Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
DE RUEHAK #0169/01 0291515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291515Z JAN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5068
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 8645
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 3808
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 2650
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 6385
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 6211
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2792
RUEUITH/DET 1 39LG ANKARA TU
RHMFISS/USDOCO 6ATAF IZMIR TU
RHMFISS/39OS INCIRLIK AB TU
RHMFISS/AFOSI DET 523 IZMIR TU
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU
RHMFISS/AFOSI DET 522 INCIRLIK AB TU
RUEUITH/AFLO ANKARA TU
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000169
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EUR/SE, EUR/PD, NEA/PD, DRL
JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2008
ANKARA 00000169 001.2 OF 003
In Today's Papers
AKP-MHP Agree to Lift Headscarf Ban in Universities
All papers report the ruling AKP and opposition MHP reached
agreement late on Monday on the details of a plan to remove the
headscarf ban at universities. The two parties have agreed to
change provisions in the Constitution and the Higher Education Board
(YOK) Law to resolve the problem. There will be no direct
references to clothing in the Constitution, and complementary
changes will be made in the YOK law, Islamist-oriented Zaman says.
The YOK Law amendment will describe the headscarf as a head covering
wrapped around the head and tied in a knot under the chin without
hiding the face. The AKP and MHP are to submit the headscarf
reforms to the parliament for approval on Tuesday.
The AKP-MHP deal has sparked criticism from judges and university
rectors. University rectors claim academic freedom and social
harmony are threatened by moves to ease the headscarf ban. YOK
Deputy Chair, Professor Isa Esme, said if the turban is allowed in
universities, students who don't cover their heads would be
pressured to cover their heads, and Turkey would face serious
dangers. The rectors of Inonu, Karaelmas, and Sutcu Imam
universities warned the government against 'polarizing' the nation.
According to a statement from Inonu University in Malatya, "The
turban has been turned into a political symbol that opposes the
fundamental characteristics of the Republic, including secularism."
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak says the AKP and MHP ended in just two
hours the 'brutality' that has been going on for years. Under the
headline "Fighting against the Regime," leftist-nationalist
Cumhuriyet says the two parties have agreed to set free the turban,
'a symbol of political Islam.'
A commentary in tabloid Posta says the AKP should inspire trust with
a pledge to guarantee the continuation of the secular regime and
should speed up EU reforms. Another commentary in mainstream
Milliyet opines about widespread concern that the freedom to wear a
headscarf in universities could spread to elementary and secondary
schools as well as state institutions.
Papers report the AKP administration has initiated an investigation
against Hasan Balaman, the Mayor of Isparta, and Husnu Tuna, an MP
from Konya, who have made 'provocative' statements to the effect
that civil servants, mayors, and parliamentarians should also be
free to cover their heads. Another AKP lawmaker, Nurettin Canikli,
in turn said "We have no hidden agenda; our only goal is to resolve
the problems in universities. We respect the sensitivities of CHP
leader Deniz Baykal. We are ready to make adjustments to end such
concerns." The pro-Kurdish DTP lawmaker Hasip Kaplan lashed out at
the AKP for working to lift the headscarf ban while preparing to
reintroduce official bans for the use of the Kurdish language in
On the other hand, Cumhuriyet carries a public opinion survey
conducted by the "Ipsos KMG" company which shows 65 percent of
interviewees believe the impact of religion will increase in daily
life, and 56 percent think the impact of religion in the state
administration will increase. The poll was conducted in 26
provinces with 1102 adults.
AKP's 'Turban Work' Delays Changes to Article 301
Milliyet, Vatan, Radikal and Zaman report the ruling AKP's bid to
lift a ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf in universities has
delayed an EU-sought reform of article 301 of the penal code, used
to prosecute writers by making "insulting Turkishness" a crime.
Mainstream Vatan claims the AKP has decided to postpone changes to
article 301 to avoid tensions with the opposition MHP during the
headscarf proceedings in the parliament. AKP deputy Nurettin
Canikli told reporters the reform of 301 was still on the agenda.
ANKARA 00000169 002.2 OF 003
Train Crash Resulted by Lack of Maintenance
All papers report a court arrested three railroad workers on Monday
in connection with the train crash that killed nine people near
Kutahya early Sunday. Vatan and Cumhuriyet say the crash might have
been due to the lack of maintenance of the rail system over the past
19 years. A railroad official said the crash site lacked the
automatic error reporting system, TSI, which would have prevented
the deaths. Experts reportedly said the accident might have been
the result of metal fatigue. The opposition CHP has proposed a
parliamentary investigation into the state of Turkish railroads.
Professor Yayla Sentenced for Insulting Ataturk
All papers report Professor Atilla Yayla of Ankara's Gazi University
has been given a suspended 15-month prison sentence for insulting
Ataturk. Yayla's sentence will be executed if he commits the same
offense in a two-year probation period. In a speech he made at a
2006 panel in Izmir, Yayla said the era of Ataturk's single party
rule from 1925-1945 did not signify progress in Turkey, and it was
regressive in some respects. Yayla also said Europeans were asking
why there are statues and pictures of Ataturk everywhere. Gazi
University fired Yayla, but he was later reinstated.
Investigations against DTP, Kurdish Writer
Radikal, Zaman, Taraf and Yeni Safak report the Diyarbakir
Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation into the
pro-Kurdish DTP congress held in the city over the weekend which was
attended by the party co-chairperson Emine Ayna, lawmaker Akin
Birdal, Mayor Osman Baydemir, and Siirt provincial party head Murat
Avci. Ayna told the congress implementation of Abdullah Ocalan's
'democratic confederation' formula could resolve the Kurdish problem
in the region.
Meanwhile, Yeni Safak reports Kurdish writer Orhan Miroglu faces
investigation under article 301 over an article he wrote for the
leftist daily Taraf, in which Miroglu said from 1990-1995, Kurdish
women were kept in gendarme stations in southeast Turkey for months
and were raped by Turkish soldiers.
"The Turban Debate is the Result of July 22 Elections"
Murat Yetkin wrote in liberal Radikal (1/29): "PM Erdogan was
encouraged by the electoral support the AKP received during the July
22 elections. Thinking that he may not get this kind of support
again, he decided to act immediately on the turban issue. AKP
supporters prevented protests against the turban ban in order to
avoid any trouble between the PM and the judiciary, the opposition
and the military. During his election speech, PM Erdogan promised
to treat each segment of the public equally. But how could we
expect PM Erdogan to open his arms equally to Kurds, Alevis and
Greek Orthodox, and then ignore the crowds who voted him to power?
In addition, military-government relations were rather painful prior
to the July 22 elections. But with Gul as president and the AKP in
control of parliament, tensions eased. After all, the military
needed some breathing room in order to formulate a response to PKK
terrorism. Therefore, the turban issue and the start of the active
fight against the PKK terrorism are the direct results of the July
22 elections. Therefore, one would be naove to believe that PM
Erdogan would put anything else on the agenda concerning the EU
(i.e. lifting article 301) before the headscarf issue."
"Why Are the Ones Who are Scared of Turban not Scared of
Leyla Ipekci wrote in Islamist-oriented Zaman (1/29): "I have
difficulty understanding people who use the turban issue to increase
tensions in Turkey, especially while there are so many dangerous
gangs operating actively. When the government criticized the
headscarf ban in the universities, certain circles screamed that the
regime was changing in Turkey and arranged street protests and
ANKARA 00000169 003.2 OF 003
chanted slogans against the AKP government. It is hard to
understand why some people are causing tension by using the turban
issue to say the secular regime is changing. Turkey should focus on
other issues, such as unsolved murders, changes to article 301, and
the Kurdish problem."
"An Open Letter to the PM"
Oktay Eksi commented in the mainstream Hurriyet (1/29): "Mr Prime
Minister, even though you claim that the July 22 election results
did not go to your head, unfortunately, you are acting like the
Democrat Party leaders following the 1954 elections. Under the
influence of the AKP victory, you began to polarize people instead
of seeking consensus. You started heated debates regarding the
turban issue. But, I am telling you that you will cause huge
problems in Turkey. As a friend, I am kindly warning you that
neither you nor Turkey will be able to sort out such problems.
Don't you know that once you open this door, you won't be able to
close it? Can't you see that this issue will not affect only you,
but will be a disaster for all of us? Don't you have any friends?"
- A court in Gaziantep arrested nineteen out of 25 al-Qaeda suspects
on Monday. On January 24, one police officer was killed and four
others were injured in an operation against al-Qaeda members in the
- The southeastern city of Batman's Agriculture Department said no
bird flu virus was found in the 200 birds that were found dead in
- A 70-year old man had a heart attack during prayers in a mosque in
the eastern city of Erzurum, but the Imam and fellow believers did
not help him until they finished their prayers. The man died from
the heart attack.
- Deputy Chief of the Turkish General Staff (TGS), General Ergin
Saygun, traveled to the US on Monday for Turkey-US High Level
Defense Group talks. In Washington, Saygun will also hold talks
with the US Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General
James Cartwright, to discuss cooperation in the fight against the
- President Ahmadinejad is to visit Iraq in less than two months,
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Monday.
- For the first time in 30 years, Egypt and Iran appear to be moving
closer to reestablishing full diplomatic ties.