Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
DE RUEHAK #1415/01 2211331
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081331Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7076
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 9078
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 4579
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 3139
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 6781
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 6610
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3190
RUEUITH/DET 1 39LG ANKARA TU
RHMFISS/USDOCO 6ATAF IZMIR TU
RHMFISS/39OS INCIRLIK AB TU
RHMFISS/AFOSI DET 523 IZMIR TU
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU
RHMFISS/AFOSI DET 522 INCIRLIK AB TU
RUEUITH/AFLO ANKARA TU
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 001415
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
FRIDAY, AUGUST 8, 2008
In Today's Papers
Mortar Attack on Military Barracks in Istanbul
All news outlets report on Thursday, three people were injured in
three explosions that shook the Uskudar neighborhood on Istanbul's
Asian side, with witnesses saying unidentified assailants hurled
hand grenades at a municipality building. Police found empty mortar
shells in the nearby Karacaahmet Cemetery and concluded the attack
might have actually targeted the Selimiye military barracks, the
headquarters of the First Army. Police said the four shells that
had been fired did not reach the barracks because the mortar was
old. Three of the shells exploded inside the cemetery and one hit a
garbage truck about 500 meters from the Selimiye Barracks.
Eyewitnesses said explosives were hurled from inside the cemetery at
the rear of the municipal building, and that two people on a
motorbike fled the scene. Three municipality workers were slightly
injured in the attack. Mainstream Sabah says yesterday's terrorist
attack on the army barracks was "unanticipated," and claims the PKK
perpetrated the attack. Analysts speaking to the press expect an
increase in the terror attacks on military targets.
A column in the Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak says: "I thought about
the tragic attack in Istanbul's Gungoren neighborhood when I heard
about the four mortars fired at the Selimiye Barracks. These bombs
confuse us, just like the Gungoren attacks. Those who perpetrate
these attacks certainly do not miss their targets; but they do not
hit either. Could this be a sign of anything? No one will be
convinced if this incident is covered by claiming 'the PKK did
PKK Claims Responsibility for Explosion at BTC Pipeline
All papers report the outlawed PKK has claimed responsibility for
Tuesday's explosion at the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which
is still ablaze. The explosion occurred at one of the pump stations
near Erzincan in eastern Turkey. A source at the state-owned
Turkish Pipeline Corporation (Botas) said the oil flow will take at
least two weeks to restore. Some officials claim it may take three
months to fix the damage. The spokesperson for British Petroleum
said on Thursday after the explosion the oil consortium it leads in
Azerbaijan started diverting crude slated for the Ceyhan port on the
Mediterranean to other routes, including the Georgian port of Supsa.
"We are considering alternative routes," said BP's spokesperson in
Azerbaijan. Before departing for the blast site, Energy Minister
Hilmi Guler told the press, "We will not put out the fire in order
to avoid environmental damage, and we expect the fire will continue
for one or two more days, depending on how much oil is left in the
pipeline." Islamist-oriented Zaman reports fixing the pipeline
could take about four months, adding Turkey's loss from the damage
amount to USD 350,000 a day.
TUSIAD Criticizes Gul's Rector Appointments
All papers report Turkey's elite business grouping TUSIAD criticized
the latest rector appointments by President Abdullah Gul Thursday.
TUSIAD said institutions have the legal right to exercise their
power, but added that this power displays the problematic structure
of High Education Board (YOK). "Politics must be taken out of
educations," said TUSIAD, adding Turkey needs to restructure its
higher education system. On Tuesday, Gul's appointments sparked
strong reactions from academics, as 36 of them, including deans,
resigned from three universities.
AKP's Sozen Wants Places for Worship in Schools
Hurriyet, Sabah, Radikal, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, Zaman and others report
the ruling AKP deputy chairperson Edibe Sozen has drafted a bill for
"protection the youth" in which it is proposed that places of
worship be set up in schools. Sozen said the draft was similar to
the German Youth Law introduced in 2003. "We aim to protect the
youth in the public field. We are not interfering in private
issues," she said, adding places of worship in schools were designed
for minorities in Turkey. She added opening places for worship
ANKARA 00001415 002 OF 003
would be an issue depending on school administration rather than a
legal responsibility. Also according to the draft, pornographic
publications will be sold, in sealed envelopes, to the minors below
the age of 18 only after their ID numbers and signatures are taken.
Opposition CHP lawmaker Canan Aritman strongly criticized the draft,
saying the true aim was laying the grounds for a "religious state,"
noting "Before places for worship, we must open computer, language,
and biology labs in schools; the way to make our youth world
citizens passes through such laboratories and not worship places."
Editorial Commentary on President Gul's Rector Assignments
"Gul's Name is AKP..."
Mustafa Balbay wrote in leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet (8/8):
"President Gul took sides with the AKP on his recent rector
assignments. He allowed the High Education Board (YOK) to prepare a
real list of recommendations to his liking so that he wouldn't have
to make many changes when the time came for the actual appointments.
If the President, whose main duty is to maintain stability between
state institutions, could take sides on such an issue, then no one
can stop the AKP administration from acting however they please.
Many people wonder why former President Sezer wasn't criticized in
the past for his rector assignments since he acted like President
Gul as well. President Sezer's appointments might seem similar to
President Gul's but, in reality, but the content is not the same
because Sezer believed that politics should not enter the
universities, which is why he rejected the rector candidates who
were involved in politics. However, while deciding on the
assignments, President Gul did not take sides with science or the
benefit of the state; instead he openly sided with the AKP. It
seems that President Gul is trying to resolve the turban issue
through his appointment of rectors. More turban-supporting rectors
in the universities will mean free turban use in the universities.
Once turban is allowed in the universities, more extremist demands
will follow. Even President Gul will be disturbed by these demands.
Is there a way to balance this situation? Today is the day for
scientists, who support only science in the universities, to raise
"The Rector Assignments"
Fikret Bila commented in mainstream Milliyet (8/8): "Former
President Sezer also assigned rectors who did not win a majority of
votes in their universities, just like President Gul did during this
year's rector assignments. What is strange, though, is that those
who criticized President Sezer in the past are not criticizing
President Gul now. The reason for this difference is the different
political approaches of the leaders. As a matter of fact, it is the
system that should be criticized. Science should not be under the
custody of politics. Universities should adopt a system to
administrate themselves. Under the current system in Turkey, it is
not possible for a candidate to become rector if he or she
contradicts the views of the President and/or YOK, even if he or she
gets the majority of votes from their universities. The
independence of the universities can be achieved by changing the
selection process for university rectors. Rectors should be elected
only by the university academicians. Because selections by YOK and
ultimately by the President override the university elections,
university elections for rector are rendered meaningless. Thus,
Turkey has delayed efforts to properly reform its higher education
- CHP deputy group chief Kemal Kilicdaroglu said President Gul's
appointments of university rectors was an attempt to avenge the
annulment of headscarf reforms.
ANKARA 00001415 003 OF 003
- Opposition CHP has applied to the Constitutional Court for the
annulment of a legal regulation for the sale of property to
- Turkey will host a Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit from August
18-21 in Istanbul. Controversial Sudanese President Al Bashir will
attend the conference.
- Iranian security forces have killed 11 PJAK terrorists and
captured 17 others in Salmas, Merivan and Hoy-Kotur regions.
- The Wall Street Journal reports radical Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr intends to disarm his powerful Mahdi Army militia and remake
it as a social-services organization.
- The United States and Russia agree to work jointly to end the
fighting in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region.