[fyeg_gen-l] Short report on Conference "What is happening in Turkey?"

Sevgi MUTLU sevgimutlu80 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 20 20:23:17 CEST 2008

*Dear All *

*Last Wednesday (18 June 2008), I participated the Conference; "What is
happening in Turkey?", which  was organized by  Greens Group about latest
situation of Turkey. Participants discussed especially, headscarf ban, AKP
closure trial and democratic future of Turkey. Turkish independent
lawmakers; Former Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and President of
Freedom&Solidarity Party Ufuk Uras participated the conference as guest
speakers. What is happening in Turkey; Conference chaired by Daniel
Cohn-Bendit, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group and Joost Lagendijk,
Co-Chair of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.*

* *

*"What is happening in Turkey?" was a discussion on the current political
crisis. Guest Speakers: Mr Mesut Yılmaz and Mr Ufuk Uras are from different
traditions of Turkish Politics. It was really interesting to see different
arguments on last crises causes and solutions. Mr Mesut Yilmaz argued that,
within the Turkish reality the army position on politics is very normal and
acceptable. The laicism can not be understood as used as the Christian
communities. And the rights of freedom of religion can not be as Christian
countries. In Muslim countries we have some senility thought fundamental
Islam, so the situation is totally different. The main discussion of
conference was on shall we let the women enter the university with their
scarf or shall we continue the ban on scarf. The meaning and the realization
of laicism was other hot issue that speakers had totally different view for
solution of current crises. *

* *

*Background Notes:*

Turkey has been in deep domestic political crisis for almost a year. This
crisis began when Abdullah Gül, Foreign Minister at the time, announced his
intention to run for the State Presidency.  The Presidency is regarded as
the guardian of Turkey's secular system and the fact that Gül's wife wears
the Islamic headscarf lead to concerns over the secular future of
Turkey.  Hundreds
of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the
"Islamisation" of Turkey and to defend the secular state. After a snap
election, Turkey emerged stronger from this crisis. Abdullah Gül was elected
President, while the new parliament is more diverse and far more
representative than its predecessor.  Now President, he and the First Lady,
who wears the Islamic-style headscarf, have moved into the presidential
palace for the first time in the republic's history.

However, a similar crisis is brewing just six months after the election.
Turkey's chief prosecutor has filed a case to ban the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) and has also requested that 70 members of the party,
including President Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, be barred
from politics. The grounds cited for this extraordinary move are
significant: the party, which has been in government for five years, is
accused of evolving into a hotbed of fundamentalist activities. The Turks
are now eagerly awaiting the decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court.
It is entirely possible that the ruling party will be banned and the
country's most important political figures barred from politics.

The domestic policy paralysis comes just at a time when Turkey has taken an
economic upturn, with growth rates of 5-9% for more than five years,
accompanied by greater internal stability. During these five years, Turkey
has also pursued a proactive foreign policy and played important roles in
almost every international crisis.

Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union since October 2005
are of key importance here, with the prospect of accession boosting
political and economic stability in Turkey. Through the accession process,
Turkey is changing just as dramatically as the new EU Member States. The
political developments in Turkey will undoubtedly have implications for the
EU's relations with Turkey.

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