Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bosphorus...for the rest of us!

Istanbul, Turkey

Based on my experiences, I would not describe Turkey as an Islamic country. Headscarves, although common, are certainly not the rule and in some places are definitely the exception. Many women wear the same belly and shoulder exposing ensembles (love 'em!) that are currently favored by females the world over. Men and women openly booze it up in discos that would not be out of place in London or New York. Serious flamers get their flame on up and down the avenues and you can even sometimes catch teenagers making out on park benches in full view of an apparently tolerant public.

Similarly, I do not count Turkey as part of the developing world. Busy urbanites shop at the Gap and gulp down Starbucks just like anywhere else. Cities have modern infrastructure that seems more handicapped by a long history than a lack of funds. Farms in the countryside are large, orderly, and rely heavily on gas-driven equipment. There is probably a horse-drawn plow somewhere in Anatolia, but I didn't see it. Villages have potable running water and electricity. Perhaps most significantly, the currency has a strong value and prices are not the kind of cheap you would expect from a nation still turning the corner.

All this brings me to a question posited by Jason: "Why is there resistance to Turkey attaining full membership in the European Union?". I can think of only two reasons. First, Turkey's government has retained a few autocratic tendencies. For example, there is still a military-dominated uber-council that has, and presumably still will, step in at any time and suspend democratic government. Also, there is a bit of an information war going on. Turkey has not completely given up suppressing its history of kicking around Kurds and Armenians and there is an official version of the history of the Turkish ethnicity and language that may not jive completely with the anthropological and linguistic record.

Secondly, European countries may be genuinely spooked by the prospect of a majority-Moslem country joining the fold. The way things are moving in the world , it would not be completely surprising if in ten years Turkey had turned away from secularism. The current prime minister's Islamic party managed to avoid being ousted by the army by toning down some of their more Western-unfriendly rhetoric. The EU has enough trouble implementing its social agenda as is. Trying to make it jive with the vagaries of sharia-inspired law would make the task much harder.


Blogger jason said...

Turkey was one sweet-ass country. There are enough eastern influences to make the cultural experience memorable for a western traveler such as myself, and enough westernization to keep life comfortable and familiar.
Istanbul in particular was amazing. Definitely the most beautiful city we've explored so far on the trip. It's just such an organic and lively mix of the old and the new, east and west. It sounds like a cliche, but sometimes cliches are true.

5/11/2006 11:34 AM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another issue that does not get enough attention from the Western mainstream media is Turkey's illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of almost half of Cyprus, and the regime of de facto apartheid that they have established on the island.

5/11/2006 9:26 PM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sol invictus:

Perhaps the occupation would have ended if Southern Cyprus accepted the UN pease plan?

5/17/2006 4:48 AM gmt


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