Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2008
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In Today's Papers
Turkish Parliament Passes Headscarf Amendment in First Round of
All papers report the Turkish Parliament met Thursday and voted to
change the constitution to lift a ban on wearing Muslim headscarves
at universities, a ruling opposed by the CHP and secularist circles.
The headscarf ban will remain in place for teachers and civil
servants. In the final vote of the first round, the amendment to
the constitution to end the ban was approved by 404 to 92, easily
exceeding the required two-thirds majority threshold of 367. The
amendment is expected to be approved in a final round of voting on
Saturday as both the AKP and MHP have more than a two-thirds
majority of seats in parliament.
The views of the AKP were explained by the party's women lawmakers
Guldal Aksit, Nursuna Memecan, Ozlem Turkone and Aysenur
Bahcekapili. Deputy PM Cemil Cicek criticized the opposition CHP by
saying, "You are like the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, spreading
radioactive fear and horror. In Turkey, secularism is based on
human rights and democracy, different than the secularism concept in
North Korea or the Soviet Union." The pro-Kurdish DTP Diyarbakir
Deputy Aysel Tugluk said the AKP represents political Islam, but
that for the sake of freedoms, they would vote in favor of the
amendment. CHP leader Deniz Baykal, after meeting with visiting
Turkish Cyprus "Prime Minister" Ferdi Sabit Soyer yesterday, said
MHP's support for the draft would increase polarization in society.
Baykal pledged the CHP would take the draft to the Constitutional
Court. Deputy Parliament Speaker Meral Aksener (MHP) blamed men for
the headscarf crisis, saying if men were not involved, the issue
could have been solved more easily. Papers also report AKP Deputy
Chairman Egemen Bagis told a gathering in Berlin yesterday that
women lawmakers should be allowed to wear the headscarf in the
Leftist Taraf reports "more than 1,000 professors signed a petition
to lift the headscarf ban at universities." Mainstream Vatan says
"Turkey is polarized between the secularists, Islamists and Kurdish
activists." Mainstream Milliyet and leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet
report the AKP government is preparing to reduce the number of
members of the Court of Appeals after stern warnings came from the
top court about the principle of secularism.
Editorial Commentary on Turban Reforms
Semih Idiz wrote in mainstream Milliyet (2/7): "I explained in an
earlier column that EU diplomats were astonished by FM Babacan's
efforts to link the headscarf issue to EU reform criteria. Their
official message is 'the turban is an internal issue for Turkey.'
However, our 'off the record' conversations indicate they are
following the issue very closely. The general belief among the EU
diplomats is this: 'If the AKP pursues the headscarf issue in the
face of rising social tension, the AKP government can show the same
determination on Article 301 and the Foundations Law.' Europe does
not consider the 'turban freedom' step as a step toward democracy
and freedom. Instead, this move is considered an example of Turkey
embracing Islam, thereby distancing itself further from Western
values. EU diplomats feel no one should ignore the existing
religious pressure in local neighborhoods in Turkey. Therefore, the
turban issue can speedily turn into a 'rights of those who do not
wear the turban' issue. The turban debates clearly show that there
is no effective political opposition in Turkey. Because there is no
powerful opposition in the parliament, people immediately turn to
the military, the streets or the judiciary to defend their rights.
Secular circles also made mistakes on the turban issue. If their
stance was not so harsh against the turban issue, the AKP would not
act so radically, and the whole issue would not be such an intense
ideological clash. FM Babacan was right to say that 'such debates
damage our image abroad.' However, Babacan must analyze more
carefully why Turkey's image is damaged abroad."
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Mehmet Yilmaz commented in mainstream Hurriyet (2/7): "During a
meeting in Germany last January, AKP Deputy Chairman Egemen Bagis
asserted that woman should be free to wear a headscarf even in the
parliament. Although Bagis later claimed this was his personal
opinion, we all know that he is not alone in his opinion. This is
the main concern of many of those who opposed liberating the
headscarf at universities. They believe that, eventually, the
headscarf will enter all other public services as well. The AKP
government seeks to apply religious rules on social life, with such
rules gradually applying to public services as well. This is not a
beneficial path for Turkey to follow."
Survey: Headscarf Least Important Factor in Blocking Girls'
Education in Turkey
Liberal Radikal carries on its front page an opinion survey
conducted by the economic and social research foundation TESEV,
which says the headscarf is a minor obstacle to girls' education.
Failure to pass the university entrance exam, marriage, and having
to work are the main obstacles.
The survey shows 49 percent of female students cannot even attend
high school due to their families' objections. Twenty-nine percent
of the girls cannot go to university because they fail to pass the
university entrance exam. Fourteen percent do not continue onto
higher education because they marry, and 10 percent cannot go to
university because they have to work. The headscarf ranks eighth in
the list of factors that block the education of girls. Only 16 of
the interviewed 1557 women, a mere one percent, do not attend
university because of the headscarf restrictions. The survey was
conducted by a team headed by Bogazici University professors Binnaz
Toprak and Ersin Kalaycioglu through one-on-one interviews with 1557
women and 993 men across Turkey in 2004.
Thousands of Kurds Protest Turkish Military Operations against the
Hurriyet, Milliyet, Sabah, Taraf, Radikal, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and
others report around 4,000 pro-Kurdish DTP supporters spent last
night camping in tents in the border province of Sirnak at the
Kasrik passage between the Cudi and Gabar mountains. The protest
aimed to end Turkish military operations against the PKK. DTP
Deputy Chair Emine Ayna urged the Turkish Parliament to rescind the
motion that authorized operations, and called on the PKK to shift to
a position of 'inaction.' The protesters shouted slogans in favor
of the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan, asking for the prison conditions of
the PKK leader to be improved.
Civilian Court Passes Demirtas Case to Military Court
Hurriyet, Sabah, Taraf, Radikal, Zaman, Yeni Safak and others report
a court has ruled that it does not have jurisdiction in the case of
forged medical reports involving 182 suspects, including Nurettin
Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish DTP. The Sixth Criminal
Court in Ankara ruled to pass the files of the suspects to the Air
Force Military Court.
Suspicions Grow Ludwigshafen Blaze a Racist Arson Attack
All papers speculate that the blaze which killed nine Turks in the
western German city of Ludwigshafen on February 3 was a racially
motivated crime. Five of the victims were children. German police
say the cause of the fire is unclear but they are looking into
allegations that it was an arson attack. Islamist-oriented Yeni
Safak and Zaman as well as several mainstream papers say suspicions
were growing that arsonists were responsible for the fire, and
"racist young men" had threatened a family who lost members in the
blaze. Prime Minister Erdogan, due to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel
on Friday, will visit the site tomorrow. On Wednesday, German
integration commissioner Maria Boehmer laid a wreath at the site of
the blaze. Visiting Turkish State Minister Sait Yazicioglu,
attended the wreath-laying with Boehmer, and warned against jumping
to premature conclusions about it being a racially-motivated attack.
Papers carry photographs of Boehmer and Yazicioglu hand-in-hand.
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Papers quote German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as saying
Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, "should be
taught manners" for saying it was strange German politicians had
already concluded that the fire had no "xenophobic motive" before
police had found the cause. Mainstream Hurriyet and several
television channels report German neighbors shared the grief of
Turkish families who lost loved ones in the blaze.
- Two police officers were wounded Wednesday night in a roadside
bomb attack in Yuksekova in the southeastern province of Hakkari.
- Authorities in the village of Karli in Kocaeli province near
Istanbul began culling poultry after bird flu was detected in the
- Kamu-Sen labor union has the poverty limit for a family of four
calculated as 2,463 YTL, while the monthly minimum food spending for
one person amounts to 940 YTL.
- A Turkish freight ship carrying dangerous material caught fire
close to Croatian territorial waters in the Adriatic Sea Wednesday.
The vessel is likely to sink, but all crew members and passengers
- John McCain won the Republican primary in California and in enough
other states to gain a clear lead in his party's nomination race.
- Russian deputy FM Alexander Losyukov said the research rocket
fired by Iran on Monday "adds to general suspicions that Iran wants
to create nuclear weapons."