Tag Archive | "Turkey"

Speaking Turkish


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Ignoring American attempts to negotiate better Turkish-Israeli relations, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in his appearance before the annual General Assembly last week, rolled out a long list of grievances with Israel – formerly an important Israeli ally in the region.  He strongly spoke out against Israel and put the full blame for current issues on the Israeli government. He also called Turkish support for a Palestinian state “unconditional.”  In the end, he made his position clear.

In the one-on-one interview below, he took things a step further suggesting that the Israeli government is dishonest and cruel. He also suggests that Israel has consistently employed an ideology of victimology to justify their actions and that this has gone on for far too long.

Since the killing of 21 Turkish citizens on the Israel’s flotilla raid in May of 2010, relations between the countries have been getting worse and worse. Israel, after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt, has now lost another strategic ally and appears to be further isolating itself.

With the Arab Spring streaming through the Middle East, autocracies are being challenged and new governments will be less tolerant, less open to accepting Israel’s position on Palestine and the Arab Wold in general. Despite this, Israel once again announced it will build a new settlement of 1100 homes in Palestine only days ago. The song remains the same, but Prime Minster Erdogan’s words are representative of a growing trend of intolerance for Israeli policy amongst the international community; so the question now must be – how long can it continue to play?

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Photo of the Week – The Colors of Istanbul


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Photograph taken by David Anthony Hohol

Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul, historically known as Byzantine or Constantinople, is one of the most storied places on Earth. At 12.8 million people, it’s also currently the 5th largest proper city in the world. Extended across either side of the Bosphorus River, Istanbul is the only city in the world situated on two continents – Asia and Europe.  Incredibly, Istanbul has served as the capital city to the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

Aside from the host of museums, fortresses, pavilions, churches and mosques that come with such a historical center, sometimes the simplest sites bring the greatest rewards.  The photograph above was taken at one of Istanbul’s largest fruit and vegetable markets, where one can plainly see the beauty of the city has translated into the meticulous, varied and vibrant presentation of this particular vendor.

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Israel’s Flotilla Attack Called For What It Is on MSNBC


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We all now know media coverage from around the world collectively condemned Israel’s massacre of the Aid Flotilla headed for Gaza. Every possible organization, from The United Nations to Amnesty International, cried foul and refused to accept any form of reasoning from the Israelis for attacking ships filled with humanitarian aid in international waters.

Although there are those in the American Media who are now more willing to criticize Israel, many factions within still jump to the defense of their longtime ally. It’s a knee jerk reaction, passively conditioned into the mainstream media since the end of WWII, that will take time to transfuse. Regardless, times are changing – now more than ever.

Glenn Greenwald, a former litigator and current writer and contributing editor for Salon.com, represents the turning of the tide in American Media Circles. Watch as he simply destroys the pro Israel interviewer, revealing how bias and illogical his arguments are to anyone who is willing to engage an alternative point of view.

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To Be or Not to be a Turk


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From Serfie Turkoglu…

If you are a child, immigration looks like an adventurous journey. You feel newborn, an alien among strange faces in an unknown country. You never look back and question your past, because you’re too busy adapting yourself to a new and mysterious life. When I came to Turkey from Bulgaria as a child, my past life was just a story for me. Thinking of Bulgaria is like digging up a distant memory buried within the farthest reaches of my mind.

I was born in 1987 in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. My parents are Pomaks, Bulgarians of Muslim faith. Before Muslims were subjected to the assimilation policy, which includes changing Turkish names to Bulgarian ones, converting people from Islam to Orthodoxy, and forbidding the traditional dress of Muslims, they lived in their lands in peace with Bulgarians side by side. They were neighbors and had – and still have now – good relations with each other. There was no difference among them except for their faiths and religion was never singled out as an issue.  They had much in common with each other. They spoke the same language, lived in the same villages, worked in the same fields, attended the same schools and learned the same history.

I don’t know why the state was disturbed by Muslims and imposed the assimilation policy on them during these times. They didn’t attempt to take power or create havoc in the community. On the contrary, it was the attempts of the state to clear off Muslims that created chaos in our society. Whenever I ask my grandfather about the events happening in our village, he gloomily tells me about the destruction of the mosques. The mosque in my village was partly destroyed and shut down, so that people could no longer worship there. Moreover, circumcision was illegal and Muslim families had to have their boys circumcised secretly. Women were not allowed to wear their traditional dresses. Everything related to Islamic culture was forbidden and those who didn’t comply with the rules were harshly punished. My parents tell me that at first, they endured these events. However, Bulgaria’s attempt to change the names of Muslims and forbidding people to speak Turkish was the final straw. (Although our family lived in an area where no one spoke Turkish anyway) It was one thing after another, after another, as they Bulgarian state tried to force my parent’s generation to forget their culture, tradition and identity.  Finally, my parents decided to leave.

I was a kid when these things were happening. That’s why I was not influenced by the chaotic atmosphere of my birthplace. I was interested in the fun parts of my life. My Bulgarian name was Elka and I was sorry that my sister’s name was more appealing than mine. I had many Bulgarian friends in kindergarten. I was raised in a mixed culture, which was a big pleasure for me. On the one hand, I was celebrating “bayram” with my family; on the other, I was painting Easter eggs with my friends. Neither they nor I was concerned with the faiths of others. The most important thing was friendship and we enjoyed it to the fullest. It was how things should be.

Life was fun only for children at the time. Grown ups were fighting with one another over identity and honor. My grandfather’s brother was killed in a fight between Bulgarian police officers and Muslims. There were many rebellions against the regulations placed upon Muslims and he was one of those seeking his rights. Bulgaria’s assimilation policy brought disorder, death, and horror to the people – and nothing else. The Muslims minority was soon discriminated against, since supposedly the anarchy was due to their existence. Therefore the Muslims immigrated to other countries, especially to those places where they could pursue their religion freely.

In 1992, when I was only 5, we left behind our house, our lands, our beloveds and our friends, and came to Turkey full of hope and promise. My grandfather said that we were Turks anyway and should be proud of that. When I asked him why we didn’t immigrate elsewhere, he told me that Turkey is like our hometown; our ancestors are Turks, and a result we should live under the Turkish flag. At the time, it sounded strange to me. How could I be a Turk if I didn’t even know how to speak Turkish? This question stayed with me for years.

The only thing I remember about the journey is the whistle of the train and endless railway line. My mother hid us under the blankets in order not catch attention. The first years in Turkey were great disappointment for us. Our luggage was kept in customs for six months and we had nothing to sleep on except for blankets given to us by neighbors. It was definitely a transition from wealth to poverty. In Bulgaria my family farmed their own land and lived in a big house, where all of us were happy. Now, we were penniless and my parents were unemployed. My grandfather spent all our money, so as to get back our luggage from customs. We started off with nothing.

The most difficult factor was language. We were total strangers to the Turkish people, as they were to us. We couldn’t communicate with them for months. I remember one day my mom went to the shop to buy yogurt. She didn’t know how to say it and tried to imitate milking a cow to the shop keeper. They gave her a bottle of milk, but she said “not milk” with her gestures. Only when one of our neighbors came to the shop to help her, could she buy the yogurt. Another similar moment passed between my grandmother and a neighbor. Needing some onions, my grandmother asked a neighbor and it took her half an hour to describe the shape of an onion. When I think about these events, I feel sorry for my family. Adaptation is much easier for a child, but what about a grownup? My grandfather still doesn’t know Turkish. Think about a person who lives in Turkey for 17 years without speaking the language. At first, I couldn’t understand why they gave up their entire life. What are all these struggles for? Now I see things more clearly. They left all they had behind for me; because they considered things enough to think about their children and grandchildren, and to provide us with a better life!

Three years ago, I went to Bulgaria for the second time. Seeing how my relatives live there, I thanked my family for immigrating to Turkey. The poor conditions of farmers in Bulgaria make people miserable. I never saw them in clean clothes; because they work from five in the morning to seven at night. Even more tragic, they’re never paid what they deserve. When they learn how comfortably we live in Turkey, they’re shocked. These people can’t imagine how one could spend more money on pleasures or pastime activities, than on food and shelter.

We now have a better life and it is thanks to sacrifices of my parents. A few months after we came to Turkey, my dad and mom began to work. In order to save money, they worked day and night. Sometimes I felt as if I didn’t have a mother, because I almost never saw her for a while. My sister and I got used to spending time with my grandmother. She was taking care of us and we weren’t allowed to go out. In the beginning, we were strangers in this country, so we felt as though we should be careful.

While my family was adapting to a new life, I was preparing to go to school and enrolled in kindergarten. At last I was to see my new world. My first day was a disaster. I was shocked to see that all these kids didn’t know a single word of my language. I still find it funny when I think of how I never thought that it was actually me who couldn’t speak their language. After school, I rushed to my grandmother and told her that none of the students could speak. She laughed at me and told me that I had to learn their language if I wanted to be a successful student. From then on, I began to speak Turkish at school. I was a successful student. Thanks to my teacher, I learned reading and writing in kindergarten.

Unfortunately, my success at kindergarten was not enough for Turkish elementary schools. I had to have an identity card, so as to be accepted into a primary school. That’s why I couldn’t attend the school immediately after I finished the kindergarten. I was in my blue school uniform, a notebook and pencil in my hand, when the director told me they couldn’t accept me as a student. I cried all day. I cried because I didn’t have this identity thing, something I had no idea about at the time.

The following year I was accepted to school thanks to my residence card. Now I was like the rest of the students – at least that’s what I thought. In my first year, when the teacher held a meeting about the class, he talked about my high grades in the classroom. I was the best student in the class and my dad was proud of me. However, the other children’s parents were disturbed by this. How can a foreigner know more than a Turkish student? This was the only question they asked during the meeting. My teacher was strictly against such discrimination and defended me, stating that my performance had nothing to do with nationality. I was successful because I studied hard. When I think about my school days, I suffered a bit at the hands of my friends’ discriminatory thinking. Whenever they got angry with me, they told me me I was just a “Bulgarian!” At first I was upset by such words, but I soon learned not to be.

The most humiliating moment came when I was in the 4th grade. A kid was harassing my sister and in order to protect her, I hit him. The boy reported my actions to his teacher. I was called to their classroom. and the teacher began to shout at me. Who did I think I was? How dare I do such a thing? He pulled my ear and asked me for my school number. Preparing myself to say my permanent residence number, as I didn’t have a national ID card, he told me “You’re not even from here; you are just a visitor!”

This was the most humiliating moment of my life. Whatever a kid does in elementary school, no teacher has the right to treat a student like that. But I was a little child and couldn’t even tell my parents. I will never forgive the immaturity of this man.

Years passed. My parents got better jobs with salaries I was a successful student and took care of my sister, who was now in elelementary school. Five years after we came to Turkey, we were about to become Turkish citizens. I’d soon have all the rights of a real Turk, which made me very happy. Now that I had a national ID card, I could attend to scholarship exams. At the time, life meant only school for me. I never once went out of town in the five years we were there. Manisa was the only place I knew. So I studied hard to become a good student and make my family proud of me. Wasn’t this why they came to Turkey?

Mother, Father . . .  Thank you for coming to Turkey! I know you lost all your family and friends in order to provide us with a better life. I am doing my best to honor you.

There are many people who’ve experienced similar things like me around the world. Nowadays, almost nobody lives in their mother country anymore. People give importance to cultural diversity, so it is less difficult to be a stranger in a new country now. I often think of how all the difficulties we underwent all those years ago have so much meaning know. I am in one of the best universities of Turkey, writing this very article . . . and I owe this to my family. I have never thought of myself a stranger, because it’s not your birthplace, but your identity that makes you an individual. Thanks to my parents, I know who I am and for that I am grateful.

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Close Your Eyes


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blindfolded__i_fly_by_appleplusskeleton Turkey corespondent Serfie Turkoglu eloquetly reveals to REALTIVITY OnLine the multi-layered complexities of being a life-long international citizen and child of the world. The touchstones of culture are everywhere, unseen and in the shadows of our mind. These subversive elements help us define the cult of individuality that fuels the human experience. But what if one was “from” more than a single place? What if you belonged everywhere and nowhere?

“I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed”

Orhan Veli Kanik

When Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul, he did not conquer a city, but the world itself. Istanbul. . . the magnificent, beloved and liveliest city; the city, by which many poets and philosophers are inspired.

Although we are proud of every city in Turkey, Istanbul certainly has a distinctive place for us and this is justified by the millions of people who visit from all around the world. If you have a look at Turkey in general, you can see that Istanbul is the best summary of the country. Walking down the Istiklal Street, you see people from every race, religion, language, culture and nationality. That’s why I say Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered the world itself. Accordingly, every type of Turkish citizen is represented by Istanbul in some way or another. The modernizers, the teenagers, the conservatives, the adventurers, and the freaks all have something to find, to love, and to associate themselves with in this threshold city. Istanbul also represents the glamour and awkwardness of being a bi-cultural and bilingual citizen.

What else am I other than Istanbul? I am the embodiment of two continents: I am both European and Asian. Of course, the matter is not solved when I simply say I am of both cultures. Actually, the problem is born at this point. The fact that I am a Bulgarian Muslim living in Turkey makes things a bit complicated. It’s less due to my origins, and more about my personality they slowly discover, day by day.

I’ve never been ashamed of being a Pomak in Turkey, but if you embody more than one culture at once, you will often face struggles with the people around you. The most overwhelming thing is being misunderstood by others. I remember unintentionally breaking my friend’s heart just because I said “I hope I will see you” instead of “Inshallah, I will see you” while seeing her off.

In theory, both mean the same; but in Turkish, the first one reveals irony when not uttered with the correct tone. As a result, my friend thought I didn’t have the intention to see her again and got cross with me. Later on, I learned to use the correct diction, but the first experience made me cry.

Another incident happened while at college. In my family, we all tend to speak at a high volume – at least high enough for Turkish people to think of us as awkward. It was not a big deal for me until I came to university, since most of my friends in the neighborhood are Bulgarians and speak just like me. We also have the habit of using many details when we tell a story and furthermore, do it loudly. Unaware of my nature, many of my friends at university criticized me due to my speaking style. They always asked me to speak quietly. I try, but I can’t help it. Can you give up a habit that is a part of your lifestyle all at once? I can’t do it either.

Sometimes I even felt offended by people. So long as they know this is simply my way of speaking, why the hell do they ask me to change? Why don’t they just get accustomed to it? Why should I be the one acclimatizing myself to them? When they warn me about my speech, I want to say “I can’t speak like you, I can’t be quieter and I can’t cut it short… because I am Bulgarian. We tend to talk like this, it’s in our nature.”

But I don’t. If I say so, I think they’d assume I’m trying to show off by being different or that I am trying to act like an exotic stranger, and not a Turk. I’ve been in Turkey for 17 years and they probably think I should’ve overcome certain differences. But no! One can achieve this only to a certain extent. I wish they could hear some of our exclamations. They would burst out laughing.

It’s not only the concrete facts that people find different in you. In many cases, your spirit, even your mood makes you distinctively heterodox in the community. Inspecting your figure, people feel something is different in you, but what? At those times, I want to shout “Me! It’s all of me that’s different than you!”

In our first years in Turkey, my father always forced me to be self-confident about my actions. I was to never let people think, decide or act on my behalf. I was supposed to be hard-working in order to lead a happy life, since I was a new comer and had to gain my place with my own effort. Years passed and this motto created the young woman I am today.

I’m now sure why, but I also got used to disregarding people’s ages and can communicate with anyone I like. As long as I act respectively, I can communicate with the eldest people around me. In Turkey, however, although the younger generation has changed this norm to some extent, one is not supposed directly to talk to your elders. Your respect to them is measured by your meekness, which I don’t have in abundance. Thus, some of my teachers thought me too courageous and blunt. I always felt the necessity of giving an account of my words and actions. Otherwise, I prefer to stay passive. I don’t like to be marked as different by a person who only prefers to criticize my distinctiveness.

It might be a ridiculous simile, but I think of a superstar in disguise able to taste the flavor of an ordinary life. Are not bi-cultural people like superstars somehow? We have to suppress part of our self in order to get along well with people around us. Moreover, we lose that sense of belonging, which is the biggest shock for many bi-cultural people. Honestly, I’m glad that I don’t have that sense of belonging. Of course, I don’t mean my roots or the things that create my identity – I mean the commitment to a place.

Living in many places among different cultures enriches your personality. On the other hand, it numbs your sense of attachment to specific thing so that you don’t feel sad when you are separated from it. You await the arrival of new things in your life. When I came to Turkey I was 5, so I didn’t weep for leaving my hometown. My hometown meant only my family at that time. Before settling down in Manisa, where my family lives now, we moved from city to city. I got used to moving on, changing neighbors and friends. It became our lifestyle, so I learned to adapt myself to new conditions. That’s why I didn’t have a hard time in my first years at high school and university, unlike many of my friends. Lacking a sense of belonging became an advantage for me.

Now I live in Ankara,  nine hours away from Manisa, yet I don’t miss my city and I won’t miss Ankara when I leave it next year. I don’t think I’m cold or insensitive; I’ve only learned to live like this due to how my life has unfolded. It’s my parents, friends and loved ones for whom I care. In the end, I know I don’t belong here.

The most miserable thing about this issue is I don’t feel like I’m a piece of this whole wide and colorful mosaic. In some ways, I can’t fit in! This basically happens, for example, to Turkish people who go to Germany for employment. After several years, they come to Turkey changed. Their children belong to a different culture and the parents can’t speak Turkish as well as they did previously. People think of them as Germans. On the other hand, back in Germany they are regarded as Turks; therefore they come to belong to neither country. They become temporary dwellers in each country, floating on the breath of culture.

Last weekend, on the bus coming back to school, I felt something deep inside me I can’t explain. I am not one of those pessimists who get lost in their thoughts and believe they don’t belong anywhere but this time… the feeling was the same. Why don’t I miss a particular hometown like the tragic heroes in the movies? I forced myself to yearn for a specific place to which I belong, but I could not. Instead I could easily imagine the places I could go in the future.

In actuality, as much as I try to see the positive, it also hurts. You are incomplete when you feel you belong both everywhere and nowhere and sometimes I don’t know which one is better. It mostly depends on the time you think of it. I have friends happily saying “we are going to our hometown for summer holidays.”

Yes, I am going to Bulgaria for holidays too, but I don’t say it as feverishly as they do. I can’t be completely myself when I am there, and I can’t be completely myself here either. Sometimes, it’s hard to cope with the feelings.

There are many advantages of being bi-cultural, I don’t deny it. You can interact with different cultures at the same time. In some way, you can become different individuals and it’s fantastic. Here I preferred to talk about the other side of the coin. I keep trying to balance both of my selves. . .  at least it is easier than Dr. Jekyll’s struggle. I think the process of balance itself will come in the invigorating challenge creating my own identity.

And then I say. . . I am Istanbul. Within me, I live wrapped in the comforting cloak of  different cultures, different languages and different identities.

Now, I am listening to myself, free, intent… my eyes closed.

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An American President in Istanbul


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TURKEY-US-ERDOGAN-OBAMA

From Serife Turkoglu…

 

American President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey was in the news for weeks before his arrival.  Newspapers, magazines and TV channels all speculated on the strategic, political and economic importance of this visit for both sides. Now, many weeks later, we’re still talking about it.  When I first heard Obama, an African-American, was set to run for president, I thought the USA was injecting some much-needed fresh blood into their government. Considering the fact that he is an African-American candidate, whose father was a Muslim from Kenya, people thought an Obama presidency would prove to be a challenge; both he and America were up for it.

 

         Under Barack Obama’s presidency, the USA will undergo a big change. Barack Obama means hope for many people because he is young, idealistic, self-confident, and the first African-American president. This has captured the world’s attention and made us all very interested in what he will do. He’s very aware of this and he seems to be genuine man. I’ve always admired people like Barack Obama, who frankly reflects his ideals and sticks to them.

 

             Above all else, Turkey is impressed by Obama’s peace policy. With that said, his strong opposition to terrorism, his diplomatic approach to Islamic countries, and his aim to mend relations with Turkey are only some aspects of President Obama’s policies that make him popular among Turks. In George Bush’s presidency, Turkey maintained a generally negative attitude towards America. Like many others around the world, Turkish people found President Bush to be overbearing and egocentric. I remember nothing positive about his presidency; nothing at all. Most everyone around me feels the same way. Even when my grandmother saw him on TV, she switched the channel, lest she might hear some other bad news due to President Bush.

 

Turkey was pleased to welcome Barack Obama’s presidency, despite the fact Obama’s views on Armenian-Turkish relations do not correspond with Turkish assertions. Whereas the Turkish government asserts the Armenian genocide allegations have been falsified by historical documents, Obama has frequently declared that America acknowledges the allegations, supporting Armenia in the process. I believe Barack Obama’s position on this very sensitive issue has created disappointment in the Turkish people. I’ve heard people around me saying, “Obama seems to be an honest idealist, but he’ll stab Turkey in the back, and side with Armenia… when its suits his needs.”

 

 Nevertheless, we have to accept the fact that the USA has its own global policies, just like every country. Obama’s diplomatic and for lack of better term, old-fashioned politeness inspires us to understand this; something the previous administration seemingly never took into account. Turkey needs to maintain a flexible attitude in order to come to terms with the USA and with President Obama being more sensitive than George Bush, this becomes possible. Unlike Bush, Barack Obama never called Turkey a “Moderate Islamic Republic,” which is a tremendous insult to the Turkish secular constitution. Simply put, we are not an Islamic Republic. In terms of politics and government, Turkey has never been associated with any religion. The second article of Turkish Constitution clarifies “The Turkish Republic is a nationalistic, democratic, secular and social State, governed by the rule of law, based on human rights.”

 

We do not discriminate our citizens according to their faith or race. Everyone living in Turkey is a Turkish citizen.  This is why the great Turkish leader Ataturk says, “How happy is he who can say I am a Turk” and not “How happy is he who is a Turk.”

 

This is one of the major reasons Obama is exalted in the eyes of the Turks; he has shown he knows this to be true. The Bush administration just never seemed to understand the nuances of the world they so badly wanted to influence. This was why his administration was a failure. Obama, on the other hand, has show more tact and diplomacy in a few short months, than Bush did in eight years as president. By the time he left our country, Obama’s circumspect manners and attentive word choice throughout his visit made him very popular among Turkish people. In the end, politics isn’t rocket science. I think it’s the same everywhere, no matter what the country; people just wanted to be respect for who they are.

 

          Even in his election campaign, when he was being verbally attacked and disrespected by Republican lobbyists, President Obama never failed to speak in a diplomatic and polite tone. I have never understood why some politicians forget about the importance of effective communication. Some leaders like to patronize other countries, as if they control the universe. They love to act authoritatively and are concerned with only their own interests. During diplomatic visits, they cordial tone hardens and talks focus almost entirely on politics and policy. I was happy to see Obama was different.

 

Once in Turkey, Obama’s distinguished manners did not change. Whether it was the Blue or the Ayasofya Mosques, he humbly expressed his admiration for the historic beauty of Istanbul. Turkish people are just like everyone else: we like sincerity; we like to see a person’s admiration for our history, of the things we are so proud of. This is something that seems easily understood, but some world leaders simply don’t get it. Words are important and the simple act of communication should never be under-valued. As a result, we found Obama, day by day, to be more sympathetic; even closer to us. He is neither offensive, nor aggressive when he speaks about Turkish political issues. He is simply an affable figure. I’ve heard many elderly in Turks refer to him as çok beyefendi, meaning a real gentleman, and I would have to agree.

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            One of the most significant moments of President Obama’s stay in Turkey was his visit to Ataturk’s Mausoleum, or the Anitkabir. Almost every leader who comes to Turkey visits the Anitkabir and expresses their respect for Ataturk, the man whose vision and courage led to an independent and democratic Turkish State. After the Anitkabir, President Obama voiced his esteem for Ataturk and paid tribute to his leadership in the guest book. Declaring his wish to strengthen relations between the USA and Turkey, Barack Obama said that he would support “Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern and prosperous democracy giving hope to its people and providing ‘peace at home, peace in the world’.”

 

This was the moment when President Obama conquered the hearts of Turkish people. Ataturk has a special place in the lives of all Turks. Turkish children learn about him even before they start school. Their parents, and even more so, their grandparents are fond of telling stories about Ataturk’s glorious victories, over and over again. Families are very concerned with their children’s nationalist awareness. Whenever I go to the Anitkabir, I see a lot of parents with their children wandering around and telling them what a wonderful leader Ataturk was. Some parents even cry when they visit his tomb. When I first learned of Ataturk, I’d just arrived from Bulgaria. I was in primary school, busy trying to learn Turkish, and found his stories of bravery and courage very interesting. Whenever I think back, I remember a story of Ataturk’s childhood, when he and his sister were running after crows in the cornfields. It was very difficult for me to think of this great leader as a child like me, but it helped me to associate him with ordinary life. He is a leader who loved his country so much, that he sacrificed his entire life to create a democratic republic. This is why our elderly often they would willingly have died in his place. Turkish people show their gratitude to Atarturk as much as they can. He is a true hero.

       

Even the magnificent memorial tomb built for him reflects this. Ataturk, the leader of Turkish War of Independence and former president of Turkey, has always been an idealistic figure not only for Turkey but also for several leaders all over the world. Turkey is proud of having such a great leader who founded a new republic from the ashes of an empire. Therefore Turkey very warmly received Barack Obama’s note in the guest book. For him to actually quote Turkey’s greatest leader showed us something special. It was very considerate of him to make such diplomatic and intellectual remarks, considering the recent tension between America and Turkey during the presidency of George W. Bush. Emphasizing Ataturk’s saying, President Obama both discloses his peace policy all over the world and attributes his action to Ataturk, thus becoming a follower of peace. He gained the sympathy of Turkey by referring to Ataturk’s internationally praised philosophy summarized as “peace at home, peace in the world”. When I heard him say this, I appreciated his consideration and believed in his sincerity. Words are powerful, indeed.

 

There are those who are skeptical about Obama’s peace policy. One of my friends said just the other day, “We’ve suffered from American policies too many times… Barack Obama can’t win us over by simply exploiting our sentimental vision of Ataturk’s ideology.”

 

Despite the fact that some Turks are still dubious about President Obama’s global strategy, we all hope he will keep his promise and prove this time everything will be different.

 

Overall, President Obama’s visit and his diplomatic attitude throughout his stay in Turkey were highly praised. Though his visit was short, which hindered him from dealing with all the issues between the two countries, it represented a significant step towards fortifying Turkish-American relations and Turkish people appreciate Barack Obama’s policy. However, no matter how sympathetic and agreeable a figure President Obama is thought to be, people must be aware of the fact that he is a politician who looks after his own country’s interests. Similarly, Turkey gives priority to its own interests in the political arena. At the Turkish National Assembly, Barack Obama declared that he was happy to see Turkey’s attempts to mend relations with Armenia, but added we need to open the border. Furthermore, he talked about the European Union, stating that Turkey deserves to be accepted as a member. Whereas President Obama’s view on Turkey is complimentary and pleases the country, it reminds people of two possible problems.

 

Whether President Obama did it intentionally or not, his speech about Turkey’s membership of the EU will definitely irritate the European Union, which may affect Turkey’s application for membership. Thus his remarks might upset Turkish people in the long term. Additionally, I felt his views on Turkish-Armenian relations and his call to open the borders to be a somewhat inflammatory statement, and one that interferes with Turkey’s domestic affairs. It’s up to Turkey to open the border and pursue good relations with Armenia and Turkey aims to do just that, but not because American President Barack Obama suggests we should. The Turkish Republic tries to maintain peace with our neighbors, simply because it’s the right thing to do.

 

          Although President Obama’s declaration about these issues is controversial in political sense, Turkish people, famous for their hospitality, still greet his visit to our country with enthusiasm. Despite our problems with some of his policies, President Obama’s sensitivity and consideration for Turkey brought him ten points out of ten from the Turks. I hope he will always maintain a global peace policy and be a successful politician, dealing diplomatically with world issues. I think the world needs such leaders, now more than ever.

    

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Serife Turkoglu


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serifeBorn in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria,  Staff Writer Serife Turkoglu immigrated with her family to Turkey as a child. Raised in the city of Manisa, Turkoglu has since moved to the Turkish capital of Ankara and is currently working towards a degree in English Literature from Bilkent University, the nation’s most prestigious post-secondary institution. On a full-paid scholarship, Turkoglu also spends her time working to establish a background in human resources, marketing and commerce. An immgrant from Bulgaria, living at the Turkish crossroads between the Middle East and the European Union, how her life has unfolded privileges her with yet another unique perspective. Speaking  English, German, Spanish and Bulgarian and standing at the gateway between two worlds, Turkoglu once again represents RELALTIVTY OnLine’s multi-angled view of the human experience.

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