394. According to this decision, in addition to legislative regulation of reciprocity principle, practical applicability of it is also required for its existence. By this decision, in which it's taken into consideration that reciprocity in law will not indicate actual situation, restrictions encountered in a foreign country by the citizens of the Republic of Turkey in case of their application, are requested to be taken as a basis in implementation of reciprocity. Therefore, for the existence of reciprocity between our country and a foreign country regarding real estate acquisition, reciprocity must be both in law and in practice. According to this principle, for real estate acquisition of a foreign country's citizen or trade company in our country, the citizens and trade companies of the Republic of Turkey should also have the right to acquire real estate in that foreign country and this right must be accepted by laws and must be practically applicable.

1.B. EXCEPTIONS OF RECIPROCITY PRINCIPLE

Although the first condition is reciprocity for real estate acquisition of foreign real persons in our country, reciprocity principle has some exceptions in terms of real persons. These exceptions are as follows:

  1. Since heimatlos persons have no state citizenship, there isn't any state to decide about reciprocity. For this reason, heimatlos persons are exempted from reciprocity principle.
  2. According to the article 7/2 of the "Convention on Legal Situation of Refugees" dated 28 July 1951 and ratified by Turkey with the law dated 26 August 1961 and numbered 359, the refugees are exempted from reciprocity principle in a country after three years of residence. The refugees in Turkey are also subjected to the same provision. It is enough for refugees to prove this situation with an official document for exemption.
  3. According to the article 8/E of the Law for Encouragement of Tourism numbered 2634, foreign real and legal persons who want to make investment for tourism objective in Turkey, can acquire real estate by the decision of the Council of Ministers in tourism areas and centers being exempted from reciprocity principle and restrictions formulated for foreigners.

1.C. LEGAL RESTRICTIVE PROVISIONS

The second condition for real estate acquisition of foreign real persons in our country is to comply with restrictive provisions involved in law. Some restrictions are involved in our laws concerning real estate acquisition of foreigners. These restrictive provisions are as follows:

  1. According to regulations involved in the Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones Law numbered 2565 which restricts geographically real estate acquisition of foreigners in our country, it is not possible to sell, transfer and rent real estate located within military forbidden zones and security zones, to foreign real and legal persons.
  2. According to the article 35 of the Land Registry Law numbered 2644, foreign real persons can not acquire real estate more than 2,5 hectares (6,17 acres) in our country. However, for acquisition up to 30 hectares (74,13 acres), decision of the Council of Ministers is required. Legal inheritance is exception of this rule.

1.D. REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION OF FOREIGN TRADE COMPANIES HAVING LEGAL PERSONALITY IN TURKEY

Companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries can acquire real estates and limited real rights on real estates in Turkey according to the provisions of special laws. Relevant special laws are:

  • Law for Encouragement of Tourism numbered 2634
  • Petroleum Law numbered 6326
  • Industry Regions Law numbered 4737

In case of establishing mortgage in Turkey in favor of foreign real persons and trading companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries, the conditions and restrictions set out in first and second paragraphs shall not be applied.

With the exception of foreign real persons and trading companies having legal personality established in foreign countries according to the laws of these countries, no one can acquire real estates and limited real rights on real estates in Turkey.

1.E. REAL ESTATE ACQUISITION OF FOREIGN CAPITAL COMPANIES

The expression of "foreign capital companies" is usually confused with the expression of "foreign company". First of all, it should be stated that "foreign capital companies" are established according to the provisions of the Turkish Trade Law in Turkey and enrolled in Turkish Trade Registry. In other words, these companies are subjected to the legal provisions of the Republic of Turkey. Only, the whole or part of their capital belongs to foreign real and legal persons. Availability of foreign shareholders within the company will not include it within the status of foreign legal personality; because nationality of the company and nationality of its shareholders are different matters.

The Law for Encouragement of Foreign Capital numbered 6224 and dated 18 January 1954 was repealed by Foreign Direct Investment Law numbered 4875 and dated 5 June 2003 that entered into effect being published in the Official Gazette numbered 25141 and dated 17 June 2003. New provisions were adopted to encourage and increase foreign direct investments, to protect rights of foreign investors, and to transform permission and ratification system to informative systems in realization of foreign investments.

With regard to the subject, a memo numbered 1363-100/841 and dated 7 August 2003 was announced to all our units through our regional directorates and it was stated that implementation would be carried out within the framework of the following statements:

By the Foreign Direct Investment Law numbered 4875, foreign investors are subjected to equal treatment with domestic investors; permissions and ratifications like investment permissions, company establishment permissions, were removed. Moreover, companies having legal personality that foreign investors participate in or establish in our country, are allowed to acquire real estate or limited real rights in areas where acquisition of these rights is allowed for Turkish Citizens.

Companies established according to the repealed Law numbered 6224 or that will act according to the Law numbered 4875 which regards the activities of foreign capital companies in our country, are considered as companies of the Republic of Turkey, according to the criteria of establishment place or administration center. For this reason, real estate acquisition and other demands concerning land register of foreign capital companies that either obtained activity permission according to the repealed Law for Encouragement of Foreign Capital or will act according to the Foreign Direct Investment Law numbered 4875, are concluded by relevant Land Registry Offices implementing the same methods and rules as for companies established according to the Turkish Trade Law, after examining authorization documents given by the Trade Register Authorities that indicate the competent person and competence for real estate acquisition of the company.

2. TRANSFER

It is free to transfer through banks and private financial institutions, revenue and value of sale earned from real estate and real rights acquired by foreigners with or without exchange of foreign currency.

3. AUTHORITY OF APPLICATIONS

By the article 26 of the Land Registry Law numbered 2644, the duty and authorization to regulate contracts concerning property and real rights excluding property were given to Land Registry Offices. Foreigners who want to acquire real estate or benefit from real rights apart from property will make their applications to the Land Registry Office where the real estate is located. Detailed information about the subject can be provided from the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre.

4. REQUIRED DOCUMENTS FOR APPLICATION

There is no difference between Turkish citizens and foreigners in terms of required documents for application.

4.A. In terms of Real Persons:

  1. Title deed of the real estate if available, otherwise a document indicating the city block and parcel of the real estate or verbal statement of the owner.
  2. Identity card or passport of foreigner given by his/her own country and two passport-size photographs.
  3. If the person applying for the purchase is a representative, a legal document of attorney of the representative, a photo-ID card, two passport-size photographs of the representative, are required. If some of the purchasers are not present during the transaction, photo-ID card, two passport-size photographs, and a legal document of attorney of the representatives that represent the purchasers, are required.

4.B. In terms of Legal Trade Companies:

  1. Companies established according to the Foreign Direct Investment Law numbered 4875 will show competence document given by Turkish Trade Registry, a document given to the person based on this, and signatures certificate.
  2. Foreign trading companies established in foreign countries according to their laws are required, in compliance with the legislation of their country, to show a document having the effect of competence document given by relevant authorities.

With regard to charges and taxes required to be paid in the course of transactions, there is no difference between persons of foreign nationality and citizens of the Republic of Turkey. However, when asking the competent military post to determine whether the real estate demanded by real or legal person of foreign nationality is located out of Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones or not, if any control in the field is needed to mark on map of 1/25000 scale where the real estate is, a kind of service charge will be paid according to the transaction named "showing the parcel on site".

For more information related on buying a real estate in Turkey, all foreigners can apply to the address below:

Tapu ve Kadastro Genel Müdürlügü
Yabanci Isler Dairesi Baskanligi
Dikmen Yolu No:14
Bakanliklar - ANKARA
Phone: (+90 312) 4136885 and 86 and 87

Istanbul

Adria (Slavonian) Airways
Ordu Caddesi 206/1 Laleli
Tel: (212) 512 42 31
Fax: (212) 512 42 34-512 54 36

Aeroflot
Mete Caddesi 30 Taksim
Tel: (212) 243 47 25
Fax: (212) 252 39 98

Air China
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 235/1 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 232 71 11
Fax: (212) 232 44 87

Air France
Cumhuriyet Caddesi I Taksim
Tel: (212) 256 43 56
Fax: (212) 254 43 34

Albanian Airlines
Cumhuriyet Cad. No:21 K.2 Taksim
Tel: (212) 254 43 25
Fax: (212) 254 27 80

Alitalia
Eytam Caddesi Acik Hava Apt. 16/9 Nisantasi
Tel: (212) 315 19 90
Fax: (212) 315 19 80

American Airlines
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 47/2 Taksim
Tel: (212) 237 20 03
Fax: (212) 237 20 05

Austrian Airlines
Inonu Cad. Gumussu Palas Apt. No:26/7 K.3 Gumussuyu
Tel: (212) 293 69 95
Fax: (212) 293 65 33

Azerbaijan Airlines
Cumhuriyet Cad. Merkez Apt. No:163 K.4 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 296 37 33 - 296 35 30
Fax: (212) 296 87 87

Balkan Bulgarian Airlines
Cumhuriyet Caddesi
Gezi Dukkanlari Taksim
Tel: (212) 245 24 56

British Airways
Buyukdere Cad. No:209 Tekfen Tower 4.Levent 34394
Tel: (212) 317 66 00
Fax: (212) 317 66 06

Cathay Pacific Airlines
Cumhuriyet Cad. Erk Apt. No:14/7 Elmadag 34367
Tel: (212) 219 21 23
Fax: (212) 234 49 99

Czech Airlines
Cumhuriyet Cad. Merkez Apt. 163/1 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 230 48 32 - 230 38 52
Fax: (212) 230 83 26

Continental Airlines
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 14/7 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 296 41 20
Fax: (212) 296 41 58

Delta Airlines
Tesvikiye Caddesi Ikbal is merkezi Tesvikiye
Tel: (212) 310 20 00
Fax: (212) 236 29 97

Egypt Air
Halaskargazi Caddesi No:202 Osmanbey
Tel: (212) 231 11 26
Fax: (212) 224 93 12

El-Al (Israeli Airlines)
Rumeli Cad. Nisantasi Is Mrk. K.4 No.1 Nisantasi
Tel: (212) 291 45 16
Fax: (212) 230 37 05

Emirates Airlines
Inonu Cad. No:96 Devres Han Gumussuyu 34437
Tel: (212) 334 88 88
Fax: (212) 293 50 59

Finnair
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 309 Harbiye 34373
Tel: (212) 296 88 12 - 224 28 62
Fax: (212) 296 88 52

Georgia Airlines
Yolcuzade Iskender Cad. 66-68 Kat 2 Sishane
Tel: (212) 253 11 11-253 01 16
Fax: (212) 253 21 58

Gulf Air
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 213 Harbiye 34373
Tel: (212) 231 34 54
Fax: (212) 231 34 55

Iberia (Spanish Airlines)
Ataturk Airport Terminal Yesilkoy
Tel: (212) 469 80 20
Fax: (212) 465 35 67

Iranair
Valikonagi Caddesi No:17 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 225 02 56
Fax: (212) 225 22 00

JAL (Japanese Airlines)
Cumhuriyet Cad. Cinarcik Apt. 107/2 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 233 08 40
Fax: (212) 234 22 09

KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines)
Emirhan Caddesi 145 Atakule A Blok Kat:14 Besiktas
Tel: (212) 310 19 00
Fax: (212) 236 91 63

KTHY (Turkish Airlines of Northern Cyprus)
Buyukdere Cad 56/B Mecidiyekoy
Tel: (212) 274 69 32
Fax: (212) 274 59 81

Lot (Polish Airlines)
Cumhuriyet Caddesi No:16 K.4 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 315 34 60
Fax: (212) 266 57 03

Lufthansa
Buyukdere Cad. No:122 Ozsezen C Blok K.5 Zincirlikuyu
Tel: (212) 315 34 00
Fax: (212) 266 57 02 - 266 57 03

Malev (Hungarian Airlines)
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 135 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 232 48 39 - 241 09 09
Fax: (212) 230 20 34

Malaysia Airlines
Valikonagi Cad No.9 Nisantasi
Tel: (212) 224 85 00
Fax: (212) 230 03 97

Middle East Airlines (MEA)
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 30 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 248 22 41 - 248 22 42
Fax: (212) 248 37 23

Olympic (Greek) Airways
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 171/A Elmadag
Tel: (212) 246 50 81
Fax: (212) 232 21 73

Pakistan Airlines (PIA)
Mete Cad. 24/1 Taksim 34437
Tel: (212) 334 29 20
Fax: (212) 334 29 90

Qatar Airways
Ceylan Inter-Continental Hotel Asker Ocagi Cad. No:1 Taksim
Tel: (212) 296 61 91
Fax: (212) 296 61 80

Royal Air Maroc
Cumhuriyet Caddesi Besler Apt. 20/2 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 241 32 63 - 241 32 64
Fax: (212) 241 32 60 - 241 32 66

Royal Jordanian
Cumhuriyet Cad. Safir Apt. No:361/1 K:2 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 231 99 09
Fax: (212) 234 54 10

SN Brussels Airlines
Buyukdere Caddesi 122 Ozsezen C Blok Zincirlikuyu
Tel: (212) 266 96 40
Fax: (212) 255 13 74

SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Cumhuriyet Caddesi 26/A Elmadag
Tel: (212) 246 60 75
Fax: (212) 233 88 03

Saudi Arabian Airlines
Cumhuriyet Caddesi Inkilap Apt. 33 Elmadag
Tel: (212) 256 48 00
Fax: (212) 256 46 47

Singapore Airlines
Halaskargazi Caddesi 113 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 232 37 06
Fax: (212) 248 86 20

Syrian Arab Airlines
Cumhuriyet Cad. Arzu Apt. 303 Harbiye
Tel: (212) 246 17 81
Fax: (212) 232 62 93

Swiss International Airlines
Is Kuleleri 2. Kule Asmakat 4.Levent
Tel: (212) 319 19 00 - 319 19 19
Fax: (212) 319 19 98

TAROM Romanian Airlines
Ataturk Airport International Departures Yesilkoy
Tel: (212) 465 37 77
Fax: (212) 465 37 78

Tunisair
Valikonagi Cad. Bizim Apt. 8/1 Nisantasi
Tel: (212) 241 70 96 - 225 88 53
Fax: (212) 231 10 54
Ankara

Aeroflot
Cinnah Caddesi 114/2 Cankaya
Tel: (312) 440 98 74-75
Fax: (312) 440 92 20

Air France
Ataturk Bulvan, 231/7 Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 467 44 00
Fax: (312) 468 25 95

Alitalia
Iran Caddesi 21 Kat 3 No. 369
Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 418 88 13-425 38 13
Fax: (312) 417 97 96

Austrian Airlines
Cinnah Caddesi 43/8 Cankaya
Tel: (312) 417 56 16-17
Fax: (312) 440 61 08

British Airways
Ataturk Bulvan, 237/29 Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 467 55 57
Fax: (312) 427 33 13

KTHY (Turkish Airlines of Northern Cyprus)
Selanik Caddesi 17/1 Kizilay
Tel: (312) 418 04 25
Fax: (312) 418 78 17

Delta Airlines
Tunus Caddesi 85/8 Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 468 28 08
Fax: (312) 467 19 75

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Cinnah Caddesi 43/8 Cankaya
Tel: (312) 417 56 16-17
Fax: (312) 440 61 08

Lufthansa
Iran Caddesi 2 Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 467 55 10
Fax: (312) 427 84 71

SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Ataturk Bulvan, 127 Sercan Han Kat 4
Bakanliklar
Tel: (312) 425 51 90-425 76 13
Fax: (312) 417 24 28

SN Brussels Airlines
Tunali Hilmi Caddesi, 112/1 Kavaklidere
Tel: (312) 467 25 35-36
Fax: (312) 467 25 43
Izmir

Air France
1353. Sokak Taner Ishani 1
Kat 2 205-206
Tel: (232) 425 90 04(3)
Fax: (232) k484 66 31

Alitalia
Ataturk Caddesi 328/A I.l Kordon
Tel: (232) 42 71 97
Fax: (232) 463 31 62

Austrian Airlines
Sair Esref Bulvan 5/105
1371. Sokak Alkan Han Cankaya
Tel: (232) 425 97 22- 425 80 20
Fax: (232) 425 03 09

British Airways
Sair Esref Bulvan 18
Altay Is Mrk. Kat 3 No.l 304 Cankaya,
Tel: (232) 441 38 29
Fax: (232) 441 62 94

Delta Airlines
Cumhuriyet Bulvan 143/H Alsancak
Tel: (232) 421 42 62-63

KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines)
Adnan Menderes Airport
Tel: (232) 274 20 82

Lufthansa
1379 Sokak 23 Alsancak
Tel: (232) 422 36 22
Fax: (232) 422 64 12

SAS (Scandinavian Airlines)
Cumhuriyet Meydani Neyzan Apt. 11/2, Alsancak
Tel: (232) 421 47 57-463 49 60
Fax: (232) 463 64 58

Swiss International Airlines
Cumhuriyet Meydani Meydan Apt. 11/2, Pasaport
Tel: (232) 463 49 60 - 463 49 90
Fax: (232) 463 64 58
Antalya

SunExpress
Fener Mahallesi, Sinanoglu Caddesi
Oktay Apt. P.O. Bo 28 07100
Tel: (242) 323 40 47-48
Fax: (242) 323 40 57

Note: To call a number in Turkey (if you are in Turkey) dial 0, then area code (212 for Istanbul, 312 for Ankara, 232 for Izmir, 242 for Antalya etc.), and then the number (7 digits). If you want to call a number in the same city then just dial the number (7 digits). For more information on Turkey's area codes click here.

turkey

Names


Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (Turkish
long form); Türkiye (Turkish
short form); Republic of Turkey (formal English); Turkey (English short form);
Turchia (Italian); Türkei (German); Turkiet (Swedish); Turkije (Dutch); Turkki
(Finnish); Turquia (Portuguese); Turquia (Spanish); Turquie (French); Tyrkia
(Norwegian); Tyrkiet (Danish); Tyrkland (Icelandic)


Maritime claims


Exclusive economic zone: in
Black Sea only - to
the maritime boundary agreed upon with the former USSR


Territorial sea: 6 nm in the
Aegean Sea, 12 nm in
the Black Sea and in
the Mediterranean Sea.


Climate


Climate: temperate;
hot, dry summers with mild, wet winters; harsher in interior.


Terrain


Terrain: mostly mountains; narrow coastal plain; high central plateau (Anatolia)


lowest point: Mediterranean
Sea
0 m

highest point: Mount Ararat
5,166 m

largest lake: Lake Van
3,713 square km


Natural resources: coal, iron ore, copper, chromium, antimony,
mercury, gold, barite, borate, celestite (strontium), emery, feldspar,
limestone, magnesite, marble, perlite, pumice, pyrites (sulfur), clay, arable
land, hydropower.


Land use


arable land: 32%

permanent crops: 3%

other: 66% (2006)


Environment


International agreements: party to - Air Pollution, Antarctic Treaty,
Biodiversity, Desertification,
Endangered Species,
Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection,
Ship Pollution,
Wetlands, Environmental Modification.

Current issues are: water pollution from dumping of chemicals and detergents;
air pollution, particularly in urban areas; deforestation; concern for oil
spills from increasing
Bosphorus
ship
traffic.


Geographic note


strategic location controlling the Turkish Straits (Bosphorus,
Sea of Marmara,
Dardanelles) that link
Black and
Aegean Seas.
Mount Ararat, the
legendary landing place of Noah's Ark, is in the far
eastern portion
of the country, in the city of
Agri
. The country is divided into 7 fictional
geographic regions.


Population


Officially 70,586,256 as of 1st January 2008 (67,803,927 in 2000),
effectively is around 73 million, average of 92 inhabitants live per square
kilometer, 70.5% of the total population live in the cities and 29.5% in
villages or small towns in the countryside.

Istanbul: 12,573,836 as
of Jan 2008 (10,033,478 in 2000), 17.8 % of the total population, 2420 people
per square kilometer

Ankara: 4,466,756 as of
Jan 2008 (4,007,860 in 2000), 6.3 % of the total population

Izmir: 3.739.353 as of
Jan 2008 (3,387,908 in 2000), 5.3 % of the total population, 311 people per
square kilometer

Bayburt has the lowest
population in Turkey: 76,609


Age structure


total population: male 35,376,533; female 35,209,723

0-14 years: 26,4% (male 9,570,773; female 9,071,618)

15-64 years: 65.5% (male 23,655,657; female 23,288,033)

65 years and over: 7.1% (male 2,150,103; female 2,850,072)

Median age: total 28.3 years (male: 27.7 years; female: 28.8 years). More than
half of the population is under the median age (as of Jan 2008)

Population growth rate: 1.24% (2006)

Birth rate: 18.7 births/1,000 population (2006)

Death rate: 6.3
deaths/1,000 population (2006)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 1.004 male(s)/female (2007)

Infant mortality rate: 26 deaths/1,000 live births (2006)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 71.5 years

male: 69.1 years

female: 74.0 years (2006)

Total fertility rate: 2.18 children born/woman (2006)

Fairs, festivals and events

Camel Wrestling Festival-Selcuk (near Ephesus) January
Ankara International Film Festival March
1915 Sea Victory Celebration-Canakkale March
Istanbul International Film Festival April
Traditional "Mesir" Festival-Manisa April
International Children's Day-Ankara (April 23) April
International Ankara Music Festival April
Tourism Fair-Gaziantep April
Tulip Festival-Istanbul April-May
Javelin Games-Erzurum April-May
Ankara International Arts Festival April-May
International Nyssa Culture and Arts Festival-Sultanhisar, Aydin May
Ephesus International Festival of Culture and Tourism-Selcuk May
Yunus Emre Culture and Art Week-Eskisehir May
Aksu Culture and Art Festival-Giresun May
Ankara International Caricature Festival May
International Music and Folklore Festival-Silifke May
International Yachting Festival-Marmaris May
International Kilim Festival, Usak-Esme May
Kakava Festivities-Kirklareli May
International Asia-Europe Biennial-Ankara May-June
Bartin Strawberry Festival-Bartin June
International Tea Festival-Rize June
International Offshore Races Istanbul and Izmir June
Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival - Antalya June
Foca Music, Folklore and Water Sports Festival-near Izmir June
Marmaris Festival-near Mugla June
Bergama Festival-near Izmir June
Atatürk Culture Festival-Amasya June
Kafkasör Culture and Art Festival-Artvin June
International Kus Cenneti (Birds Paradise) Culture and Tourism Festival-Bandirma June
Cesme Sea and Music Festival-Cesme June
International Pamukkale Song Competition June
International Kahta Komagene Festival June
International Beach Volleyball Tournament - Alanya June
Finike Festival - near Antalya June
International Wine Competition-Ürgüp June
Tekirdag Cherry Festival June
International Izmir Festival June-July
International Bursa Festival June-July
Istanbul International Art and Culture Festival June-July
Traditional Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling-Edirne June-July
International Music Festival-Istanbul June-July
Ihlara Tourism and Art Week-Aksaray June-July
International Erzurum Congress-Erzurum July
Tourism and Culture Festival-Iskenderun July
International Istanbul Jazz Festival July
International Folk Dance Festival-Samsun July
Ceramic Festival-Kütahya July
Nasreddin Hoca Festival-Aksehir, near Konya July
Hittite Festival-Corum July
Manavgat Tourism Festival - near Antalya July
Kusadasi Tourism Festival July
Carpet and Rose Festival-Isparta July
Egridir Lake Festival - near Isparta July
Nevsehir Festival July
Devrek Baston (walking stick) and Culture Festival - Zonguldak July
Avanos International Handicrafts and Pottery Exhibit - Nevsehir July
Troy Festival-Canakkale August
Insuyu Festival-Burdur August
Haci Bektas Veli Commemoration Ceremony-Nevsehir August
Mengen Chefs Festival-Bolu August
Pine Grove Ayder Mt. and Archery Festivities - Rize August
Formula One races - Istanbul August
Izmir International Fair-Izmir September
Ertugurul Gazi Commemoration Ceremony-Sogut September
Seyh Edibali Commemoration and Culture Festival-Bilecik September
GAP Culture and Art Festival-Gaziantep September
Javelin Games-Konya September
Kemer Carnival - near Antalya September
International Meerschaum (Luletasi) Festival-Eskisehir September
Safranbolu Architectural Treasures and Folklore Week-Safranbolu September
Sivas Congress Culture and Art Week-Sivas September
International Grape Harvest Festival-Ürgüp September
International Fair-Mersin September
Yagci Bedir Carpet Festival-Sindirgi, Balikesir September
Culture and Art Festival-Diyarbakir September
Assos International Art Festival September
Adana Altin Koza (Golden Cocoon) Film Festival September
Eskisehir International Festival Sept-October
Golden Pistachio Festival-Gaziantep Sept-October
International Plastic Arts Festival Sept-October
International Akdeniz Song Contest-Mediterranean Sept-October
Mersin Art and Culture Festival Sept-October
Altin Portakal (Golden Orange) Film Festival-Antalya October
Ahi Brotherhood Cultural Week October
International Bodrum Sailing Cup October
International Gullet Biennial-Bozburun (near Marmaris) October
International Triathlon Competition - Alanya October
International Ataturk Dam Sailing Competition-Sanliurfa October
International Yacht Race-Marmaris November
International St.Nicholas Syphosium-Demre, near Antalya December
Mevlana Commemoration Ceremony-Konya December

By Sea

Passenger Ferries: Apart from the numerous cruises in the Mediterranean sea, several foreign shipping companies have regular services to the ports of Trabzon, Samsun, Istanbul, Dikili, Izmir, Cesme, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Marmaris, Antalya, Alanya, Mersin and Iskenderun.

Car Ferries: There are several car ferries for tourists who wish to take their cars while site seeing. Venice, Ancona, Izmir, Istanbul, Antalya and Kusadasi are on the main route of these ferry lines.

Lines between Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus: Tasucu - Girne, Mersin - Magosa, Alanya - Girne.

Ferry lines between Turkey and the Greek Islands: Ayvalik - Midilli (Lesbos), Cesme - Sakiz (Chios), Kusadasi - Sisam (Samos), Bodrum - Istankoy (Cos), Marmaris - Rodos (Rhodes) Datca - Simi

Prices, Information and Reservations: For further information please contact your travel agent. For Passport and Visa information please Click Here.

By Train

Train journeys can be made to Istanbul directly from and via some of the major cities in Europe.

Prices, Information and Reservations: For further information you may contact the Turkish Railways (TCDD) or your local travel agent. For Passport and Visa information please Click Here.

By Car

By private car: London - Istanbul, approx. 3,000 km., Milan - Istanbul approx 2,500 km.

Northern Route : Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey.

Southern Route : Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, and via ferry to Turkey.

For Passport and Visa information please Click Here.

By Bus

There are regular services between Turkey and Austria, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and Greece; also Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria.


About Muslim festivals & celebrations

The Festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

There are two great festivals in Islam, 'Idul-Fitr, which falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic year, and 'Idul-Adha, which falls on the tenth day of Thul-Hijjah and coincides with the Yauman-Nahr, "Day of the Sacrifices" in the Hajj Pilgrimage.

The first festival, Eid-ul-Fitr, Seker Bayrami in Turkish (the "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast"), occurs as soon as the new moon is sighted at the end of the month of fasting, namely Ramadan.

On this festival the people, having previously distributed the alms which are called the Sadaqatu'l-Fitr, assemble in the vast assembly outside the city in the Igdah, and, being led by the imam, recite two rak'ahs of prayer. After prayers the imam ascends the mimbar, or pulpit, and delivers the khutbah, or oration.

The igdah is a large place especially set aside for the large congregations who will attend the special Eid prayer early in the morning and can be an open field or flat piece of ground. It is only used as such on festival days for congregational prayers, the proper place always being the mosque on other occasions.

On the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month, comes the Ramazan ki'Id, or Ramadan celebration, when every one who fasts before going to the place of prayer (igdah) should make the customary fast offering (roza ki fitrat), which consists in distributing among a few Faqirs (poor) some 5 lb. (2.5kg) of wheat or other grain, dates and fruit. For until a man has distributed these gifts or the equivalent in money, the Almighty will keep his fasting suspended between Heaven and Earth.

The Eid prayer is not only said at an unusual place but is also conducted without the usual azaan (ezan), the call to prayer. This practice of omitting the azaan was allegedly practiced by Muhammad himself and is founded on this hadith (hadis):

Jabir bin Abdullah said, "The Prophet went out on the Day of 'Id-ul-Fitr and offered the prayer before delivering the Khutba". Ata told me that during the early days of Ibn-Az-Zubair, Ibn Abbas had sent a message to him telling him that the Adhan for the 'Id Prayer was never pronounced (in the lifetime of Allah's Apostle) and the Khutba used to be delivered after the prayer.

The festival is intended to be a festive and joyous occasion. Special foods and delicacies are prepared for the day and are distributed to neighbors and friends. Despite its importance it is considered inferior to the Eid-ul-Adha (Kurban Bayrami) and is known as the "little feast".

Eid-ul-Adha, Kurban Bayrami in Turkish (the "Feast of Sacrifice") is the great festival of Islam. It is also known as Baqri-Eid (the "Cow Festival") because its most important feature is the sacrifice of an animal (cow, goat, sheep, or other appropriate beast) in commemoration of the ram sacrificed by Abraham in place of his son. In Muhammad's time a camel was usually the animal sacrificed. The command to perform sacrifices is given in Surah 22.36 and although no specific day is fixed in the Qur'an the sacrificing of animals was already practiced on the last day of the pilgrimage by the pre-Islamic Arabs and the institution was duly retained. A special prayer, similar to the Eid-ul-Fitr prayer, is also offered on this day before the animals are sacrificed.

Narrated Al-Bara: I heard the Prophet delivering a Khutba (hutbe) saying, "The first thing to be done on this day (the first day of 'Id-ul-Adha) is to pray; and after returning from the prayer we slaughter our sacrifices (in the name of Allah), and whoever does so, he acted according to our Sunna (traditions) " (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 2, p. 37).

Every Muslim home is obliged to offer a sacrifice on this day. The meat may be eaten by the family but a distribution of a generous share to the poor should also be made. As the two Eids (bayrams) are festive occasions, it is unlawful to fast on these days. Fasting on Eid-ul-Adha (Kurban Bayrami) would, in fact, defeat the whole object of the festival for food is to be eaten on this day with a cheerful heart in remembrance of God's bounty and provision for mankind. Umar once said:

The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) prohibited fasting on these two days. As regards Id al-Adha, you eat the meat of your sacrificial animals. As for Id al-Fitr, you break (i.e. end) your fast. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2, p. 663).

The name commonly given to the Eid sacrifice, qurbani (kurban), seems to have similar origins to the Jewish "Corban", meaning something set apart for God (Mark 7.11), and is probably derived from the Jewish word. Both Eids (bayrams) can last for two or three days but the prescribed rituals and prayers must be performed on the first day of each festival.

The Three Special Nights in the Islamic Year

Islam has three holy nights each year, the most important being Laylatul-Qadr (the "Night of Power") which is traditionally believed to be the 27th night of Ramadan. It is the night on which the Qur'an was allegedly brought down to the first heaven before being revealed to Muhammad and it is also the night on which special blessings are believed to be sent down on true worshippers from heaven:

We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power: And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand Months. Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God's permission on every errand: Peace! ... This until the rise of Morn! Surah 97.1-5.

There was much uncertainty about the actual night in the early days of Islam, however, and it was only known to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadan. Muhammad reportedly said:

I had discovered the night of Qadr, but I have been made to forget. I think that I saw that I was performing sajdah on the morning of the Night of Qadr in mud and water. Seek it, therefore, in the last ten days at odd nights. (Muwatta Imam Malik, p. 128).

Other traditions say it falls on one of the last seven nights of the month. The night is also called laylatim - mubaarakah in Surah 44.3 - "a blessed night". This is one night of the year when every Muslim will seek to attend the evening prayer and the usual tarawih prayer of Ramadan.

The second great holy night of Islam is Laylatul-Bara'ah, the "Night of Record", which falls on the fifteenth night of Shabaan, the month before Ramadan. Once again every effort will be made to attend the mosque.

On this night, Muhammad said, God registers annually all the actions of mankind which they are to perform during the year, and that all the children of men, who are to be born and to die in the year, are recorded. Muhammad enjoined his followers to keep awake the whole night, to repeat one hundred rikat prayers, and to fast the next day. (Hughes, Notes on Muhammadanism, p. 116).

The night is also commonly known as Shabi-Baraat and it is said that there is a tree in heaven which sheds a number of leaves on this night, each one containing the name of someone destined to die in the coming year. The mercy of Allah, nevertheless, also descends on this night and sinners who repent are likely to obtain forgiveness in it. There appears to be a possibility that the night's significance may have Jewish origins.

In Jewish legend the world was created on New Year's day. No cosmological significance attaches to the First of Muharram, the official opening of the Muslim year. But the night of the Fifteenth of Sha'ban, lailat al-bara'a (behind which hitherto unexplained term the Hebrew beria, "creation", may be concealed) has preserved associations characteristic of a New Year's festival. (Von Grunebaum, Muhammadan Festivals, p. 53).

The third holy night is Laylatul-Mi'raj (Mirac), the "Night of Ascension", commemorating Muhammad's ascent to heaven. It is traditionally celebrated on the night preceding the 27th of Rajab, when the mosques and the minarets are lighted and there is much devotional reading of popular accounts of the Mi'raj.

This night, like the others, is also one in which much reading of the Qur'an and reciting of prayers takes place.

These three nights are the most important nights in the Islamic faith and are universally observed by the Muslims.

The Other Minor Holy Days in the Islamic Year

There are really only two other days in the Muslim year that are regarded as especially important. One is the tenth of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year. During Muhammad's life this day became a day of fasting in imitation of the Jewish fast of Ashura (cf. Exodus 12. 1-7). This practice was soon abandoned, however, and Muhammad is reported as saying that fasting on this day is not obligatory. After the massacre of Muhammad's grandson Husain (Hüseyin) and his band of followers at Karbala on this same day many years later, the whole of the first ten days of Muharram became a time of mourning for Shi'ite Muslims and today the day itself is observed in both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam as a remembrance of the tragedy at Karbala.

The other holy day is Maulidun-Nabi, the birthday of Muhammad, which falls on the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal. This festival of great feasting and many peculiar practices of un-Islamic origin is often frowned upon by the more orthodox Muslims and took some time to become widely observed.

The feast of the birth of the Prophet (milad, maulud in the Maghrib) is celebrated throughout the whole Muslim world on the 10th of rabi I; it seems to date only from the 10th century and to have become official only in the 12th.

One of the intellectual ancestors of Wahhabism, Ibn Taimiyya (d.1328), in a fatwa (legal opinion) tersely condemns the introduction of new festivals such as that celebrated "during one of the nights of the First Rabi, alleged to be the night of the birth of the Prophet". The participation of women was criticized with especial vigor by his contemporary, Ibn al-Hajj (d.1336), and it still gives occasional offence to the more strict-minded and orthodox. (Von Grunebaum, Muhammadan Festivals, p. 76).

Many Muslims openly concede that the practice of observing Muhammad's birthday is an innovation in Islam, something invariably disapproved of by conservative elements, but they excuse it as a "praiseworthy" innovation, a bid'atun-hasanah. It has also become customary to hold celebrations honoring various "saints" in Islam on this day as well, a custom considered even more reprehensible by orthodox Muslims. It seems likely that the Christian festival of Christmas gave rise to this equivalent in Islam. Ironically neither the actual date on which Jesus was born nor the birthday of Muhammad is known and the dates recorded are purely speculative. Even the Muslim world is not entirely unanimous in its determination of the date of the Maulidun-Nabi but it is now generally held to be the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal, coinciding conveniently with the date of Muhammad's death.

There are many other days in popular Islam that have become widely observed in the Muslim world, especially the Urs of any particular saint (usually his birthday when various unorthodox celebrations take place), but the two Eids (Bayrams) and the three holy nights are the great festivals of Islam and are the only ones universally observed by all Muslims without dispute as to the worthiness of the occasion.

Religious sites in Turkey

The Anatolian peninsula, spanning on two continents, forms a natural land bridge between Europe and Asia. Due to its unique position, Anatolia has been the destination for numerous immigrants, many of them leaving the indelible mark of their cultural heritage during their settlement in this area, now known as Türkiye (Turkey).

Anatolia has been the cradle of numerous civilizations for thousands of years and the birthplace of the three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This fact alone, lends Turkey its unique and invaluable cultural and archaeological heritage. Because of its secular position in the world, the Turkish attitude toward religion has been on of tolerance.

Judaism, which was the first monotheistic religion, was widespread in Anatolia. Recent archaeological excavations conducted in the Aegean region indicate Judaism's existence since the early 4th century B.C. Sardis (Sart, near Salihli) contains the remains of one of the oldest synagogues dating back to 220 B.C. which provides a fine structural and archaeological example of this place of worship.

Remains of another ancient settlement belonging to the Jewish people was unearthed during excavations conducted along the Aegean and Black Sea Coasts.

The Ottoman Empire had always been tolerant of non-Moslems and never forbid or restricted their worship in accordance with their religion.

In 1324, when Orhan Gazi conquered Bursa, he permitted the Jewish people to construct Etz-Hayim Synagogue. In 1934, the Jewish people departed from France on the orders of Charles VI and look refuge in Edirne.

Then in 1492, Spain's King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castilla expelled the Jews (Inquisition). The Ottoman Empire of that time, ruled by the sultan Beyazid II, had embraced those Jews who were left homeless as a result of their deportation from Spain due to their conventions and beliefs and settled them in Anatolia.

Sephardic Jews had lived for centuries among the Turks in peace and comfort and followed their beliefs under the auspices of Turkish tolerance (secularism).

Anatolia is also as significant area for Christians and is considered holy and sacred for many reasons which include:

The Turks who settled in Anatolia after 1071 constructed many important religious symbols related the to Islamic faith. These examples which reflect the architectural style of the Islamic periods may be classified as follows:

  • Mosques (Cami)
  • Theological Schools of the time (Medrese)
  • Building Complexes adjacent to a Mosque (Külliye)
  • Shrines (Türbe)
  • Tombs with conical roofs (Kümbet)

Turks preserved and protected the synagogues and churches which belonged to the Jewish and Christian faith that exist even in areas where Jewish or Christian populations were practically non-existent.

It must be emphasized here that these well preserved holy places show the best and most concrete example of how the Islamic religion treats other religions in tolerance and respect. Today, you can find hundreds of religious examples in each and every town and city of Turkey, especially in Istanbul.

The Turkish people, the majority of them Moslem, who continue to carry on their traditions and conventions in a contemporary manner and in harmony with their Islamic beliefs, have constructed mosques, tombs and similar religious areas which reflect both the features of Anatolia where the Turks have been living for centuries and their artistic values as well as their religious importance.

An important sector of polytheistic religions had flourished in Anatolia as the monotheistic religions were established in the Middle East and as the religious areas were discovered. These places have been considered holy and sacred since the Middle Ages and were located in Anatolia a region that has and still does act as a cultural bridge due to Turkey's geopolitical situation.

Since Turkey has traditionally been a secular corridor throughout history, its role in international arenas has expanded and is currently one of most strategic regions in the world, if not in the Middle East at his point in time.

During their entire history, the Islamic Turks, as a result of humanitarian attitude toward the beliefs of the followers of other monotheistic religions that they were exposed to, in a vast tolerance in obedience with the rules and beliefs of the Islamic religion, had lived together with numerous ethnic groups in Anatolian areas in peace and content.

The non-Moslem population had the right of living and setting wherever they wanted during both the Ottoman period and the republican era. Without any discrimination Islamic or non-Islamic Turkish citizens have had the right of jurisdiction, religious belief and concept and conducted their religious services, prayers and ceremonies freely in their holy places such as mosques, churches and synagogues.

As a result of this tolerant recognition all the divine places belonging to Judaism and Christianity have been carefully preserved and protected.

In the following list, the green spots represent Islam, the red spots represent Christianity, and the blue spots represent Judaism. You can get more information on individual sites by clicking on the links.


SITE LOCATION
green.gif (914 bytes) Seljuk Kumbet and Tomstones Ahlat

Mount Ararat Agri
red.gif (910 bytes) Tyatira / One of the Seven Churches
of Apocalypse
Akhisar (Manisa)
red.gif (910 bytes) Alahan Monastry Alahan
red.gif (910 bytes) Philadelphia / One of the Seven Churces
of Apocalypse
Alasehir
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultan Beyazid Complex Amasya
green.gif (914 bytes) Haci Bayram Veli Complex Ankara
red.gif (910 bytes) Galatia Ankara
green.gif (914 bytes) Habib-ün Nencar Complex Antakya
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Peter's Grotto Antakya

Mosaic Museum Antakya
green.gif (914 bytes) Yivli Minaret Antalya
red.gif (910 bytes) Pergamum / One of the Seven Churches
of Apocalypse
Bergama
blue.gif (909 bytes) Gerus Synagogue Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Muradiye Complex Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu (Grand) Mosque Bursa
green.gif (914 bytes) Yesil (Green) Turbe Bursa
red.gif (910 bytes) Monastries Çamiçi (Bafa) Lake
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's First Missionary Journey Çevlik
red.gif (910 bytes) Saint Nicholas Church Demre (Myra)
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu (Grand) Mosque Divrigi
green.gif (914 bytes) Ulu Mosque Diyarbakir
red.gif (910 bytes) Church of the Virgin Mary Diyarbakir
green.gif (914 bytes) Selimiye Complex Edirne
green.gif (914 bytes) Beyazid Mosque Edirne
green.gif (914 bytes) Old Mosque Edirne
red.gif (910 bytes) Virgin Mary's House Ephesus
red.gif (910 bytes) Virgin Mary Basilica
Ecumenical Basilica and One of the
Seven Churches of Apocalypse
Ephesus
red.gif (910 bytes) St.John's Basilica Ephesus
green.gif (914 bytes) Cifte (Twin) Minaret Medrese Erzurum
green.gif (914 bytes) Abdurrahman Gazi Tomb Erzurum
green.gif (914 bytes) Village of Yunus Emre
Yunus Emre Monument
Eskisehir
green.gif (914 bytes) Seyid Battal Gazi Complex Eskisehir (Seyitgazi)
red.gif (910 bytes) Early Christian Settlement Goreme Milli Parki (Cappadocia)
green.gif (914 bytes) Haci Bektas Veli Complex Hacibektas
blue.gif (909 bytes) Harran
(According to the Old Testament,
Abraham lived here)
Harran (Sanliurfa)
green.gif (914 bytes) Eyub Sultan Istanbul (Eyüp)
green.gif (914 bytes) Holy Relics Istanbul (Topkapi Palace)
green.gif (914 bytes) Suleymaniye Complex Istanbul
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultanahmet Complex Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Church Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Kariye Museum Istanbul
blue.gif (909 bytes) Neve Shalom and Ahrida Synagogues Istanbul
red.gif (910 bytes) Smyrna / One of the Seven Churches of
Apocalypse
Izmir
green.gif (914 bytes) Yesil Cami (Green Mosque) Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Hipoje-Christian Tomb Iznik
red.gif (910 bytes) Havariler Museum Kars
green.gif (914 bytes) Cave of Seven Sleepers Kahramanmaras (Afsin)
green.gif (914 bytes) Huand Hatun Complex Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Gevher Nesibe Complex Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Doner Kumbet Kayseri
green.gif (914 bytes) Mevlana Complex Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Alaeddin Mosque Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Ince (Thin) Minaret Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Tombs of Seljuk Sultans Konya
green.gif (914 bytes) Karatay Medrese Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Derbe Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Karadag Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Lystra Konya
red.gif (910 bytes) Sumela Monastery Macka (Trabzon)
green.gif (914 bytes) Sultan Mosque Manisa
red.gif (910 bytes) Deyrul Zaferan Monastery Mardin
red.gif (910 bytes) Alexandria Troas
Believed that St.Paul met St.Luke here
Odun Iskelesi (Canakkale)
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Philip's Martyrium - Octagon Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) Laodicea / One of the Seven
Churches of Apocalypse
Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) Colossae Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Nicholas' birthplace Patara (Antalya)
red.gif (910 bytes) Episcopal centers Perge, Silion and Side
blue.gif (909 bytes) Sardis Synagogue Sart (Manisa)
red.gif (910 bytes) Sardis / One of the Seven Churches of
Apocalypse
Sart
green.gif (914 bytes) Tombs of Ibrahim Hakki Efendi and
Hazreti Fakirullah
Siirt (Aydinlar)
green.gif (914 bytes) Veysel Karani Complex Siirt (Baykan)
red.gif (910 bytes) Basilica of the First Female Saint,
Aya Tekla
Silifke
green.gif (914 bytes) Seyit Battal Tomb Sinop
green.gif (914 bytes) Gokmedrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Çifte (Twin) Minaret Medrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Sifaiye Medrese Sivas
green.gif (914 bytes) Halil Rahman Mosque Sanliurfa
green.gif (914 bytes) The Prophet Eyub's Tomb Sanliurfa
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's Well Tarsus (Mersin)
green.gif (914 bytes) Gülbahar Hatun Tomb and Mosque Trabzon
red.gif (910 bytes) Ayasofya (St.Sophia) Museum Trabzon
red.gif (910 bytes) Akdamar Church Van
red.gif (910 bytes) St.Paul's Basilica Yalvac (Psidian Antioch)

Islamic terms 2

New Testament

Collection of religious texts, that are central to Christianity. There are 27 texts, or books as they are called. The texts of the New Testament were written in Greek. Their content starts with the life and resurrection of Jesus, and continues into the period of transition from secterianism inside Judaism, into the moulding of a new religion. The New Testament ends with a prophecy on the coming end of the world.

The central themes of the New Testament is underlining Jesus as Messiah; that redemption from sin only could be obtained through the belief in Jesus; transmission of the message to all peoples, not only Jews as was the situation with temporary Judaism; Christian conduct; governing of the Church.

The process of collecting the books which were to make up the New Testament, started in the 2nd century, when 10 letters of Saint Paul were held up as an authority for the young Church. Towards the end of 2nd century Saint Irenaeus argued for the authority of the gospels. The final decision on the canon can not be dated exactly, but the 27 books of today's New Testament were put together in the second half of the 4th century by Saint Jerome, when he was appointed by Pope Damasus to render the Bible into Latin in the early 380s.

BOOKS:

Gospels:
1.Matthew
2.Mark
3.Luke
4.John
Historical work:
5.The Acts
Letters:
6.Romans
7.1. Corinthians
8.2. Corinthians
9.Galatians
10.Ephesians
11.Philippians
12.Colossians
13.1. Thessalonians
14.2. Thessalonians
15.1. Timothy
16.2. Timothy
17.Titus
18.Philemon
19.Hebrews
20.James
21.1. Peter
22.2. Peter
23.1. John
24.2. John
25.3. John
26.Jude
Prophetic work:
27.Revelation

Old Testament

Collection of religious texts, called books, in Judaism (here only referred to as "Bible") and Christianity, but the expression "Old Testament" is is only used for the Christian versions of the collection. These texts, of which there are 39, were mostly written down in Hebrew, Ezra and Daniel had elements in Aramaic. The oldest texts have oral traditions running back in time as far as 1000 BC. the youngest book, Daniel, was written down 165 BC.

The selection of texts was decided upon at the synod in Jamnia in 90 AD, but this was more the final stage of a process that had been going on for a couple of centuries among Jewish scholars. There are many ideas and theories imbedded in the Old Testament. It is central to the texts of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, that narratives are widely used, both to sustain arguments and to explain the origins of regulations and traditions.

Themes of the Old Testament are uniqueness and glory of God, the Law, God's influence on world history and nature, corporate and individual sin and the remedy, and how to worship God. The Old Testament also tells that the Jews were God's chosen people, the main reason for the special protection, and the special punishment, the Jews experienced. It has been, with some success, argued that the Old Testament is not Christianity, since Christianity involves a new relationship between man and God. The Old Testament is however, understood as the foundations on which the New Testament rests.

The God of the Old Testament is a god of justice, but no sin is accepted. He is the god of warfare, as seen in Book of Joshua. The Canonical Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, is made up of 24 books, but a number of prophetical books are added to the collection. The organizing of the books are slightly different from the Hebrew Bible to the Christian Old Testament.

BOOKS :

Pentateuch (In Judaism this is often referred to as the Torah)
1.Genesis
2.Exodus
3.Leviticus
4.Numbers
5.Deuteronomy
Historical Books
6.Joshua
7.Judges
8.Ruth
9.1. Samuel
10.2. Samuel
11.1. Kings
12.2. Kings
13.1. Chronicles
14.2. Chronicles
15.Ezra
16.Nehemiah
* Tobit
* Judith
17.Esther
* 1. Maccabees
* 2. Maccabees
Poetical/ Wisdom Books
18.Jobs
19.Psalms
20.Proverbs
21.Eccliastes
22.Song of Solomon
* Wisdom
* Sirach
Prophetical Books
23.Isaiah
24.Jeremiah
25.Lamentations
* Baruch
26.Ezekiel
27.Daniel
28.Hosea
29.Joel
30.Amos
31.Obadiah
32.Jonah
33.Micah
34.Nahum
35.Habakkuk
36.Zephaniah
37.Haggai
38.Zachariah
39.Malachi

* Books that sometimes are included, in Roman Catholic Bible as deuterocanonical, in the Protestant Bible in appendixes.

Qibla (Kible)

The direction in which the believer orients himself or herself for salat, the prayer of Islam. The qibla is always directed towards the Ka'ba of Mecca, but for 3 years in the early Islam, the qibla was Jerusalem (from 622 to 624). Other religions had their qiblas at the time of early Islam, and even before Muhammad.

The change of qibla is recorded in the Koran, as a reprimand to people complaining:

2,136...Unwise people will say: What made them change the qibla they had? Answer them: God is of the east and of the west, he guides the ones he pleases on the right path...

What qibla did Muhammad and the first Muslims have before they started to turn towards Jerusalem? On this point, three versions exist in the Sunna: Jerusalem was the qibla; Ka'ba was the qibla; and the qibla was on a line, the one running from Jerusalem to Ka'ba.

Qibla is in a mosque indicated by a mihrab, a niche in the wall. Salat performed outdoors, use a sutra, which can be almost any object, to indicate the qibla. For some older mosques, the indication of the qibla, is with errors, due to limited knowledge on how to find the correct direction.

The qibla has importance to more than just the salat, and plays an important part in everyday ceremonies. The head of an animal that is slaughtered, is aligned with qibla. People are buried in cemetaries with their face in direction of the qibla. Lovemaking is best done with the heads facing qibla. The qibla is important, and it is believed that directing things towards the qibla, will decide whether the act done is good or useless.

Seyh

Shaykh or chief. Often used as an honorific for the master of a tarikat.

Sura - Sure

Chapter of the Holy Koran. The suras' content, and organisation, as well as their order in the Koran, are firmly set down. However, scientists are haunted by how little we know of the actual process of structuring the elements. The suras are not collected in chronological entities, based on the moment of revelation. From the Koran itself we learn that ayas from time periods far in between are organised side by side in the same sura. In the Koran, suras have indications of the dominating time period of the content; revealed during the time in Madina, or during the time in Mecca.

Suras have very much the same chronological structure:

  1. The name of the sura (with the number in paragraphs)
  2. The date of the sura
  3. Indication of the number of ayas
  4. The Bismillah
  5. The mystical letters (most suras do not have these)
  6. The text itself

Tarikat (pl., tarikatlar)

Sufi dervish order or lodge, usually headed by a teacher or master known as mürsit (q.v.) or seyh. Some orders possessed considerable wealth in the form of lands and buildings.

Tekke

Residential monastery attached to a tarikat.

Ulama - Ulema

Term in Islam; meaning the community of learned men, direct translation 'the ones possessing knowledge'. Ulama is a plural term, and the singular can be both calîm and câlim, where both can be translated with 'learned, knowing man'. câlim is the most frequently used of the two.

Ulama is a term which content can be interpreted in somewhat differing ways. Normally ulama is used for the group of men with religious education and religiously related professions. Ulama is the group of men expressing the true content of Islam towards both the people and the rulers. Men belonging to ulama have education in the Koran, the Sunna and Sharia. Ulama has considerable power in many Muslim countries (not in Turkey), but their influence on the society depends primarily on the structures of the government.

In most cases the ulama co-operates with the rulers, and plays often the role of defending, or silently accepting, the governments politics. The ulama has great influence on most Muslims, but this influence is easily destroyed when the ulama loses its credibility. The credibility of the ulama depends very much on their level of independence; if there is too much co-operation with the rulers, people will turn away from the ulama to find their religious guidance somewhere else, resulting in an ulama without power. An ulama which do not co-operate at all with the governments will face suppression and economical difficulties. There are cases where the ulama has overthrown the governments, as it happened in
the year of revolution , 1979, in Iran. That is why Atatürk made his reforms way before that and made Turkey a secular country.

The growth of modern state structures in the Muslim world, have resulted in a weakened ulama. While the ulama under weak rulers practised many activities normally connected to a state, for example the judicial ones, the modern state have limited the range of activities of the ulama. Because of this, the modern ulama are more spiritual leaders, while they earlier had considerable political power.

Umra - Umre

Secondary pilgrimage to Mecca. Holds less rituals than the hajj, is not compulsory as a part of the five pillars of Islam, only recommended, and can be performed any time of the year.

Zakat - Zekat

Obligatory alms given by Muslim to the needing inside their own society. Practices vary enormously throughout the Muslim world. In most cases zakat should be 1/40 of the income, and distributed privately towards the end of sawm.

Islamic terms

Islamic terms 1

Allah

The Arabic word for "God", used in Islam and Christianity. The term "Allah" comes from the Arabic "al-Lah", that can be translated with "the god". In pre-Islamic times, in the polytheistic religion of Mecca, there was a god that was called by this name. Al-Lah was probably considered as the highest god, but not an acting power, and therefore rarely focused on in rituals. While Islam rejects the other deities, al-Lah is described as the one eternal, omnipotent god. "Allah" is therefore not a proper name, and also Arabic Christians use "Allah" in their Arabic Bible.

In Islam there are 99 different names of God, but these are also not to be considered as proper names, the idea of actually naming God for Muslims, will be regarded as a way of reducing God into a human framework. The high number of names must be understood as an expression of the incapacity of man to grasp the total nature of God. Most common of the 99 names are ar-Rahman, the Merciful, and ar-Rahim, the Compassionate.

Ayah - Ayet

The Arabic meaning of Ayah is a miracle and a sign. The Qur'an is considered to be a miracle itself. Each verse or sentence is called an Ayah or a miracle. The plural of Ayah is called Ayat, which means miracles.

Ayatollah

High-ranking and well respected Twelver Shi'ite religious scholar and legal expert.

Bismillah

Opening phrase of all suras in the Koran, meaning 'In the name of God; the Merciful; the Compassionate', except for sura 9 (the reason for this omission is that the beginning of this sura makes the bismillah superfluous).

The function of the bismillah is to state that the sura is issued in the name of God, and is not made by man. Learned Muslims will in most cases say that it is Muhammad who have added the bismillah to the revealed texts, with this purpose in mind.

As Allah, Rahman, and Rahim all can be name of gods, there were some few local speculations in early Islam whether the bismillah was referring to one, or to three gods. Some Meccans in the first years of Islam did see in this a polytheism. There have been very few attempts to interpret the bismillah into a trinity equal to the one of Christianity.

The short form bismillah is used as a part of daily language, normally as a way of underlining sincerity and honesty. The long form is Bismillahirrahmanirrahim.

Emir

Honorary title, Arabic, for military or political leaders in Islam. Emir is often used as the Arabic equivalent to "prince". Emir is one of a handful of designations on descendants of Muhammad. Emir is also used for tribal chiefs. Emirate was a tribe ruled by Emirs.

Fatiha

Opening sura of the Holy Koran, that doubles as creed of Islam and as a salutation that expresses strong feelings and important happenings in life, such as love, fidelity, births, marriages and burials. While the Koran is arranged so that long suras come early, and short suras late, the Fatiha is relatively short with its 7 ayas. Nor is the Fatiha ever suggested as being early among the suras revealed, it is in the Koran dated to the Meccan period, a minimum of 12 years after the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation. It is its broad aspect and message of the Fatiha, that sums up the entire content of Islam, which has made this sura stand out not only in the Koran, but in the believer's mind as well.

Fatima (fâtimatu z-zahrâ')

(Mecca c.605- Madina 633). Daughter of the messenger of Islam, Muhammad, and Khadija, and married to Ali, and mother of Hasan and Husayin (according to Shi'i traditions, a third son, Muhassin, died as a child), and two daughters.

Fatima is therefore the ancestral mother of the Imams of the Shi'i Muslims, as well the ancestral mother of all claiming to be descending from Muhammad, as no other of Muhammad's children brought the seed on. Little is reported from Fatima's life, but she appears to have had bad health all through her life. Her relationship with Muhammad's wife 'A'isha (Ayse), carried a lot of hostilities. When Abu Bakr became the first Caliph, her relations with him, was also difficult, probably because she had expected her husband to take over after Muhammad, and because Abu Bakr denied her the inheritance of the oasis of Fadak from her father. Most of the other Shi'i stories are strongly religious.

All Muslims have great respect for her, but it is in Shi'i Islam that she plays the most important part, and here she is ascribed with superhuman qualities, and is the "noblest ideal of human conception". She is called "the virgin" and "the mother of the two Jesuses", reflecting an important influence from Christianity. In Shi'i Islam, her birthday and her marriage are two dates that are celebrated.

Fatwa - Fetva

A technical term used in Islamic law to indicate a formal legal judgment or view of the Mufti.

Gazi

Warrior of the Islamic faith, often awarded as a title in recognition for valor in battle. Many gazis were mercenaries, fighting for booty or a chance to establish a chieftaincy on conquered territory. Sometimes spelled ghazi in English. Many Ottoman sultans called themselves as Gazi.

Judaism

Third largest religion in Middle East and North Africa. Has about 5 million adherents here, where about 90% live in Israel. The largest communities outside Israel is in Palestine, but almost all countries in this region has a small Jewish group. Also Turkey has many Jewish citizens, mostly in Istanbul and Izmir.

Kadi - Qadi

A Muslim judge in early and medieval Islam.

Madina - Medine

City in Saudi Arabia with 500,000 inhabitants. Situated in Hijaz, in western Saudi Arabia. This city was originally called Yathrib. When Muhammad and the Muslim community fled Mecca in 622, Yathrib was chosen as the new headquarter, 330 km north of Mecca. From this place Muhammad's community grew in strength, size and importance. After 8 years they had grown strong enough to make Mecca give in.

Muhammad did visit Mecca after this, but he died in 632 in Yathrib, or the city of the Prophet as it came to be called, Madinatu n-Nabiyy. Muhammad was buried here, and a mosque was built round his grave. His daughter Fatima and the Caliph Omar, the second Caliph, was also buried here. Medina was the capital of the Muslim community until 661. Soon after the death of Muhammad, people started coming to Medina, to see his grave. Despite the objections of the Ulama, this tradition has grown in importance, and today all those who has the means, try to visit Medina after doing the hajj in Mecca.

Mecca

City in Saudi Arabia with 618,000 inhabitants. Mecca is located about 80 km from the Red Sea Coast, around a natural well.

Mecca is the most holy city in Islam. The city is revered from being the first place created on earth, as well as the place where Ibrahim together with his son Isma'il, built the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba, the centre of Islam, is a rectangular building made of bricks. Around the Ka'ba is the great mosque, al-Haram, and around the mosque, in between the mountains, are the houses making up Mecca.

Mecca was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Mecca was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to Muhammad. Today's pilgrimage in Mecca has many common traits with the pagan activities in the city. Mecca's importance as a centre of religious teaching must not be exaggerated. Very soon in the beginning of the Muslim expansion, religious teaching moved to other places in the Muslim world. Mecca is important in two points: Centre of the compulsory pilgrimage, as a part of five pillars, and a focal point for all Muslims.

Today, many of the people living in Mecca are pilgrims wanting to study Islam in the very centre of the world. But this learning is primarily aimed at normal people, and even today Muslim theology is exercised other places. But for Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the centre of religious teaching.

Apart from the services for pilgrimage there are only modest economical activities going on. Every year some 2 million pilgrims attend the hajj, and this number is now regulated, where each country has their number. The numbers of Muslims coming to Mecca for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage are far less, and not regulated.

Mulla - Molla

Word derived from the Arabic mawla, a word meaning "master". It was born as a title of respect by religious figures and jurists in Iran and other parts of Asia.

Mufti

A Muslim legal consultant who delivers a Fatwa. He may or may not hold the rank of Kadi (Qadi). The mufti constitutes a living bridge from pure Islamic jurisprudence to everyday Islamic life. In the past, some countries had the office of Grand Mufti.

Funerals in Islam


Main points for the preparation of a Muslim's body for burial;

  1. The prayer to God for the deceased Muslim is a common collective duty (Fard Kifayah). This means that some Muslims should offer this prayer, and when it is offered by some of the Muslims present at the time it is sufficient, and the other Muslims become exempt from responsibility.
  2. When a Muslim dies, the whole body, beginning with the expose parts of ablution must be washed a few times with soap or some other detergent or disinfectant, and cleansed of all visible impurities; this is called "Ghusul". A man's body should be washed by men and a woman's body by women, but a child's body can be washed by either sex. A husband may wash his wife's body and vice versa if the need arises. When the body is thoroughly clean, it is warped in one or more white cotton sheets (Kafan or Kefen) covering all the parts of the body.
  3. The dead body is then placed in a coffin and carried to the place of prayer, a mosque (outside in the courtyard) or any other clean premises. The body is put in a position with the face toward the direction of Kaba in Mecca (Qibla or Kible).
  4. All participants in the prayer must perform an ablution unless they are keeping an earlier one. The imam stands beside the body facing the Qiblah at Mecca with the followers behind him in lines.
  5. The imam raises his hands to the ears declaring the intention in a low voice to pray to God for the particular deceased one, and saying "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is greatest). The worshippers follow the imam's lead and after him place their right hands over the left ones under the navel as in other prayers.
  6. Then the imam recites in a low voice what is usually recited in other prayers, i.e. the 'Thana' and the Fatiha verses of the Koran only.
  7. At this stage he says "Allahu Akbar" without raising his hands and recites the second part of the Tashahud verse (from ''Allahumma salli'ala sayyidina Muhammad'' to the end).
  8. Then he makes the third takbeer (tekbir) saying "Allahu Akbar" without raising the hands and offer his supplication (Du'a' in Arabic) in any suitable words he knows: "Allahumma-ghfir li hayyina wa mayyitina, wa shahidina wa gha`ibina wa sagheerina wa kabeerina wa dhakarina wa unthana. Allahumma man ahyaytahu minna fa aahyihi 'ala-i-Islam. Wa man tawaffaythu minna fa tawafahu 'ala-i-Islam. Allahumma la tahrimna ajrah, wa la taftinna ba' da".
    Translation: "O Allah! grant forgiveness to our living and to our dead, and to those who are present and to those who are absent, and to our young and our old folk, and to our males and females. O Allah! whomsoever you grant to live, from among us, help him to live in Islam, and whom of us you cause to die, help him to die in faith. O Allah! do not deprive us of the reward for patience on his loss, and do not make us subject to trail after him".
  9. Then the four takbeer (tekbir) saying "Allahu Akbar" without raising the hands is made followed by the concluding peace greetings right and left as in other prayers. It should be remembered that the worshippers behind in lines follow the lead of imam step by step and recite privately the same utterances in a low voice.
  10. After completing the prayer, the coffin will be taken to the cemetary; mourners should walk in front or beside the bier, those who are riding or driving should follow it. During this process silence is recommended. The grave should be deep. The body is lowered for burial with the face resting in the direction of Mecca (Qibla). When lowering the body down, these words are said: "Bismi-I-lahe wa be-I-lahe wa 'ala millati rasuli-I-lahe salla-I-lahu 'alayhi wa sallam."
    Translation: "In the name of Allah and with Allah, and according to the sunnah of the messenger of Allah upon whom be the blessings and peace of Allah."
    Beside these, any other fit prayers may be offered. If the deceased is a child under the age of puberty, the prayer is the same except that after the third takbeer (tekbir) and instead of that long supplication the worshippers recite these words: "Allahumma-j'alhu lana faratan wa j'alhu lana dhukra, wa j'alhu shafi'an wa mushaffa'a".
    Translation: "O Allah! make him (or her) our fore-runner, and make him for us a reward and treasure, and make him for us a pleader, and accept his pleading".

    It is not recommended to use a casket unless there is a need for it .,e.g the soil is wet or loose. A stone or bricks or soil should be placed under the deceased's head to raise it up. After placing the body in the grave, fill the pit with soil, and raise the level of the grave a little less than one foot in a sloping way.

    The grave should be built and marked in a simple way. The dead body should be covered with white cotton sheets of standard material. Any extravagance in building the grave or dressing up the body in fine suits or the like is non Islamic. It is false vanity and a waste of assets that can be used in many useful ways. It is strongly against the teachings of the Islamic religion and the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him).

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