Tuesday, 25 February 2014

IISS Event: Turkey Beyond the Headlines

Dr Mina Toksoz and Ziya Meral discuss the developments in Turkish economy, politics and foreign policy at the IISS in London.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Turkey: Whose Side Are You On?

NOTE: Unpublished Post, it can be used in full by notifying the author.

Last 12 months have been truly draining for all who research and write on Turkey. We not only saw dramatic events and ups and downs that were difficult to decipher and make sense, we saw a toxic and suffocating climate descending on the Turkish public space and conversations on Turkey anywhere in the world.

Often, it felt like tidal waves of strong and clear views carrying masses and with it those whose day time jobs are covering and analysing those events. Polarization has been fierce, and there has been no option for anyone but to fit into a clear camp in clash with others.

In Turkey, one either had to sing praises of PM Erdogan and see him as the Messiah, or had to see him as the new Hitler committing mass crimes. One either had to be supporting a 'revolution' symbolised by urban and self-assuredly 'modern' Turks or 'protection' of the nation and 'national will' of similarly self-assured bearers of 'authentic' Turkishness.

Then came the further fragmentation as AKP-Gulen Movement clash unfolded, now, we had to take one side or the other, either enjoy the tremendously worrying damage caused to the state structures since it was the 'Islamists' clashing with each other, or take the side of AKP or its challengers from within the state.

Chronic troubles of Turkish public space only amplified these clashes; our incapacity to engage in a conversation with different views without intense emotions outbursting and the ultimate result of that being attacks, slurs, relativisation of whoever simply does not agree with us 100%.

Friday, 7 February 2014

BBC Radio 4 program on Gulen movement

Ziya Meral joins a discussion on Gulen movement and its relationship with politics in Turkey.

Listen to the special report "Turkey: The Gulen Movement"

Thursday, 9 January 2014

BBC World interview on Unfolding Crisis in Turkey

Ziya Meral is interviewed by George Alagiah on BBC World about the ongoing corruption scandal in Turkey.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Debate: Corruption Scandal in Turkey, France 24

Ziya Meral joins the Debate program on France 24, discussing on going corruption scandal in Turkey and its significance.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Interview: Corruption Scandal in Turkey

Ziya Meral joins HuffingtonPost Live to discuss the on going corruption scandal in Turkey. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

BBC World discussion on 2020 Olympics

Ziya Meral joins BBC World discussion on whether Istanbul, Tokyo or Madrid should be the host for 2020 Olympics.

Turkey beyond Islamism and Authoritarianism

Cairo Review of Global Affairs, 04 September 2013

As protests spread and grew first in Istanbul, then in other parts of the country, we all struggled to conceptualize what we were witnessing. Many in Turkey opted for clear and neat narratives, which often left out other aspects of the protests and burdened events with legendary meanings ascribed onto them.

A significant portion of commentary on Turkey in international media was by and large repetition of old positions with new 'proofs' found in protests themselves and Turkish government's handling of them. Many saw the fulfillment of long prophesied Turkish lapses on spectrums of Islamism-secularism or democracy-authoritarianism.

The resulting cacophony demonstrated that we were witnessing a new era in Turkey, and our intellectual tool kits were simply insufficient in making sense of it. Intense language of debates in Turkey and angry outbursts of emotions only helped to cloud our vision.

We had faced a similar situation in 2002, when the lenses we used to analyze Turkey hindered us from realizing that emergence of Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey was far from victory of Islamism as we know it, but its end. The AKP was representative of a new paradigm for Islam inspired politics that blended historical romanticism, cultural identity with open markets and global integration. It had emerged from the rubble of collapsed Islamist movements and managed to move beyond their legacy.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Human Face and Cost of Violence

War and violence become abstracted the further we are away from them. All of our exposure boils down to news reports and research updates that try to capture in words, numbers and images a fact that can never be truly conceptualised; brutal destruction of individual human beings.

Amidst all the grandeur geo-political thought exercises, partisan condemnations of who really is the wrong one, victims of this ageless story melt into mere sub-points in an argument.

If numerical citations of how many people died numb us to the deep suffering behind each number uttered, theories and soundbites on why such suffering occurs also distance us from all that is taking place in the world. Human involvement and responsibility disappears as we blame it all on elusive categories, such as politics, religion, power and education.

TS Eliot is right; human beings cannot bear very much reality. All this destruction has a human face and a human cost; both the perpetrators and those who perish are human beings like you and me.

By blaming it on external factors, we are shielded from the knowledge that violence is human, and that you and I too have the potential to destroy. Most subversively, we are protected from facing the deep moral failure in our apathy and lack of action to stop and care for those in need.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Limits of Erdoğanology

7 July 2013, Today's Zaman

Until the Gezi Park protests broke out, I didn't know there were this many Turkey experts in the world. Thousands of articles were published.

The vast majority of them were pretty much the same, used the same vocabulary, reached almost identical conclusions and had similar punch lines using different anecdotes.

Most articles had two major focal points: Gezi Park and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As the protests spread across the country and showed tremendously complex and varied patterns even in different parts of İstanbul, all of the protests were reduced to clear and tidy narratives and observations inferred from the limited scope of Gezi Park, if not personal experience with tear gas.  

Much has been said about the protests and their different interpretations, although we still do not have a nationwide study and analysis of all the different types and phases of the protests. Yet very little reflection has been done on how quickly the most talked about issue was Erdoğan, both at home and abroad, and whether this helped or blurred our perception of what was happening.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Turkey: The Great Media Puzzle

Al Jazeera Magazine, July Issue
Al Jazeera Magazine: The Great Media Puzzle, by Ziya Meral

The chronic troubles of Turkish media became visible once more during the initial days of Gezi protests when mainstream television channels chose not to broadcast the developments.

This led to an avalanche of opinion editorials, full of metaphors and personal anecdotes, declaring that there is no freedom of expression and media in Turkey.

Such blanket conclusions seemed to be supported by recent global rankings produced by various groups on freedom of press, in most of which Turkey scored worse than Jordan, Russia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Algeria. The catchy phrase “Turkey jails more journalists than Iran, China, Eritrea and Syria” became a common feature.

Combined with the never ending global panic attacks on 'Islamism' in Turkey, a picture of Turkey became dominant in the international media: under an Islamist government that is finally showing its true colors, Turkey has become worse than ever before.

It has been difficult to agree with such problematic and often political conclusions. While on the one hand the facts of what happened in Turkey last few weeks are clear to see, when put in their context it is also clear that both the Turkish democracy and freedom of media are in a much better place than where they were in 1980s, 1990s and even early 2000s.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

New Report: Article 18; An Orphaned Right

A new report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Religious Freedom, authored by Professor Malcolm Evans, Professor Javaid Rehman, Ziya Meral, Dr Nazila Ghanea, Katherine Cash and Dr Sean Oliver-Dee.

To Download the Report, Click on the Cover Picture

Friday, 28 June 2013

European Council on Foreign Relations discussion on Turkey

Recording of discussion on Gezi protests and their fall outs for domestic and foreign policy of Turkey, featuring Ziya Meral and Karabekir Akkoyunlu.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

CNBC interview on Turkey, protests, investment

 Ziya Meral joins CNBC's Squawk Box Europe to discuss long term implications of protests on politics and economy

France 24 Discussion on Turkey

Ziya Meral joins France 24 discussion on protests in Turkey.

Part I

Part II

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Turkish media: Caught in the wheels of power?

Al Jazeera features interviews with Ziya Meral, Mustafa Akyol, Yavuz Baydar, Andrew Finkel and Yasemin Congar on how the Turkish media mishandled the protests in Turkey

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Discussion on protests in Turkey, developments in Syria and Egypt

Ziya Meral joins BBC Arabic discussion on developments in Turkey, Syria and Egypt.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Time to worry: Turkey is becoming USA!

Published on Huffington Post, 6 June

Over the last ten years, we have seen countless articles and discussions, ranging from academic all the way to ridiculous, comparing Turkey to a wide range of countries.

On the top of the list comes Iran. Turkey has been continually likened to Iran, in the sense that soon the conservative Muslim party would take over and declare a theocracy. Some saw, more of a slow approach and a sinister Islamization project.

Then came the post-religious perspectives and argued that Turkey is now becoming a Russia with her own Putin, business and media relations and harsh clamp down on free speech. We are still waiting for hunting and bear-fighting pictures of PM Erdogan.

There is one country Turkey has never been likened to, and yet, the more closely I follow the developments in Turkey, the more I see how valid it is to point out: Turkey is becoming like the USA after 10 years of AK Party rule.

What makes me to come up with such a ridiculous observation?

In Turkey, just like in the US, we now have two opposing cultural and political poles. A person is either forever a Republican or a Democrat. You have no option but to remain so even tough secretly you might agree with some policies of the other.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Protests in Turkey are tremendous democratic advance

Published by Public Service Europe, 5 June 

Often, it is fair to say that most of what we read on Turkey in the international media tells us more about those who write it than guide us towards a healthy analysis of developments in the country. The same goes for vast majority of the commentary on the protests we saw in Istanbul and across the country over the last week.

While protests in each of the cities have a different context and local factors, without a doubt initial protests on and around Gezi Park have triggered a larger social eruption. Therefore, understanding the Gezi Park protests would be important as a reflection on trends that unite these protests.

So far, the most credible data that emerged on protestors in Istanbul's Taksim Square has been a poll among 3,000 protestors in the Taksim area by Bilgi University. The findings signal important insights.

Bilgi's survey has found that 39 per cent of protestors are 19 to 25 years old and 24 per cent are 26 to 30 years old. Some 53 per cent have never joined a protest before, while 70 per cent do not feel close to any opposition party. Only 7 per cent say they joined the protests due to mobilisation by a political group. As to the reasons for the protest - some 92 per cent blame the prime minister's attitude, 91 per cent say police brutality, 84 per cent the media's silence on the events, and 56 per cent say the cutting of the trees.

On the need for remembering Gezi Park right

Published by Today's Zaman, 5 June 2013

Much has been and will be written about why and how a small and peaceful protest in Taksim Square's Gezi Park evolved into a large social eruption. Relatively little has been said about what this might mean politically, socially, economically and diplomatically in the near future.

No matter from which political angle one looks at the events we have seen in Turkey over the past days, it is clear that one of the biggest problems in Turkey is our weak democratic culture. We have problems in handling different opinions, lifestyles, beliefs and political views and expressing ourselves, compromising, negotiating and reconciling.

Soon, there will be healthy calls for accountability and justice over how the police and authorities and, in some cases, protesters have conducted themselves and how the government handled this process. All of these are necessary, but if we want to see a lasting impact of what we have experienced last week and if we want to learn lessons from it as a nation beyond our usual polarization of “us” versus “them,” we must find ways to conceptualize Gezi Park's memory from now on.