Foreign Affairs, Europe, Travel, Espionage, Fiction, Non-Fiction, In the News
October 10, 2009
In Beyo?lu, north of the Golden Horn on the European side of Istanbul, it is almost impossible to walk down the crowded streets without passing a film crew. But this is not a world of ripped abs and bronzed silicon starlets. These Turkish filmmakers are wan and drawn, desperately earnest, deeply preoccupied with Turkey's rapid social transformation. The one thing they have in common with their Hollywood confreres is a sense that the film industry is a good place to make money. About that, they are right.
Immigration, Islam, and the West
By Christopher Caldwell
Doubleday. 422 pp. $30
"Reflections on the Revolution in Europe" -- an allusion to Burke -- is the latest in a series of pessimistic books, my own included, treating the conflict between post-Christian Europe and a resurgent Islam. Christopher Caldwell, an editor of the Weekly Standard and contributor to the Financial Times, makes arguments that have been made elsewhere: Mass immigration has changed Europe's demography and is rapidly changing its culture. Many immigrants to Europe have failed to assimilate; many retain or have developed an Islamic identity antithetical to liberal European values. But Caldwell makes these arguments unusually well, in a book notable for its range, synthesis of the literature, analytical rigor and elegant tone.
Almost 10 years ago exactly, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Turkey, killing as many as 40,000 people. Thousands were crushed in their beds when their buildings, such as the one pictured above in Kaynasli, collapsed.
An outcry ensued over the shoddy construction material, loose building codes and widespread corruption among licensing officials: these were correctly blamed for the high death toll. Seismologists warn the next quake will be much nearer to Istanbul, which lies directly on the fault line.
RADIO FREE EUROPE
Very few people in Turkey are exercised by the YouTube blackout, now in its second year. Despite the ban, the video-sharing site is believed to be the ninth most popular site in Turkey. Almost every Internet user -- from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the humblest teenage porn connoisseur -- knows how to circumvent it with proxy browsers. "I get in," Erdogan told reporters in November, 2008. "You can do so as well."
But maybe they should be more concerned. Blocking the exchange of information through the Internet is a top priority with some of the world's most oppressive regimes. China is devoting considerable energy to developing technology to block the best Web 2.0 sites, for example. Inexorably, a line is between drawn between countries that restrict their citizens' access to information and those that do not. And which side of that line does Turkey – with its European Union membership aspirations – find itself on?
Crippling economies around the world.
In 1997, I moved to Laos to work for the United Nations Development Programme. Laos was desperately impoverished. The country’s infrastructure was primitive. A fifth of the nation’s children died in infancy. Adult life expectancy barely exceeded 50 years. Less than half the population was literate. The UNDP spent most of its time endeavoring to raise funds from international donors to rectify this situation, and what time it did not spend this way, it spent holding elaborate conferences on the theme of how better to raise funds to rectify this situation.
Despite government reassurances, Britons feel under siege—with good reason.
Just before midnight on January 12, 2006, Tom ap Rhys Pryce, a 31-year-old lawyer, left a London party and telephoned his fiancée to say that he was on his way home. He emerged from the tube station at Kensal Green about 20 minutes later and began walking toward their apartment. That was when two teenage gang members attacked him. Donnel Carty kicked Pryce in the back, sending him flying to the ground, and Delano Brown kicked him in the face. When Pryce tried to defend himself, the attackers stabbed him in the legs, hands, face, and heart. Then they took his cell phone and public-transportation pass, the only valuables in his possession, and ran off, leaving him dying on the ground. The paramedics who strove unsuccessfully to revive him found his wedding vows strewn on the pavement.
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.
Turkey poses particular problems for the foreigner attempting to make sense of it. Istanbul, especially, appears to be quite Western, and in many ways it is. This seduces the observer into thinking it is more intelligible than it is. It is easy to believe that you know what’s going on and who stands where on the political compass. Quite often, you’re wrong.
WORLD AFFAIRS JOURNAL
The Turkish metropolis is one of the world’s safest big cities—but burglaries are booming. Why?
I walk alone through almost every neighborhood of Istanbul, often at night. This is a megacity of at least 12 million people, many of whom are poor and three-quarters of whom are under 35. Income distribution is gravely unequal. I am nonetheless less afraid—much less afraid—that I will be a victim of violent crime here than I am when I walk through London, Paris, or any big American city.
Following the deadly Schiphol air crash, Turkish Airlines faces questions about its safety standards.
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.
On Wednesday, Dutch authorities released a preliminary report indicating that the crash was caused by mechanical failure, exacerbated by severe pilot error: The aircraft's altimeter - which had malfunctioned twice in the past eight landings - was faulty, and the pilots failed to note this or respond appropriately. It has further been reported that a trainee pilot with less than 25 hours' experience of flying this kind of plane was at the controls.