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Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report

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JCS PASS J-5/CDR S. WRIGHT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR TU
SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
THURSDAY, MAY 1, 2008


In Today's Papers

Tensions Escalate Prior to May Day Celebrations in Istanbul
All news outlets report tight security in Istanbul's Taksim Square
where Turkey's major labor unions and civic organizations are
planning to celebrate May Day. All roads leading to Taksim Square
are closed, and 25,000 policemen will be deployed in the area to
block the demonstrations. Labor unions DISK and KESK have announced
that 500,000 workers will gather in Taksim Square to mark May Day.
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said Wednesday, "Labor unions are
defying a constitutional order by holding May 1 rallies in Taksim
Square." President Abdullah Gul has expressed regret regarding the
escalation of tensions, and stressed that he would ask the
government to declare May 1 official holiday.

All news outlets feature the impasse between the government and
labor unions over permission to hold May Day celebrations. Coverage
recalls the 1977 May Day demonstrations in Istanbul's Taksim Square
during which 36 people were killed. This event was largely viewed
as the beginning of the provocations that led to the 1980 military
coup. Mainstream Sabah writes, "The Siege of Taksim Means the
Workers' Day Will Be Celebrated with Teargas and Barricades."
Mainstream Milliyet writes, "Happy May Day," as "The World
Celebrates May Day While Tensions Between Labor Unions and the
Government in Turkey Escalate." Conservative-nationalist Turkiye
writes, "Istanbul is Paralyzed Amid Controversy about May Day
Celebrations." Liberal Radikal notes in "Democracy's May Day Test,"
that, "Erdogan calls the labor unions' insistence to hold May Day
celebrations 'not well-intentioned.'" Nationalist-oriented
Cumhuriyet's banner headline reads, "This Is Just Like the Days of
Martial Law," as "The AKP government is determined to poison the
Worker's Day." Conservative Bugun writes in "May Day Torture,"
that, "Indignant Labor Unions Turn Taksim into A State of
Emergency." Extreme Right Tercuman writes, "Beware of Tensions:
Traitors Want to Stage Provocations on May Day." Mainstream Vatan
writes, "Erdogan's Provocative Words End in a Nightmare in
Istanbul." Mainstream Aksam notes, "There is Emergency Rule in
Istanbul as Subways, Buses, and Boats Will Not Be in Service Today
and 66 Schools are Closed in Taksim." Islamist-oriented Zaman
notes, "31 Years Ago, 36 Labor Union Supporters Died in May Day
Clashes," but warns, "The Labor Unions Did Not Take Care of the
Families of Those Who Died."

Editorial Commentary on May Day

"Common Sense is Gone"
Can Dundar wrote in mainstream Milliyet (5/1): "Unions are insisting
on May Day celebrations in Taksim Square for a reason. In 1977, the
so-called 'Deep State' organization turned May Day celebrations in
Taksim into bloodshed. Now labor unions want to celebrate in Taksim
as a symbolic sign of solidarity. The ruling AKP refused to permit
labor unions' celebrations in Taksim, which was a lost opportunity
for the AKP and for Turkey. The AKP could have allowed the unions to
celebrate May Day, which would have served as an opportunity for the
AKP to gain credit with the unions. Instead, Turkey, once again,
turned itself toward the mentality of intolerance. Thus,
intolerance has prevailed over common sense."

"The AKP Seems Like It Is Searching For Isolation"
Ali Bayramoglu wrote in Islamist Yeni Safak (5/1): "While anti-AKP
circles make irrational attempts to corner the ruling party, the AKP
is also taking steps to isolate itself. Opportunities are ignored
and chances are missed for creating democratic alliances, especially
at this time of immediate need. The ruling AKP had the chance to
abolish Article 301, and it was missed. On the Kurdish issue, the
government pursued harsh rhetoric that was nearly compatible with
military rhetoric. The government is in charge with 47 percent
support; at the very least, the AKP owes the people some democratic
courage. Fighting with union leaders, calling workers' concerns
'riff-raff,' and engaging in a symbolic fight over May Day

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celebrations are the wrong steps to take in this political
environment."

"The AKP's Secret Mentality"
Ahmet Altan wrote in leftist Taraf (5/1): "Unfortunately, Turkey is
still haunted by the September 12, 1980 military coup. The
mentality at that time was fiercely intolerant. However, it is
really hard to understand the reason why the AKP fully embraces an
intolerant approach set by the military coup. The military regime
banned labor union marches, and today the AKP is doing the same
thing. Streets are closed, barricades are erected, and workers are
prevented from celebrating a holiday. The government is justifying
its actions with fears of provocations. But aren't clashes between
police and demonstrators provocative? The AKP's bans are fueling
polarization. The more the AKP acts with intolerance, the more the
AKP reflects the mentality of the September 12, 1980 coup."

[Background: May Day was a national holiday until the 1980 military
coup. Prior to the 1980 coup, labor unions traditionally organized
large gatherings in Istanbul's Taksim Square. In 1977, May Day
Celebrations ended in bloodshed when 36 died after someone opened
fire on the crowd of 500,000. Later, papers reported the so-called
"Deep State" was involved in the violence and thus it was an act of
provocation. The military coup of 1980 ordered a full ban on May
Day celebrations and annulled the May Day holiday.]


AKP Submits Its Defense in Closure Case
All papers report the AKP submitted its preliminary defense to the
Constitutional Court in the lawsuit for disbanding Turkey's ruling
party. The defense claims the case was "politically motivated," and
that the AKP, "was not the focal point of actions against
secularism." Leftist Taraf writes, "AKP Hides Behind the Venice
Criteria," saying that "according to Venice Criteria, only parties
that support violence can be closed." The defense also says the
political ban demanded for President Abdullah Gul is
"unconstitutional," stressing presidents can only be tried on
treason charges. The defense notes the headscarf reforms proposal
was prepared together with the opposition MHP, and was passed by the
parliament with the backing of 411 lawmakers.

Mainstream Milliyet calls the defense a "Thematic Defense," as the
defense claims the chief prosecutor's charges are, "rooted in
politics," with "no legal basis." Liberal Radikal notes, "The
defense argues that the party is not tied to a great many of the
charges." Specifically, Radikal notes, "The defense calls
Parliamentary Speaker Bulent Arinc's statements non-binding to the
AKP," because, "The defense claims Arinc was above politics and thus
not tied to the party when he served as parliamentary speaker."
Columnist Rusen Cakir of mainstream Vatan writes in "Erdogan Goes to
the Guillotine," that "Erdogan is not optimistic about the outcome
of the closure case, but he also does not want to appear weak," and
"submitting the defense early is a sign of Erdogan's
self-confidence." In addition, Cakir says, "Erdogan wants an end to
this crisis soon," which proves, "he is willing to sacrifice his
political career for the sake of his country." Meanwhile, columnist
Bilal Cetin of mainstream Vatan writes, "The AKP would likely face
defeat in a referendum regarding constitutional reforms." Thus he
says, "Due to his fear of failure in a referendum, Erdogan is not
sharing his strategy for dealing with the closure case." In
addition, Cetin notes, "If the Constitutional Court annuls the AKP's
headscarf reforms as a violation against constitutional secularism,
it will strengthen the prosecutor's allegations against the AKP."
Sukru Kucuksahin of mainstream Hurriyet writes, "The opposition CHP
Leader Baykal has also referred to religion in speeches,
particularly the one he gave on April 23rd." Kucuksahin asks,
"Since leaders of other political parties have made comments
regarding religion, will the court see that the AKP is not the
center of anti-secular activities?" Columnist Huseyin Gulerce of
Islamist-oriented Zaman writes, "The only way for the AKP to find a

ANKARA 00000843 003 OF 003


way out of this is to take its constitutional amendments to a
referendum." Columnist Mustafa Erdogan of mainstream Star writes,
"The AKP thinks a good defense will save them," but he recommends to
the AKP, "Do not believe that even a good defense can save you."

Turkey-Iraq Strategic Dialogue
Hurriyet, Vatan, Zaman, Radikal: Mainstream Hurriyet reports that
Turkey and Iraq are establishing a strategic dialogue mechanism in
the fight against PKK. Turkey's special envoy to Iraq Murat Ozcelik
and PM Erdogan's foreign policy advisor Ahmet Davutoglu will go to
Baghdad within a week to hold contacts with Iraqi officials.
Ozcelik and Davutoglu are expected to hold talks with Iraqi PM
Maliki, President Talabani, and Kurdish Regional Administration's
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Islamist-oriented Zaman
highlights that the meeting between the Turkish delegation and
Nechirvan Barzani will be the first high-level contact between
Turkey and the Kurdish Administration in northern Iraq. Mainstream
Vatan reports that the Turkish delegation will not go to northern
Iraq and all contacts will take place in Baghdad. Vatan adds that
Talabani's deputy Tarik El-Hasimi will meet with President Gul and
PM Erdogan in Ankara today.

U.S. Report on Global Terrorism for 2007
Milliyet and Vatan: The 2007 U.S. Report on Global Terrorism
emphasizes that last year 22,000 people were killed by the
terrorists. The report noted the PKK continued its separatist
activities and attacked Turkish Security Forces from their bases in
northern Iraq. Following the Bush-Erdogan meeting on November 5 at
the White House, the Turkish military carried out operations against
the PKK along the Turkey-Iraq border. The report also highlights
that the PKK continued to use Belgium as a financial base for its
terrorist activities. Milliyet reports that Saudi businessman Yasin
El-Kadi, whose name is on the UN's terrorism financer list, was on
the U.S. Global Terrorism report as well.

TV Highlights
CNN Turk

Domestic News

- President Abdullah Gul will travel to Macedonia to participate in
a meeting of the heads of state of Central European countries from
May 1-3.

- Higher Education Board (YOK) President Professor Yusuf Ziya Ozcan
said during a meeting with the ambassadors from EU countries,
"Headscarf restrictions at universities will be abolished."

- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom will pay a formal visit
to Turkey on May 6.

International News

- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vows to disband the Shiite
Mahdi Army, Sunni insurgent groups, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.

- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said sending a second aircraft
carrier to the Persian Gulf could serve as a 'reminder' to Iran.

- The Simon Wiesenthal Institute has published a list of the top 10
most wanted Nazi war criminals.

WILSON

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