Cablegate: Istanbul Students Voice Nuanced Understanding Of
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000469
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: ISTANBUL STUDENTS VOICE NUANCED UNDERSTANDING OF
WAR IN IRAQ
1. (U) Summary: Istanbul pol/econoffs hosted a group of 11
students from Istanbul's Beykent University to discuss
current political developments in the Middle East and the
Turkish/U.S. relationship. The students were unanimously
opposed to the war. However, the group demonstrated a
nuanced understanding of the U.S./Turkish relationship and a
belief that, though they disagree with the war, the press in
Turkey and the Middle East has dealt with U.S. policy in a
sensationalist manner. End Summary.
2. (U) On April 1, Pol/econoffs hosted a group of 11 students
from newly-established Beykent University's English Language
Department. The students (9 women and 2 men) were largely
interested in pursuing careers in translation, teaching,
further study in literature, and public relations.
Geographically, most were raised in Istanbul, though two grew
up in the Southeast, one on the Black Sea coast, and several
others lived for many years in the Aegean region. One of the
girls wore a headscarf (technically not permitted in
universities by the Higher Board of Education, but often
ignored at private universities). Two of the students were
dual nationals: one Turkish-American, and one Turkish-Israeli.
War and Media
3. (U) Though the subject of the war in Iraq took up only a
portion of the two-hour discussion, students immediately
stated, unanimously, that they were against the war.
However, they were quick to distance themselves from any
sympathy with the Iraqi regime. In essence, one student
said, the decision to act without a clearer UN mandate, and
not give inspections further time, was what they disagreed
4. (U) When asked about media coverage in Turkey, students
acknowledged that the U.S. had been subject to a host of wild
conspiracy theories. Students pointed to fanciful press
articles, such as: allegations that the new consulate's
location has a darker purpose (one paper suggested that the
location was perfect for monitoring traffic on the Bosphorus;
another said flights to Ataturk International Airport would
be monitored from "the hilltop fortress"); visa and
immigration policies were specifically anti-Muslim; and U.S.
interest in Turkey's Southeast is to encourage an independent
Kurdistan. Students pointed out that, ultimately, Turks were
harmed by the sensationalist approach of the media.
5. (U) Poloff asked whether the students believed the United
States was "well-intentioned" in using military force against
Saddam. Most of the students did not offer a clear opinion
in either direction: one said he believed the American people
meant well, but that military commanders might be less
well-intentioned. Another student said that while she had
questions about U.S. motives, she knew that "Saddam is no
saint." The question of civilian casualties, heavily
reported in Turkish media, weighed heavily on the students'
AKP and the Vote
6. (U) Pointing to the failed Turkish Parliament vote to
allow U.S. troops to transit Turkey for Northern Iraq,
several students said AKP's "mismanagement" was to blame for
the narrow defeat. Students also pointed to "playing
politics for too long" as a concern, blaming the military,
CHP, and AKP for the miscalculation and subsequent damage to
U.S.-Turkish relations. At the same time, several students
said, they believe the long-term U.S.-Turkish relationship
will remain strong.
7. (U) Students displayed both a healthy skepticism of local
press coverage and a nuanced understanding of political
machinations in Ankara. Unprompted, the students offered an
analysis of AK which was highly refined: balancing populist
promises to their supporters while trying to grapple with
complex international relationships and economic management.
While not representative of all segments of Turkish society,
the students offered a window into Turkish youth's view of
the war. End comment.