Monday, August 1, 2016

Turkish Plight

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia -- "I woke up at with terrible pain. I felt some wasp had bitten me on my breasts. When I took up my blanket and shook it a small light gray scorpion fell out of it. I was shocked. I thought it was the end. Well I tried to get rid of the scorpion and threw a towel over it, wrapped it up and then flung it out the window.

               Later I went to my Turkish neighbour for help. Luckily he was awake and watching television. I told him that I had been bitten by a scorpion.

               He answered that he would find out what to do via the internet. He then told me to put ice on it. So I put ice on it, took some pain-killing tablets and the pain went away. I thought I might die but later remembered that most scorpions in Turkey especially the gray kind, are not deadly. And my German friend told me a lot of his friends had been stung by scorpions and nothing terrible happened. And the pain the pain went away in a couple of days."

               However, as one superstition says, troubles tend to come in threes.

               Svetlana Wilson, an artist who regularly visits Turkey, later found that her hotel was surrounded by a forest fire. The fire had gone up the beach burning to death some poor turtles as well as destroying a farm and hotels which the locals require for their livelihood. The result of the fire meant that Svetlana was without water, electricity and communications for a week. They noticed  three helicopters and a plane hovering around dropping water to dowse the flames. Fortunately, the direction of the wind blew the fire away from reaching their hotel. Despite newspaper reports, the village of Adrasan never caught fire.

               The third trouble was the attempted coup on the 15th and 16th of July.

               After hearing the cancellation of flights to Moscow, Svetlana thought she would be stranded in Turkey. However, after only a few days flights to Moscow were resumed.

               However, with or without the coup, the tourist trade in Turkey is not in good shape. For instance, the number of Russians visiting Turkey dropped drastically by 92%. A spate of terrorist acts in Instanbul and worsening relations between Russia and Turkey after the shooting down of a Russian
plane poisoned relations. Svetlana told me: " The hotels here were mainly empty. This has been very bad for the local people who depend on tourism."

               This seems a great pity. Svetlana, tells with glowing eyes how dazzlingly beautiful Turkey is and how you can see Roman and Greek remains, as well as wonderful  wildlife. The local people are very fond of children and I myself have noticed security staff at hotels amusing children.

               With its clean air, awe inspiring scenery and warm hearted people one might be forgiven for thinking they were in an idyllic paradise.

               However, over the past few years, some snakes have been found lurking around here. We can forget that  this country was the scene of the Trojan war which was not just a small siege of a fortress but an international conflict between east and west.

               The attempted Military coup on July the 15th to the 16th ended in a complete farce. Despite the claims of officials, it came nowhere near to success. On the contrary, it demonstrated the impotence rather than the strength of the plotters. It seems to have been a farce or fiasco rather than a genuine military coup. Local people were pelting passing tanks with stones and fruit rather than cowering before it. There are even rumours floating around that the Government 'set up ' the coup in order to justify the massive purges which followed! For the Military coup has been a golden gift to the flagging popularity of Erdogan. Erdogan 's support was already sagging due to recent terrorist acts, falling living standards and a series of blunders in International relations not to mention his intolerant and authoritarian nature. The latter is confirmed by the fact that he has pursued 900 cases for libel against critics under the law which forbids' insulting the Presidency. '

               Some Russians have compared Putin to Erdogan. Both Presidents rose to power against the backgrounds of rising living standards in the first decade of the 21st century, and both depend on the support of the poorer sections of society and a degree of populism which appeals to the little man. But this comparison seems quite questionable. For instance, hundreds of journalists have written articles and books criticising Putin and not ended up in court and Putin is no demagogue. Putin tend to retain his calm while the former
can be more impulsive, clumsy and prone to taking rasher action.

               One Russian Journalist , Vladimir Bender, has likened the latest en-mass purges to what happened in Russia in 1937. He argues that the recent purges are not aimed so much at the plotter, but the intelligensia which dares to question his power. Thousands of innocent people have been either fired, detained and arrested without any real evidence linking them to the failed coup.

               As many as 2745 judges were fired, 7899 policemen, 6319 of the military and from them, 118 generals and 1350 officers. A few senior generals have only recently resigned.

               As many as 15,200 workers in education have been forced to resign, as well as 1577 deans of university. As many as 21,000 private teachers have been deprived of their licence to teach! Why on earth are teachers losing their licences?  Can any reasonably intelligent person imagine those teachers helping to plan a military coup? Teachers are so overworked, they don't have the time, or the inclination to plan coups! It sounds so ludicriously absurd and childish that no one can take this seriously. Some academics have been forbidden from travelling abroad.

               The Turkish president is also seeking to restore the death penalty! At this moment of time, newspapers are being closed down and journalists arrested.

               Amnesty International has already reported claims that those who are being detained are being subject to torture. All those recent events are actually reminiscent of the aftermath of past military coups in Chile 1973, and the past military coup in Turkey in 1980. However, this 'political coup'
launched by the President is aimed not only against destroying the intelligensia but rolling back the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This leader's portrait adorns almost every hotel or public building in Turkey. He is known as the
father of the Turkish people. He abolished the sultanate in 1922 and proclaimed a republic in October 1923. Kemal brought Turkey into the modern age. This was epitomised by his clothing reform of 1925 which abolished the veil for women and fez for men. In 1930, women were granted the vote and allowed to enter jealously guarded male 

professions. Women could even aspire to becoming air pilots. Clerics were strictly forbidden from playing a role in politics and Turkey became a secularised country.

               Of course, not everyone welcomed those reforms. Some Turks say it goes too far. For anyone who travels in Turkey will notice a sharp contrast in the views of those who live in the city, and the village. The latter tend to be deeply religious and conservative while the former are more easy going.

               A modern city goer would be less likely to ask a German wife to be, to convert to Islam. A Turkish salesman who had married a German woman told me that he was amazed that his former wife had decided to become a Muslim, 'When there was no need". In contrast, I remember that before being taken on a tour around a Mosque, the Turkish bus driver was kissing his Koran with great reverence.

               The great long term danger is that both those people with different values will stop talking to each other and collide. What you will see is not some coup but a full scale civil war. And the Repression following the coup is truly 

turning  out to be a case of third time unlucky.

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