Project Description

14. Sayı

High Life


14. Sayı


Aralık 2005

As 2005 draws towards a close, we have tried to make the content of the year’s final edition of DIPLOMAT as rich and varied as possible. Whether we have succeeded is for you to decide.

In our December interview, we talked to Ambassador Rezaqul Haider of Bangladesh. Just a few months into his stay in Ankara, he is determined to enhance the friendly relations between his country and Turkey, particularly in the economic field. Ambassador Haider also refers to the role which his country plays in international politics and the contribution which it is making to peace operations. He personally played an important role in East Timor, and we believe the interview will make interesting reading.

Our ‘Current Opinion’ column this month is contributed by Dr. Demir Fitrat Onger, a Frenchman of Turkish origin and the founder of the Anatolian Cultural Centre in Paris, which is striving hard to introduce the culture of Turkey to French public opinion. Cardiologist Onger is no stranger to politics, and frequently takes an active role in political activities in France, especially when it comes to European Union affairs.

China is the destination for our travel pages. It is a country that cannot easily be discussed in a few pages. In the belief that a picture paints a thousand words, we have given pride of place to photographs.

Turning to the arts,, we feature one of the greatest painters Turkey has produced: Nuri İyem, who passed away earlier this year. By introducing our readers to İyem, we also commemorate his life and work.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is known for the backing which it gives to activities in many different fields, in addition to managing the country’s foreign policy. The most recent example of this is the “Style and Status” exhibition currently under way in Washington. The exhibition focuses on Ottoman garments and textiles products. The consultancy support Sent by the Ministry lies at the root of its success. Impressions and images from the exhibition are to be found within these pages.

On a seasonal note,, we have also turned our attention to the numerous contrasting ski centres which dot the map of Turkey. The resulting article may give you some ideas of how to spend the coming holidays.

See you in 2006…

Kaya Dorsan
Publisher and editor-in-chief

Current opinion

The French on Turkey: More heat than light 

by Dr. Demir F. ONGER

On October 3, 2005, after long discussions, and humming and hawing from certain countries, the opening of the negotiations aimed at Turkey’s accession to the European Union took place. This put into effect the decision of the European Council of 17 December 2004.

Today, Turkey wishes for nothing more than for the process to follow the normal course of European Union accession negotiations.

What Turks find offensive is, however, not the threat of eventually being refused membership after such great efforts, but the feeling of unfairness and bias against Turkey produced by some current debates in Europe and France.

Turkey’s EU process

A wholly new era has begun in Turkey. The process will no doubt be long and difficult, with thirty-six chapters of negotiations, involving, not only the Commission and the Presidency, but twenty-five, then twenty-seven, and perhaps even twenty-eight member states.

Turkey knows quite well the technical and economic challenges that she will have to overcome. An informal screening process for meeting the Acquis Communautaire requirements (the common rights and obligations binding EU countries) has been under way since 2000 in eight sub-committees created by the “Turkey–European Union” Association Council, which have presented a realistic assessment of the reforms which Turkey still needs to undertake if she wishes to conform to the Acquis. The “National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis”, first drawn up in 2001, then revised in 2003, covers 523 pages. With regard to the Copenhagen economic criteria, Turkey is already pursuing a rigorous programme of economic stabilization.

French constitution

By contrast, it is amazing to realise that discussions on the mere principle of Turkey’s membership, particularly in France, are far from over. This is in spite of the clear decision of the European Council, and in spite of the fact that France has just revised its constitution to include a clause requiring that any future Accession Treaty for Turkey be submitted to a referendum in France.

The text of the clause is carefully written in such a way that other current candidates are spared, even those whose candidature was approved by the European Council after that of Turkey. The French now know that they will be required to vote on Turkey when the country completes its accession negotiations.

Burden or boon?

Despite all this, there are certain politicians in France who chose to include Turkey in their campaigning before the referendum on the European Constitution, even though the only connection between this constitution and Turkey’s accession is that both issues have a bearing on the European Union!

One could almost believe that the only live issue for debate on the European Union in France is the old argument concerning Turkey, although Turkey is not yet even a member of the Union. Turkey is responsible neither for the economic and social woes which are attributed, often wrongly, to the European Union, nor for the benefits which people have a way of overlooking. Indeed, if Turkey can be said to have any influence on the economic situation of France, it is a positive one, as Turkey has a deficit of almost 2,000 million Euros in its trade with France. That represents, to give a random example by way of comparison, four to five times the total budget of a regional council of a département like the Vendée.

Insulting tone

Some commentators have quite rightly pointed out how insulting this debate about Turkey’s membership is to the Turks. Some of the terms used about Turkey have tried the patience even of the most tolerant of Turkish citizens. One French MEP talks of “sending Ankara packing” in one of the big national papers, with no-one asking him to temper his language.

Turks are used to prejudice, but they are still dismayed by such popularist methods, and their adoption by people who should be the elite of this friendly country. It is a serious error, an exploitation of fear of “the other”, and ever-increasing numbers of politicians from the mainstream parties are falling into it. “The other” is – inexplicably – today personified by Turks, although neither the number of Turks in France, nor their historical and cultural differences with French people, would seem to justify such enmity.

Unrecognised potential

Turkey has an economic potential which is only recently being recognised: it is one of the twenty leading world economies, its annual growth rate reached 9.9% in 2004, it has a trade volume of 150,000 million Euros, it is the sixth largest client, and the seventh largest supplier of the EU. Sustained growth in Turkey is to the benefit of both sides. With a young population, keen both to produce and to consume, a market which is still open to practically all categories of consumer goods, and a long tradition of free enterprise, Turkey offers great opportunities for investment.

It is possible for all this potential to be channelled in the right direction. This is particularly so if investors, both Turks and foreigners, are able to predict a clear future for Turkey at the heart of the European Union. In any case, by the time Turkey reaches the end of its accession process, it will have achieved an economic level which will make it one of the locomotives of the European economy. According to recent estimates of the OECD, Turkey will have risen to half the per capita income of the Europe of Fifteen. It will have put in place reforms to the agricultural sector, social issues, the environment, and all the other areas covered by the Acquis which are necessary for Turkey to be compatible with the European Union. The country will also have introduced thorough democratic reforms, and will have reinforced its role as a stabilizing factor in the region.

Business thinking

French businesses, which are among the most important foreign investors in Turkey, are already aware of the potential. Economic and commercial relations between France and Turkey are continuing to grow as never before. In 2004 the total trade volume between the two countries broke a new record for the second year in a row, rising to more than 7,200 million Euros. The car industry makes up some 30% of this trade, with both exports and imports. The number of French companies investing in Turkey rose from fifteen in 1985 to two hundred and twenty-seven in 2002.

Here are some additional facts and figures: In global terms, Turkey is the sixth largest producer of cement, the second largest producer of plate glass, the sixth largest exporter of clothing. In Europe, Turkey is the biggest producer of chemical fertilizer, the seventh largest producer of iron and steel, the biggest manufacturer of televisions (with nearly 20 million produced in 2004), the sixth largest producer of refrigerators, and the seventh largest manufacturer in the car industry.

According to the statistics of the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) there are around thirty million subscribers to mobile telephones (September 2003), and more than nine million users of the internet. There are thirty television channels broadcasting nationally, and 260 on the local level.

Political gains

The political advantages of Turkey joining the Union should be clear to everyone, especially to the French public. Turkey is a strong country which is influential in its region. It could contribute greatly to an independent Europe, which would then be capable of being a force for peace in the world of tomorrow. Turkey has a powerful and modern army, and it has experience in all the areas which border upon Europe. These are areas which are certainly troubled, but dealing with them is an indispensable part of the foreign policies of the member states of the EU, including France. Turkey within the Union will be able to play a very important part in assuring security and stability along the edges of the continent.

Finally, the point should be made that, if the intention is truly to debate the accession of Turkey, certainly one of the key questions regarding the future of the European Union, it would be more logical to focus on this debate at the time when the question really arises – in other words, towards the end of the process of the accession negotiations. If we choose to argue about it now, we argue without being in possession of all the facts, as none of us knows what the world, the European Union, and Turkey will be like in ten years time. There is every reason to believe that we live at a period in history characterised by rapid change in global forces.


Ambassador Rezaqul Haider:  Mediating for commerce 

by Bernard KENNEDY

The borderline between the diplomatic and the military is increasingly blurred these days, with politicians often more willing to use force than commanders, and many major armies engaged primarily in peace-keeping and reconstruction activities. The career of Bangladesh’s new ambassador to Ankara, Major-General Rezaqul Haider, spans both sides of the frontier. Ambassador Haider first demonstrated his diplomatic skills as the UN’s chief military liaison officer during the East Timor crisis in 1999-2000. He now shares the enthusiasm of his Embassy colleagues for building up ties between Bangladesh and Turkey at every level from football to investment.

Q  You have been in Ankara for about two months now. What are your first impressions?

A  Well, I have seen the change of the seasons. We don’t have snowfall in Bangladesh. But what has impressed me most has been the hospitality of the Turkish citizens and their extreme cordiality towards Bangladesh and Bangladeshi citizens. I’m very impressed and humbled by this wonderful attitude. Turkish citizens in general are extremely cordial to Bangladeshi nationals. I have had the same feedback from our students in Istanbul. They tell me of instances when some of the shopkeepers did not want to take the money when they heard that they were from Bangladesh.

The same attitude was displayed in the quick audiences which I obtained with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül – both within one month of my arrival. I think this is a sign of the amount of respect and honour they give to Bangladesh. All this is very encouraging. In return, I may say that as a sign of respect to the home country, we did not leave the ambassadorial post vacant for long: I arrived two days after my predecessor left!

Q  To what do you attribute these friendly relations?

A  The relationship between Turkey and Bangladesh does not start in 1971 when Bangladesh achieved independence. It really dates back to the 1920s. In the past the sub-continent was one. After the First World War when the great leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk started his war of independence, the people of Bengal were very spontaneous in giving all sorts of support. To the extent that there is evidence that the womenfolk donated their own bangles and gold ornaments, and the funds were used for the establishment of a bank, the construction of the parliament building and the purchase of armaments and ammunitions to help the war of liberation. As you know our national poet, Nazrul Islam, was the first foreigner to write an epic poem about Mustafa Kemal.

In addition, when we were part of Pakistan, cooperation was very good. We were both members of the RCD, or Regional Cooperation for Development, together with Iran, and now as co-members of the Islamic community we have a rich, good, traditional relationship with Turkey.

Q  Could you just sum up the history of formal diplomatic relations?

A  Since our independence, cooperation with Turkey has been going on very smoothly. Turkey in fact recognised Bangladesh in 1974 just before the commencement of the Islamic Conference in Lahore – and in fact, Turkey only recognised Bangladesh once Pakistan recognised Bangladesh.  The Turkish Embassy at Dhaka was set up in November 1976 and the Bangladesh Embassy at Ankara in January 1977. Our shaheed leader President Ziaur Rahman was himself a champion of freedom, so when he became the president he initiated the move to develop a friendly relationship with Turkey. President Ziaur Rahman was a member of the Al-Quds committee. That was the start. The president came down here on an official visit in October 1978. Various other important visits have followed.

The Turkish government has honoured our late President Ziaur Rahman by naming a very important road after him in Ankara, beside the presidential palace. In a spirit of reciprocity, Bangladesh has also named very important roads after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, not only in Dhaka but also in Chittagong, our port city.

Q  What are the main goals of your Embassy at the moment?

A  We maintain cordial and brotherly relationship with other Muslim embassies which have embassies in Ankara, but we do not overlook our relationship with other important major world powers with embassies here. Aside from this, we are mainly concerned with the development of trade and commerce between Turkey and Bangladesh.

Here at the Embassy, we are very liberal in providing visas to Turkish nationals and entrepreneurs who intend to visit Bangladesh. In fact, the number of visas which we have issued has doubled in the past one year. Most of the visitors come from business groups with operations in textiles, textile machinery and chemicals, ready-made garments and knitwear, jute and jute products, especially carpets, and leather products.

What we would really like to see is more investment from Turkish business people in Bangladesh. Turkish industrialists have a high level of technical know-how and their products are of world standards, so we believe Bangladesh will benefit very much if Turkish investors show more eagerness to invest. We have a very attractive business environment among the countries of our region. We have excellent human resources, and we are very cost-effective. We would like to see investment in all manufacturing sectors, education and health, transport, telecommunications, road and highway development and so on.

Q  How is the trade relationship going?

A  The statistics show that the commerce between the two countries is improving every year. Our exports to Turkey have doubled in the past year and we have a surplus in our trade balance. In 2004, our exports to Turkey were USD84m and Turkish exports were USD40m. There is no doubt that this trade relationship can be increased. The chairman of the Turkey-Bangladesh Parliamentary Friendship Committee Zülfü Demirbağ agrees with me on this. He is hopeful that the volume of trade between Turkey and Bangladesh can exceed even the volume of Turkey’s trade with China.

There is certainly scope for Turkey to export more to Bangladesh. We have a very open market, with 150 million mouths to feed, and you can export and import whatever you like. There is a big demand for textiles machinery and chemicals and agricultural machinery, fore example. On our side, in addition to garments and leather and leather goods, our ceramics manufacturers have full order books. And we have also achieved world standards in pharmaceuticals. Most of the Arab states are now importing pharmaceutical products from Bangladesh, and the WHO will be buying essential drugs from us up to 2009. For example, we supplied about five tons of antibiotics to Pakistan at the request of the Pakistani government after the earthquake.

Q  Yes, Bangladesh’s assistance to other countries has been in the news…

A  Unfortunately, when people think of Bangladesh they think of floods. But just tell me one part of the world which does not suffer from natural calamities. The scenes after Hurricane Katrina were almost similar to the scenes which we have in Bangladesh. We contributed to the relief effort. You don’t often have the chance to donate to a superpower. It was a token of friendship. But the press was rather negative about Bangladesh in their reporting of the matter. Actually, we also sent 60,000 tents and 100,000 blankets to Pakistan after the earthquake, in addition to our financial support.

Q  In what areas are Bangladesh and Turkey cooperating apart from trade and investment?

A  There are a handful of Bangladeshi students who have got Turkish scholarships studying in Istanbul and Ankara. We would definitely like to see more Bangladeshis studying here and that will only be possible if the Ministry of Education provides more scholarships to Bangladeshi students. My discussions with officials suggest that there is a tremendous scope for improving relations in education. I can assure you that the standard of Bangladeshi education is very good. Our English language education can be of great help to Turkish individuals who would like to go study English in Bangladesh.

In local public administrations we are also very good. And you will be aware of our Grameen Bank micro-credit institution, founded by Nobel prize candidate Dr Muhammad Yunus, which has been acclaimed all over the world. They have been training up people in Diyarbakir and the region.

We have had a series of military cooperation agreements. Currently we have a regular exchange of military students training in Bangladesh and military officers doing training in Turkey. There are five officers undergoing training in Turkey at the moment: three in the staff college at Istanbul, one doctor at Ankara and one sailor at Izmir.

 What about sport because I know it’s a personal interest?

A  Yes, I was president of the Bangladesh Kabbadi Federation, which is our national game, between 2000 and 2004, and also vice-president of the Asian Kabbadi Federation. Football and cricket are two very popular sports in Bangladesh. Turkey has got a very good standard of football so as ambassador I would be very happy to see the top teams of the Turkish league visiting Dhaka to play exhibition matches with a Bangladesh team. Similarly, reciprocal visits can be organised by cultural troupes from Bangladesh and Turkey. This would also help to increase the relationship between the public of the two countries.

We need more visits. I impressed this on the foreign minister also. Visits are very important, at the state level, at the business level and at the cultural level.

Q  How is Bangladesh positioning itself in its region and in the World?

A  Bangladesh plays a very important stabilisation role in South Asia and Southeast Asia. It’s almost a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. We have excellent relations with China and very cordial relations with Pakistan and India. Friendship to all is the main theme of our foreign policy. The last summit of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) was held in Dhaka in mid-November. The SAARC was in fact the late President Ziaur Rahman’s brainchild in 1985. Bangladesh is trying to make it an economic block like the European Union or ASEAN, to benefit from our population of around two billion. We have China and Japan as dialogue partners and Afghanistan is now a new member. Our goal is to trade without any barrier.

At the same time, Bangladesh is the largest contributor of troops to UN peace-keeping operations. The force commander in Sudan at the moment is a Bangladeshi. Earlier we had force commanders in Georgia and Somalia.

 This brings us to your own experience in East Timor…

A  I stayed a complete year in East Timor, starting with the registration of the voters, the voting itself, the consultation, the announcement of the results, when 76.8% of the people opted to be independent, and then the debacle and then the crisis which followed, when almost 250,000 internally displaced persons were moved out.

It was a time of great crisis when the UN was virtually forced to abandon its position and evacuate all staff. Only five military observers stayed back to oversee the situation at the time in Dili, and I was leading that group of five. Our presence in East Timor ensured that the UN flag was not taken down. It flew on until ultimately the multinational force and the international peace-keeping force came in to restore the situation.


Q  It must have seemed an impossible task…

A  In fact, my main job was to arbitrate between the three forces: Australia, the host country Indonesia and the Falintils or freedom fighters of East Timor. These were the three main forces – or the stakeholders – in East Timor. The UN office and I – being the chief military liaison officer before the peace keeping force came – had the important role of seeing that all three were satisfied, including the commander of the Falintils, Taur Matan Ruak, popular know as TMR. So I had to deal with all these individuals to see through this smooth transition to independence. I would say that displaying ethics in such situations is very, very important. And for the role we played at the time the five us were given the Eli Wiesel Ethics Award.


It was when I was working with the UN in East Timor that I got a feel for diplomatic norms and procedures. I remember the UN Secretary General Mr Kofi Annan and his personal representative Jamsheed Marker of Pakistan – they kept in very close touch with me to ensure that things went according to schedule.

Q  Have you kept in touch with East Timor since you left?

A  Yes, the president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, is a very close friend of mine, as well as the foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta. I am well acquainted with Bishop Carlos Belo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 jointly with Jose Ramos Horta. And the current prime minister Mari Alkatiri, who is a Muslim, is also very familiar to me.

Q  Do you feel that your efforts have borne fruit?

A  The country went through a struggle. The country was devastated. There was no infrastructure left except for roads. It is now the latest LDC [Least Developed Country]. It will take time for it to recover, even though the UN was very generous in the first two years in its assistance for the restructuring of the East Timor economy and in helping to build up the public administration. The UN has really done a lot to establish a new state. It was a very commendable operation. It is one of the important success stories of the United Nations.

Q  Somehow it managed to avoid becoming a Christian-Muslim conflict…

A  I think a lot of credit should be given – which people are not giving – to the Indonesian government. It could have taken a very serious turn as you suggest, but I would say that the pragmatic views of the Indonesian leadership at that time including the armed forces largely contributed to the peaceful transition. They happened to realise quite early that there were no battles required but that friendship was in order – that the future should be more important than the present. East Timor has become a neighbouring country of Indonesia now, and I think I would give full credit to the Indonesian armed forces and the Indonesian government for playing a very cooperative role with the United Nations and Australia.

In addition, the Australians definitely were the major stake-holder in East Timor. They were the largest contributor to the peace-keeping force. Their interest was much greater than that of any other country, to see the existence of a peaceful neighbour.

Human angle

“Freedom of dress” – or an affront to science?

by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA

The “turban” question has been presented as an issue of freedom of dress at Turkish universities and in public places in Turkey, and also at educational institutions in Western European societies. In this context, it has been put before the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR). But the decision of the EHCR has not satisfied the expectations of the protagonists, and the matter remains on the agenda.

I will take up the issue mainly from the standpoint of the Turkish society. I am of the opinion that the core of the issue is not a “will for freedom”. On the contrary, I believe this is a guise used by various trends and movements which are in fact the enemies of thought, research and questioning, of science and freedom, and of democracy – especially the human rights of women.

The issue has not been sufficiently discussed from the standpoint of the attributes which ought to characterise the educational and scientific institutions and public areas of a democratic order. All anti-democratic movements declare that there is only one truth, and that the truth is whatever they say themselves. In the case of the so-called turban, they view women as incomplete beings. Yet these attitudes are ignored by public opinion, and they are able to present captivity as freedom, darkness as clarity and obscurantism as knowledge.

Legitimising inequality

If a single foreign word is capable of creating so much noise in our society and at the higher educational institutions, the main reason is that the majority of the political parties and organs of mass communications have failed to explain to society the decisions of the Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights approving the prohibition of this form and dress. Instead, they openly or implicitly support a manner of dress which is symbolic of a repressive and dark world view. This in itself should gives us all food for thought.

There is a view that women are not equal citizens and human beings, but sexual objects, unequal with men, incapable of protecting their own honour or selecting their own husband, unfit to carry out certain professions or to take part in sports. This is the message carried by a form of covering the head. And what is being demanded is the “freedom” to display this in higher education institutions and public areas.

This is not a question of freedom of dress, but it part of an anti-democratic trend which seeks to destroy the environment of free education and training in scientific and educational institutions, and to legalise inequality of men and women – a trend which is happy to take advantage of democracy only to destroy it.

Democratic education

Educational institutions should be established and function on the basis of scientific criteria. Within this spirit, it is out of the question for instructors or students to think and act out of a concept of “unchangeable truth” or “prohibited questions”. In science, there is no knowledge that has reached its final point. Accordingly, no one has the right to tell the educational institutions: “I already have the full and unchangeable knowledge of the truth. There is no other truth”. On the contrary, every instructor and student should always remember:

  1. a)to act objectively – in other words, even though findings may not be in line with their beliefs or views, they should recognize and abide by them completely and promptly.
  2. b)to remember that the truth never repeats itself exactly – in other words, life does not follow beliefs and views, but beliefs and views should follow life.
  3. c)To be open-minded and be of a spiritual disposition which is ready to learn the justifications of those who have different thoughts and beliefs.

No place in which these criteria, which constitute the basics of science, are not respected, can be qualified as a scientific or educational institution. Rather, such a place can only be described as a repressive institution based on unilateral conditioning. History shows that repressive organisations based on silencing the free mind, so indispensable for the independent existence and prosperity of the society, have frequently caused divisions and conflicts in the lives of nations.

Learning or prejudice?

While instructors and students of educational and scientific institutions are required to have open minds, the “turban” campaign seeks to introduce prejudice to the universities – prejudice against the equality of men and women, and prejudice against scientific thought. The campaign seeks to do this quite blatantly. Democracy necessitates not that efforts to destroy the atmosphere of scientific research and discussion atmosphere should be presented as a requirement for democracy, but that those hostels, cells or camps where these prejudices are injected into young people should be done away with!

In an atmosphere where symbols are used to thrust prejudices into the eyes of young people, students and instructors who hold differing views are deprived of the opportunity to communicate peacefully, and come under pressure to divide into camps. Those who make clear their beliefs and ideologies are effectively saying, “I came here not to learn something from other people, but to declare and spread the unchangeable truth that I know.”

If the obsession with covering heads is tolerated and rewarded, then every kind of obsession may start to appear at our educational and scientific institutions in the form of clothing, colours, emblems and badges denoting different faiths, sects or orders. Equally, if, during their school years, children and young people are not trained as members of the same nation, but continuously display their differences and fail to communicate, they will be unable to achieve social co-operation and solidarity as adults, and will not contribute to national peace, freedom, independence or international peace.

Public places

“When I enter the laboratory, I leave not only my outer wear but also my beliefs outside the door,” said French scholar Claude Bernard. This is the attitude which has enabled humanity to open the doors of scientific method. As for those who declare views and thoughts contrary to their own beliefs to be blasphemous (or hostile to labour, or to the nation) – and who make their stance apparent through their head coverings and clothing – they approach educational and scientific institutions with all the aggression of those who wish to say the last word first, and all the indolence of mind of those who have no curiosity for research. Faced with such students, how can instructors explain their own research observations and critical proposals freely? 

The same drawbacks are valid for other public areas. It is evident that a citizen who do not share the same belief or ideology with a security official, a judge, a public prosecutor or lawyer, a health official or a lecturer – and who announces his or her belief or ideology through clothing or other symbols – will not have confidence in them, and the field of public service will be a place of disagreement rather than solidarity. Symbols opposed to the secular state order and women’s rights should also be excluded from the public appearances and politicians of politicians, who represent the nation, and whose behaviour, moreover, sends messages to their own communities and others, at home and abroad. After all, the Republic gave Turkish women equal status as citizens before a number of European countries.

The most efficient way to divide young people into camps or shut them up in ghettos is to destroy their opportunities to talk and communicate. Those who qualify people who do not think and act exactly like themselves as harmful and violators of their sacred values, and who make this clear with the symbols they carry, obstruct these communications. “An intolerant person feels under pressure unless he pressurizes those who do not think and believe the way he does! Therefore, tolerance towards intolerance should not reach the level of consenting to be a sheep to the slaughter.” (Atatürk, Yurttaş İçin Medeni Bilgiler – Civil Information for Citizens)

Islam and freedom

Terrorism is regarded as a major threat by the Western world, which regards it as “Islamic”. The way to defeat this phenomenon is not to pursue strategies based on contradictory concepts such as “moderate Islam”. This approach only makes it possible to support anti-democratic and medieval political structures, and facilitates the use of religion for selfish benefits. What is called for instead is a strategy which demonstrates that Islam is not a religion incompatible with the order of freedom and the scientific way of thinking. With respect to the “turban”, this means that:

  1. a)Islam does not describe woman as an incomplete being, who cannot protect her own innocence, or sexual object.
  2. b)Islam does not espouse irrational ideas about the magical effects of strands of hair or pieces of cloth.
  3. c)Islam views woman and man as equal, and sees woman as a human being possessing every right and capability, and able to carry out any profession and participate in every activity, whether in administration, sports or the arts.

Such a strategy will give Muslim people self-confidence in an era marked by science and freedom, and will remove the obstacles on the path towards a real development and modernization process. The recent riots in Western Europe show how important this dimension of the issue is.

The best solution

To sum up, if the above evaluation is valid, the best solution will be to make scientific method and principles the sole dominant force at educational and scientific institutions, thereby excluding all claims of “single, unchangeable truth”, establishing an educational order in line with the view that science cannot be pursued under the shadow of beliefs and dogmas, and disallowing the utilisation of clothing, symbols and behaviour which militates against these principles.

Properly considered, the principles of the scientific method also constitute the standards of legitimacy of the democratic order. It is therefore absolutely necessary that all kinds of behaviour which obstruct the scientific way of thinking and democratic public order, clothing included, should be kept outside the whole public domain, including educational and scientific institutions, without any discrimination.


Nuri İyem: A painter of the people 

by  Sibel DORSAN

2005 saw the departure of Nuri İyem, one of Turkey’s best-loved painters, who died at 90 in June. With apparently no difficulty at all, İyem captured the spirit of an age and the recognition of a public wider than most fellow artists could dream of. But his skills did not come without practice, nor was his popularity a mere twist of fate.

Some may not recall Nuri İyem’s name, but everybody recognises his faces: the disturbing, thoughtful visages of village women and suburban folk who front his foreshortened canvases. Their large dark eyes now gaze after him full of concern. Did their moment also pass with the artist’s death in Istanbul in June, they wonder? Will anybody paint them again? Or should they finally store away their timidly-revealed hopes for some undated future era? For while carefully observed details allocate them to a disappearing rural or early urbanizing land, their worldly cares remain visible all around us.

The man who created these portraits – or to whom they were revealed – was academically trained, yet it was only by rejecting a certain scholasticism that he became a school in his own right. His primary commitment was to broadening the audience for art among his people. And the widespread familiarity of his figurative works suggests that he did more than anyone to achieve that. 

A life-long obsession

Born in Istanbul in 1915, Nuri İyem embarked on his mission early. As a child he produced drawings on walls using pieces of charcoal, and while at school he neglected his lessons in his passion for art. Whether at home or in the classroom, with pencil or oil paints, he was always drawing something. It was the only thing which made him happy, he once recalled – a necessity like bread and water.

The young boy soon became piercingly observant. If he was a careful student of anything, it was of the environment around him, with its people, trees, animals, houses, streets and other objects. These scenes remained in his memory and were later to colour his canvasses – among them the villages in Mardin where he spent a part of his childhood, the pigeons – and the people carrying the tragedies of life in their expressions.

Other well-known Turkish artists have at the same time pursued independent professions or careers as teachers of art. But İyem’s parents hopes that he might become a doctor were always going to be dashed. Just as he spent all his time drawing and painting as a child, so as an adult he took up no other occupation.

While still studying at high school, İyem gathered up all his paintings and showed them to one of the professors of the Fine Arts Academy, Nazmi Ziya, who invited him to enter the Academy at once. Nuri İyem accepted the offer – of course – but his pleasure was marred by the disappointment of his parents. Throughout the decades that followed, the famous artist was to retain a sense of remorse. He was, after all, a person as well as a painter.

Academy and Reality

The budding artist entered the Academy in 1933 and attended the workshops of celebrities like Nazmi Ziya, Hikmet Onat, İbrahim Çallı and Leopold Levy. He graduated in first place in 1937. The training he received was within the figurative traditions of the Academy, but after participating in Levy’s workshop, he was also influenced by impressionism. Meanwhile, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, who lectured in Art History, Aesthetics and Mythology, helped to shape İyem’s intellectual identity. The social aspect of art became an indispensable part of his identity.

In 1940, the Academy opened its doors to postgraduate students for the first time. Four years later, İyem again completed his studies with first prize. He soon became part of the movements and issues which were shaping the arts and politics of his country. In 1941, in the anxious atmosphere of World War II, he and three colleagues – Kemal Sönmezler, Selim Turan and Avni Arbaş – opened an exhibition on the theme of fishermen and harbor workers as they struggled to make a living. This led the next year to the formation of the ‘Yeniler’ – the “New Ones” in conjunction with other artists who shared their social realist perspective.

The movement was a reaction against the formalism of “Group D”. Rather than seeking to impose their understanding of art on society, like the previous generation, the New Ones would produce their works among the public, sharing their thoughts and lives. By removing the gap between artists and society, they hoped to create an interest in art among ordinary people. They soon received the support of artists and authors from outside academic circles. The so-called “Harbor Exhibition”, its follow-up “Woman” and the exhibitions which ensued, until the break-up of the group in 1951, became turning points.

Man with a mission

In 1946, İyem’s painting “The Blacksmith” was exhibited at an international exhibition sponsored by UNESCO at the Museum of Modern Arts in Paris. The same year, he married ceramics artist Nasip Özçapan and opened his first personal exhibition. Somewhat influenced by cubism, he started to paint scenes and objects in a more abstracted style, but without sacrificing their essential characteristics.

İyem appreciated that a society long closed to painting and sculpture would not embrace them at once. But he denied that there was any animosity towards art in Turkey. Hoca Ali Rıza, Generation 14 and Bedri Rahmi had already made pioneering efforts to engage larger segments of society. It was a question of starting a dialogue and being patient.

In 1952, İyem opened his second personal exhibition, featuring nudes and portraits of women. From then on, he was to hold exhibitions almost every year. In 1956 and 1957, he participated in biennials in Venice and San Paolo. Besides his canvases, he was to produce murals for architectural buildings – an office block in Ulus, Ankara, the Emlak Bank building in Alsancak, Izmir, and the headquarters of the Istanbul Municipality. All these have since been plastered over, but the artist is survived by 2,200 registered paintings – and an estimated 1,000 more in private collections which have not yet been registered.

The women of Anatolia

By the 1960s, İyem’s love of humanity, nature and social life had led him to develop a characteristic style of figurative painting, in which he depicted the people of Anatolia, often in their rural settings, sometimes as migrants inhabiting squatter settlements in the cities. These paintings do not merely record the realities of the 1960s and 1970s for posterity. At the same time, they mirror the spiritual worlds of their subjects. The silent, lonely, sorrowful glances of the artist’s women quickly became his trade-mark.

These women are in a sense an abstraction of Anatolia, a cradle of civilisations with its fertile soil. The country is portrayed in the form of a woman. Her eyes are the mirrors of her spiritual world. And in the depths of her pupils can be found the suffering and joy, traditions and troubles of an entire people, unchanging from generation to generation.

World view

Iran and nuclear energy: Making things clear 

by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV

Through the centuries, Iran has been a noteworthy country in many ways. It has had a vibrant history for more than 2,500 years, and the imprints of its impressive civilisation have constantly overflowed over its extensive frontiers. Other national attributes that command respect include a long experience in statesmanship, and a creative people that has given the world thinkers, writers and artists. The significance of this country has not diminished in our times. On the contrary, it protects its well-deserved position in the family of nations. From a Turkish angle, this country is also our neighbour, and we shall continue to share with it a future that relates to the well-being of our two peoples.

Iran’s oil wealth has been known since 1908. At present, it is attracting attention on account of its unique regime and its desire to develop nuclear energy. These issues, especially within the frame of reference of the exceptional qualities mentioned above, inevitably lead to some misunderstandings and debates, and a need for clarifications. The most engaging controversy centres around Iran’s nuclear policy and programme.

Nuclear disarmament

First of all, it is necessary to make clear distinctions between several facets of the issue. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is a legitimate expectation. On the other hand, one of the basic rights of a state is to develop atomic energy. Another point is that the nuclear weapons option is not in Iran’s defence doctrine.

There is no doubt that the use of nuclear energy has to be internationally controlled. Scientific ingenuity untempered by humanism has led us to fashion instruments of our own destruction. After the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, the non-nuclear states expected the nuclear weapon powers to undertake measures leading to nuclear disarmament. It is only through disarmament at this level that can one eliminate the division of nations into two categories, i.e., those with nuclear weapons and the rest.

Only nuclear disarmament will end that basic discrimination. After all, which country detonated the first atom bomb and which dropped it on a civilian target? And which country exploded the first hydrogen bomb? Hence, India and Pakistan developed their own capabilities. Peace is not the absence of war. What is needed is the disarmament of minds.

How it began

Atomic energy may be used for peaceful purposes, to the immense advantage of a country and also of humanity. But it was not indispensable for the strong states. To possess such an additional source of power did not mean much to them. It would be to the disadvantage of a medium-sized or small state, however, if it were restricted or prevented from making use of atomic energy.

The powerful countries have not only nuclear bombs but also the means to deliver them to a selected target much faster than the speed of sound. They may be used within a few minutes and annihilate the target almost instantly. Large areas may be wiped out completely. Traditional weapons are useless against them. For the underdeveloped counties, atomic energy for peaceful purposes is far more important.

Iranian nuclear activities started when an American company (AMF) helped to establish an atomic centre at Tehran University. That was in 1968. Documentary evidence indicates that Iran cooperated with the NPT safeguards as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Statute, allowing the Agency to carry out inspections. Iran was the only member that at times voluntarily invited the inspectors to visit all sites at their discretion. It has also voluntarily implemented the Additional Protocol since late 2003m even before it was ratified. It is the only country to have done this before parliamentary approval.

Knowing that Iran’s rights and intentions have not been properly reflected to the public, I feel urged personally to put these and other facts in print in book form  Had Iran intended to concentrate on nuclear weapons, the most opportune time would have been in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Revolution.

The inspection story

The Director General of the IAEA paid his first visit to Iran in 2000, where he was thoroughly informed of the country’s intentions. Invited again in 2003, he congratulated Iran on its achievements. Iran provided ample information on research and progress regarding enrichment activities, uranium conversions, plutonium separation, mining and milling, research reactor, and heavy water production. It went beyond its legal obligations and granted access even to military sites, sometimes providing access within less than two hours’ notice. For instance, the Agency was granted permission to visit the military-industrial complexes of Kolandouz in late 2003, Lavbisan-Shian in mid-2004 and Parchin in early 2005. The results did not reveal any involvement in the use of nuclear material. The vegetation and soil samples disclosed no such evidence.

On the other hand, some conclusions were reported before the completion of all technical investigation and appropriate sampling. Some decisions were premature. At times, the Agency admitted the mistakes of the inspectors. Members cannot be penalized for not adhering to their voluntary commitments.

The issue was politicized to some extent. A UN Conference on the Promotion of International Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy had been held as early as 1987. One should add that the Agency has verified Iran’s suspension of enrichment-related activities at specific sites.

In all fairness, one expects the UN to acknowledge two additional facts: one, that international law has been undermined under the false pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and two, that the potential nuclear threat in the area is Israel, the only non-party to the NPT in the Middle East.

China: Peopling the images

China has opened up to the world and taken on a new and modern identity. Or has it simply replaced its old mask with a new one? Inevitably, one-to-one contacts with the wider world are taking longer to develop than mass communications. The 2008 Olympics will promote more street-level exchanges between ordinary people. But for a festive atmosphere, there is no need to wait that long.

If, twenty or perhaps even ten years ago, you asked any foreigner – certainly any Westerner – for images of China, the answers would have been predictable enough: restaurants, chopsticks lanterns, dragons, junks, an ancient “alphabet”, giant pandas, acupuncture, pagodas, bicycles, ping-pong, flat conical hats, bamboo curtains, prints and porcelain. Today, the response is likely to be quite different. The mere word “China” has come to conjure up a booming Eastern seaboard of gleaming steel-and-glass, cities and mega-cities growing upwards and outwards – redecorated or simply new, soaking up the earth’s resources and in return containering manufactured ware of all descriptions to every corner of the world. The rice-bowl metaphor stutters before a rising consumer society, where the “customer is God”, and demand is insatiable for air travel, cars, the “magic ears” of mobile phones and all that is new and “Western”.

The outside appearance of the giant country has been transformed almost overnight. Like a classical theatre performer, it has removed one mask and donned another – except that this is a face which ancient craftsmen could never have imagined. Is the new and colourful costume any truer to the society within? Does it tell a more comprehensive tale? Will it serve China well? Only time will answer these questions.

Garden cities

One thing is for sure: all mediatic images simplify, and are bound to be replaced. While helping to understand, they create new misunderstandings. None can take the place of personal contact and experience. In this respect, there is a long way to go. While few members of the world’s business community have not flown in and out of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Shenzhen, the number of foreign tourists visiting China each year is lower than the number who arrive in Turkey, which has only an eighteenth of the population and a twelfth of the land area. The Chinese themselves can now take part in organised tours in dozens of countries all over the globe, including Turkey and all the EU countries – indeed, they are encouraged to do so. But in practice the 30m international Chinese tourists – most of whom opt for private visits to Southeast Asia – pale into insignificance beside the 1.1bn Chinese who travel within the country.

Today, foreign visitors to China are cruising up rivers and lakes, touring nature reserves, relaxing in seaside resorts, climbing Mount Huangshuan and the other sacred mountains and penetrating the geological and cultural diversity of the north and West including the Potola Palace in Tibet. Nevertheless, the majority still confine their interests – and who can blame them? – to a handful of the most accessible cities and remarkable sites. Inevitably, the Great Wall, the terrra cotta warriors of Qin Shihuang, the Forbidden Palace and other palaces and gardens top the bill.

”Catch the lifestyle”

Eager to promote exchanges with China’s National Tourism Administration has introduced a series of tours based on themes like health and fitness, folk arts and cuisine. One tour on offer last year was called “Catch the Lifestyle – China”. The Administration declares that “Chinese tourism has entered a new, more mature phase.” and that “A wide variety of exchange with the people of other countries is gradually coloring China’s rich folk culture, and is a vital aspect of a new Era of Peace and Development”. However, given barriers of language and sheer numbers, the inter-penetration of lives at the non-executive level can only be a long-term goal.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be a major step. Costing US$36bn, they will provide the world with an ideal opportunity at China’s enthusiasm for national fitness and the most intricate teamwork on the one hand, and to ponder its “new” determination to develop individuals on the other. More importantly, they will bring the world’s people together with the Chinese in everyday activities like eating, queuing, getting about or listening to pop music in bars. A festive spirit is guaranteed.

New Year bookings

There is no need to wait another three years for entertainment and festivals to bring people together. At the level of “high” culture, China now has over 50 symphony orchestras performing a thousand times a year. The local theatre and opera tradition is an acquired if sweet taste, even when happily mingled with modern themes and techniques (A national culture over 1bn strong is not easily diluted). However, Chinese dancing provides feasts for any eye, and everybody can appreciate the extraordinary acrobatics.

At the popular level, traditional holidays are still celebrated with vigour. Next month, the Han Chinese will once again be buying gifts and delicacies, painting couplets on their doors, holding lion dances, hanging streamers and setting off fireworks as part of the Spring Festival, marking the onset of the Year of the Dog. Nine months later, on another of the many Chinese holidays, people will gather for excursions to the mountains, where they will admire Autumn chrysanthemums and adorn themselves with the fruit of the prickly ash, while imbibing the spirits which they have brought along. Never mind the images: this attitude to life is not so different from those of other nations.

Turkey’s ski centres: Sharing the snow

Winter is a time when many people prefer to travel as little as possible. Not so the skiing community, for whom snow and ice are opportunities not to be missed. Anatolia has a longer skiing history than you might imagine, and each of its venues has a character of its own. From the large, fashionable resort of Uludağ to the modern centres of Kartalkaya and Palandöken, these pages do the rounds.

For some a thrilling battle with the elements; for others a cheerful mug of cocoa or glass of hot wine. For some, an unthinkable expense; for others an everyday habit. Once the despair and mortification of the initiation ceremonies are over, the fellowship of skiing is open to all generations and genders, its benefits for body and spirit outweighing its rather obvious risks.

To Turkey skiing came late – but not very late. The use of skis as a way of getting about, as in today’s cross-country or “Nordic” skiing, may have a four thousand-year history. But the first downhill or “Alpine” ski clubs date back only 100 years, the first ski-lift was not introduced until 75 years ago, and the development of ski resorts for mass consumption is only about 50 years old. Against this background, Mount Erciyes near Kayseri, is said to have acquired its earliest facility as long ago as 1947.

Several centres began their touristic careers as modest retreats for public servants. The ski centre at Mount Uludağ, near Bursa, widely known as Turkey’s oldest, has roots in the activities of the local mountaineering club in the early decades of the Republican era.

Growing investment

By comparison with Europe or the United States, the sport developed slowly, hampered by the limited size of the potential clientele and by transport difficulties. Only within the last twenty years has the number of hotels increased, and new destinations been opened up – the fruits of a marriage of private investment and foreign (generally Austrian) technology.

Skiing may never be cheap. Besides the cost of equipment and lessons, the need for hotels to recuperate their investment costs within the short winter season pushes up prices. But with the increase in available facilities, competition is expected to intensify, and as in other countries prices can be expected to come down. It is possible to hire instructors and rent equipment at various prices at all the main ski centres.

Peaks of choice

The lone dormant volcano of Erciyes attract visitors from all walks of Ankara and Kayseri life. The centre is situated 2,150m up the 3,916m summit. It boasts wide tracks suitable both for beginners and for experienced skiers. Like most of the country’s ski resorts, it is frequented by an occasionally chaotic mixture of casual visitors and experienced sportspeople. The weather here is equally variable. There are only two mountain hotels, but costs can be cut by taking accommodation in the city a half-hour’s drive away.

Kartalkaya, in the pine forests of Bolu, is the choice of the “real skiers”. Conveniently located between Ankara and Istanbul at an altitude of up to 2,200m, this mountain resort offers skiing virtually from the doorstep of the three hotels. The ski-lifts and other facilities are not far removed from those of Colorado or the Alps, and unlike the other resorts, they are generally included in the price, so there is no limit to the ascents and descents. Up to eleven slopes offer variety for skiers of all grades. But family members who do not ski may have trouble passing the time.

The Uludağ scene

No such problems in Uludağ (2,543m), on the outskirts of Turkey’s fourth largest city of Bursa. Thanks to its proximity to Istanbul, the resort has been a favourite of high society for years – a kind of Bodrum-by-winter where the paparazzi snap the oh-so-outraged pop stars in the lobbies and the ‘Televole’ cameras pick out the models at the bar. The night-life hums, and there are walks, sleigh trips, skating or snow-biking by day. Anybody who wants to ski can nevertheless do so, with a mid-winter choice of thirteen slopes.

The whole area was declared a National Park in 1961 on account of its forests and other wildlife. Summer visitors camp, trek, picnic and ride the ‘telesiege’. Two dozen hotels with a total bed capacity of 3-4,000 are grouped into two “hotel zones”, approached from the city by road or – for those without baggage – by “authentic” cable car and minibus.

Options for Ankara

Anatolia’s other ski centres include Saklıkent (Antalya), Bozdağ (İzmir), the new Kartepe venue in Kocaeli, near Istanbul, and Isparta’s Davraz – with its impressive view of Lake Eğirdir. These offer limited facilities and mostly attract adventurous locals, when weather permits. A short slope and the availability of alternatives within range of a long day trip have curtailed the development of Mount Elmadağ (1,862), an hour’s drive East of Ankara, as a civilian ski centre. The area may have a brighter future in excursions and entertainment.

The Mount Ilgaz National Park, at a height of 1,820-2,000m in the province of Kastamonu north of Ankara, beckons “snow-lovers” as well as skiers. The many day-trippers from the capital and other nearby cities and towns are as likely to take their portable barbecues along as their skis. At present, the area is mostly recommended for novices.

International resort

Ski centres in Turkey and many other countries have been challenged by climate change in recent years. In these conditions, Turkey’s mountainous far east has a clear competitive advantage. When the first modern facilities were built at Erzurum’s Mount Paland öken (3,185km), they were considered remote by many Turks. Partly as a result, the region has become Turkey’s only really international resort. Russian and – to a lesser extent – Dutch visitors enjoy the best of the deep snow and natural slopes, while residents of Turkey may have to book early “to avoid disappointment”.

There is a choice of hotels providing various activities, amenities and entertainment, and all are located within a few kilometres of both the city centre and the airport. The Palan Hotel is open all year round with a wide range of services suitable for families and business groups as well as sport and fitness fans. With 28km of ski slopes – including one 12km in length – Palandöken is well suited to become a centre for international winter sports, complete with slaloms to international standards and dry snow throughout the season.

Snows of Sarıkamış

The increase in domestic air traffic and the recent fall in ticket prices also looks set to benefit Sarıkamış, even further northeast in Kars. The five varied ski slopes are located on Mount Cıbıltepe (2,634m), less than an hour’s drive from the provincial centre of Kars and a couple of hours from Erzurum.

Sarıkamış’s pine trees and crystal white snow make it an up-and-coming centre for the adventurous, with adequate facilities and excellent accommodation. The East’s other skiing venues – Bubi Dağı (Ağrı), Sapgör (Bitlis), Hazarbaba (Elazığ), Bolkar (Erzincan) and Zigana (Gümüşhane) – are in need of more attention. It may not be long before they get it.


An Ottoman “phoenix” 

by Kaya DORSAN

Sometimes a stamp is issued and used for while, then ceases to be used as other stamps are put into circulation, even before the stocks have been exhausted. In order to prevent the remaining stamps from going to waste, post offices overprint them, so as to change their themes and values. In a sense, they turn these old stamps into new issues, and put them on sale again. This tactic has been used many times all around the world, and of course in Turkey too. But one Ottoman stamp is extraordinary in that it has been put on sale as many as twelve times, with a new overprint on each occasion.

This stamp was initially issued in 1892. It had a value of 10 para and formed part of a series of six stamps known as the ‘Stamp series with Arms and Tughra’. Immediately after the stamps were put on sale, some of them were marked “imprimé” using a handstamp, and used for printed matter. This applied to the other stamps in the series as well as the 10 para stamp.

In 1894, some of the same stamps were overprinted at the printing house in order to replace the previous, handstamped “printed matter” stamp. And in 1897, when the need arose for a stamp with a value of 5 para, yet another version of the stamp in question appeared, this time with a red printing house overprint in Turkish and French and a value of 5 para. The same overprint was also produced in black, to create a “printed matter” equivalent.

Reborn in war

In normal conditions, that would have been the end of the story. But the conditions of World War I were to cause the re-birth of the stamp. In 1915, the Ottoman State, unable to procure new stamps, decided to overprint the old stamps in its stocks and put them into circulation again. Thus, the stamps previously issued in 1892, 1894 and 1897 came out with a six-pointed star-and-crescent overprint.

During those years, July 10 – the date on which the Ottoman Constitution had been adopted – was celebrated as a national holiday. On July 10, 1916, on the eighth anniversary of the approval of the Constitution, a commemorative series of five stamps was prepared. These stamps were also made by overprinting previously-issued stamps. The overprint bore the date July 10, 1332, and one of the stamps on which it appeared was the old 1892 10 para Arms and Tughra stamp.

Old, unused stamps were to be reissued again that year. This time, a five-pointed star-and-crescent overprint was used, and the stamps of 1892, 1894 and 1897 appeared on post office counters in another new guise.

According to legend, the Phoenix is re-born from its own ashes. The 10 para stamp of 1892 had become the Phoenix of Turkish Postal History.

Style and Status: Absolute power dressing 

by Howard Kaplan

For those not in Washington for the New Year, Diplomat presents a flavour of the Sackler Gallery’s ground-breaking exhibition of 400 year-old Ottoman-made costumes. Social status oozes from these richly-finished robes with their dazzling designs. Worn for civilian and religious ceremonies, as well as on the battlefield, they recall a rigidly hierarchical society.

The opulence of the Ottoman Court fills the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., with a never-before seen exhibition celebrating innovative textiles that were designed to convey power. From the moment you enter the gallery space, the luxurious kaftans, displayed upright on specially-made mounts, take you into a vanished world where head-turning, colourful robes were the leading symbols of prestige and luxury. Nearly seventy textiles—ranging from the voluminous to those scaled-down for children—are presented in the museum’s main exhibition space, and create a journey into the very fabric of Ottoman society. Never before has the phrase “Clothes Make the Man” had such a perfect fit.

‘Style and Status: Imperial Robes from Ottoman Turkey’, on view through January 22, 2006, consists of kaftans, hats and even a velvet shoe primarily from the imperial wardrobe at the Topkapi Museum. Additional works are on loan from the Mevlana Museum, Konya, Turkey, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and several national collections. It is the first international exhibition devoted to the great achievements in Ottoman textiles during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Costumes of this age and quality have not survived as an integral collection anywhere else in the world.

Larger than life

On view are magnificent examples of the three major weaves: velvet (kadife), featuring a three-dimensional surface with some areas of pile and some of metal thread; brocade (kemha), and cloths of gold and silver thread (seraser)—the most expensive and luxurious.

The textiles have been selected to show how extraordinarily brave and assertive the Ottomans were with their designs, and how they were innovators in the creation of recurrent motifs – in today’s jargon ‘logos’. During the reign of Sultan Süleyman in the mid-sixteenth century, Ottoman art acquired a new and distinct shape. Small, intricate designs were out. Silks and velvets woven with large, bold motifs, in unheard-of colour schemes, became the fashion of the time. Oversized triangles, tulips, and tiger stripes dominate the kaftans, creating an overwhelming image that brings you one step closer to the larger-than-life court of the Sultans.

The finest and most precious robes were made for the Sultan and his family. The exhibition includes luxurious garments, worn by Sultan Selim (1512–1520), Sultan Süleyman (1520–1566) and his son Bayazid (executed in 1561). One seraser robe has a bright red lining, dramatically visible when the sultan was on horseback. A pair of silver-thread, tiger-striped, silk trousers demonstrates the care and attention devoted to all types of Ottoman imperial garments.

Textiles exports

Silks were the most visible symbol of the Empire’s wealth and power. They were also used as diplomatic gifts known as robes of honour, or hilyat, and were presented to foreign dignitaries, local courtiers, and state officials to show royal favour, political rank, and social status. The number and quality of robes a dignitary received were indicative of his status in the eyes of the sultan.

In addition to the royal robes, the Ottomans created luxurious fabrics for export to Europe, the Balkans, and especially to Russia, the empire’s largest market, where they were fashioned into elaborately designed chasubles and other ecclesiastical items. Those reserved for the Russian Orthodox Church are notable for their inclusion of religious figural imagery and were produced in Turkey by local weavers. Examples of these pearl-laced garments are on view as well.

Sponsored by Koç

‘Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey’ represents the first in a new long-term cultural initiative between Turkey and the United States, with exhibition sponsor Koç Holding and the Freer and Sackler as partners. It is organized by the Freer and Sackler Galleries in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkish Republic, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkish Republic, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Promotion Fund of the Prime Ministry of Turkey.

The exhibition has also enjoyed generous support from: ITKIB Association, USA (the Turkish textiles industry lobby group); the Turkish Cultural Foundation, the lead foundation sponsor; the Packard Humanities Institute; Turkish Airlines, and the Hagop Kevorkian Fund, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The curators are Ottoman art Professor Nurhan Atasoy and the Gallery’s chief curator and curator of Islamic art Massumeh Farhad. Atasoy is lead author of “Ipek: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets” (London: Azimuth Press, 2001).

Some facts about Ottoman silks 

  • Bursa was the first major centre for the Ottoman silk industry. In the 16th century, it was one of the richest cities in the world. Because of the increasing demands of the court for silk fabrics, Istanbul also became an important manufacturing centre.
  • In the mid-16th century, Ottoman taste increasingly favoured large, bold designs, such as medallions, stylized tiger stripes, and a triplespot design known as ‘çintamani’ (literally, “auspicious jewel”), which probably originated in Central Asia.
  • Patterns such as these inspired the leader of the British arts and crafts movement, William Morris, (1834–1896) to incorporate Ottoman motifs into his designs.
  • Ottoman silks, both in raw and finished states, were coveted luxury items exported to Europe, the Balkans, Poland, and especially to Russia.
  • The Ottomans, in turn, imported fur and ermine to line and adorn their outer garments. They also greatly admired Italian silks, especially velvets, which they imported in great quantity. Many Italian silks were made expressly for the Turkish market, where they were fashioned primarily into royal robes.


Eye-witness: Şırnak 

by Selin Galolar

Graduate in Philosophy, professional volleyball player, amateur musician and postgraduate student at the Women’s Studies Institute of Ankara University, Selin Galolar (28) recently spent a year teaching English at a primary education school in Şırnak…

In my mind’s eye, the provincial centre of Şırnak in Southeast Turkey may one day become a bustling modern resort, well-known for its climbing, hiking and its long ski season, its wildlife, its fresh produce, its handicrafts and its baking summer temperatures.

Let others postulate that Noah’s Ark settled on Mount Ağrı (Ararat), the highest peak of Turkey; the people of Şırnak believe firmly that it was on the slopes of Mount Cudi (2,114m) that the pairs of every living being finally disembarked. The original name of the area is supposed to have been “Şehr-i Nuh”, meaning the “City of Noah”. The name, it is said, later degenerated to “Şırnak”.

Curiously, the two highest peaks are, in fact, Geçit Hill (3,631m) and Golden Mountain (3,358m). The Kızılsu and Habur brooks, arms of the legendary Tigris, form the frontiers with Iraq and Syria. According to 1997 figures, there are 256,000 sheep, more than 150,000 mohair goats, and 29,000 oxen. Unsurprisingly, weaving is one of the main handicrafts, and the kilims of Beytüşşebap have won prizes at European exhibitions.

Before the violence, stock-breeding was more widespread, especially in the Faraşin Valley. The wild goats still roam, however, in the state-created 256,400-acre “ibex protection zone.”

A kind of growth

My mind switches to harsher realities. The provincial centre, home to just 53,743 souls according to the 2000 census, is arranged either side of a longish avenue of shops, restaurants and single-storey houses. Here and there, new multi-storied buildings are going up, but the overall appearance remains rural rather than urban. People are leaving, fed up with poverty and acts of terrorism, but the high birth rate continues to swell the population. Families have at least nine children.

Industry accounts for only one percent of the economy. Mineral resources are limited to asphalt and a little coal. Even the agricultural potential is limited due to the hard rock and steep slopes. But under the Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP), 121,000 acres of new land will be irrigated.

Ankara, 1,175 kilometers away, has not forgotten Şırnak. It has employed medical personnel, soldiers and security officers. Despite the security situation, it has expanded formal education, built boarding schools and lodgings for teachers, and opened a Vocational College attached to Diyarbakır’s Dicle University. And it has sent people like me to staff the schools.

Bridges of understanding

I have struggled to establish a continuous dialogue in a classroom where many of the youngsters – though by no means all – had little Turkish, and I spoke no Kurdish. My colleagues and I have somehow built bridges of understanding, learning to conceal our own impatience and disappointment at the low levels of literacy and concentration. We have perhaps had more success with rehearsals for national day ceremonies – and volleyball and basketball matches – in the comparatively large school compound.

Had I been asked to teach a course in philosophy as well, how would I have explained Kant’s “categorical imperative”, or Nietzsche’s “Übermensch”? I dread to think. But I taught a few things, and learned many myself. My experience became a part of me, just as “far-away” Şırnak is a part of my country. I cannot stop myself imagining a brighter future for the place.

Career moves: How to be handled

These pages take a behind-the-scenes look at what is often, on the surface, one of the less pleasant aspects of the international life-style. And with the help of an Ankara-based international household removals company, we discover that the worlds of transport and diplomacy are related in more ways than one.

To many people, a “diplomatic career” is a very attractive profession. There is, indeed, much to be relished about living in the differing environments of various countries, taking part in high-level contacts and meetings and thus having the opportunity to influence – or at least to witness – the formation of international policy step-by-step. The continuous procession of new friends, the not-so-occasional surprises… All these can be numbered among the benefits of an attractive and extraordinary life style.

But as with every profession, the diplomatic way of life has its difficulties. No few official envoys come to loathe the chores associated with having to move house every 3-4 years. Sometimes the move is “merely” from one country to another; sometimes it involves crossing whole continents. Time and time again, the diplomat has to gather up furnishings and personal effects in order to move to a house or apartment which he or she has never seen – usually in the capital of a country the politics of which he or she may know something about, but the practicalities of which are a mystery.

Breakage, damage and loss come in the most unexpected forms and at the most unexpected moments. Nothing can be taken for granted. Goods must be packed quickly but also safely and skilfully. They must be transported with care and properly efficiently unpacked. In some cases, the diplomat’s new home may not yet be ready, and his or her belongings may have to be prepared for a stay of unknown duration in the unfamiliar surroundings of some far-off warehouse.

Gaining experience

At such anxious moments, transportation companies experienced in international household removals are the diplomat’s key aide and representative. Rather like diplomats themselves, they have their own procedures and paperwork, and their own international connections. They know all about insurance, customs and storage, packing and unpacking, and depending on the volume of effects, the destination and the distance to be covered, they have ready access to land, air and sea routes.

Eşref Öztürk is Marketing Director of Özgür Nakliyat (Özgür Transport), a Turkish removal company established 28 years ago. “At one time,” he recalls, “the work which we do today was done by European companies. Now we are able to do the same job as they do and do it more cheaply. Our company receives awards from the Ankara Chamber of Commerce every year for the amount of foreign exchange which we bring into the country.”

More jobs than one

According to Öztürk, the transportation business is becoming more complex the world over, and the amount of know-how required is growing accordingly: “Now transportation involves a series of other elements. For example, one of our side lines is insurance. We are the insurance agent of Turkish Economy Bank and we insure everything that we transport.

“When a customer comes to us for a transportation job, we don’t simply carry out the removal. First of all we have the water, electricity and gas supply discontinued in the place where he or she is living. Then we have these connections restored in the new place of residence. If requested, we can also provide an employee to do the housework or a baby-sitter for the children. As I said before, the world is moving in this direction and gathering these kinds of services under one roof increases the chances that the customer will opt for you again next time round.”

Crystal and canvas

Some people’s goods are easier to move than others. The packaging of a chandelier, a painting or a piano requires different materials and a different technique in each case. Diplomats may have quite a few such items. But for transport companies there are greater challenges. Eşref Öztürk’s company has other specialities in addition to household moving:

“As is well known, the transportation of works of artistic and historical value require special expertise. In order to carry works of art safely, you need to have experienced packagers and carriers who have undergone extensive training, and to use materials produced specifically for the purpose. Only in this way you can deliver valuable works of art to the required address in the safest way and the shortest time.”

Commissions undertaken by Özgür have included transportation works of the Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Exhibition and the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasha Museum. The company has modern closed warehouses in Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir and Adana. These stores are equipped with alarm mechanisms against fire and robbery, and humidity and temperature controls are regularly recorded. They are almost museums in themselves.

Affairs of state

The masterminds of transport and logistics are no more strangers to the world of heads of state and politicians than are the corps diplomatique. Marketing Director Öztürk explains:

“After the death of his beloved mother, Princess Muna, the King of Jordan wanted to build a very special mausoleum for her. For the walls of the tomb, an order was placed for Kütahya porcelain, which is famous for its unique production techniques and for its intricate designs, reflecting the Ottoman culture. These ceramics are as fragile as they are sought-after, and needless to say the whole, very substantial order had to be transported to Jordan without a single scratch. We had packaging specially produced, and the packages were delivered to the destination without any damage. After that, the King privately rewarded the staff of the company for their services.”

Öztürk also recalls participating in the transport side of the visits to Turkey of former US President Bill Clinton in 1999 and of the current President George W. Bush in 2004.

Living and learning

Does nothing ever go wrong? Öztürk admits that transport companies are sometimes confronted with unpleasant moments. But he adds that it has always been a principle of company founder Sedat Abacı, as a matter of company policy, to “regard negative events as experience, and make sure there are positive outcomes.” On one occasion an illegal migrant was found hiding in a truck on the German border. This uninvited passenger also turned out to have damaged some of the goods which were being transported. He was duly handed over to the German authorities and compensation was paid to the customer.

Until then, Özgür had generally rented trucks from abroad. But the German border incident brought about a radical change of policy. Within a year, the company had established its own fleet. Today it has a park of 75 vehicles, of which 35 are suitable for the transportation of furniture and furnishings.

Multinational dimension

Transportation is not an easy business. But in today’s globalised world, there is unlikely to be any shortage of demand. Already accredited to the Brussels-based Federation (FIDE) and the UK’s Overseas Moving Network Limited (OMNI), Özgür Nakliyat is now looking at the business potential in Europe, and officials say they are planning to open offices in Germany and Belgium soon.

Diplomats are the first to welcome the growth of experienced, specialist removal firms and their expansion across national borders, for by making the transition from post to post easier and more comfortable, it will allow them to get on with their own jobs, and to worry less about the next.

Contemporary Arts Centre:  Çankaya’s open house 

by Sibel DORSAN

The artistic hub of Çankaya Municipality is appealing more persistently to a wider public with striking exhibitions and Wednesday concerts.

It has stood for several years now on  the site of the old water cistern, just off Atatürk Boulevard, within sight of the US Embassy and earshot of Tunalı Hilmi Caddesi’s shops and cafes. It has always looked large and contemporary. But this season, there is an extra splash of artistic colour about the place, and more and more visitors can be seen coming in and out of its spacious foyer.

Since Çankaya Municipality took possession in 1996-97, the five galleries of the Contemporary Arts Centre have hosted countless national and international exhibitions, including an exhibition of works by Salvador Dali. The galleries are much admired by foreign curators, points out Canan Samur, the Municipality’s Director of Education, Culture and Social Affairs.

The centre has also worked closely with schools and the community. For the past two years, the Çankaya Municipality City Theatres formed under the leadership of Bahadır Tokmak has been putting on plays both for adults and children. Jazz and film festivals have stopped off here, and it has been the main sponsor for the Ankara Theatre Festival.

Classical sounds

All these events are open to all and without charge. Even so, the venue has remained at the periphery of Ankara’s artistic life, rather than taking the central role which its name promises and its prime location warrants. The time has come for it to blow its own trumpet more confidently. An overhaul of the accoustics and sound systems of the two hundred-seater former conference room has gone a long way to help.

The rearrangement of the room has created a new space for theatre and music. Under the guidance of respected musical advisors such as Deren Eryılmaz and Orhun Orhan, classical music concerts are being held at 19.30 every Wednesday evening. One early sponsor this season was the Embassy of Switzerland. Meanwhile, Samur explains, a second salon is undergoing modification for use for lectures, symposia and panels.

More, better and more frequent exhibitions are anticipated. The magnificent works of Italian artist Domingo Notaro have already graced the walls this fall. Downstairs, a joint display of paintings, ceramics and most impressively sculptures by young Ankara artists augurs well for the capital’s future. May the Centre inspire and support them, wherever their talents lie.