The Malaise of Turkish Democracy

by Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
published in MER209

In his first televised interview in late 1996, just months after taking office, an avuncular-looking Necmettin Erbakan seemed unsurprised at a question about his taste in clothing. “Mr. Prime Minister, we hear that you favor ties by the Italian designer Versace,” said commentator Mehmet Ali Birand. “What is it about Versace that you like?” His half-smile unfading, Turkey’s first-ever Islamist prime minister answered that “this particular Western designer seems to have borrowed from Islamic aesthetics and Oriental patterns.”

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Cartel: Travels of German-Turkish Rap Music

by Alev Çınar
published in MER211

“You are a Turk from Germany.” The words are from the song “Sen Turksun” (You Are a Turk) by German-Turkish rap group Cartel. Cartel shot to prominence in 1995 in Germany and Turkey with their album, “Cartel,” which within a month of its release sold 30,000 copies in Germany and 180,000 in Turkey. The “Cartel, Number One” video aired repeatedly on Turkish television and quickly hit the top of the Turkish pop charts. Every Turkish station and newspaper wanted to interview the group, which fascinated the Turkish public with its aggressive style, its ingenious music that combined rap with elements of Turkish musical genres, and its lyrics. For example:

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Migrant Women in Waged Domestic Work in Turkey

by Işik Urla Zeytinoğlu , Ömür Tımurcanday Özmen , Alev Ergenç Katrınlı , Hayat Kabasakal , Yasemin Arbak
published in MER211

“If we were to continuously work until 5 o’clock as hard as the employer wants, we would not be able to get to work the next day. No human being can work as much as that.”
-- Domestic Worker

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Deep Traumas, Fresh Ambitions

Legacies of the Iran-Iraq War

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER257

The seeds of future war are sown even as parties fight and, depleted or on the verge of defeat, sue for peace. The outcome is rarely stable and may be barely tolerable to one side or the other. This rule holds true for the two belligerents no less than for their respective sponsors, keen to protect their strategic interests. Ambitions thwarted are merely delayed, not abandoned; new traumas incurred are entered into the ledger for the settlement of what is hoped one day will be the final bill.

Unpacking Turkey's "Court-Packing" Referendum

by Aslı Bâli | published November 5, 2010

The news reports and commentary on Turkey in the middle months of 2010 have sounded alarmist themes. Analysts have warned that Turkish foreign policy is undergoing a reorientation away from the West, ominously foreshadowed by deteriorating relations with Israel. Commentators worry about creeping Islamization in domestic and foreign policy, a concern captured by pictures of headscarved women accompanying articles about Turkey’s eastward turn. Elsewhere, descriptions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly assertive policies toward the Middle East are paired with allegations of a more authoritarian style of government by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey’s September 12 referendum -- resulting in the passage of a package of constitutional amendments with support from 58 percent of voters -- offers the most recent occasion to revisit this increasingly critical portrait of Turkey in Washington and beyond.

Poetic Injustice

by Ian Urbina | published November 8, 2002

In its war against terrorism, the United States has trumpeted its intentions to spread democracy in a region where there is little. Many around the globe remain skeptical about whether toppling leaders is an effective method for cultivating a respect for the rule of law and a liberalization of the political process. However, there is one place where, with minimal diplomatic pressure, the United States could radically bolster prospects for democracy. To the scandal of its own people as well as the international community, longtime US ally Turkey rigged its November elections. But the real scandal is that the United States had nothing to say about it.

The PKK and the Closure of Turkey's Kurdish Opening

by Alexander Christie-Miller | published August 4, 2010

At a community hall in Diyarbakır, a majority-Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey, a shrine is draped with the illegal flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party, otherwise known as the PKK. On top of the flag is a framed photograph of Özgür Dağhan, a young man who died fighting for the outlawed rebel group. Looming above, a poster shows the grinning visage of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, whose organization’s war with the Turkish state has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives. Since the PKK canceled its one-year ceasefire on June 1, scenes such as this one are once again common.

Harbingers of Turkey’s Second Republic

by Kerem Öktem | published August 1, 2007

On July 23, the day after the ruling Justice and Development Party won Turkey’s early parliamentary elections in a landslide, Onur Öymen, deputy chairman of the rival Republican People’s Party (CHP), interpreted the results as follows: