Where to get news from Turkey

June 12, 2013 at 10:07 am (Civil liberties, democracy, islamism, Jim D, protest, secularism, solidarity, the cops, thuggery, turkey, voltairespriest, youth)

‘Voltaire’s Priest’, who founded Shiraz Socialist back in 2006, is exceptionally well informed about Turkish politics and has a number of Turkish contacts. Sadly, he’s no longer involved with the blog, but we’re still friends. I contacted him yesterday for advice about sources of information on the fast-developing crisis in Turkey, and Erdogan’s brutal clampdown on protesters…

Above: riot police in Taksim Square yesterday

…he recommended the mainstream liberal- secular Hurriyet Daily News (English language version here), and a fascinating blog called Istanbul and Beyond:

Here’s a flavour:

I must be careful of words—the old cliches don’t work anymore. Freedom, democracy, liberty, tolerance—the wrong people have used them for the wrong things for so many years. Sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with bad. My ears hurt to hear them.

So let me paint a picture.
.
Gezi Park, Taksim Square—The heart of Istanbul. To the left of the stairs that lead to the park, the Kurds dance the Halay in an everwidening circle. The Kurdish flag flies and the radio blasts guerilla songs. A crowd moves past them—‘Turkey for the Turks’ Kemalists most likely with red star and crescent banners emblazened with Atatürk’s face. They chant ‘We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!’ Down the path a little bit, they will come across a group of gay men marching in the other direction chanting, ‘We are NOBODY’S soldiers.’ They are hamming it up big time. Between the two converging groups you find a tent for the Turkish Socialist Party—old school hardliners, and another tent of middle-aged Armenian churchladies distributing cookies. Down in the main square, some Black Sea people dance the wild horon.
.
A few weeks ago, things would have been very different. The Kurds and Kemalists would have been fighting in the streets; the gay men harassed or jeered, maybe by the Black Sea boys, the Armenians would have been trying to keep a low profile and everyone would have beeb watching what they said—as afraid of each other, even, as they are of the government. But in Gezi Park this weekend they are all here, speaking out, without fear or censure. They don’t necessarily like each other—make no mistake about that–but they tolerate each other, they leave each other alone.
.
The media calls it a carnival or a festival or a party. But it’s much more organized than that—a funhouse reflection of a state. And together our protesters have created a miniature city within a city that reflects the dream of Martin Luther King—however ephemeral, however tenuous, however fast the army of police and marauders approach, people feel ‘free at last’.
.
Together, these disparate groups have built a ‘Museum of the Revolution’ pasting pictures of the police attacks and subsequent resistance in the abandoned trailer of the construction crew’s foreman. They have transformed the overturned and looted cars of the civil police into day-glo platforms of free speech—everyone grabs a spray can and writes what they think. And, in a first for Turkey, they write it with no fear or hesitation.
.
They’ve created a ‘Market of the Uprising’ where they distribute drinks for free. They set up a ‘children’s studio’ where kids get messy with tempera paints and create whatever they hell picture they want on huge sheets of white paper, emerging from their efforts covered in color.
.
They have trash teams that do clean up of the grounds and somehow have managed to publish two newspapers ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘The Future’ which they distribute among the hundreds of thousands of people who come to visit every day. They’ve set up a television station (online of course), a radio station, several different websites in a multiplicity of languages. They’ve created a ‘Parliament’ where different people come and debate each other and a moderator turns off their microphone whenever they get aggressive or insulting.
Now let me give you a bit of what Erdoğan’s AKP has in mind for these people—in case you couldn’t guess from the continuing brutal police attacks and arrests in Antakya, Ankara, Eskişehir and Izmir. Or from the tortures of detainees here in Istanbul (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/sex-as-a-police-punishment-.aspx?pageID=500&eid=258#.UbHIMd3zpWI.facebook)

11 Comments

  1. Andrew Coates said,

    An extremely useful Blog. I’m glad you have publicised it. Like many of us I’ve been looking for something seriously informed about Turkey.

    Great!

  2. daggi said,

    Hürriyet is interesting, as I don’t know of many other sources of information in English from Turkey – but I would point out that its owners are heavily influenced by the German right-wing media conglomerate Axel Springer AG, who currently own 10% and are to increase their shareholiding to 29% in the near future. I’ve never noticed anything Springer is involved in as being described as “mainstream liberal” before. Even Springer (Bild, Welt, B.Z., Berliner Morgenpost etc. in Germany, and much of the tabloid – and ‘serious’ media in eastern Europe) would describe themselves as “centre-right” or “conservative”.

    Apart from this, I note that Erdogan is apparently going to call a referendum. Presumably it won’t be on “park vs. shopping centre” but “park vs. mosque”. And presumably not just the electorate of Istanbul will be asked, but of all of Turkey. In this he will have learnt from the Green government in south-western Germany, in Baden-Württermberg, who after seriously violent protests over a long period over “park vs. shopping centre/rubbish new railway station with less capacity than until now” in Stuttgart, they won the elections and then held a referendum, not just asking the Stuttgarters, but all voters in the state.

    • daggi said,

      P.S. Those companies/publications Springer runs or is financially involved in: it makes the ocmpany seem somehow worse than Murdoch.

      100% control: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publikationen_der_Axel_Springer_AG

      a selection of other publications/companies with less than 100% ´(Hürriyet is published by the Doğan Yayın Holding / Dogan Media Group / Dogan TV A.S.): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beteiligungen_der_Axel_Springer_AG

      • daggi said,

        P.P.S. Dogan also own and run CNN Türk, who have been showing nature films about penguins or anything else whatsoever instead of coverage from the protests in Istanbul (as being covered live on CNN ‘proper’ at the same time).

        There must be better sources of information. Does Volty have any other ideas?

    • les said,

      daggi– if erdogan holds a referendum on “park vs.mosque,” and all of turkey gets to vote on it, will that be seen as a de facto referendum on secularism vs. an islamic state?

      • daggi said,

        Exactly. That’s what I am asssuming it’s about. And on ‘doing over’ the protesters while appearing to be ‘democratic’ about it.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      As I pointed out in a previous thread this all smacks more of France 1968 – when de Gaulle called the protestors and strikers bluff with not a referendum but a general election and won it by a massive margin – than of the ‘Arab Spring’.

      As for Springer AG they are quite capable of pushing liberalism abroad when their business interests demand it – and clearly an Islamised and authoritarian Turkey would be a worse market for a global media conglomerate specialising in tabloids and magazines than a liberal and westernising one.

      • daggi said,

        You assume Springer’s main aim is to make cash and that they are less ideological then they once were. The assumption is a fair one – as is that authoritarian is no problem for anyone (cf. Murdoch/China – Star TV vs BBC World Service TV) as long as those in authority are those “they can do business with”. Springer are authoritarians anyway, just not islamist or Stalinist ones (and to be honest, that was a corner Springer himself was forced into – the man who was rudely rejected by Kruschchev when he effectively tried to buy the GDR off the Soviet Union and as a result went into all out vendetta mode).

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        An old fashioned Victorian liberal (with to be fair the odd idealistic exception like Cobden or Bright) would preach democracy at home while happily sending out gunboats to bombard Hong Kong or Veracruz or Alexandria because that’s what maximised profits in 1843, 1863 or 1883

        Their lineal descendants preach democracy abroad (except in China) and are increasingly authoritarian at home because that’s what maximising shareholder value requires in 2013.

        Trying to apply a moral standard to them is pointless – global corporations are ageless and immortal deities whose servants long ago passed beyond good and evil….

  3. daggi said,

    Unless he wants a way out of this and want to save face at the same time, obviously. It’s possible as well. And who knows how a referendum just in Istanbul would go (one for all of Turkey would probably be a fait accompli)?

  4. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Yuval Ben-Ami also has some good eyewitness posts at 972mag:

    http://972mag.com/special/taksim/

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