Friday, November 03, 2006

Turkey: Are They EU Material?

CNN is reporting that shots were fired at a papal protest in front of the Italian embassy.

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Police say they have arrested a man who allegedly fired a pistol into the air outside the Italian consulate in Istanbul, then shouted slogans in protest of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit.

The man, who was identified by police sources as Ibrahim Ak, according to CNN Turk, threw the gun on the grounds of the consulate shortly before his arrest on Thursday.

"I don't want him here, if he was here now I would strangle him with my bare hands," the suspect, who identified himself as Ibrahim Ak, 26, told a Dogan news agency television camera as he was detained by police, according to The Associated Press.

I honestly think it would be best that the Pope cancel his visit. This situation has the enormous potential to get out of control, and fast. All it would take is an assassination or at least a serious attempt, to incite a major upheaval in both the Christian and Muslim worlds.

Don't get me wrong, though. I am not for backing down in certain situations that occur naturally, through the course(s) of planned or unplanned events. It's not from fear that my concerns originate. I just do not feel it is wise to tempt things, when the milieu is already hostile.

In this specific case, the risks far outweigh the benefits. I cannot think of one thing that needs to be accomplished that cannot wait until the climate has returned to a cooler temperature. We see that the pot is simmering, why return it to a roiling boil that could easily boil over?

But the larger issue in all of this is fairly evident. This situation further validates the need for Europe to look seriously at Turkey's application, for membership into the EU. Combine this action with
the recent book by Turkish novelist, Burak Turna and you will see a mood of anger and hostility that is beginning to permeate Turkish society.

The animosity even reaches the highest levels of the Turkish government.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's decision not to meet Pope Benedict during his visit to Turkey is a diplomatic snub following the pontiff's recent criticism of Islam, Italian commentators said on Thursday.

"You can paint this any way you want but from a western point of view, this is bad manners," said a front-page editorial in Rome's Il Messaggero newspaper.

I cannot envision an EU member nation that would be dangerous for a Pope to visit, nor could I imagine an official snub by its leader. Not only that, but with the last would be papal assassin being Turkish, we seem to have all of the proof we need that there is a powerful element within the Turkish boundaries that abhor western symbols; and they would not give a second thought to doing whatever necessary to bring them down.

That, within itself, should be enough to convince the Pope to stay home and the EU to reject Turkey, as a trusted member of the European Union. But if it doesn't, just imagine the backlash if the Pope is harmed in any way. Imagine the problems that would be created if it were to happen after Turkey was admitted.


Anonymous said...

Turkey is a secular country with a muslim majority. It is the only muslim country to be secular. ( attatürk). Some of these muslims want to put an end to this secularism .Turkey will have to take up this challenge on a short haul. Now for Turkey in EU or not : for its geostrategic position, to encourage secularism etc .. the answer would be YES. But you are Right, as long as the pope ( or other religious leader) has no safety in this country it will be a challenge to secularism. Therefore , Turkey is far to be ready to be in EU. But, do Turkish people really want to be a part of it ? I'm not sure. Regards from France.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to remember that the last attempted Papal assassination, some quarter of a century ago, was the work of a Turkish nutjob, M.A. Agca. That didn't provoke much discussion as to where Turkey belonged, or what its material was. Now this...

True there is a noticeable rise of religiousity (and nationalism) in Turkey. Islamists (mind you, not muslims) have gotten bolder under Erdogan's government; the associated threat to the country's secular order of law is now all but transparent whereas it would have been dismissed as the illusion of the military/elite intelligentsia, or their lack of grasp for democratic essentials, by European snobs some years back. Indeed the EU's half-hearted handling of Turkey and Turkish aspirations for full membership has played a major role in all this.

I say "half-hearted" for lack of a better term really. Look at the EU's flagrant disregard for the consequences of admitting a divided Cyprus into the club. Look at the endless chain of condition after condition put forward in front of Turkey's admission. Case in point: the French lawmakers' attempt to outlaw denial of Armenian genocide, and their president's suggestion that Turkey's acception of this claim be another condition. Considering also the ridiculous prosecutions of non-conforming authors and other persons in Turkey, it is as if freedom of expression should mean one thing in Europe and another in Turkey, and Erdogan government and Turkey's detractors in Europe are in league in this, marching happily towards their opposite corners.

Anyway, I agree Pope's canceling his visit to Turkey would be a sensible move. From Turkey's perspective, I don't see what the loss would be by such cancellation. From other perspectives, okay, the rewards would not be worth the risk. Although Turkey's 70+ million population is no more insane than any other country's, it takes one nutjob to cause hell. Over the past year, an Islamist lawyer shot five judges of a Turkish appeals court, killing one, in broad daylight over the judges' decision on a certain case that he didn't agree with. Some time prior, a misguided teenager shot and killed an otherwise well-known and -liked Italian priest residing and working in Trabzon. God forbid, another one may try to outperform M.A. Agca...

Just don't make us believe "abhor[ance of] Western symbols" in Turkey (if we are to buy into this description for a moment) is springing from within without outside help. And please, "bad manners" as mentioned in the post is not undiplomatic.

All in all, the rationale presented in this post for EU's rejection of Turkey is unimaginative really. The EU, with its incredibly complex entanglement of interests and counter-interests and inevitable inertia of its decision making organs, cannot decree Turkey's rejection anytime soon. Not for the simple reasons put forward here anyway. But Erdogan can possibly walk out from the talks to capitalize on that "abhorance" for his upcoming election objectives (recent polls show Turkish support for EU membership has fallen down to about 30% from some 70-80% within a year or so). One almost thinks he had intentionally planted the seeds of sabotage by letting Cyprus-EU deal to unfold as it did. With supposed EU-membership stick-and-carrot, he kept secularist forces at bay while Islamist roots grew bigger, and now he can become a hero...

LASunsett said...

Hi Croquette,

//Therefore , Turkey is far to be ready to be in EU. But, do Turkish people really want to be a part of it ? I'm not sure.//

I am not sure either. My concern is the radical factions do not and will cause trouble for both Turkey and the other EU countries, if it happens.

LASunsett said...


//All in all, the rationale presented in this post for EU's rejection of Turkey is unimaginative really.//

You raise some interesting points, but can you not envision a scenario whereby new Muslims riots break out in France and other EU nations, only to have Turkey empathize with the rioters? I can.

Muslims, be they moderate or radical, tend to stick closer together than non-Muslims. I think many that oppose Turkey's entrance into the EU are thinking this, but just do not want to come out and say it. This is precisely why I believe, the old carrot on a stick is being used. They are setting conditions that they know Turkey will be hard-pressed to comply with, to justify their position of denying them entrance.

Anonymous said...


Maybe you could tell, but I am a Turk. I believe in liberal democracy and secularism. I am non-religious. I seriously fear this dishonest game and its potential repurcussions in Turkey (and beyond as you do). Those "conditions" you seem to believe are understandable (if not justified) are only helping to raise the blood temparature towards the boiling point. One day, I have come to think, Angela Merkel will be appreciated in Turkey for her honesty if you know what I mean... And if there is anyone left in Turkey to appreciate it really... I feel my kind is moving towards extinction. Turkey was certainly not like that until late. I just want you to see the European (or Western) role in this change.

As for Turkish dishonesty, our government should have said "no" to divided Cyprus's admission as full member and "no" to new, non-technical conditions no matter what those "no"s would have meant in reality. They would at least prevent false hopes getting a firmer hold of naive Turks, and possibly help mitigate the size of the reactive blow that seems to be right around the corner nowadays.

Of course, I am not overlooking the wretched moral and mental conditions the Islamic world is in. You still see stupid clerics, so-called Islamic scholars, popping up here and there, say in Australia, and blame the rape victim for her getting raped. Did you hear the cat-and-raw-meat anology?.. How infantile!.. Apparently, Islam has nothing to teach to the cat, but feels that the raw-meat should be kept hidden instead. Or, honor killings... Or, suicide bombings... Or, tireless and boring attempts to whitewash or justify such absurdities... The list is endless...

What I regret is, Turkey or Turkish population by and large was not to be swept away by such currents. Modern Turkey's detractors, from within and without, never ceased to eat away at Ataturk's legacy with no regard for, with utter disrespect for the historical political/religious experience he was coming from. Now, fear the consequences. I do.

Of course, the role of 9/11 should not be ignored in all this. With one blow, bearded cavemen with engineering degrees threw the whole world into chaos and confusion. The US, the oldest and greatest democracy, has suffered greatly if not gone down the drain; it was sad and scary to witness how willing Americans proved to be to shelf their freedoms, and bent out of shape in front of a misguided administration (Everbody understood Afganistan. Who but Blair understood Iraq?) Moslem world didn't know what to say; thanks to Bush's unprovoked attack at Iraq, continuing disregard for Palestinian question, etc., it now has other, bigger and somewhat legitimate points to attend to. As for the Europeans, it appears they are as confused and headless as ever. Come to think of it, Turkey's getting confused and possible derailment is not all that hard to understand.

LASunsett said...


First of all, thank you for visiting PYY and sharing your perspective here, on this critical issue. Please feel free to come back and comment, when you have the opportunity. Agree or disagree with me, I welcome all viewpoints. Like many other blogs, you will not get shouted down and belittled for sharing your honest opinions.

I did suspect you were Turkish, but as I have learned from many years of life, assuming isn't always safe. And if you do assume, it's important to confirm all suspicions before you act. But, I do have a strong French readership here, in addition to the majority, which happen to be Americans (both here and abroad). For that reason, I couldn't be sure.

Let's look at this point by point.

1. Is it dishonest to hold real or imaginary carrots out to hide real concerns and real fears? Yes.

But you have to take into account that Europe is a very different Europe than it was in its various imperialist eras. Sometimes, as well-intentioned as they may be, they take the paths of least resistance to avoid conflict. They, as a society, are sick of war (and righfully so). Each successive war they have fought throughout their long history has been more bloody and more destructive, than the previous one.

Because of this mindset, many seek to keep things as low-key as possible. This is not always prudent and in this case, you have well-stated why.

2. Since I am American, I really do not have a dog in the fight. Originally I took the stance of ambivalence. (It's Europe's issue, let them debate the merits or lack thereof.)

But as you referenced earlier, 9-11 has changed many things. Yet, even after the dreadful attack orchestrated by the bearded one (with the engineering degree), I stood ambivalent. If anything, I was intrigued by the idea that a predominantly Muslim (but yet secular) government could become more closely aligned with the west, than they already were. I felt it was important in the overall fight against terror.

My dad used to fly into Turkey for a couple of weeks here and there (many years ago), when he was in the Air Force. He loved it. He always brought back pistachios and neat little trinkets that were part of the Turkish culture.

Turkey has been one of our best allies since WWII and knowing that, I was leaning towards support of EU entry. But after learning of the popularity of "The Third World War" in Turkey, I began to have doubts. Now, we are seeing some very disturbing things with the Pope situation and it only tends to reinforce those doubts further.

3. It's s delicate situation for all involved. By the EU toying with Turkey, it's potentially a powder keg. the same would be true, if the EU just fast-tracked the membership through. A lot of questions still need to be answered.

Let me ask you one of those many questions, if I might:

How much support for radical Islamist factions does exist in today's Turkey? And are they spread out, or are they localized in a specific region?

(Sorry, that was two)

Anonymous said...

LASunsett, we don't necessarily disagree, but our priorities may be different.

//How much support for radical Islamist factions does exist in today's Turkey? And are they spread out, or are they localized in a specific region?//

I've been lining in the US for almost 10 years now, so I probably can't produce the most reliable answers, but support for "radical Islamic factions" can't be widespread. I imagine a negligible portion of the population. But the rest of being complacent (getting offended by caricatures or by the pope, fretting over the instability brewing in Iraq, etc.), their voice may be heard louder than it truly is. Add to this, Erdogan governments sneaky undermining of the secular republican tenets (under EU's auspices really; that's what get me), the picture, I understand, is not pretty.

As for the spread of this, rural areas have historically been more religious and conservative, but in their established peaceful order of life, they could not be called radical at all in the sense this word is understood today. Migrants to big cities, lower-middle classes there, somewhat ghettoized themselves in various neighborhoods, I imagine, would be more likely groups and places to look for radicalism.

As for rising extreme nationalism, third world war-ism, anti-Americanism, please also remember the US troops' abducting at gun point a legitimate contingent of Turkish officers stationed in northern Iraq at the early stages of invasion of Iraq. This caused a stormy emotional breaking away in the Turkish psyche from traditional alliance with the US. A book that came out shortly afterwards (titled "Metal Storm"), I understand, told the story of a Rambo-style revenge advanture of a lone Turkish officer against the Americans. Widescale antagonism against the US, if it can be called widespread, could not have begun before that incident.

Anonymous said...

I can't see what I write in this small box; hence many typos and missing words, etc. Sorry about that.

And also, please do not exaggerate these extreme feelings and their various (non-violent) manifestations and potential results. I think, there is a lot in the US (rise of political religiosity here, or unilateralism with insufficient justifications) that we can exaggerate and worry about too. Being a moderate independent, I hope you'd agree. At least a bit.

LASunsett said...


1. No typo police here. We all are guilty of it. By the structure or your sentences and your thoughts, I can tell you are not an idiot, by any stretch.

2. You wrote: //please do not exaggerate these extreme feelings and their various (non-violent) manifestations and potential results. I think, there is a lot in the US (rise of political religiosity here, or unilateralism with insufficient justifications) that we can exaggerate and worry about too.//

I do share your concern about certain elements here. For one thing, there is one element that doesn't get a lot of attention since 9-11. In my opinion, the right wing miltias are as dangerous (if not more so) than the middle eastern jihadists.

We can track the jihadists easier because of their nationality. They stand out more. The right wing militia types are American, They look American, their culture is American, they blend in much better. They are no less dangerous, despite the fact they have been relatively quiet for a few years.

As for the exaggerations, I do not feel I have exaggerated my concerns. These are legitimate, in my view. And although we may agree on a certain outcome or proposed outcome, we certainly are going to want that outcome for our own personal reasons. Mine, as you say, are very different from yours.

But that aside, this is why I have appreciated your input here in this discussion. I can analyze another perspective and if the argument you pose is worth considering (and it is), I can re-think my stance, if enough support exists to warrant it.

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if the Pope does go to Turkey. Maybe if it comes off relatively smoothly, it can alleviate some concerns and fears that may exist. But it is risky. If it blows up, it can signal a deterioration of relations and even ignite soemthing that none of us want, nor need, at this time in history. There are too many other volatile situations that need to be effectively dealt with, to be testing waters for the sake of testing waters.

Anonymous said...


First: Sure rushing into admitting Turkey as full member would be wrong at this point. I for one wouldn't want that. (I mean, to be shoved down the throats of confused and questioning Europeans. Besides, Turkey has real issues that she should sort out on her own before joining in.) But, there is really no danger of this happening. Optimists predict Turkish admission to happen no earlier than in a decade, or a decade and a half...

Second: Sorry if I wandered away from your major point(s) in the original post. The question as to whether the Pope should visit Turkey or not, risks that accompany such a visit, etc. are well taken. I wanted to drop a note of a bit of myself nonetheless. You know, you wouldn't be talking of what you are able to talk of here if the whole world was characterizing you and your country as essentially represented by, say, the right-wing militia types. When I see the material of my country of origin is questioned, I can't help wonder why I don't seem to be counted as part of that material. Well, okay, maybe it is the law of large numbers.

A few recent articles I have come across on the web:

1. Turkey and the EU: Keeping a friendly distance

2. Mr. Erdogan's Turkey

3. Secular Turks Criticize the U.S. Ambassador for Dismissing Warnings Against Rising Islamism in Turkey

Still, I am not too pessimistic in general, maybe suffering from anxiety because I've been away from Turkey for 10 years, and I feel it may be changing a bit too much for my taste. I have family and friends back there, but our communication, though continuous, is strictly non-political. I get my information from pretty much the same sources you do get yours from. I don't seriously expect a doomsday scenario to unfold; secular, democratic Turkish republic, I think, has enough strength and stamina to prevail against all odds. The EU adventure, I hope, would come to a peaceful end for both sides.

It was pleasure to exchange views with you. I am glad that you were welcoming and are open-minded.

LASunsett said...


//It was pleasure to exchange views with you. I am glad that you were welcoming and are open-minded.//

Thank you. I feel the same way. Come back anytime.

Anonymous said...

INteresting posts. Thank you ! I would add something. The Historical ties we ( Europe) has with Turkey. Sometimes ally, sometimes ennemy and I could write the same for England ( not UK) or Germany. Turkey is a crossroads and a link between two worlds. Turkey is an important country in our own history. For instance, Molière, a famous french writer at the end of the XVII century, wrote some plays with Ottoman characters. Thks, and sorry, my English is a Shakespearian drama !