Imagining Turkey

Fredag, 4. Juni 2010     3 kommentti(a)
Johanna Nykänen

Adversaries of Turkey’s EU membership are on a constant lookout for better arguments against Turkey joining the EU. After all, we have all heard the usual: Turkey is supposedly non-European, non-Western, too big, too poor and too Islamic. And despite all this, there are still many who continue to support Turkey’s accession. Well, there is finally good news for the tireless campaigners against Turkey’s EU bid. Charlemagne, columnist for the Economist, writes in his blog that the sight of Turkish demonstrators in the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, protesting against Israel killing activists aboard the Gaza flotilla and chanting "death to Israel" and "God is Great", will be the final nail in Turkey’s EU coffin for many Europeans. The tide will turn with Europeans gasping in unison: “Whoa, that really does not look like a European country.”

Reading Charlemagne’s piece, I am not sure whether to be more baffled by his ostensibly low regard for the intellectual capacity of the average European or by his hints of Europe bearing the brunt of Turks’ protests should it reject Turkey from the EU. While the latter is downright scaremongering, the former shows that for many democracy still parallels closely with ochlocracy.

But most importantly, while it is true that the cumulative impact of images and television footage on public opinion can be considerable, with our own protesters in the streets of Athens, Paris or London providing us with a constant flow of images saturated with both verbal and physical violence, it is hard to see the average EU citizen choking on his morning coffee by the sight of an angry Turk taking to the streets. And when it comes to judging a country’s civilized credentials by the behaviour of its demonstrators, this is taking it a bit too far. Protests are no tea parties and there are always a few who cross the line of reasonable behaviour. Those few are hardly a representation of a whole nation, which even Charlemagne admits: “It is risky to judge a country from a demonstration involving a few thousand people”.

It is often not visual but mental images that have the most powerful impact on our understanding of the world around us. And those mental images are often delivered to us in writing that claims impartiality. Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, would have a lot to say about this.

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Keskustelu (3 kommenttia)

6.6.2010, Savino Rua

Dear Johanna,
Thanks for the post. A couple of comments:

1) Personally, I have a slightly different "image" of the Charlemagne´s contribution you comment upon. Charlemagne says:" I do not think that Europe has lost Turkey, at least not yet". In short, it seems to me there is more optimism in his piece that what is seems like by reading your post. Moreover, Charlemagne writes for the Economist which, as he himself admits, is in favour of Turkey´s bid for joining the EU. By reading your post, the impression I got is that Charlemagne is one of those "tireless campaigners against Turkey´s EU bid", yet this does not seem to be the case.

2) Now, leaving images aside and moving to facts: I think that what Europeans should be concerned about is not simply the images of the protesters and their songs, rather it is the recently growing hostility of the Turkish government towards Israel which should alarm all of those who support Turkey´s EU accession. It is in both the EU and Turkey´s interest to promote peace in the Middle East. Yet, Turkey´s fury over the flotilla attack last Monday goes exactly in the opposite direction, as its effort - together with Brasil - to cut a nuclear deal with Iran.


Dear Savino Rua,

Thank you for your comments.

As regards your first point, it may well be that Charlemagne supports Turkey's EU membership, but his blog did certainly no favours to it. Personally, my alarms go off when somebody throws in speculations on people's reactions without signing up to them.

When it comes to Turkey-Israel relations, facts are indeed important. And those facts tell us that, as Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül stated last week, Turkey's military programmes with Israel are to remain in place. While it is true that bilateral relations between the countries have deteriorated, military trade cooperation is still important part of it. I would hesitate to call Turkey's approach towards Israel downright "hostility"; I would rather see it in a wider context of Turkey reinventing itself as a regional power and attempting to legitimize that by gaining the "moral ground". Alas, it is very possible that this will involve some less-than-wise diplomatic moves.

Johanna Nykänen

11.6.2010, Kenneth Sikorski

You all are more optimistic than you should be, Turkey has taken a decisive turn to the Islamic East. You totally underestimate the Islamic fundamentalist underpinnings of this current regime, and their ties to nefarious radical Islamic organizations as this Mavi Marmara incident shows.

Your time would be better spent exploring the connections between the PM and Milli Gurus and the IHH, as well as the two latter groups' connection to Hamas. International attention should be focused squarely on the Turkish government's role in the Mavi Marmara incident, the false assurances that regime gave J'lem after the latter pleaded with them not to allow the ship passage to Gaza, and why it was the 40-50 men cleary involved in preparing for a violent encounter with the IDF, were allowed to board the ship in Istanbul, while the other passengers were "checked" in another port.

Yes, you'll have to ask yourselves these hard questions before you start looking at the present day Turkish regime with blue eyes. As for the Americans, they've always had a simplistic look at Turkish envlovement with Europe, choosing to ignore the Islamic component. Totally naieve.

Watch this German report of the Grey Wolves no less, a Leftist Turkish Neo-fascist group on board the Mavi Marmara. Tell me now that this group didn't recieve a go ahead from the Turks.."who screened" all the passengers.

This government has taken a major shift towards radical Islam, making the Turks even more less likely a candidate for admittance into the EU.

Kenneth Sikorski

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