Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2008
In Today's Papers
Turkey's Constitutional Court Overturns Headscarf Rule
All news outlets report Turkey's Constitutional Court annulled a
constitutional amendment that lifted the ban on wearing headscarves
at universities. The Court's decision concurred with the complaint
filed by the opposition CHP and DSP in February, which charged that
the headscarf changes were unconstitutional. "The attempt to amend
the constitution to lift the headscarf ban at universities has been
annulled. This decision is based on articles 2, 4 and 148 of the
Constitution; in addition, the execution of the law has been
stopped," the Constitutional Court said in a statement on Thursday.
"Bad News For The AKP" (Radikal)
All media outlets are almost completely focused on coverage of the
Constitutional Court's decision to annul the headscarf reforms
passed by parliament earlier this year. While the opinions of
nationalists and liberals are split, it comes as no surprise that
the Islamists are united, almost in lock step, against the ruling.
Those who support the Court's decision argue the AKP brought this on
themselves and are now paying the price for pushing their headscarf
agenda. Those who oppose the court decision call it a judicial coup
and an indication that Turkey is moving away from the rule of law
and advancement of democratic freedoms. All agree this is a sign
the AKP will be closed down. Liberal Radikal carries the headline,
"Bad News For the AKP," as "The prosecutor used the headscarf
reforms as proof the AKP violated secularism," and since "this will
support the prosecutor's argument, the AKP is now likely to be
closed." Radikal columnist Murat Yetkin writes, "It was wrong for
Prime Minister Erdogan to initiate the debate on freedoms by
concentrating on the headscarf." Meanwhile, Ismet Berkan of the
same paper declares Turkey is now "ruled by judges," who have "ended
parliament's power." Ergun Babahan of mainstream Sabah writes, "The
Court violated the Constitution," and "the decision is a clear
indication the court will also ban the AKP." Bulent Korkucu of
Islamist-oriented Zaman calls the ruling, "a declaration from the
Republic of Judges." Mustafa Unal of the same paper writes, "Turkey
is becoming a nation of fears and bans," as, "democracy, freedom,
and human rights are being carried backwards." Mustafa Karaalioglu
of mainstream Star accused the Court of "usurping the authority of
the parliament." Leftist Taraf carries the headline, "The Court
Shows That Sovereignty Belongs to the Judiciary." Islamist-oriented
Yeni Safak carries the headline, "The Court Tramples on the
Legislative Powers of the Parliament," in "A Judicial Coup," as "the
Court expanded its own powers and changed the characteristics of the
regime in Turkey." Conservative Bugun's headline reads, "The Court
Ignores the National Will." Mainstream Milliyet says "The court
opted for the harshest alternative in the case," and, "observers
were expecting the court to reject the opposition's request." Legal
experts told Islamist-oriented Zaman the headscarf ruling was
"politically motivated" and accused the Court of "violating the
Meanwhile, Guneri Civaoglu of mainstream Milliyet writes, "The
decision proves Turkey is a secular and not a 'moderately Islamic'
country." Oktay Eksi of mainstream Hurriyet agrees with the Court's
decision and says, "The Court one more time declared that it will
not allow anything to undermine the basic principles of the
Constitutional regime, whether directly or indirectly." Yalcin
Bayer of the same paper quoted a former judge who said, "This
decision should be a lesson to politicians," and criticized the AKP
for "labeling the decision 'political.'" Columnist Mehmet Tezkan of
mainstream Vatan points out, "The AKP was closed yesterday," and
suggests "the Prime Minister should now resign," because, "While the
AKP tried to remove headscarf bans, they managed to produce a
situation where there will be tighter restrictions against the
headscarf." Columnist Rusen Cakir of the same paper notes, "The
judiciary is acting like an opposition party," and "This is not the
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way to uphold republican values, secularism, and democracy."
Columnist Cengiz Cadar, however, points to Barack Obama's example
which shows, "no one can resist the dynamics of change," as "Obama's
nomination is more important than the Constitutional Court ruling."
On Friday, the AKP board will convene extraordinarily to discuss all
options including calling early elections in the face of the
Constitutional Court decision, according to papers.
Editorial Commentary on Court Decision on Headscarf Reforms
"Erdogan's First Political Defeat Came from The Judiciary"
Murat Yetkin wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal (6/6): "The
Constitutional Court's decision emphasized secularism and referred
to the Turkish Constitution's 'unchangeable' articles. Thus, the
Court decision sent a message to the government and the parliament
that the Court does not want to see any more headscarf-related
initiatives. President Gul waited for 10 days before he signed off
on the headscarf amendments. At that time, he explained he was
waiting for a consensus to be reached among all parties in the
parliament, so there would not be a need to change the constitution.
Had he sent the proposed reforms back to parliament for a second
debate, there would be no headscarf controversy in the
Constitutional Court and possibly no closure case against the AKP.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Erdogan has lost this battle, which
constitutes the biggest political defeat for Erdogan since the
November 2002 elections. This is a political defeat for Erdogan
because the headscarf issue was one of his primary strategic goals,
and this defeat comes from the judiciary and not the ballot box.
Like President Gul suggested at the beginning of this debate,
expanding headscarf freedoms at universities was possible through
consensus, but Erdogan did not choose the way of consensus. Now he
is facing the consequences. It remains to be seen whether the AKP
and Erdogan will respond with even more fury. They may attempt new
constitutional changes or they may follow Gul's suggestions toward
"Worst Than the 367 Decision"
Mustafa Unal wrote in Islamist-leaning Zaman (6/6): "Frankly,
nobody was expecting the Court to pave the way for wearing
headscarves. But nobody was expecting such a harsh decision either.
The Constitutional Court not only shaped the destiny of
headscarf-wearing at universities, the Court also put itself a
controversial position. Many legal experts interpreted the Court
decision as a direct intervention against parliament's legislative
power. Some even say that the Court exceeded the limits of its
power. With this decision, the Constitutional Court declared its
role as protector of the regime, which is similar to the National
Security Council. The judiciary makes decisions on behalf of the
Turkish people. Oddly enough, the vast majority of Turkish people
do not find the decision acceptable. There are some commentaries
that compare the decision to last year's 367 decision in which the
Court determined the parliament needed a quorum of 367 to elected
Gul president. However, I think this decision is worse than that.
The headscarf decision will undoubtedly affect the closure case
against the AKP in a negative way. The Court decision ignores the
national will and ignores the parliament. With this mentality, it
is even possible to close the parliament. I am worried about
Turkey's future because the Ankara criteria prevails over universal
criteria on democracy, freedoms, and individual rights. Step by
step, Turkey is becoming a country of fears and bans."
Reactions to Constitutional Court's Annulment of Headscarf Reforms
All papers covered the reactions to the Constitutional Court
decision. "AKP and MHP Fume over Court Decision," reads a headline
in the leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet. AKP MP Husrev Kutlu said
there was an "oligarchy of judges." MHP leader Devlet Bahceli lashed
out at the court decision, saying it was "politically motivated."
Bahceli claimed the ruling would accelerate divisions in society.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said yesterday's decision was not
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linked to the lawsuit for closing down the AKP.
Internal and reactions from abroad could be listed as follows:
President Gul paused during his visit to Japan to say, "This is a
legal procedure and I don't want to elaborate on it"
CHP leader Deniz Baykal stated, "Those who run the country should
act with the responsibility of not contradicting the Constitution."
AKP Deputy Group Chairman Bekir Bozdag declared, "The court's
decision is a political one. This decision is against the
AKP Diyarbakir deputy Abdurrahman Kurt charged, "This is a judicial
MHP leader Devlet Bahceli emphasized, "This decision is not based on
legal but on political premises. This ruling could accelerate the
division in Turkey."
Chief of General Staff General Yasar Buyukanit said, "This Court
decision is a declaration of what is obvious. We all have to
respect legal decisions. Turkey is a secular and democratic state
based on the rule of law." Air Forces Commander Aydogan Babaoglu
evoked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings against
complaints regarding the freedom to wear the headscarf, adding he
expected this outcome.
U.S. State Department Press Officer Chase Beamer told papers, "The
Constitutional Court decision on turban is an internal matter of
Turkey and the decision regarding whether to wear a headscarf or not
is a personal choice for women to make."
Turkey-EU Joint Parliament Commission co-chair Joost Lagendijk said,
"Turkey needs a new constitution for the entire society."
EP Turkey Rapporteur Ruijten agreed with Lagenijk when she said,
"this decision indicates that Turkey needs a new constitution."
Generals Buyukanit and Basbug Comments at "Mideast International
Sabah, Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, Radikal, Hurriyet, Turkiye and others:
Chief of General Staff General Buyukanit gave opening remarks at an
international symposium on the future of the Middle East organized
by the General Staff's Strategic Research and Study Center in Ankara
yesterday. General Buyukanit said "Turkey is the only example in
the Islamic world with its secular structure. Legal bodies in
Turkey will not allow any disruption of this structure. No power
will be able to make the Republic and its basic principles bow
before them." On Iraq, Buyukanit said "Iraq's territorial integrity
is of vital importance to Turkey. If the current structure in Iraq
remains, Iraq will be the center of all kinds of instability." On
Iran he said, "Iran should only establish a nuclear program based on
peaceful purposes." In response to questions from journalists after
his speech, Gen. Buyukanit said he opposed the use of the term
"moderate Islam" to describe Turkey and said "there are efforts to
launch Turkey as a model of moderate Islam. How would we define the
U.S. then? Are we going to refer it as "moderately Christian'?"
Such a thing is impossible. I remember asking U.S. Vice-President
Dick Cheney not to define Turkey as moderately Islamic."
Meanwhile, speaking at the same symposium, Land Forces Commander
General Ilker Basbug said "Turkey is cooperating with Iran on the
fight against. Both countries hold coordinated and synchronized
operations against terrorists on our respective borders."
Rice and Babacan Meet in Washington
All papers report Secretary Rice held a joint press conference with
visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan in Washington.
Mainstream Sabah carries the headline, "Our Relations Are
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Excellent," and notes, "Secretary Rice characterized the relations
between the U.S. and the Erdogan government as 'excellent.'"
Islamist-oriented Zaman carries the headline, "Rice Praises The
Government and Emphasizes Democracy," and notes, "Rice rained praise
on Turkey." Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet emphasized Rice's
comment, "The U.S. hopes Turkey will undertake an active role in the
Middle East." In a related story, mainstream Milliyet writes,
"Questions Rained on Babacan," as "Babacan faced lots of tough
questions from members of the U.S. Congress regarding relations with
Armenia, relations with Iran, and the closure case against the AKP."
Iraqi Oil Minister: Turkish Companies Can Explore Oil in 78 New
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak reports Iraq's Oil Minister Huseyin
Sehristani said Turkish companies were excluded from oil exploration
in the reserves in southern Iraq and Kirkuk due to their
"insufficient capacities." Sehristani said tenders would be
announced for the newly explored 78 oil beds in Iraq, adding Turkish
companies could join the competition over these regions. He also
said Iraq would connect its surplus natural gas to the pipelines
with Turkey. "We will transport to Turkey Egyptian natural gas via
the Arab gas pipeline that terminates in Turkey. We will also carry
al-Mansuriye gas on a pipeline to be built parallel to the existing
Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline," emphasized Sehristani.
- The ruling AKP government has submitted the law ratifying 1997
Kyoto Protocol to the parliament.
- Ankara prosecutor has initiated an investigation into two
journalists for reporting about the wiretapping authorization given
to the gendarme, the police and intelligence service MIT.
- Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan says Turkey's imports of fuel oil
means "importing inflation."
- President Abdullah Gul, on a state visit in Japan, met the
Japanese Emperor Akihito. The Emperor told Gul that Turkey, like
Japan, was modernizing while preserving its traditions. Gul opened
an Ottoman fashion exhibition in Tokyo later in the day.
- The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave Prime Minister
Erdogan a phone call Thursday to discuss trade and economic ties,
said Russia's Ankara Embassy in a statement. Putin invited Erdogan
- The U.S. State Department's report on trafficking in persons calls
on Turkey to step up efforts to preventing human smuggling.