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Cablegate: Turkey: Idependent Candidate Baskin Oran

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DE RUEHAK #1835/01 2000548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190548Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3022
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
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RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
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RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001835

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: IDEPENDENT CANDIDATE BASKIN ORAN
CHALLENGES STATUS QUO, TAKES ON TABOOS

REF: A. ANKARA 0404
B. ANKARA 1439

1.(SBU) Summary: Intellectuals, leftists, minorities, and
independent thinkers' enthusiastic support for retired Ankara
University Professor Baskin Oran's independent candidacy in
Istanbul's 2nd district has skyrocketed the neophyte
politician to national prominence and made him a front-runner
in Istanbul. In a recent conversation, Oran told us he is
optimistic that he will get the approximately 60-70,000 votes
needed to win a seat in the district, and attributes his
popularity to the groundswell of support from civil society
and "Turkey's voiceless" -- Kurds, minorities, gypsies,
women, youth, gays, handicapped, and environmentalists.
Oran's refusal to affiliate with a political party and
willingness to speak out on previously taboo topics make him
unique, and one to watch if voters give him a seat in
parliament. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Outspoken Academic Seeks to Represent Turkey's Voiceless
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2.(SBU) Retired Ankara University professor Baskin Oran was
little-known outside academic circles until becoming an early
target of rising nationalism when he was prosecuted in 2004
for writing a GOT-sponsored report that recommended Turkey
improve the rights of its non-Muslims (ref A). Oran, never
one to shy away from speaking his mind, has remained in the
public eye since. When he publicly condemned the
ultranationalist forces responsible for the assassination of
his close friend Hrant Dink, he attracted further attention
and had to be placed under police protection due to multiple
death threats.

3.(SBU) In a recent conversation, Oran told us that until
recently he had planned to continue his routine: living with
his wife in his humble Ankara home, occasionally traveling in
Turkey and abroad to speak on political issues, writing
columns, articles and books, and maintaining his website.
Several months ago, he began to receive calls and emails from
hundreds of friends, students, and acquaintances urging him
to run as an independent. They told him that no party
represented their interests. Oran decided it was his duty as
a citizen to make a difference by representing "those who
have been alienated, rejected, restricted, silenced, pained,
or been threatened by the paranoia that Turkey will be broken
up." He said he will be the voice of the voiceless: women,
gays, Kurds, minorities, gypsies.

--------------------------------------------
Strong Grass-roots Support Gives Oran a Shot
--------------------------------------------

4.(SBU) Oran decided to run in Istanbul's Second District
(Beyoglu Besiktas, Alibeykoy, and Sariyer) because of its
large concentration of liberal-minded voters. Despite the 43
other independent candidates running in the district, he is
confident he will get the 60-70,000 votes needed to win a
seat. He attributed his popularity and well-run campaign to
extraordinary grass-roots support. A small army of
volunteers and private donors have allowed him to run an
impressive campaign on par with those of candidates from
major parties. Among the support: 6500 donors gave between
10 YTL and 1000 YTL; his political advisers work for free; a
backer donated minibus transportation for him to traverse the
10 sub-provinces in Istanbul's 2nd district; one of
Istanbul's largest printing houses printed hundreds of
thousands of banners and brochures for him at no cost; and
well-known film directors such as Ezel Akay and Melek Taylan
shot his videos and advertisements.

5.(SBU) Turkish civil society members have rallied behind
Oran's candidacy. Writers Yasar Kemal and Adalet Agaoglu,
both Oran supporters, said in recent interviews that for the
first time they feel like they have someone to actually vote
for in the election. Kurdish-origin writer Mehmet Uzun said
that Oran and Mehmet Ufuk Uras, an independent candidate in
Istanbul's first district, represent "the voice of Turkey."
Dozens of Embassy human rights and civil society contacts in
Ankara have told us in recent weeks that they are

ANKARA 00001835 002 OF 002


disappointed they have no broad-minded candidate like Oran in
their district.

6.(SBU) Comment: Although Oran's candidacy is part of the
wider election trend of running as an independent to
circumvent the 10 percent threshold (see ref B), his is
unique. He is not affiliated with any political party and
consistently speaks out on previously taboo topics in Turkey,
such as the Kurdish problem, Turkish-Armenian history, and
the rights of minorities and gays. The impressive support
and attention he has received exemplifies the dynamism of
these elections. Should Oran gain a parliamentary seat, his
independence and outspokenness will make him an interesting
MP to watch.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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