Books on Turkey
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Update No: 113 - (30/10/06)
Pamuk wins the Nobel Prize
Orhan Pamuk, a widely-acclaimed novelist, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature
in 2006, a most satisfactory award for the Turks, who have a high regard for
literature. An earlier premier, Bulent Ecevit, translated TS Eliot into Turkish.
Can one imagine Bush, who knows Spanish, translating Cervantes into English or
Blair, who knows French, Baudelaire into English either?
Pamuk has expressed regret for the Armenian genocide of 1915, a sensitive issue
in Turkey. The French parliament, with only a minority in attendance recently
passed a motion making it illegal to deny the genocide, to the fury of the
Turkish government, who see it as a ploy to defer Turkey's EU bid. But it would
have to pass the Senate to become law and then be ratified by President Chirac,
who is certain to veto it if need be. He supports Turkish entry and French logic
should object to seeking to fix or change history by current legislation.
Liberals and nationalists in Turkey face off again over freedom of speech
Another prize-winning Turkish novelist stood trial from September 21st on
charges of belittling Turkishness. The case is the latest in a string of
prosecutions pitting liberals against nationalists in this European Union
Elif Shafak's 'The Bastard of Istanbul' has topped Turkish bestseller lists
since it was published in March, winning critical praise for its portrait of the
friendship between two girls, an Armenian-American and a Turk. But the work's
direct treatment of the mass murder of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 has also
attracted the attention of Kemal Kerincsiz, the nationalist lawyer whose rise to
prominence as an opponent of free speech has paralleled Turkey's EU accession
process. Kerincsiz has figured prominently in a number of high-profile free
speech cases, including the prosecution last December of the same Orhan Pamuk,
now a Nobel laureate.
In Shafak's case, Kerincsiz's gripe is not with something she said, but with
comments made by characters in her book. Sitting in his cramped central Istanbul
law office, the soft-spoken Kerincsiz doesn't take long to find one of the
passages that offended him.
"I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at
the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915," he reads, quoting Dikran
Stamboulian, a minor Armenian character. "There's plenty more where this
came from," he adds. Turkey and Armenia have long disputed the tragic
events of 1915, when over one million Armenians perished amid the upheaval of
World War I. Armenians insist that the actions of Ottoman Turkish forces
constituted genocide. Turkish leaders steadfastly deny this.
Shafak is being prosecuted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Facing a
possible sentence of three years if convicted, she is fully aware of the
seriousness of her situation. "Until recently, I took comfort in the fact
that nobody had ever been convicted under [Article] 301," she said.
"Then, in June, a higher court confirmed [the Turkish-Armenian journalist]
Hrant Dink's six-month suspended sentence. That's terrible news for him, and it
could constitute a precedent for me."
Shafak gave birth to her first child on September 16 and has yet to decide
whether to attend her trial. "She wants to be there to defend herself
against these ridiculous charges," her husband, Eyup Can, said on the phone
from the Istanbul hospital where his wife is recovering from a caesarean
section. "The doctors are opposed, and so am I, to be honest."
He hasn't forgotten the scenes outside the Istanbul courthouse where Orhan Pamuk
was tried last December. Nationalists smashed the novelist's car windshield and
attacked his supporters as the police looked on.
A similar welcome could be in store for Shafak. For weeks, a website belonging
to Kerincsiz's nationalist group has called on "patriots" to turn out
in opposition to the "newly-chosen princess of capitulationist
"I oppose all violence," Kerincsiz said, "but if you call
somebody's grandfather a butcher, there is no telling what reactions will
"It's an invitation to a lynching," ripostes newspaper editor Ismet
Berkan, another victim of the nationalist lawyer's attention. "Let's hope
the police are prepared."
If the language in the debate over Shafak's novel is violent, it's ultimately
because this trial is symbolic of a much deeper struggle going on in Turkey. For
nationalists like Kemal Kerincsiz, the clash of civilizations is real, and
Turkey, a Muslim country, belongs with the East. What the European Union is
trying to do, he claims, is "strip away our Muslim and Turkish
Those like Shafak who support Turkey's integration into Western economic and
security structures, Kerincsiz says derisively, are "world citizens,
Though intended as an insult, Kerincsiz's comment doesn't seem to offend the
Strasbourg-born Shafak, who has spent much of her life outside Turkey. Both in
her life and her work, she is an enemy of easy categorizations. "My ideal
is cosmopolitanism, refusing to belong to either side in this polarized
world," she says in her perfect English. This attitude helped prompt her to
agree to serve as a columnist for a religious newspaper, a move that generated
"Too many people see the world in black and white, us and them. That's
wrong. Ambiguity, synthesis: these are the things that compose Turkish society,
and that is not something to be ashamed of," Shafak said.
It remains to be seen which side will win the debate. Few take Kerincsiz's claim
as the voice of the Turkish people seriously - even the country's
ultra-nationalist political party has been put off by the violent actions of his
But nationalism has traditionally proven a powerful force in Turkish politics.
And a growing sense among Turks that Brussels is just playing with Ankara over
the accession issue has played into the hands of people like Kerincsiz.
"Turkey has been changing rapidly over the past five years, but it hasn't
yet reached the point of no return," says political analyst Umut Ozkirimli.
"These are critical times."
Appointment of new military chief sparks speculation on military-government
relations in Turkey
The appointment of a reputed hard-liner as Turkey's new chief of the general
staff has sparked speculation about the military's continued support for reforms
and European Union accession.
Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, who previously served as the military's land forces chief,
was confirmed as the new head of the Turkish armed forces in late July. He will
formally assume his new duties at the end of August.
The appointment comes at a sensitive time for Turkey, which is grappling with
geopolitical uncertainty connected with the deepening violence in neighbouring
Iraq, Iran's nuclear program and the ongoing fighting in Lebanon. Domestically,
Turkey is also gearing up for the selection of a new president, followed by
parliamentary elections. Buyukanit is widely viewed as a proponent of a harder
line on security issues, especially toward Kurdish militants, than the outgoing
chief-of-staff, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok. In addition, Buyukanit is said to be an
uncompromising secularist, seemingly placing him at odds with Turkey's
moderately Islamist government, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Given Buyukanit's reputation, some political observers have wondered whether his
elevation to the top military spot is a harbinger of military-AKP discord. Some
go further. Washington chatter talks of a post-election military takeover, if
the election results are not to the army's liking.
Buyukanit had been in line for the promotion, but in the weeks leading up to the
announcement, rumours circulated that some members of the Justice and
Development Party, which dominates the government, were trying to block the
appointment. The appointment has been traditionally announced by the Supreme
Military Council, but in this case, President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's office
released the news days earlier than expected.
The departure from protocol was designed to dispel speculation about
behind-the-scenes political manoeuvring, some observers suggested. Erdogan
insisted that the manner of the appointment represented nothing out of the
ordinary. "The media does not understand the appointment process," the
Zaman daily quoted Erdogan as saying. "We are not a government that acts on
impulses. We use our authority within specific guidelines."
Since the founding of the Turkish republic in 1923, the military has viewed
itself as the guardian of the country's secularist tradition. This stance has
prompted Turkey's generals to repeatedly involve themselves in politics. The EU
membership bid, engineered by the AKP government, is forcing Turkey to make
significant changes to the country's social traditions and political culture. EU
requirements, for example, demand the military's subservience to civilian
Ozkok emphasized moderation and worked with the AKP government to implement EU-mandated
measures. The extent to which Buyukanit will continue Ozkok's policies remains
uncertain. Some worry that Buyukanit will reinforce already considerable
resistance to EU integration by nationalist elements. For instance, if Buyukanit
moves to toughen Turkish military tactics toward Kurdish militants, Turkey could
experience a rise in tension with the EU on civil rights issues.
Buyukanit can also potentially exert considerable influence over the national
debate about religion's role in society and politics. Judging by the results of
the early August meeting of the Supreme Military Council, Turkey's generals
remain intent on keeping religious faith out of public life. In announcing
promotions and command rotations, the council also disclosed that 17 officers
had been dismissed for holding religious views that could damage the military's
esteem. As the head of a moderately Islamist political party, Erdogan has
favoured a more lenient stance on public expressions of faith. The religious
issue stands to figure prominently in both the upcoming presidential selection
process and the parliamentary vote.
Known as a general with a penchant for outspokenness, Buyukanit has avoided
making politically charged statements in recent days. On August 9, he struck a
pragmatic note in announcing a five-year plan to streamline the Turkish
military. "Turkey's geopolitical location, combined with the fact that the
country lies in the very centre of various crisis areas, necessitates the army
to assume various roles both in times of war and peace," the New Anatolian
daily quoted the general as saying.
Some political analysts predict Buyukanit will defy expectations and will
essentially maintain the policies staked out by Ozkok.
"The Turkish army, which understands trends in the world, is tied to
democracy and is pro-EU. It does not tolerate hot-headed and personal outbursts
that do not reflect tradition," political analyst Mustafa Unal wrote in a
commentary posted on the Zaman online web site August 2. "I don't believe
Buyukanit will disrupt the tradition of the army. He will not treat EU accession
and the civil administration differently than Hilmi Ozkok."
Commentator Cem Oguz, writing in the New Anatolian, praised the outgoing Ozkok
for acting as a "unifying, constructive and rational figure." He went
on to write that Buyukanit seems "as rational and far-sighted as Ozkok."
Turkey treads carefully in negotiating an energy deal with Iran
Turkey and Iran are trying to finalize an energy deal that would open a new
export avenue to the European Union. As it tries to strike a deal, Turkey is
treading carefully, mindful of not wanting to upset the region's geopolitical
Following August 15-17th talks in the Turkish capital Ankara, Iranian Energy
Minister Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh announced, via the ministry's website, that the
two countries had agreed in principle on a framework for Iranian gas exports to
go to Europe via Turkish pipelines.
But a Turkish Foreign Ministry source, indicated that a deal had not yet been
finalized. "The talks are still under way," the official said. Experts
are now trying to narrow technical differences. The commitment to keep talking
does not assure that an export pact will ultimately be concluded, the official
The Iranian-EU export concept is intertwined with issues relating to Tehran's
gas deliveries to Turkey under a deal negotiated a decade ago. Turkish officials
have long been dissatisfied with the terms of the pact, especially the price it
must pay for Iranian gas, and have been seeking a revision for years. The
wrangling is a major factor in the underutilization of a pipeline stretching
from the northern Iranian city of Tabriz to Ankara that became operational in
2001. According to the 25-year agreement, Turkey is reportedly obligated to buy
8.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from Iran in 2006. But so far this year,
Ankara imported only about 2.5 (bcm) during the first half of the year.
During the August negotiations, Hamaneh reportedly pressed Turkish officials to
fill the Tabriz-Ankara pipeline's excess capacity with gas destined for EU
states. He also sought to secure an Iranian role in the development of the
planned $5.8 billion Nabucco pipeline, which would connect Turkey with Austria.
Construction of that route is scheduled to begin in 2008. Hamaneh indicated that
a large share of the Nabucco pipeline's capacity might be allocated to Iran.
But, there has been no official acknowledgement of such an arrangement.
Europe's vulnerability concerning its gas supplies was exposed in early 2006,
when a Russian cut-off to Ukraine caused disruptions in several EU states. As
the EU strives to reduce its dependence on Russia, Iran is eager to gain a
foothold in Europe as an alternate source of gas, with the apparent intention of
using energy exports as a means to reduce international pressure on Tehran over
its nuclear program. Turkish officials, meanwhile, see in Iran's eagerness an
opportunity to rework its gas purchase agreement with Tehran.
In addition, Ankara has its own energy agenda, which clashes with Iran's. Turkey
is interested in turning itself into an energy trader, not just a transit
country for exports. According to a report published by the Turkish daily
Hurriyet, Turkish officials sought to establish a joint Iranian-Turkish venture
that would manage European exports. Iran reportedly rebuffed the idea, and wants
to maintain full control over the exports while paying Turkey transit fees.
Iran also wants to build a refinery in Turkey. In return, Turkey asked that the
Turkish state oil concern, TPAO, gain oil exploration rights on Iranian soil.
Iranian officials have not provided a clear response to Ankara's request and
thus these two issues remain up in the air.
Beyond economic considerations, Turkey is proceeding cautiously out of a desire
to avoid alienating two key allies - the United States and Azerbaijan.
Washington, which has adopted the hardest line toward Iran on the nuclear issue,
wants to keep Tehran as politically and economically isolated as possible,
equating isolation with leverage to get Iranian leaders to negotiate in good
faith on the country's nuclear program. Thus, any Turkish-Iranian export deal
would be sure to upset the Bush administration.
Azerbaijan would also likely be miffed by a Turkish-Iranian gas deal. Turkey and
Azerbaijan are expected to open the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline soon, and
Iran's entry into the European export field could potentially threaten
Even if a deal is hashed out between Ankara and Tehran, the export plan would
appear to face an ongoing security threat. In recent months, the Turkish-Iranian
pipeline has been targeted by Kurdish militants, who have resumed their armed
struggle in Turkey. The most recent Kurdish militant attack in late August
disrupted the pipeline's operation for three days.
Russian pipeline play poses dilemma for Turkey
Russian plans for a new natural gas pipeline are placing Turkey in a tough
position. The new Russian route would use Turkey as a transit point for exports
to the European Union, in effect creating a direct competitor to
Turkish-controlled ventures. Given Ankara's interests in joining the EU,
however, Turkish officials are reluctant to be seen as creating hurdles for the
Word that Russia would proceed with plans to build the gas pipeline, dubbed Blue
Stream 2, surfaced September 14 following a meeting between the chief of the
Gazprom conglomerate, Alexei Miller, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Blue
Stream 2 is envisioned as having a capacity of 8 billion cubic meters (bcm) of
gas per year, the bulk of which, about 5 bcm, would go to Italy. The Italian
energy company ENI and Gazprom are expect to sign a strategic cooperation
agreement in October, according to a September 21 report in the Russian business
daily Kommersant. The Hungarian oil company MOL may also participate in the
Although Blue Stream 2 could assist Turkey in becoming what Turkish Energy
Minister Hilmi Guler described as "Europe's energy bridge," the
Russian venture poses a difficult dilemma for Ankara. Turkish policy-makers are
not keen to see Gazprom expand its share of the EU gas market, but they can't at
the same time be seen as obstructionist. Such a perception could increase
opposition within the EU to Turkish membership.
Turkey clearly favours two other gas export ventures in which it is a direct
participant, not merely a transit country. The first, the Nabucco Pipeline,
would link Turkey and Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, and expand EU
access to Persian Gulf and Caspian Basin supplies. Construction on the Nabucco
line is slated to begin in 2008 and be completed in 2011. An associated link -
the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline - will connect Turkey to Azerbaijan's Shah
Deniz gas field.
Ankara has not yet expressed an official opinion on Blue Stream 2. But in an
interview with EurasiaNet, a Turkish official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, pointed out that the Blue Stream 2 project appears to clash with the
European Union's stated goal of diversifying its sources of energy. EU officials
expressed a desire to reduce their dependency on Russian exports after a pricing
dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to disruptions in EU supplies in early
"Turkey supports and tries to contribute to the European Union's efforts to
diversify its [EU's] routes and sources of energy," the Turkish official
said. "For such a diversification, there exists the Shah Deniz pipeline,
not only the Blue Stream project."
In addition, Turkey and Iran have been conducting talks in recent weeks on the
provision of Iranian energy exports to the EU. Blue Stream 2 could seriously
dent Tehran's export ambitions. It could also hurt Azerbaijan's bottom line.
Azerbaijani officials have announced that the Baku-Erzurum pipeline will be
fully operational by the end of 2006. "Production [at Shah Deniz] will
start at the end of the month [September] and will grow in the course of the
year," David Woodward, president of BP Azerbaijan, said in mid-September.
Russia, like the other players in the rapidly intensifying EU energy-supply
game, feels a sense of urgency. Blue Stream 2 would be ready no sooner than
2012, according to Russian media reports. The new route would parallel an
existing pipeline under the Black Sea, Blue Stream 1, to Turkey, and then
connect with the EU via Greece. The projected construction cost is about US$5
billion. Blue Stream 1, which is designed to serve the Turkish market, has been
plagued by underutilization and bickering over prices.
There is a chance that Blue Stream 2 could become operational sooner than the
Nabucco route, which has already experienced technical delays. "Gazprom
officials said the monopoly is in hurry to implement the [Blue Stream-2]
project, because its rival, Nabucco, is expected to produce [transport] 31
billion cubic meters of gas per year," a September 21 commentary in
Beyond not wanting to add another complication to already tangled EU accession
talks, Turkey may be hesitant to directly confront Russia over Blue Stream 2
because of Moscow's ability to retaliate. Commentor Mirza Cetinkaya, writing for
the Zamon Online webstite September 26, noted that Russia and Greece have
strengthened strategic cooperation in recent months. In addition, Russia has
expressed interest in constructing an oil pipeline to Greece via Bulgaria,
bypassing Turkey. A move by Ankara to block Blue Stream 2, then, could serve to
solidify a Russian-Greek partnership and undermine Turkey's
"energy-bridge" aspirations. "When big money from Russia,
investments and tourism in Greek Cyprus are included, Greece appears to be an
alternative [for Russian cooperation] to Turkey," Cetinkaya said. This
factor "should be taken into consideration."
Turkish company wins 42m Turkmen contract
A Turkish company, ABKA Construction and Foreign Trade Co. Ltd, won an
international tender in Turkmenistan to construct a fishery complex worth 42
million Euro in the country, reported Turkmenistan.ru.
The winner of the tender was announced by the State Committee for Fisheries on
October 2nd. Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, also approved the decision
of the tender commission and the conclusion of the expert commission. The
Istanbul-based company is to design and construct a complex for breeding
sturgeons and producing fishery at Kiyanly port, in the Balkan province on the
basis of "turn-key" principle. The construction is to be launched in
October, and the complex is to be completed in May 2008.
Turkey's Q2 2006 electricity output up 9.01%
Turkey's gross electric power output went up by 9.01 per cent year-on-year to
41,660 GWh in the second quarter of 2006, news website reporter.gr cited the
Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK) as announcing.
The output dropped by 2.05 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2006.
State-run power producer Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) and its subsidiaries produced
48.72 per cent of the total. Thermal power plants ranked first with 29,690 GWh,
followed by hydroelectric plants with 11,947 GWh. The production of wind power
plants stood at 22 GWh. In the second quarter of 2006, electricity consumption
went up by 9.21 per cent on the year to 30,875 GWh. The industrial sector
consumed 42.79 per cent of the total and household consumption accounted for
25.34 per cent.
Project to build pipeline from Samsun to Ceyhan
Royal Dutch Shell has joined a consortium of two Turkish energy companies, Calik
Group and ENI, in a project to build an oil pipeline from the northern Anatolian
province of Samsun to the southern Anatolian town of Ceyhan. The project,
expected to cost between US$1.5 billion and US$1.8 billion, is expected to
alleviate oil-based sea traffic in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles. The pipeline
should become operational by 2009, setimes.com reported.
Cisco to invest up to US$275m in 5 years in Turkish market
Cisco Systems Inc, a leading supplier of networking equipment and network
management, said on September 26th that it would invest US$275 million to
promote technology projects in Turkey over a five-year period, news website
Cisco CEO, John Chambers, visited Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
in Ankara where they held a 50-minute private meeting. Before meeting Erdogan,
Chambers visited the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB).
Cisco's Turkey programme includes increasing Cisco personnel in the country to
400 employees from 80, establishing an institute to foster entrepreneurial
ventures and providing network technology to help connect smaller businesses and
communities. Cisco, the largest US network equipment maker, set up operations in
Turkey in 1996 and has offices in Istanbul and Ankara. A company announcement
said that the pledge to open 200 Cisco Networking Academy Programme centres in
the country was an important boost for Turkey's IT industry.
It was also reported that Cisco believed that, like many emerging markets,
Turkey is in a period of transformation. At this point in Turkey's development,
technology could be a great enabler for both social and economic change.
Accordingly, Chambers met with senior figures in business and government to
discuss the opportunities for IT advancement in the private and public sectors.
Through this visit and the investments Cisco was making in Turkey, the company
hoped to work with the country to accelerate technology innovation, education
and economic growth, it was reported.
Turkey's PA signs deal for adviser in Petkim privatisation
Turkey's Privatisation Administration (PA) has signed a deal with Ak Investment
Securities and Raiffeisen INV AG to advise on the sale of petrochemicals company
Petkim, news website reporter.gr cited the company as saying on September 25th.
Sector officials said earlier in September that Turkey was expected to carry out
a block sale for at least part of the remaining stake. It is noteworthy that
38.2 per cent of Petkim is traded on the stock market, while the state holds
54.8 per cent. The civil servants pension fund Emekli Sandigi holds a seven per
cent stake, which will also be sold with the government's stake.
High speed Ankara-Istanbul rail
The high-speed railway links between Ankara and Istanbul will be launched at the
end of October with the completion of the Ankara-Eskisehir track, Italian News
Agency ANSA reported.
The news was reported by the Turkish State Railways on the occasion for
celebration of the 150th anniversary of its establishment.
The project, which began 30 years ago, was interrupted for lack of funds and was
re-launched in the past three years thanks to an investment of some three