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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Turkey


Update No: 137 - (24/10/08)

Behind the scenes 
Turkey, as everyone knows, is a secular state, albeit now with a moderate Moslem government. It has been steered behind the scenes from its inception by Kemal Ataturk in 1923 by a powerful elite of military officers, jurists and bureaucrats, who have toppled the government of the day four times, notably in the army coup of 1980. The army sees itself as the custodian of the secular constitution. 

The Islamicist character of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) sticks in the gullet of many in the military and other security services, and of many in the media, academia and among the ultranationalists. It is evident that several plots to topple the government have been hatched in the last decade by the violent fringe of the secular elite. 

The election of Abdullah Gul, an AKP member, in August 2007 was expected to provoke violent opposition; Gul's wife wears a headscarf, held to be emblematic of Islamic culturalism. Actually things went off reasonably smoothly last year. 

Trial of the century
One dramatic plot has been revealed in a sensational trial that began on October 20. Actually its first hearing was delayed several hours as the court was overwhelmed by nationalist demonstrators and journalists inside and outside the courtroom. When it convened, it was decided to adjourn it until October 23 to arrange better security.

The court in Silivri, near Istanbul, then started hearing a case against 86 retired generals, journalists, academics, mafia-linked figures and common criminals, charged with crimes, including assassinations and bomb attacks, designed to topple the government. The main brunt of the case is focused on an illicit ultranationalist network, known as Ergenekon - the name refers to a Central Asian Turkic legend. 

Prosecutors claim that the organisation employed violence in an attempt to destabilise civil society and undermine support for the AKP government, which was re-elected last year. The ultimate objective was to prepare for a fifth coup in the history of modern Turkey. 

There have been a series of murders and bomb attacks, amid indications that a broad conspiracy was under way, though it remains to be seen what evidence there is and how firm it is. 

The charges against the group were made public this summer in a 2,455-page document of indictment. They include several murders - of a judge, of a cleric and of a journalist, and of three workers of a Christian publishing house, and the bombing of a newspaper, Cumhurriyet, which was made out to look like the work of Islamic extremists. The network is also charged with plotting to assassinate prominent public figures, notably the novelist and Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk. Among the accused is a bete noir of Pamuk's, Kemal Kerincsiz, a nationalist lawyer, who has prosecuted him and other prominent writers for “insulting Turkishness” under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish constitution. 

The indictment includes charges of plans to kill Greek and Armenian religious leaders and a prominent Jewish businessman, Ashak Alaton. Among the suspects are a retired army general and former mayor of Istanbul, Veli Kucuk, and Dogu Perincek, a politician believed to have ties to a Kurdish separatist group that the police have been fighting for years. 

The scope of the police investigation has widened so much that several key figures among those arrested have not been indicted in the initial hearing, but are expected to face trial later. They include two senior generals arrested in July – Sener Eruygur, the former head of the paramilitary gendarmarie and secretary of the pro-Ataturk Kemalist Thought Association (shades of 1984); and Hursit Tolon, a former 1st Army Commander, who is the most senior person linked to the investigation. 

The police started a series of raids last year, which have revealed caches of hand-grenades in the apartments of members of the conspiracy. They have also confiscated documents outlining in a PowerPoint presentation how to restructure the state. High treason no less is what is in question! 

The indictment states that the network "turned our country into a mafia and terror haven." 

The agenda of the government 
There is a widespread supposition that the Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the AKP, is using the case to silence critics who say that his party has an Islamicist agenda which is undermining the secularism that characterises modern Turkey, setting it apart from other Moslem countries in the Middle East. But Erdogan insists that his party has moved way beyond its Islamic roots and that it has a modernising agenda that involves greater freedom of religious expression. 

That there is a struggle between the governing party and the elite has been clear for some time. The government is aiming to prevent this taking a violent form, and to pre-empt another coup. 

The trial is a means to this end. It is arousing enormous interest in Turkey, which normally sees very little criticism of generals, even retired ones, three of whom are among the accused. The fact that Turkey is holding the trial at all is being seen as a victory for open society and the independent rule of law. 

The investigation's supporters depict it as an attempt to disclose unaccountable elements within Turkey's military-security apparatus, held responsible for decades of mayhem and atrocities perpetrated in the long war against Kurdish militants. Its critics have portrayed it rather as a politically-motivated bid by the AKP to weaken the military and other pillars of the secular state. 

The trial continues and is gripping the country. It is lighting up a whole political landscape and is a moment of coming to self-consciousness on behalf of a nation. 'Know Thyself' said the Ancient Greeks. By the end of this trial the Turks will know themselves and their polity much better. 

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