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Cablegate: Turkey: Muslim World Outreach -- Pcc Request For

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

281206Z Jul 04





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 155954

B. ANKARA 1007
C. STATE 13711

1. (SBU) Ref (B) details the context in which the Mission
pursues outreach to Muslim audiences in Turkey. That
information is excerpted, with minor updates, in para 2 and
3, while the rest of this message examines audiences and
strategies for outreach.

2. (SBU) While Turkey's 20th century history is largely
different from that of other countries in the Broader Middle
East, the issues we are dealing with in this 99 percent
Muslim country are at their root only different in degrees.
Like the rest of the region, Turkey has been governed by an
elite intent on pursuing self-serving policies while only
grudgingly allowing the majority of the population to express
its political will. With technology, the common citizen has
increasing knowledge of global developments and a growing
ability to make his voice of disaffection heard. In Turkey,
as in the Broader Middle East, the U.S. has been associated
with the rule of often-corrupted elites, and has come to be
seen through a common prism with them. Strongly negative
perceptions of our pro-Israel policies and, more recently,
our actions in Iraq are another pillar of anti-Americanism in
Turkey, as elsewhere in the region.

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3. (SBU) In Turkey, the democratic institutions that have
been created since the 1950s have, despite their
imperfections, allowed the bulk of the population to
gradually find a political voice. Turkey's current drive for
EU membership has provided impetus to improve those
institutions and advance the process of creating an open
society. The ruling AK Party derives support from this base.
For the U.S. to connect with the majority of the Turkish
population and reduce its skepticism of our motives, we must
be palpably supportive of democratization, of individual
freedoms, and of social and economic justice. We must work
to promote these shared values here as we did in central and
eastern Europe. We are working to deliver messages of shared
values despite the obstacles of a bureaucracy and military
that often represent the past, an educational system designed
to support the status quo, a media environment that
propagates fiction and conspiracy theory, a business climate
that stifles open markets and fair c
ompetition, and an atmosphere that rejects personal

4. (SBU) There is no audience in Turkey that we can afford
to ignore. The balance of power between traditional elites
and the heartland is slowly but perceptibly shifting, thanks
in large measure to democratization. Clearly, we must do a
better job of engaging non-elites, as well as youth.
Turkey's population is younger and faster growing than that
of any other European country. The complex status and role
of religion in secular, yet 99 percent Muslim, Turkey serve
as a constant reminder that there is no monolithic Muslim
culture and there can be no single approach to engaging
Muslim audiences. What works in Cairo or Riyadh will not
necessarily succeed in Istanbul or Ankara. Turks are
emphatic that their country, as a secular democracy populated
by Muslims, is not a model for the Broader Middle East,
although they accept that it may serve as an example of what
can be accomplished by pursing reforms.

5. (SBU) Religion is an important factor in the worldview
and lives of most Turks, even if many are not devout. In
Turkey, it is imperative that we show respect for Islam. One
of the best ways to show respect for Islam is to know as much
about it as possible. A nuanced understanding of the
history, culture, and diversity of views within Turkey is
vital to the Mission's work, as is a reasonable knowledge of
Islam. FSI can contribute by doing a better job of teaching
about Islam in general, as well as about the complexities of
Islam in Turkey. Our diplomats should learn not only about
the history of Islam, but also about how Islam works, what
its essential themes as well as its contradictions are, and
how the Muslim world looks at us.

6. (SBU) We can be effective by promoting ecumenical
conferences in support of greater interfaith understanding
and tolerance. As President Bush said in his speech last
month in Istanbul, "Whatever our cultural differences may be,
there should be peace and respect in the House of Abraham."
By bringing together top leaders of the three great
monotheistic religions to stress the common roots of those
religions and shared heritage of their followers, we could go
a long way toward revealing terrorists as theological
aberrations and false prophets.

7. (SBU) Our single most important outreach tool is
positive, personal contact between Americans and Turks. In
Turkey personal relationships are fundamental to
communication and establishing trust. We need to staff our
missions sufficiently with language capable officers so that
more people can get out of the office, travel, and put a
human face on the U.S. Since Ref (B) was sent, a new
Assistant Information Officer position, which will be an
important asset in outreach to the media, has been approved
for FY-05. We are making a concerted effort to get our
officers from several sections and agencies out to visit
schools, universities, civic and business groups, and other
organizations. Often we speak about policy, but it is
important that we also engage Turkish audiences on social
issues, culture, literature, and other topics that are not
overtly political. In addition, greater engagement with the
business community, particularly associations of small-medium
sized companies, helps build proponets for free markets and
economic reform.

8. (SBU) Ref (B) detailed a wide range of programs utilized
by post to reach Turkish audiences. We urgently require more
funding for exchanges activities, particularly the IV
program, Fulbright, and youth exchanges. We need to support
Turkey's democratic reforms in education. In FY-03, the
Mission received $315,000 in R Bureau Muslim outreach funding
to support the placement of English Language Fellows
throughout Turkey to teach, train teachers, and develop
curricula. These talented young Americans tangibly improved
the quality of English language instruction while building
ties between Turks and the United States. Although the same
source of funding was not available in FY-04, we have
utilized post, ECA, and EUR/PPD funding, as well as micro
scholarship monies from R, to maintain the program at nearly
the same level. Since Ref (B) was sent, post has also
obtained nearly $800,000 for important Citizen Exchange
programs in judicial reform, media training, and women's

9. (SBU) Our American Corners provide program platforms in
the culturally conservative cities of Gaziantep and Kayseri,
as well as Bursa. A fourth American Corner will be opened
later this year in Izmir. While the Corners serve a very
useful purpose, they are no substitute for the American
Center libraries that for decades served throughout the
Muslim world, including in Turkey, as popular meeting places
for students, professionals, and intellectuals. While a
return of libraries appears not to be in the cards, post
applauds the Department for bringing culture back through
such programs as Culture Connect and Jazz Ambassadors. The
value of exchanges, cultural programming, and other forms of
people-to-people diplomacy in engaging Muslim audiences who
may fundamentally disagree with our policies but nevertheless
want to more fully understand and experience American culture
and society cannot be overstated. Our daily bread-and-butter
is and should be policy, but to succeed we must communicate
with audiences in the Muslim world, as around the world,
about the sum total of our national experience.

10. (SBU) The media are an essential point of engagement in
Turkey. The Islamist and mainstream press alike are often
virulent in their anti-Americanism. They miss no opportunity
to distort the truth and completely invent fraudulent,
damaging claims. If unchallenged, this bogus reporting is
quickly accepted as fact. Post devotes significant time and
resources to refuting disinformation as a means by which to
counter anti-Americanism. In addition, we have proposed and
received funding for Citizen Exchange programs on media
training and journalistic ethics for both working level and
senior journalists. With newspaper and television reporting
in Turkey strongly influenced by the business interests and
political views of media owners, we recognize that change
will come slowly, but this exchange initiative is at least a
step in the right direction. Since more Turks get their news
from television than newspapers, we should place greater
emphasis on appearances by U.S. officials and experts on
Turkish television.

11. (SBU) Our assessment in Ref (B) of the prognosis for
engaging Muslim audiences in Turkey has not changed. The
President has given us a challenge for the next generation.
Developing open societies in the Broader Middle East that are
joined to the modern world politically through democratic
institutions and respect for individual freedoms (including
religion) and economically through the prosperity of open
markets is a challenge that begins by securing the success of
reform 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 in Turkey and in the Broader
Middle East requires understanding and flexibility, but we
can succeed.

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