Camel greeting

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Republic of Turkey – 90th Anniversary

Tuesday was Independence Day. Well, in Turkey, 29 October is officially Republic Day, but it's like Independence Day, Thanksgiving, the Queens Birthday, VE Day, Guy Fawkes Night and Bastille Day rolled into one. Major celebrations are held all over the country to commemorate the day in 1923 when the Republic was officially proclaimed. This year the date took on special significance as the 90th anniversary, and in the wake of political demonstrations during the summer when some citizens voiced concerns over perceived threats to democracy and the sacred heritage of the Republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Fireworks over the Bosporus Bridge
Our district is an enclave of determined Kemalist Republicanism in a city whose politics are dominated by the Justice and Development Party, which also forms the national government. Baghdad Avenue, six kilometres of trendy bars and cafes, upmarket restaurants serving international cuisine, and purveyors of brand-named goods and apparel local and imported, has been readying itself all day for an evening of joyous celebration. From windows and balconies, lampposts and cables stretched across the avenue, red flags sport the white star and crescent, and banners bear likenesses of the great Father of modern Turkey. On every corner, street-sellers provide more of the same in sizes and prices to suit every pocket.

As for me, I am heading across the Bosporus Strait to the European shore, and the first stage of my journey is a bus ride to Kadıköy where crowds are already thick by 5pm. Kadıköy has been a Christian settlement since the early days of that religion's adoption by the Roman Empire. The Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon was held here in 451 CE, and even today, churches, Armenian and Eastern Orthodox, outnumber mosques. For that reason, attitudes to the consumption of alcohol are more relaxed than in traditional Muslim areas, and scores of bars, restaurants and cafes, old-style cinemas and a recently renovated opera house make it a popular resort for Asian Istanbulites seeking a night on the town.

But not for me. At least not tonight. A twenty-minute ferry ride and a quick trip on Tünel, the world's second-oldest (and its shortest) subway train, bring me to the lower end of Istiklal Avenue, one-and-a-half kilometres of seething crowds pursuing an evening of festivity in Istanbul's premier entertainment district. More so even than Kadıköy, the area known variously as Pera, Galata and Beyoğlu has long been the European face of this gateway city to the East. Here merchants from Genoa, Venice and other parts of Europe came hunting fortunes even in the days of Byzantine Rome, long before the Ottoman conquest, when the city was undeniably Constantinople. In later centuries, after it became the Ottoman capital, envoys from the Christian powers of Europe, denied the right to live within the walls of the ancient city, established their ambassadorial palaces here and watched the sun sink behind the domes and minarets of the exotic skyline, turning to flaming orange the narrow stretch of water they named the Golden Horn - no doubt to the perplexity of Ottoman citizens to whom its colour probably more closely resembled the muddy brown of the River Thames.

The ambience in Istiklal Avenue is markedly different from that on the Asian shore I have just left. Here youthful pleasure-seekers skirt around tank-like vehicles bearing bulldozer blades in front and water cannon in turrets on top; or jostle their way past armoured police toting long batons and carrying shields and helmets. Perhaps surprisingly, the mood seems quite relaxed, and officers of the law lounge in doorways or squat on the footpath conversing quietly with their mates as the crowds move around and past them.

My own course takes me to the North Shields, a replica English pub where I am to meet Robert, my English friend from Selçuk. We sip Turkish beer and chat for an hour or two before I begin the return journey home. Istiklal now is remarkably quiet, though perhaps most of the throng have settled into their own watering holes, or found somewhere else to join in the patriotic festivities. I have just missed the last Tünel train, so I amble down the hill past the 800 year-old Galata Tower, built by those Genoese in 1348. A decade or so ago I might have thought twice about braving this street alone after dark - but now it is well-lit, lined with small shops selling handcrafts and objets d'art, more cafes and bars, and filled with passers-by, and I make my way without let or hindrance to the jetty on the Golden Horn where I will board my ferry. Five bridges now span this narrow inlet of the sea, in Byzantine and Ottoman times a bustling harbour and port. The crossing beside my jetty is another thoroughfare of restaurants where tourists and Turks alike regale themselves with fish and rakı (or wine, or beer) as they watch the ferries disperse reflections of illuminated imperial mosques in the now black waters.

My ferry casts off, and soon we are cruising past Seraglio Point and the walls of Topkapı Palace, from where Ottoman Sultans ruled an empire exceeding five million km2 in area at its apogee in the late 17th century. Soon the immense dome of St Sophia comes into view, the 6th century Roman cathedral that was the largest church in Christendom for a thousand years, and a mosque for another five hundred, before being reincarnated as a museum by that courageous gentleman Atatürk. Next door is the less ancient but still impressive ‘Blue Mosque’ of Sultan Ahmet I, its six minarets asserting Islamic superiority over its older convert neighbour.

Nearing Kadıköy we pass the cranes and lights of the modern container port, then the chateau-like architecture of Haydarpaşa Train Station, built by friendly Germans in the early years of last century as an important staging post on what was planned as the Berlin-Baghdad railway. The First World War saw Germans and Ottomans share a losing fate, and the project was never completed. Baghdad Avenue, however, serves as a reminder of where we now are, geographically speaking - though the distinctly secular festivities still in progress indicate that Ataturk’s legacy produced a democratic republic somewhat different in character from its Middle Eastern neighbours. My dolmuş driver informs us passengers that he will not be able to reach the normal terminus of his route as police have closed the roads. Fully expecting to see a war zone of raging protesters, clouds of tear gas, respectable aunties with slingshots and innocent young women in red dresses felled by the water cannon of anonymous robo-cops, I set off to walk the last two kilometres home. No such thing eventuates. The bars and cafes of Baghdad Avenue are overflowing with goodwill, the footpaths still thronged with happy flag-waving patriots, as modern arrangements of revolutionary marches boom out from banks of speakers on the open-air stages.

God bless Atatürk, I say, and long live the Republic. For all the destructive talk about dictatorial Neo-Ottoman aspirations and the return of Sharia Law, I can't see the great man's achievements being undone, and I believe Turkey will continue to shine as a beacon of hope and possibilities in this troubled region.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Anatolian Crane - Symbol and reality

It's great to see a growing environmental awareness in Turkey. Local councils are encouraging residents to sort their garbage and take an interest in the recycling process - and the message is starting to get through. Bicycles are more in evidence on the streets of Istanbul - and not just the cheap supermarket model ridden by children and poor people who can't afford a car. Activists are protesting about the loss of green areas to urban development projects.

Demoiselle cranes -
sacred in religion and symbolic in folklore
All this is laudable, but in any country (excluding Singapore and Monaco perhaps) urban conglomerations make up a small percentage of the total land area. What goes on in those rural areas is arguably of greater importance than what happens in cities. In the end, a city is a place where nature is sacrificed to the needs and comforts of technology and civilisation.

Measured by land area Turkey is the second largest country in Europe, behind only Russia (the largest country in the entire world). Turkey is more than twice the size of Germany, and 30% larger than France. Not surprisingly, then, the empty spaces of Anatolia are home to varieties of plants, birds and animals that have died out in more developed parts of the continent. I came across an article in Today's Zaman, my English language Turkish newspaper, on the subject of the Anatolian, or Demoiselle, crane:

It is not an exaggeration to say that the crane is one of the most prominent symbols of Anatolian culture. If we look only at music, we see the crane appearing in Musa Eroğlu's folk song "Telli turnam selam götür sevgilimin diyarına…" (Oh my crane, carry my love to the lands of my lover…), or even in the group Yeni Türkü's folk song “Telli Turna” (Demoiselle Crane).

Biologist Ferdi Akarsu performed tireless research on these cranes of Anatolia for three years. Interestingly, he came across 45 different folksongs in the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) archive that deal with cranes. But are we talking just about folksongs? There are of course also sayings, carpets, hand embroidery and even religious ceremonies that include the crane. The “turna cemi” of the Alevis and the “sema” of the Mevlevis carry suggestions of this bird as well.
So what has happened to our birds? According to field research begun in 2010 by the Nature Association (headed by Akarsu), there are just 12 pairs of breeding Demoiselle Cranes left in Anatolia. The number of juvenile cranes is just 19. This research demonstrates that these cranes are disappearing faster than previously thought.  Read more . . .

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Of Simits, Bicycles and Other Great Wonders of the World

It's been talked about for some time but they finally closed the road. Motor vehicles now have to make their way from Yalıkavak to Bodrum and Turgutreis over the hills via a new bypass. I've made the crossing on the bicycle a few times, and the view over sparkling Aegean waters to the Greek Islands of Kalymnos and Leros is spectacular. It's quite a grunt though getting up there under pedal power, and not something I feel up to everyday on my morning pre-breakfast simit run to the village bakery.

Luckily our neighbour Ertuğrul told me he could still use the old road on his motor scooter, so I gave it a try - and sure enough, there's a narrow path between the high bank on one side and the archeological excavations on the other sufficient for pedestrian traffic, cyclists and the cows and horses of local farmers.

Myndos necropolis excavations
on the road to the village bakery
It has long been known that the coastal Turkish village of Gümüşlük is built on the site of the ancient city of Myndos. Large finely cut stones visible in the shallow waters of the bay and reused in the construction of more recent buildings, sections of marble columns peeking through the dust of country lanes and a perfect natural harbour suggest that this spot would be, and in fact has been for long centuries, a very nice place to live. A bilingual sign in Turkish and more or less decipherable English provides one or two tantalising details, but it is only in the last five years or so that archeologists from several Universities in Turkey and Hamburg in Germany have begun serious work on unearthing what lies below ground level.

Myndos lay in a region known in ancient times as Caria, after the people who may or may not have been related to the Leleges (whoever they were), but in any case spoke an indigenous Anatolian language and may have been the original inhabitants of the land. Their main claim to fame lies, or lay, in the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, a stupendous funerary monument erected around 350 BCE by Artemisia, queen of Caria, for her much-loved husband (and brother!) Mausolus. This edifice was numbered among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and apparently survived in recognisable form until the arrival of Crusading Christians, who demolished it to build a castle in the 15th century.

‘Today,’ according to Wikipedia, ‘the massive castle of the Knights of Malta still stands in Bodrum, and the polished stone and marble blocks of the Mausoleum can be spotted built into the walls of the structure. At the site of the Mausoleum, only the foundation remains, and a small museum. Some of the surviving sculptures at the British Museum include fragments of statues and many slabs of the frieze showing the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons. There the images of Mausolus and his queen watch over the few broken remains of the beautiful tomb she built for him.’

If all goes well, the ongoing excavations at Gümüşlük will unearth sufficient material to establish a museum in situ providing deeper insights into the history of the area. International law these days will probably prevent too many of the finds relocating to museums abroad. So far, a small temple to the God Apollo has been unearthed as well as remains of a basilica church from the early Christian period, and my route to the bakery skirts around work in progress on a pre-Christian necropolis – proof again, if more were needed, that there is more history still beneath the ground in Turkey than can be seen in a quick tour of Troy, Ephesus and Cappadocia.

In March alone this year, in various parts of Turkey, archeologists found tombs in Ortakent, just down the road from Gümüşlük, containing bones dating back to the Mycenean era 3,500 years ago; Byzantine tombs from the 11th century were found in Tokat province; and, a 2,000-year-old bust of a king was discovered during excavations in the ancient city of Stratonikeia in Muğla's Yatağan district. Two months later, a team working in Balıkesir province on an ancient site known as Cyzicus brought to light ‘the largest ever capital from Roman times’, a twenty-ton chunk of carved marble from a huge temple Professor Nurettin Öztürk of Erzurum Atatürk University is calling the Eighth Wonder of the World. In 2012, when a period of drought lowered the level of Lake Küçükçekmece on the western outskirts of Istanbul, the receding waters revealed remains of a harbour town Bathonea, dating from the 2nd century BCE.

Clearly there is more than enough ancient stuff waiting to be discovered beneath the soil and waters of Turkey to keep armies of archeologists happy into the foreseeable future turning up statuary and artifacts to fill new museums by the dozen and score. So perhaps we might expect the Turkish government to ease back a little in its demands on foreign establishments to return artifacts it considers to have been illicitly obtained.

Not likely though. Despite greater international awareness of illegal markets in artworks and artifacts and more stringent laws and requirements to check provenance, the existence of a market with high spending power, as any economist will tell you, inevitably creates a supply. An indication of this is an article I came across recently about a London-based company that specialises in tracing and returning stolen works of art. The Art Loss Register operates in dark corners and stratospheric altitudes of the international art market to return paintings by Cézanne, Sisley and Matisse to their rightful owners - so long as they can pay the company's fee. It's a high end niche in the free market economy and not every victim of art theft can afford the price - least of all museums and galleries struggling for survival in an environment increasingly focused on bottom-line accounting. They are more likely to rely on their national government to bring moral and other pressure to bear on organisations or individuals they consider to be harbouring misappropriated treasures.

Turkey is not alone in this, though it has been perhaps one of the countries to suffer most over the years. My own homeland New Zealand has no eons of history to compare with those of the Eastern Mediterranean - but even we have been active in the business of repatriating heritage items. New Zealand was one of the last significant land masses on the planet to be invaded by colonists from Europe, and the native Maori people were, within the last two hundred years, living a life of noble savagery, hunting, gathering, fishing, a little agriculture, making war, enslaving, eating and, to the horrified delight of the British upper classes, preserving the tattooed heads of their vanquished enemies. Such heads became much sought after by enterprising colonists who apparently established a profitable little export business supplying the drawing-rooms back home.

Mummified tattooed Maori head
Again the forces of economics came into play. Traditionally it was illustrious chiefs and celebrated warriors who sported the most elaborate tattoos – and a well-preserved trophy head had such cultural significance to the Maori people that they had a word for it (actually two words) in their language: toi moko. However, it seems two spin-offs of the flourishing export trade were an increasing reluctance of chiefs and warriors to add to the removal value of their head by having themselves tattooed, and a parallel growth in the practice of tattooing slaves prior to beheading them to feed the insatiable demand of the new market.

In recent years, with a developing awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples, and a sense of guilt among descendants of the invading colonists, voices have been raised insisting on the return of the sacred remains of ancestors for proper respectful interment. The most recent case has involved the handing over of a mummified tattooed Maori head from a museum in the island of Guernsey. According to a spokesman at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, there are more than 650 Maori ancestral remains housed in overseas institutions,’ and requests are being made to get them back.

It’s a complex business. Post-modern attitudes to tattooing, decapitating and mummifying the heads of neighbours and slaves being what they are, there is a natural sympathy for the sensitivities of Maori folks who may want to see great grandfather’s head laid to rest in a decent burial with the rest of his body, if that can be located. On the other hand, there is a fear in some circles that giving in to these demands may create a dangerous precedent that will lend strength to the arguments of others wanting, say the Elgin Marbles returned to Greece, and the Parthian Frieze to Turkey.

In times of uncertain morality, it seems to become, paradoxically, more important for individuals and nations to raise their flag on the moral high ground. So French authorities, for example, are arguing that human body parts possess a sacred significance that is absent from works of art or relics of ancient civilisations. Returning an ancestral mummified head to family in New Zealand, they insist, in no way implies an obligation to send, for example, the Mona Lisa back to Italy.

The British Crown Dependency of Guernsey is an interesting historical oddity some 50 km off the coast of France, and 120 from the English mainland. Along with Gibraltar and the Falklands, its location places it in a geographical and political limbo – though Gurns (as the natives are apparently called) have taken advantage of their dodgy political status as a bailiewick (whatever that may be) to build a prosperous economy based on banking, fund management and tax evasion. It seems, however, that cash-strapped EU member nations are bringing pressure to bear on the Gurns to adopt less edgy financial practices. Possibly the islanders, who, after all, are the personal vassals of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, want to make a statement. We are holier than thou in the field of repatriating controversial antiquities, so let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Most importantly, the road to the village bakery remains open, at least to pedestrians, cows and cyclists.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

What Would Atatürk Say - if he came back today?

One of the things that impressed me in my first years living and working in Turkey was the seemingly unabashed patriotism in evidence everywhere I looked – pictures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic in every school classroom and government office; statues of the great man in every public square throughout the land; the national anthem sung with fervour at football matches, public ceremonies and school assemblies; the army held up as the sacred guardian of democracy and secularism; the nation’s flag an object of pride and revered symbol of those who had spilt their blood, even given their lives to establish the Republic of Turkey.

'That watch changed the destiny of a nation'
For me, coming from a country where the gloss of patriotism had been long since tarnished by the lies of scheming politicians, it was a touching experience to be amongst a people so clearly imbued with such loyalty to their nation and belief in the rectitude of their young republic. I remember, in New Zealand, a time when cinema audiences would stand, as the curtain rose, to a stirring performance of ‘God Save our Gracious Queen!’ Younger generations would hardly imagine that such naïveté was ever possible.

That gracious lady was queen, not of New Zealand alone, but of the British Empire, whose star was beginning to fade. The loss of India, embarrassment in Egypt, Iran and Malaya, and the rise to global supremacy of the USA and the USSR, were beginning to push Westminster, London, to the sidelines of world affairs. The threat of nuclear global annihilation, the madness and hypocrisy of the war in Vietnam and a growing awareness of the plight of minority peoples were producing a generation of youth cynical about those in power and not afraid to express their opposition. As New Zealanders remained seated prior to watching the latest exploits of James Bond on cinema screens, the British national anthem was sent happy and glorious to the trashcan of colonial history.

Of course, there are those who may still shed a tear for the passing of a great age, which undoubtedly brought benefits to the world as well as harm. So it is understandable that, in Turkey, there are fears in some circles that abolishing the requirement for primary school students to recite the Oath of Turkishness marks the end of Atatürk’s secular experiment, and clearly demonstrates the anti-republican agenda of the incumbent government. But is it really so?

The secular republic that Mustafa Kemal and his followers established in 1923 was paradoxically overwhelmingly Muslim in the composition of its population. The imperial ambitions and expansion of its northern and western neighbours over two centuries had seen a huge influx to the Anatolian heartland of Muslim refugees expelled from their ancestral homelands, and the encouragement of nationalist secessionist activities within the Ottoman Empire.

When that empire was fighting vainly for its very existence in the First World War, and shortly after its death republican forces expelled foreign armies of occupation, the continued presence of Christian minorities became virtually untenable outside of cosmopolitan Istanbul. The freedom-fighting spirit that Mustafa Kemal harnessed to fight the invaders was a pragmatic coalition of Turkish nationalists, patriotic Ottomans and proud Muslims of many backgrounds. There was a need to unite against a common enemy that inevitably masked differences which later emerged: indigenous groups (Kurds, Laz, Arabs) and refugee immigrants (Circassian, Crimean Tatar, Greek) with their own distinctive languages and cultures; Muslims who did not identify with the Sunni majority (Alevi); Jews and tiny remaining Christian groups, all of whom, to a greater or lesser extent, found themselves obliged to mouth jingoistic slogans of Turkish nationalism with which they felt little affinity.

So the oath that children in schools had been obliged to recite since 1932 has finally been shelved as part of the democratisation package recently introduced by the Turkish parliament. Will that mean the end of secular Turkey? I don’t think so. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk laid down six principles as the foundation stones of his new republic: republicanism, nationalism, secularism, populism, étatism, and reformism/revolutionism. Since his day, the country has been ruled by a ‘secular’ elite. When an elected government strayed too far from the ‘approved’ path, the army could be relied on to step in, remove them and guide the nation back . . . to what?

Nationalism is only one-sixth of those six principles – and to retain its integrity in the long-term, the republic must formulate a definition of ‘nation’ that is inclusive rather than exclusive. Secularism means separation of church (or mosque) and state - it doesn't mean the abolition of religion. The vast majority of Turkey's population is Muslim. All democratically elected governments have to pay lip service to this, and most have done far more. Populism means equality, but you don't have to be long in Turkey to see that there is an unofficial class system lurking not far below the surface, and the military has been intimately bound up with its preservation. Etatism was a mixed economic model that allowed for private enterprise while acknowledging a need for state involvement and oversight – perhaps the ‘Third Way’ that Tony Blah’s New Labour Party in the UK was seeking but never found. Free market capitalists hate it, of course, since it implies state-imposed limits on human greed – and this Kemalist principle fell from favour. What happened to reformism/revolutionism? Successive governments became conservative and used Kemalism/Atatürkçülük as a stick to ensure conformity.

Alongside the statues and pictures of Atatürk you will always find sayings attributed to Turkey’s great founder and leader. Once again, however, there has been a tendency to pick and choose which ones will be remembered and which laid aside. Perhaps the most important of these is the one which goes (freely translated): ‘It is not enough to see my face. The important thing is to understand my ideas and my motives.’[1] Atatürk himself said, ‘There are two Mustafa Kemals: one is the creature of flesh and bone you see before you; the other is the spirit of revolutionary idealism that lives inside all of us.’[2]

Being a true Kemalist, then, is not about hanging his picture on your wall and admiring his steely blue eyes. It does not mean just taking on board the principles that suit your interests and quietly sidelining the others. The words in Atatürk’s Address to Turkish Youth cut two ways - if your fortresses and shipyards are under foreign control it is your duty to rebel and fight. He achieved what he did, founded the republic with vision, determination, popular support and strong leadership. Following him now and in the future means studying his ideas and understanding what he did and why he did it.

For one thing, Atatürk recognised that military victory was only the beginning of the new republic’s struggle. In the long-term, all the achievements of the army would be lost without continued economic development and sharing of prosperity amongst all citizens, not just the privileged few. Leadership does not mean sitting comfortably in your palace enjoying the benefits of civilisation while sending others to do the fighting and the dying. Ataturk won the respect of his people and the right to make hard decisions that not everyone agreed with - including many of the privileged elite - by being a leader who led from the front. He was prepared to put his credibility and life on the line. In the 1915 action known in Turkey as Anafartalar, and to Anzacs as Chunuk Bair, he was at the head of his troops setting an example for others to follow, and the fob watch that stopped a fragment of shrapnel from entering his heart is a powerful symbol of this.

Atatürk is often called the first teacher of the new republic. He emphasised the importance of education for all, and one of the aims of his alphabet reform[3] was to make literacy more accessible. Everyone knows that the education system in Turkey is in desperate need of a makeover. The state system is seriously underfunded, and allowing the private sector to take up the slack is not the answer. It may quieten the privileged minority who can afford to send their children to private schools, but it does not provide quality education. In the end, the main aim of private business is to maximise profits, which, whatever idealistic slogans are propounded by the owners, translates to bums on seats, window-dressing and reducing teacher salaries, which are always the largest item of expenditure.

In recent years the government of Turkey has been pushing ahead with moves to revamp the constitution. These moves have met with considerable resistance from the conservative opposition. From their objections, an outsider might get the impression that the existing constitution was the sacred one written by Atatürk and his brothers-in-arms back in the 1920s – a document akin to the Ten Commandments, set down in stone for all time, infallible and immutable. In fact, the document they so staunchly defend was penned by the generals who carried out the military coup in 1980. It instituted provisions to keep Kurds out of parliament, suppress left wing politics, and used religion and extreme nationalism to gain support for its moves. That constitution is desperately in need of change, but it takes time to carry out serious structural reform in a democratic environment. When criticism comes from both extremes, we may think that the reformers have got it about right. The first necessary change was to pull the teeth of the military who had been the force behind those wishing to retain the status quo. Europe and the US may secretly prefer to deal with dictatorial regimes when doing so simplifies the business of looking after their own interests - but they will never welcome such countries into equal partnership. For Turkey, accepting the result of the ballot box is an important step on the road to establishing a truly democratic republic.

The foreign policy of the government is another area in which Turkey comes in for considerable criticism. On the one hand, it is said that Mr Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is in the pocket of the United States, slavishly doing their bidding like a well-trained lapdog. On the other hand, the accusers assert that Turkey is following a Neo-Ottoman path aimed at undoing secular democratic reforms and restoring Islamic Shariah law. It’s hard to imagine that both accusations can be true – although US friendship with the hand-amputating, woman-flogging Wahhabi extremist Muslim Saudi royal family suggests that they have fewer objections to fundamentalist Islamic dictators than they would have us believe.

Interestingly, the government of Turkey is about to purchase a new rocket defence system from China. The project was put out to tender and the Chinese bid was not only the lowest, but the Chinese also included in the deal an undertaking to share technological expertise, and help Turkey to carry out much of the manufacturing of hardware within its own borders. Tenders from Western nations (and Russia, whose bid was also passed over) did not include such cooperation. Of course, no country, especially one as strategically located as Turkey, can afford the luxury of divorcing itself from the world's only superpower. However this government has proved to those with eyes to see that it is by no means in America's pocket, and is capable of formulating and following its own policies for the good of its own people.

A recent news item announced that New Zealand had been visited by several Chinese warships - I wonder what US leaders think of that. NZ, however, unlike Turkey, is far from the highways of geo-politics and strategy, and like a small child, can count on a little parental indulgence. When NZ's Labour government back in the 70s instituted a ban on nuclear-powered and armed vessels in its waters, the US were naturally peeved, but they lived with it. I wonder if the Chinese vessels currently in Auckland Harbour have nuclear technology on board, or if the Chinese government would let on if they did.

Getting back to Atatürk, he sought and received help from Soviet Russia during Turkey’s War of Liberation. Atatürk was not a Communist but he was a realist. The West would divide and annihilate his country. They were supporting the Greek invasion. If the new Soviet state would aid his struggle, he would accept their aid and deal with the consequences later. As far as I understand, there were none. No doubt Turkey's membership of NATO meant that it had the backing of the US and Western Europe to discourage Soviet incursion during the Cold War - but the West too undoubtedly benefited from Turkey's large military, and from being able to locate bases on Turkish soil. It wasn't a one-way street.

The second decade of the twenty-first century is shaping to be an interesting one for Turkey. The economy continues to show strong signs of good health and growth. Undoubtedly, political problems in the region continue to pose problems, not only locally, but for the world beyond. Turkey is on the spot. It has a long history of dealing with its neighbours, and Western powers would do well to soft-pedal their criticism and lend an ear to what Turkish spokespersons on foreign policy have to say. As for the people of Turkey, I have heard some express a nostalgic wish for a resurrected Atatürk to return to the nation’s helm. It can’t happen, of course – but I suspect that, if he were looking down from somewhere on high, he would not be totally disappointed with the current state of the republic he founded.

[1] Beni görmek demek, mutlaka yüzümü görmek değildir. Benim fikirlerimi, benim duygularımı anlıyorsanız ve hissediyorsanız bu kâfidir.
[2] İki Mustafa Kemal vardır: Biri ben, et ve kemik, geçici Mustafa Kemal... İkinci Mustafa Kemal, onu "ben" kelimesiyle ifade edemem; o, ben değil, bizdir!
[3] Abolishing the Arabic alphabet in favour of a Latin-based one.