I had written several blogs about Turkey earlier this year, including both political commentary and highlighting some of its fascinating treasures such as Ephesus and Cappadocia. Because of the government’s continued spiral downward toward religious fascism, I am reiterating some of that information, but always tempered with art, culture, history. Life requires diversity or we would all go crazy.
Turkey’s current tragedy drags at me because I loved Turkey: the people, its deeply fascinating history, the art, the cuisine, the landscapes. During our ten-year circumnavigation, Turkey eased my entrance back to the Western world. It’s the geophysical bridge connecting Europe and Greece—our cradle of Western civilization on its border—to that of the Middle East, with Syria and Iraq to the south; and with what used to be Persia and Armenia, to the east.
Here is a quote from my book, Voice of a Voyage: Rediscovering the World During a Ten-year Circumnavigation, that is ominously prescient of today’s situation.
“Along the coast, so dependent on a tourist economy for their well-being, there was a growling antagonism, but never in strident voices. This was not cultural. Turks have never been afraid to express their opinions loudly and clearly. As I conversed with a few young men, from whom I had bought some tapestries, I sensed a mist of fear couched in their political complaints. They looked over their shoulders in case someone was listening and they spoke quietly.”
Turkey has been a relatively successful secular democratic country making strides, but now, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, is acting like a classic fascist. And no one in the West addresses it. Erdogan attacked Kurdish troops, under the cover of attacking ISIS. He has silenced opposition, and now he has taken over the main, formerly independent, newspaper in Turkey, “Zaman,” the largest circulation daily, and violently. No sidling up to the editor to suggest a more positive view of his presidency. Tear gas, water canons, firing of staff, and two days later the paper is spewing his line. After the recent coup attempt, his repressive actions have increased. And, since the coup attempt, he has support. Understandably, people want stability, but I hope they don’t lose their democracy in the process.
Erdogan is attempting to resurrect memories (if not the same territory) of the Ottoman Empire including forcing the teaching of the early Arabic-influenced Ottoman language and religious principles in the schools. Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey as a successful, secular democracy, will be turning over in his grave.
The West, mainly the EU, needs Turkey as a bulwark against the flood of refugees. Leaders from Putin to Merkle to Obama to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and everyone in between must know the only way to stem the tide of refugees is to establish stability in the area. Stability not based on authoritarianism, fascism, and the silencing of one’s critics, but on representation of all groups. Turkey needs to learn that one in reference to the Kurds. In the meantime, Turkey may be lunging into darkness, and Erdogan is responsible.
A shopping area mainly for tourists on the coast.
A classic gulak now used for tourists.
The former Ottoman Empire.