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Cablegate: From the Visa Line: Winter's Tales

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Dianne Wampler 03/05/2007 08:12:16 PM From DB/Inbox: Dianne Wampler

Cable
Text:


UNCLAS SENSITIVE ISTANBUL 00167

SIPDIS
CX:
ACTION: POL
INFO: PA CONS TSR PMA ECON MGT DAO DCM AMB RAO FCS

DISSEMINATION: POL /1
CHARGE: PROG

VZCZCAYO249
RR RUEHAK
DE RUEHIT #0167/01 0611045
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021045Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6688
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHVV/ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000167

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE - NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL CVIS SOCI CASC KFRD KPAO TU
SUBJECT: FROM THE VISA LINE: WINTER'S TALES

1. (SBU) Summary: From the Visa Line is a reporting vehicle
encompassing vignettes, anecdotes and observations from Istanbul
Consular officers' daily interactions with applicants. In recent
months, some applicants have cited the increasingly nationalist
climate in Turkey as a factor motivating their travel to the United
States. End Summary.

-------------------------------
Come to Where the Flavor Is Not
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) In December, an officer observed that the applicant before
her was quaking more than usual for even the most nervous of
visa-seekers. As the interview progressed, and it was clear the
applicant had answered all questions truthfully and was qualified to
travel to the United States, the officer's curiosity about his
anxiety increased. Unable to reconcile his jittery demeanor with
his reasoned responses, the officer finally asked the applicant
directly why he was so shaky. His reply: "I haven't had a cigarette
for two hours!" He last was seen walking quickly to the courtyard
to light up. No word on how he will cope with a long, non-smoking
flight.

--------------------------------
In the Aye-Yi-Yi of the Beholder
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) An artist wishing to exhibit in Greenwich Village appeared
at an officer's window in January. Asked about his work, the artist
explained that he was a painter and the officer--taking advantage of
the information technology at his fingertips--pulled up the
applicant's home page on his computer screen. To his surprise, the
officer discovered the applicant specialized in erotic portraiture.
Lest he be cited for a cyber-security violation, the officer
beckoned a colleague on the line to verify that his navigation to
the website served a legitimate business purpose. Returning to the
applicant, the officer asked about friends and family. Highlighting
how tolerant Istanbul can be for a Muslim metropolis, the artist
produced local press articles featuring his most famous work, a
painting of a man in drag. He said the subject was his boyfriend
and rhapsodized that "he looks great in makeup and women's clothes."
The artist received a visa.

-------------------
Noblesse Non-Oblige
-------------------

4. (SBU) Also in January, an applicant said he wished to travel to
the United States to donate his kidney to a fellow Turk. He
explained that he and the would-be recipient, a wealthy woman he
knew from the hair salon where he worked as a tea-boy, had not yet
agreed on the amount of compensation he would receive. However, he
revealed that had asked for the equivalent of $178,000--enough to
purchase a fine home for his family in Turkey's impoverished east.
The applicant apparently had overheard the woman telling her stylist
of her plight and proposed what he believed would be a mutually
beneficial arrangement. The officer denied the applicant, called
the would-be recipient to the window, and gently explained to both
parties that organ-selling is illegal in the United States. Before
and after the interview, several of Istanbul's rich and powerful
lobbied--fruitlessly, of course--for the applicant to receive a
visa, suggesting implicitly that they view themselves above the law
and regard such transactions as consistent with their understanding
of benevolent patronage; after all, how else could their poor
tea-boy afford a house?

-----------------------------
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) A well-known Turkish writer applied in late January for a
visa to travel in connection with the promotion of the
English-language edition of her latest novel. The writer, who--like
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and Nobel prize-winning
author Orhan Pamuk--had been cited with "insulting Turkish-ness"
through a literary portrayal of an Armenian family's experience with
the 1915 so-called "genocide"--said Dink's assassination on January
19 convinced her it was a good time not to be in Turkey. The
prospect of an U.S. Congressional "Armenian Genocide Resolution"
further fueled her desire to leave, but fear of threats from
ultra-nationalist Turks in the United States had compelled her to
sharply curtail her original itinerary. "Dink himself opposed such
a resolution. He knew it would make things here worse, not better,
and told me he would go and personally tell the Congress that no
genocide occurred here--even though he knew the truth--if this would
stop them from doing something so divisive."

---------------
Minority Report
---------------

6. (SBU) In early February, a Turkish student seeking travel to
Rochester, New York, to complete doctoral studies in economics
learned that security processing (necessitated by a CLASS entry)
would delay his return to the United States for up to 12 weeks. The
applicant told the interviewing officer that, more than missing his
US-resident wife and American-citizen child and the start of the new
semester, he was deeply disappointed not to be able to leave Turkey
before March. He explained he is Jewish and that he fears reprisals
against minority communities here if the U.S. Congress passes an
Armenian genocide resolution. "We're all countrymen until someone
questions Turkey," he said. "Once that happens, the Turks begin to
look for enemies in their midst, and we Jews always are first ones
to be singled out and punished."

JONES

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