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?”
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.
Turkey’s Marxist terrorists strike again—this time, against America.
4 February 2013
Americans seem surprised that the February 1 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was carried out not by Islamists but by a Marxist—specifically, by a member of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, or DHKP/C. But no one in Turkey was remotely surprised.
THE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
While Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan needs no introduction, the Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen is probably the most important person you’ve never heard about. He is an immensely powerful figure in Turkey, and—to put it mildly—a controversial one. He is also an increasingly powerful figure globally. Today, there are between three and six million Gülen followers. Gülen leads the cemaat, an Islamic civil society movement, that has until now been critical to the electoral success of Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). The cemaat is often described as Turkey’s Third Force—the other two being the AKP and the military.
Controversial Muslim preacher, feared Turkish intriguer—and “inspirer” of the largest charter school network in America.
With the American economy in shambles, Europe imploding, and the Middle East in chaos, convincing Americans that they should pay attention to a Turkish preacher named Fethullah Gülen is an exceedingly hard sell. Many Americans have never heard of him, and if they have, he sounds like the least of their worries. According to his website, he is an “authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader and educational activist who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turning religion into a political ideology.” The website adds that “by some estimates, several hundred educational organizations such as K–12 schools, universities, and language schools have been established around the world inspired by Fethullah Gülen.” The site notes, too, that Gülen was “the first Muslim scholar to publicly condemn the attacks of 9/11.” It also celebrates his modesty.
Yet there is a bit more to the story.
GATESTONE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL
An unshocking admission: I've made some ungodly-embarrassing retraction-worthy journalistic mistakes over the course of my career. Almost every journalist does. It's hard to write about complex events at once quickly, without boring your readers witless, and without making mistakes. One example in particular embarrasses me; I'll share it with you at the end of this piece. For now, I point this out to set the stage: When I criticize my colleagues, as I am about to do, I hardly mean to suggest that I do so from a platform of unblemished faultlessness.
But criticize I must. Something has gone very wrong in American coverage of news from abroad. It is shoddy, lazy, riddled with mistakes, and excessively simplistic.
Above all, it is absent.