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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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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
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2008


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In Today's Papers

Headscarf Debate Continuous
All papers continue giving extensive front-page coverage to the
ongoing 'turban debate' in Turkey, with secularist circles opposing
the ruling AKP-MHP sponsored effort to lift the headscarf ban in
universities through a constitutional amendment. Liberal Radikal
says Turkey is divided into two as the parliament prepares to
discuss a lift of the ban with trade unions and NGOs divided on the
reform. Parliament is set to debate the amendment this week. The
ban would remain for teachers and civil servants. Members of
Turkey's judiciary and leading businessmen have already criticized
the AKP-MHP's move. The main opposition CHP has said it would try
to block the reform through the Constitutional Court. The Turkish
military has made clear it is closely watching the debates, but has
so far refrained from directly commenting on the headscarf proposal.


On Saturday, more than 120,000 Turks held rallies in the capital
Ankara and 17 other cities across Turkey against the headscarf
reform, which they say would open the way for a radical form of
Islam in Turkey. Women's organizations will reportedly stage new
rallies on February 9.

Prime Minister Erdogan told a gathering in Istanbul late Saturday
that those who claim Turkey will become a religious state were
actually the ones dividing society by blaming everybody who thinks
or dresses differently for being an enemy of secularism.
Papers report retired high justice Sabih Kanadoglu, the Court of
Appeals' honorary chief prosecutor, said the headscarf ban cannot be
removed because it would be against the basic tenets of the
constitution.

Meanwhile, papers report Joost Lagendijk, co-chairman of Turkey-EU
joint parliamentary commission, told a 'Turkey-EU' conference in the
Netherlands, "Parties should work out a compromise and accept that
university students are grown-ups capable of making their own
decisions."

Editorial Commentary on Turban Freedom in Universities
Semih Idiz observed in mainstream Milliyet (2/4): "At a recent
press conference, FM Ali Babacan said that turban freedom in the
universities is a requirement in the democratic EU reforms.
However, passing the ball to the EU on the turban issue was not
received positively by EU circles. Diplomatic circles I met with
during the weekend reiterated that the EU doesn't have an official
position on the turban issue. They did not find Babacan's efforts
to try and fit the turban issue into a "general freedoms" framework
for obvious reasons: if the issue is implementing the "Copenhagen
Criteria" for freedoms, then Ankara has many other things to do
urgently. For example, Brussels is always pressuring Turkey to
amend Article 301 and eliminate the punishment of thought. But
there have been no positive developments on this issue since the
2007 elections. While the government is not exerting any efforts to
eliminate obstacles to freedom of thought, FM Babacan's efforts to
fit turban freedom into the EU reforms' framework was greeted by
skepticism from the EU. Turkey has a long list on its hands - from
Article 301 to women's rights and minority rights - to correct in
order to bring 'first class democracy' to the country. Therefore,
Babacan's comments are nothing but sheer demagogy. Never mind the
EU, he can't even convince anyone in Turkey."

Mehmet Yilmaz commented in mainstream Hurriyet (2/4): "The photos
of the AKP-MHP's turban freedom initiative and the rallies in Ankara
and in the other provinces over the weekend to protest the lifting
of the turban ban in universities might have caused fear among the
public. But I don't think there is any need for fear because all
these pictures show is that Turks are waking up and realizing that
it's not a bad thing to protest against wrong political initiatives.
The Turkish public, eventually, has managed to get rid of its

ANKARA 00000196 002 OF 003


hesitance to use democratic rights. I believe that this democratic
consciousness is the most important guarantee for those concerned
about the future of the secular-democratic republic as well as for
others who are scared of being forced to open their minds. However,
if civic sensitivity can be demonstrated in such a fashion in
Turkey, then nobody should be afraid of a military coup or a change
of regime. The latest developments prove that the secular and
democratic republic is rooted deeply in Turkey."

10 PKK Terrorists Killed in Bingol
Sabah, Hurriyet, Milliyet and others: The Turkish General Staff
announced on its web site on Sunday that 10 PKK terrorists were
killed in rural parts of Ortacanak village in Bingol province. They
were killed after they opened fire on security forces warning them
not to fire. Turkish troops seized ammunition, illegal documents
and other materials in the terrorists' hideouts.

Turkish Journalists in Kandil Mountains
Mainstream "Sabah" writes that journalisst/writers Ahmet Altan and
Yasemin Congar went to Kandil mountain in northern Iraq to talk to
PKK leaders. Altan reported that PKKers are expecting a land
operation in spring and have faced difficulties since Talabani's
forces surrounded Kandil and made access more difficult. They also
said that they are living in tents in fields as a result of Turkish
air operations.

Babacan: 2008 Will be Year of EU Reforms in Turkey
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a news conference Saturday the
ruling AKP government would surprise everyone with its EU-oriented
reforms in 2008. Babacan said Turkey has a new president,
parliament and government, and its infrastructure is ready for a
wave of reform. Babacan noted that the law on non-Muslim minority
foundations was ready, and that there were moves to amend Article
301 of the penal code. On Friday, the Turkish Parliament approved a
bill that will permit minority foundations to acquire property,
receive donations and seek compensations for their properties sold
to third persons. Turkey's government wants to expand freedoms to
turn Turkey into a "first-class democracy where freedoms in all
fields are enjoyed fully", Babacan emphasized.
Babacan said the heated debates over the headscarf issue and rising
tensions taint Turkey's image. Babacan also noted foreign
investments in Turkey in 2006 and 2007 stood at over USD 20 billion.

TV News:
NTV

Domestic News

- Ten PKK terrorists were killed in clashes with the security forces
in the eastern province of Bingol.

- On Sunday, more than 5,000 Alevis rallied in Istanbul to denounce
the ruling AKP government's Alevi policies.

- Turkish Farming Ministry officials said bird flu virus was
detected in dead chickens found in the Black Sea coastal province of
Samsun.

International News

- Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said the visit of Prime
Minister Kostas Karamanlis to Turkey opened a new page in bilateral
relations, adding that their strategic goal was to relieve all
strains in Turkey-Greece ties.

- Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running
neck-and-neck in California, New Jersey and Missouri before the
"Super Tuesday" presidential primary showdown.

ANKARA 00000196 003.2 OF 003

- US First Lady Laura Bush said in an interview with Fox News she is
currently reading "My Name is Red," a book by Nobel literature prize
winner, Orhan Pamuk.
WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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