Tracing Turkey’s amazing transformation

first_imgIt is open to debate whether Turkey really is “the most fascinating country in the world”, as Stephen Kinzer claims in his preface to the revised edition of Crescent & Star. But there is no doubt that the country has undergone an amazing transformation over the past few years. There is hardly a better guide to the changes than this book, subtitled Turkey Between Two Worlds.Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s revolution of the 1920s solidified over decades into a structure whose main aim seemed to be the suppression of any form of openness. Three military coups between 1960 and 1980 and military pressure in 1997 that deposed the first government with an Islamist prime minister, drove home the point: the military saw itself as the guarantor of the Kemalist order. “Since 1923 the country had been ruled by a self-perpetuating elite shaped above all by paralysing fear of the people,” Kinzer writes. But growing social and political pressure became too great to withstand once Islamists of various stripes replaced leftists as the main enemy of the state. In a dramatic turn of events that Kinzer equates with Atatürk’s seizure of power in 1923, Recep Tayyip Erdog?an became prime minister in 2003 and quickly turned the country into a leading Muslim liberal democracy. Just how liberal is being tested every day but the degree of political, social, religious and economic freedom that ordinary Turks enjoy today is unprecedented. “Never since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 has it been better positioned to fulfil its citizens’ dreams and project itself out into the wider world,” Kinzer writes in the introduction to his book, first published in 2001 and now completely rewritten. The second part of the promise implicit in this statement – to retrace Turkey’s role in the region and internationally – remains largely unfulfilled. For anyone who cares about Turkey and its role in Europe, however, this book is required reading. Economic changes Much of the energy behind Turkey’s transformation has been generated domestically, notably through the opening of the country’s economy, previously stifled by overbearing bureaucracy. But momentum was also maintained by the prospect of eventual membership of the European Union, increasingly tangible as Erdog?an consolidated his power. When Kinzer asked a barber in a Kurdish town why he was suddenly able to openly voice his support for Kurdish separatism, the man simply replied: “We’re becoming part of Europe. If we’re European, we can say whatever we want.” It is on the Kurdish issue that the real strengths of this book are most apparent. Kinzer – a former bureau chief for the New York Times in Istanbul – approaches this as he tackles the other topics he deals with here: he is on the ground listening to those who are caught up in it. There is no doubt that Kinzer loves Turkey, but his is not blind love. Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds. By Stephen Kinzer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. €12.99 Fact Filelast_img read more

Wounded lions headed for survival clash in Amazon

first_imgGROUP A Game PreviewCAMEROON vs CROATIABy Zoran MilosavljevicCameroon’s Indomitable Lions must improve on a toothless display in their opening match when they face Croatia in the hot and humid Amazon city of Manaus in Group A on Wednesday while having to cope with the loss of pack leader Samuel Eto’o.The four-time African Footballer of the Year has been ruled out of the clash due to a knee injury.Cameroon, who lost 1-0 against Mexico in their opener, are seeking their first World Cup win since 2002.Their next opponents Croatia, who have failed to reach the knockout stage since an impressive third-place finish in 1998, are also fighting for survival after losing their opener 3-1 against Brazil.Croatia have their own problems as inspirational playmaker Luka Modric faces a race against time to recover from a foot injury he sustained in that match.Coach Niko Kovac was confident he would have Modric available and welcomed the return of suspended striker Mario Madzukic, who will reclaim his spot from Nikica Jelavic to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation.“Modric is getting better and I think he will be fit to play while having Mandzukic back is a real bonus because he is aggressive and able to pull the whole team forward,” Kovac told reporters in the team’s Praia do Forte base.“His approach can scare Cameroon and help Croatia.”LOWER EXPECTATIONSInitial outbursts over a contentious penalty to Brazil with the score 1-1 quickly gave way to pundits’ criticism of Kovac’s tactics as Croatia sat back after taking an early lead and the 42-year old coach promised a more adventurous strategy against the Cameroonians.“It was hard to come forward against Brazil but this game will be a different story because I expect us to have more possession and dominate,” he said.“Purposeful running will be the key because of the weather. As we saw in a high-tempo England v Italy game and one of superb quality, both sides wilted after 70 minutes in the unbearable heat.“It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t get past the group stage but I want to think positively and believe that we can make an impact.“We have to remember that we are a small nation that scraped through to the finals, but I can still see the light at the end of the tunnel.Cameroon’s German coach Volker Finke was tight-lipped about his team’s prospects of rekindling some of the past glory, by the looks of things a big ask from a modest outfit lacking the guile and creativity of the side that stormed into the last eight in 1990.Instead, he heaped praise on his rivals.“Croatia is a team that has good players. There are players who play at clubs in Spain, at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, in the Bundesliga … it is clear that this is a good team,” he said.“They are in the same situation as us, they lost their opener. If you have zero points after the first game, you do not talk too much, you just have to win at all costs.”last_img read more