Cablegate: Outreach to Muslim Audiences in Turkey

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 13711

1. While Turkey's 20th century history is completely
different from other countries in the Greater Middle East,
the issues we are dealing with in this 99 percent Muslim
country are at their base only different in degrees. Like
the rest of the region, Turkey has been governed by an elite
intent on maintaining policies in an often self-serving
national interest while disempowering a majority of its
population. With technology, the disempowered have
increasing knowledge of global developments and an increasing
ability to make their voice of disaffection heard. Often, in
the Muslim Greater Middle East, including here in Turkey, one
important center for collecting opposition and motivating
action is Islam, its facilities, educational, or
factions/parties. In Turkey, as in the Greater Middle East,
the U.S. has been associated with the rule of the
often-corrupted elites, and it has come to be seen in a
common prism with them. Recently this has been reinforced by
perceptions of U.S. pro-Israel policies or pressure on Iraq.
Our credibility gap is underlined by the numbers of people in
Turkey as in the Middle East, who believe we would support a
greater Israel (from the Nile to the Euphrates), or who
believe, even now, that our continuing support for Saddam
Hussein will result in his return to power in Iraq.

2. In Turkey the imperfect democratic institutions that have
been created since the 1950's have allowed the bulk of those
disempowered to find a political voice, and the drive for EU
membership has provided impetus to improve those institutions
and begin empowerment. The current AK Party Government draws
its support from this base. For the U.S. to connect and
reverse their skeptical view of our motives, we must be
palpably supportive of democratization, of individual
freedoms and of social and economic justice. We must work to
promote shared values here as we did in Central and Eastern
Europe. We must deliver that message despite obstacles: a
need to work with a bureaucracy and military that often
represents the past; an education system designed for the
status quo; a media environment that propagates fiction and
conspiracy theory; a business climate used to anything but
open markets and fair competition; and an atmosphere that
rejects personal responsibility.

3. To overcome misperceptions and begin to create a positive
view of the common values and support for a democratic
evolution, it is essential that we maximize the positive
contact between Americans in the flesh and Turks (as we would
elsewhere in the region with Arabs, Persians, etc.). In the
first instance that means staffing our missions so that we
have people who can get out from behind their in baskets,
travel and put a real face on the U.S. But we need to do a
better job of preparing our diplomatic personnel for that
mission. A sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the
history, culture and diversity of views within Turkey is
vital to this Mission's work. Religion informs the worldview
and lives of many Turks, just as it does the citizens of many
other countries, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. We need to do
a better job of giving our staff background in local
traditions. We need those skills not just in our diplomatic
personnel but for our military and law enforcement colleagues
as well. We must be sensitive to and demonstrate respect for
the values and aspirations of Turks. FSI can contribute by
doing a better job of explaining Turkey's diversity, Islam in
general, and Islam in Turkey.

4. We are working to expand our presence through Turkey
virtually by building poles of attraction for our staff and

American Corners: American Corners in the culturally
conservative cities of Kayseri and Gaziantep and in Bursa
provide the Mission platforms for programming, outreach, and
the dissemination of information in locations where we would
not otherwise have a presence. We are working to improve
their impact and ensure our visible support. Over the next
year and beyond, we are considering opening additional
American Corners; this is relatively low-cost program
(approximately $30,000 in start up costs) that will require
limited support from EUR.

5. We need to support and augment programs that bring
non-official Turks and Americans together:

-- Visitor Exchanges: The International Visitors Program is
one of the USG's most highly leveraged programs in support of
greater mutual understanding. The budget for the IV Program
should be tripled in order to reach more future leaders from
all sectors of Turkish society, including government,
politics, the media, community service, education, NGOs, and

-- Academic Exchanges: There is no better way than through
study in American universities for people from other
countries to develop an understanding of, and personal and
professional associations with, the United States that will
last for a lifetime. Fulbright exchange programs should be
significantly expanded in both directions to provide more
Turkish university students a formative experience in the
U.S. and enable more young Americans to come to Turkey and,
through interaction with their peers, help dispel inaccurate
preconceptions of the United States. Turkey is the eighth
largest source of international students in the United
States, sending more of its young adults to American
universities than any other European country - and more than
any predominantly Muslim country. As Turkey moves closer to
EU accession, it is imperative that we not lose this edge and
that Turkish students remain attracted to American higher
education. Programs such as the State University of New
York's dual degree program, which will bring 250 Turkish
students to SUNY campuses during the next two years, should
be supported with scholarship seed money. But we also need
to find ways to get more U.S. professors and students into
Turkish institutions, beyond Istanbul and Ankara.

-- Youth Exchanges: We should initiate a high school age
exchange program in an effort to engage young people and
provide them a positive, firsthand introduction to the United
States before their worldviews have hardened to the point
that they are no longer open to new ideas. We remember a
range of government and privately supported high school
exchange programs with Western Europe. We need the programs
to be activated here, again with U.S. exchange students
coming this way too.

5. We need to be seen supporting Turkey's democratic reforms
in education:

-- English Language Fellows: In FY-03 the Mission received
$315,000 in R Bureau Muslim outreach funding to support the
placement of nine English Language Fellows in Turkey to
teach, train teachers, and develop curricula. These talented
young teachers are tangibly improving the quality of English
language instruction while building ties between Turkish and
American youth. For example, our English Language Fellow in
Erzurum, a conservative city in eastern Turkey, has
revolutionized teaching methods at her host university by
introducing instruction based on critical thinking and active
student participation. After class, she accompanies female
students to the mosque and engages them in comparative
discussions of religion in the U.S. and Turkey. Funding for
the highly successful English Language Fellows program in
Turkey should be renewed and increased in FY-04 and future
years, whether by R or EUR.

-- Teacher Training: From FY-01 to FY-03, Bilkent
University's Graduate School of Education received a grant
from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to
support six-week teaching internships in Iowa high schools
for its students. These future teachers come from
undergraduate programs throughout Turkey, represent all
socio-economic classes, and attend Bilkent University on full
scholarship. As graduates, they go on to teach in secondary
schools across the country, bringing with them the benefit of
their firsthand experience in the U.S. We have proposed
extending the Iowa internship program to graduate education
students from other Turkish universities. This is a
low-cost, high-impact program that is literally changing
Turkish education methods from the ground up. The grant
should be renewed.

-- Study of the United States: Turkey's universities boast a
vibrant American Studies community, with which the Mission
works closely to strengthen teaching and research about the
United States. This community provides more than 4000
students every year an opportunity to learn in depth about
American history, literature, culture, and social values.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs provides
funding for American Studies activities in Turkey, and this
support should be increased.

6. A key area of reform that comes home to Turks is improved
government implementation of individual rights and
effectiveness. Turkey's legal system application of Rule of
Law is a major shortcoming where we can visibly be engaged.

-- Judicial Exchange: In FY-02 and FY-03, the Mission, with
DRL funding and in conjunction with the Institute for the
Study and Development of Legal Systems, undertook a major
project to examine Turkish and U.S. perspectives on freedom
of expression, police conduct, and trial alternatives in the
criminal justice system. Several visits were exchanged
between Turkish judicial authorities and their American
counterparts to examine these issues in both countries,
culminating in five seminars in Turkey that were attended by
700 Turkish judges, prosecutors, and lawyers. This
initiative substantially advanced MPP objectives in democracy
and human and reached a wide cross-section of the Turkish
legal community. DRL is unable to provide further funding
support. A $600,000 FY-04 grant has been requested from the
Office of Citizen Exchanges to complete the next phase of the
project by jointly designing specific measures to achieve
reforms in the areas of freedom of expression, police
conduct, and trail alternatives. This is a long-term
initiative, and we urge EUR to build funding support for it
into its FY-06 budget request.

-- Democracy Programs: We propose pursuing the Congressional
initiative to establish a West-Muslim Dialogue Center in
Istanbul. But we hope the center could be bi-national
(U.S.0Turkish) in its inspiration and also focus on promotion
of democracy beyond Turkey's borders through non-governmental
efforts. Such foundations now exist in Germany, the United
Kingdom, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Poland,
among other countries. Given its commitment to democratic
reform and EU accession and its strategic location near
regions that lack democratic governance, Turkey has the
potential to advance democracy by sharing its experience with
countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Funding should
be provided to support the start-up costs of such a
foundation, including a series of meetings to examine the
experience of other democracies in assisting democracy
internationally and to explore how Turkey can become engaged
in this field. In addition, expanded ECA funding should be
provided for the exchange
of young Turkish and American legislators under the auspices
of ACYPL, and new funding should be earmarked by EUR to
support Turkish NGOs in sharing their expertise with emerging
civil society organizations in Iraq. A joint U.S.-Turkish
effort in this area would help demonstrate our real

7. Media: Professionalization of Turkey's media is
essential to a more effective democracy with informed voters
and political leaders whose worldview is based on a modern
reality. While it is hard to see how to change the media
economics in Turkey where low journalist salaries are an
obstacle to accurate journalism, we should develop programs,
possibly within the West-Muslim Democracy Promotion Center,
to promote journalistic quality, ethics, and investigative
accuracy. In addition incremental staff could play a
significant role. This Mission's press operation is
seriously understaffed, and we require an Assistant
Information Officer position. The responsibilities of an
AIO would include outreach to national and regional media,
speech writing for the Ambassador, conducting U.S. Speaker
programs that are specifically targeted at the media, and
maintaining liaison with military public affairs officers at
EUCOM and Incirlik. In the Mission's FY-05 MPP, an Assistant
Information Officer position was our highest priority for new
American positions and it will be again in our FY-06
submission. It should be funded and filled as soon as

8. The President has given us a challenge for the next
generation. Developing open societies in the Greater Middle
East joined to the modern world politically through
democratic institutions and respect for individual freedoms
(including religion) and responsibility and economically
through the prosperity of market economies is a challenge
that begins in Turkey. We need resources and political will
to do the job, but we don't need to reinvent the wheel. The
tools are familiar. Reaching out to Turkey's or the Greater
Middle East's Muslims requires understanding and flexibility,
but we can succeed.


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