Elections: not whether but how
by Bernard KENNEDY
The months of July and August provide a break from politics for many in the northern hemisphere. Elections have been few and far between around the world since the restless pendulum swung back towards the Socialists in the Albanian and Bulgarian parliamentary polls at the end of June and beginning of July. But with the arrival of September, the calendar has filled up rapidly. A presidential election has been held in Egypt and parliamentary elections have been taking place in several countries including Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Germany and Poland.
In many of these countries, the election was called ahead of schedule due to political crises. The Egyptian presidential was the first ever to be held with multiple candidates. The Afghan poll has been postponed more than once, and the contribution which it will make to hopes for stability in the country is open to question. However, since Afghanistan has a presidential system, there is no question of a complete change of government as in the other countries listed.
The timetable for September alone is sufficient to illustrate the universality of the practice of electing national political executives and legislatures through universal adult suffrage. There are few countries which do not stage elections regularly for national political office, and the few that have not done so to date are seeking to do so. In October, Argentina and Tanzania will be staging parliamentary and presidential ballots respectively, although the October 30 Cote d’Ivoire general election is in doubt.
Limits of cynicism
The election process is overwhelmingly regarded as the first sine qua non of democracy. Nevertheless, the very ubiquitousness of elections – from Cuba to Singapore; from Iran to the United States – creates doubts about their value for defining the political regime. Cynicism about elections based on the view that they merely legitimise the existing order (one of their benefits, according to some political scientists) is common among ordinary people. Here and there, participation in elections falls to surprisingly low levels.
Liberal democrats assess the democratic credentials of elections on the basis of issues such as the way in which candidates are nominated and the extent to which they are permitted to present their cases without risk of physical or legal obstruction, within a context of legal freedom of expression. The left analyses private campaign funding, control of the media and more broadly the financial and ideological influence of national and international economic forces.
Within the liberal democratic context, those who believe elections are not functioning efficiently as an opportunity for the people to choose or reject certain policies tend to seek the cause in the political party system, the way in which individual political parties are organised or the relationship between government and opposition. They may deplore the dominance of politics by individuals or by bureaucracies, and call for more direct democracy, or for more involvement in decision-making for non-government organisations. Nobody proposes abandoning elections, but from time to time reforms of electoral systems are proposed.
Choice of systems
While elections are held almost everywhere, the rules governing the definition of constituencies, the content of ballot papers and the way in which raw votes are converted into winners and losers vary widely. For example, the single-member constituency, first-past-the-post system of the United Kingdom, unmitigated even by French-style run-offs between leading candidates, is in striking contrast to the various forms of proportion representation (PR) applied in most continental European countries.
The UK system favours large and/or regionally-concentrated parties at the expense of smaller parties support for which is geographically even. It leads many to vote for their second-choice candidate for fear of wasting their votes. It almost always produces a “strong” or “stable” single-party government, which is in line with, and prolongs, a confrontational party system. Systems like the Dutch, where the whole of Parliament is elected in proportion to the percentage of votes cast nationally for each party, are in line with, and prolong, a tradition of accommodative politics. Each vote is counted equally and there no type of party is systematically discriminated against. Arguably, however, the swing of votes and the changes in the make-up of the governing coalition may not always parallel one another, and the voter may be denied the chance to hold an unpopular prime minister and ministers to account.
PR systems based on party lists tend to concentrate power in the national party organisations which determine candidate lists, and to weaken the link between voters and their individual representatives. By way of fine-tuning, some systems, including the Dutch and German, enable voters to vote for an individual candidate or candidates as well as a party list. The seats in Parliament are divided among the parties according to the votes cast for the party lists. But the candidates who take up the seats allotted to a given party are determined at least in part by local-level voter preferences. In the light of its own experiences, Japan has evolved a system where some members of each house of Parliament are elected by PR in large constituencies and others by first-past-the-post in single-member constituencies.
How Turkey does it
Not all PR systems are equally fair. Debates about how exactly to translate the various percentage of votes cast into percentages of seats available (D’Hondt system, Niemeyer system etc.) into seats in the legislature are largely of academic interest, but can become critical when PR is conducted within small constituencies, and when there is an election barrier or threshold – a minimum percentage of the vote which must be won before a party or candidate even enters the calculations. Parties securing less that 5% of the national vote cast for party lists in Germany are not normally able to claim a share of seats in the Bundestag.
Turkey has altered and debated its election system more than most countries, generating its own jargon of “national remainders”, “contingent candidates” (a corollary of the largely defunct practice of determining candidates through primary elections), “constituency barrages” and “Turkey deputies”. Currently, each constituency (normally a province) elects between two and 23 members of Parliament. Voters cast a single vote, usually for a party list. As for fine-tuning, Turkey experimented with “preference voting” – voting for candidates as well as party lists – in 1991, but abandoned the scheme in 1995, since it benefited rich candidates and led to indiscipline within parties. Voters may, however, vote for a single independent candidate instead of a party list, and since independents are not subject to thresholds, several enter Parliament at each election.
Most controversially, parties which do not achieve a high 10% of the national vote are disregarded. Thus with a view to ensuring strong government and minimising the assumedly disruptive impact of small parties, Turkey has transformed its PR system into an electoral mechanism no more equitable than the UK system. A single-party UK government was elected earlier this year on 35% of the national vote. The single-party Turkish government was elected in 2002 – with about 65% of the parliamentary seats – on 34%.
Chance to change?
Despite the goal of strong government , coalition governments ruled continuously between 1991 and 2002, reflecting the fragmentation of the party system. The same outcome was avoided in 2002 only because as many as five parties received between 5% and 10% of the vote. In all, 46% of votes cast went to parties disqualified by the “10% rule”. Late last year, Speaker of Parliament Bülent Arınç made clear that he regarded the unrepresentative nature of the assembly as a factor detrimental to its popular reputation. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also hinted at a possible change in the Elections Law.
In the past, ruling parties could bend the election rules at the last minute to suit their own interests. In 2001, however, a clause was inserted in Article 67 of the Constitution under which changes in the Elections Law do not apply to elections held within one year. If the election due in November 2007 is to be held under an altered regime, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) needs to make up its mind within the upcoming legislative year.
The EU would like to see electoral reform. But EU influence may be limited by tense Turkey-EU relations, by the UK example and by perceptions that Brussels is motivated by the hope of seeing today’s most unwanted small party, the Kurdish nationalists, take seats in Parliament. What Arınç had in mind was reducing the national threshold to 7% or 8%, whereas Kurdish nationalist DEHAP came sixth with 6% in 2002.
Meanwhile, the AKP fully expects to be the most popular party across the country again at the next election and must logically oppose a fairer system which could cost it its overall majority in Parliament. If the AKP becomes serious about improving parliamentary representation and/or ensuring Kurdish nationalist representation, the party leadership will search for a way to enable just a token handful of MPs from small parties to enter Parliament. Alongside the present system, for instance, a limited number of extra seats could be divided among the various competing parties in proportion to the number of votes cast nationally, without regard to the threshold (or subject to a much lower threshold). As a potential first step, one of the many draft constitutional amendments mooted by AKP deputies would increase the number of members of Parliament, currently 550.
Any change in the Elections Law could be challenged in the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it does not, as foreseen in the same article of the Constitution since 1995, “reconcile the principles of fair representation and stable administration”. It is unclear what electoral rules will be in force, but it is for sure that the elections will take place.
Ambassador Shah: Accelerating dialogues
by Bernard KENNEDY
Ambassador Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah of Pakistan arrived in Ankara three months ago after serving for almost five years as governor of North West Frontier Province. A retired lieutenant-general and former minister of communications, the ambassador has previously served as naval and military attaché in India and in Saudi Arabia. His conversation with DIPLOMAT spanned his previous responsibilities, Pakistan’s ties with Turkey and other key issues in Pakistan’s foreign relations.
Q How are you settling in? Have you had a chance to travel around the country yet?
A I thought this would be the holiday season but actually it has been a very hectic period for us. I have not gone away on holiday but I have done quite a lot of travelling on official business I have been to Istanbul a couple of times: one of our ministers was there for a conference. I have been to Antalya because our naval ships were visiting Turkey. I have been to Trabzon. I have been to Izmir twice: we are participating in the Fair. I have been to Macedonia to present my credentials. So I have moved around quite a lot.
Q Have you noticed any similarities between Ankara and Islamabad, another modern capital?
A Yes, there are a lot of similarities. But of course, Ankara already existed as an old city before it became the capital, whereas Islamabad is a new city altogether.
Q Your previous post was as governor of North West Frontier Province. What did that involve?
A You have two responsibilities. First, you are the constitutional head of the province. However, responsibility for law enforcement and the development of the province rests on the shoulders of the chief minister and his cabinet and the provincial assembly. Second, you are also the chief executive of the tribal belt – a semi-autonomous region sandwiched between the province and the Afghan border, which we call the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Here you are responsible for development, law and order, all kinds of activities… So this keeps you quite busy.
Q The area has an image as a troubled region associated with refugee problems and the Taliban. What is it really like?
A Actually, I found it to be the most peaceful area of Pakistan. I think the image is distorted. Reporters come from the West looking for exaggerated stories. It is really quite safe. We have had more trouble in Quetta or Karachi or elsewhere. During my time in Peshawar there was not a single incident of violence or any terrorism-related activity. The army and law enforcing agencies have been very alert. In addition, the population is thinly spread and distances are wide. It is much easier for suicide bombers, for example, to operate in areas with a heavy concentration of population.
Q What is the state of confidence-building and relations with India?
A The process of confidence-building measures is in motion. The composite dialogue is also taking place. There have been people-to-people contacts, and visits by parliamentarians and the heads of government departments. The one thing which is proving to be irksome is that Pakistan is not happy with the progress which is being made. We think it is too slow. For this reason, Pakistan is urging India to speed up the resolution of various issues.
Q Do you think full agreement can be reached on all issues, say, within the next few years?
A If there is a will, there is a way. Pakistan has stated that it is prepared to show flexibility on its previous stance and has asked India to be flexible too. But if only one side is trying to show flexibility, then there will be difficulties.
Q You were in India yourself at one time…
A Yes, I was there between 1989 and 1992. There were periods of stress and strain – the political environment had its effect on all of us. And when the relations improved we were affected too. It was all part of the job. I think Pakistanis and Indians become different persons when they sit across a table. At a personal level, they get along very well.
Q What are Pakistan’s policies as a nuclear power?
A Pakistan’s nuclear ambition is restricted to having a credible deterrence for self-defence. We have no hegemonistic ambitions in the area. Our programme came about as a result of India’s explosions in 1974. This whole arms race in the sub-continent was set in motion by the Indians. That was when it was decided that we should have our own nuclear weapons. And once we have achieved that, and we have also acquired a delivery system, Pakistan will be content
Q What is the condition of Pakistani politics? Where are we in the cycle of military rule and democracy?
A Military rule is over. Elections have been held in the provinces and at the federal level. The president too has been elected by both the houses. He has been allowed to remain in uniform for the sake of better links between the armed forces and the government. This was primarily because of the trouble with al-Qaeda and extremist elements – not to rein in the political forces. We have just had the second local government elections and in 2007 the next parliamentary elections are due. The routine mud-slinging of the political parties goes on as in any political system.
The track record of the government has been good ever since President Pervez Musharraf took over and ever since the elections in 2002. The economic indicators are looking very good. Our inflation has remained confined to single digits, our GDP growth has been hovering at 8-9% and foreign exchange earnings have increased to about US$12bn. Losses of state enterprises have been reduced and the government has embarked on a major privatisation programme. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank are quite happy with our policies – we have rid ourselves of the IMF facility. So I think if we continue pursuing these policies for another two or three years, that will be a good foundation for political stability too.
Q I noticed the Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers met in Istanbul recently. What was the story behind that?
A Contacts with the Israelis had been going on for quite some time. Israel had taken some positive steps such as the vacation of the Gaza Strip. We thought that Pakistan as a responsible nuclear power and the second-largest Islamic state should show its appreciation of this gesture while at the same time suggesting to the Israelis that there is still more to be done on the establishment of the Palestinian state and other issues. So a decision was taken to engage Israel. Unless you talk to them, how are you going to plead the case of the Palestinians? But it has been made clear that this initiative does not mean that Pakistan is in a hurry to recognise Israel.
Q Why was Turkey chosen as the venue?
A Among the Muslim countries Turkey was one which had very good relations with Israel and also extremely good relations with Pakistan. Whatever we wanted to say we could say with confidence. I think the meeting went off very well.
Q Can you elaborate on the relations between Turkey and Pakistan?
A The relations between Turkey and Pakistan are age-old relations. The relations between the peoples of the two countries existed before either the modern Republic of Turkey or Pakistan came into being. The older generation can still remember this. There is a lot of commonality in the language, culture, history and traditions.
Ever since Pakistan came into being, our political relations have been extremely good regardless of which party has been ruling Turkey. When you go out on the street here and you tell somebody that you are from Pakistan, you see a lot of respect in the eyes of those people and they treat you quite differently. A similar situation exists as far as the Turks are concerned when they visit Pakistan: they are given some very special treatment – from the man in the street who doesn’t know anything about politics. So that is the type of relationship we have. The armed forces of the two countries also train together and visit each other frequently and collaborate on certain things.
Q What are your priorities during your term of office as ambassador here?
A To promote trade. Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when he visited Pakistan in 2003, and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz when he visited Turkey in May this year, emphasised that we should raise the volume of trade from US$380m to about US$1bn. So we have been asking the private sector to identify any bottlenecks or problem areas which when removed will facilitate this trade. For example, easing of the visa regime was one issue which I think has been sorted out to a large extent. Drafts are now being exchanged for a preferential trade agreement. With an increase in trade, we will have all-encompassing relations.
EU: Membership in Full
by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA
Negotiations between the Republic of Turkey and the European Union will begin on October 3, 2005. These negotiations should aim at Turkey’s full membership of the Union. They should be conducted within the framework of respect for treaties, the superiority of the law and the understanding that Pacta sund servanda – in other words, the basic principles for the establishment and maintenance of international peace and brotherhood. And yet both the EU and by the governments of some EU member countries have over the last two years made a series of statements which failed to conform to these principles, and which reflect an outmoded “international relations philosophy” based on jealousy, greed and sometimes even hatred.
Some deny that Turkey is a European country and the Turkish nation a European nation.
Some qualify the principles of Atatürk – accepted by many academics, politicians and international organizations, especially UNESCO, to represent an exemplary case of democratic revolution and peaceful foreign policy – as an obstacle to EU membership.
Some do not hesitate to state openly that instead of full membership with equal rights, the Republic of Turkey might be offered a limited status, so “anchoring” Turkey in the EU in an unjust and derogatory manner.
Some put forth the conditions that Turkey should abandon its rights originating from international agreements on issues such as Cyprus and the Aegean Continental Shelf.
Some envy the unity and solidarity of the Turkish nation and claim that the Republic of Turkey is made up of conflicting ethnic groups.
All point out that the negotiations will be open-ended and may not lead to full membership, and that even if they do so, this will not come about before 10 or even 15 years have passed.
Every one of these positions is contrary to the elevated values which the EU originally represented. In a speech in Bonn on September 4, 1962, General De Gaulle commented on the French-German friendship and cooperation agreement, which laid the foundation for the EU. The friendly relations between the two countries, he said, were one of the most important events which Europe and the world had ever witnessed. The growing integration between France and Germany was not, he said, a respite taken by two eternal enemies tired of conflicts, but a union, which they aimed to establish in order to act together.
The enlargement process which the EU has been undergoing for the last 40 years has been based on this understanding of “acting together”. The Turkish people, especially the intellectuals, expect the EU to treat Turkey in the same way. The importance of inspiring trust and affection among the nation and its opinion members is clear. Turkey took its place in the EU process with the Treaty of Rome of 1962, and assumed the heaviest burden of European security in NATO throughout the 35-year cold war period. Today’s negative attitudes are out of harmony with the EU’s raison d’être.
A few reminders
EU officials should therefore attend the full membership negotiations which should be launched between Turkey and the EU on October 3, 2005, in awareness of the following facts:
- Turkey belongs to Europe rather than Asia. Turkey’s destiny is based on that of Europe. The borders of the geographical continents are nominal. It cannot be said that since the border which separates Europe from Asia passes through the Black Sea and the Turkish Straits. Anatolia is European and has never been and cannot be an Asian society such as Iran or Iraq.
- Thanks to its geography, and secular and democratic social and economic order, the Republic of Turkey has a central geostrategic position in the world, and especially in the region sometimes referred to as the Greater Middle East. To exclude Turkey and pursue policies aimed at undermining Turkey’s unity and peace would be the worst mistake the EU could make.
- I concluded my article in the August issue of DİPLOMAT with an appeal made by former US President Bill Clinton to the West to demonstrate to other nations that it was capable of not running after selfish interests and that it wanted to establish a world based on common objectives together with them. In that case, Clinton said, the respectability of the West would increase. The world, he said, needed proof that reason, intelligence and good will were more powerful than historical destiny. His words should ring in the ears of EU officials in their relations with Turkey.
- Concerning Cyprus, the 1960 London and Zurich Treaties should be taken into consideration for two reasons – first, because international relations should abide by international law, and second because they can contribute to a solution of the issue, since they were signed as a requirement of the political and cultural conditions which explain the fact thatCyprus is not only a Greek Cypriot island.To recognize the Greek Cypriot side, which has never set up a political administration in the history of Cyprus, as the only sovereign state on the island, and to put the Turkish Cypriots under their sovereignty by means of pressure and blackmail is contrary to the basic principles of the EU and of international peace and order.
While the EU aims at establishing continuous peace, freedom, prosperity and partnership, but not at dissolving the national societies in the member countries, its tendency to encourage ethnic divisions in Turkey is unacceptable.
The powers-that-be in the EU should abandon the view that Turkey consists of conflicting ethnic groups. They should not deny the existence of the Turkish nation. Noted Ottoman historian Professor Bernard Lewis, director of the London University Institute of African and Oriental Studies for many years, points out in the initial pages of his book “The Emergence of Modern Turkey” that it was not Turks who first referred to Anatolia as “Turkey” but Europeans. “Anatolia became Turkish in the 11th century,” he says. Of course, Lewis does not mean to suggest that there were no Greeks, Armenians, Arabs, Kurds or Georgians in Anatolia. He merely indicates that Anatolia has had a Turkish cultural brand since that date. This view is based on the sociological data which covers the formation of a nation and the transformation of a territory into the native country of this nation.
The national identity of a territory cannot be determined only via the population, but also by factors such as transport, trade, industry, health, public works, education and arts – in other words, the “culture of the city”. If Anatolia began to be called “Turkey” by the Europeans during the Crusades, then this was the result of the creation of a multi-lateral urban culture especially by the Seljuk Turks. Historian Professor Müller of Columbia University documents this process in the relevant part of his book “The Loom of History”.
This process of becoming Turkish began in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia and has continued there. Neither prior to nor during this process was a political geography called “Kurdistan” established in Anatolia. For example, the writer of these words was born and grew up in Diyarbakır, which has been a centre replete with the most advanced elements of the Turkish culture, just like Elazığ and Van, where his relatives live.
The concept of the Turkish nation, which is the base for the Republic of Turkey, is a sociologic and democratic reality. Although it took many centuries for an organised nation-state to arise, the Turkish factor has been the most widespread element in Anatolia for 1,000 years, providing harmonisation with other elements. This is a unity which makes no discrimination regarding race, religion, sect, social status, wealth or occupation, within which good and bad times are shared, and preparations for the future are made jointly.
It is due to the existence of this unity that even when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated at the end of the World War I, and the whole of Anatolia was under occupation, an attempt to establish a Kurdish state in Southeastern Anatolia with the approval of the Sultan’s government and Caliphate and the support of the British army failed. The citizens of Kurdish origin in the region did not cooperate. “The attempt to establish of a Kurdish state in Southeastern Anatolia has failed and Kurds and Turks are united,” wrote Mustafa Kemal, the leader of the national independence movement on June 19, 1919, in a telegraph to Cafer Tayyar Pasha to organize the national resistance in Thrace. In every corner of Anatolia, there was a cultural integration which envisaged that the “language of the majority is our common language and the name of the majority is our common name.”
The Republican order has further consolidated this national unity and at the same time enabled secularism, which is the precondition for democracy, to dominate political and public life, leaving differences of religion and sect to the individual consciences of citizens.
These healthy basic principles should be seen as a positive basis for the EU membership negotiations. European countries have followed similar routes. Just as a person from the Basque or Alsace regions of France may say “Je suis alsacien; mais je suis fier de ma culture française; je dois beaucoup à ma culture française!” (“I am from Alsace but I am proud of my French culture; I owe a lot to my French culture”), so a person of Arabian, Circassian, Laz, Kurdish or Albanian origin in Turkey should not be encouraged to espouse separatism. Again as they say in France: “Particularités culturelles, oui; mais particularisme culturel, non!” (“Yes to the expression of cultural characteristics, but No to cultural discrimination.”). Conditions which are contrary to these words should not be imposed on Turkey.
Attempts to weaken Turkey by supporting discrimination on the basis of language, religion or sect cause the EU to be perceived by the Turkish nation and Turkish intellectuals not as a positive force for world peace but as a destructive factor. Similarly, if EU attitudes towards Turkey are marked by ethnic discrimination, racism and sectarianism, repetition of the unfounded Armenian genocide slanders, the protection of Greek Cypriot and Greek interests on Cyprus and the Aegean and the offer of a privileged partnership, then the EU will be unable to find a government in Turkey willing to accept these suggestions, and the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey will be unable to associate the EU with peace, democracy or social justice.
Europe: East and West
by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV
Turkish membership of the European Union (EU) has been on the agenda for a long time. When the French said non and the Dutch came out with a nee at the end of May and the beginning of June, the European Constitution was rejected by the citizens of these two important European countries. The referendums were the most predictable shocks in the history of European integration. The future of Europe is now being discussed even more intensively. The Constitution seems dead, but the European project will continue. After all, the EU has rapidly evolved from a free trade area of twelve nations to a multinational body of twenty-five countries within which millions were to share an official flag, an official currency, an official anthem (Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”), passports of a common colour and a court of human rights. Although the referendums rendered the Eurocrats speechless, perhaps the results of the May and June voting should be considered a “win” for EU democracy.
While Turkish membership is debated with equal zeal, it may be appropriate to reflect on how the EU reshaped Eastern Europe after the breakdown of the Stalinist model there. The fundamental question is this: has the EU exported welfare capitalism and a security order based on multi-nationalism and human rights, or has its expansion entailed the re-emergence of economic centre-periphery relations within the framework of the continent?
Protection from enlargement
I shall offer a different picture than that suggested by European politicians and most of the academics, many of whom consider Europe a distinctive civilization. All the Eastern European countries adopted an economic liberal ideology. This was a most radical step for the former so-called “socialist” societies: a bourgeois ideology where a bourgeoisie did not traditionally exist. Hence, Western states, multinational firms and international financial organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank were to be the initiators, the guardians, and the promoters of the reform programmes. In a nutshell, the Europeans, into whose social structures American capital has penetrated, pursued a policy of protecting their own political economies against the disruptive influences of enlargement.
The EU made agreements to secure the “opening of markets” and the deregulation of the economies of the new areas. In contrast to the continental ideal of tamed markets, the EU helped privatize industrial and financial sectors and the social security system. It did not grant the new members equal social and economic rights. Although the free movement of labour is a citizenship right of the EU, transition periods were introduced before Eastern European workers could pass to the Western half of the continent. Western capital was attracted to the strategic sectors; it stood to benefit from low labour costs. The per capita transfer payments to the Easterners were much lower than those of the older members. This figure is €29 for the Czech Republic, for instance, €41 for Slovenia and €40 for Hungary, whereas Greece currently receives €437, Ireland €416 and Spain €216.
All of this made a direct contribution to the social gap between the Western and the Eastern parts of Europe. Such developments are far removed from “exporting” institutional European way of life to the East. The EU experience for Easterners is, then, no different from that of Mexico in NAFTA. The costs of enlargement are on the shoulders of the poorer Eastern Europeans. Let us pose the following question: Does Europe indeed represent a distinctive, and better, civilization than the United States?
The responsibility for the bloody dissolution of the former Yugoslav federation is also on the shoulders of Western Europe. This crisis demonstrated that the European states cannot establish a security order even on the continent. The initial recognition of the secession and the independence of some former Yugoslav republics by one of the leading Western European states left the Bosnian Muslims so vulnerable that their ethnic cleansing became inevitable. I was a member of the Turkish group that went there to observe the tragedy at first hand. Even to recall some of the awful facts is an agony; I would rather try to dismiss them from my mind.
The only well-mannered thing that we were able to observe closely was the exemplary behaviour of the Turkish military detachment in Bosnia. Its doctors attended the sick and the wounded, regardless of which ethnic or religious group they came from, and its soldiers repaired buildings, including churches as well as mosques. Their deeds deserve a separate article.
This apart, what occurred first in Bosnia and then in other parts of Yugoslavia does not speak well for the capacity and willingness of Europe. The United Nations was also disastrously impotent. Moreover, NATO expansion accompanied the American drive to lead military operations outside UN control. The bombing of the Serb targets proved that the European role in bringing stability to Yugoslavia had reached a point of non-existence. NATO’s sole reliance on the air campaign, while the stated aim was to “protect the Kosovar Albanians”, in fact left other armed forces on the ground free to do whatever they liked. The war demonstrated the military insignificance of Western Europe.
So how are we to evaluate the “European alternative?” The European role in world affairs should be understood in terms of its ties with US expansionism. European capital operates within the same framework, not distinct from it. Hence, the patronizing posture over Eastern Europe is conceivable. The former “socialist” countries embraced the American version of market radicalism, not the European welfare state model. Not only European conservatives, but also the Social Democratic parties, the trade unions and the left-wing intellectuals in the EU countries, all of whom had been silenced for the last four decades or so, now ignore their accountability for withholding from the Easterners equal access to rights of continental citizenship and resources.
This trend is entirely compatible with the French colonial behaviour in the Maghreb and the Belgian coercion in the Congo when European integration was in its early years. If we remember Europe’s colonial history and the formation of Nazi Germany, we can realistically conclude that notions of inequality, discrimination, bias and browbeating are not entirely alien to Europeans. This tradition of arbitrariness is discernible even today.
Where are we to find the “light” then? The key to the struggle for democracy and equity lies not in a “Europe versus USA” formula, but within both the American and the EU nation-states. There exists no alternative other than to appeal to the much-subverted traditions of freedom, justice, and egalitarianism on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ambassador Amin Rianom: Indonesia at 60
Indonesia celebrated the 60th anniversary of its independence on August 17. The celebrations – which continue with a reception in Ankara this month – come at a time when the country appears to be bidding farewell to an era of economic and political crisis, conflict and disaster. In tsunami-hit regions, the rebuilding process is under way. A peace treaty has been signed with the Free Aceh Movement. And after the constant changes of head of state ushered in by the “Asian” financial crisis of 1997, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the country’s first directly-elected president, enjoys a strong mandate. Indonesia was still in its twenties when its current ambassador to Ankara, Amin Rianom, took up his first overseas posting in Bombay. More recently he has served in Caracas as Ambassador (1995-1998), in Vienna as Deputy Chief of Mission (1993-1995) and twice in New York, where he was Minister-Counsellor for political affairs between 1986 and 1990. The Ambassador has also worked as Deputy Coordinating Minister for Political and Social Affairs (1998-2003) and as Indonesian Foreign Ministry Director for Africa and the Middle East. (1990-1993). As the envoy of one of the World’s largest countries, with a population of almost a quarter of a million spread over 17,508 islands, some of them thousands of kilometres apart, Ambassador Rianom has plenty to talk about. We asked him to focus on a handful of topics, beginning with the meaning of Independence Day.
- The spirit of independence
The Republic of Indonesia was proclaimed by Ir. Soekarno and Dr. Mohammad Hatta on August 17, 1945, as the war in Asia drew to a close. It was based on the five principles of Pancasila, with a constitution featuring strong presidential powers, a Parliament, a Supreme Advisory Council, a State Audit Board and a People’s Consultative Assembly as the embodiment of the sovereignty of the people in free Indonesia. All these were adopted on August 18. This constitution is still in force.
Today, the spirit of Independence Day is to make Indonesia more secure and peaceful, just and democratic, and to improve the welfare of the people. The theme of the commemoration this year is: “With the spirit of Proclamation 1945, we strengthen our unity and togetherness to reach a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Indonesia.” Our historical task of realising our independence continues. We will use and manage all available sources and capability in order to ensure that national development is truly felt by all people.
- Indonesia-Turkey relations
Relations between Turkey and Indonesia started in the 16th century with the first arrival of Turkish ships. President Suharto visited Turkey in 1985 and President Demirel visited Indonesia in 1995. The great attention and assistance paid by the Government of Turkey to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra in 2004 constitutes another milestone in our relations.
Politically, we have excellent relations. We have no problems whatsoever and we always support one another in multilateral fora. Our problem is that despite various agreements we have not explored or exploited the economic potential to the optimal extent. At the fifth session of the Joint Economic Commission between Indonesia and Turkey in June of this year, a memorandum of understanding was signed on a range of issues. Most importantly, we have resolved to increase the volume of our annual bilateral trade from US$750m to US$2bn. In parallel with this, we are also working to initiate direct shipping, to eliminate the need to route goods via Singapore or Colombo.
Cultural relations between Turkey and Indonesia include student exchanges every year. In fct, two Turkish students are just about to set off for Indonesia where they will be studying the Indonesian language and culture. We hope that our bilateral relationship will grow and improve even more.
- International organisations: OIC and D-8
Turkey and Indonesia are also both members of the D-8 group of developing countries and of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The D-8, which brings together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, was a Turkish idea: it was founded in 1997 on the initiative of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. In March 2006, Indonesia will be hosting the D-8 summit, possibly in Bali. We are hoping to bring together all the heads of state of the member countries together with the business communities to see how we can increase cooperation.
Indonesia believes that the OIC can safeguard the interests and ensure the progress and well-being of the peoples of the Islamic countries and the Ummah in the world. Indonesia consistently endorses efforts to strengthen the role of the organisation and to reform and restructure it. The Organisation can be a bridge between the Islamic World and the West, where there is a lot of misunderstanding. Turkey and the Turkish OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin İhsanoglu have a major role to play in this context.
Through the OIC we can help one another to overcome our very unequal levels of development. The Islamic Development Bank can provide development assistance as well as trade financing. There is a Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC), which has its headquarters here in Turkey. It would be nice to see the rich members finding ways of investing more in the other OIC countries rather than in the West. Finally, if all the 56 member countries are united, then we could also have an important influence on the UN General Assembly.
- Recovery from disasters
The response of the international community to the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Aceh and North Sumatra was very good, and the amount of money and humanitarian aid sent was very satisfying. We are very grateful for the spontaneous aid provided. The process of emergency relief finished in April 2005 and the Government is now embarking on rehabilitation and reconstruction work in Aceh and Nias (where there was another earthquake disaster in March). Public services will be improved and new houses will be built to replace temporary shelter. With the help of reconstruction activity and aid from all over the world and, the economy of the region is recovering. People are starting to cultivate the land – especially after the peace accord (See below). The tourism industry in Indonesia is now back to normal.
The Government and people of Indonesia are very grateful to the people of Turkey. During the crisis they sent not only money but also doctors, nurses and volunteers to find corpses and bury them. This is a sign of our special relations. I accompanied Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he visited the region. We had water purification equipment on the plane with the delegation. The Turks keep quiet but they do something. Istanbul Mun icipality, Konya Municipality and the Turkish Red Crescent all have projects in the disaster region.
- Peace in Aceh
The peace treaty signed by the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement in August is good news. The Government of Indonesia is freeing all the political prisoners – about 1,400 of them – and issuing an amnesty for those who fought in the mountains. They are to surrender their weapons to the Aceh Monitoring Mission, and at the same time the military will withdraw. In a few months, Aceh will become a special autonomous region with its own government, parliament and local political parties. They will look after their own affairs with the exception of foreign policy, defence, national security, monetary and fiscal matters, justice and freedom of religion.
Hopefully we will also reach a settlement in Papua. This is our own domestic issue. The history of Papua as an integral part of the territory of our state is clear. There is no reason to doubt the legitimacy of Papua as an integral party of the territorial sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
- Terrorism and Iraq
Indonesia strongly condemns all acts of terrorism. We have been in the forefront of the fight against terrorism. We have already brought to court and sentenced the perpetrators of the Bali and Jakarta Marriott Hotel bombings. We emphasise the importance of avoiding the identification of terrorism with any particular religion or ethnic group, and of abiding by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights covenants. The most important task in dealing with terrorism, nationally and internationally, is to construct a legal foundation that protects the interest of the public as well as human rights as the basis for law enforcement. Indonesia has enacted a number of laws and regulations and has become party to various relevant international legal instruments against terrorism.
On Iraq, we have to look forward now. We hope that Iraq will succeed in formulating a constitution in accordance with the wishes of all the people of Iraq, and that a broad-based government can be established through a general election with the support of a majority of the people of Iraq
- Reform of the UN
The membership of the UN Security Council needs to be expanded to reflect the world order and represent the interests of the developing countries better. This in turn will strengthen the legitimacy of the Council. Indonesia also believes in the need for an improvement in working methods, including a review of the practice of the veto right, which has been used by the permanent members to hamper the aspirations of the international community regarding important matters, including the question of Palestine.
Nevşehir: Invitation to peace
Cappadocia is famous for its extraordinary, welcoming geology, which has protected and sustained many civilisations over the millennia (See following story). In recent decades the region has become a favourite destination for curious tourists from all five continents. This month, it takes on a new international role as its principle city, Nevşehir, plays host to a unique international gathering on the role of local governments in creating and maintaining peace. The conference is the brainchild of Mayor Hasan Ünver…
“Baghdad, New York, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kabul… If only I could bring the mayors of all those cities together to clamour with one voice for peace.” This was the thought which inspired young mayor Hasan Ünver as he embarked in late 2004 on the project which leads to this month’s International Local Authorities Peace Conference. There was another thought too in the back of his mind: if only there were a city in his own country, Turkey, which was universally associated with peace-making and conflict resolution like Helsinki or Sharm al-Sheikh. Finally, if there were to be such a city, why should it not be Nevşehir, his own city of 100,000 inhabitants?
The idea was not as unlikely as it sounded at first. Nevşehir may lack a giant conference hall, but as the largest settlement in the world-famous Cappadocia region, it has plenty of hotel capacity. The area is known not only for its remarkable volcanic landscape but also for the civilisations which have come and gone there, and almost always lived in harmony.
150,000 air kilometres later, former journalist Ünver has proof he is no idle dreamer. As a result of his efforts, mayors, scientists, artists, academics, diplomats, planners, members of international organisations and representatives of non-governmental organizations from approximately 43 countries come together in Nevşehir on September 25-28 to discuss the contribution which local government can make to a peaceful society.
The innovatory conference has been organized by Nevşehir Municipality and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in close collaboration with the Turkish Association of Local Authorities (TALA) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). It will explore all issues related to the roles and responsibilities of local authorities in saving the world from the destruction or wars and conflicts.
Among the organisations cooperating to make the event a success are the Organisation of Islamic Capitals and Cities (OICC), the Mayors for Peace Organisation, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the Arab Towns Organisation (ATO) and the International Urban Development Association (INTA). Behind the scenes, the Turkish Prime Minsitry, Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry have lent considerable support.
“With a few exceptions”, Ünver’s vision of bringing together the mayors of the world’s trouble zones is set to become a reality. Among the 400 or so mayors who will be attending the event are a large contingent from Iraq. There may also be ministerial-level participation from Egypt, Iraq and Palestine. Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Anna Tibaijuka will be present, as will Turkish government ministers. In total, the number of participants is expected to approach 2,000.
“I have been to lots of meetings in other countries,” says the Nevşehir mayor, who was elected by a large majority in March 2004, “But this will be the largest number of mayors I have seen in one place.” Ünver finds it only normal that the biggest response has come from cities which have recently witnressed conflict. “Peace is a reflex,” he explains, “A single bomb can destroy a whole city, but nobody asks us before they start a war.”
Message from Annan
The conference will begin with a reception to be given by Ünver and the President of TALA in the grounds of the Dedeman Hotel and Conference Centre on the evening of September 25. A message of peace from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be read out at the opening session the following morning. Three days of presentations, workshops and debates will follow, accompanied by social events, a photographic exhibition with a theme of promoting the culture of peace and a municipal equipments fair.
As a measure of the scope of the occasion, simultaneous translation is to be available in French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic as well as English and Turkish. Participants and those accompanying them will also have opportunities to tour the region or visit other Turkish cities.
The conference will close on September 28 with the adoption of a Cappadocia Peace Declaration, to be formulated during the course of the conference. Other symbolic events on the programme include the lighting of a Cappadocia Peace Torch and the burial underneath it of a “letter from the mayors of 2005 to their colleagues in the year 2105”.
Cities in conflict
The official conference invitation notes that for all the efforts of governments and the international community, civil strife and armed confrontations have continued to take place in several regions of the world, and that most of these conflicts take place within national borders and in urban locations. Such conflicts and the accompanying destruction of urban environments cause great suffering to civilian populations, the invitation goes on. In addition, civic facilities such as museums, archives, libraries, schools, religious buildings, monuments and cultural values can be lost altogether, sacrificing human heritage and severing links between the past and future of our civilisations.
“As managers and advocates for sustainable human settlements development, we know very well how difficult and costly it is to construct and maintain cities. In this relation, it is our particular responsibility to save our cities from such destruction and to reconstruct and revitalize damaged areas both physically and socially,” read a statement from the organisers, adding “Local governments have a specific responsibility to contribute to resolving such conflicts in peaceful ways.”
The Nevşehir conference will explore how local authorities can play more active roles for world peace by promoting a culture of peace and tolerance. It will look at what can be done to support and revitalise cities that have been physically and socially damaged by wars and conflicts. And it is hoped that a pioneering group of local authority representatives will be set up to urge world leaders to prevent potential wars and conflicts.
The peace conference is the first ever event staged by a local government organisation to which UN-HABITAT has lent its name. Under an exclusive memorandum of understanding, the international conference will henceforth be held in Nevşehir on an annual basis. No other city will be able to organise a conference with the same name. Those who miss out on this year’s occasion will be able to take part in 2006.
UN-HABITAT: no stranger
UN-HABITAT (www.unhabitat.org) is the acronym for the Nairobi, Kenya-based United Nations Human Settlement Programme. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities and adequate shelter for all. Founded ın 1978, it is no stranger in Turkey: one of the key milestones in its history was the Habitat-II conference whcih took place in Istanbul in 1996 and saw the adoption by 171 countries of the Habitat Agenda.
The programme subsequently underwent a major revitalisation. In 2002 it became a fully fledged programme of the UN system, squarely in the mainstream of the UN’s development agenda for poverty reduction. It runs global campaigns on urban governance and secure tenure, and manages projects in areas like slum upgrading, housing policies and rights, waste management, combatting crime, post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction. It also has over 150 specific technical programmes and projects under way in over 60, mostly least developed countries.
UN-HABITAT publishes the flagship report State of the World’s Cities every two years. The first Monday in every October is marked as World Habitat Day. This year, global observance of World Habitat Day will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, to remind the world of the countless homes destroyed by last December’s tsunami.
A new name: the UCLG
United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is a new body launched in Paris only last year by mayors and local authority representatives from around the world. It is expected to work closely with UN-HABITAT to strengthen the role of local authorities at the national and international levels. UN-HABITAT in turn is expected to work through local authorities more and more. Without strong capabilities and financial resources at the local level, it is felt, many of the problems that are assigned highest priority at the national and international levels, will not be solved. Hence the slogan “local action to achieve global goals”.
Mayors from America, Asia, Europe and Africa are represented in the UCLG by their regional associations. Local authorities in Africa elected Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Mayor of the South African capital, Tshwane (Pretoria), president of a new umbrella organisation of local governments in Africa to lead the continent at the UCLG Founding Congress.
Cappadocia: No end of magic
Mostly located in the province of Nevşehir, Cappadocia is a tourist genre in itself. For the initiated, one visit is never enough. Every season has its own speciality. And on the occasion of the International Local Authorities Peace Conference, one more review will not go amiss…
The scenery enthralls; the fairy chimneys cast a spell. The visitor to Cappadocia longs to return. To feel the brown and yellow embrace of dry volcanic valleys. To slip inside the earth and watch golden frescoes appear amid the thick black air of hidden churches. To see how what caverns have caved in, and what new ruins have been uncovered. To explore the sites left unexplored before. To seek out a bargain rug, or replenish the domestic stocks of hand-made earthenware, rag-dolls, lace and onyx ornaments. To breathe the same old hospitality in another new hotel or monastery-turned-guest-house. And to share the delight of the thousands who are still discovering the region for the first time.
Visitors arrive from near and far and for many reasons. They come to paint, to take photographs, to hike, fly in balloons or ride the beautiful horses which gave the region its name. They are eager to see where Star Wars was shot or the Turkish TV soap opera Asmalı Konak was filmed. Few go away without the basic scientific explanation for Cappadocia’s magic: ten million years of geology, as volcanic tuff and rocks scattered by Erciyes, Hasan and Göllüdağ were moulded by wind and water into a stunning and liveable landscape; and ten thousand years of art as human hands carved dwellings and farmed the fertile spaces where civilisations took refuge, and prospered, and developed their religions, arts and crafts.
Chimneys and columns
The region has no clear boundaries. Most of the best-known vistas fall within the province of Nevşehir, but Cappadocia tumbles over into Aksaray to the West and extends wherever the rocks see fit and historical sites turn up. Besides the trade-mark “chimneys” with their protective hats of dark, resistant rock – waiting to topple in the centuries ahead – the region is rich in vertical cones, mushrooms and columns, often in lines or clusters, and tree-like multiple chimneys. Some are as small as a human being; others large enough to hew many chambers from. They are most intensive in the valleys between Ürgüp, Uçhisar and Avanos, between Ürgüp and Şahinefendi, near Çat (Nevşehir) and Selime (Aksaray), and in the Soğanlı valley (Kayseri). Here and there, rows of them march imperceptibly out of the crimped and folded curtains of valley sides.
Layers of harmonious colour line the lava walls of canyons. At Uçhisar and Ortahisar,.giant perforated outcrops form natural castles, a challenge to scale amid the flat-roofed villages. Cave settlements come in many forms, ancient and recent, monastic and secular. The oldest, most astonishing and least well-known stretch deep underground in kilometres of tunnels. Dozens of these underground cities still wait to be explored.
The Göreme Open-Air Museum encompasses the most famous collection of Cappadocia’s 6th to 11th century rock churches. Reputedly there are as many as one for every day in the year but only about 30 are open to the public. Between the sculpted columns, capitals, arches, domes, altars and tombs, detailed though damaged frescos pass on the central and apocryphal narratives of Christianity – and bear witness to the ebb and flow of art and iconaclasm. More, and in some cases larger, rock churches can be found at numerous other sites including Açıksaray, Çavuşin, Pancarlık and the extensive if crumbling Zelve Valley – another museum – where orthodox Christians lived until 1924, and Muslim Turks until 1952.
Surprises are the norm: a Roman remain, a caravanserai, a minaret, a steeple, a dove-cote, a treeful of apricots, a natural cold-store cave-full of cool Mediterranean oranges. Not even the most fanciful and inaccurate maps – and there are many – can fully capture it all. But local folk have long taken the toil out of touring and exploring. Picturesque Ürgüp, at the foot of a winding terrace of cliff-hotels and guest-houses, was perhaps the first settlement to offer bus tickets, taxis, postcards, local currency and bed and breakfast. Pavement cafés and hotels with swimming pools followed quickly – though the local fruit and vegetable market still convenes.
Stretched out along the red clay banks of the Kızılırmak River, Avanos has developed from the home of the pottery trade to the handicrafts and shopping centre of the region. Villages come in assorted styles but are invariably attractive. Nevşehir, the provincial centre, nestles in the shadow of a twelfth-century Seljuk castle. Although it traces its descent over 3,000 years from the Hittites, it took on its present name – meaning New City – and location in the early eighteenth century thanks to the efforts of its most famous son, “Nevşehirli Damat” İbrahim Paşa. The peace-making, modernising and ill-fated prime minister and son-in-law of Sultan Ahmet III restored the castle (unfortunately only temporarily) and left for posterity a külliye of buildings – school, soup-kitchen, library, inn – centring around the so-called Lead Mosque.
As those bewitched by Cappadocia know, there is no close season. The freshness of spring, with its rash of wild flowers, has passed, followed by the camaraderie of the summer holiday season. But the colours – and wines – of the Autumn are with us now, and those photogenic snowscapes lie in wait.
Heritage: Turkey’s World sites
The rocky and historic landscape of Cappadocia was one of the earliest “World Heritage” sites. Today, applications are being considered that will raise the number of Turkey’s sites into double figures.
Heritage and conservation were a minority interest when the World Heritage Convention was first adopted back in 1972. But over the past thirty years United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognition has become a sought-after token of prestige, pride and, indeed, promotion for custodians of a wide range of unique cultural and natural assets. Nine of the World’s 812 recognised World Heritage Sites are in Turkey and another eighteen may soon be under consideration.
The rock sites of Cappadocia, together with the Göreme National Park, were among the first Turkish locations to be included in the list of World Heritage Sites published by UNESCO. Together with the historic areas of Istanbul and the great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği, Sivas, they were registered in 1985.
The Convention had come into force in 1975, and Turkey had signed it in 1983. Signatories commit themselves to taking steps to protecting their own natural and cultural heritage for the sake of all humankind. At the same time they are encouraged to promote sites within their own national territory by nominating them for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Signatories are then expected to manage such sites well and report on their condition. UNESCO provides technical assistance, training and emergency assistance where necessary.
Turkey’s other World heritage sites are the Hittite capital of Hattuşaş (Boğazköy) in Çorum (1986), Mount Nemrut (1987), Xanthos and Letoon, the twin centres of Lycian civilisation near Fethiye (1988), Hierapolis and Pamukkale (1988), Safranbolu (1994) and the archaeological site of Troy (1998). Nemrut and Pamukkale have already featured in DİPLOMAT (December 2004 and June 2005 respectively). Others will be visited in future editions.
Next in line?
For inclusion on the World Heritage List, a site must be of outstanding universal value. In addition, it must fit one or more of a number of other criteria. These range from representing “a masterpiece of human creative genius” or illustrating a significant stage in human history to epitomising major stages of the earth’s history or containing the most important natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity. The decision-making World Heritage Committee, which met most recently in South Africa in July, also takes account of the protection, management, authenticity and integrity of the properties concerned.
The List contains 628 cultural sites, 160 natural sites and 24 which are a mixture of the two. While most of Turkey’s sites are cultural, Cappadocia-Göreme and Pamukkale-Hierapolis fall into the select category of mixed sites. Turkey has registered another 18 sites on its “tentative” list of properties from which it will choose the properties which it wishes to nominate as World Heritage Sites in the years ahead. The sites in question are: the Alahan Monastery in İçel (Mersin); the fortress and dockyards of Alanya; the early Ottoman settlements of Bursa and Cumalıkızık; the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne; Ephesus; Mount Güllük and the Termessos National Park in Antalya; the settlements of Harran and Şanlıurfa; the İshakpaşa Palace at Doğubeyazit; Antalya’s Karain Cave; Kekova; the Seljuk capital of Konya; the “cultural landscape” of Mardin; the Seljuk caravanserais on the route between Denizli and Doğubeyazit; the Church of St. Nicholas at Demre; the Church and Well of St. Paul and the surrounding historic quarters of Tarsus; Trabzon’s Sümela Monastery; the citadel and walls of Diyarbakir, and the tombstones, Urartian and Ottoman citadels of Ahlat, Bitlis.
The world’s longest stamp series
by Kaya DORSAN
Postal authorities put new stamps into circulation either by issuing single stamps or by offering for sale a series consisting of more than one stamp. Series of stamps can be either commemorative – generally made up of 2-4 stamps – or definitive, in which case they most commonly consist of 8-10 stamps. However, the number of stamps in a series can vary considerably. Commemorative series have run to 10-12 stamps in some countries, while definitive series occasionally comprise 20-25 stamps.
Turkey holds the record for the series containing the highest number of stamps. The “Homeland Series” issued by Turkish Postal Administration between the years 1958 and 1960 was made up of two stamps for every province in the country. At that time, Turkey was made up of 67 provinces (There are now 81). Accordingly, the longest stamp series of the world includes a total of 134 stamps.
Each province was represented by two stamps, one with a face value of 5 kuruş and one of 20 kuruş. The stamps displayed characteristic pictures of the relevant provincial centres. The series was a definitive series, and each stamp was printed in Switzerland in one million copies. Since it was not possible to market such a large number of stamps all at once, the series was offered for sale on various dates in seven separate groups.
<metin>In fact, long series consisting of many stamps were not a new development in Turkish postal history. The most typical examples are the issues which appeared out of necessity during the First World War. In 1914, the Ottoman Empire ordered fresh postal stamps from London for use the following year. However, these were not delivered because the United Kingdom and the Ottoman State had entered the War on opposing sides. In response to the pressing need for stamps, various old stamps previously withdrawn from circulation and left to moulder away in the warehouses of the Ottoman Postal Administration were overprinted and offered for sale again. So it was that Turkey’s first long series, consisting of 69 stamps, came into being. This process was repeated in the following years.
DMEDD: Together for many purposes
by Sibel DORSAN
From grim beginnings, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wives’ Association (DMEDD) has grown into a charitable organisation with a wide range of beneficiaries as well as the organiser and focal point of innumerable cultural and social events. Diplomat talked to 2005 Executive Board president Ayşe Arat about DMEDD’s past and present aims and activities.
The meaningless Armenian terror had been going on for years, deeply shaking and upsetting Turkey in general and foreign missions in particular. In the eight years from 1973 and 1981, the number of martyrs had reached twenty. Outrage was spreading throughout society. But dozens of victims and relatives of victims were in need of support, and among Foreign Ministry staff and their families – the immediate targets of the bloodshed – it was a time not for desperation but for solidarity and organisation. It was in this climate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wives’ (or Spouses’) Association came into being.
The spark, recalls 2005 Executive Board president Ayşe Arat, came from Mina Türkmen, the wife of the then foreign minister İlter Türkmen. But what about the finance? “Originally the association had to make do as best it could. Our only revenues were membership fees. We made these go a little further with the help of donations from our missions abroad and the income we earned from our activities. In time, the sensitivity of the Turkish people to the issue engendered a spirit of solidarity, and we started to get more and more donations.”
Health and education
Income from social activities organised in Ankara and at Turkish embassies and consulates abroad enabled DMEDD to expand its budget, and develop into a formal charitable association, performing a wide range of other good works alongside the purpose for which it had been founded. Since 1984, it has been involved in building schools and nurseries and girls’ student hostels, sending educational materials to needy schools, donating needed supplies to hospitals, as far as resources permit, and building libraries. Particular attention has been paid in this context to the Eastern regions of the country.
DMEDD has extended the scope of its scholarships. “We have educated the children of the martyrs from their primary school days right through until they graduate from university,” says Arat, “We have also taken responsibility for the education of those members of the Ministry who have died in untimely circumstances while at their posts, and of the children of other friends who have run into difficulties. In addition, we have been meeting the education expenses of a large number of university students who were victims of the August 17 earthquake in 1999. In special cases, we provide educational support for children of primary and high school age in various regions of Turkey. We are extending grants to approximately 120 children.
Promoting Turkish culture
Another important goal of the association is to acquaint the spouses of all members of foreign missions appointed to Ankara with the city, the country and Turkish culture. To this end, DMEDD’s “academy” branch arranges excursions, conferences and exhibitions. It also offers free Turkish language classes to make life in Turkey easier for the diplomats’ partners. Meanwhile DMEDD’s social committee staged gastronomy dinners, tea parties, bridge tournaments, concerts and dinners, assuring Ankara’s guests that they are not alone, and providing opportunities for them to make Turkish friends and get to know Turkish people better.
For a small organisation, the achievements of DMEDD are considerable. They are the fruits of a great deal of personal sacrifice. But there is always another team ready to take over the baton at the annual general meeting in September, when the nine members of the executive board are elected, together with nine associate members, to keep the association flag flying and organise fresh events. The board members then make their own division of labour together with the associate members, setting up committees for various activities.
“As the new directors and auditors, we took office at a meeting attended by our honorary chairperson Hayrünnisa Gül. I took on the presidency on behalf of the undersecretary,” recalls Arat, who is married to Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ender Arat.
Arat has many thank-yous to say: “I want to thank all the foreign missions which have been generous with their material assistance ever since the early days. This includes those who opened stalls at the Kermes, which is our biggest source of revenue, those who have provided us with rooms or organised meals and bridge tournaments, and those who have made donations. Our greatest wish is that they will continue to lend us their company and participate more and more in our events. In addition, I would like to express my special thanks to the embassies of Italy, China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Switzerland, Greece and France, who have been a great help in organising our activities this year.”
Zerrin Köprülü, Sanem Bosuter, Oya Akıncı, Müjgan Ülker, Şahika Yıldırım, Nihan Öz, Ayşe Öğüt, Elif Türesin, Lale Apakan are currently the full members of the executive board. The associate members are Tülin Umar, Seniye Dönmez, Neşe Yücesoy, Ayşegül Sunay, Şirin Aydan, Mine Tuta, Sevgi Özer, Süren Aytun and Eva Sönmezay.
The full and associate members of the auditing committee are Şermin Darende, Mehtap Özge, Nurgün Erdün, Işık Targay, Suzan Bayar, Nur Zeytinoğlu.
“As the president of the executive board, let me take this opportunity to thank all my self-sacrificing colleagues and everybody else who has made a contribution. May they continue to enjoy every success in the future,” Arat concludes.
One of DMEDD’s favourite projects is the SHÇEK children’s day-nursery in the town of Serdivan, Sakarya. Now about to enter its sixth year of service, the nursery covers a 400 square metre area of a 2,300 square metre plot allocated through the Ministry of Public Works and provided by the local municipality. It was built by Ömer Özer, the head of the owner of AFP Engineering, Trade and Industry Ltd., with contributions from the foreign missions of the Minsitry of Foreign Affairs, foreign embassies in Ankara and a variety of associations in Turkey and abroad. A number of donations were also received from individuals in Turkey.
Designed for the care of a total of 57 children between between the ages of 0 and 6, the facility has been furnished by DMEDD throughout. DMEDD also meets the needs of the nursery for fuel every winter. A list of the names of those who contributed to the project can be found at the entrance to the building. DMEDD officials are photographed here during a visit to the nursery.
Under glass: Neveser Aksoy’s fragile collection
by Sibel DORSAN
Painting under glass is a technique frequently associated with Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire but also practised in many parts of the world. Paris-based Turkish artist Neveser Aksoy is an authority on the subject. She can reel off the history of the form, its social significance and its leading European and Turkish proponents. She has produced works of her own in this genre. And she has a truly international collection to illustrate every point she makes.
Enhanced bright colours, the play of light and a built-in protective coating… These are among the rewards awaiting the artist prepared to persevere with the curious reverse-order technique of painting sous-verre – under glass. Over the centuries, countless professional and folk artists around the world – and not least in Turkey – have found the effort worthwhile. Today, a Turkish artist, Neveser Aksoy, is among the leading collectors who carry the long tradition forward, in a line as unbroken as possible.
Until recently, paintings under glass were commonly found on the walls of Turkey’s coffeehouses, houses, confectioners, butchers and barbershops, and in places of worship such as mosques, mescit, dervish lodges and tombs. These were the works of untrained Ottoman folk painters, inventing or reproducing religious texts or legendary scenes. But in our age of cheap paper and new printing methods, business is not what it was. An ancient art is in crisis.
Origins and masters
The story of glass art parallels the development and spread of its principal material. Following its chance discovery, glass was used by Mediterranean and Mesopotamian civilisations such as Phoenicians, Egyptians and Babylonians in 3500-2500 BC. The date of the first glass painting is unclear, but eastern and Jewish masters are known to have used the technique in pre-Christian times. Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Byzantium became a major centre of both the industry and the art. Many books and articles date the start of the spread of sous-verre painting throughout Europe to the capture of Constantinople by the Turks and the emigration of the Byzantine experts, particularly to Venice.
The art is also practised in Asian countries, the Far East and America. There are 18th and 19th century examples from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Mali, Mexico, Peru and the USA.
One of the oldest extant Turkish works is “Praise for Sultan Mahmut II”, an inscription-painting in the form of a Mevlevi coin, dated 1817. The work is on display at Topkapı Museum, together with sous-verre calligraphies by Mehmet Sadık (1831) and Mehmet Emin (1839), which depict verses from the Koran and are adorned with flower-motif borders. At the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, there is an inscription under glass dated 1834 and created by İbrahim Nuri through the sole use of golden gilding colours. At the Foundations Calligraphy Arts Museum, there is a work dating as far back as 1723 featuring maxims inscribed by Derviş Muhammed on the inner surface of a bottle containing a Koran on a lectern.
Tracing the past
It was in the West that sous-verre art first became a theme for researchers and collectors. As efforts to preserve the fragile paintings intensified, numerous articles and books were published and exhibitions held. In 1979, Aksoy visited an exhibition of sous verre paintings by Udo Dammert at the Goethe Institute in Paris in 1979. The exhibition featured samples of sous verre paintings from many countries, many dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. However, there were no samples of Turkish sous verre. When the time came for Aksoy to select a theme for her Sorbonne master’s thesis, there was a gap waiting to be filled.
Still Paris-based, Aksoy today owns one of the World’s largest collections, comprising more than 270 paintings under glass. It was Aksoy who held the first large exhibition of Turkish paintings under glass – at the Vedat Nedim Tör Museum in Istanbul in 1997, with the support of Yapı Kredi Bank. But her task was not easy at first. In France, Germany, Romania, Poland, Italy and Czechoslovakia, much research had already been done, and there were rich public and private collections. In Istanbul, a few museums owned such works, but they were not exhibited.
Tracing the past
Finding sous–verre masterpieces in antique shops or attics is an unlikely prospect. Even if they do not get broken, works of glass art made by folk artists lacking technical training deteriorate quickly. Only the expert artists leave dates and signatures. Aksoy believes the most interesting works are to be found in private collections. She also points to the existence of works created in foreign countries using the techniques current there, and only later brought to Turkey. As an example, she cites an anonymous sous-verre portrait of Sultan Abdülmecit, believed to date to the second half of the 19th century, which is among the portraits of sultans exhibited at the Pera Museum.
While Aksoy purchased a number of Turkish sous verre works for her studies, she also went on purchasing paintings from other countries from the antique shops and exhibition halls she visited in Paris. There she came across paintings from India, China, Peru, Indonesia, Romania, Poland, Syria, Iran, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Myanmar, Spain, Austria, Japan and Britain. Her collection today includes examples from 26 countries.
“My biggest dream was to hold an exhibition including Turkish sous verre in Paris,” she recalls. During the term of former Culture Minister Fikri Sağlar, it was decided that such an exhibition would be held in 1995 at the Musée de l’Homme. But the minister changed and Aksoy has yet to try again.
Making your own
There are still plenty of artists painting under glass. At the beginning of the 20th century, painters such as Kandinsky, Klee, Franz Marc, G. Mauter and A. Macke of the German expressionist group Blaue Reiter took a great interest in sous-verre. Later, renowned painters such as Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Louis Marcoussis, Laszlo Mokoly-Nagy, Oskar Kokoschka, Joseph Stella and Jackson Pollock all made use of the technique. There are still folk painters practising the art in Peru, Senegal, Mali, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, Tunisia and Syria as well as professional painters in France, America and Belgium.
In Turkey, the folk painter Mehmet Ali Katrancı who lives in Konya, is widely known, even though he does not sign his paintings, and no longer works under glass. A handful of contemporary Turkish artists have used the technique and held exhibitions. Aksoy herself learned the method at the State Fine Arts Academy as long ago as 1974. She also produced works under glass in her student years in Paris.
Painting in reverse
Neveser Aksoy explains the technique of painting under glass and the way it has been applied in Turkey as follows:
“Sous verre painting is a cold painting technique which uses powder paint, water-paint, gouache, oils and in recent times even acrylic paints on the back of the glass. While the final product resembles paintings made on paper or canvas, the method is completely different. With a normal painting, the details, signature and date are the last things to be added; in this technique, the outline of the painting, the final details and the signature appear on the glass first. Since the outline drawn on the glass is seen in reverse, the elements on the left have to be imagined located on the right. This is of particular importance for inscriptions and dates. The final phase is to add the background colours.
Sometimes gilding, a mirror or patterned cloth is used to create a distinct appearance. This is one of the distinguishing features of Turkish sous verre. Apart from its subject matter, the Turkish art has its own styles and techniques. The colours are used superficially, as in miniatures. The background is generally black, white or blue. Inscriptions and inscription-picture compositions usually have decorative borders of flowers, bouquets, wreaths or geometric shapes.
Besides religious themes, paintings sometimes depict the landscape, folk stories and myths. Such paintings were believed to protect the members of the household against the evil eye and various diseases and disasters. A picture of the Şahmeran, a creature half-human half-serpent, thought to provide abundance in the home, is to be found in the trousseau of every young girl, especially in East and Southeast Anatolia.”
Paintings under glass from 28 countries on four continents will be on display in Istanbul between October 21 and December 31. The exhibition will include 160 items from the private collection of Neveser Aksoy, in addition to a special collection belonging to the museum’s founders Suna and İnan Kıraç and valuable samples from various other collections.
The exhibition is to be staged at the Pera Museum in Tepebaşı. The museum occupies the former Bristol Hotel building, which was constructed in 1893 in a then-fashionable district of the city. The hotel was restored and converted into a museum by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation. It opened its doors to visitors and art-enthusiasts in June 2005.
The Pera Museum also houses permanent collections of portraits from the Ottoman Empire, Kütahya tiles and ceramics and Anatolian weights and measures.
Rule of Law
Acquiring Turkish real estate
by Murat Demir & İbrahim Yüce
The legal situation surrounding the acquisition of real estate by foreigners has been discussed intensively in recent months. From a historical perspective, the Ottoman Empire did not permit foreign legal persons to acquire land. However, this right was accorded to foreign real persons (individuals) under the Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Foreigners of June 16, 1868. During the Republican period, under the Treaty of Lausanne, the rights of foreigners to obtain property in the country were limited to some extent through the introduction of the principle of “reciprocity by agreement”, to replace the existing system based on citizenship. Moreover, just seven months after the Treaty, with the adoption of the Village Law, the Republic further prohibited foreigners from purchasing land in villages. Additional limitations were introduced through Law No. 1062 on the Adoption of Equivalent Counter-Measures against Citizens in Turkey of States which Sequester the Property of our Citizens within their Borders (1927), the Land Registry Law No. 2644 (1937) and Law No. 2565 on Military Forbidden Areas and Security Zones (1981).
The bans and limitations imposed on the acquisition of land by foreigners undoubtedly stemmed from the need to protect the national unity and integrity of the newly-established state, and particularly from concerns about the possible dangers of opening up to foreign elements regions where state control was not as effective as desired. General legal theory too recognises that the acquisition of real estate in one country by a legal person from another country may contravene the principle of the political unity of the country concerned, causing political disputes. Accordingly, with a few exceptions, the theory does not even enjoin the principle of reciprocity.
Today, all legal systems have espoused as a general principle the view that foreigners should be allowed to enjoy classic rights and freedoms in the same way as citizens. Nevertheless, it is not regarded as undemocratic for some restrictions to be imposed, for the sake of the various interests of the public, on citizens’ use of the rights in question. In the same way, restrictions may be imposed on the use of these rights by foreigners. Indeed, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights openly accords this option to states with foreigners living within their borders. And in practice, states make great use of the scope which the Declaration offers them to impose such restrictions.
Rights and restrictions
The Turkish Constitution grants human rights and liberties to foreigners as well as citizens. At the same time, Article 16 lays down that “Basic rights and freedoms may be restricted for foreigners by law in accordance with international law. The process of restriction-by-law envisaged in Article 16 of the Constitution has been put into effect in a general context through the Land Registry Law and Village Law:
–Article 87 of the Village Law No. 442 has contained the provision that “Real and legal persons who are not of the nationality of the Republic of Turkey are forbidden to purchase land and real estate in villages.”
–Article 35 of the Land Registry Law No. 2644 has stated that foreign real persons may acquire real estate in Turkey, provided that they do not infringe the restrictions set out by law, in accordance with the principle of reciprocity. However, it makes no reference to the acquisition of real estate in Turkey by foreign legal persons.
–Article 36 of the same law has stated that “The possession by foreign real persons of separate farms not linked to a village or of more than 30 hectares of land outside village borders is subject to the permission of the government…” (An exception is made to this last rule in the case of one form of inheritance).
Under a law of July 3, 2003 (Law No. 4916), Article 35 of the Land Registry Law was amended and Article 87 of the Village Law was repealed.
The amended version of Article 35 of the Land Registry Law accepts that real persons of foreign nationality and commercial companies that are legal persons established in foreign countries may acquire real estate within the borders of the Republic of Turkey, provided that they do not infringe the restrictions set out by law, in accordance with the principle of reciprocity. It takes the principle of reciprocity to mean that the rights which the foreign state accords in the acquisition of real estate to its own citizens or to commercial companies that are legal persons established in foreign countries are also accorded to citizens or commercial companies of the Republic of Turkey. In addition to the general limitation expressed in paragraph 1 of Article 35, the provision limiting the area of the real estate that may be acquired was included as paragraph 3 of Article 35, again making the acquisition of more than 30 hectares subject to the permission of the Council of Ministers, but with a partial exception for inheritance.
In short, it was thus made possible – subject to the principle of reciprocity and to certain legal limitations – for commercial companies that are legal persons established in foreign countries to acquire land in Turkey in the same way as persons of foreign nationality, and for both real and legal persons to acquire land in villages.
Constitutional Court ruling
This amended version of Article 35 of the Land Registry Law was revoked by the Constitutional Court on March 14, 2005 (Decision no. E:2003/70,K:2005/14). On the grounds that it was not in the public interest for the revocation to create a legal vacuum, the Court decided that its decision should come into effect three months after its publication in the Official Gazette. The decision was published in the Official Gazette No. 25797 of April 26, 2005.
By July 25, 2005, the date on which the three-month period determined by the Constitutional Court expired, the Legislature had passed no new law concerning the issue. As a result, a legal vacuum has come into being. There is no legal obstacle to prevent the acquisition of real estate within the boundaries of the Republic of Turkey by foreign real persons or by foreign commercial companies that are legal persons. However, in practice, registration procedures are not actually being carried out at the present time on the grounds that the legal vacuum has not been filled.
Wilhelma Park: Stuttgart’s front garden
by Recep Peker Tanıtkan
Botanical and zoological gardens have a no less distinguished tradition in Europe’s major cities than national museums and opera houses. One of the greatest – and nearest examples – is the famous Wilhelma Park in Stuttgart, capital of the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Whether your interest is in plants, animals or history, the Park has plenty to offer. A visit could constitute the highlight of a family get-away this Autumn.
Polar bears and penguins at home in their icy waters; tropical birds flapping from tree to tree. All the world’s fauna – more than 1,000 species – on show in their natural habitats. The chamois pick out paths through craggy heights; the flamingos dance by the shore of a shallow lake. A vast park neatly divided into continents.
Stuttgart’s Wilhelma Park is the leading zoological garden in Germany and one of the most important on the zoo-loving continent of Europe. It features exemplary enclosures such as the modern ape house and bear compound, a walk-through aviary and a “hands-on” farm. In the famous coral aquarium, the lively colours of the sea creatures never cease to amaze.
The equally famous crocodile hall is still to come, though children may find the pick of the world’s monkeys more to their liking. The Park also contains the World’s first zoology museum. Here, many fossils are exhibited in addition to many species which still survive throughout the world. Needless to say, there are restaurants, cafes and social facilities to meet visitors’ every need.
The plant world
And yet this site is not, principally, a zoo. It started life as the private palace park and garden of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg. In 1837, the garden was enlarged through a project made by architecture Karl Ludwing, and turned into a botanic park. Its major attractions continue to include its famous orchid collection, its giant magnolias and its historic greenhouses with their 150 year-old camellias – not to mention the brilliant flower-beds and the hundreds of trees spread liberally about the grounds.
The monkeys, birds, reptiles and amphibians of the Amazon region inhabit an indoor forest of palms, mahogany, bromelias, mangroves and bananas. The Koi carp inhabit a pond decorated with some of the World’s largest water lilies, allegedly capable of supporting weights of up to 70 kilos. Inside the adjacent “Moorish Villa”, different sections are dedicated to ferns and tropical edible plants as well as to exotic birds and nocturnal animals.
Test of time
Besides the camellias and the Moorish Villa, the Spanish roses and orange trees of the original garden are indicative of a mid-nineteenth century penchant for Spain. The seeds of the zoo were sown in 1846, when Crown Prince Karl ordered veterinarian Olga Nikolajewna to build a shelter for animals in the park. Soon animals were arriving from every corner of the world.
As of 1853, Wilhelma became the first botanic and zoological garden in the world. Among the many guests entertained here were Napoleon III of France and Tsar Alexander of Russia. Further additions were made in 1918 and 1919. In 1944, allied bombing caused immense damage to the World’s largest and richest botanical and zoological centre. But the Park was restored between 1949 and 1961, and had largely taken on its current appearance by 1970.
Over two million people visit the Wilhelma Park every year. Nevertheless, it is far from Stuttgart’s sole attraction. Besides the gardens, the city offers boat trips on the nearby Neckar and top-flight exhibitions, musical performances and sports events. Just as the Park has collected specimens from all around the World, so the city has amassed a highly eclectic collection of castles, palaces, museums, civic and commercial buildings and houses in almost every style of architecture imaginable: classical, baroque, rococo, art-deco, new realist, international style, postmodern….
The hub of the German motor industry is an easy flight away from Turkey. October 22 is Stuttgart Culture Night, while the Jewish Culture Weeks and Stuttgart Christmas Market begin on November 7 and November 24 respectively. For those so inclined, the 160th Beer Festival is due to take place between September 24 and October 9.
Katre: Creative with soap
by Sibel DORSAN
The striking Katre range of natural soaps and cosmetics is produced by an Istanbul company run by equally extraordinary women. Not content with raising the health and happiness of their customers, they set aside a part of their revenues for development projects and the preservation of the environment.
Orange, bergamot, mint, lavender, laurel, daisy, cinnamon, clove, vanilla, lily, jasmine, rose…
That amber one looks like sugar candy, those pink ones like rose-scented lokum. The others would resemble fruit jellies, but that each piece is larger and come contain eye-beads. A dizzying assortment of colours and smells. These are the soaps of Katre, hand-made by natural methods.
Some fifteen types of natural volatile oil are used in the production of the soaps. Olive oil or glycerine and massage fibre are essential ingredients. The soaps are made entirely by hand, and each piece is unique. There is endless opportunity for each member of the five-member team to display her creativity.
Every year, new products are added to the sweet-smelling range, including massage oils, hair creams, bath salts, skin salts and cologne. Beautifully gift-wrapped and modestly priced, their neatness and elegance never fails to catch the eye. Abroad they are marketed under various trade marks: so far, they have reached the United States, Canada, China and Georgia.
“The production of these soaps began with a little bit of coincidence and a little bit of curiosity,” says Leyla Derya Çelikel, who founded the company in 1998. A biologist and environmental scientist, Dr Çelikel first got serious about soap while wandering through a US bookstore. Purchasing every book she could find on the topic, she returned to Istanbul and started to experiment.
A long-standing observer of the negotiations of the UN agreements in the protection of the environment, Çelikel has participated in many conferences and made many presentations on the topic. After working at the TEMA Foundation, set up to combat soil erosion in Turkey, she took her first steps in business – and found herself in the USA….
Çelikel’s partner, Zeynep Davaz, is educated in history, economy and Chinese. She has worked voluntarily for search and rescue operations for many years. She arrived at Katre via the United Nations, the Swiss Red Cross, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Project.
The partners have not lost the spirit of the environment and civil society. A part of their revenues goes to the Yeşil Adımlar Çevre Eğitim Derneği (Green Steps Environmental Training Association) founded by Çelikel. And this year, Katre has been training women in Mardin to produce soaps as part of a project carried out by the Kadın Emeğini Değerlendirme Vakfı (Foundation for the Valutation of Women’s Labour), which aims at local development and creating new business opportunities for the women.
“Our principle is to implement environment-friendly methods during the production process and to support projects which aim at spreading environmental consciousness by donating one part of our revenues to them,” declare the Katre partners The products which they have been producing for the past seven years reflect all of their pleasures, interests, desires and enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, as Hippocrates, the ancient father of medicine, said some 2,400 years ago, the way to be healthy and happy is to take an aromatherapy bath and massage every day.