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Tag Archives: Erdogan

Playing catch-up

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I’ve been following two stories here this week, although by now they’ve both been covered excellently by others across the blogosphere. First, of course, is the Turkish elections this Sunday, which Aengus Collins, Yigal Schleifer, Frederike Geerdink, Jenny White and Alex Christie-Miller have already covered in more depth than I can hope to. That’s what happens when you stop working in the Turkish media I suppose. The quick recap: AKP won, as expected. MHP stayed in Parliament, as pretty much expected.
Interesting notes:

  • AKP became the first ruling party to increase its share of votes for three consecutive elections
  • Even though AKP increased its portion of the popular vote, it lost seats in Parliament
  • Turkey elected 78 women to Parliament, up from 50 previously. This is equivalent to 15% of deputies
  • Four handicapped candidates were elected
  • Several newly elected deputies are in prison or are facing charges as part of the Ergenekon/Balyoz cases.

The big issues, post-election:

  • The new constitution, of course, as well as whatever politicking will have to be done to get it passed in Parliament. I don’t expect mountains of cooperation here.
  • The presidency. With these elections done, attention will now shift to the presidential elections and whether Erdoğan will run. The Turkish papers this week have been speculating that Erdo wants to beef up the powers of the president before taking that office. Of course, the government will have to settle the question of exactly how long Abdullah Gül’s current term is and whether he is eligible to run for a second stint. This should be fun!

The other issue in the regional news here has been, of course, Syria. More specifically, at least this week, it’s been the revelation that the person behind the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog (appears to have been locked or taken offline), widely believed to have been taken into custody a week prior, was actually A Straight American Guy on Vacation in Istanbul. Again, this has been covered pretty darn well elsewhere. I am concerned with the issue of false online personas, not just being anonymous or pseudonymous representing one’s self as a complete, ostensibly living, other person. There’s a paragraph in Liz Henry’s follow-up post that I think gets to one of the cruxes of my issues with the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax:
“Many people have good reason to conceal their identity and to develop relationships online under a screen name. They might like to express an aspect of their personality that would not mix well with their
professional life. They might have gender identity issues they are working through. They might be in a family situation that makes it unsafe for them to come out as gay. They might write fiction using characters whose stories are under copyright. None of those, however, are excuses for deception and manipulative behavior.”
Narrative aside, by representing himself as a person who had been kidnapped in Syria by (ostensibly) government figures MacMaster caused large amounts of resources to be spent by multiple parties, both
government and nongovernment, in attempts to identify and locate “her” and ultimately to get “her” out of custody.

I also think entering into a relationship with a woman while masquerading as a woman, and continuing that relationship for six months, is absolutely cruel.
The initial apology posted to the blog rang exceedingly hollow; as Alex Christie-Miller noted after interviewing MacMaster, it seems as though MacMaster truly doesn’t get what consequences his actions have had. And of course there’s the irony of his skewering “liberal Orientalism” while behaving precisely as a liberal Orientalist.
In the past few days there have been some excellent pieces by members of the Middle East GLBT community about what their experiences in the region actually are, and they are fascinating as well as entirely unlike the narrative presented in the Gay Girl in Damascus blog. Hopefully they both get more international attention for their perspective and are able to stay out of the sights of the Syrian government.

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Ankara’s crazy plan

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Turkophiles have no doubt heard of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “çilgin projesi” or “crazy plan” to build a canal from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea in Istanbul, announced several weeks ago to great fanfare and head-scratching. A bit less conspicuous was this week’s announcement of a “crazy plan” for Ankara as well. No, they’re not stretching a canal from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean by way of the capital city.  The prime minister’s plan, as unveiled Wednesday, is to make Ankara a “world capital” with a series of projects, including new defense facilities, a new giant courthouse (perhaps they’ll make it the largest in Asia, to match Istanbul’s “largest courthouse in Europe”?), a new football stadium (they already have a pretty darn new one, built in Sincan in 2008. Virtually no one goes there, and the city’s two Super League football teams play at the old 19 Mayis stadium, because Sincan is fantastically inconvenient) and new top-of-the-line hospitals. Erdo also announced a plan to create a second city in Ankara, similar to the two new cities he announced would be created in Istanbul.

Today’s Zaman has even more of the laundry list of plans Erdo cited for the “improvement” of Ankara. It all seems a bit odd to me, although I suppose if everything succeeds Ankara’s airport will finally start seeing the amount of usage it was designed for. If ever there was an underused airport, Esenboğa’s it.

I understand the motivation behind the announcement is probably in large part the upcoming elections, and I’d be surprised if the entire project comes to fruition, but I do wish the focus was more on improving the city that already exists. What about opening the section of the subway system that’s been nearly completed since before I first arrived in Ankara five years ago? A subway rail link between ODTU and Kizilay would have a direct, immediate positive impact for a lot of residents. Extend the line to Bilkent and the impact would be even larger. Then maybe ODTU could start operating its intracampus monorail, already built but as of my last time on campus nonoperational because it was built to ferry students to the subway entrance, which has been fenced off since at least early 2006.

Or instead of building “the biggest zoo in the Middle East,” how about turning Ankara’s zoo into the best zoo in the Middle East? Just two-and-a-half months ago a tiger escaped its enclosure at the Ankara Zoo and killed a lion. Two years ago, a boa constrictor escaped its cage. Of course, one can compare that with the recent escapades of a cobra and a peacock at the Bronx Zoo, but perhaps Ankara should strive to a higher standard of exotic animal husbandry. Sure, people may flock to a big zoo. But people will really flock, in droves, to a zoo in Turkey that takes proper care of its animals, makes an effort to show animals in their proper habitat rather than in concrete cages and pairs the animals on display with trained naturalists and well-done interpretive exhibits. Maybe a section called “Wild Anatolia,” featuring animals native to various parts of Anatolia and explaining conservation efforts?

Nope, instead Ankara’s slated to go big. I do love the city, and I’m a fan of investment in its infrastructure, but it feels like this particular crazy project was brainstormed mostly as a campaign trail scene, rather than as a considered plan for a healthy, successful city. Çilgindir.