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Cyprus PIO: Turkish Press and Other Media, 08-12-29

Cyprus Press and Information Office: Turkish Cypriot Press Review Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office Server at <http://www.pio.gov.cy/>

TURKISH PRESS AND OTHER MEDIA No. 246/08 24-29.12.08

[A] NEWS ITEMS

  • [01] Talat: The desired momentum could be achieved if worked on a plan, like the Annan Plan
  • [02] Ferdi Sabit Soyer announces early elections in 2009
  • [03] Financial measures were announced in the occupied areas of Cyprus
  • [04] Occupied Tymvou airport to be privatized at the cost of 40 million Euros
  • [05] Statements by Abdullah Korkmazhan on the opening of Limnitis barricade
  • [06] Turkish Cypriot professor published a new book titled Cypriotism
  • [07] A new book written by turkologists on Turkish politics in the 21st century was published
  • [08] Adal denies the allegations that they decided to become members of the CFA
  • [09] The Turkish Parliament adopted the budget for 2009
  • [10] The Pentadaktylos Group was established in occupied Cyprus
  • [11] Statements by Erdogan on the developments in the Middle East; Columnist describes Mr Erdogans stance as one-sided and notes that it ignores the attacks of Hamas
  • [12] Turkish contractors assume overseas projects worth $81.7 billion between 2003-2008
  • [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITORIALS AND ANALYSIS

  • [13] Turkish Cypriot newspapers comment on the Cyprus negotiations
  • [14] From the Turkish Press of 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 December 2008

  • [A] NEWS ITEMS

    [01] Talat: The desired momentum could be achieved if worked on a plan, like the Annan Plan

    Illegal Bayrak television (26.12.08) broadcast the following:

    President Mehmet Ali Talat has said that the negotiation process was moving slowly, but in a way that progress could be achieved.

    The desired momentum would be achieved, if we worked on a plan, like the Annan Plan, said the President who also stressed the fact that there is not a single community in Cyprus.

    The Presidents words came at last nights Magusa Conversation, which is a monthly event organized by the Gazimagusa [occupied Famagusta] Municipality.

    The main subject of President Talats speech was the ongoing negotiation process between the two sides on the island.

    Mr Talat stated that the Turkish Cypriot side has been continuing the talks with the aim of bringing about a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem but complained that the Greek Cypriot side did not have the same attitude.

    Explaining that the talks started with the setting of basic principles, he reminded that the first topic of the negotiations was the Governance and Power Sharing, which the two leaders are still discussing.

    The President said that agreement has been reached on various issues and that the two sides positions became closer on some issues, however, he added that there were some subjects on which there were important differences in positions of the sides.

    He noted that debate was still continuing on how the new state would be formed, the basis it is to be formed and the issue of single community.

    Stressing that it was obvious that there was not a single community in Cyprus, he said: As I told Christofias we are not a single community. We would share grief, happiness and proud if we were a single community but we are not.

    He stressed that it was out of question for the Turkish Cypriot side to accept a process to be created by claiming that there was a single community, which he said, would led to the creation of a unitary state.

    There is no need for political equality and a federation if there is a single community in Cyprus, the President said. Mr Talat also noted that talks on the Property Issue- the next topic of the negotiations, would start on the 16th of January next year.

    [02] Ferdi Sabit Soyer announces early elections in 2009

    Illegal Bayrak television (27.12.08) broadcast the following:

    The senior coalition partner- Republican Turkish Party, the CTP, has decided to hold early elections in 2009. The party however has yet to set a date for the early elections.

    The decision was announced yesterday by Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer who issued a statement evaluating the latest political and economic developments in the country as well as the latest stage reached in the Cyprus negotiations process.

    Following a meeting attended by the CTPs high ranking party officials, the issue was passed onto the Party Assembly.

    A statement issued at the end of the party assembly said that in light of the evaluations made and the information provided, the party Assembly has decided to authorize the CTPs central executive committee to decide on the details of an early election to be held in 2009.

    The statement also said that the central executive committee will hold various contacts in order to set out a working program.

    The next general election, held every 5 years according to TRNC law, was normally scheduled for the 20th of February 2010.

    Presidential and local elections on the other hand are set to take place in 2010.

    On the same issue, Turkish Cypriot Kibris newspaper (24.12.08) reports on statements made by the self-styled Presidential Spokesman, Hasan Ercakica, that the negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem are carried out with the support of Turkey, yet, the hold of early elections might negatively affect the process for solution if one considers that the Cyprus problem will be politicalized during the pre-election period.

    [03] Financial measures were announced in the occupied areas of Cyprus

    Illegal Bayrak television (27.12.08) broadcast that the self-styled government and the central bank of the breakaway regime announced on Saturday measures to prevent the possible effects of the global economic crisis. Bayrak broadcast the following:

    The TRNC government in cooperation with the Central Bank has prepared a series of financial measures to prevent the possible effects of the global crisis on the TRNC economy.

    The measures were announced by Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer and the President of the Central Bank Ahmet Tugay this morning.

    Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer said the aim is to impetus the market.

    Explaining that 150 million New Turkish Liras (YLT) credit had been demanded from Turkey, the Premier said if approved by Turkey this credit will be an additional support to the main measure of around 450 million to 1 billion YTL that will be supplied by the TRNC government.

    The measures which were taken by the central bank involve the restructuring of the banking system and decreasing the interest rates from the loans which will be used by the non-financial sector.

    The measures have been put into force as from yesterday.

    Meanwhile, under the title Breath to the economy, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris (28.12.08) reports that within the framework of the measures the interest rate for deposits in New Turkish Liras (YTL) and foreign exchange has been reduced from 9 % to 8 %. The interest rate for the rediscount credits has been decreased to percentage as low as 6%. The interest rates regarding the credits in YTL for commercial purposes on the one hand and for tourism, education, industry and agriculture on the other have been reduced from 28% to 22% and from 24% to 19% respectively. Reductions which reach 6% were also made in the credits in foreign exchange.

    [04] Occupied Tymvou airport to be privatized at the cost of 40 million Euros

    Under the title Northern Cyprus airport for sale, Hurriyet Daily News.com (27.12.08) reported the following from occupied Keryneia:

    Northern Cyprus presses the button on privatizing the Ercan [Tymvou] Airport, the only link the Turkish-governed section of the island has with the world. The airport requires an investment of 40 million Euros to help northern Cyprus reach the world.

    The countdown has started for the tender process to privatize Ercan Airport, the only area open to flights in northern Cyprus.

    The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation in northern Cyprus last week signed an agreement with an international consortium on a master plan to be prepared for the airport, said Minister Salih Usar. The consortium consists of companies from Argentina, Italy and the United States.

    We will have the master plan in six months. Then, we will go out to tender to privatize the airport with the build-operate-transfer system for 15 to 20 years within the framework of the plan.

    Noting that the airport requires an investment of 40 million Euros, Usar said: The infrastructure of Ercan, which hosts two million passengers a year, is inadequate for international flights. We are considering new areas such as a new landing field, apron, terminal building and shopping centers.

    Ercan Airport currently has a 2.5 kilometer-long landing field and an apron with a capacity of seven aircrafts, Usar said. The existing landing field is suitable for landings, but not takeoffs of large aircrafts, he said. Therefore, we are planning the construction of a new landing field, apron, terminal building, or even a hooded terminal building, to enable such aircraft to takeoff. With the new apron, we plan to at least double the current plane capacity.

    The terminal building is expected to include stores or a shopping center, he said. A parking lot is also considered. The master plan will contain all of these. Informing on the tender process, Usar said, We expect any company related to the issue at the international level at the privatization tender. TAV, Turkish Airlines and Havas will not participate in the tender, in line with the first memorandum of understanding signed between the Cyprus Turkish Airlines and TAV's subsidiary Havas.

    However, Cyprus Airport Services, or CAS, which was founded jointly by Cyprus Turkish Airlines, or KTHY, and Havas to offer ground services at Ercan, will be able to attend, he said. We would be pleased to see CAS win the tender, but in order for this to happen it should offer the best bid.

    Ercan is likely to become the most efficient airport for the whole island, particularly if there is a removal of the current obstacles between Turks and Greeks, he said. Larnaka and Pafos airports in Greek Cyprus are located on the two edges of the island, while Ercan is at the heart of Turkish Cyprus. Once Ercan attains global status in terms of capacity with this privatization, no matter what they say, it will become the dominant airport of the whole island.

    [05] Statements by Abdullah Korkmazhan on the opening of Limnitis barricade

    Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (26.12.08) reports on the statements of Abdullah Korkmazhan, member of the executive committee of the United Cyprus Party (BKP), regarding the opening of the Limnitis barricade. In a written statement, Mr. Korkmazhan has said that the preconditions set by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat regarding the opening of Limnitis barricade are unacceptable. He also stated that the opening of Limnitis barricade is prevented by military circles.

    Mr. Korkmazhan in his statements reminded also the fact that the Greek Cypriot side has stated several times in the past that it is ready to open the Limnitis barricade. He then called on the Turkish Cypriot side if it has the will to open the Limnitis barricade to stop putting forward preconditions and using useless excuses and to start taking steps to put an end to the exerting efforts for preventing the opening of the Limnitis barricade.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (25.12.08) reports on statements of Mr. Izzet Izcan, general secretary of the United Cyprus Party (BKP) regarding the negotiations. Mr. Izzet stated that Talat´s proposals on the negotiation table serve the consolidation of the division of the island. Mr. Izzet Izcan added also that the proposals of the Turkish Cypriot leader tabled on the negotiation table are aiming to a confederation structure which will be established on the basis of two equal states.

    [06] Turkish Cypriot professor published a new book titled Cypriotism

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper(29.12.08) reports that professor Dr Mehmet Hasgurel published his new book with the title Cypriotism and notes that the book will create new arguments regarding whether there is one people or two peoples in the island.

    (DPs)

    [07] A new book written by turkologists on Turkish politics in the 21st century was published

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (27.12.08) reported the following from Moscow:

    A book, Turkey at the End of 20th Century and the Beginning of the 21st Century written by turkologists, was introduced in the Russian capital of Moscow on Friday.

    Turkish Ambassador in Moscow Halil Akinci, academicians from Russian State University for Humanities, turkologists and undergraduates attended the meeting that took place at President Hotel in Moscow on Friday evening.

    The book is about Turkish politics, economy and industry. It also includes Turkey's Cyprus policy, its role in the Middle East and political stances of Turkey and Russia on straits and Black Sea.

    [08] Adal denies the allegations that they decided to become members of the CFA

    Turkish Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi newspaper (29.12.08) reports that the Chairman of the self-styled Turkish Cypriot Football Federation (KTFF) Mr Omer Adal said that the allegations that they decided to become member of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA, KOP) and that they said yes to FIFAs proposal on this issue are wrong and nothing is certain. Adal made this statement to illegal TAK due to a report published by the Greek Cypriot paper Politis to the effect that the Turkish Cypriots said yes to FIFAs proposal during their meeting in Zurich. Adal said that the negotiations on FIFAs proposals are still going on.

    Noting that a meeting between FIFA and CFA will be held on the 12th of January on issues that were conveyed to KTFF at the latest meeting, Adal said that they will see the Greek Cypriot stance at the meeting. Adal went on: It is not right to make any comments before the outcome. Our state officials say that a membership to CFA at this stage is not acceptable. For this reason, we will discuss this issue a lot. Nothing is certain.

    Turkish Cypriot Star Kibris newspaper (25.12.08) reports that Mr Omer Adal, the chairman of the Turkish Cypriot Football Federation (KTFF) stated that KTFF asked the opinion of all the Turkish Cypriot parties regarding the issue of the KTFF becoming member of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA). Mr Adal stated that only the Social Democracy Party (TDP) gave a positive answer and added that to this point it became very difficult for the KTFF to say yes to the membership. According to Mr Adal, even the former president Rauf Denktas, sent his opinion to the Federation in writing stressing that KTFF must not become member of CFA. In addition the presidency also sent to the KTFF its written opinion on the issue, noting that it appreciates KTFFs efforts on this issue, however, it notes that such a membership will be against us from the political point of view.

    (DPs /CS)

    [09] The Turkish Parliament adopted the budget for 2009

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (28.12.08) reported the following from Ankara:

    The Turkish parliament approved on Saturday the new budget for 2009 with 324 votes in favor and 117 votes against. Speaking after the voting the Prime Minister said the government would remain committed to make new investments to increase production and employment. The new budget is 259.1 billion Turkish Liras. Budget revenues are expected to amount 248.7 billion TL with a deficit of 10.4 billion TL.

    [10] The Pentadaktylos Group was established in occupied Cyprus

    Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (27.12.08) reports that the Pentadaktylos Group (Besparmak Grubu) was established in the occupied areas of Cyprus. This group which consists of persons who exchange views on issues that interest the people and the state is, according to one of its members, the former presidency undersecretary Ergun Olgun, a group of thought and of civil initiative. Mr Olgun also stated that the Pentadaktylos Group will be activated in issues in favor of the interests of the Turkish Cypriots and that it will try to inform locals and foreigners about the Cyprus problem.

    Among the persons who are members of this new group are, the lawyer Dervise Gercek Guryel, the banker Ecevit Alper, the journalist-writer Emine Sutcu, the former minister of foreign affairs Kenan Atakol, the retired ambassador Peker Turgud and others.

    (CS)

    [11] Statements by Erdogan on the developments in the Middle East; Columnist describes Mr Erdogans stance as one-sided and notes that it ignores the attacks of Hamas

    Turkish daily Milliyet newspaper (29.12.08) reports that the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that the Israeli operation against Gaza is a serious human crime. Addressing a meeting of candidates of his party for the forthcoming municipal elections, Mr Erdogan said yesterday that the use of excessive force cannot be accepted and added: This operation, which will cause anger in the Islamic countries, will have no contribution to the solution of the problems in the area. Let us not forget the following: Violence will cause violence again.

    Moreover, daily Hurriyet (29.12.08) covers the issue under the title Anger against Israel in the salon of the AKP and reports that after the statements of Mr Erdogan the slogan Damn you Israel was heard in the room.

    Furthermore, Turkish daily Sabah newspaper (29.12.08) refers to the same issue and reports that Mr Erdogan called on the United Nations to undertake its duty and asked for the Islamic Conference Organization to meet extraordinarily.

    Meanwhile, commending on Mr Erdogans statements, journalist Semih Idiz writes in his daily column in Turkish daily Milliyet newspaper (29.12.08) that these statements might cause problem for Ankaras foreign policy. He notes, inter alia, the following:

    These angry words of Erdogan against Israel which exceeded even the words of the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas, will be seen in the West in the framework of Islamic solidarity. The one-sided stance of Erdogan, who ignores the attacks of Hamas, will strengthen those who argue that Turkey is rapidly going towards the Islamic world.

    (I/Ts.)

    [12] Turkish contractors assume overseas projects worth $81.7 billion between 2003-2008

    Ankara Anatolia news agency (25.12.08) reported the following from Ankara:

    Turkish contractors assumed projects worth 81.7 billion USD overseas between the years 2003-2008. In the five years period, most of the construction projects took place in Russia with a total value of 15.9 billion USD.

    Turkish contractors assumed projects worth 23.6 billion USD overseas in 2008.According to the Turkish Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade, Turkish contractors assumed projects worth 3.6 billion USD in 2003, 6.5 billion USD in 2004, 9.8 billion USD in 2005, 15.9 billion USD in 2006, 19.5 billion USD in 2007 and 23.6 billion USD in 2008 overseas.

    The top three countries where Turkish contractors assumed most of their overseas projects are Russia, Libya and Turkmenistan.

    In the past five years, Ireland, Sudan, Bulgaria and Iran have become new markets for Turkish contractors.

    The values of projects assumed by Turkish contractors overseas in the 2003-2008 period:

    Russia $15.9 billion, Libya $9.1 billion, $Turkmenistan 8.2 billion, Qatar $5.7 billion, UAE $5.4 billion, Kazakhstan $4.9 billion, Iraq $4.9 billion, Saudi Arabia $3.1 billion, Romania $3.0 billion, Azerbaijan $2.4 billion, Algeria $2.0 billion, Jordan $1.9 billion, Afghanistan $1.8 billion, Ukraine $1.5 billion, Oman $1.3 billion, Ireland $1.2 billion, Morocco $1.1 billion, Sudan $1.1 billion, Bulgaria $1.0 billion, Georgia $727.5 million, Tunisia $696.1 million, Iran $626.4 million, Yemen $463.5 million, FYROM $426.4 million, Kuwait $367.8 million, Egypt $343.0 million, Pakistan $342.7 million, Albania $289.0 million, Tajikistan $254.8 million, other countries $1.5 billion .


    [B] COMMENTARIES, EDITORIALS AND ANALYSIS

    [13] Turkish Cypriot newspapers comment on the Cyprus negotiations

    Following is the summary of selected Turkish Cypriot press (20-26.12.08) reports and commentaries on the Cyprus negotiations and the effort to solve the Cyprus problem:

    Akay Cemal, in a column in Kibris on 20 December, reacts to the European Court of Justice Rapporteur Juliena Kokott's report on the ORAMS case by saying that it will encourage the Greek Cypriot side to ignore the talks in Cyprus and try to solve the island's problem at other platforms. Wondering why Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat failed to file lawsuits against the Greek Cypriots on the property the Turkish Cypriots left in south Cyprus thus far, he urges Ankara and the illegal regime to decide whether or not they should continue to overlook the unfair way they are treated in the world or adopt the necessary policy to deal with the situation. Cemal notes: President Mehmet Ali Talat and the Soyer administration must carefully assess the situation. Where will the Cyprus problem be solved? Will it be solved through the negotiation process or at the European Court of Justice? If necessary, the UN Secretary-General should be informed that the Turkish Cypriot side has had enough and that there is nothing it can do anymore.

    In a column in Kibris on 23 December, Akay Cemal criticizes UN Special Envoy Alexander Downer's statement that "the UN is tired of the Cyprus problem" and that the sides should be aware that the present process is the last chance for peace on the island. He asks what the UN has done to solve the problem thus far and wonders whether Downer is aware of what caused the problem in the past and claims that even some of the Greek Cypriots have started to ask why they mistreated the Turkish Cypriots from December 1963 to July 1974. Cemal says: It is up to the UN to decide whether or not to be involved in the problem in the future. However, It will not be able to hold the Turkish Cypriot side responsible for the decision it will make. Those that will be responsible will be the EU, Britain, US, Greece and the Greek Cypriot side. Solving the problem will be easier if Alexander Downer realizes that.

    Esref Cetinel argues in Halkin Sesi that the European Court of Justice will create a chaotic situation in Cyprus if it bases its ruling on the ORAMS case on Rapporteur Juliena Kokott's report. He claims in a column on 20 December that President Demetris Christofias should not be expected to attach importance to the Turkish Cypriot side's proposals for the solution of the Cyprus problem because of the support he receives in the world and adds: The Greek Cypriot approach is undermining the solution of the problem. Obviously, the Turkish Cypriot side will be confronted with many problems in the future. Nevertheless, the Greek Cypriots must realize that two separate states will continue to exist in Cyprus if they fail to change its mentality.

    Commenting on Rapporteur Juliena Kokott's report on the ORAMS case, Mehmet S. Bayaramoglu urges Mehmet Ali Talat to inform President Demetris Christofias and the EU that he will withdraw from the talks if they fail to end the legal procedure against the Turkish Cypriot side. Claiming in a column in Halkin Sesi on 22 December that Mehmet Ali Talat has been misinformed on the case at the beginning and that the Greek Cypriots will put significant pressure on the Turkish Cypriot leadership if the report is converted into law, he notes: So, react to the Greek Cypriot side before it is too late. There will be serious consequences if you failed to take necessary action.

    Esref Cetinel argues in a column in Halkin Sesi on 23 December that President Demetris Christofias has undermined the talks by not taking Mehmet Ali Talaat seriously at the negotiation table and insisting on one state, one people, and one citizenship and claims that the talks are not meaningful anymore. Recalling Alexander Downer's statement that the UN is tired of the Cyprus problem, he asks: What have you done to contribute to the talks since they began? Have you silenced Demetris Christofias and obstructed his legal and political initiatives? Have you taken the initiative to contribute to reconciliation between the two sides in the talks? Stressing that the TRNC [illegal regime in occupied Cyprus] belongs to the Turkish Cypriots, Cetinel claims that they will not allow the Greek Cypriot side to take over north Cyprus. He notes: But, neither Downer nor the EU will realize that. The island was divided in 1974. Two states exist in Cyprus at the present time. Reaching an agreement without considering that reality is impossible.

    According to a report on 20 December in Volkan, main opposition UBP [National Unity Party] leader Dervis Eroglu will support any initiative Mehmet Ali Talat and the illegal regime make against the rulings of the European Court of Justice on the Greek Cypriot property in occupied Cyprus. The report says that Eroglu warned that Juliena Kokott's views on the ORAMS case will have negative effects on the sovereign existence of the TRNC and the Turkish Cypriots and quotes him as saying: Rapporteur Kokott's statement that her views must not affect the negotiations in Cyprus is wrong. Mehmet Ali Talat must give priority to the new problem. We urge him and his administration to quickly take the necessary steps. The opposition UBP will fully support all the initiatives they will make to defend the Turkish Cypriot people's equality and the legal existence of the TRNC.

    A column by Hasan Ozerdem on 22 December in Volkan accuses the United States and the EU of trying to destroy the Turkish Cypriots through their sanctions and the initiatives they make to employ collaborationist groups to achieve their objectives in occupied Cyprus. He argues that their objective is to force Turkey to move out of Cyprus, turn the Turkish Cypriots into citizens without an identity among the Greek Cypriot community, and obstruct Turkey's access to the Mediterranean Sea by allowing the Greek Cypriot side to extend its sovereignty to the whole of the island. He asks whether Turkey will agree to give in to the imperialist countries and warns: There will be bloodshed in Cyprus similar to the one that took place after 1950 if the imperialist countries try to force Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to agree to their demands - that is, unless they break our courage with their tanks, as they have done so in Iraq.

    A column in Volkan by Kamil Ozkaloglu on 23 December claims that the relations between Mehmet Ali Talat and President Demetris Christofias are based on their "Marxist-Socialist ideology" and argues that Talat should realize that the great majority of the Turkish Cypriots are not his comrades. Stressing that the Turkish Cypriot leader must realize that he represents the Turkish Cypriots in the talks, he notes: Talat will either defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriots in the new process or resign. He might believe that trying to undermine the republic he represents is a normal process. However, the Turkish Cypriot people do not deserve to be represented in that way. That state of affairs will definitely be obstructed.

    A statement in Volkan by the Turkish Cypriot Fighters Association on 26 December accuses Mehmet Ali Talat of failing to take serious steps to prevent the ORAMS case from being transferred to the European Court of Justice. It claims that the Greek Cypriot initiatives in the world are posing a threat to Turkish Cypriot sovereignty and equality and urges Talat to suspend the negotiations until the Greek Cypriot side changes its negative approach. Warning that the Turkish Cypriot Fighters Association is convinced that a durable agreement cannot be reached before the Greek Cypriot side accepts the equality of the Turkish Cypriots, the existence of two peoples on the island, and Turkey's effective guarantee, it notes: We expect Mehmet Ali Talat to fulfill his responsibilities as the TRNC president.

    According to a column by Arif Hasan Tahsin on 25 December in Afrika, the Cyprus problem cannot be solved as long as Turkey continues to support the status quo on the island. An agreement cannot be reached between the two sides because of the strong Turkish and Greek nationalist feelings. Neither the United States, nor Britain can take steps to solve the problem without the full support of the UN Security Council. Would a new war between Turkey and the Cyprus Republic solve the problem? It might move the influential countries to willingly or unwillingly intervene. But no one wants a new war.

    [14] From the Turkish Press of 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 December 2008

    Following are the summaries of reports and commentaries of selected items from the Turkish press on 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 December:

    Islamization Process and Pressure on Secular Circles:

    In an article in Hurriyet Daily News (24.12.08), Yusuf Kanli expresses his concern over the "non-alcohol" program of the AKP [Justice and Development Party] government that has spread to 56 cities which according to the writer demonstrates "an alarming and systematic lifestyle change campaign."

    Cuneyt Ulsever, in an article in Hurriyet Daily News (24.12.08), praises Prof Toprak and her colleagues for having the courage to conduct a survey on neighborhood pressure on secular circles and responds to criticisms leveled against the survey with regards to its methodology.

    Several columnists touch on the debate engendered on the concept of "neighborhood pressure" after the publication in Radikal last week of a summary of a study by Bogazici University lecturer Prof Binnaz Toprak on alienation and mutual estrangement among segments of the Turkish society. In his column for Radikal (25.12.08), Ismet Berkan says different segments of the society are reacting to the report different by most criticizing the methodology of Toprak's research and some saying there is a neighborhood pressure on secularists and others arguing that it is really the religious people who are under pressure from the state.

    In an article entitled "Response to an open letter" in Today's Zaman (26.12.08) columnist Huseyin Gulerce responds to the claim voiced in a recent Hurriyet article by Cuneyt Ulsever that the Zaman daily "seems to be the official paper of the government" and that the Fethullah Gulen community is bringing documents, information, and photographs from abroad "for use against the Turkish Armed Forces ..."

    In his commentary entitled "A Nation of Illiberals" in Hurriyet Daily News.com (27.12.08) Mustafa Akyol assesses the "neighborhood pressure" on people with secular lifestyles in Turkey's conservative towns and whether they are harassed for drinking alcohol or wearing shorts. Noting that this is so, he adds that "Most Anatolian cities have a pretty illiberal culture in which everybody is expected to subscribe to norms of 'appropriate' dress code or behavior." Advising that Dr. Toprak's findings should be taken seriously, Can Dundar hastens to add: "But we should also not exaggerate them" because "this is a targeted research, not a random survey." Explaining that the survey "does not give a full picture of the country," Dundar notes that "there are many signs showing that Anatolia is actually less conservative today than it used to be. It is more business-oriented, its women are more integrated into society, and it is more open to the world." Dundar continues by explaining the tensions existing within the Turkish society between "the secular establishment and the AKP," the mosque community and beer hall crowd," and the tension between those speaking Kurdish and those who have an "allergy to Kurdish." He concludes by noting that "the problem" is "the lack of tolerance to anything that is different. And, alas, that is the problem of the whole of Turkey! Not just the religious conservatives but also the secularists are very, very, intolerant. That's why neighborhood pressure exists everywhere, from conservative and parochial towns to secular and chic plazas. In the former, the headscarf is the demanded norm. In the latter, it is the expelled heresy. Two illiberal camps."

    In an article entitled "There is a Link between Community Pressure and Islamophobia," in Yeni Safak (27.12.08) columnist Yasin Aktay questions the findings of a recent opinion poll conducted by a team led by Prof. Binnaz Toprak which indicated that pro-secular people are being ostracized by the majority with strong religious and conservative tendencies. He argues that the survey was actually intended to fuel hatred and animosity toward conservative people by twisting respondents' statements.

    In an article entitled "Silence of the Institute for an Open Society," in Zaman (27.12.08) columnist Mehmet Kamis says that recent statements made by some of the respondents interviewed by Prof. Toprak's team in connection with the survey conducted for the Institute for Open Society clearly showed that its conclusion that minorities are subjected to pressure by the Sunnite majority was not reliable. He comments: "It is ironic that those who have prevented people from exercising their fundamental rights for years now assert that there is religious pressure. We must ardently support all-out resistance against oppression and pressure in any place. We must all make efforts to create a democratic life as much as possible without destroying society's values. But, it seems that this survey was not intended to serve that goal. It rather looks like a reason used for maintaining the oppressive regime advocating prohibitions."

    Referring to the criticism leveled by the Islamist sector against the study conducted by Binnaz Toprak from the Open Society Institute on whether pressure is imposed on the secular sector by the Islamists, in Vatan (28.12.08) Mustafa Mutlu in an article lists the incidents that prove that the religious sector imposes pressure on the secular people. Regardless of whether you describe it as neighborhood, state, religious community, or sect, the fact that incredible pressure is imposed on persons who are in favor of secularity has become the reality of this country, says Mutlu, adding: "What is new, however, is the fact that the number of the institutions that resist this pressure is rapidly dropping."

    Commenting on the same issue, Mehmet Tezkan in an article in Vatan (28.12.08) draws attention to the reaction displayed by the Islamist press to the study in question, saying: The pressure imposed by the religious communities on the individuals, the fact that they impose a single-type life, and the fact that the individuals are expected to unconditionally comply with the instructions of the community leaders are reportedly part of our tradition. Recalling that the Islamist Zaman which used to praise Toprak in the past currently claims that the study is based on lies, Tezkan says: "This is because the Islamist press is uncomfortable with the exposure of the facts."

    EG/


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