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Voice of America, 00-06-29

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: As Turkey's influential military keeps up its battle against what it considers Islamic extremism, one Muslim group - known as the Fetullahcilar - is coming under increasing pressure. Turkey's military accuses the group of using hundreds of schools it has opened in Turkey and several other countries to promote radical Islam. Amberin Zaman visited one of the schools - in St. Petersburg, Russia - and filed this report.

    TEXT: Marat Kaymef is a Russian teenager who calls himself lucky, because unlike most of his peers he neither smokes nor drinks, and he can speak two foreign languages - English and Turkish - perfectly. Marat is among a handful of Russians attending the prestigious Turkish-Russian Lycee in St. Petersburg - which is run by the Turkish Islamist group Fetullahcilar.


    Marat says thanks to the Lycee, he also has learned how to use computers. Marat and his classmates at the all-male school consistently win first prizes in nationwide scholastic competitions in subjects ranging from English to physics. Education at the school is free. Many of the students say that thanks to the school and their teachers, they have come to know and love Turkish culture. But are they being converted to Islam? Absolutely not say Russian education ministry officials, who all heap praise on the schools. Why is it then that Turkey's pro-secular armed forces view the schools with such suspicion? Analysts say it is because the schools were founded and are funded and staffed by members or sympathizers of the Islamic fraternity Fetullahcilar. The group was named after its spiritual leader, an Islamic cleric named Fetullah Gulen. It is among the wealthiest and most influential Islamist groups in Turkey. It runs nearly 300 schools worldwide, including in Tanzania, Australia, and Bangladesh. The Islamic brotherhoods have always exercised significant power over Turkish society and politics. And although they were banned by Ataturk - the founder of modern Turkey - as part of his drive to secularize his country, their influence continues. A Turkish historian who has studied the group, Necip Hablemitoglu, says Fetullah Gulen and his followers want to overthrow Turkey's secular system and to impose Islamic rule.


    Professor Hablemitoglu points to a series of secretly taped videocassettes that were broadcast on Turkish television last year as proof that Mr. Gulen has a hidden agenda. The tapes show Mr. Gulen advising his followers to infiltrate state institutions - in his words - "slowly" and "patiently" in order to gain control of the country. Scores of officers expelled from Turkey's armed forces each year because of alleged links with radical religious groups are widely believed to be affiliated with the Fetullahcilar. The videotapes have prompted an investigation of Mr. Gulen by a special Turkish security court. Mr. Gulen has since taken up residence in the United States. Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit appears to be unswayed by the accusations leveled against the group, saying Mr. Gulen's schools have boosted Turkey's prestige abroad and especially in the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union. A report (released this week) by Turkey's foreign ministry echoes his views. Even so, back home in Turkey, Mr. Gulen's schools are coming under mounting pressure from the authorities. Impromptu inspections of the schools have increased. In an apparent bid to project a more liberal image, the schools are, for the first time, accepting female students. And, the man responsible for the schools in Russia, Kemal Sirin, denies that the Fetullahcilar group has a hidden agenda.


    Mr. Sirin says their main objective is to foster ties between the Russian and Turkish peoples in a broad range of fields. Listening to young Marat Kaymef speak glowingly of Turkey, they appear to be succeeding.


    Above all, Marat says his Turkish teachers have taught him to be a good human being. (SIGNED)
    NEB/AZ/JWH/RAE 29-Jun-2000 09:31 AM EDT (29-Jun-2000 1331 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Police in Turkey have arrested nearly 100 people for staging protests against the death sentence imposed on Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. As Amberin Zaman reports from Ankara, the demonstrations were called on the first anniversary of Ocalan's sentencing.

    TEXT: At least two people were wounded in the eastern city of Van as baton wielding riot police used force to disperse hundreds of demonstrators gathered to protest the death sentence handed down on treason charges to the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Similar protests were held across the country. In Istanbul, police arrested 23 members of Turkey's largest legal Kurdish party - HADEP - as their spokesman sought to read a statement condemning Ocalan's conviction following a month long trial. Ocalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, P-K-K, was captured in Kenya last year and brought to Turkey where he is being held in solitary confinement on a prison island south of Istanbul. Turkey has deferred carrying out the death sentence until the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg delivers its opinion on Ocalan's verdict. The European Union - which Turkey wants join as a full member - has made it clear that Turkey needs to improve its human rights record and abolish capital punishment in order to qualify. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said he is in favor of ending the death penalty, but his far-right coalition partners of the National Action Party insist Ocalan needs to be hanged before the laws are amended. The Turkish government has rejected Ocalan's calls to negotiate a peaceful solution to their long-standing dispute it will never deal with what it calls - a terrorist. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have stepped up pressure on the legal Kurdish party, HADEP, raiding its offices in Istanbul and arresting party officials in connection with a separate demonstration last week. Nearly 40-thousand people have died since Ocalan's P- K-K launched its 15-ear long campaign for Kurdish independence. Ocalan has since scaled down his demands to cultural autonomy and has called off his armed fight. He says it is now up to the Turkish government to seize what he and even his fiercest detractors hail as a golden opportunity for a lasting peace. (SIGNED) NEB/AZ/JWH/ENE/RAE 29-Jun-2000 11:46 AM EDT (29-Jun-2000 1546 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Portugal has announced a plan that could lead to an end to the European Union's political isolation of Austria. Ron Pemstein reports from Brussels.

    TEXT: Austria wants a dialogue with its European Union partners and it wants a definite timetable when the diplomatic sanctions against it will end. The plan, unveiled by Portugal after consultations with the 13 other E-U governments, contains neither of those two elements. Portugal has asked the European court of human rights, based in Strasbourg, France, to name a three-member panel-known as the "wise men." These experts are asked to report on the Austrian government's policy in regard to the rights of minorities, refugees and immigrants. They are also supposed to study the evolution of Austria's Freedom Party. The 14 other governments in the European Union froze their political contacts with Austria in February when the right-wing Freedom Party entered the Austrian government. Diplomatic relations are kept at a low level and Austrian ministers have been boycotted at European Union functions. There is no timetable for these experts to report their findings to the 14 other governments. The Portuguese statement says that, based on the conclusions of the report, the other E-U governments will re-examine their bilateral relations with the Austrian government. That is the point where the European Union could decide to drop its sanctions against Austria. While the formula does not meet Austria's demands, it appears to be the best deal the Austrians can get from the European Union. Foreign Minister Benita Ferraro-Waldner told Vienna's News (editors that is the name) Magazine, Austria wants to see who the members of the panel are. European leaders opposed to lifting the sanctions against Austria insist the Freedom Party has not changed its nature. As one official put it, despite his resignation as party leader, Carinthian governor Joerg Haider is still, as he puts it, "in the driver's seat of the Freedom Party."

    /// OPT ///

    As usual, Mr. Haider has been sarcastic about the European Union formula. "We are not Rwanda," Mr. Haider says, "where a military dictatorship is butchering people." Mr. Haider and his party have favored holding a referendum where Austrians can express their rejection of what they call "unjust European Union sanctions." Of more concern to the European Union is that Austria can use its veto power to block decisions. France supports the measures against Austria. At the same time, France will be the President of the E-U for six months beginning on Saturday. The French do not want Austria preventing agreement on new governmental conference at a summit meeting in December. /// END OPT /// The new formula contains no guarantees for Austria but it does provide an exit strategy for the European Union if it wants to escape a diplomatic embarrassment with one of its members. (Signed)
    NEB/RP/GE/KL 29-Jun-2000 10:06 AM EDT (29-Jun-2000 1406 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl testified before a parliamentary committee today (Thursday). The committee is trying to learn what happened to millions of dollars of secret donations given to Mr. Kohl and his Christian Democratic Union Party during his years in office and also whether the donations might have influenced his government's decisions. Jonathan Braude reports from Berlin the former chancellor did not give the answers the committee wanted to hear.

    TEXT: Helmut Kohl has maintained seven months of silence on the sources of more than a million dollars worth of political donations that he filtered to his party's campaign funds through secret accounts. In his testimony Thursday, the former German Chancellor did not reveal the sources to the parliamentary committee investigating his actions. But he did go on the attack. He accused the media and his fellow party members of campaigning against him with lies and of trying to bring him down. Why else, he demanded to know, had the committee taken more than half a year to hear his evidence if not to let other witnesses destroy the reputation built up during 16 years in office? Mr. Kohl denied all the allegations of taking bribes and other illegalities leveled against him. And he said the accusation that he had accepted a bribe to give the go-ahead for the sale of a German oil refinery to a French company was a slander against him. He also countered in detail the accusation that his decision to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia -- against the previous position taken by his own party -- might have been helped along by donations to party funds. His decision, he said, had to be seen in the international and domestic political context of the time. The Gulf War was underway, Israel was being hit by Iraqi weapons produced - at least partly - with materials and technology from German suppliers. And Germany, Mr. Kohl said, was under political pressure from the United States to contribute in some way to the Gulf War effort. That was particularly important, Mr. Kohl reminded the committee, given the enormous help the United States had been in the process of reunifying Germany and ending the Cold War in Europe. He had taken the decision to sell the tanks himself - and had kept it quiet to avoid a public debate. This is a political committee, however, and German analysts do not expect a single hearing to be the end of Mr. Kohl's troubles. If the legislature finds against him, he could yet be deprived of his seat in parliament. And meanwhile, the public prosecutor's office is pursuing its investigations not only into the original allegations but also into the disappearance of enormous quantities of sensitive computer data, destroyed in the final days of Mr. Kohl's rule when his party lost national elections in 1998. That could still lead to prosecutions not only of senior party officials and civil servants, but also of the former German Chancellor himself. (Signed) NEB/JB/GE/TVM/KL 29-Jun-2000 07:36 AM EDT (29-Jun-2000 1136 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: U-S stock prices were lower across-the-board today (Thursday), as investors worried about inflation and corporate earnings. V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 130 points, about one-and-one-quarter percent, to 10- thousand-398. The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell 12 points. And the Nasdaq composite lost one-point- six percent. Analysts say investors were still reacting to Wednesday's announcement by the U-S central bank. The Federal Reserve Board left interest rates unchanged, but warned of inflation risks in the U-S economy.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    Not helping the market was a slightly upward revision of first quarter G-D-P -- gross domestic product -- that shows the U-S economy grew at a very strong five- point-five percent. Investment strategist Brittain Ellis Prigge (pron: Pri'ghee) sees U-S financial markets teetering (shaky) between now and the next meeting of the Federal Reserve Board in August:

    /// PRIGGE ACT ///

    Well, I think right now there is uncertainty. I think the economic data that comes out in the next eight weeks is going to be so important for us to determine exactly what we think ("Fed" chairman) Alan Greenspan is going to do. I think there's still dissension within the "Fed," and I think the big question is can productivity growth continue to offset the wage pressures in this tight labor market.

    ///END ACT///

    ///END OPT ///

    Investors were also concerned about corporate earnings. About two dozen companies have warned of disappointing results in the past day or so. Among them was Goodyear Tire and Rubber -- the world's largest tire maker. Goodyear said its earnings will be well below expectations because of tough competition and a weak European currency.

    /// REST OPT ///

    Nasdaq investors were shaken after the computer services provider, Unisys, said its profits will probably be as low as one-half of what Wall Street is looking for. The company blamed its sagging fortunes on weak sales and currency fluctuations. The race for a share of the hot Asian automobile market has come down in favor of Ford. The number two U-S automaker was picked as the sole bidder for South Korea's ailing Daewoo Motors, winning out over General Motors and Daimler/Chrysler. Leading automaker G-M expressed disappointment. But some analysts on Wall Street see Ford's prize as a mixed blessing. They warn that even if Ford wins the bid, Daewoo is a money-losing company and it could take years for the investment to pay off. Daimler/Chrysler, for its part, said it is not disappointed because it was interested only in Daewoo's parts division. (Signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/ENE/JP 29-Jun-2000 17:13 PM EDT (29-Jun-2000 2113 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: After seven months in the United States and a lengthy custody battle, the Cuban boy who was shipwrecked last year off the coast of Florida has returned to Cuba. The editorial pages of Thursday's U-S newspapers are filled with comment on Elian Gonzalez. A pair of Supreme Court decisions, one on abortion and the other on the right of association as it applies to the Boy Scouts of America, are also popular topics. There are also comments on Zimbabwe's elections; a controversial repatriation program in China, affecting Tibet; the human genome project; and Japan's troubled politics. Now, here with a closer look is _______ and today's U-S Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: Elian Gonzalez is back in Cuba today and, by and large, the American daily press is pleased that he is. He first made headlines last November, when he survived a shipwreck off the coast of Florida that killed his mother and ten other people who were attempting to flee Cuba. Elian's custody became an international incident when his Miami relatives refused to surrender him to his father who came to the U-S to take him back to Cuba. After a long court battle, he flew home with his father yesterday. The Los Angeles Times says of the final chapter in this saga:

    VOICE: He's home. Elian Gonzalez ... whose resilience was tested time and again, is back in Cuba with his father and immediate family, where he belongs. ... [His] ... survival ... and the ensuing developments gave us all a lesson about family and the law. It also shed light on Washington's present attitude toward Fidel Castro's Cuba. Clearly there's now some leeway for a new relationship.

    TEXT: The Washington Post sees some bitter irony in the case.

    VOICE: ... Mr. Castro reaps political advantage from a case that began with Cubans literally dying to escape him. ... Fundamentally, political repression and economic decay, the hallmarks of Mr. Castro's unreconstructed communism, are the reasons why Cubans keep trying to sail to a better life. Some come carrying children as young or younger than Elian; thus ... there is no guarantee that this case won't be repeated.

    TEXT: The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of a minority of papers sorry that Elian was not granted asylum in the United States.

    VOICE: As Elian Gonzalez' last hours in the United States were ticking away, President Clinton was explaining at his news conference why he does not favor normalization of relations with Cuba. The reason that he gave, that Fidel Castro was complicit in murder, should have been the justification for granting the little Cuban boy political asylum. ... the president was terribly wrong when he failed to instruct the Immigration and Naturalization Service to grant Elian an asylum hearing when he was rescued from the sea ...

    TEXT: In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says:

    VOICE: ... Cuba is hardly a paradise. But it is the home of Elian and his father, and that is where they belong.

    TEXT: While in Minnesota, the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune wonders about what Elian's life will be like back home.

    VOICE: Much will depend on Fidel Castro. Will he allow Elian to resume his normal life in Cardenas, or will he draft Elian into continuing service as an exhibit of American perfidy? The harsh official rhetoric from Havana Wednesday was not reassuring.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: The Orlando Sentinel suggests: "Now that Elian ... is rightfully home, his plight and its outcome could serve as a starting point for a new, U- S-Cuba era." And The Oregonian in Portland is glad what it describes as "an appalling political circus" is over.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to one of two newsworthy Supreme Court decisions announced Wednesday, a decision overturning a state ban on abortions done late in a pregnancy -- so-called partial birth abortions -- we turn first to Nebraska, the state whose law was struck down. Omaha's World-Herald notes of the decision:

    VOICE: The court is right. Painful as abortion is to contemplate emotionally (never mind to go through physically, it remains a decision fundamentally for a woman and her doctor, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. But while in our view it ought to be rare, it also ought to be available. Partial birth abortions assuredly are ghastly to think about. They are ...very close to infanticide. But it is important to note that the court made it plain that it wasn't ruling out laws restricting such abortions. There just can't be a nearly ironclad prohibition.

    TEXT: In the state of Washington, the Seattle Times cautions abortion rights activists that difficult days lie ahead.

    VOICE: The ... Court's 5-4 reversal of a Nebraska "partial-birth" abortion law as not a victory for reproductive rights in America. It was a temporary reprieve, and a reminder of the suprisingly tenuous position of [the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing abortion] Roe versus Wade in the high court.

    TEXT: The Sun in Baltimore is pleased the Court has affirmed what it calls a "critical abortion right," but Minnesota's St. Paul Pioneer Press warns: "Despite the ... decision ... the high court seems to be inching closer and closer to a ruling that would uphold such a ban under more limited circumstances." In a second opinion, the high court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America may ban homosexual men from being local leaders of Boy Scout troops, under the right of association provision of the U-S Constitution. The Detroit News is pleased.

    VOICE: The ... court ... has upheld the right of free private association ... [essentially holding] that government cannot impose a point of view on a private group by declaring it a public place. ... As Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted in the majority opinion, the fact that the acceptance of gay rights is becoming more popular makes it all the more important to protect the free speech and association rights of a group that doesn't agree.

    TEXT: Also in the Motor City, the Detroit Free Press disagrees, writing.

    VOICE: The Boy Scouts' policy to exclude gay scoutmasters is wrongheaded and rooted in prejudice. Indeed, it runs contrary to the group's mission "to instill values in young people." But it's not illegal. Sadly, that's what the ...court ruled...

    TEXT: Turning to African affairs and Zimbabwe's historic parliamentary election that saw big opposition gains, the Philadelphia Inquirer calls the election results some of the continent's "most hopeful news in a long while."

    /// OPT ///

    VOICE: ... the courage of ordinary Zimbabwean voters gives an important boost to democratic politics in southern Africa. Western nations and international lending agencies should help solidify Zimbabwe's democratic forces by criticizing any future [President Robert] Mugabe lawlessness, while extending aid to civic organizations, unions and independent media. The stronger ... Zimbabwean civil society is, the better the chances that the country will revive.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning now to Asian affairs, there is more criticism of a World Bank-financed Chinese plan to relocate thousands of farmers onto land long used by local Tibetan herders. The Houston Chronicle says:

    TEXT: /// OPT /// The World Bank should cancel the 160-million dollar loan it has approved for China that, in part, would be used to relocate 58-thousand Chinese farmers into a former Tibetan province that is the birthplace of the Dalai Lama.... an independent, internal report about the loan ... reveals that the World Bank violated seven of its [Editors: understood "own"] 10 regulations regarding loan approvals, including a requirement to assess potential social and environmental damage to the region in approving the loan. /// END OPT /// ... The World Bank should not be a party to the brutal elimination of an ancient culture.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: Still with Chinese affairs, the Boston Globe notes that relations between Beijing and Washington are improving following the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, but suggests yet another major source of friction.

    VOICE: ... China's [persistent] proliferation of missile know-how and missile components to Pakistan and Iran. This is a very serious matter, threatening not only relations between the United States and China but also geopolitical stability in a large part of the world. Paradoxically, continued Chinese peddling of missiles to Iran and Pakistan is almost certain to have a boomerang effect against China. The more India feels forced into an arms race with Pakistan in nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, the more pressure there will be on China to ... modernize and enlarge [it's] ... nuclear arsenal.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to Japan's recent parliamentary elections, in which the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party suffered a significant loss of seats, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

    VOICE: ... Sunday's parliamentary elections shook the last pillar of the old order. /// OPT /// The conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan since 1955 with only one relatively short break, struggled to hold onto to power in the Lower House. ... [In] defiance of the polls and the wet weather over much of Japan, the voters registered a protest. ... /// END OPT /// While it is good for Japanese democracy that one-party rule can no longer be assumed, the situation does reflect unease about Japan's future direction.

    TEXT: Reflecting on this week's historic announcement by scientists that they have completed a rough draft of the human genome, the complex genetic code that creates a human being, the Dallas Morning News wonders about potential drawbacks to the new knowledge.

    VOICE: Some universal concerns include: ... protection of individual privacy. /// OPT /// This is not limited to concerns about insurance companies restricting or pricing health insurance based on an individual's genetic risk factors. /// END OPT /// ... The extended life spans afforded by medical applications of gene therapy would likely not be available to all. ... And who will own all the information? Allowing patents for processes, not for basic information, is one suggestion being offered. That may provide the opening for private industry to do what it does best, develop products that will benefit the public. ... There clearly is a role for entrepreneurship and public supervision.

    /// OPT ///

    TEXT: Lastly, the controversy regarding some of Vice President Al Gore's campaign fund raising activities during the last presidential campaign, and whether they should be the subject of an independent probe, draws this response from today's Atlanta Constitution.

    VOICE: Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to name an outside counsel to investigate Vice president Al Gore has inevitably become a political issue, with Republicans accusing [Ms.] Reno of protecting her party's presidential nominee instead of doing her duty. ... [However] the dangers inherent in appointing an outside counsel are by now clearly understood by most Americans. ... with the excessive zeal of the Clinton administration in fund-raising already well- documented ... voters have all the information they need to make up their own minds about [Mr.] Gore's guilt, if any. They'll render their verdict in November, and that's how it ought to be.

    TEXT: With that comment, we conclude this sampling of opinions from the editorial pages of Thursday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/KL 29-Jun-2000 12:00 PM EDT (29-Jun-2000 1600 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America

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