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Please, don’t contribute to fascism in Turkey

Friday 14 December 2007, by Sylvia Tiryaki

Let me quote Murat Belge, to start with: "Please, don’t contribute to fascism in Turkey.’’ This is a concluding sentence of a prominent Turkish intellectual’s speech addressed to the representatives of the French political and civil society at a Paris conference last week.

I have borrowed these words not only because of their meaning but particularly because of the way they were articulated. It was not merely a sentence, uttered at the conference. There was much more in it: it was a pledge, a memorandum pronounced with the utmost seriousness and concern.

The new Turkish dynamics

And it was a necessary and timely reminder, whether understood and taken seriously or not by the targeted audience. At the seminar devoted to improvement of the communication between Turkey and France with the title ’’The New Turkish Dynamics: What Impact on the EU-Turkey relations?’’ organized jointly by the Turkish think-tank Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and its French partner Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (IFRI) it became once more obvious that there is never enough of the constructive communication spreading objective knowledge.

Since Turkey started its accession negotiations with the European Union on Oct. 3, 2005, ’’debating Turkey’’ became a popular topic in many EU member states. However, while on one hand it has been agreed by Turkey (as well as those in Europe who want the Turkish accession process to go on smoothly) that there is a need to discuss – and to communicate to the respective European public – what Turkey’s accession will mean in practical terms, the ’interest’ in Turkey for the sake of the ’interest’ is likely to have undesirable repercussions. Simply, sometimes too much of attention might cause harm.

’Debating Turkey’ became part of the domestic debates in many European countries and reporting about the events from Turkey has gained a wider coverage. But, when such coverage becomes a result of the reports prepared by people who rarely master Turkish language or perhaps — in some cases — have never been to Turkey, the picture presented to the public inevitably differs from the realities on the ground.

Moreover, and naturally again, any coverage is usually a subject to the selective approach following an appetite of a public for ’sexy’ themes. All these, underlined by the lack of a general knowledge about the country, presumably results into a rather deformed image of what in fact is happening in Turkey. Needless to say that it has nothing to do with, even it works against, the type of communication strategy envisaged for Turkey’s pre-accession period.

The persistent crisis

No doubt, freedom of expression dictates the course of developments. But then we shouldn’t be surprised by such situations, where for instance the entire interest (or perhaps curiosity?) of foreign public in Turkey’s affairs boils down to the questions about ’the persistent crisis’ in the country, followed by the helpless attempts of the Turkish counterparts to explain within the maximum limits of politeness that a third dimension is a sine qua non of the plastic vision of any matter.

Positive and well meant criticism from the EU member states would undoubtedly lead to the progressive responses from Turkey and is more than welcomed. But endless empty criticism of Turkey’s democratic shortcomings that many times sounds as if the deficiencies were understood as a static category, as an eternal impediment of Turkey’s accession, creates a fatigue even among the most enthusiastic supporters of the successful negotiations. When all this is reflected back to Turkey and topped for instance with blocking of ’’few’’ chapters – due to the petty political reasons of ’’some’’ small states – we already get to deal with various kinds of nationalist reactions.

There is no meaning in criticizing Turkey’s inefficiencies while already precluding negative results. If an active spreading of democratic know-how means too many sacrifices for some, the least what can be done is letting Turkey doing its job.

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Source : Monday, December 10, 2007 TDN

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