Books on Turkey
Update No: 123 - (31/08/07)
Five important events are significant in recent Turkish
1) the re-election of an Islamicist party, the AKP, in a resounding victory on
2) the election of a president belonging to that party by parliament on August
28th, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who, however, is definitely a moderate
Moslem (and a highly intelligent man and skilled diplomat at that)
3) the refusal of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be drawn into a war with the
Iraqi Kurds and his eagerness to pacify his own 13 million Kurds, 52% of whom
voted for the AKP in the elections, a massive triumph for him and good sense,
after so many years of fruitless repression and terrorism.
4) preparations for the 10th International Istanbul Biennal, which promises to
be a landmark occasion, lasting from September 8th until November 4th, and
5) the discovery of a remarkable statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian,
underscoring the European past and destiny of Turkey. Its bid to join the EU
could come to be enhanced by all five events. There could be nothing that could
more improve European- Muslim relations than to have Turkey inside the EU with a
moderate and pacifist Islamicist party at the helm.
Victory of AKP and Gul
This is not likely to be any time soon, however. The AKP won the parliamentary
elections with an increased majority in July. It won 341 seats, just a few short
of the 367, or two-thirds of the 550-seat assembly, needed to ensure the
election of Gul in the first two ballots. Only 276 votes were needed to do so in
the third round, a bare majority of the parliament, which was a foregone
There has been considerable controversy about Gul's candidacy all along. To have
an Islamicist president is a novelty in a strictly secular state. Gul will need
all his diplomatic skills to make a success of it, this time exercised on his
own countrymen. He is fully up to it.
The pacifist premier
Turkey's prime minister, Erdogan, was not always a pacifist. He was in favour of
Turkish involvement in Iraq in 2003; but he must be relieved, in the light of
subsequent events, that parliament vetoed it in March of that year. He is likely
to use his sweeping election victory to open a dialogue with his country's
Kurdish insurgents, according to Turkish and Kurdish experts. For too many
decades this conflict has been bleeding the country of its young men, both as
military conscripts or Kurdish irregulars, with many, many, civilians caught up
in the cross-fire.
He is also expected to oppose an invasion of Kurdish northern Iraq a policy
favoured by some of his generals, and has invited the Iraqi prime minister,
Nouri al-Maliki, to Ankara for talks that would include US officials.
Mr Erdogan is in a strong position to dismiss military pressure for a
cross-border crackdown on PKK Kurdish guerrillas based in northern Iraq and to
extract concessions on the Kurdish conflict from the Americans and Kurdish
Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops on the Iraqi border in recent
weeks, with hawks in the high command pressing for an invasion. Mr Erdogan has
resisted. Thrust into an unassailable position by a landslide election victory
on July 22nd, he now looks better placed to push a new political initiative on
the Kurdish issue rather than opt for military action. "Invasion is off the
agenda now, there's a new momentum," said Cengiz Candar, a Turkish analyst.
As well as securing a national victory in the elections, Mr Erdogan scored a
remarkable triumph in the Kurdish south-east, doubling the vote of his AKP or
Justice and Development party in mainly Kurdish areas to win an absolute
majority of the vote with 52%.
"The AKP beat us. The government now has complete power and
legitimacy," said a Kurdish official in the regional capital of Diyarbakir.
Having received such a vote of confidence from the Kurds, Mr Erdogan is unlikely
to alienate them by invading them. The Americans are fiercely opposed to a
Turkish incursion into Kurdistan, the only bit of Iraq that is relatively stable
and successful. The British ambassador in Ankara has said he could not see what
Turkey had to gain from invading northern Iraq. Government officials and
One former Turkish ambassador said Turkish forces would get bogged down "in
a quagmire" in the guerrilla territory of mountainous northern Iraq. An
aide to Mr Erdogan said: "There have been 26 cross-border operations in 30
years. If Turkey had the feeling that a 27th would put an end to the PKK, it
would not blink." But there is no such confidence.
In addition to the AKP's electoral success in the Kurdish areas, the main
Kurdish party in Turkey, the DTP, took 23 seats, putting it in the new
parliament for the first time since 1994. The DTP is seen as the political wing
of the PKK. The Turkish election system is stacked against it by setting a 10%
national threshold for representation in parliament. The DTP beat the system by
running candidates as independents.
"That will make a difference," said Hizsar Ozsoy, a Kurdish analyst in
Diyarbakir. "There's definitely a chance for a political opening."
The Erdogan camp has been trying to open political channels to the Kurdish
leadership in Iraq for months, but has been stymied by the military top brass
and the outgoing hostile president of Turkey.
When Mr Erdogan wanted to invite the Iraqi president and Kurdish leader, Jalal
Talabani, to Ankara, Turkey's president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, vetoed the move.
In Istanbul and Ankara, the military pressure for an invasion was also seen as a
warning to the Erdogan government against dialogue with the Kurdish leadership.
Turkey has been at war with the PKK for 30 years in a conflict that has taken
almost 40,000 lives. At least 70 Turkish security forces personnel have been
killed this year. Turkey is home to around 15 million Kurds, by far the biggest
of the Kurdish populations also native to Iraq, Iran and Syria.
Officially, Turkey does not recognise the regional government of Kurdistan led
by Massoud Barzani. But, sources say, there were attempts several months ago to
set up a secret meeting between the Turkish foreign minister, Gul, and Barzani,
who, when leading the Kurdish insurgency against Saddam Hussein, travelled on a
Turkish diplomatic passport.
"If there's an improvement in contacts with Kurdistan and with Barzani,
that will be good for the Turkish Kurds," said the Kurdish official. The
key to any breakthrough, said the Erdogan aide, was a clear signal on
"terrorism" from Mr Barzani.
10th International Istanbul Biennial
The 10th International Istanbul Biennial is entitled "Not Only Possible But
Necessary - Optimism in The Age Of Global Wars." This is of course a timely
reminder of what is going on to its south in the Middle East, in Iraq, Lebanon
The Biennal will not be a conventional thematic exhibition, rather; it will
emphasise artistic production based on collective intelligence and the living
process of negotiating with physical sites. The Biennial will focus on urban
issues and architectural reality as a means of exposing different cultural
contexts and artistic visions regarding the complex and diverse forms of
More than 100 artists and artist groups from 35 different countries will exhibit
more than 150 projects throughout the 10th International Istanbul Biennial.
10th International Istanbul Biennial will explore the venues through titles
implying the venues' role in Istanbul's political, economic and social aspects
of its modernisation process.
"Burn It or Not?", Atatürk Cultural Centre, Taksim
A leading example of the Republican Period Architecture and a symbol of the
Taksim Square, the heart of Istanbul, the AKM Building serves as a major element
of the city's cultural and political memory. Obviously, this modernist edifice
incarnates the ideological model of Turkey's modernization driven by its
republican revolutionary project. However, today it is under the threat of being
gentrified by global capitalism's expansion. Through using this building as an
important venue for the Biennial with an exhibition focusing on the question of
utopia and its fate all around the world; questions of social progress,
modernization and democracy, etc. in the current conditions of globalization
will be raised and debated.
"World Factory", Istanbul Textile Traders' Market, Unkapani
The Istanbul Textile Traders' Market, buit in the 60s consists of six blocks
which accommodate approximately a thousand shops. This intelligently designed
vernacular modernist building, explored by its users in an organic and
self-organizational manner, shows an interesting and peculiar case of how local
economic activities with a modern vision bring a vital element to contribute to
the urban evolution. And it's a perfect site for the project "World
Factory" that manifests the reality and strategies of the negotiation
between developed and developing worlds in terms of different models of
production, consumption and economic development in the age of globalization and
"Entre-polis" and "Dream House", Antrepo no.3, Tophane
Old customs warehouses located on the Bosporus near Tophane were used for the
4th, 8th and 9th Istanbul Biennials. This particular location, function and
architectural identity allow a highly complex project to grow from within: two
exhibitions will be realized in two overlapping structures. An "Entre-polis",
dealing with issues of global trading, migration, border crossing and their
impacts on urban life will be constructed in a labyrinth-like
street-square-street micro-urban structure. Above this micro-city, there will be
a series of high-rise platforms opening only in the evenings. They are
"Dream Houses" that welcome people to stay and discover some most
unexpected elements of the Biennial, and enjoy Istanbul by night from an unusual
Nightcomers is one of the night programme projects of the 10th International
Istanbul Biennial and is based on the concept of "dazibao", used by
Hou Hanru in reference to wall-mounted posters of political criticism produced
by the public during the Chinese Revolution. Videos will be shown throughout the
night in the streets, and the target is to reach a bigger audience than the
Istanbul Biennial does in the daytime. The video programs have been selected by
five local curators from the pool of videos sent by general public upon the open
call of the Biennial. They will be projected in different parts of the city
selected by Dutch artists Bik Van der Pol, on certain nights of the week via a
specific mobile device. This will bring the Biennial project to different
sectors of the city, especially those out of cultural centres.
SantralIstanbul is a project led by Istanbul Bilgi University, involving the
conversion of the first power station built in Istanbul during the Ottoman
period - Silahtaraga Power Plant - into a Museum of Contemporary Arts, a Museum
of Energy and a cultural and educational centre.
Santral Istanbul will be the one of the sites for special projects focused on
self-organisation for the 10th International Istanbul Biennial and will serve as
a space of education, workshop and laboratory. Events like international
workshops, residency program, a conference and a film program are going to be
realized in santralistanbul in collaboration with Istanbul Bilgi University.
Kadiköy Public Education Centre (KAHEM)
KAHEM is situated at the heart of the Asian side of the city. Built as a popular
cultural centre as a part of the republican social education and culture project
in the 1930s, it is a significant Turkish modernist building undervalued for
long time. Organising special projects for the Biennial not only provides a
platform for urban and geopolitical emergency, it also offers an opportunity for
the public to rediscover such a specific architectural and cultural edifice.
Is Turkey European or not?
The most important question for any people is to recognise their true identity.
The secular state of Turkey wishes to join the EU. For this it needs to
establish its European credentials.
One significant fact, attested by Norman Stone, the Scottish professor of
history at Istanbul University, is that 75% of Turks regard themselves as
Westerners. After all Ataturk remade the country in the image of the secular
West. He was able to do so because of a deep feeling of being different from the
Arabs and Persians, by close involvement with European affairs for nearly a
millenium. The Battle of Manzikert in 1071AD was the turning-point, when the
Seljuk Turks defeated the Byzantines. Their Ottoman successors were to bring
about the downfall of Byzantium in 1453, occupying the Balkans for centuries.
Turkey has of course now only 5% of its territory in Europe to the north of the
Bosphorus. But it was part of the Roman Empire, the cradle of Europe and Western
Giant statue of Hadrian unearthed
A recent archaeological find is welcome news here, not least because it was made
by Belgian excavators, based in the capital of the EU, Brussels.
Parts of a huge, exquisitely carved statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian have
been found at an archaeological site in south-central Turkey. The original
statue would have stood 4m-5m in height, experts estimate.
His achievements include the massive wall built across the width of northern
Britain which bears his name. Ruling Rome from AD117 to AD138; he was known as a
great military administrator and is one of the so-called "five good
So far, the excavators have unearthed the head, foot and part of a leg. But they
are hopeful other parts of the statue may be uncovered in coming weeks.
The foot is 80cm (31.5 ins) long, the leg - from just above the knee to the
ankle - is nearly 70cm (27ins) long. The head, which is almost intact save for
its broken nose, also measures 70cm (27 ins).
The pieces of this giant monument to Hadrian were found about 5m below ground,
among the buried ruins of a bath house on the site Sagalassos, an ancient
mountaintop town in southern Turkey.
The statue dates to the early part of Hadrian's reign. The elaborate decoration
on the sandal suggest he was depicted in military garb.
The discovery was made by archaeologists from the Catholic University of Leuven
in Belgium, who have been investigating the site since 1990. Marc Waelkens,
director of the excavation, said this was one of the "most beautiful
depictions" of the emperor ever found.
Born in AD76 into a well-to-do family in Italica, near modern Seville, Spain,
Hadrian presided over a period of relative peace and prosperity in the Roman
Empire. He erected permanent fortifications along the empire's borders in order
to consolidate Roman power.
The northernmost extent of this frontier is still standing: Hadrian's Wall runs
across the width of northern Britain, from Wallsend to the Solway Firth. It was
built to repel attacks by Caledonian tribes.
The bath house in which the statue was found was destroyed by a major earthquake
sometime between the late sixth and early seventh centuries AD.
The statue was originally created in pieces, which were then slotted into place
to create an imposing monument to the emperor.
It is these constituent parts that are now lying on the floor of the wrecked
bath house: when the building collapsed, the statue fell apart along its joins.
In the last few days, the team has also discovered marble toes with dowel holes
to fix it to a long dress belonging to another huge statue which may be of
Hadrian's wife Sabina.
The inhabitants of Sagalassos had special affection for Hadrian. He officially
recognised it as the "first city" of the Roman province of Pisidia and
made it the centre for an official cult in the region, which worshipped the
These administrative changes attracted thousands of visitors during imperial
festivals, boosted trade and, in turn, prosperity.
"As a kind of thanks to the emperor, there were private and public
monuments to Hadrian erected throughout the city," Marc Waelkens told the
BBC News website.
A sanctuary, or temple, to Hadrian was built in the southern part of Sagalassos.
And in a monumental fountain next to the bath house, archaeologists have found
part of a gilded bronze statue of the emperor, paid for by one of Sagalassos'
most prominent families.