Turkey’s place in the world

Turkey’s place in the world

Ankara hosted three foreign presidents, three foreign ministers (Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan) one defense minister (Norway) and one mayor (Bosnia-Herzegovina) Dec. 11 and 12 as yet another indication of its proactive and visible diplomacy.

President Mahmoud Abbas paid his first visit abroad to Ankara to thank the Turkish government and people for their support in Palestine’s bid to upgrade its status at the U.N.

Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Ali Asaf Zardari are to be hosted at a trilateral summit under the mediation of President Abdullah Gül in an attempt to reconcile tension between the two neighboring countries, whose ties are subject to frequent crises due to fundamentalist groups’ violent attacks on both sides of their border.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will participate in the Friends of Syria meeting to be held in Morocco in line with Turkey’s leading role in supporting the Syrian opposition to topple the al-Assad regime. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin held important meetings with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and signed 11 agreements aiming to increase trade volume up to $100 billion in less than 10 years.

On another front, the European Union revisited the terms of accession (instead of admission) in its report when mentioning ongoing negotiations with Turkey. Irish officials highlighted that they could open at least one chapter under their term presidency starting from Jan. 1, 2013 in a move to reactivate almost suspended negotiations.

One can extend this list to show the multidimensionality of Turkish diplomacy that made Turkey much more visible not only with its achievements – especially in the field of economics – but also with its deficiencies, especially in the field of human rights and democracy.

A report released by the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Turkey has more journalists in jail than any other country including China and Iran, and is known for its oppression of the free media. It said at least 49 journalists were behind bars as of Dec. 1, four more than Iran and 17 more than China.

Over 2,500 university students are also behind bars, according to the Justice Ministry, the majority of them having been arrested for protesting the government and other state institutions. Thousands of Kurdish politicians and civil society activists have been arrested in the ongoing prosecution of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), believed to be the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Hundreds of prominent academics, journalists and civil society members are also spending years in prisons as part of the unending Ergenekon case. The government failed to address problems stemming from an ineffective judicial system at the expense of growing concerns in the international community over the future of Turkish democracy.

Turkey’s visibility in the international community can only be consistent and sensible if it provides a better image of its democracy and human rights. Otherwise, it will reflect not much more than a country of dilemmas.