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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000170

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2008


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In Today's Papers

Turkey in Heated Debates over Headscarf Freedom
All papers report the ruling AKP and opposition far right MHP have
agreed on rules that will govern headscarf wearing at universities.
The easing of the headscarf ban will apply only to universities, and
female university students wearing the headscarf must tie it beneath
their chin. The AKP-MHP proposal for amending articles 10 and 42 of
the constitution and article 17 of the High Education Board (YOK)
Law was signed by 348 lawmakers and was submitted Tuesday to the
parliament for approval. Papers debate about exactly what kind of
head covering will be allowed under the government's reform plans.
Veils will not be allowed in universities, and the details would be
outlined in a new regulation, say papers.

Prime Minister Erdogan told his party group Tuesday that with the
headscarf reforms, his government is solely concerned with ending
the victimization of girl students in universities and guaranteed
that headscarf reforms would be limited to universities alone.
Opposition CHP leader Deniz Baykal said the headscarf was a
'uniform' imported from fundamentalist regimes outside Turkey, and
blamed the AKP and MHP for trying to change the state regime.
Baykal stressed headscarf reforms contradict article 2 of the
Constitution, the provision establishing the secularist nature of
the state. Under the front page headline, "We Don't Need Their
Judgment," Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak reports MHP leader Devlet
Bahceli said his party made a deal with the AKP to end the 40-year
old headscarf ban, and rejected warnings issued by Baykal, TUSIAD,
and retired justices and prosecutors. The MHP added that the new
regulation should contain detailed instructions about how scarves
should be tied so as to prevent abuse for political goals. Deputy
Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said the new regulation would allow the
traditional folk headscarf. Cicek noted the expression "higher
education" has been added to constitutional reforms to restrict the
reforms to universities.

Mainstream Sabah says that in 1989, the Constitutional Court
annulled a proposed regulation to lift the ban on headscarves. In
"Turkey Debates Headscarf," mainstream Vatan emphasizes that some
groups in Turkey welcome the decision to lift headscarf restrictions
in universities, while others believe the adjustments in
universities are just "a beginning." Mainstream Aksam points to
"widespread fears" that "girls who do not cover their heads will be
pressured to do so, especially in the conservative eastern parts of
the country." Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet says the AKP-MHP move
for lifting the ban is met with concern in the West. "For the time
being, the target is universities, and in time, them headscarf will
spread to secondary schools," says Cumhuriyet. Liberal Radikal's
front-page features a reproduction of the "Scream" painting by
Edward Munch (see below); but the painting is modified so the
subject is wearing a red headscarf. Superimposed on the picture is
the headline, "Republic of Fear: Some are afraid the veil is coming
while others are concerned their necks will be exposed."

Islamist-oriented Zaman claims, on the other hand, intellectuals,
politicians, and the NGO representatives welcome the formula
proposed by the AKP and MHP as "very positive." The paper lauds
the politicians for meeting the demands of the majority.

Meanwhile, the Turkish General Staff (TGS) Yasar Buyukanit told the
press Wednesday morning during a live broadcast joint news
conference with visiting Macedonian defense minister that everybody
in Turkey knew the military's opinion on the headscarf question.
Buyukanit declined further elaboration.

Editorial Commentary on Turban Debate
Ismet Berkan commented in liberal Radikal (1/30): "While the turban
issue is being debated, we've all forgotten that we were talking

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about the universities. In the universities, science should come
ahead of the dress code. We all considered the universities as
state offices, business places or even military barracks and created
this huge problem. Today, we cannot resolve this issue without
damaging the principle of secularism. Our secularists preferred to
be aggressive rather than being wise on the issue. They should
clearly see that religious issues cannot be framed by laws. Now,
the latest solution will be debated for days, many protests will be
arranged, remarks will be delivered and as a country, we will waste
our energy for nothing. Perhaps, in the end, the Constitutional
Court will abolish the Constitutional amendment. Or, because of the
clear political will, the result will not change, and the turban ban
will be lifted. Most likely, this change will be implemented at the
expense of damaging secularism. Secularism will be damaged because
Turkey will be remembered as a country that changed the constitution
in order to bring freedom to a religious issue. I believe that
article 24 of the Constitution already encompasses this freedom.
Unfortunately, the secularists managed to turn secularism into a
dogmatic religion and now, because of those secular dogmas, we've
reached a point where we've actually damaged secularism."

Prosecutor Asks for 10 Year Prison Term for Demirtas
All papers report the Diyarbakir prosecutor seeks a ten-year prison
sentence in two separate cases against the pro-Kurdish DTP leader
Nurettin Demirtas for making PKK propaganda in speeches in
Diyarbakir and Brussels. Demirtas is in prison for allegedly
obtaining a falsified medical report to avoid military service,
which is compulsory in Turkey.

Meanwhile, papers report that in a report submitted to a Diyarbakir
court in connection with a Roj TV trial, Danish Media Secretariat
says the pro-Kurdish television's broadcasts do not violate Danish
laws. The court case was launched against 56 DTP mayors across
southeast Turkey for asking in a letter to PM Rasmussen not to take
Roj TV broadcasts off the air.

Turkey-Iraq Speed Up Military Cooperation
Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet reports that during a 'surprise'
visit to Baghdad on January 15, the deputy chief of the Turkish
General Staff (TGS) General Ergin Saygun discussed with his Iraqi
counterpart General Nasier Abadi and US General Petraeus
intelligence sharing and operational cooperation between the two
countries as well as providing training in Turkey for the Iraqi
military personnel. Turkey and Iraq have sped up cooperation
efforts following Turkey's military operations against PKK targets
in northern Iraq. Abadi is expected to visit Turkey once General
Saygun returns home from his talks in the US, according to
Cumhuriyet.

Barak to Visit Turkey Mid-February
Liberal Radikal reports the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will
pay a visit to Turkey on February 12-13 for talks with the Chief of
the Turkish General Staff (TGS) General Yasar Buyukanit, Prime
Minister Erdogan, and President Abdullah Gul. The visit aims at
expanding cooperation between the two countries.

Israeli Ambassador to Turkey, Gabby Levy, told Radikal the visit was
very important in demonstrating the strength of Turkey-Israel
cooperation. Levy said Israel understands the reaction of Erdogan
when the PM denounced last week's Israeli military operations in
Gaza. Levy noted Turkey and Israel will explore possibilities for
using new technologies like nanotechnology in the fight against
terror.

Editorial Commentary on President Bush's State of the Union Address

Gungor Uras wrote in mainstream Milliyet (1/30): "President Bush
delivered his last State of the Union speech yesterday. Although it
was expected that he would focus on the economy, Bush focused more
on the war and the Middle East. The most important part of the

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speech for Turkey was the part about the US' Middle East policies
and Bush's determination that the US continue the war and maintain a
military presence in the Gulf. Bush said, "Everyone should know
this: the US will continue fighting against the ones threatening our
military. The US will protect its vital interests in the Gulf and
will continue to support its allies." The lesson we should take
from these remarks is: President Bush openly stressed that the US
will remain in the Middle East permanently and will use political
and military power there. Turkey should consider this fact when it
establishes relations with the Muslim and Arab world in the region
and should avoid any political and economic act in the region that
would clash with US interests. It is obvious that the US
Administration is not taking the economic crisis seriously and
political and military issues have a higher importance."

TV Highlights
NTV

Domestic News

- The ruling AKP has denounced US Democrat presidential candidates
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for their pledges to recognize
Armenian genocide claims.

- One more suspect has been arrested in Istanbul in connection with
the 'Ergenekon' operation, increasing the number arrests for ties
with the criminal network to 29.

- The Economist expects Turkish inflation to drop to 8.1 percent in
2008.

International News

- In his final State of the Union address, President Bush said the
situation in Iraq was improving but that the fight was far from
over. He also vowed to confront Iran where necessary and do
everything to reach a Middle East peace deal.

- 11 parliamentarians of the main French center-right political
party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP,) adopted a statement
on preventing Turkey's membership in the EU.

- On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives approved an economic
stimulus package worth an estimated USD 150 billion.

MCELDOWNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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