Turkey inbetween two visits

Three years after our visit in 1992 Turkey hoped to find a connection with the European Union willing to have it become a member.

Nikolas Sarkozy was not the only politician who dared to speak out loud that “Turkey has no place in Europe.” Angela Merkel her party favoured a “privileged partnership” with Turkey – a concept that has signified little, other than a desperate desire for Ankara to stay outside the union.


Eu-turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 2005 EU poll has shown that only 35 percent of European citizens were sympathetic to the idea of Ankara joining the bloc. For many citizens the country was to much bounded to the Islamic faith, too far away from our Judean Christian values. Countries were Catholicism was going strong were annoyed with certain conservative attitudes of the Turks and Moroccans living in their country and were afraid more of such conservative Muslims would come to live in their surroundings. Since 1950, parliamentary politics had already been dominated by conservative parties but going into the 21st century it looked like Turkey was even become more conservative and more Islamic minded than before.

In Belgium and Holland people were not so afraid fro the Islam culture yet but were more concerned about the human rights in Turkey and the consequences for the democracy when such a huge country would be part of the European Union.

Lots of people thought that a lot of European politicians had megalomania wanting a member that was closer to Asian culture than Western culture. They found that the EU can’t have it that two too different ways of political thinking and handling of people could be allowed.

On the street of Bursa on our 1992 Turkey tour

On a street of Bursa on our 1992 Turkey tour

In Turkey itself the country was facing a demand for a better life, i.e. demand for housing, demand for job, demand for school, and lots of people left the rural country to find their luck in the cities. The migration to more productive parts of the country however, puts out of order urban life and disintegrates the urban system. In Turkey, especially after 1950ies, there is migration and sometimes this migration has been containing very big numbers in terms of population. Besides, after 1990ies, Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey has given out migration, especially via the city of Diyarbakir. The migration, from the city and the region to west side of Turkey, like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, used Diyarbakir as a stopover. In addition of being a stopover point, Diyarbakir not only gives out migration but also get in migration. Thus makes Diyarbakir a city that has no history in social life and in urban culture.

The leftist parties, the most notable of which is the Republican People’s Party (CHP), with a stable electorate, draw much of their support from big cities, coastal regions, professional middle-class, and minority groups such as Alevis. Many Alevis refer to an “Alevi-Bektashi” tradition, but it seems that they are not as such very restricted, but having more a syncretic religion, combining diverse religious beliefs and holding on to Turkestan and  Anatolian folk culture. (The Alevi Turks may be considered as part of Twelver Shia Islam (believing in twelve divinely ordained leaders and that the Mahdi or prophesied redeemer of Islam, will be the returned Twelfth Imam, coincidinge with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Isa)).

In 1992 in the rural areas traditional dress could be found more than in the cities

In 1992 in the rural areas traditional dress could be found more than in the cities

When we went to do our round-trip in 1992 we could find a lot contemporary women in public places. Like Mustafa Kemal had surrounded himself with women in Westernized clothes as examples for the modernized Turkish woman the politicians around the turn of the century surrounded themselves with traditionally clothed women. Mustafa Kemal in many of his speeches had openly criticized the face veil (peçe), but not the headscarf, but by now the migrated people protested against the  Westernised women.

I agree that also during the reign of Kemal Mustafa national and Sunni Islam was promoted, but it was requested to be evolving in time and to be rendered compatible with the modern nation-state. In this respect, Kemalists somehow became heirs to the Ottoman Young Turks’ instrumentalist and reformist approach to Islam. Perhaps because the Muslim imams did not like the opening to the modern clothing, the government had to implement an  Anti-Islamic dress-code, through the strengthening of Law 4055 in June, 1942.
In the beginning of the Inönü-period, Kemalist women were used as instigators for criticism of the headscarf, appearing in media and in public accusing Muslim women wearing the çarşaf of carrying out acts of deception and fraud. {Yücel Bozdaglioglu: Turkish Foreign Policy and Turkish Identity, New York, Routledge, 2033, page 46}

At our Turkey round trip in 1992 with tourists in Ephesus

At our Turkey round trip in 1992 with tourists in Ephesus

The regime of Demirel and the Adalet Partısı (AP) was not originally anti-religious, as they allowed graduates of the Imam Hatip-schools admittance to universities and other higher educations. Demirel later changed his view on Islam and became a staunch defender of Kemalism in the 1990ies.

Having the militant secularists persuading the Higher Education Council YÖK to issue a regulation in 1987 forbidding female university students to cover their heads in class brought forth that more women started to react the Kemalist idea and against secularisation. Having this rule, which also later on was taken in certain Belgian schools, did not solve the question, but caused the opposite.

On television we could see pictures of Turkish women who were officially banned from both public and private educational institutes, such as universities, and from attaining jobs in public administration while wearing a headscarf. It was their reaction against their not being allowed to wear Islamic dress which made more Europeans afraid an entrance of Turkey in the European Union would also be an entrance for the Islamic dress with many restrictions for women in public places. The fear of having so many extra voters in the Union, who could demand more constraint for an Islamic dress-code, made many more reluctant to have Turkey becoming a member of the European Union.

Having those students stripped of their headscarf in front of university entrances or having them to emigrate to Europe or the US to pursue higher education made things worse. It also prompted several embarrassing situations where female students at Turkish universities were arrested by the police for causing “stirrup” by refusing to undress on campus, or female students having to hide their hair under knitted caps or even under artificial wigs.

The most serious Kemalist opposition against the Muslim headscarf happened in the 1990ies where Turkey found herself in the middle of the Cold War destabilization and
had to balance between political pressure from the Middle East and EU demands for westernisation.

It looked like the majority of Turkish people were not interested to come under or adopt Western culture. They saw they could use modernisation in the industry and loved to see their economy and  technology developing as in the United States of America or as in Europe. But concerning the law, politics, lifestyle, diet, clothing, language, alphabet, religion, philosophy, and values they did not want to come under a European spell.
Internally, the Kemalitsts felt pressure from the many religious parties who had gained foothold among not just rural voters, but also Kurdish voters and voters from the former
Kemalist pool of intellectual elite in the cities.
The government outlawed several Islamic movements and parties, forcing religious activists  to use political creativity to circumvent the constitutiońs prohibition against religion playing a part in politics.

The AKPartı [AKP (Turkish Justice and Development Party)] became such a party, officially merging Turkish nationalism with spiritual values and campaigning against corruption and poverty, but whose leading members belong to the Muslim elite, for instance former Istanbuli mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a close friend of Muslim activist Şule Yüksel Şenler and himself a former student at a Imam Hatip school.

Still, Islamic activism became politically organized on a more serious level in the 1990ies, riding on the wave of recent liberalization of civil society. Islamic radio and TV-stations,
newspapers, associations and parties emerged every where in the first half of the decade
with the military elite and the Kemalists worrying about “foreign influence”, i.e. fear of Iranian or Arab political and economic influence on Turkish politics. so, at our 1992 tour we could see the modernity of the Turkish Republic, but a decade later it looked we had gone back in time for certain things. At the airport security was much better and everywhere it was much cleaner and felt also much safer, not being troubled by kids wanting to rip you off.

To secure the power of Kemalism and political secularization, the military manoeuvred the removal of an Islamic-oriented prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, in 1997 through a series of lawsuits, seen by analysts as the fourth coup d’état in Turkish history since WW II.

Merve Safa Kavakçı.JPG

Sunni Merve Safa Kavakçı , professor at George Washington University and Howard University in Washington D.C.

In 1999 Turkish female politician Merve Kavakcı became elected Member of Parliament for
the recently established Virtue Party. Due to her headscarf members of the Democratic Left Party prevented her to perform her parliamentary oath. Kavakcı was never allowed to take her oath, her seat was left empty, practically denying her constituents (voters) their representative rights.

Kavakcı́s name and picture was removed from the annals of Parliament. A state prosecutor investigated whether she might be put on trial for provoking religious hatred by appearing veiled in Parliament, and later the Turkish republic stripped Kavakcı of her Turkish citizenship allegedly because she had become a US citizen during her stay abroad.

A member of a well-known Muslim family, Kavakcı then used her academic knowledge and international connections to raise political awareness to the pledge of religious Turkish Muslim women, criticizing openly on an international level the failure of Turkish constitutional legislation to provide and secure basic human rights to Turkish women, revealing the Kemalists ́abuse of democracy in a time, when “democracy” became almost a religious concept internationally.

In 2007, Kavakçı won the legal case when the European Court of Human Rights found that Kavakcı’s expulsion from parliament was a violation of human rights.

Other Muslim activists, like the student Nuray Bezirgan and Mine Karakas got the attention from Europeans and human right watchers. The political basis The Kemalists went for had been built on concepts of modernism and secularism in order to bring about national unity and Western-style progress, but now it seemed to bring more division not only in their own country, but also from abroad, from Turks, Kurds but also form other religious and non-religious people came controversial reactions. Turkey got international accusations of abuse of human rights and political reactionary hegemony towards minorities (mainly Kurds) and religious citizens. The very conservatism managed to get sympathisers from outside Turkey to spit on the country. The international pressure gave the Muslims encouragement and all the more reason to go for more religious rules for all the Turks. During the election campaign of 2007, the AK Parti and now Prime Minister Erdoĝan promised the lifting of the headscarf ban from all public institutions. The headscarf-bearing wives of other AK Parti-members started to speak out in Turkish media about the headscarf ban. Erdogan’s daughters, who had to study in the US because of the headscarf ban on Turkish universities, also spoke publicly for the first time in 2008. The failed attempt by the Turkish Kemalists to ban the AK Parti and 71 of its leading members through court indictment did probably encourage much of Turkey’s Muslim intellectual elite and leaders to speak out against the headscarf ban, or to simply ignore it by showing up in public situations that would have prohibited such a violation of protocol before 2008. clearly the headscarf had become a problem connected with issues such as democracy, freedom of expression and equal rights for education.

The women had to wait until January 15 2013 for the Turkish Higher Education Board (YÖK) introducing a bill to the Turkish Education Ministry to remove the headscarf ban for academics who are teaching at Turkish universities. The reason for the bill was the fact that

“YÖK is of the opinion that discrimination based on gender, religion or background is not acceptable.”

The bill also stated that

“students in institutions of higher learning cannot be discriminated against for their political views, religion, language, race, gender, and choice of dress or any other reason.”

Though by the years the street-view had changed a lot, having lots of women not daring to come onto the street in contemporary Western attire. The Islamic religious leaders got more and more to say and had their stamp pressed on the contemporary Turkey.

All the reason more whey Westerners do have to question if it really would be a good choice to have such a different culture than ours being a member of a union where openness of mind, freedom of thought, and freedom of speech are so important. With the reforms going on now in Turkey it is understandable that people get alarmed and worried that an Islamic gulf could flow over West Europe.

Ankara had achieved some good reforms – including greater economic liberalization, increased political control over the military, and had strengthened independence of the judiciary, but now it looks like the religious groups get more hold on the system and that Islamic Law comes to govern the country. something which can not be allowed to happen in the European Union.


Preceding articles:

Turkey anno 1992 #1 Turkey in pictures

 Turkey anno 1992 #2 1992 Turkey analysed:

Turkey a wolf in the sheep house of the European Union


Find also to read:

  1. Turkey Is Too Important to Leave Completely out of the European Union
  2. Headscarf deputy stripped of Turkish citizenship
  3. Turkish-Kurd Tensions Spill into Europe’s Streets
  4. NATO Must Offer Turkey Military Support in Syria Crisis
  5. The Day Turkey Stood Still
  6. Merve Kavakci net


  • The Rift Between Antichrist Nation of Turkey And The West Is Beginning (shoebat.com)
    the media is beginning to see two issues: 1) The vision of Turkey’s imperial plans and “vision of the Middle East united by a Turkish brand of political Islam” and 2)  “But unless Ankara aligns itself more closely with international opinion it will become ever more isolated” from western powers.
  • Impunity of the Erdogan Regime (venitism.blogspot.com)
    During the May-June 2013 Gezi protests in Istanbul and cities around the country, there was widespread excessive use of force by police against demonstrators and improper firing of teargas canisters directly at protesters, leading to scores of protesters receiving serious head injuries and 11 being blinded. One year on from the Gezi protests, very few police officers have been investigated for excessive use of force or improper firing of teargas. There have been numerous flaws in the trials of police accused of killing three of the demonstrators who died. The conviction of a police officer in September 2014 for shooting dead an Ankara demonstrator on June 1, 2013 was a rare moment of accountability. But while convicted of probable intent to kill, a crime punishable with a 25-year sentence, the court reduced the sentence to 8 years arguing that the defendant had faced unfair provocation and had behaved well during his trial. By contrast some demonstrators face possible life imprisonment if convicted.
  • Middle East Forum: How Turkey Went Bad By Daniel Pipes (yonkerstribune.com)
    Only twelve years ago, the Republic of Turkey was correctly seen as a stalwart NATO ally, the model of a pro-Western Muslim state, and a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. A strong military bond with the Pentagon undergirded broader economic and cultural ties with Americans. For those of us who work on the Middle East, time in Istanbul, Ankara, and other Turkish cities was a refreshing oasis from the turmoil of the region.
  • Turkey: Enemy inside the gates (macleans.ca)
    When Merve Ozdemir walks the streets in Kemerburgaz, a suburb in Istanbul’s northwest, she wears a niqab, the all-encompassing veil that leaves only her eyes visible. She is usually the only one in that attire. Kemerburgaz is one of Istanbul’s more secular neighbourhoods, its residents of mostly Greek and Bulgarian descent, a place where even a headscarf is a rarity. “I’ve been asked if I’m from Syria,” says the 23-year-old wife and mother. “People stop me and demand to see my face because they think I am an outsider, even though I’ve lived here all my life.”
  • Turkish PM unveils tighter security steps after deadly protests (haaretz.com)
    Sparked by anger at Ankara’s failure to intervene militarily to help Kobani, the unrest revived bitter memories of the street violence that has punctuated a three decades long insurgency by Kurdish militants against Turkish authorities. It also recalled massive anti-government protests that rocked Turkey last year.”If there are people who want to revive these events, the state and the nation has the power to put them in their place,” Davutoglu told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling AK Party.
  • Turkish PM unveils tighter security steps after deadly protests (cyprus-mail.com)
    Sparked by anger at Ankara’s failure to intervene militarily to help Kobani, the unrest revived bitter memories of the street violence that has punctuated a three decades long insurgency by Kurdish militants against Turkish authorities. It also recalled massive anti-government protests that rocked Turkey last year.
    In recent years, Turkey’s western partners have expressed alarm at apparent signs of creeping authoritarianism in Ankara, while President Tayyip Erdogan’s international standing has been tarnished by police brutality towards anti-government protesters and high profile bans of Twitter and YouTube.“The AKP wants to turn Turkey into an open prison,” the main opposition CHP party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu told his party’s parliamentary group meeting in criticism of the reform package.
  • Turkey, the Kurds and Iraq: the prize and peril of Kirkuk (mercatornet.com)
    The modern Turkish government is looking at Iraq and Syria in a way similar to how Damat Ferid did almost a century ago when he sought in Paris to maintain Turkish sovereignty over the region. From Ankara’s point of view, the extension of a Turkish sphere of influence into neighboring Muslim lands is the antidote to weakening Iraqi and Syrian states. Even if Turkey no longer has direct control over these lands, it hopes to at least indirectly re-establish its will through select partners, whether a group of moderate Islamist forces in Syria or, in northern Iraq, a combination of Turkmen and Sunni factions, along with a Kurdish faction such as Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party. The United States may currently be focused on the Islamic State, but Turkey is looking years ahead at the mess that will likely remain. This is why Turkey is placing conditions on its involvement in the battle against the Islamic State: It is trying to convince the United States and its Sunni Arab coalition partners that it will inevitably be the power administering this region. Therefore, according to Ankara, all players must conform to its priorities, beginning with replacing Syria’s Iran-backed Alawite government with a Sunni administration that will look first to Ankara for guidance.
  • Obama’s Coalition of ISIS Allies Refuse To Fight ISIS In Kobane (therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com)

    Nearly 200,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes and flee the town, joining 1.5million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

    Poorly equipped Kurdish fighters — men, women and even children — try in vain with AK-47s to hold back the maniacal hordes of Islamic State fighters, firing the equivalent of popguns against the terrorist group’s modern, heavy-grade, American weapons.

    By yesterday, IS had taken a third of the Syrian Kurdish stronghold of Kobane on the border with Turkey.


About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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1 Response to Turkey inbetween two visits

  1. Pingback: In the aftermath of the failed coup – Some View on the World

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