Turkey: the mysteriously enigmatic riddle

Turkey: the mysteriously enigmatic riddle

For the outsider, Turkey, to borrow Winston Churchill’s description of Russia, can be a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. The key, in Churchill’s case for Russia, was national interest. It may be, in anyone’s case for Turkey, the constant smile the country puts on any commentator’s lips and the questions of no importance to their minds.

Take the minister’s gesture: Tourism and Culture Minister Ömer Çelik has said that Christian and Jewish minorities who have left Turkey can come back to their home country. I am sure the Christian and Jewish minorities who have left (or had to leave) Turkey will feel grateful to Mr. Çelik. While a few of them, as the minister knows very well, may wish to come back to their home country, there is a minor snag here. The minister should convince 80-85 percent of Turks to welcome them. That is the proportion of Turks who, according to various polls, would object to having Christian and Jewish neighbors. Did you say “your home country,” Mr. Çelik?

Why not kill two birds with one stone? Turkey’s aerospace officials have been working out, with Sweden’s Saab, a conceptual design for what will be Turkey’s first national fighter jet. In separate talks, Turkish officials were also exploring the possibility of designing and developing the first all-Turkish car with Saab. Why not task Saab’s top quality engineers with designing an all-Turkish flying car to satisfy the Turks’ “we-can-build-the-world’s-best-vehicles” complex? (Tip to the Turkish defense planners: Have a quick search for the reasons why Israel, with far superior military technology than Turkey, dropped its ambitions to build its own fighter jet).
What’s in a name? Speaking of the defense industry, it was great news that the first all-Turkish drone, the Anka, passed its performance tests in January. The all-Turkish Anka boasts an imported engine, sensors, flight data computer, landing gear and automatic landing control system. Ironically, the name the Turks deemed fit for the country’s first Turkish aircraft is a variation of Angha, the modern Persian name for the benevolent, mythical flying creature. The figure can be found in all periods of Greater Iranian art and literature and is also present in the iconography of medieval Armenia.

Worse than terror
In reply to a parliamentary motion, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz revealed that the number of Turkish soldiers killed in terrorist attacks in the last 10 years was 601. The minister said that in the same period, 965 soldiers committed suicide. With terror possibly coming to a historic end as a landmark Turkish-Kurdish peace blossoms, perhaps it is time the government launches a new peace process to put an end to suicides in the barracks, apparently a bigger killer than terror.

Could peace with Kurds resonate on the island of bitter lemons? The Turkish government is walking on eggshells to resolve one of modern Turkey’s most pressing disputes. Could the same idea apply to another pressing dispute? Would Ankara agree that a reunited Cyprus grants the Turkish Cypriot minority the same constitutional recognition and sovereign rights it plans to grant the Kurdish minority?

Bureaucrat of the year

Central Bank Governor Erdem Bascı said that he would not accept his “Bureaucrat of the Year” award until he has lowered inflation to below five percent. This was very much out of line in a country where, previously, a tourism minister had been awarded the “best tourism minister of the year,” only a few weeks into office, and an actress who did not have a child had been awarded the “best mother of the year,” after playing the part of a mother on screen in a soap opera.

Blame it on the Arab Spring

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy and Parliament’s foreign relations committee chairman, Volkan Bozkır, said that Turkey would have maintained perfect relations with Syria today had the Arab Spring not taken place. Yes, even today, and even if Syria was ruled by Bashar al-Assad, he said. Does that mean we would have been friendly with Assad because without the Arab Spring the murderer would not have been a murderer?