Bad news for illiberals in Turkey
19 March 2016
Can Turkey turn into a little Russia? That is what businesspeople ask me these days. They see the current government not for what it is, but what it is not: liberal. And they want to know whether this illiberalism can grow in strength.
Can Turkey make Europe more effective?
12 March 2016
In a recent Financial Times article, Wolfgang Münchau claimed that today’s refugee crisis posed a greater threat to the EU’s future than the euro area debates ever did. “After nearly 60 years of European integration,” argued Münchau, “We are entering the age of disintegration. It will not necessarily lead to a formal break-up of the EU - this is extremely unlikely - but it will make the EU less effective.” The article was written before the EU-Turkey migration summit on March 7, a meeting where nobody was expecting a surprise move. Yet, Turkey made one. So where are we now? Can Turkey save Europe from disintegration? Can Turkey make Europe more effective? It depends.Let me start by expanding on the Turkish move. Up until now, Turkey considered itself an outsider to the EU’s inter
The little China on Turkey’s doorstep
05 March 2016
I was in Tehran recently on a day trip. There was a fresh feeling in the air, a kind of happiness that bubbles over and makes you anxious. It’s as if Iran is about to enter get married to globalization, it’s the night before, and the country has a collective bellyache.
Which is more significant, Brexit or the migration crisis?
27 February 2016
A spectre is haunting Europe, once again nowadays - the spectre of who is calling the shots in the old continent. The epic struggle between European capitals and Brussels is approaching a critical juncture. Like so many times in European history, Turkey’s stance will be critical in deciding the fate of the continent.
Why Turkey needs the constitutional commission
20 February 2016
The Interparty Parliamentary Panel tasked with drafting a new constitution, also known as the “Constitutional Commission,” lasted only three sessions. “This commission has ended.” İsmail Kahraman, the Speaker of the Parliament allegedly said in that ill-fated last meeting. These reports have not been refuted, so I assume they reflect reality. I find this a grave mistake, first of all, on the part of the Speaker himself. It was his task to keep the flame flickering, but it appears as though he is having difficulty in understanding the immensity of the task he was entrusted with. A pity. PM Davutoğlu, realizing the importance of the commission, is struggling to salvage the ship sunk by the incompetence of its captain.
Get ‘Gershad’ to dodge the morality police in Iran
13 February 2016
I was overjoyed the other day to hear that Iranian youths have developed a mobile app that helps people dodge the patrols of Ershad, Iran’s morality police. The Ershad check whether Iranian citizens’ outfit or makeup undermines the social order: If a woman’s headscarf reveals too much of her hair, for example, she gets told to cover up properly.There are two types of governments in the world: Governments that send around mobile traffic police patrols and governments that send around mobile morality police patrols. The first is a service to the people; the second is an attempt to control them. Unfortunately, governments in our region have a fascination with sartorial habits. The Kemalists were allergic to headscarves and made people wear Western-style hats; the Islamists infamous
Policy reforms in Turkey and Iran
06 February 2016
Today there are two types of countries in our region, the Middle East and North Africa. Within these two categories there are countries that are functioning market economies and those that aren’t. The first category is rather lonely: only Turkey and Israel have functioning market economies in our neighborhood. In the other countries, you need to get on well with the political elites to gain access to markets. If political relations are down, the best products and services at the best prices won’t be enough to get access. This has significant consequences. If your economy is sputtering while the world around you keeps going, public discontent will sooner or later erupt into protest. I see the election of President Rouhani as the start of a process of pragmatic transformation in Ir
A new Turkish constitution is good for peace in Syria
30 January 2016
Turkey’s insistence on the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) not getting an invitation to participate in the Geneva peace talks has made an already messy situation even messier. Yet it is understandable. The PYD was a small Syrian Kurdish organization established by Abdullah Öcalan, the now-jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), during his exile to Damascus in the 1980s. The group has now become the major force in Syrian Kurdistan, getting direct military support from the West. This means that Turkey’s allies are giving a sister organization of the PKK - a separatist outfit they recognize as a terrorist organiztion - direct military support. This has changed the scales of Turkey’s reconciliation process.The Syrian civil war complicated Turkey’s reconciliat
Will the Kurdish song end here?
23 January 2016
Is this the end of the Kurdish reconciliation process? Do the aggressive anti-PKK operations in the southeast of the country mean that Turkey is going back to the 1990s? I don’t think so. Why? Simple. Because Turkey in 2016 is different from Turkey in the 1990s in very important ways. It is so different that we will see a new dynamic unfolding this time. Let me explain.
Is a bon pour L’Orient governance enough for Turkey?
16 January 2016
Turkey belongs to the Middle East. So said 58% of participants to a recent Kadir Has (Khas) University survey. At first, I was surprised to see this result. Turks usually prefer to see themselves as being part of Europe. We constantly underline our country’s Europeanness, be it in saying that we have the “biggest truck fleet in Europe,” or our membership in the Erasmus student exchange program. But perhaps things are changing. The Khas survey conducted in the first half of this past December indicates the emergence of a new pattern. Let me elaborate.