Turkey


ankara
The Ankara bombing: Presaging the end of the Turkish Republic?

What we have witnessed in the last two years, culminating in the horrible scenes of 10 October in Ankara, is the end of the Turkish Republic as we know it. A commentary by Umut Ozkirimli

There is something fundamentally wrong with the journalistic coverage of the twin blasts at a peace rally in Ankara – the deadliest terror attack on Turkish soil – which left more than a hundred people dead (128 according to the unofficial tally of the People′s Democracy Party, HDP), several hundred wounded and an almost ″anomic″ country behind. As if writing a detective story or crime novel, most commentators begin by asking the ″who″ question, religiously following the basic rules of the genre and creating suspense for the sensation-seeking audience – after all, the killer is usually unknown until well after the initial investigation is completed.

This is the burden of Simon Tisdall′s otherwise insightful commentary on the Ankara attacks in ″The Guardian″ which points to the Islamic State, the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves or other right-wing groups within Turkey′s security apparatus as the most likely culprits. One might add, as the caretaker Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did, the PKK and the left-wing DHKP-C to this list, not to mention foreign intelligence agencies for the conspiracy-minded. Yet the question is redundant, if not entirely spurious, considering the immediate and the broader context in which the bombing took place.
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refugee

My latest post on the refugee crisis in Europe.

For anyone doing research on the Middle East for the past two centuries, there is an incredible archive online. Details below:

Alphabetical List of Open Access Historical Newspapers and Other Periodicals in Middle East & Islamic Studies

Below is a list of Open Access historical newspapers and other periodicals in Middle Eastern Studies.
Most titles on the list have been digitized by independent projects across the globe and may not have been fully cataloged. It is often difficult to find and access them on the web or through catalogs such as HathiTrust, AMEEL, Gallica, Revues, WorldCat, etc.
We welcome your comments and suggestions of additional titles to include. Please use the comment feature at the bottom of the page.

For the list of active Open Access journals follow this link:
Alphabetical List of Open Access Journals in Middle Eastern Studies

132 titles as of May 14, 2015.

An Impish Desire for Imperial Déjà Vu

Daniel Martin Varisco, MENA Tidningen, May 27, 2015

A recent online commentary by Robert Kaplan for Foreign Policy displays the provocative title: “It’s time to bring imperialism back to the Middle East”. The punch line surfaces in the final paragraph: “Imperialism bestowed order, however retrograde it may have been”. Retrograde? How about brutal?

Let’s see: Mussolini made the trains run on time; Hitler brought Germany out of the humiliation of a World War I defeat; Genghis Khan lengthened the Silk Road by slaughtering just about everyone along the way. So let’s bring back the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Qaddafi and all the recently demoted dictators so we can have “order” again, the kind of “order” which is imperially blessed and apparently serves American interests.

Kaplan’s view of Middle Eastern history is about as top-down and lop-sided as you can get. Take the Sublime Porte, for example: “For hundreds of years, Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Jews, Muslims and Christians, in Greater Syria and Mesopotamia had few territorial disputes. All fell under the rule of an imperial sovereign in Istanbul, who protected them from each other”, he writes. Really? What romance novel has Kaplan been reading? Was there such love for the Ottoman sultans that no ethnic group ever complained? Did all these subjugated people sleep peacefully at night knowing that the Janissaries would protect them from each other? But why stop with the Ottomans?! The caliphs in Abbasid Iraq must have been all made for a Disney Aladdin movie and their mercenaries nothing short of angels? And what barbarian would have dared speak against the glorious Pax Romana of the Caesars? Forget the out-dated Sermon on the Mount. According to Kaplan, blessed are the Machiavellian despots for only they can enforce peace in the name of order, at least in what used to be called the Holy Land. (more…)

The following illustration is preserved in the New York Public Library. It features Muhammad receiving a letter from Bazan, the king of Yemen. It was created for Murad III, Sultan of the Turks, 1546-1595 by Darîr Erzurumî, fl. 14th cent.


The photograph illustrates Luce Ben Aben, Moorish women preparing couscous, Algiers, Algeria.

There is a trove of old photographs from around the Middle East at the website http://www.azerbaijanrugs.com/oldphotos/old-photographs-me.htm


Kurds in national costumes


Young girl of Bethlehem. This color photochrome print was made between 1890 and 1900.

I don’t think you need a seismic detector anywhere in Turkey these days to determine if Mustafa Kamal Ataturk is not rolling over in his mausoleum in Ankara. The man who dragged Turkey so hard that the fez fell off and who de-scripted the calligraphically beautiful Ottoman language has been superseded by a leader no less contested, President and former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan is a polarizing figure, imposing his will in much the same way that military-backed leaders have done in Turkey’s past. And the comparisons between him and the old line of sultans is in the air these days. Calling for mandatory learning of the old Ottoman script, no matter how appealing to academic Ottomanists, is suggestive of more than historical nostagia. Building a huge palace of some 1,150 rooms (there were only 1,001 nights in the Arabian Nights epic) at a cost of around 490 million euros ($615 million) and then deciding that it should be called a kulleye, with all the religious connotations this conjures in Turkey, is eyebrow-raising to say the least.

We are now entering the age of political Ottomanipulation in Turkey. The next election will see politicians topped off with turbans and probably handing out tulips to buy votes. New political ads have no need to be satirized, since no satire could improve on their critique. There is no danger of Turkey returning to the sublime porte; that sick man of Europe cannot be resurrected, especially by an admirer of the modern Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic branding that Erdoğan brandishes is thoroughly contemporary and metaphorical. Taking pride in the Ottoman past is the point, but in order to create a new kind of Islamic leadership. There is no room for a caliph in the modern world any more than for Italy to go back to its caesars (even if those were the salad days for my grandfather’s homeland). But if you want to gain as absolute power as you possible can, religion is the best way to go. If you happen to be president of Uzkekistan for over two decades it helps to have a first name of Islam. And if Tamerlane can be trussed up in modern propaganda in Uzbekistan, why not Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Will it work? Will reading Ottoman script on mosque walls and watching politicians parade around in the old robes of authority convince the electorate that this is the best way to move forward? Time will tell, obviously, but in the mean time it may be useful to follow Turkey’s economic health. If Marx was around, I suspect he would argue that the jingle of coins in the pocket beats staring at museum objects. No fadish fetish beats the economy for predicting the probable direction of change.

Turkey in the Ergogan era is undergoing an interesting change. Now it seems the course is less about economically reinvading Europe than going on a kind of Ottoman-matic pilot course. A committee has recently announced a call to have mandatory teaching of Ottoman in Turkish high schools. “According to the proposal, Ottoman Turkish should be compulsory because people in Turkey are not able to read documents from Ottoman times, including the epitaphs of their forefathers. The proposal argues that Ottoman Turkish is necessary to keep Turkish people’s ties with their past strong,” notes a Turkish paper. As a student of history in the region, I am delighted that there should be such an interest in promoting the study of Turkey’s Ottoman past. But given that Ataturk must be rolling over in his mausoleum, one wonders about the political symbolism in such a revival.

President Erdogan has come under considerable criticism at home and abroad for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood, a more conservative brand of Islam than many Turks favor, and his apparent failure to stem the tide of Western and Arabic recruits for the ISIS/ISIL/IS caliphate in the making (and unmaking) to his south. Now that there is a new Ak Saray (White Palace) for President Erdogan with 1,000 rooms on 150,000 sq. m of former forested land and at a cost now nearing $615 million, the idea of reviving the Ottoman caliphate is clearly waiting in the wings (and that saray has a lot of wings). The Middle East still has its kings, sultans and emirs, even if most of the dictators have bit the dust. So can Ak Saray blend with the Topkapi to form a new re-Ottomanized Turkey? (more…)

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