June 15, 2013
By now, everyone has heard of the brutal suppression of protests all over Turkey, which began with a peaceful sit-in in Istanbul to protect a hapless apology for a park from demolition. Right by the city’s unofficial centre, Taksim Square, Gezi Park had been slated to become yet another one of the ruling AKP’s signature Ottoman-cum-Disneyland construction projects. It was hardly much of a park, by London standards, but it was one of the last remaining places in the area with a few trees and a bit of room to stroll around.
Continue reading Turkey’s agony – how Erdogan turned a peaceful protest into a violent nightmare
FIRST POST, NOVEMBER 13, 2008
The Turkish Trial of the Century opened last month among scenes of pandemonium. With 86 defendants present, proceedings were temporarily adjourned for lack of space. The indictment against the alleged members of Ergenekon numbers 2,455 pages – the indictment of the Nazi high command at Nuremburg was less than 70 – and the defendants demanded every last page of it be read out loud.
Continue reading Ergenekon: Turkey’s Conspiracy to End Them All
Washington Post, May 2007
ISTANBUL: Bulent and Dogu are easygoing young Turks and unlikely authoritarians. Bulent just returned from the hippie trail in Southeast Asia, and Dogu’s son is named Cosmos. But when the military recently threatened to settle Turkey’s disputed presidential elections, they approved, suggesting just how hard it is to sort Turks into familiar political categories.
Continue reading In Turkey, a Looming Battle Over Islam
The Globe and Mail, December, 2007
A review of Other Colors: Essays and a Story.
The novels of Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most celebrated and controversial man of letters, have been translated into some 20 languages. His novels Snowand My Name is Red are widely considered world-class achievements. The themes of Pamuk’s oeuvre include the conflict between the East and the West, the tension between Islam and modernity, and the intense melancholia of his native Istanbul. Admirers find his style complex, multilayered and allegorical; detractors find him faddish and incomprehensible.
Continue reading Pamuk: Prophet or Poseur?
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Is the ruling party of Prime Minister Erdogan a threat to
Turkish democracy? Five experts share their thoughts.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit brought against the ruling Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish acronym, “AKP”). This lawsuit would ban the party from politics for five years and would remove the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from office. Does that amount to an assault on Turkish democracy?
Continue reading Turkey’s Uncertain Future: A Symposium
Pajamas Media, July 29, 2008
On Sunday night, two consecutive explosions in the Güngören district of Istanbul — a poor, crowded, conservative slum near the Atatürk International Airport — killed 17 people, among them five children. The death toll may yet rise. Some 150 more were injured and maimed. It is still unclear who placed the bombs. No one has claimed responsibility. But the terrorist Kurdish organization–the PKK–is the chief suspect.
Continue reading Reuters Whitewashes Terrorism in Turkey
FIRST POST, November 24, 2008
In the winter fog, the minarets of Istanbul’s Ottoman skyline fade slightly into the sky. The streets turn slick and oily, and the Bosphorus smells powerfully of charcoal, fish, lignite, and oil from the tankers. These massive ships are constantly pulling under the city’s massive concrete bridges, the massiveness of everything suggesting the waterway’s critical geostrategic significance.
Continue reading Dangerous Waters
Following the deadly Schiphol air crash, Turkish Airlines faces questions about its safety standards.
March 12, 2009
On the morning of February 25, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 from Istanbul crashed short of the runway at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, killing nine passengers and crew.
Continue reading Islam and the Art of Aircraft Maintenance
MAY 3, 2009
If reading the news prompts you to suspect that the apocalypse is at hand, keep in mind that good news doesn’t sell and that journalists need to make a living. Editors prefer the headline PROTESTS MARRED BY VIOLENCE to the headline PROTESTS REALLY QUITE BORING. Sometimes, however, a boring protest is an important story. Istanbul’s May Day celebrations were generally peaceful and cheerful this year—for the first time since 1977, when 37 people were shot or trampled to death in Taksim Square, the city’s busy consumer center, helping pave the way for the 1980 military overthrow of Turkey’s civilian government. Nonetheless, if you read the news reports, you would have concluded that this year, too, Istanbul’s streets ran red with blood in an orgy of left-wing agitation and police brutality.
Continue reading Istanbul’s May Day Protests Really Quite Boring
CONTINUED FROM PART I
Although many note the explosion of corruption during the Özal years, the mentality that led to this state of affairs can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire. Bribery was not, of course, a uniquely Ottoman tradition, and in fact the early Ottoman sultans were known for their intolerance of corruption. But the later ones were not. This is chronicled by Ottoman historian Halil İnalcık in An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire:
Continue reading EVERYBODY KNOWS, BUT NOBODY KNOWS, PART II