Plots against Turkey

I don’t know what sort of coverage it got in your part of the world. I did find a piece or two in the UK’s Guardian, and on the BBC, linked to a lot of “related” pieces about Turkey’s “Islamic dictator” imprisoning poor innocents merely because they tried to have him ousted by a military coup last July. Both articles make judicious use of words like “allegedly” and “reportedly”, but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt about the facts.

erdoğan foeTurkey had sent 40 soldiers to participate in a NATO training exercise in Norway. Well, even military exercises need an enemy, and apparently the NATO organisers in their wisdom chose to use the name of Turkey’s much-maligned President Erdoğan, alongside a picture of the revered founder of Turkey’s republic.

Understandably, the Turkish government was not amused and withdrew its participants from the exercise. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg promptly issued an apology, followed by a statement by Norway’s minister of defence expressing his “concerns about the incident”. So, it seems pretty clear that the facts are essentially as reported.

Stoltenberg’s statement claimed the incident was the result of an “individual’s actions” – a Norwegian civil contractor seconded by Norway, and not a NATO employee – and did not reflect the views of the alliance.

Turkey, it seems, is not to be so easily appeased. The country’s EU Minister asked, with some justification, “Is there no chain of command? Does he [the civilian contracted person] not have a commander?” A government spokesman, addressing a press conference, said “We welcome the apologies issued. We welcome the removal of those responsible from office and the launching of an investigation. But we don’t see these incidents as solely extending to individuals. It’s not possible to explain these incidents merely in terms of individual responsibility,”

reza zarrab

Reza Zarrab in custody in the USA

Meanwhile, a curious court case is proceeding slowly in the United States. An Iranian-Turkish businessman, Reza Zarrab, was arrested in the US last year “on charges that he conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government and other entities to evade U.S. sanctions.”

Whatever we may think about the rest of the world being expected to support corporate America in its vendetta against uncooperative foreign leaders, it struck many people as strange that Mr Zarrab would voluntary enter the USA knowing that he would probably be arrested.

An opinion piece in Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News voiced these concerns, suggesting CIA involvement:

ny times

What’s changed since 1974?

“It was never convincing that Zarrab, known worldwide for breaching the U.S.’s Iran sanctions and getting arrested in Turkey in the Dec. 17- 25, 2013 corruption and bribery operations, came to the U.S. to take his child on a trip. 

His arrival in the U.S. was thought to be the result of a negotiation. It is claimed that he negotiated to become a confessor in return for a permission that will allow him to keep his assets outside Turkey and continue commercial activity.

If he becomes a confessor, the story will widen more and a new indictment will be written.

‘It smells fishy,’ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said about it.

The writer, Abdulkadir Selvi, goes on to say, “The U.S, after failing to overthrow Erdoğan through FETÖ on Dec. 17 – 25, 2013, stepped into the issue with the Zarrab case.”

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdağ said the other day, “We make no secret of it: This is a political case and does not have a legal basis. It is a plot against Turkey. The prosecutors have been openly imposing pressure on the accused. . . [Zarrab] is in a sense taken hostage,” Bozdağ said, claiming that Zarrab is “under pressure from prosecutors to become a confessor and to make accusations against the Republic of Turkey.”

venezuela

Bringing democracy to the developing world

Another writer in Hürriyet, Barçın Yinanç, no slavish supporter of the government, made some apt observations about negative portrayals of Turkey and its government in foreign media. In a piece entitled “Who is losing Turkey? She wrote:

“Turkey lives in a troubled neighborhood and the Western world has often had problematic relations with its neighbors.

There has been a bad guy in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. No one was supposed to cooperate with him and Turkey was once asked to follow suit.

There was also a bad guy in Iraq, Saddam Hussein. Sanctions were applied against his regime and Turkey was asked to abide by those sanctions.

In Iran, there has been a bad regime ever since the Islamic Revolution. Tehran has been continuously under sanctions, which Turkey has been under pressure to abide by.

There has also been a bad guy in Russia, the Kremlin. Sanctions have been introduced and Turkey has been required to follow them.

People sometimes forget that economically thriving nations trade with their neighbors. Some also forget that while the EU wanted Turkey to abide by the sanctions it imposed on countries to its east, north and south, it did not exactly have its arms wide open when Turkey turned to Europe.

Currently, when a foreign observer looks at Turkey, they see an Islamist leader distancing Turkey away from the transatlantic alliance. But the same observer may forget that it was that same leader who once undertook the most sweeping democratic reforms Turkey has ever seen. They may also forget that when Ankara knocked on the EU’s door in the 2000s, Germany’s Angela Merkel and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy effectively closed the door in its face. It also suited Europe’s interest to keep Turkey at arm’s length, hiding behind the Greek Cypriot administration which has been blocking accession talks.

This has all been forgotten. No one in Europe is questioning who caused the EU to lose Turkey. Why should they?”

germany-lead

New election coming up in Germany? Wasn’t the September result satisfactory? German voters should think again!

Advertisements

Neo-Kemalism: Turkey’s new political compass

This opinion piece appeared in our English language daily today under the byline “Sinan Baykent”. I’m always happy when I find someone who agrees with me 🙂

10 kasım 2The July 15, 2016 coup attempt turned regular political references upside down in Turkey. Even ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) cadres started to multiply their eulogies to the first and original Republican era. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, too, gradually began to accentuate Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s importance and significance to Turkish people in his latest speeches. Meanwhile, streets all over Turkey are covered in giant Atatürk posters.

Fans in football stadiums are chanting patriotic and republican marches, putting all antagonisms aside. Big companies are broadcasting ads commemorating Atatürk’s beloved memory on TVs, radios and newspapers. Great popular mobilization occurred during Republic Day on Oct. 29 and Atatürk Memorial Day on Nov. 10.

For a long time AKP cadres always mentioned the founder using different political formulas without referring to the word “Atatürk.” However, the July 15 coup attempt annihilated these unnecessary contortions. The day following the coup attempt, a magniloquent Atatürk poster was hung at the AKP’s headquarters in Ankara. Since then and especially after U.S. pressure on Turkey escalated, Erdoğan and AKP cadres espoused a somewhat “Kemalist” image. Even if some analysts evoke a “pragmatic electoral shift” in order to gain votes for the 2019 presidential elections, I consider this to be the result of a mandatory state-level initiative.

Turkey’s raison d’état has been gravely shaken by the July 15 coup attempt. It triggered the necessity to take state-level immediate actions to eradicate intra-national threats. At the same time vertiginous incidents happened in the region. U.S. support to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Israeli-backed referendum in northern Iraq and recent developments in Saudi Arabia forced Turkey to adapt itself to a new and changing equilibrium.

10 kasımKemalism has always been seen as the “official ideology” of the Turkish Republic. Nevertheless, it is an ideology of the previous century and it has been largely misinterpreted over the past decades. Nowadays, Turkey’s raison d’état is reshaping itself. As one of history’s ironies, it is the conservative Erdoğan who partly initiated this crucial task. A new and vital paradigm is currently under construction. I find it appropriate to name this original conceptual sketch “neo-Kemalism.” In my opinion, neo-Kemalism is a blend of the founding will, and modern necessities for national sovereignty, prosperity and peace. It embodies the attempt to re-actualize the classical Kemalist thought by cropping its radical edges. In this framework, Kemalism would reconcile with its old “demons” in order to fit in the new scheme of the 21st century.

Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül seem to be the sole political actors to ensure the right inclusion of conservatives into the neo-Kemalist body. However, the neo-Kemalist paradigm also needs Kurdish, Alevi and Christian actors. In sum, it needs actors from all political sectors who would be willing to carry the Turkish Republic to the 21st century.

Neo-Kemalism represents Turkey’s new political compass, and down this road lies a free, united and truly democratic Republic of Turkey. While stubborn ones shall gently disappear from the national political scene; faithful ones, on the other hand, shall achieve political salvation.

Populism, Majoritarianism, Democracy and Orwellian Newspeak

On Friday 10 November at 9.05 am the people of Turkey will stop what they are doing, driving to work, labouring on the factory floor, imparting knowledge to reluctant adolescents . . . whatever, and stand for a minute’s silence to mourn the death, in 1938, of their nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Anitkabir-Slayt3

Atatürk’s mausoleum, Ankara

I was pleased to read in this morning’s newspaper that the country’s AK Party government, often accused of systematically unraveling the secular principles of the great man’s republic, is organising buses to transport people to Anıt Kabir, Atatürk’s monumental mausoleum in Ankara, for a special commemorative ceremony.

At the same time, I was a little disappointed to read that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, outspoken critic of the government, and leader of the minority Republican People’s Party, self-appointed defenders of Atatürk’s republic, is currently in Strasbourg running down his own country and people to eager listeners at a meeting of the Council of Europe.

Of course we admire Mr Kılıçdaroğlu’s commitment to defending human rights, if not his attempts to enlist foreign support for overthrowing his own lawfully elected government. We do, however, sincerely hope he’ll be able to get back to Turkey to join his fellow citizens as they give thanks for Atatürk’s historic achievements.

h-is-for-hypocrisy-460x245It’s not easy to get a handle on global or even national politics these days. We  know politicians lie, or at least conceal the truth, even if sometimes they may do it with the best intentions. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t have that excuse.

Nearly 70 years ago English author George Orwell, in his novel “1984”, warned of the dangers of Newspeak and Doublethink – where a nation’s leaders manipulated the meaning of words to limit people’s ability to utter, or even to think rebellious thoughts.

We know what happened to the word “democracy”: the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany), and the Democratic Republic of Congo are two of the more blatantly perverse interpretations of the concept.

But what about “majoritarianism”? That’s a word that entered my vocabulary quite recently, for which I had not previously felt a need. I’m still not sure exactly what benefits it brings to discussions in the world of political science.

orwell newspeak

Democracy is slavery – vote neo-liberal!

As I understand it, “majoritarianism” is a pejorative term applied to a political party that has won the right to govern in a democratically fair general election, and is getting on with the job of doing what it was elected to do. The gripe, as far as I can see, is that the “minority” who failed to get their choice of government installed, are unhappy and resentful, and feel they have been hard done by.

Well, the first point that needs to be made, it seems to me, is that the fundamental principle of democracy is: all eligible voters cast their vote and a decision is made on the basis of the majority. What’s the alternative? Minoritarianism?

Now I will admit that, in the United States, the United Kingdom and other primitive “democracies” still operating a “first-past-the-post” electoral system, you may end up with a majority government elected by a minority of voters. We New Zealanders suffered under such a system for years until it was thrown out by a referendum in 1993. More progressive countries, however, like Germany and Turkey, make use of proportional systems that allocate seats in the legislature according to votes actually cast in elections.

I have to tell you I’m a big fan of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He may not have immediately set up a democratic electoral system, but he did inspire his people to throw off the yoke of imperialist domination and set his country on the road to self-determination.

As well as being a successful military leader, Mustafa Kemal was also very knowledgeable in political theory. He built his new republic on the foundation of six basic principles. I am using the Turkish with English equivalents and brief explanations:

  • Cumhuriyetçilik – Republicanism: replacing the hereditary monarchy with an elected head of state and legislature.
  • Milliyetçilik – Nationalism: incorporating the concepts of national sovereignty, self-determination and national pride.
  • Laiklik – Secularism: the separation of religion from the functions of government.
  • İnkilapçılık – Reformism: aiming to modernise a country that had lagged behind Western progress.
  • Devletçilik – Untranslatable. Sometimes the French word Etatism is used. Essentially an economic system aimed at combining the best features of central planning and free enterprise.
  • Halkçılık – Populism: the concept of egalitarianism, replacing the former system where social class and hereditary factors determined a person’s rights and privileges.

Not bad for starters, you may think. But there’s another word that seems to be getting a good deal of bad press these days: “Populism”. And I have to tell you, it’s another one that’s giving me problems. In current use it seems to be applied, at least in the West, to a trend where many voters are supporting right wing, conservative, anti-liberal, anti-immigrant candidates. The prime culprit, of course, is America’s President Trump, but similar trends have been observed in France (Marie le Pen), Austria (the FPO) and Germany (the AfD).

Well I wouldn’t presume to tell Europeans and Americans how to solve their social, economic and political problems. I was, however, seriously disturbed to read that Turkey’s champion of justice and self-styled reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, has jumped on the Newspeak bandwagon and is decrying the concept of populism.

hypocrisy

Just about off the scale!

Admittedly he is using an imported transliteration “Populizm” instead of the Turkish word “Halkçılık” – but I suspect his hero Mustafa Kemal would not have approved. First because the great man was very insistent on using Turkish words rather than foreign imports; and second, because an egalitarian society lay at the centre of his hopes for the future of his new republic.

Mr Kılıçdaroğlu was quoted in news sources today as saying, “Populism is dangerous and needs to be avoided at all times”. “Populism is very dangerous but we will certainly overcome this.”

The basis of this, I’m afraid, is that Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP (Republican People’s Party) has lost five consecutive general elections, two presidential elections and a referendum since 2002 – and doesn’t look like improving on that dismal record in the foreseeable future. Sour grapes?

____________________________________________

Just as a point of information, Turkey is currently doing its best to cope with more than three million refugees who have entered the country since civil war broke out in neighbouring Syria six years ago, so at least on the immigration score, it’s hard to fault its government.

 

94th Anniversary of the Republic of Turkey

TCA Celebrates 94th Anniversary of Turkish Republic

AtatürkOn October 29, 1923, the newly recognized Turkish parliament proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, formally marking the end of the Ottoman Empire. On the same day, Mustafa Kemal, who led the Turkish National War of Liberation and was later named Atatürk (father of Turks), was unanimously elected as the first president of the Republic.  

Turkey had effectively been a republic from April 23, 1920 when the Grand National Assembly was inaugurated in Ankara. When the Turkish parliament held its first session in 1920, virtually every corner of the crumbling Ottoman Empire was under the occupation of Allied powers. Exasperated by the Ottoman government’s inability to fight the occupation, the nationwide resistance movement gained momentum. With the Allied occupation of Istanbul and the dissolution of the Ottoman Parliament, Mustafa Kemal’s justification for opening the resistance movement’s new legislative body was created.  

With the opening of the Assembly, Ankara became the center of the Turkish national struggle for liberation. The National War of Liberation culminated in the emancipation of Anatolia from foreign occupation*, the international recognition of modern Turkey’s borders by the Treaty of Lausanne, and finally, the founding of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. October 29, or Republic Day, is an official Turkish holiday celebrated each year across Turkey and by peoples of Turkish heritage worldwide.  

Following the founding of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk embarked on a wide-ranging set of reforms in the political, economic and cultural aspects of Turkish society. These reforms have left a lasting legacy of which the peoples of Turkish heritage are proud: the conversion of the newly founded Republic into today’s modern, democratic and secular Turkish state.

http://tc-america.org/

_________________________________________________

* And I suspect it will be a long time before those Allied powers forgive Turkey for causing them that embarrassment.

94th Anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne

24 July. You probably won’t read much about it in media elsewhere, but it’s a pretty important date in Turkey – and possibly one of the reasons Western powers have a long-standing grudge against Turks. I’m publishing a few extracts from other sources on the subject:

The Turkish Coalition of America

Greek invasion

Jubilant Smyrniots welcome the Greeks with garlands, flags and a picture of Premier Venizelos, May 1919.

“The Treaty of Lausanne followed the signing of the Armistice at Mudanya on October 11, 1922, after decisive victories by Turkish national forces led by Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk). Britain was forced to lift its occupation of Istanbul and the Turkish straits and call for a peace conference following the final defeat of Greek forces, which invaded Anatolia as Britain’s surrogates, and as occupying Italian and French forces decidedly moved toward non-confrontation with the Turkish national resistance movement.

Countries represented at the peace talks were Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania and Serbo-Croatia. Russia, Belgium, and Portugal entered the treaty negotiations at later stages to discuss the status of the Turkish straits and financial matters concerning the defunct Ottoman Empire. The Unites States attended the treaty negotiations as an observer.

The Turkish War of National Liberation, fought against the most powerful imperial states of the time, culminated in a military and diplomatic victory for the Turkish people who achieved full independence and sovereignty at Lausanne. This victory would serve as a source of inspiration for several nations in their struggles against Western imperialism and independence for many years to come.” 

Daily Sabah (English language news source published in Turkey)

“Signed on July 24, 1923 in Switzerland’s Lausanne, the treaty officially ended hostilities between the Allies and the Turkish state led by the Grand National Assembly and marked Turkey’s current borders with the exceptions of Hatay, which joined Turkey from Syria in 1939, and the border with Iraq, which was a British mandate at the time.

Sevres map

Turkey, if not for its War of Liberation and the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne

It also reversed the extensive losses of Turkish-inhabited territories that were laid out in the Sevres Treaty, forced upon the Ottoman Empire by Allied powers.

The Treaty of Lausanne also put an end to the centuries-long economic concessions granted by the Ottoman Empire to European powers.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Great Speech to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly in 1927

“Gentlemen, I  don’t think it is necessary any  further to compare the principles underlying the Lausanne Peace Treaty with other proposals for peace.  This treaty, is a document declaring that all efforts, prepared over centuries, and thought to have been accomplished through the SEVRES Treaty to crush the Turkish nation have been in vain.  It is a diplomatic victory unheard of in Ottoman history!

Encyclopedia.com

“Defeat in World War I resulted in a harsh peace treaty for the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres (1920) stripped Turkey of all its European territory except for a small area around Constantinople (now Istanbul); demilitarized the straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas, opened them to ships of all nations, and placed them under an international commission; established an independent Armenia and an autonomous Kurdistan in eastern Anatolia; turned over the region around İzmir to the Greeks; restored the capitulations; and placed Turkish finances under foreign control. By separate agreement, some parts of Turkey left to the Turks were assigned to France and Italy as spheres of influence.

Unlike the other nations on the losing side in World War I, Turkey was able to renegotiate its treaty terms. This was the result of the decline of the sultan’s power, the rise of the nationalists under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the defeat of the Greeks’ attempt to expand their power in Turkey.

The Allied powers restored Constantinople and the straits to Turkish authority and called for a peace convention to renegotiate the terms laid down at Sèvres. [In a typical attempt to divide Turks against each other] the Allies invited both of the contesting powers in Turkeythe sultan’s government and the nationalists under Kemalto a conference at Lausanne, Switzerland. This precipitated Kemal’s decision to separate the positions of sultan and caliph, abolishing the former, exiling Mehmet VI and giving the residual powers of caliph to his cousin, Abdülmecit II. Thus, when the conference at Lausanne began in November 1922, Kemal’s Ankara government was the sole representative of Turkey.” 

As an interesting aside, I found this brief piece on a website calling itself historycentral.com:

“After an unsuccessful military campaign [sic!] against the Greeks, Turkey concluded a peace treaty with the allies. Under the terms of the agreement Turkey gave up all claim to non-Turkish territories lost in the course of World War I. It recovered however, Eastern Thrace. In the Aegean it received [sic!] Imbros and Tenedos, but the rest of the islands went to Greece [as a result of some submarine seismic activity?]. Turkey paid no reparations. The Straits of Dardenelles were demilitarized and open to all ships in time of peace and all neutral ships in a time of war.”

I’ve corrected the several spelling errors – and left the other nonsense to speak for itself. When it comes to “history”, there may be more than one version of the same events. Be careful which one you choose to believe!

the-treaty-of-lausanneTranslation of the French:

The Lausanne Conference

For Peace in the Near East [still waiting for that!]

At the Chateau d’Ouchy

From 15 November 1922 to 28 July 1923 [What’s with those Roman numerals?]

The United States of America, the British Empire, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania, Turkey, the Kingdom of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia [What happened to that one?], Bulgaria and Russia participated in the work of the conference which led to the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne

An Important Day for Turkey

19 May is one of the most important national holidays in the Republic of Turkey. It commemorates the day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal set sail from the occupied Ottoman capital, Istanbul, to the Black Sea port of Samsun. That day is taken as the beginning of the national struggle to assert Turkey’s independence against imperial forces bent on dividing its territory and subjugating its people.

1-e620916e-bb8f-4423-82f4-dfe8a7836da2

Kadıköy Council’s planned programme for 19 May

After a four-year struggle, the new Republic was founded in 1923. Mustafa Kemal became its first President, subsequently acquiring the honorific “Atatürk” after a law was passed requiring all citizens to adopt a surname.

More Propaganda!

In our newspaper today, among large advertisements inserted by commercial enterprises keen to demonstrate their loyal attachment to the founder of the Republic, was one paid for by the Beşiktaş Borough Council, announcing that the government had forced them to cancel their planned celebration of the day. The ad featured shadowy silhouettes of ordinary citizens, children, elderly and wheelchair-bound going about their business behind bars. I assume the implication was that you never know in Turkey these days when you will be arrested. I have been hearing the same from other people in our social and work circles – commemorating Atatürk’s achievements and celebrating national events has been banned by the AKP government.

So I did a little search online, and I found the following:

Kadıköy’de 19 Mayıs Coşkusuyla Kutlanacak – 19 May will be joyously celebrated in Kadıköy

kadikoyde-19-mayis-coskusu-2As it does every year Kadıköy City Council is organising celebrations on May 19 Youth and Sports Day. The Council has prepared a magnificent program featuring everything from sport to music.

The program includes a 12-km Bicycle Tour, an evening rock concert with popular musicians and a DJ dance. A variety of sports events will be staged including women’s rugby and lacrosse matches, a frisbee competition and a skateboarding performance.

A shuttle bus service will be put on free of charge to transport festival-goers to the various venues.

Reports in other Turkish sources:

http://www.kadikoylife.com/kadikoyde-19-mayis-coskusu-2/

http://www.milliyet.com.tr/kadikoy-de-19-mayis-coskusu-tum-gun-istanbul-yerelhaber-2041710/

And one in English:

Turkey marks Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

Turkey will celebrate Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on May 19, with various events planned in the capital Ankara and around the country.

anitkabir-toren-celenk-3In Ankara, official ceremonies will be held in parliament and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk. The ceremonies will continue today in the city, with the Turkish Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team, the Turkish Stars, set to perform an air show at 4 p.m. There will also be a flag parade at 6:30 p.m. in which a 1,919-meter-long Turkish flag will be carried by the participants.

Meanwhile, police detained seven of nine suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in four cities yesterday for “planning a sensational attack” on the May 19 ceremonies.

So who to believe? The sad fact is that Turkey is located in a dangerous part of the world. It has borders with Iraq (in state of lawless chaos since George W Bush destroyed most of its infrastructure in 2003); Syria (where a vicious civil war has been going on since 2011); and Iran, not to mention several other problematic neighbours.

There has been a state of emergency in force since a violent military-sponsored coup attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government in July 2016. My people at the NZ Embassy in Ankara send me frequent warnings about the dangers of terrorist attacks and the risks of living and traveling in Turkey.

In spite of this, most of us in Turkey continue to go about our lawful business confidently in safety and security, without noticing any oppressive signs of military or police heavy-handedness.

Milli Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun!

Turkey: Turkish delights

Well, knock me over with a feather! I have receiving regular dire warnings from my countryfolk at the New Zealand Embassy in Ankara advising me to stay away from Turkey in general, and Istanbul (where I have been living safely and happily for more than 15 years) in particular. So, credit where credit is due, I want to share with you this article that appeared in the NZ Herald today, 25 April.

48a002fecb3693efa3feb9dcfd46f6a8

Pretty magnanimous words, don’t you think?

The day is significant because hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders are currently in Turkey to commemorate the Gallipoli Campaign when our grandfathers, loyally following orders from their British Imperial masters, invaded the Ottoman Empire and spent eight months doing their best to kill its young men and capture its capital, Istanbul.

As happens every year, local people are extending customary hospitality to their former enemies, and local authorities providing security to ensure commemoration services proceed in comfort and safety.

Read Ms Wade’s article. Once you get past her opening remarks about a young man’s traditional circumcision operation, you’ll find that she and her fellow tourists had “an unforgettable . . . wonderful time.”

 

Beyond the war graves and remembrance is a vibrant land with a rich history, writes Pamela Wade.

Apr 25, 2017

It’s not the sort of thing you’d share with strangers, but after 10 days together and over 2500km of travel in a grand circuit around Turkey, we all felt like friends. There were 39 of us, Kiwis and Aussies, on this Insight Vacations tour and although it was the Gallipoli centenary and Anzac Day services that had brought us all together, the bulk of our time was spent exploring an older history.

turkeypoppies_620x310

Photo: NZ Herald

Tour director Barcin has a university education that gives him an effortless command of not only the seven complicated centuries of the Ottoman Empire, but thousands of years of Greek and Roman history before that.

Literally thousands: five, in fact, at Troy, where nine levels of settlement have been excavated down to its beginnings in 3000BC. Wandering around the site, past walls, ditches, foundations, columns both standing and tumbled, and a theatre of tiered seats, the age of the place was hard to grasp, despite Barcin’s best efforts. What was obvious, however, was the sheer beauty of the ancient stone, softened by feathery fennel and bright red poppies against a background of the distant Dardanelles.

NZH0557501646

Photo: NZ Herald

Some on the tour were deeply into history and the literary and religious connections, and everyone was impressed at Ephesus to be walking on polished marble pavers once trodden by Cleopatra, Mark Anthony and St Paul. For many of us, however, the visits to such sites, including Pergamon and Assos, were more about appreciating what remains rather than studying their origins. Pictures rather than words, perhaps, and no less legitimate for that. After listening to the explanations about what we were seeing – temples to Athena, Artemis, Dionysus, a towering library, a 10,000-seat theatre on a steep hillside, Roman baths, an Acropolis, the home of modern medicine, statues and so much more – the temptation was irresistible to use it all as the most glorious photoshoot ever.

The tour isn’t all archaeology, legend and history. There was shopping, too. Astute stall-holders, knowing their market, shouted “Kiwi! Cheaper than The Warehouse!” as we walked past; others went for flattery: “Beautiful rugs! Like you!” or pathos: “We have everything but customers.

Few, in the end, held out against the pretty scarves, the “genuine fake watches”, the evil eye pendants or the tapestry bags; but the serious shoppers waited for the visits to the factories. Fabulous fine lamb’s leather made into truly stylish jackets displayed in a catwalk fashion show; dozens of colourful wool and silk rugs unrolled with a flourish as we drank perilously strong raki; gorgeous decorated plates at a pottery visit that began with a mesmerising kick-wheel demonstration.

turkeyruins_620x310

Photo: NZ Herald

Then there was the culture: an evening of traditional dance in an underground theatre began deceptively low-key, but wound up to an exciting climax that sent us away buzzing. We saw real Whirling Dervishes spinning unfathomably long and fast; and met a friendly lady who lives in a house burrowed into the rock, where Helen Clark’s signed portrait hangs (at least during our visit) in pride of place.

This was at Cappadocia, the scenic high point for most of us, which is saying something in this country of bays and beaches, forests and farmland, white terraces and snow-capped volcanoes. Pillars of sculpted tufa capped by gravity-defying slabs of basalt make for a fantasy landscape, and to see it in low sun as a hundred hot-air balloons float overhead is unforgettable.

Actually, it was all unforgettable: Gallipoli, the poppies and tulips, the cats, the food, the friendly people. There were mosques, markets and museums; a cruise, calligraphy and coloured glass lamps; sacks of spices, pyramids of Turkish delight, tiny cups of atrocious coffee. I had a wonderful time.