Foreign Affairs, Europe, Travel, Espionage, Fiction, Non-Fiction, In the News
I had no intention of reporting on this from the scene of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I was walking up Boulevard Richard Lenoir to meet a friend who lives in the neighborhood. But the moment I saw what I did, I knew for sure what had happened. A decade in Turkey teaches you that. That many ambulances, that many cops, that many journalists, and those kinds of faces can mean only one thing: a massive terrorist attack.
Erdoğan and Gülen are both dangerous—but only one of them lives in the Poconos.
Until recently, I lived in Turkey. It seemed to me then unfathomable that most Americans did not recognize the name Fethullah Gülen. Even those vaguely aware of him did not find it perplexing that a Turkish preacher, billionaire, and head of a multinational media and business empire—a man of immense power in Turkey and sinister repute—had set up shop in Pennsylvania and become a big player in the American charter school scene. Now that I’ve been out of Turkey a while, I’ve realized how normal it is that Americans are indifferent to Gülen. America is full of rich, powerful, and sinister weirdoes. What’s one more?
My fellow editors asked me if I’d care to comment on Fethullah Gülen’s op-ed in The New York Times. I was uncertain whether I could do it without violating our Code of Conduct. I considered whether I might be able to get away with a few choice words in Turkish, but thought, “No, the Code of Conduct is sacred in every language.” I decided words like the ones I reckoned this inspired in Turkey really were too trashy. No need for that. So I offer just simple a rejoinder, seeing as the Times didn’t see fit to publish a rebuttal side-by-side–or even a clue who this writer is. Had they done so, I would have considered it perfectly acceptable. As it stands, I can interpret it only one of two ways: Charitably, they’re so stupid they don’t even read their own reporting. Less charitably, they’ve fallen in line with Our Thug, but for reasons so cynical–and stupidly cynical–they don’t even rise to the intellectual respectability of the word Realpolitik.
PUBLISHED (IN HIGHLY ABRIDGED FORM) IN US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
If you’re reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. On July 6—last Saturday—delivering a stern rebuke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Istanbul 1st Regional Court issued a decision cancelling the controversial Taksim construction and the Artillery Barracks project, thus reopening the park for public use. Happy Istanbullus planned to gather in the park to celebrate this victory at 7:00 p.m. But mere hours before, the Governor of Istanbul, Hüseyin Mutlu, issued a Proclamation by Tweet: “We are holding the much-anticipated opening of Gezi Park tomorrow. The park, which was embellished by the Istanbul Municipality, may bring peace and joy.” That was it.
Puzzled, I wrote back: “Pardon me, Efendim, but I understood that the court had decided the park would be open today. I don’t understand, am I mistaken?”
U.S. News & World Report
If you're reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stranger still, if you are reading the Turkish press, you might conclude that you are in Egypt, because that seems to be the only topic of conversation.
Published in abridged form in The Tower
Part 1: Laying Pipe
In the sitcom business, they call it “laying pipe.” It means the exposition of the backstory, the quick explanation of the events that set the plot in motion. Sitcom writers admire each other for the economy with which they lay pipe. In writing about Turkey, the hardest part is that before you can even begin to say anything interesting, you need to lay ten miles of pipe, and by that point you’ve lost your audience. Moreover, the names are confusing and unpronounceable, Americans have simply had it with this part of the world; and besides, Turkey’s all so Byzantine—no surprise—that they just can’t keep the plot straight, even if you give them a PowerPoint presentation, Cliff Notes, and an iPhone App that reminds them who the characters are.
America’s muted response is both confusing and disheartening.
28 June 2013
President Obama surely knows that the current unrest in Turkey, which has left at least four dead, 12 blind, and some 7,000 injured, many critically, does not remotely compare—as a humanitarian disaster or as a threat to American interests—to the unremitting carnage in Syria; to the urgency of evaluating the meaning of Iran’s elections and what they portend for its nuclear program; to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq; to our imminent defeat in Afghanistan; or to at least half a dozen other foreign policy crises of greater moment, not least in the Pacific. It is entirely understandable that Turkey would not be the president’s chief concern.
What is not understandable is that the situation does not appear to be the chief concern, or indeed of any concern, to America’s ambassador in Turkey, Frank Ricciardone.
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. The protesters found the idea of losing that tiny refuge from Istanbul’s urban chaos unbearable.
US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
The media coverage of the upheaval in Turkey has been extensive, but certain points have been insufficiently emphasized.
The story began as a peaceful sit-in in a park near the city's central Taksim Square. It was slated to be demolished and replaced with a shopping mall. The protesters wanted to preserve it, but Ankara disagreed. Riot police raided the protesters at dawn, using unbelievably excessive force – hundreds of people wound up in local hospitals, and the police then proceeded to tear gas the hospitals, too. People lost eyes, suffered severe brain injuries and an opposition party member of parliament who had come to show his support suffered a heart attack. As of today, following demonstrations and clashes with the police around the country, at least two people have been confirmed killed; at least six people have lost their eyes and many more have been terrorized and suffered severe injuries.
The Turkish prime minister miscalculated with his brutal crackdown.
As I began to write this, at 4:00 AM on May 31, protests against Turkish police—prompted by their crackdown on demonstrators opposing the demolition of Taksim Square’s Gezi Park—were spreading from the heart of Istanbul to the entire country. As of today, the headline on Drudge reads—not inaccurately—TURK BERSERK.