By Bernard Kennedy
Dissatisfied with the performances of public administrations, public opinion often looks favourably on the idea of placing authority in the hands of directly-elected individuals. Roman dictators or US institutions like state governor and president are archetypal examples. But the idea of entrusting more power and responsibility to recognisable figures, personally responsible to the general public, as opposed to collective institutions, is not rare in modern Europe either, although it is tempered in some regions and countries by past experiences of “charismatic leadership” or “one-man rule”.
Strong, directly-elected mayors have been a feature of some continental European countries and in recent years they have been introduced in the UK. The recent attempts to devise a workable and understandable constitution for the EU – with its opaque and indecisive network of national institutions, political party alliances and bureaucracy – focused, among other things, on creating a figure or figures that might take clearer responsibility and be held more clearly accountable. The proposed Constitution eventually envisaged replacing the rotating presidency of the EU Council with a president to be elected for a 2.5-year period by the member states. This may be regarded as a small step in the direction of attempting to increase democratic answerability by choosing a clear leader – a known public figure about whom opinions can be formed and opinion polls taken.
In national politics, particularly since the demise of mass ideologies, it has long been standard practice for voters to elect individuals, rather than parties. Although technically designed to fill parliamentary seats, contested by political parties and individuals, general election campaigns in Europe are in effect fought between the ideas, images and personalities of individual leaders in almost the same way that US presidential elections are contested. The pact between rulers and ruled is a personal one, and the electors, even if they cannot “change the system” very much, have the satisfaction of being able to punish or reward those at the helm.
In Turkey, the individual head of the executive involved in a pact with the general public is the prime minister, not the president. The repeated calls which various politicians have issued for a switch to a “presidential system” do not stem directly from the desire to link government and people in a more personal way. One motive has been personal ambition: it is hardly a coincidence that former prime minister and president Turgut Özal and current prime minister and would-be president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, together with their followers, have been the most prominent advocates of a switch to a presidential regime. However, there are also two factors which detract from the status of the prime minister as an eminently powerful and accountable figure, and so perhaps encourage proponents of the presidential model.
First there is the “double-headed” nature of the executive. The frequency with which President Sezer has vetoed legislation and government appointments appears to circumscribe the powers and responsibilities of Premier Erdoğan and thereby limit his ability to act as the repository of public satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It may sometimes suit the prime minister, in his relations with the public, to plead that he does not enjoy complete competence. But he and his followers do not view this as a normal situation.
The powers of the president were considerably enhanced by the authors of the 1982 Constitution, which makes the president much more than a figure-head or rubber stamp for legislation passed by Parliament. He or she may summon Parliament to meet, deliver the opening address to Parliament every October, chair the Council of Ministers and call a general elections if Parliament fails to approve a government within a given period. He or she can refer acts of Parliament to the Constitutional Court for a binding assessment of their constitutionality. On a once-only basis, he or she can return laws to Parliament for reconsideration, and put constitutional amendments to a referendum – even if they are approved by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The appointment and dismissal of government ministers are subject to presidential approval.
Like most heads of state, the president has normal responsibilities for the choice of prime minister-elect after a general election, the signing of government laws and decrees, the mobilisation of the armed forces, the ratification of international treaties and the pardoning of outstanding prison sentences. Often the president routinely approves the wishes of the government or parliamentary majority. But these responsibilities also confer some political leverage, as in the case of the signing of government decrees concerning public appointments. The appointment of some officials – the members of the Higher Education Council, university rectors, Constitutional Court members and many other top judicial officials – fall more closely under the authority of the President. The President shares responsibility for these appointments with the respective bodies, but not necessarily with the government of the day.
The veto record
It is no secret that the increase in the powers of the president in 1982 was tailored to meet the needs of the then military head of state Kenan Evren, who subsequently became president of the Republic until 1989. Evren had something more closely resembling a “presidential system” in mind, whereas the academics who drafted the Constitution apparently sought to retain the key elements of the long-standing “parliamentary system”. The outcome is a somewhat hybrid system, which is nevertheless more parliamentary than presidential in many respects: the government is formed by the prime minister not the president; the government is in principle formed from within Parliament; it is Parliament which elects the president, Parliament cannot be dissolved by the president and the president does not initiate legislation.
In practice, Sezer has used his powers to return legislation to Parliament for further consideration nearly 50 times. Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, Sezer has reportedly issued 39 such “vetoes” compared to a total of over 600 laws passed. In a reported 19 cases, Parliament has re-approved the laws in question without alteration, obliging Sezer to put them into effect. In the 2004-5 session of Parliament alone, 14 out of a total of 166 laws are reckoned to have been vetoed, of which nine were re-adopted by Parliament without change. Parliament may yet re-approve more of the vetoed laws, particularly the recent banking law which is a precondition for IMF credit.
Sezer’s veto failed to block the constitutional amendment which permitted Erdogan’s election to Parliament in March 2003. He has also been obliged to promulgate laws envisaging an amnesty for tax offenders, an increase in the role of municipalities, changes in the tobacco market, lower penalties for unauthorised educational institutions, and restructuring of the Scientific and Technical Research Council (TUBITAK), the broadcasting watchdog (RTUK) and the tax revenues department. However, a constitutional amendment to permit the sale of forest land, a framework law for public administration and legal amendments relaxing the limits on foreign media ownership were all “successfully” vetoed by Sezer. He has taken at least nine AKP laws to the Constitutional Court and refused to sign hundreds of decrees, mostly involving appointments.
Arguing for stability
A normal government response to the double-headed nature of executive power would be to amend the constitution so as to limit the powers of the president, insofar as parliamentary balances and referendum expectations permit. This has been discussed but has not sparked as much debate as the opposite strategy of a “presidential system”. At one level, the idea of gathering together executive power not in the hands of the prime minister but in those of the president parallels Premier Erdoğan’s imputed ambitions to become president in 2007. At another level, it relates to the second of the factors referred to above – namely, the impression that the presidential system would lead to an improvement in political stability.
The argument runs like this: A government headed by a prime minister who owes his position to his parliamentary majority may be overthrown by parliament in the event of a change in the parliamentary arithmetic or a disagreement between coalition partners. Such a government may also opt for an early election. Recent Turkish political history offers several examples of such situations. By contrast, a presidential administration merely surpervised by Parliament, and appointed by a president directly elected for a fixed term in office, is almost certain to complete its term and carry out its political programme.
As an additional benefit, it can be argued that the introduction of a “presidential system” would permit the election of a more representative parliament, since it would no longer be necessary to try to ensure stability via the election system. Currently, parties receiving less than 10% of the popular vote are undemocratically excluded from Parliament in an effort to ensure a ruling parliamentary majority.
More stability can imply less participation – less democracy A switch to a presidential system would certainly represent a drastic reversal of Turkey’s political traditions. However, the debate seems unlikely to go away – especially, perhaps, if faith in Turkey-EU ties weakens, which could add to concerns about domestic political stability and increase interest in transatlantic paradigms.
Ambassador Van Rysselberghe: Closer to the people
by Bernard Kennedy
One of Ankara’s ambassadors can feel the pulse of the city more closely than most. He is Ambassador Marc Van Rysselberghe of Belgium, whose official home, built in 1929 as both residence and chancery, is situated in Bakanlıklar, just a few minutes from Kızılay. Today, the garden wall is surrounded by commercial buildings, but the downtown residence remains homely – and highly convenient, as Ambassador Van Rysselberghe points out, for shopping or boarding the subway. The Belgian envoy’s career has taken him to Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Thailand and Vietnam, and Ankara is his fourth ambassadorial posting, following Baghdad, Jakarta and Rabat. At weekends, he is busy touring Turkey in pursuit of his personal goal of understanding the country better. Our conversation took in a range of topics including the EU, Turco-Belgian relations and Belgium’s federal system.
Q I notice Belgium has just been celebrating the 175th anniversary of its independence…
A Yes, we have been celebrating both our independence and also the 25th anniversary of our federal structure. Belgian independence has to be seen in the context of a “liberal wave” of revolution-like movements in Europe in 1830. It’s striking to see how these movements feed on economic crisis, bad harvests and popular discontent. Then there is a politically aware elite, numbering sometimes only a few thousand, that gives political direction. I think that is more of less what happened in Belgium at that time. I could be mistaken – reconstructing history is not an exact science and historical views also change from time to time. As for the federal structure, we have actually had four constitutional changes in the direction of giving more autonomy both to the regions – Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels – and to the cultural communities, which do not totally overlap with the regions.
Q Are Belgians happy to be independent and at the same time to be living together regardless of ethnic and cultural differences?
A I don’t think there are really any ethnic differences. Belgium has a mix of ethnic elements. We are on the borderline of the Latin and Germanic-speaking worlds in Europe. So perhaps it’s interesting to see how we manage to find ways of living together and finding a political structure that fits the realities of the country in the cultural field – and also in the economic field because it may have begun as a cultural struggle but it has also found a breeding ground in the different economic realities in the North and the South. Of course, we are talking of a very small territory with a land area of only 30,000 square kilometres.
One thing I might add is that we have managed during all these 175 years not to have a single victim as a result of our squabbles. I think that is quite a positive thing that is often forgotten. We have put a lot of energy into it but we have always managed to resolve issues peacefully. In the end that is the most important thing – that a democratic system has the capacity to move and evolve, so that polarisation does not take terrible proportions and lead to violence.
Q How is the Turkish community in Belgium getting along? We don’t hear too much about them. Is this a case of ‘No news is good news’?
A Yes, this may be a positive indicator. Just a few days ago I had an informal visit here from our speaker of parliament Mr De Croo, and one of the visits we made was to Emirdağ in the province of Eskişehir. Perhaps one in two of the people of Turkish origin in Belgium originate in the region around Emirdağ. The speaker went over there and he was joined by a Belgian senator of Turkish origin and we had a walk around. The city normally has about 20,000 inhabitants but in summer-time it swells to about 60,000. Some members of the community settled in Belgium; others went to the Netherlands or France. They still come back for holidays and they have built houses there.
We also went to a neighbouring village where I witnessed an unusual example of cohabitation between Sunni and Alevi creeds: a combined mosque and cemevi – something I had never imagined before. I think the name of the village was Karacalar. The region seems to have benefited from the mass emigration. It looks quite prosperous, and there was a very relaxed atmosphere. But when we talked at length with the mayor and the district governor it appears that economic problems were one of the main reasons for emigration back in the 1960s.
As you know, originally, it was meant to be a short term passage of people going over there to work and then coming back after a few years. In the event, we now have a population of about 200,000 people of Turkish origin in Belgium out of a total population of 10m. I think about half of them have now acquired Belgian nationality. They tended to settle– not all of them but a substantial part of them –in certain towns or in separate quarters of towns, which is understandable in a first stage, where people look for well known faces and language they can understand. But as generations pass the aim should be that they become mainstream Belgians. In fact, we have parliamentarians of Turkish origin and a regional minister of Turkish origin. In Emirdag we met a Belgian of Turkish origin who was a pilot in Brussels. He told me that he was bringing his children up trilingual – Dutch, French, Turkish. It was an encouraging example of social evolution. Of course I am sure that every individual has a different story to tell. There may be people who do not feel part of the Belgian community but who no longer feel totally Turkish either, and who have difficulties identifying with the group. I hope and think that in time this can be overcome.
Q What is the Belgian position on Turkish accession to the EU? Again, I haven’t seen much news about it compared to the debate in other countries…
A I haven’t seen a recent opinion poll on it. It looks as though we have been by-passed by the pollsters. So I can’t cite you percentages for popular opinion. However, I can tell you that the Belgian government has been very positive and encouraging towards Turkish membership of the EU. This was again reiterated during the visit of our speaker, who has a good grasp of the sentiments of Parliament.
We have not organized a referendum as you know on the EU constitution. But we have to push the agreement through all parliaments in Belgium which is quite a time-consuming thing. There are about seven parliaments. The federal parliament has two chambers. There are three regional parliaments for Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders. And we also have community parliaments, one for the very small German-speaking community in the East, one for the francophones and one for the Flemish. In fact, it’s an asymmetric system because the Flemish community and regional parliaments are combined. However, in no Parliament is there any significant opposition.
That doesn’t mean that we do not have parties who have second thoughts or which are opposed [to Turkish membership]. There is a right-wing party on the Flemish side which is definitely against, and the Christian Democrat segment of the political spectrum has not made up its mind totally. However, the socialist-liberal components of the present coalition government apparently are very strongly in favour of Turkey joining the European Union and starting accession talks on October 3.
Q What do you think the outcome will be?
A Well I’m not a clairvoyant. I am also reluctant to comment on what other countries will do. Belgium hopes that the negotiations will start on October 3. The rest is speculation.
Q Do you sense any dissatisfaction in Turkey in recent months or any loss of leverage for the EU in Turkey?
A I know what the various politically active people in Turkey are thinking. Of course I have contact with them. There are recent declarations of the prime minister vis-à-vis another European member country. There are declarations to the effect that Turkey will certainly not accept additional criteria added to the ones that were agreed on the 17th of December. I follow that very attentively.
Q How would you sum up bilateral relations between Turkey and Belgium, apart from Belgium’s position on the Turkey’s EU membership.
A Well, we have already mentioned the community of Turkish origin in Belgium. In tourism, Turkey has this year become the number one foreign destination for Belgians, ahead of Spain, which used to be the traditional number one. Of course there have been some disturbances this summer, and we hope that this will remain under control. Turkey is an important commercial partner. Last year we had a volume of trade of over €4bn. The trade balance was in our favour but Turkey increased its exports more than we increased ours. We have had an important investment announcement by the Belgian-Dutch bank Fortis Bank, which has bought Dışbank, and which will appear on Turkish streets as Fortis Bank in the Autumn. We have had important investments before. Just to cite a couple, Deceuninck-Egepen, which makes frames for windows and doors, is a market leader in Turkey. This is an example of a medium-size, family-run business that is expanding into a kind of regional or multilateral player. And Tractebel has invested substantially in the energy sector. In fact, the electricity of Ankara is generated by a combined gas turbine power plant situated about 40km from Ankara that was inaugurated last year during a visit by our Crown Prince.
Coming to visits, we’ve had several visits of the Turkish prime minister and foreign minister to Brussels. It’s a continuous stream of visits, of course, not for Belgium proper but because we happen to host the executive branch of the EU and also to some extent the European Parliament in Brussels, and also the headquarters of NATO. At the end of last year we had an official visit from the speaker of our parliament, Herman De Croo, who was here again just recently on an informal visit. We also had visits from Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht. All these are indications of the very close relationship which we have with Turkey.
Q As an embassy what do you spend most of your time on?
A Well certainly on political developments. Consular matters are very important as you can imagine because of our huge community of Turkish origin. If you come here in the morning you will see that we are a very busy, much-visited embassy due to the visa requirement. And then there are lots of related consular activities such as marriages (and sometimes divorces). The tourists that visit Turkey are sometimes involved in problems that we have to take care of, and so on.
We have regionalised foreign commercial relations and we have actually three commercial attaches, one here in Ankara, who represents Wallonia, and two in Istanbul, for Flanders and Brussels. They also take care of each other’s interests actually – so not too much energy is lost and there is no sterile competition. Culture and education, including the international aspects, are exclusively in the competence of the cultural communities in Belgium, but they make use of us, the federal services, as a go-between because they do not have direct representation here on the spot.
Q On a more personal note, how long have you been in Turkey, had you visited the country before, and what were your responsibilities immediately before you came here?
A I came to Turkey in September last year. I came straight from Brussels where I was head of foreign personnel. The risk with diplomats when they stay abroad for too long is that they lose touch with the realities of their own country. We have to go back to Belgium after every two postings abroad, and a posting lasts 3-4 years, so we have to go back to Brussels for a 3-4 year period every 7-8 years.
When I was in Iraq I visited Eastern Turkey by car. I went up to Lake Van, Dogubeyazit and Artvin, followed the Black Sea coast to Trabzon, and then returned via Erzurum, Diyarbakir and Siirt. And when I came out of Iraq at the end of 1990, I drove along the whole southern coast. I had also been here on other occasions to visit Istanbul and Cappadocia. So before I came here as ambassador I already had at least a visual appreciation of the diversity of the country.
Q Were you pleased to be appointed to Turkey?
A Yes, I tried my best when I was in Brussels to come to Turkey. In my previous postings I had met several Turkish diplomats, some of whom I got rather well acquainted with, and they always impressed me with their intellectual level and human qualities. So that was one factor. And then the importance of Turkey in the present stage of its history vis-a-vis the European Union was certainly another reason to be interested in coming to Turkey.
Q Has it matched up to expecations?
A This is the time when we make our annual report to Brussels, and the past year has clearly been a very active time in terms of Turkish preparation to become a member of the EU – and in terms of European preparations too, of course, because it is a two-way process. Yes it is living up to expectations. But then again I have never had any regrets in any of my postings. It’s no good being happy in the past or in the future. One has to try to be happy in the present and make the best of it in order to improve the future. One has to have that philosophy as a diplomat.
Q How do you find living in Ankara?
A It has characteristics of large, fast-growing cities all over the world. At the same time, there are very distinct districts. And of course there are Turks here from many different regions. The language barrier can be a little bit frustrating. This is a very Turkish city, there isn’t much tourism, and it’s rather exceptional to find ordinary citizens who speak English fluently. Similarly, the cultural life is very Turkish. It’s hard to go to a theatrical performance or see a Turkish film if you don’t understand it, or to listen to Turkish music when you don’t get the lyrics. I hope to improve my Turkish and to have easier direct contact with people, rather than talking through interpreters which always contributes to a substantial loss in contact. One should be constantly prepared to learn languages.
One civilisation; different nations
by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA
One of the most dangerous situations for societies is to be drawn into a confusion of concepts. One of the concepts most frequently distorted today is the concept of “civilisation”. The discourse of the “clash of civilisations” exaggerates the differences between nations which exist for natural and historical reasons, and conceals from view the fact that, in an era when the world has shrunk so much, there can be only one civilisation for the whole of humanity: the civilisation of science, technology and democracy.
This is not an innocent misunderstanding. Forces seeking to prevent societies from developing freely often stoke the adoration of tradition and the complex of taking pride in gravestones, on the pretext of respect for beliefs, thereby artificially prolonging the life spans of anachronistic, unscientific institutions and opinions. Exploited people are kept uneducated, unemployed and unskilful, and then they are also distracted by useless expressions such as “clash of civilisations” and “moderate Islam” – as if there were more than one civilisation and these were capable of competing with one other. This permits the Political West to prevent other nations from reaching a level at which they can compete, particularly in the industrial realm, and assists its local collaborators to maintain their repression of uneducated, unemployed, poor masses.
Today, one of the main factors hindering peace, order, solidarity and wealth both within many countries and in international life is the way in which the masses are prevented from correctly understanding the conditions of their own societies and of the world through the propagation of useless expressions such as “clash of civilisations” and “moderate Islam”. The concept of “civilisation” is rarely used in public with its dictionary definition. The fact that the concepts of culture and civilisation are synonymous is thereby disguised. Almost for a century, particularly in the Islam world, the external and internal centres of power have reduced the concept of “civilisation” to the technology that can only be bought ready-made from abroad (i.e., from the West), while defining “culture” as the sum of institutions, norms and moral values which they claim will never be influenced by this technology.
It is misconceptualisation of this sort which underlies the demagogic propaganda “Let’s buy civilisation from the West but keep our culture intact, because it is national and sacred.” The existence of mutual interaction between the institutions, norms and values of a society on the one hand and the technology which it uses on the other happens to escape observation. So does the fact that progress in physical science and technology is only possible within a system of secular, political, juridical, educational, familial, artistic and moral institutions and values based on free thought – happens to escape observation.
Yet given intercontinental transport, communications and interaction, it can be said that there is now one civilisation or culture in the world. In everyday language, it is known as modern culture or modern civilisation. We could call it science-civilisation or democracy-civilisation. It is the civilisation or culture in which science, art, technology, governance, law, family life, education, production, distribution, transportation etc. are arranged scientifically – i.e., in an atmosphere of freedom, rationally and based on secularism. Indeed, both science and democracy are based upon the same standards and can be achieved through the application of the same standards. Sociology, hated and subdued by the proponents of the discourses of “moderate Islam” and “clash of civilisations”, defines modern culture – or civilisation – as a culture that has (a) secular and democratic governance, (b) free science, art and philosophy, (c) an economy based on advanced technology and (d) an advanced written language.
Folklore and crisis
In the underdeveloped countries, folklore is often quite wrongly presented as civilisation. Folklore is neither science, nor art, nor technology. Local endemic knowledge of herbs is no substitute for the science and techniques of pharmacy; local folk theatre is no substitute for the art of the theatre; folk songs and dance are no substitute for the arts of music and dance; nor can the understanding of authority and the value found in traditional rural communities be a substitute for democratic rule of law. Folklore can merely contribute to different styles, tastes and colours of civilisation at the national level as the raw material of science, art and technology. This is the fact that we want to explain with the observation of Hence our insistence that while nations have different characteristics, there is only one civilisation.
The essence of the crisis which humanity has been experiencing for the past 150 years is not the “clash of civilisations” but the way in which the Political West has cooperated with medieval local institutions of power in order to prevent the countries which it wants to control for the sake of cheap raw material, cheap labour and a ready market from reaching the level of science, technology and art. On the one hand, the masses are kept uneducated, unemployed and unskilled; on the other they are encouraged to take a meaningless pride in their folkloric values and practices as if these constituted an “authentic civilisation” or even “national identity”. In the end, disappointment sets in at the defeat of folklore in the face of science, art and technology. It becomes clear that it does not provide the wherewithal for competing with the West, for gaining independence from it or for acquiring a real identity. And this disappointment leads the masses, in the darkness of ignorance, to turn to desperate responses including terror.
The Ottoman experience
Turkey has become, and is being turned into, a target area for this risky adventure with the concept of civilisation. In the middle of the 19th century, at a time when the Ottoman state had become a colony in all but name, some attempts were made at administrative, legal and educational modernisation. These steps were not taken freely but under the colonial guidance of the Political West. They therefore remained incomplete and inconsistent. Those who argued that modernisation should not merely be formal but also intellectual, qualitative and holistic immediately faced reactionary responses. In accordance with the aims of the Political West, the feudal and religious authorities started to create confusion in society around the artificially separated concepts of culture and civilisation.
Some said that the real power of the West derived from its transition to institutional structures depending not religious dogmas but rational and scientific thought. A handful of intellectual bureaucrats argued that the science of the new era was not religion but the sciences of reason and that government must be based on human rights and dependent on law. But the advocates of religious repression regarded any suggestion of arrangements based on reason in the social domain as a criminal assault on religion. They asserted that the human mind could not comprehend the needs of the social and moral system, which were determined by empyrean commandments, and treated the aims and desires of the West as nothing more than heresy. From the West, only technique could be adopted; anything institutional or intellectual must be shunned. “Our civilisation is weak but our culture is superior!” they meaninglessly declared, “Let’s take technique (“civilisation”) from the West but maintain our culture!”
Independence and reason
The Turkish Republic took the view that there is only one civilisation in our era: the secular culture or civilisation, based on freedom and representing the most advanced level of the state, the family, education, economics, science, technology, arts and philosophy. There was no confusion of concepts here. This view became the basis of all the social institutions of the Republic of Turkey. It is the essential factor that made Turkish society the only independent, free, developed and peaceful society in the Islamic world.
However, internal reactionary forces were at work during the War of Independence and the revolutions of the Republic. There was, for example, opposition to the abolition of the caliphate on the grounds that it was a source of identity for the Turkish nation, a cultural asset and a source of pride. The United Kingdom too was in favour of this institution. But Mustafa Kemal was not deceived. “Foreigners are not attacking the caliphate,” he pointed out, “yet the Turkish nation is constantly under attack. To attack the Turkish nation more easily, the continuation of the caliphate is preferred.”
Listening to Clinton
Since the end of the Cold War, the USA has taken to considering undemocratic institutions and practices such as sheikhs, sects and the re-packing of women into bag-like costumes not as contradictions of Helsinki but as “differences between civilisations”. At the same time they have attacked Kemalism, the force that saved our society from such repression and made freedom, peace and welfare possible. In recent years, the EU has joined in this approach. All this is in line with the pattern of behaviour of the Political West explained above. It is bringing not freedom, peace and wealth but repression, terror and poverty both to the Middle East and to Middle East.
The former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, recently called on 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, he said, the respectability of the West would increase in their eyes. The world, he said, needed proof that reason, intelligence and good will are more powerful than historical destiny. His words are an appropriate conclusion to this article.
Formula One: a brand new opportunity
The countdown to Turkey’s first Formula One race was well under way as Diplomat went to press this month. Excitement was mounting, for on this occasion it was not only the performance of the drivers but the performance of the track and the whole organisation that was about to be put to the test.
The thrill of speed, the flow of adrenalin, the challenge of sustaining perfection. A throbbing fantasy world of split-second decisions and steel nerves. A clash of technological giants that climaxes in bitter disappointment or sweet champagne? Or merely a bevy of noisy vehicles notching up dusty laps of a repetitive track? Perhaps not everybody can be a Grand Prix fan. But few would deny the contribution which Turkey’s new-found place on the Formula One map will make to the country’s international profile and prestige.
Formula One is considered the apogee of motor sports; it is also reputed to be the sports activity with the largest audience in the World. Turkey’s first-ever encounter with the chequered flag, due to be held at the Istanbul Park Track on August 19-21, will be the first sports event in the country with the potential to gather 130,000 people together in one day and reach a total audience of up to 2.2 billion in 223 different countries.
Driven by profits
The annual race may or may not make a profit for its organisers. But besides promoting Turkey and Istanbul, it will encourage plenty of economic activity. A survey carried out by the American Economic Research Company Incontext for the International Federation of Automobile Sports (FIA) between the years 1996-1999 showed that a total of 2,100,000 paying spectators had watched the eleven races from the grandstands. Foreign visitors accounted for 77% of the audiences. The average visitor spent approximatelyUS$229 per day, or US$325 per day when accommodation and international transport is included.
The Turkish organizers hoped that 40-50,000 foreign guests would attend the Turkish Grand Prix, spending tens of millions of euros. Although the World Cup and the Olympic Games are the largest international sporting events, both take place only once every four years, whereas Formula 1 events are held for 9 months every year. The opportunities for promotion and advertising have led countries to compete fiercely for the right to stage the event. In Malaysia, it is claimed that the unit price of export products rose by almost 10% after the arrival of Formula 1.
Getting a date
The Turkish Federation of Automobile Sports (TOMSFED) has been given sole responsibility for the sporting aspects of the Turkish Grand Prix. The campaign to bring Formula One to Turkey was led by TOMSFED, supported by the government and backed by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) and the national Union of Chambers (TOBB). Originally the Istanbul event was pencilled in for July on the draft calendar. But when the schedule was finalised at the FIA meeting in Paris on October 13, 2004, August 21 became the official date of the Turkish Grand Prix.
The foundations of the Tepeören-Tuzla track had been laid on September 10, 2003. Covering a total area of 2,215,000 square metres, the track has been designed by Herman Tilke. It is a counter-clockwise route 5,378 metres long, and 14-21.5 metres wide, with six right bends and seven left bends. The cars are expected to reach a maximum speed of 320.58km/h. The track is notable for its undulating terrain, with a steepest lengthwise slope of 8.145%. There is accommodation for up to 125,000 spectators.
TOBB President Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the company Motorsporları ve Organizasyon A.Ş. (MSO), has compared the task of financing and constructing the Istanbul Speed Park Track to the work involved in building a medium-sized dam. Nevertheless, the job was completed in little more than a year compared to 4-5 years for the typical dam.
According to FIA director Charlie Whiting, inspections have shown the track to be extremely safe for both audiences and pilots. Security, connecting roads and technical matters were among the issues covered by the inspections. He declared that the track would be one of the best in the world. Who wouldn‘t want to be in pole position?
Democracy: Form and Essence
by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV
“Democracy” is expected to be, in the final analysis, “the rule of the people”. It is generally defined as a process of administering power for the freedom and the equality of all citizens but proclaiming, in the meantime, the prevalence of the will of the majority. It is adorned with a variety of formal attributes, often in partial or total isolation of the actual socio-economic conditions. Hence, the operative state of affairs may well be a far cry from the description in high-sounding constitutions. For an all-embracing comprehension of “who gets what, when and how”, it is necessary not only to read the laws of the land, but also their immediate connection with – even dependence on – the sub-structural realities of these formations.
Since the British (1688), American (1776), French (1789), and Soviet (1917) Revolutions, mankind has become accustomed to phrases like “periodic elections”, “secret ballot”, “parliamentary representation”, “restraints of a second chamber”, “separation of powers”, “federalistic balance”, “states’ rights”, or “dictatorship of the proletariat for applying democracy in favour of the working majority.”
Some of these traditions, rules, and procedures do indeed help to safeguard or promote certain rights. Some legal instruments may even be revolutionary. For instance, in the words of the eminent historian Arnold J. Toynbee, the Turks aimed “at nothing short of an out-and-out conversion” of their country. It was “as revolutionary a programme as has ever been carried out in any country deliberately and systematically in such a short a span of time.” He added: “It was as if, in our Western world, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the secularist scientific mental revolution at the end of the seventeenth century, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution had all been telescoped into a single lifetime and been made compulsory by law.”
Toynbee even described the Turkish general election of 1950 as a landmark that signified “a turn of the political tide in the world as a whole.” Turkey had moved then from a one-party to a two-party regime “by consent, without violence or bloodshed.” The party that had for almost three decades held a monopoly of office accepted the will of the electors, first by letting them vote freely, and secondly by taking the adverse vote as a signal for the hitherto dominant party to retire from office and let the opposition take over the government. I am assuming that Professor Toynbee was not personally interested in who won the elections, but only in the victory of the constitutional spirit.
Instrument of the few?
Some thinking individuals and organized groups throughout history, however, have refused to be the idol worshippers of formal democracy — or of socialism. Although it does not follow that we throw the basic beliefs of democracy and of socialism on the scrap-heap, libraries are full of works and the annals of history abundant in human experience revealing the hard kernel and lack of freedom hidden under the silver-tongued shell of formal equality and liberty. There is no harm in being dissatisfied with the sweet-sounding shell. Democracy is not a present only for the “worthy” few and their immediate entourage loyal to them.
Framed with a constitution and embellished by political liberties, suffrage, and representative bodies, the whole arrangement may be a coercive instrument of that powerful few. That instrument may be used, moreover, to suppress the rights of the popular masses. The machinery, democratic in form, may bar the people from participating in governance. Hence, formally proclaimed rights may well be totally inoperative.
This dichotomy may even bring a society to the doors of an overt or covert dictatorship of the most reactionary, chauvinistic and imperialist elements of a particular socio-economic order. This is the case when the powerful group is no longer able to pursue its policies via the usual democratic methods. Such systems were established in Italy (1922), Germany (1933), and in some other countries. Often reducing human nature to biological features and dividing races into “higher” and “lower” ones, they justified social inequality, exploitation and aggressive wars. As the Harvard Professor V.O. Key, Jr. convincingly exposed in his famous compendium on southern politics, even the electoral process in the eleven American states from Virginia to Florida came close to that for a number of decades beginning with the 1920s.
European fascism during the inter-war period was an extreme case. Anti-democratic deviations in some societies are less unambigious. In some countries, dominant socio-economic entities make the crucial decisions and apply them in an absence of effective opposition without any need for semi-military formations marching in goose-steps, for photographs of top decision-makers adorning public buildings or for systematic attacks on religious, racial and ethnic minorities. Even if these standard forms are not present,. democratic institutions may still be eroded. The weight of any anti-democratic rule is felt when it is realistically established whom it serves, how it stands on its feet and how it disseminates its power.
Democracies are expected to safeguard the rights of all citizens, not only those who constitute the racial, ethnical, religious or political majorities, but also minorities of every brand. As Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist, eloquently expressed in her critical book on the Russian Revolution, “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” The pursuit of “harmonious politics” may often lead to similar consequences. In some societies, customarily considered democratic, discrimination may return with a vengeance. If a lot has changed in the United States, especially in the southern states, an awful lot also stayed the same. In Mississippi, where African-Americans constitute 36 percent of the population, they make up about 75 percent of prisoners. There are tougher places to be black than that southern state. Poverty, low levels of education, and high prison rates among blacks in the country cannot be explained by racial genetic inability or unwillingness to seize opportunities. Some whites are just peddling false goods.
The political parties of some Western democracies, whether sitting at the apex of power or expected to oppose those who do so, are often to be found within a narrow spectrum. Closely interacting with other components of the political system, the main contending parties may collectively constitute the major lever which enables the dominant force in the society to maintain and further its influence. A society in which power over essential aspects of life falls outside the command of the public cannot be described as a democracy. The figures that show the growth of the Gross Domestic Product do not indicate the distribution of wealth. Similarly, the notion of growth in some Third World countries may mean the boost of profit only of a single individual who operates a utility company. The total debt of the developing nations, on the other hand, exceeds their total spending on health and education.
What is missing in all these deviations from democracy is the popular control of the otherwise “silent majority” in the street over the ruling few. Without a full share in wealth, the masses experience declining living standards and are armed to fight the wars of others. They should enjoy, instead, direct authority in decision-making and management in their execution. The Soviet model of command from above was also poles apart from the vision of freely associated producers having attained mastery over their own labour. Consequently, perestroika released the accumulated tensions, and glasnost revealed them to the world. What was “buried” should be appropriately described as the remnants of the Stalinist model.
The alternative of a democracy complete with its essential contents cannot be dead as long as its formal counterpart lives on but fails to meet the pursuit of the masses. Just because a country has started out with an authoritarian – or a democratic – regime does not mean that it is bound to continue in this manner. The forces of civil society constitute the principal vehicles for the growth of democracy. To utilize relevant tools requires civic literacy, that is, the capacity of the citizens who compose the fundamental unit of the political system, to accumulate knowledge about the rules of governance and indulge in conscious action.
Taha Aksoy: An incredibly enjoyable task
Taha Aksoy is one of those unsung heroes: the General Coordinator of the 23rd world university games – or Universiade – taking place in Izmir this month. In spite of his busy schedule, Mr Aksoy was kind enough to respond to our request for his remarks on what it takes to organise such as event and what the event means for the city and country in which it is held. He begins by explaining how the event came to be held in Izmir…
It was during the first annual Turkish Universities Sports Games, organized in the provinces of Izmir, Manisa and Aydın, that the President of the Turkish University Sports Federation, Mr. Kemal Tamer, suggested to Mr. Ahmet Priştina, the Mayor of the Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir, that the city should hold the 23rd Universiade. The date was May 11, 1999. Also present on that occasion was Minister of State Fikret Ünlü.
The proposal was greeted with excitement. A delegation was sent to observe the games organized in Palma in 1999. The report of the delegation was positive, and on November 25 a formal application was made to the International University Sports Federation (FISU). In January 2000, the FISU Supervision Committee arrived in Izmir to conduct an inspection. The competition was stiff: cities in Canada, Mexico and Korea were also eager to host the 23rd World University Summer Games. The final candidate dossiers were presented to the FISU in Beijing, China, in July of the same year – and Izmir was selected as the venue. In the following month – that is, almost exactly five years ago – the Organising Committee was launched and preparations began.
Every effort has been made to ensure that this giant event goes off without problems. In every large scale, international organization, problems are faced. We have had our share. Yet none of these problems proved unsolvable. We were strongly motivated by the fact that it was the first time such a major sporting event was to be held in our country since the Mediterranean Games back in 1971. In this sense, out efforts would set a unique example. What’s more, we were well aware that our country is also a candidate to stage the Olympic Games.
The responsibility we have taken was too heavy for Both the city of Izmir and the Organising Committee took on a heavy burden of responsibility. But we enjoyed strong support from the state, especially following the passage of the Universiade 2005 Izmir Law. This helped many problems to be solved. In addition, literally everybody has shown great self-sacrifice and enthusiasm.
From Universiade to Olympics?
To give some idea of the size and importance of the event, it is only necessary to point out that while the total number of participants in all previous Universiades – including athletes and technical delegations – was approximately 6,000, the number of athletes and technique delegation participating in Universiade 2005 is approximately 9,000. It is not hard to imagine how many extra tons of food and drink will be consumed in Izmir over the fifteen-day period of the games, or how noticeably the population of Izmir will increase.
Universiades benefit the host country in many ways. It is not just a case of prestige, or of the wonderful friendships established with athletes who will be the executives of the future. The general benefits to the country are limitless. Suddenly, all the attention of the world focuses on you and your country through live and taped broadcasts. Universiades are perfect opportunities for the promotion of the country.
In addition, the facilities which countries acquire as a result of their preparations for the Universiades provide golden opportunities for the training of new athletes. Some of the Izmir facilities are allocated to the General Directorate of Youth and Sports and some to the Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir. But in practice all are available for Turkish and world athletes and sports fans. Since the facilities have been built or upgraded in compliance with international standards, it is now possible for many of the world’s sporting events to be staged in Izmir.
What happens next will depend to a large extent on how much interest sports fans show. At the same time, I believe that the 23rd Universiade 2005 Izmir will make a considerable contribution to the conviction that Turkey can successfully handle such large-scale events and hence to the holding of the Olympic Games in our country. The President of FISU is of the same opinion – namely that the Universiade will have a considerable impact in bringing the Olympics here sooner rather than later.
A word of encouragement
I cannot overemphasise that the organisation of an Olympiade is a very difficult but at the same time an incredibly enjoyable task. You are bringing the youth of the world together in the atmosphere of sweet competition engendered by sport, and so creating a climate of peace which will be needed in the years ahead. At the same time, you are bringing these people together in your own country – laying the foundations of this climate in your own country and before the eyes of the whole world. It is an unbelievable sensation. For this reason I would encourage all the countries which are candidates to stage this event, and advise those countries that have not plucked up the courage so far to become candidates. There is nothing to be scared of: every country which has experienced this event will be ready to support and assist them.
An entire team – volunteers, personnel, arrangement and organisation committee members – came together for the purpose of the 23rd Universiade 2005 Izmir. When we first met each other, nobody knew anybody. Since then, despite the rapid tempo, all these individuals have become not only elements of a well-organised unit, but also very good friends. It is as if we had always known each other. Everybody is familiar with everybody else. Everybody helps; everybody is supportive.
Some words of thanks
Starting from the people of İzmir and the cities in the neighbourhood, I would like to thank the Turkish public, all the public officials involved and the personnel and volunteers who have put their hearts and souls into making this month’s event possible. Not everybody can be commended personally. However, the contributions of the late Ahmet Priştina, Mayor of the Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir, and of the President of the Turkish University Sports Federation, Mr. Kemal Tamer, author of the original proposal to hold the games in Izmir, Turkey, are unforgettable. Great contributions have also been made by Mr. Priştina’s successor as Mayor of the Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir, Aziz Kocaoğlu, by Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin, who activated the resources of the State, by Macit Toksoy, Yeşim Müderrisoğlu and Gül Şener working for the General Coordinatorship, by the entire Organizing Committee and by many, many others.
The Izmir marathon
The main milestones in the organisation of the 23rd Universiade 2005, Izmir, can be summed up as follows:
July14, 2000: Dossier presented in Beijing, China and candidature of Izmir approved
June 12, 2001: Organizing Committee officially launched
July 02, 2001: Mascot and emblem designed.
Dec 19, 2001: Executive Committee launched
Mar 22, 2002: Announcement made for Main Sponsorship tender
Mar 24–29, 2002: Inspection visit of FISU authorities, to Izmir.
Mar 26, 2002: Opening of Universiade House
Apr 15, 2002: Signing of main sponsorship contract
Jun 2, 2002: Residences in Athletes’ Village put out for sale
Oct 6-9, 2002: Preparations inspected by FISU Secretary General
Oct 22, 2002: Protocol signed between Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir and General Directorate of Youth and Sports on sharing responsibilities for repair and maintenance of sports halls
Dec 23, 2002: Construction of Athletes’ Village put out to tender
Jun 6, 2003: Contract signed for hardware and consulting services
Jul 11, 2003: Foundation of Athletes’ Village laid, with participation of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Responsible for Sports Mehmet Ali Şahin, Governor of Izmir Yusuf Ziya Göksu, Mayor of Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir Ahmet Priştina, FISU Secretary General Roch Campana, FISU Executive Committee Member Anastassov Constantin, and the Universiade 2005 Izmir volunteers
Dec 11-16, 2003: FISU Executive Committee meeting held in Izmir, with the participation of FISU family members and nearly 80 foreign delegates
Feb 07, 2004: Opening of IUOC headquarters office
Apr 16-24, 2004: FISU Supervision Commission meeting, and Technical Committee (CT) inspection of Games venues
Apr 21-23, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU Basketball and Volleyball CT Chairmen.
Apr 22-24, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU Football CT Chairman
Jun 15, 2004: Sudden passing away of Ahmet Priştina, Mayor of Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir and President of Universiade 2005 Izmir Organizing Committee
Jun 17-19, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU International Technical Commission Delegation of CT chairmen of individual sports
Jun 30, 2004: Aziz Kocaoğlu elected Mayor of Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir and becomes President of Universiade 2005, Izmir Organizing Committee.
July 2-9, 2004: 2004 World Sailing Championship in Izmir.
Aug 12, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU Artistic Gymnastic CT.
Aug 13-30, 2004: Visit of 20 representatives of Universiade 2005 Izmir Supreme Board to Athens, to observe the organization of International Olympic Games.
Sep 17-21, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU Athletics CT Chairman
Oct 11-14, 2004: FISU Director General Eric Saintrond and FISU International Technical Commission (CTI) inspection visits
Oct 22, 2004: Inspection visit of FISU Fencing CT Chairman, including observation of Athletes’ Village, IUOC Headquarters and improvements at various venues.
Oct 14, 2004: Taha Aksoy appointed chairman of Executive Committee and member of Organizing Committee.
Nov 10, 2004: Law No.5255, required for the organization of the 23rd Universiade 2005, Izmir, ratified, and Organizing and Executive Committees constituted, associated to the Supreme Board
November 26, 2004: First meeting of Supreme Board, chaired by Minister of State Mehmet Ali Şahin, in Ankara.
Dec 12-14, 2004: Visit of FISU Tennis CT Chairman
Jan 12-22, 2005: Visit of 18 representatives of the Supreme Board to Innsbruck, Austria, to observe the organisation of Innsbruck Winter Universiade and attend FISU Executive Committee meeting
February 28-March 4, 2005: Preparations inspected by FISU Director General Eric Saintrod
April 14-16, 2005: Head of Delegations Meeting held in Izmir.
April 16, 2005: Team Draws of Universiade 2005, Izmir finalized
May 26–28, 2005: Taha Aksoy, General Coordinator and Chairman of the Executive Committee, and Yeşim Müderrisoğlu, Assistant General Coordinator, attend FISU EC meeting in Brussels and present Status Report
Amsterdam: canals and freedom
by Zeynep TANITKAN
(photos: Recep Peker TANITKAN)
In the seventeenth century, Amsterdam became one of Europe’s wealthiest cities. It acquired a pleasant backdrop of canals and narrow facades, an appetite for art and skilled craftsmanship, and the opportunity to develop a respect for all kinds of freedoms. In the past few decades, it has harnessed these advantages to become a popular tourist destination, with more and more art and history to consume by day, and more and more excitement and passion being synthesised by night.
One of Europe’s most charming, photogenic cities, Amsterdam is also one of its most easy-going. It may not be the best place to go if you are looking for a challenge or trying to get away from the tourists. But its canals with their decorated iron bridges – and its endless variations on the themes of boats, houses, roofs, windows and spires – soon put you at ease. Together with the surface water, a long tradition of urban civilization and a long history of affluence somehow enables Amsterdam to preserve its live-and-let-live character even in this day and age. In the famous antique, flower and cheese markets, there is plenty of opportunity to spend but little pressure. And hardly a visitor – whether there for the art or there for the steamy nightlife – fails to comment on the cool folk and liberal and relaxed atmosphere.
The fact that the city has more bicycles and trams than cars certainly helps, offering an antidote to the chaos of Ankara or Istanbul – or, indeed, of any of Europe’s more bustling capitals. There is no place her for traffic jams, exhaust fumes or parking quarrels! Due to the walks and bicycle routes along the canals, you can visit the whole city without need for a guide.
Amsterdam can keep you busy for weeks. It has more than 50 museums, numerous exotic restaurants – Chinese and Indonesian for starters – and a wealth of specialist shops. Yet almost everything is within walking distance. By evening, the city offers almost endless entertainment. Within a single week in September, it is to play host to Eminem, the “Wasted” punk festival and the international “Gaudeamus” classical music week.
A city on water
The Dam started life as a fishing village on the Amstel River at the end of the twelfth century. By the end of the seventeenth, it had become the trading centre of the worldwide Dutch Empire and one of the richest cities of the world. With little dry land available, it was also one of the most densely-populated. The architecture reflects this in steep staircases and narrow streets, doors and corridors.
During the enlargement of the city in the 17th century – Amsterdam’s Golden Age – three main canals were built: the Herengracht, Keizergracht and Prinsengracht, forming concentric circles known as Grachtengordal west and east of the city centre. Thus today’s familiar townscape took shape. There are more than 100 canals and 1,000 bridges. A late-afternoon boat trip ending at the port is one way to get off your feet. It also reveals many aspects of historical and contemporary Amsterdam – hotels, offices, warehouses and some of the stranger canal boats – not immediately apparent from the land.
Built on water, the city gives you the impression that you are living in a dream – or a reflection. Buildings constructed in the thirteenth century look old but still function well. The past and future exist simultaneously. The “Venice of the North” lacks the hot sun and deep colours of the Italian city, but makes up for this with its own cheerful, self-confident atmosphere. Opinion varies on the historic “brown” coffee-shops, which sell all kinds of drinks and snacks – a gift to civilisation or dark corners of an otherwise bright civilisation?
Tulips and light switches
The central square is called The Dam. Four hundred years ago it was surrounded by fishermen and storks. Now it is one of the liveliest locations in the city. In this square, you can visit the monument erected in commemoration of those who lost their lives during World War II, the Royal Palace and the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), now a cultural center, where Queen Beatrix was crowned. Stroll down from here – taking in the many gift shops – to the Leidseplein, a square noted for its many cafes, bars and theatres, and for night clubs like the legendary Melkweg and Paradiso. The music goes on until dawn.
The celebrated canalside flower market is also located nearby. Here you can buy tulips, a national symbol, but you will need a certificate if you want to take these tulips abroad. Not far away are the buildings where the famous diamond expert Coster processed the “Kohinoor Mountain of Light”, used for the Crown of the United Kingdom in 1852. Visitors can see how such renowned diamonds are processed at the diamond processing workshops. Amsterdam is not only famous for its diamonds and flowers; it also has its own special shops for toothbrushes (witte tanden winkel), electric light switches (knopenwinkel) and interesting paper goods.
Needless to say, Amsterdam’s Red Light district is equally special. As far as possible, the atmosphere is celebratory rather than sleazy. There are numerous bars and strip clubs. Many drugs and stimulants are sold legally in the coffee shops. The city boasts a sex museum offering “entertaining and exquisite visions of erotica”: sculptures, historical documents, photographs, paintings, prints and videos from the Roman era to modern times, and from all over the world. The Dutch capital is also a favourite meeting place for the world’s homosexuals.
Amsterdam’s museums – and particularly its art museums – are its number one draw. The Rijksmuseum is one of the world’s leading art museums. Its unrivalled collection of 17th-century Dutch art includes famous pieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. To some of these works, reproductions do little justice: the life-size group portrait The Night Watch has to be viwed in its full proportions. And its dramatically real protagonists (Rembrandt included) insist on making eye contact from their century of darkness and light.
The museum contains much sculpture and decorative art, from medieval times onwards, as well as painting. However, its unmistakeable 1885 building is under renovation. Until 2008, the finest 17th century works are on view under the title The Masterpieces. The house where Rembrandt lived for nearly 20 years and created many of his works of art has also been turned into a museum, known as Rembrandthuis. The artist’s preliminary sketches and the oil paintings of his students are the main exhibits.
Few visitors to Amsterdam pass by the opportunity to view more than 200 paintings of Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum. Also on show are some 500 preliminary sketches and nearly 700 letters written by the extraordinary master. Marked out by its modern architecture, the museum houses paintings by Gauguin, Manet, Pisarro, Monet and Toulouse Lautrec for good measure. Meanwhile, many works of modern art from all around the world are exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum. Picasso, Monet and Kandinsky are all represented.
Glimpses of the past
A growing number of museums offer glimpses into the past of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and indeed Europe. The Amsterdam History Museum contains archaeological findings dating back to the 13th century, and artefacts of silver, gold, glass and porcelain. The Shipping Museum hosts one of the largest maritime collections of the world: arms, equipment, flags and paintings, particularly from the 17th and 18th centuries. Although generations have passed, there are still queues outside the house where Anne Frank and her parents were hidden during the Nazi occupation, and where the Jewish girl – later to die in a concentration camp – wrote her famous diaries. There is also a Jewish history museum in a restored synagogue in the old Jewish quarter.
Other specialist museums display the history of the theatre and the press, for example. The New Metropolis, or National Science and Technology Centre, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, has interactive exhibitions on science and technology. On national heritage days, many of Amsterdam’s museums are free of charge, and at other times combination tickets can be purchased. Significant savings can also be made by purchasing travel cards. Little is forbidden in Amsterdam and the only thing which is difficult is choosing what to do next.
Ercan Gülen: Master of cut-and-paint
by Sibel DORSAN
Ankara artist Ercan Gülen is pioneer and practitioner of a striking yet perilous linocut technique. It is this which makes his works so complete and so unique. A true representative of the harmony of line and colour, he chooses many of his themes from Anatolian life.
I met Ercan Gülen for the first time at the “Artists of the Republic Exhibition” held within the framework of the 122nd anniversary celebrations of the Association of Fine Arts Academy Graduates. He gave me the catalogue of his exhibition to be opened soon. It was entitled “Linocut Printings” and the pictures it contained were extraordinaruly different and beautiful. I had previously encountered many samples of gravure, lithography and serigraphy, but I had no idea about the linocut printing technique. After a brief telephone conversation and a warm invitation, I suddenly found myself sitting among the finely-detailed linocut prints in the living room of his at his “Workshop-Home” on Hoşdere Caddesi in Ankara.
A special technique
I listened to the artist as he explained the single-block, multi-coloured relief printing technique which he pioneered. According to Gülen, the linocut printing method parallels the woodblock printing technique. The first woodblock prints may date back as far as 300BC, but the earliest actually recorded comes from ninth-century China. The technique arrived in Europe at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Linoleum, which was used as floor covering in the 1860s, became an artistic material for the first time when the Viennese artist Franz Cisek had his students produce works with it.
Although famous artists in the West, such as Albrecht Dürer, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinsky, Edward Wunch, Franz Mark Feininger were fascinated by relief printing and produced many works in the genre, Turkish artists have not shown much interest in this method. Only a few have attempted linocut relief paintings, and these have generally been of an experimental nature, and remained few in number. Ercan Gülen explains the method as follows:
“Relief prints are made by applying paint to the upper parts of the block and then printing it on the relief. It is the direct opposite of the gravure method, which consists of cavity printing. In the gravure technique, the deeper parts of the block are filled with paint and passed onto the paper by pressing. Linocut printing is a technique in which more surface area is printed. Separate blocks can be prepared for each colour, or many colours can be printed in one block. The artist initially plans the composition in his mind. Later, using the linocut, the surface of the block is divided into linear forms and the object becomes clear. At each phase, different parts of the block are carved away – in other words, it is a reduction method. It is a manner of working during which there is no going back: every detail such as colour, design, printing number has to be considered in advance, and right from the start it is necessary to know exactly how the picture will look when completed.”
After painting the surface of the block with a roller, Ercan Gülen spoons up the paper onto the block using wooden spoons – a traditional method dating back to the workshop artisans. He makes his original “single-block, multicoloured” prints without using any sort of press.
A leaf from Picasso’s book
During the 1960s and 1970s, Gülen concentrated on single-colour (black and white) relief prints. All his relief prints from that period – like his paintings – were “non-figurative”. It was in 1987 that he discovered the “single block-multicoloured” method from Picasso’s linocut printing book. He began to make figurative coloured prints instead of non-figurative black and white ones. He could not stop making linocut printings. At first he used many colours, then he reduced the number of colours and discovered the strong narrative power of designs in 3-4 colours.
The “single block-multicoloured” printing method requires intelligence and creativity. It is rather like playing chess, with a strategic concept based on planning the following moves in advance. Also a keen chess player, Gülen perhaps experiences similar excitement when making his relief prints.
All Gülen’s multicoloured printings are figurative. His recent canvases, the themes of which are in line with the relief printings, are “figurative abstract”. In the prints, he generally uses earthen colours and black, beginning with the lighter shades and progressing towards the darker ones. His “The Sad Nude” (1989) is surely one of the most beautiful examples of Turkish relief printing.
“I would like those, who look at my paintings, to place me in one location in the geography of the world,” the artist explains. In line with this philosophy, his themes since 1990 have been taken primarily from Anatolia. Some of his works feature Kırkpınar wrestlers, mosques, caravanserais, cockfights and so on.
The unity between Gülen’s prints and his paintings is striking. The artist can apply the themes of his paintings just as easily with the linocut knife as he can with the brush. His use of single, undistinguished lines points to a strong design infrastructure. One cannot help noticing the deformations and cubic approaches in the figures, whether in painting or in print. Subject matter is highly varied: The use of staining offsets the consecutive movements of the horizontal, vertical and circular lines. Subject matter is extremely diverse: nudes, chess players, birds and above all ships – among them the nostalgic Bosphorus steamships of Istanbul, where he spent his childhood and teenage years.
Success, Gülen says, depends on the amount of effort he puts into his work. Unsurprisingly, he sees himself as an innovative artist. He enjoys a sense of freedom, since he does not imitate anybody, but is only himself. He never repeats the same design.
Artist in action
Gülen has had an active life in Turkey and the United States, not only producing art but also teaching it, writing about it and organising artistic events. He was born in Istanbul in 1932, and graduated from the higher painting department of the State Fine Arts Academy in the same city in 1960. He was trained in the workshops of Halil Dikmen, Sabri Berkel and Nurullah Berk. Between 1961 and 1968, he worked for an American company in Ankara. While dreaming of Paris, he found himself in New York. From 1968 to 1976 he worked in the United States. Thanks to his graphic work, the building of the Fort Meade High School in Baltimore was presented with the “Craftsmanship Award” for 1974.
Gülen taught art at many colleges in the US. “While in America, I worked at a college for black students. Since white teachers would not work there, I accepted the job. One day, I was sitting at my desk at break-time writing something. The students were all around me and I felt one of the girls trying to touch my hand while I wasn’t looking. My initial reaction was to withdraw my hand, but I decided not to. The girl caressed my hand. I realised that this must have been the first time that she had touched the hand of a white person. I felt deeply sad and ashamed…”
In 1976, Gülen returned to Turkey. From 1978 to 1991, he gave design and “Art Analysis” lessons at the Fine Arts Faculty of Bilkent University. From 1992 to 1996 he served as president of the United Painters and Sculptors Association and published the periodical Sanat Gazetesi. He wrote articles about the plastic arts and undertook translation work on the subject. Two of the seven stories which he had written in the 1960s were published. Gülen took group exhibitions of Turkish painters to Armenia in 1997 and Kazakhstan in 1998. He himself participated in a group exhibition in Kishinev, Moldova, in 1999. In February 2000, he organised a joint exhibition by 20 Turkish and 20 Greek painters in Ankara and Athens. Gülen has staged 26 personal exhibitions to date and participated in a large number of joint exhibitions. More information can be found on his website: www.ercangulen.com .
Fethiye: Seas for all times
by Recep Peker Tanıtkan and Hüseyin Buğdaycı
Beaches, boat trips, islands, pine trees, walks and activities, ancient civilisations and legends… The southwestern district of Fethiye has them all – not to mention a lively town centre, ample facilities and the astonishing Dead Sea zone. These pages are a guide to the not-very-difficult art of holidaying in the area.
It first became famous in ancient times as Telmessos, the city of soothsayers. But none of the wise men of the pre-classical age could have predicted all the history that Fethiye was to witness. Nor could they have foreseen how their town would become the centre of a district visited by tourists from near and far who appreciate its well-preserved natural treasures.
The ruins of the city of soothsayers can still be seen on an extensive site stretching from the hill slopes to the gulf. The monumental fourth century BC Lycian Tomb of Amintas is easy to spot from below, in the form of a temple with two Ionic columns. On the left-hand column bears the inscription, “Amintas, son of Herpamias”.
From past to present
Many sarcophaguses and rock graves can be seen in and around the town. The most important of these monumental graves, also belonging to the Lycian period, is located near the Turkish Post Office (PTT) building. The sarcophagus is decorated with bas-reliefs symbolising warriors.
The ruins of a castle thought to belong to the Knights of St John lie in the Telmessos Acropolis, on the high ground in the south of the city. The castle was also used during the Ottoman period. A short climb reveals the rampart ruins, cistern and little rock graves on the eastern side of the hill.
The amphitheatre of Telmessos was discovered during excavations just above the quay. The theatre was constructed during the early Roman period and was restored in the 2nd century A.D.. It has a capacity of 5,000 seats and was used as an arena in the Byzantine age. At present, Telmessos Theatre has a capacity of 1,500 seats and preparations for its restoration are under way.
Among the works of the Ottoman period are the Old Mosque and Fethiye Hamamı (Bath-house) built in 1791. Both of these buildings are to be found in the Paspatur Bazaar. The bath, which was established over six aqueducts and has 14 domes, is still in use. In 2001, a monument was unveiled in commemoration of the Fethiye men who lost their lives during the War of Liberation, at Çanakkale, in Korea and in Cyprus. The reliefs surrounding the pedestal depict the soldiers who died during these wars.
Choosing your beach
The beaches of Karagözler I and II are located inside Fethiye. The waves are tiny even in windy weather, and swimming is easy. The municipal boathouses facilitate all kinds of water sports. But the most renowned beaches around the centre of Fethiye are Çalış and Karagözler. Çalış beach is a narrow, 5 km beach. Situated outside the Gulf, it is generally windy, and very suitable for surfing. There are frequent bus and minibus services to the beach – a distance of some 4 km. Hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping centers line the road and dot the shore. The yörük tent in the beach is a major attraction. Here, the dying culture of the nomads is exhibited and promoted, together with their cuisine.
There are numerous other beaches around Fethiye. The Kıdrak and Belceğiz beaches on the Ölüdeniz (Dead Sea) are known not only in Fethiye and Turkey but also throughout the world. Hamam Bay is continuously visited by day-trippers, while yacht parties making the Blue Voyage spend the night here. The ruins of a Byzantine monastery, partly submerged, can be seen near the harbour. The location is ideal for a stroll along the shore or into the forest, where arbour restaurants serve the yachting community. Visitors willing to attempt the half-hour uphill walk from Cleopatra Bay or Yavansu may also visit the ancient city of Lydae.
Boat trips and islands
Motorboat tours are available from the quay to the islands on the western and northwestern sides of the Gulf of Fethiye, departing at 10:00-11:00 a.m. and returning before the sun sets. The twelve islands on the Göcek side make a popular itinerary. The tour stops at Kızılada (the Red Island), the Delikli (Perforated) Islands, the Yassıca (Flattish) Islands, Tersane (Boathouse) Island and Domuz (Pig) Island.
Taşyaka Bay, on the northwestern shore of Tersane Island, is more commonly known as Bedri Rahmi Bay, since the painter Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu painted a fish on a rock here. There are wooden restaurants along the bay and wooden jetties for the yachts. Gösün Bay is a long bay, surrounded by pine and olive trees, in the south of Domuz Island. There are rock tombs and ancient ruins. The bay is another favourite choice of Blue Voyage yachts.
There is usually a break at the Cleopatra Baths. The last leg of any boat tour out of Fethiye is the Şövalye (Knight) Island, situated at the entrance to the Gulf, as if to protect it. Once used by the Knights of Rhodes, the island is also inhabited today. There are summer houses, a motel and a cafes, and the island is served by regular boat services.
Gemile Island, situated opposite the bay and beach of the same name, was formerly known as Aya Nicola. It is known for its ruined early Christian and Byzantine churches with well-reserved frescos. There are ruins of cistern along the shore. As a result of the earthquakes in 240 and 241, some of the ruins now lie two metres under the sea. Most interesting of all is the 500-metre tunnel which connects the two churches. Parts of the tunnel are intact. On the stairs inside the tunnel are 17 stopping places said to represent the points where Jesus Christ rested on the way to his crucifixion.
The so-called Dead Sea has become one of Turkey’s best-known touristic images. It can be reached by boat from Fethiye. Alternatively, a rough 14-km road through the forest suddenly opens out on Belcekız Bay, and the Sea comes into sight as you walk towards the beach. The Sea appears to be under a spell, for there is no movement whatsoever. There is not the slightest trace of seaweed, and the seabed is covered with white sand. The light under the water is turquoise, enriched by the shadows of the pines.
Belcekız was the name of a love-struck girl of legend who threw herself from a cliff when her lover did not return. In ancient times, ships would cast anchor here and the crews go ashore in rowing boats to fetch drinking water. One day, the handsome son of an old captain goes ashore and sees the beautiful Belcekız living there, and falls in love with her and wins her heart. But the boy must take the water, the ship must sail and Belcekız must wait for her beloved on the shore. The next time the ship passes, he will come to fetch water again, and they will make love. These visits are repeated many times. One day, a storm blows up as the ship is sailing in the area. The boy tells his father that there is a well-protected bay where they will be safe. But aware that his son has fallen in love, the old captain suspects he is willing to sacrifice the ship for the sake of a visit to his lover. The two begin to quarrel. With the ship about to strike a rock, the captain pushes his son into to the sea and grabs the wheel. And what should he see just then but a calm bay ahead? The son drowns, and the place of his death is known as the Dead Sea ever after. The girl perishes on the rocks and her name is given for eternity to the spot where she expired.
The Ölüdeniz is a dreamland preserved in all its natural beauty. But vacations here need not mean simply lying on the beach or around the pool. Thanks to the arrival of paragliding, you may also set eyes on the Dead Sea as you slowly descend from a height of 1,969 meters. From this elevation, you will also see the neighbouring resorts of Patara Beach and Dalaman, and it is not unlikely that you will catch a glimpse of Rhodes.
Lycia on foot
For trekkers, the Lycian Way is ideal. Starting from the slopes of Babadağ in Ovacık village, the trek takes in ancient cities such as Faralya, Dodurga, Pınara, Letoon, Xanthos as well as the Lycian cities and mountain villages of the nearby districts of Kaş and Kemer. There are arrows indicating the itinerary at 100m intervals, and the walk can be extended as far as Antalya. Less ambitious is the scenic one-hour walk between Kayaköy and Afkule. Replete with icy streams, the plateau is known as Kırkpınar (Forty Springs).
Fethiye’s Tuesday bazaar is clean and lively, with separate sections for fruit and vegetables and for clothes and handicrafts. However, if you miss the Tuesday bazaar, there is still plenty to see at the Paspatur shopping centre opposite the district governor’s office. Within the last two years, this bazaar has become an important attraction, thanks to the efforts of the Municipality, offering fish, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and clothing to Turkish and foreign tourists alike. Prices are reasonable, and there are plenty of kebap, pide and home cooking options on hand should you become a little peckish.
In central Fethiye, fish is to be eaten at the restaurants around the Municipality Park and down by the quay. Seafood is also available along the newly-modernised coast road in the direction of Çalış Beach. Those who want to eat seafood in Ölüdeniz should go to the well-designed restaurant on the steep slope below the road to Kıdrak beach. Finally, there are numerous hotels, holiday villages and boarding houses in the centre of Fethiye and at Çalış beach, Ovacık, Hisarönü, Ölüdeniz, Kayaköy, Göcek and nearby bays.
Butterfly Valley: Steep side of Heaven
by Recep Peker Tanıtkan
A steep climb away from the Sea, over rocks and between pine trees. The valley closes in. Everything is still and yet not still. The stones, the logs, the leaves – all seem to shimmer. But the sound of a voice or any sudden movement is enough to break the spell. The butterflies which created the illusion start into the air, billions of tiny wings cover the sky, and a great shadow appears on the valley. Then slowly they settle again on their invisible perches.
Kelebekler Vadisi, the Valley of Butterflies, is one of Fethiye’s most remarkable attractions. But it is not an easy climb. A half-hour journey by privately-rented boat or sea-dolmuş from the resort of Ölüdeniz takes you to the sandy bay known locally as Ködürümsü Harbour. The valley extends upwards from here towards the 2,000-metre peak of Babadağ. One footpath takes the route towards the waterfalls, the other makes for the village of Faralya.
The road to the village is so steep that in some parts it can only be climbed with the aid of a rope. Those fit and experienced enough to complete the climb are rewarded with idyllic scenes. Follow the signs for George House for some well-deserved village cooking served with yayık ayranı (the well-known yoghurt drink, prepared in a churn).
The path to the first waterfall, on the other hand, is suitable for all. Those who are sufficiently confident, and cannot resist to the extraordinary call of the valley, continue climbing from there until they set eyes on the extraordinary insect mass. There are around forty varieties, most plentiful in the spring, but observable for nine or ten months a year.
The entire zone has been a first-degree conversation area since February 8, 1995, and construction work of any kind is off limits. There is no accommodation on the beach, although you may pitch a tent here or simply sleep under the arbours of bushes and leaves, on terraces set up between the branches of trees. A country restaurant is set up on the beach in summer, and the operators of the restaurant will provide tips and directions for your conquest of the valley. Break your sea journey over from Ölüdeniz at the blue cave, and swim among the deep blue-green reflections, or rather let them swim over you.
Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion: A stay in the past
A mansion in unspoilt Datça has been carefully restored to serve as an hotel with a difference. Welcome to the atmosphere of the Tuhfezade residence – an unusual Mediterranean experience which nobody who has dabbled in history or art can fail to enjoy.
The ongoing trend in restoring historical buildings for use as boutique hotels has reached Datça in the southern-western corner of Turkey – a place where, according to Strabon, historian and geographer of Ancient Greece, “God sent his privileged believers to have a long and healthy life.” Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion is one of only a few examples of old civil architecture that has survived until the present day, not only in Datca, but also in the whole Mediterranean Region. Once the residence of the Tuhfezade family, it is now owned by Pir Tourism Management, who have lovingly restored it, paying great attention to detail, for use as an hotel with a surprising number of facilities.
Lords of the Manor
Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion, better known to locals as “Kocaev” (the Big House), was built by Mehmet Halil Ağa, father of Tuhfezade Mehmet Ali Ağa, in the early nineteenth century. Mehmet Halil Ağa was a descendant of Ali Aghaki, “the Cretan”, who was awarded the Datça Peninsula by the Sultan for his distinguished service in the Ottoman navy. The headquarters which Ali Aghaki established for the control of his manor is now the historical Reşadiye quarter of town, previously known as Elaki – a term probably derived from “Aghak”’. The family name of the original owners, the Tuhfezades is thought to have been derived from the Arabic word, tuhfe (gift) due to them having been awarded the manor of Datça.
The large two-storey mansion boasts a portico surrounded by stone arches on the northern side. The porch leads to an ante-room on the first floor, which in turn leads to the five rooms of the mansion, surrounded by wooden pillars. The rooms have fireplaces with conical roofs. While the outer walls of the house are made of stone, the first floor rooms are separated by wooden walls. A typical example of the Ottoman hamam (bath) is located on the first floor. The ground floor incorporates cellars and store rooms.
The artwork which embellishes the mansion includes some important nineteenth-century engraving and woodwork. The main room represents one of the most beautiful examples of Turkish engraving during the era of so-called “ecclesiastical” decoration in Anatolia. To give just one example, the upper part of the cabinet wall is divided into five panels, of which the end-panels are filled with bands of flowers, and the three central sections are filled with landscapes. The central panel shows a panorama of Istanbul with the Maiden’s Tower and the twin shores of the Bosphorus. Many country mansions were decorated with views of the capital at the time, but the artist responsible for the work in the Mehmet Ali Ağa mansion incorporated traditional elements into the subject matter, filling the miniature city he had depicted with rare animals.
The woodwork in the master bedroom and on the sitting area ceilings is also worthy of note. It consists of interlocking boards in diagonal and leaf shapes, which are painted in different colours – mainly yellow and red. Intricate woodwork can also be seen on the doors of the rooms.
Decline and restoration
The family and their house enjoyed their most prosperous period in the time of Mehmet Ali Ağa, who was also an administrator in Rhodes in the first half of the nineteenth century. His sons and daughters all died without having any children. Following the death of his daughter Münire and her husband Hidayet Şahingiray, an emigrant member of the Crimean Royal Family, all the properties of the Tuhfezades were put on sale by the Court of Probate. Thereafter the Kocaev changed owners more than once, serving as a tobacco warehouse, cinema, school and wedding hall. Through alterations and neglect, it had partially collapsed and had fallen into general disrepair before it was bought by Mr Pir in September 2002.
Restoration work followed the guiding principle “the less you change the better.” While architects were employed to design the various elements in line with their original forms, local artisans were employed to recreate them. The Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion now offers visitors accommodation in two suites and fifteen rooms, located in the main hall and three surrounding buildings. There is a Turkish bath, and a library of books on history and culture. Ottoman, Aegean and Mediterranean cuisine is served in the Elaki Restaurant.
Turkey‘s first sport stamps (1940-1960)
by Kaya DORSAN
Turkey is hosting two major sport organisations in August: the Universiade, taking place in Izmir between August 10 and 21, and the first Turkish Formula 1 Grand Prix in Istanbul on August 21. Both events are being commemorated on a large scale with stamps, post cards and special seals issued by the Turkish Post Office (PTT).
These are not, of course, Turkey’s first sports stamps. The first stamps to be issued with a sports theme came out in 1940 on the occasion of the 11th Balkans Games. The series consisted of four stamps of which 75,000 copies were printed.
Turkey’s second series of sports stamps was issued for the 5th European Wrestling Championship held in Istanbul in 1949. This series also consisted of four stamps, printed in Switzerland, as a series, in 250,000 copies.
In 1955, football was in the headlines. The International Military Football Championship was held in Turkey that year, and the Turkish Army team won the championship. To celebrate this victory, a series of three stamps went on sale, printed in Ankara in 100,000 copies.
1956 was the year of the Melbourne Olympics. Having achieved significant successes in wrestling at the London (1948) and Helsinki (1952) Olympics, Turkey was expecting to win more gold medals in this discipline, and wrestling figures were depicted on both of the stamps that made up the series. In the event, wrestling was indeed the only activity in which Turkish sportsmen won gold medals.
It was basketball’s turn next. The 11th European and Mediterranean Countries Basketball Championship took place in Istanbul in 1959, and a commemorative stamp was issued. One million copies were printed. The championship lasted 10 days and a different postmark was used for each day.
For the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Turkish Post Office (PTT) published an innovatory series consisting of five stamps in miniature sheets formed of 25 stamps, or five series, each. These stamps too were printed in Switzerland. Each stamp featured a different sporting figure.
The number of sports stamps went on increasing in subsequent years, and so did the number of thematic collectors collecting only stamps with sports themes. These philatelists are having the pleasure of adding new stamps to their collections this month.