Project Description

17. Sayı



17. Sayı


Mart 2006

February is a short month but it saw much diplomatic activity in our region. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer paid an official visit to neighbouring Bulgaria, while the prime ministers of Romania, Georgia, Bahrain and Iraq and the speakers of Parliament of Azerbaijan and Latvia all came to Turkey. Numerous contacts also took place at the ministerial level, both in Turkey and abroad. Meanwhile, we bade farewell to the ambassadors of South Korea, Germany and Bulgaria, and made the acquaintance of new ambassadors from Slovenia and Thailand.

DİPLOMAT this month presents a lengthy but highly readable interview with the ambassador to Ankara of a country that plays a major role in world affairs: the United Kingdom. Sir Peter Westmacott gave full and sincere answers to all of our questions, which covered a wide range of issues from the UK’s relations with the US, its stance on Iraq and the “conflict of civilisations” to the UK’s position within the EU, the Cyprus question and – a must for us – the relations between the UK and Turkey.

Our “Speaking Out” pages this month play host to a civil society organisation, the “East Conference” steered by Professor Mehmet Bekâroğlu. Unlinked to the official institutions of any country, this group stages meetings which bring together intellectuals from various countries with a view to questioning world politics – particularly the problems as well as the benefits of “globalisation”, and the reasons why the Middle East has become such a troubled region. In this way, a new non-governmental form of diplomacy is coming into being. Perhaps such direct interaction between the civil societies of different countries should itself be regarded as a democratic product of globalisation.

Further afield, our travel pages take the reader to Nepal. Some of our readers may have visited this mystical country in their youth, at a time when it was considered a very special destination. Who can forget the Kathmandu of the 1960s? The Nepali capital may not be as fashionable as it was then, but the country and its people are as fascinating as ever.

The artist whom we feature this month, Adnan Turani, is a true European. Turani was educated in Germany and has repeatedly visited France, Spain and Italy to meet other artists and study works of art. Today, he is one of Turkey’s greatest painters. His fame has spread beyond Turkey’s borders, and his abstract paintings are to be found not only in private collections but in a large number of museums and galleries.

Everybody will want to make the most of the lengthening days and precious Spring weather. For residents of Ankara, in particular, we recommend a weekend in Safranbolu. The town is just 240km away from the capital, and its typical, well-preserved houses and streets have earned it the status of a World Heritage site. Accommodation is correspondingly stylish and comfortable, making Safranbolu the ideal place to recuperate after the ordeal of the winter months.

Kaya Dorsan
Publisher and editor-in-chief

Current Opinion :

Turkey-EU relations:

A view of recent developments

by Erhan AKDEMİR

The assumption of the presidency of the European Union by Austria as of January 1, 2006 signalled the beginning of a potentially painful period in relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU). The strength of this signal was obvious from the discourses of Austrian leaders. In practice, however, the agenda of Turkey-EU relations so far this year has been taken up to a great extent by the latest developments in the international arena, particularly in the Middle East. The leading topics have been Iran, on account of its nuclear activities, and Hamas, after its victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Two other developments of the past two months that require evaluation in the context of Turkey’s EU perspective are Turkey’s new Cyprus Action Plan, announced on January 24, and the World Economic Forum which was organised in Davos in Switzerland on January 25, and its analyses with respect to Turkey.

These developments have brought with them some new challenges with respect to Turkey’ EU membership.

Role of reconciliation

A major benefit of Turkey’s potential membership of the EU is the interaction, dialogue and reconciliation which would arise on account of the rich and deep-rooted civilisations and cultures which Turkey harbours within itself. There is no other country that can contribute to mutual understanding between the EU – particularly Western Europe – and the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia on the same scale as Turkey. No country other than Turkey can offer to the EU the opportunity to benefit from such a deep, rich and rooted accumulation of civilisation and culture.

Against this backdrop, Turkey should be eager to calculate, during the course of the EU membership process, not only what she would like to gain from the process, but also what kind of contribution she can make to the EU in full awareness of her own characteristics. This will help to avoid appearing in the eyes of the EU as a country which merely makes demands. A Turkey which is fully aware of its strengths, riches and experience, and which is capable of transferring these to its collocutors through its policies and its diplomacy, will be regarded with much more respect on the international arena. Being taken seriously, it will be able to achieve this important step towards modernisation.

The question then arises as to whether this wealth of experience which constitutes one of the biggest and most important arguments in the hands of Turkey on the road to full membership of the EU is being used to good effect. Is the role of reconciliation and dialogue between different cultures and civilisations which Turkey by nature possesses being played to the full? In particular, is Turkey being able to maintain its cultural ties with the Middle East and make use of them as an instrument in its relations with the EU? When Turkey’s policies with respect to Iran and Hamas are assessed from this perspective, it appears that a certain lack of transparency still needs to be overcome.

The Iran affair

The deep differences of view between the current government and Brussels over Iran are among the most significant items on the recent agenda of Turkey-EU relations. Prominent EU leaders have started to take a dim view of the AKP government because of Turkey’s rather gentle approach on the issue of Iran.

The EU conveyed to the government through official channels that it wanted to hear clearer statements from Turkey concerning Iran, for the sake of following a foreign policy harmonious with the EU. The issue was also raised during the visit of French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy at the beginning of February. The visiting foreign minister told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that France was insistent on Turkey maintaining a stronger attitude over Iran.

On Iran, there also seem to be differences between the attitudes of the civilian and military bureaucracies and the will of the politicians. It is perhaps this more than anything else which has created suspicion both in Turkish public opinion and among EU officials. The government, which has seemed completely pro-EU until today, has at the same time behaved unpredictably with regard to issues such as adultery, violence against women and the continuation of the secular establishment of Turkey. This makes it all the more important for Turkey to make its position, motives and intentions absolutely clear.

The Hamas front

Something similar can be said about Turkey’s policies with respect to Hamas. The EU, which is the biggest financial supporter of the Palestinian Authority, urged Hamas to renounce violence and recognise Israel and announced that otherwise they would not make contact with the Palestinian government once it was taken over by the group. A strong statement was again expected from Turkey but it was not forthcoming.

Meanwhile the policies to be followed by the EU towards a Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Hamas were repeatedly and clearly stated by EU officials, and even EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said that the EU was not currently considering making contact with Hamas.

Hamas political leader Khalid Mish’al visited Ankara on February 16. Although he was urged to renounce violence, the visit itself was questioned inside and outside Turkey.

Cyprus plan

The Cyprus Action Plan announced by Turkey is a ten-article plan that includes points like the opening of the ports of Turkey to Greek Cypriot ships within the framework of the trade of goods within the context of the EU-Turkey customs union, the use of Turkish air space and airports by Greek Cypriot airlines for high flights within the framework of the relevant international rules and regulations, and the opening of Ercan Airport to direct flights under the authority of the Turkish Cypriot government. The Plan does not include any new elements with respect to Turkey’s thesis. But it nevertheless attracted considerably attention from the world media, and was quite widely welcomed within the EU, apart from Greece and Greek Cyprus.

Many EU officials declared positive opinions. Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw both welcomed the plan. Austrian Hannes Swoboda, Deputy Chairman of Socialist Group in the European Parliament, also looked favourably on Turkey’s proposals and called on the parties to consider them seriously. Jan Marinus Wiersma, a Dutch member of Socialist Group in the European Parliament, said that Turkey had taken a very important initiative. Cem Özdemir, a member of Green Group in the European Parliament, said that Turkey had made a significant diplomatic move on the Cyprus issue. Finally, Graham Watson, Chairman of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament said that he saw the proposal as a positive step and said that Turkish Cypriots should not be left in their current situation.

Among those who took a negative view were Greek Parliamentarian Ioannis Kasoulides, a member of the Christian Democrat Group in the European Parliament, and Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister George Yakovu. The Greek Cypriot foreign minister made clear that the greek Cypriots were not taking the plan seriously.

Gaining time

Turkey seems to have gained time on the issue with the announcement of the action plan. Ankara is obliged to comply with the conditions of Negotiation Framework Document dated October 3, which is has signed. The deadline that was given to Turkey by the EU was previously determined as June 1, 2006. Consequently, Turkey is naturally obliged to take initiatives in this area.

Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum which started on January 25 in Davos, Switzerland, and continued for four days, it was stated that Turkey would have a very important role within the expanding borders of EU. In the analysis made within the framework of the meeting of World Economic Forum, it was also stated that Turkey could have positive effects on the economic and social life of EU during the process of full membership. Once again it was stressed that Turkey’s EU membership would be beneficial not only for Turkey but also for the EU, and that the membership process and membership itself could enrich the EU in cultural, political, social and religious terms.

Extra dimensions

To consider Turkey-EU relations solely as a bilateral relationship would fail to attribute the necessary importance to this relationship. Turkey’s geographical locations means that every development that is taking place or will take place in the Caucasus, the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Black Sea or the Mediterranean very closely affects the relations between the EU and Turkey. America’s policy of gaining power and spreading influence in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus is giving the EU cause for concern. America’s desire for maximum influence in these areas is a direct determinant of the foreign policy – and, of course, the enlargement policy – that will be followed by the EU in the future.

Another international development of concern to the EU is the recent emergence of signs that Russia will gradually start to use the energy weapon. The EU is obtaining an important part of its energy from this country. Consequently, the issue of diversification of energy supply is taking up much of the attention of EU officials. From this point of view too, it is clear that Turkey is an indispensable country for diversity of supply and the continuity and reliability of the energy to be supplied to the EU.

All in all, the structure of Turkey-EU relations is such that it cannot be abstracted from international developments. If the EU issue can be removed from the sphere of internal politics, and the goal of EU membership can be frankly embraced and held above party politics, Turkey will be able to focus on the essentials and to act with the future in mind.

Interview :

Sir Peter Westmacott: The British contribution

by Bernard KENNEDY

Ankara has proved an eventful posting for British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott. His arrival in early 2002 was followed by detailed negotiations over Turkey’s military support for Afghanistan, and then the build-up to the Western intervention in Iraq – including the debate over Turkey’s role. Then in November 2003 came the bombing of the British Consulate in Istanbul – one of several co-ordinated terrorist attacks in the city which cost a total of over 50 lives including that of British Consul Roger Short. More agreeably, the Ambassador’s tour of duty has also coincided with the commencement of accession talks between Turkey and the EU – an event which occurred during the United Kingdom’s EU presidency. With a thirty-year Foreign Office career behind him, including postings in Tehran, Brussels, Paris, Ankara (1987-1990) and as Counsellor in the British Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Westmacott had plenty of experience to drawn on during these critical moments. Our conversation also turned to topics as diverse as UK foreign policy, the “clash of civilizations” and the ways in which the work of embassies has been changing.

Q Britain’s place in the world is rather unique and difficult to categorise. How would you put it?

A I think it is a unique country because we have a rather remarkable history with what was once a big empire, and we live with the legacy of that. It has left us with a lot of interests and also responsibilities. Although we come from a small set of islands offshore continental Europe, our interests are global. We are a member of more international organisations than any country in the world except for France. We are a member of the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth, NATO, the OECD, the European Union.. English, whether British or American, is increasingly the language of international and communication and business. So we have a lot of interests covering a large part of the globe, whether they be political and diplomatic or commercial and economic.

Q How does this translate into foreign policy? What does Britain offer the world through its foreign policy?

A We retain a global reach in our diplomatic network. Of course, our main task is to look after British interests but we believe in doing so in a safer and more prosperous international context. As diplomats, we take care of the interests of the British government and of visitors, residents and businessmen from our country. At the same time, we are trying to play a role where we can, on our own or with the host countries, to help resolve tensions or unresolved conflicts, gross human rights abuses or natural catastrophes.

Q You have also held an important post in Washington. How does the so-called “special relationship” with the United States work?

A Many in my profession are extremely wary of the term “special relationship”. It suggests an exclusivity to which we do not aspire. It may also sound a little arrogant or imply that the US owes us something which it does not. We can be flattered when others use the term but we wouldn’t choose to use it ourselves. Having said that, the relationship between the two countries goes back to the very origin of the United States. The USA remains for the most part an English-speaking country. There are huge British interests there: we have many residents, and more foreign investment in the United States than any other country. In addition, there are many common security and political interests. We try to find ways of solving difficulties when they arise. But the US looks after its own interests first and so do we; as you can tell when trade disputes arise.

Q Are there differences between US and British policy in Iraq?

A No, I don’t think there are any differences. Iraq has been an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. We exchange views with the United States and indeed with Iraq and all the other players involved on a daily basis. We have had moments of tension on individual aspects of how to deal with Iraq. We are known to have a different view, for example, concerning the Guantanamo detention centre. However, we share the same objectives. We are just as determined to make a success of the military intervention there and help establish a society which will provide the Iraqi people with the freedom and democracy which, as all the polls show, they so desperately want.

Q What is your personal view about the “war of civilisations”. Is it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?

A I am not a good reader of crystal balls. I can’t tell you what will happen. However, I am serving in a country with a population which is overwhelmingly Muslim and so I am very much aware of these issues between the mainly Christian West and the Muslim Middle East. Certainly we have been going though a period of considerable tension in recent months. It has happened before: some years ago, Salman Rushdie’s book, published in the UK, aroused a lot of strong feelings in Iran and other Muslim countries, so this is not unheard of.

It is clear that there is resentment at the perceived policies of western countries on certain issues. Some believe it was wrong to intervene in Iraq to get rid of the dictator Saddam Hussein and try to improve the lot of the Iraqi people. But regardless of what people think of the original intervention, we are working hard to establish a consensus on how to make a success of the new Iraq.

I think that people are becoming very aware of the way in which these tensions can be exploited by those who do not show tolerance to those of other persuasions. We are all descendants of Abraham. All our faiths uphold tolerance and mutual respect. It is important that we keep in mind those fundamental principles.

A lot of people have looked over the edge and seen that this is a dangerous phenomenon, and are now trying to work very hard to take us back to where we were before, and indeed to reach a better understanding than we had before. The British government for example, is working very hard to stage conferences and other events which bring together people of different backgrounds and religions – even civilisations – with a view to promoting mutual respect and understanding. .

Q Turning to the European Union, there is a perception that Britain is half-in and half-out, and that it is reluctant to see closer integration at the expense of nation states. Is this a fair perception?

A Not entirely! It is true that we are not a Schengen state and we are not part of the Euro zone. However, I would say that the UK has been a major player in the process of European construction and integration, in proportion to the size of our economy and population. We take our obligations to the EU very seriously and comply with them to a high degree.

In foreign and security policy, we of course bring a great deal to the table. We are genuinely committed free traders. Much of the economic activity in the UK is owned by investors from other parts of the world. We have long been in favour of allowing market forces to determine what our competitive advantages are.

We are not in favour of the end of the nation state and its disappearance within a supranational body. But then neither are many of the other states in the EU, who are equally attached to their national heritage. I think the concept of subsidiarity, whereby decisions are taken at the most local level possible, is firmly embedded in European thinking.

A large part of British public opinion is eurosceptic. That is part of life. On the other hand, the British people voted quite clearly for membership of the Union when they were asked in a referendum, and we are there to stay.

Q The UK is perceived in Turkey as a great supporter of Turkey’s EU membership. Is this support shared by public opinion as well as the establishment?

A The UK is in favour of Turkish membership at both the political level and the level of public opinion. Both the government and the opposition in the UK are firmly of the view that Turkey should be admitted to the EU provided it fulfills the membership criteria. There is hardly any EU country where public support for Turkish membership is higher than it is in Britain. We take the view that enlargement has been one of the successes of the EU, not only in terms of an expanded single market, but also in terms of consolidating democracy in new member states

In the case of Turkey, we believe that anchoring Turkey within the EU would be of great benefit for Turkey and the Turkish economy. For us it would be a great prize to have within the EU an overwhelmingly Muslim, secular country governed by the rule of law and with a market economy. In many EU countries, moreover, issues like migration, people smuggling, the narcotics trade and organised crime are major issues. These are all areas where Turkey is a major partner. Most of the heroin reaching Western Europe transits Turkey and so do about half of the undocumented migrants. Turkey is just as much a victim as the rest of us and just as committed to dealing with the problem. So Turkey could provide real advantages to the Union in improving our performance on these issues. Turkey also has a lot to contribute to our foreign and security policy given its unique relations with its neighbours and ability to influence regional issues with its diplomatic and military clout. All these advantages will be there for the EU if Turkey achieves full membership..

Q The EU accession process is long and open-ended, and the outcome may depend on referenda in EU member countries. So don’t you think Turkey would be better setting its own course and tackling its own problems instead of waiting endlessly for EU membership?

A That is a decision for the Turkish government and people to make. But almost two-thirds of the population as well as the elected government is firmly committed to the continuation of accession negotiations. I would argue that the process of getting to October 3 and the accession negotiations has been very useful in assisting the recovery of the economy and modernising laws and society. A lot has been done in these respects even in the past four years. And I think a continuing membership perspective will be valuable in keeping up this momentum.

Q The United Kingdom held the EU presidency in the second half of last year. That must have meant a lot of extra work for the Embassy…

A Yes, having the EU presidency does add to the workload of any embassy. It’s a time of long hours and hard work. But we managed. From a Turkish perspective, it came at a very important time. Achieving the breakthrough to accession negotiations on October 3 was a goal which we had to work hard to achieve. It was a complicated situation. We had to finalise the Negotiating Framework and other texts and then settle on the opening statements for the conference which launched the accession negotiations. But we got there in the end and since then we have made good progress with the screening process. We are now close to opening the first formal chapters of the negotiations.

Q Is there any chance that the Cyprus issue might upset the process, say, within the current year?

A The Cyprus issue is a real problem for the accession process. There is no question about that, and the reasons are well known. It’s a great source of sadness that it was just before the last enlargement that the problem came so close to a solution, only for the Greek Cypriot side to refuse it in a referendum. In the event, a divided island entered the EU as a member state and this has made achieving a settlement more difficult. It is a matter for the UN, not the EU, and it is a good sign that the Secretary General is becoming engaged with the issue again. I think it is important for those who are suffering from the status quo that there should be a credible settlement process.

There have been times when the lack of a Cyprus settlement has impinged on the process of negotiations [between Turkey and the EU]. But I also think it’s important to keep these issues in proportion and to keep working with goodwill towards EU membership.

Q What does the Embassy put most of its time and effort into under normal circumstances?

A Well, as you can imagine, a whole host of things: reporting, looking after UK business interests by advising and lobbying, liaising with the Turkish authorities about the EU (we spend a lot of money on projects related to training and the preparation of civil society for EU membership and I think this is a particularly worthwhile part of our work). We are in continuous dialogue with Turkey about a wide range of issues such as Cyprus, European Security and Defence Policy, EU-NATO relations and regional issues like Iraq, the nuclear issue in Iran and the so-called “frozen conflicts” in the Caucasus. We have to discuss Afghanistan and issues coming up at the UN. There is also a big bilateral agenda. Visa services and consular protection for British citizens who are visiting and increasingly residing in Turkey are another major part of our work. Parliament and public opinion in the United Kingdom rightly have high expectations of the services which we can provide in these areas.

Q In what ways have the workings of a British Embassy changed since you first entered the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

A I think we have changed in a number of ways. I like to think we are less hierarchical and less formal – although a measure of hierarchy is inevitable because the Ambassador is ultimately answerable for what the Embassy does. Secondly, I think we are more focused on objectives. There is a Foreign Office Strategy, and priorities and objectives are set for each mission, which are reviewed thoroughly each year. We are increasingly trying to put resources not only into places where we have interests but also where we can make a difference.

Communications have changed: today, we are in constant real-time communication with everybody. This means we can turn things around very quickly when we have to. As a result we are often expected to meet very tight deadlines. This can be a healthy discipline but it can also mean that we have less time to reflect and consult before taking decisions.

Unfortunately the rise of international terrorism means that we have to spend much more time and effort on security than we did in the past. We have suffered from that especially in Turkey. I lost a number of my colleagues in the bomb attack on our Istanbul Consulate in November 2003. We are as well protected as we can be against this kind of attack. Not only our physical security but our working practices have had to be reviewed and constrained significantly.

We are probably even more focused than before on the delivery of services to the public. We have to provide rapid, professional visa services and efficient consular protection. This also means that we have to be ready to react very quickly to everything from terrorist threats to national disasters. We also aim to provide high quality services for British companies who wish to trade with or invest in this country and for Turkish companies who are interested in investing in the UK. The more traditional parts of our work – diplomacy – have perhaps changed less, although they too have to adapt to growing demands and the developing international agenda.

Q Does all this mean having more people on the ground or fewer?

A The Foreign Office pay roll is smaller than it was. In some cases we are doing more with fewer people. But the collapse of the Soviet Union created more countries which has led us to open more posts. In some countries where our interests merit it, like China and India, we have got more people on the ground now than in the past, because so much is changing. In other countries where communications are good and doing business is relatively easy, and to which it is easy to travel at short notice, we can manage with fewer staff. We are always reviewing what we do in the light of new technology and new ways of doing things, and of our evolving needs.

Q Do you think you made the right decision when you decided in 2002 to come to Turkey rather than taking a post in another country?

A I served in Ankara for a couple of years in the 1980s, and I asked to come back here not only because it was a country which I was fond of but also because I thought it would be very rewarding professionally. It has certainly been a challenging time. A number of things have happened which I could not possibly have predicted at that time – not all of them positive. The terrorist attack is one example. Nevertheless, I am delighted that I came here. It has been very rewarding to be the representative of the government which has been the strongest supporter of Turkey’s EU membership, at the time when the country has begun accession negotiations – something which I also strongly believe in personally. I have had the chance to work with the government and with other Turkish organisations in a very rewarding way. My wife and I have made good friendships which I am sure will continue for the rest of our lives. Above all, I am glad to have been here at a time when Turkey has made enormous progress, and the UK has been able to make a positive contribution.

Q I understand you are due to leave Turkey later this year. Have you had the time and ability to pursue any personal interests during your stay in Ankara?

A It has been a very full period. Yes, I have played my tennis, played a little squash and done a little skiing. We have travelled around the country a bit, although we would have liked to do more. I haven’t been able to speak Turkish as much as I would have liked; my wife now speaks it better than me, although she had not lived in Turkey before. I am not sure exactly when I will leave – the later the better as far as we are concerned!

Human angle :

Attacking the Prophet and keeping Islam backward

by Prof. Dr. Özer OZANKAYA

The value of the activities of human beings is determined by the intentions that allow and direct them. In my article last June, I argued that the Greater Middle East Project lacks sociology. Since then, the cartoons targeting the personality of Mohammed, the founder of Islam, to whom billions of Muslims have been faithful with love and respect for 1,500 years, have shown that the Political West does not intend to bring its thoughts and behaviour, though gilded with words such as “Greater Middle East Project” and “Moderate Islam”, into line with the standards of peace, freedom and welfare – in a word, honour.

Yet if sociology is put at the service of democracy and peace, it cannot be ignored that Islam like other religions is a social institution and is open to change and development. Moreover it can be seen that Islam, far from being opposed to the values of democracy and peace, is the religion most open to the acceptance of these values as fundamental principles of social order.

No contradiction

At the time when the institutions and values of modern Turkey were being established under the leadership of Atatürk in the state, the education system, family life and the economy, on the basis of principles of democracy, those who opposed these changes in the name of religion were silenced with the argument that there was nothing in Islam to contradict the principles of democracy. The outcome was that the modern Turkish social institutions became highly esteemed both among Turkish people and among the people of other Muslim nations: they could feel proud that their religious beliefs ran parallel to the necessities of the day.

Thanks to these democratic institutions, Turkey has become a dignified and effective member of the civilised family of humanity and has been able to pursue EU membership. Until the Political West began to support reactionary forces, which opposed the democratic institutions of Turkey, in the atmosphere of the Cold War, nobody disputed either the respect shown to the institutions in question or the unification of the Turkish nation with the democratic world.

Today, as the Political West exploits the oil and other natural resources of Muslim countries, and supports forces in those countries that look back to the Middle Ages, it can scarcely expect the masses – suffering in the grip of poverty and ignorance, and immersed in the whirlpool of an inferiority complex caused by their inability to perceive other than vaguely the fact that they are being exploited – to shrug their shoulders at those who show disrespect to their prophet with the conscious confidence that only a sociological consciousness might provide. Especially when it is obvious that they have taken all kinds of measures to prevent disrespectful behaviour against the sacred values of Christianity!

Learning about Islam

The need to keep Western and world public opinion aware of those characteristics of Islam that sociologically tend to reinforce the order of democracy and peace has once more been underlined by this incorrect behaviour of the Political West.

Only if the civilised people of the West can learn some of the characteristics of the essence of Islam, they can be expected to see that the Muslim world can show the same development towards peace, freedom and prosperity as they themselves have reached due to the reformation movements of centuries past. They would then be able to prevent their political and military forces, controlled by the monopolist capitalist classes, from “destabilizing” the Muslim world.

For example if both Western people and the Muslim masses were not prevented from learning that Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, presented as a terrorist in the cartoons, actually:

a) took all precautions to prevent divine characteristics from being attributed to him after he was dead,

b) protected consciences from pressure by not making it obligatory to attend any place of worship such as a church, unlike other religions,

c) institutionalised one of the most fundamental necessities of freedom of thought and belief by refraining from creating a “clergy” with the authority and responsibility of explaining the aim of god to individuals, and

d) thereby ensured that Islam would be chronologically the “last religion”, as also highlighted by objective Western historians;

then international peace, democracy and mass prosperity could be achieved more easily and on a larger scale.

Again if propositions such as the “Greater Middle East Project” and “Moderate Islam” are to serve the aims of democracy and peace, they should try to enlighten Muslim masses on how Islam is being misinterpreted and how its essence is open to progress and freedom.

New needs; new rules

Publications that informed intellectuals on these issues as the Ottoman state was collapsing made an important contribution to the successful establishment of democratic principles and institutions in Turkey in the Republican period. One author of such works was Mehmet Şemsettin, professor of Islamic History and prime minister at the time of the 1950 elections, which achieved the peaceful transfer of power that is the most absolute indicator of the success of a democracy. Back in 1915, Prof. Şemsettin insisted that, contrary to the views of those who “share ideas peculiar to the uneducated masses”, interpretations (İçtihat) were necessary in every era. As humanity progress, needs changes and new rules were required if societies were not to be paralysed or even regress.

Prof. Şemsettin believed that “The aim of Islam is to direct people of common sense to purposes that would allow them to achieve happiness and well-being in this world and the next through their own free choice. In his book “From Superstition to Reality”, he asserted that “The ancient Muslims worshipped the truth. Yet current Muslims are captives of ridiculous beliefs. The religion of ancient Muslims shone upon them the light of work and culture, but the beliefs of current Muslims are dragging them towards the gulfs of darkness and disappointment.” No Muslim, he went on to stress, however devout, learned or virtuous, had the authority to oppress other Muslims.

Likewise, intellectual writer Celal Nuri, the owner of the İleri publishing house, warned that Muslims were “heading for collapse” because they were unable to understand “the reality… that rules change all the time – perhaps every minute – depending on the place and the time. No legal norm in the world has gone unchanged throughout history… The law is made in response to needs; otherwise, needs cannot be adjusted to old laws…Every rule set in this world changes. This has one exception – namely, the rule of Islam which says that rules change as times change.”

“The aim of the greatest lawmaker (the Prophet) when he organised Islam was without doubt the present and future happiness of humanity,” Nuri insisted. “Thus the real laws of Islam are those laws which lead the Islamic world to prosperity… The rules deduced by the four imams a thousand years ago, and which truly ensured the happiness of the Muslims in their time, are not the Islamic law that is necessary for us today.”

Translating the Koran

By translating the holy book of Islam, the Koran, into Turkish, the Republican Turkey that arose on these intellectual foundations demonstrated that a person cannot be a believer without understanding, and that it is wrong under Islam to consider Arabic sacred. There is an argument that human reason cannot comprehend the will of god, and that the masses should therefore accept the opinions of people calling themselves sheikhs or mullahs and claiming to have been chosen divinely. This was shown to be tantamount to the biggest sin for Islam: creating a clergy and returning to idolatry.

A Turk reading the Koran in his native language was able to learn, for example, that it does not include any sentence that regards the appearance of women’s hair as a sin, that of drinking alcohol it states only that it “does more harm than good”, that of pork it proposes that it should “not be eaten if it is not necessary”, and that with respect to interest, only “multiple interest” is ruled out (In practice, even under the religious administrations of the caliph-sultans, interest of up to 15% was regarded as acceptable).

Diplomats’ role

Even these few examples are sufficient to show how Islam, in its essence, can become a lasting part of civilised humanity if it is learned freely.

Likewise, when the ambassadors of some of the Muslim countries, who have seen how redemptive it can be to understand Islam with this essence, organise cocktail parties in order to meet up with the representatives of the nations of the world, they attend together with their wives as free and equal people, and do not separate men and women. They free their women from the obligation to wear the veil, make no distinction between ‘haram’ and ‘helal’ food and recognise the freedom of those guests who want to drink alcoholic drinks.

In sports competitions organised in some Arab emirates, Muslim women tennis players, for example, are able to take part as free human beings. This too is a step towards freeing the minds of the Muslim masses, so that they comprehend women not as sexual objects but rather as equal individuals, and admit the ridiculousness of attributing supernatural power to objects, fabrics or hair.

A sincere approach

If the Political West is sincere in its claiming to be seeking peace and democracy in the world by means of the “Greater Middle East Project”, “Moderate Islam” and so on, it should assist these countries in extending the model practices displayed by some Arab diplomats beyond the narrow borders of the corps diplomatique and in spreading them among the Muslim masses. As for Atatürk’s Turkey, which has opened this door to freedom, peace and civilisation for the Islamic world, no encouragement should be given to attempts to divert it from its path.

To the extent that the Islamic world is rescued from the provocations and manipulations of internal and external exploitative forces, Mohammed, founder of Islam, will come to be recognised not as an obstacle to progress but as a supporter. Unjust and disrespectful criticisms will be avoided, and it will become possible for the Muslim masses to become effective members of the civilised family of humanity.

Ağrı: The climbing season

The legendary Mount Ağrı – or Ararat – on Turkey’s eastern border has long been a magnet for travellers. Although none have found Noah’s Ark, few have been disappointed with either the scenery or the experience. Given average fitness, adequate preparation and proper guidance, you too could reach the summit this summer. But you need to be committing yourself now.

Call it Ağrı or Ararat. Yearn to take its photograph or to climb it. Revere it as the source of local legend or as the resting place of the Ark. One thing is for sure: the 5,165-metre peak exerts an attraction that far exceeds its atlas description as “Turkey’s highest mountain”.

There are higher peaks on other continents, but few are more spectacular than this single-vented and almost perfectly conical extinct volcano when viewed across green valleys and winter pastures, or from the eclectic, picture-postcard eighteenth-century İshak Paşa Palace. More than 3,000 metres above the provincial centre of Ağrı or the remote district centre of Doğubeyazit loom layers and layers of lava topped by an ever-shifting ice cap 12 square kilometres in area and possibly hundreds of metres in depth.

Tilted to the West, the glacial elipse creates its own micro-climate of mists and sudden blizzards. By night the temperature falls at least 30 degrees. Wolves, bears and wild sheep roam the upper slopes. To the East, the Serbulak (Serdarbulak) Pass (2,678m) separates great Ağrı from Little Ağrı, its 3,896-metre look-alike.

‘Ararat’, the name given to Ağrı in western languages today, is thought to be a Hebrew version of ‘Urartu’, after the civilization which inhabited the region in 1200-600BCE. And somewhere here, according to a long-standing belief, lie the remains of the Ark by means of which Noah’s family and the animals escaped the flood described in the Old Testament (and previously in the ancient Sumerian Legend of Gilgamesh).

Famous travellers

Marco Polo declared that Ağrı would never be climbed. In practice, it has often been difficult, not so much due to the physical challenge as for reasons of religion, superstition and security. The German scholar F. Parrot became the first man to reach the summit in 1829, but the belief that the climb had been forbidden by an angel to an early Christian saint remained strong, and Parrot had difficulty convincing his contemporaries that he had been to the top and come back safely.

A century later, the mountain, which is located just 15-25km from the borders with Iran and Armenia (formerly the Soviet Union), was closed off to most civilians. This did not prevent some famous names from reaching the peak. While still a major, the future Chief of Staff and President of the Republic Cevdet Sunay led the first Turkish military expedition, in which eight soldiers carried a bust of Atatürk to the summit. In 1952, novelist Yaşar Kemal, made – and wrote about – the ascent. Subsequently, he also entitled one of his novels ‘The Legend of Ararat’.

The missing ark

As for the Ark, it was said to have been spotted from the air more than once in the first half of the twentieth century, and it was sought avidly by mountaineers and researchers, notably from France and the United States, in the second half. However, pieces of wood discovered high up the mountain turned out to be the ruined base of a nineteenth-century Russian theodolite. US astronaut James Irwin, one of the first men on the moon, had no more luck.

Perhaps the Ark is still there, encased by the ice above Lake Küp on Ağrı’s West face. Perhaps the Koran is right, and Noah was actually sailing over Mount Cudi, in Şırnak in southeast Turkey, when the waters retreated. Certainly, Şırnak too has its own “ark culture”. Then again, an alternative legend describes Ağrı as the “cradle of humanity”, potentially dispensing with the Ark and all civilisation before it.

Whatever story they choose to believe, pilgrims to Ağrı must make do with a natural rock formation created by lava and bearing a curious resemblance to a boat, which can be viewed on a slope to the south of the mountain, near the Gürbulak border crossing with Iran. This spot was declared a conservation area and open-air museum in 1987. Not far away is a crater some 50m in diameter and 60m deep, which is understood to have been created by a falling meteor in 1892 (Some say 1913 or 1920). It is described as the world’s second largest meteor crater.

How to climb it

Although ascents by foreign climbers were permitted as of 1982, the region was soon to be affected by PKK activities. From 1990 to 1999 the mountain was out of bounds altogether. Permission still has to be obtained in advance and can take two months to come through.

With the exception of the deep glacial valleys of ‘Öküz’ (Ox Valley) in the South and Cehennem (Hell Valley) in the North, the peak can be reached by many routes without need for advanced mountaineering techniques. In practice, however, the rocky terrain and a relative scarcity of fresh water sources limit the number of routes in use. Permission is only given to foreign climbers (and skiers) for the southern and northern routes.

The southern route makes it possible to reach 4,900 metres before hitting the ice-cap, which requires a change of footwear and an increase in safety precautions as the slope steepens. Trekkers aim to reach the top soon after dawn, when the mist is generally low and the view at its best.

A serious business

In this fresh-air world of camaraderie and disciplined pleasure – of tents and mules and thermos flasks – the most common difficulty is the nausea and breathlessness caused by the high altitude. Accordingly, the climb is best spread over several days to allow for acclimatisation. For the same reason, would be “conquerors” of Ağrı need to train on other mountains during the months leading up to their “attempt”.

Another sound piece of advice is to go with a reputable agency and guide. Most of the foreign diplomats who have made the ascent have chosen the Ankara outdoor specialists Explorer. Explorer was founded in 1996 and made the first commercial expedition to the summit of Ağrı in 2000. Months earlier, the company’s founder, Ertuğrul Melikoğlu, had completed the first ever solo ascent of the mountain in winter. The company has many experienced guides, including Everest summiteers, and is able to assist with permissions, training and equipment. Even camp meals and packed lunches are prepared by Explorer’s own staff.

World view :

Two British ‘Blue Books’ of 1916

by Prof. Dr. Türkkaya ATAÖV

In the hitherto unparalleled heat of the First World War, officially endorsed British propaganda circles brought out hundreds of pieces of published material aimed at their enemies. Two of these publications, portraying the Germans and the Turks as mere criminals, were outstanding in influence. They are generally referred to as the ‘British Blue Books’ – or ‘Bryce Reports’, after Lord Bryce, who had served as ambassador (1907-13) in Washington D.C. and earned a good name for himself as an intellectual and author.

With due respect to some of other books that bear Bryce’s name, these two compilations were no more than propaganda pieces in connection with which his name was used. They contained sensational stories, especially some concerning “atrocities” which were widely exploited by journalists. The principal aim of both books was to incite the interest of the United States Government and people and bring them into war as Britain’s ally, thereby guaranteeing victory.

The stories ostensibly involved the reasons for war, the characters of the enemy leaders and the behaviour of the opponents. Germany was, of course, the prime enemy. The 360-page book on Germany encompassed some 500 so-called “testimonies.” The one on the Turks was 684 pages long with 150 appalling entries. None stood up to any test, but Lord Bryce, in his very short prefaces, presented them as “facts…beyond question.”

Shifting the spotlight

The United States eventually entered the war (6 April 1917), after a stream of British propaganda material had reached its people. The cable ship ‘Talconia’ had cut the German trans-Atlantic cables, and no enemy images were able to reach the American papers. The British also did their best to attract attention away from the Russian pogroms that victimized many Jews. Instead, they concentrated on the Ottoman Armenians.

This switch in the spotlight was very important for the British Government, which hammered home the idea that their side represented justice, morality and freedom. The propaganda books served the triple purpose of blackening the Germans and the Turks, presenting Britain’s friends as protectors of small nations and downplaying the events in allied Russia. The American propagandists were ready then to pick up the fiction from the British and disseminate it in their country.

But the truth was that the British Government had misled its own people with respect to the outbreak of the war and the guarantees already made to France. The assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke being engineered by Serbian intelligence, the administration in Vienna was justified in its ultimatum, a fact withheld from the British public. Apart from British assurance of support in war, France, if not Germany, was contemplating the violation of Belgian neutrality. This fact was also withheld from the public. Therefore, Article 231 of the Versailles Peace Treaty, which accused Germany of “sole responsibility” for the outbreak of the war, is inadmissible.

Invented sins

Likewise, the German Emperor, previously described as a “splendid noble”, became the “leading criminal” who deserved the guillotine. And 144 outstanding Turks, right from the Ottoman Prime Minister downwards, were taken to the Crown Colony of Malta to await archival material with which to accuse them. In the British propaganda books, it was always the enemies who attacked civilians, raped women, crucified soldiers, bayoneted children, chopped off the hands of little girls, mistreated prisoners of war, suffocated miners, established corpse factories, robbed the dead, and even resorted to bacteriological warfare.

But the Germans had not cut off the hands of a Belgian baby. Even the mayor of the town had said that no such thing had ever occurred. Nevertheless, a statue of a little girl with her hands severed at the wrist was erected on Belgian soil. Unidentified witnesses even “saw” German soldiers eating those very hands. The story of the British nurse (Grace Hume), whose breasts were allegedly cut off, was fabricated by her sister (Kate Hume) to smear the enemy. No one was ever crucified. Nowhere did the Germans shut up the pit mouths in mines. Factories boiled the bodies of dead horses, not of men. The German soldier was not robbing a fallen Russian recruit, but attending to a wounded comrade. Three German cavalrymen had not stolen gold and silver, but had won the trophies on display on an earlier occasion in Germany.

The French “Yellow Book” was also full of falsifications. The basement of its five-storied building on rue François was assigned to produce photos showing crushed skulls, gouged-out eyes, cut-off hands, torn-out tongues, bombarded churches, and attacked cemeteries. The professional scene-painters from the Paris Grand Opera were the centre’s hired hands. Collectively, they manufactured the harshest slanders against the enemy. The American contribution was principally a book signed by Henry Morgenthau, its Ambassador in the Ottoman capital until 1916, who relied on two Armenian aides (H. S. Andonian and A.K. Shmavonian) as his translators, advisors and editors.

Undisclosed sources

Propaganda depicted the Turks as the ferocious foes and the Armenians as angelic allies. The British and their allies were fighting the Turks in the Dardanelles, the Sinai, Palestine, Basra, Eastern Anatolia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. As the Russian generals on the Caucasus front and the French officers in the Adana region reported, Armenian bands were killing Muslims and looting extensively. As a number of Armenian sources later admitted, at least 150,000 – and perhaps even more than 200,000 – armed Armenians were fighting as independent units or in the Russian, British and French ranks. Official Armenian representatives boasted at the Versailles Peace Conference that the Armenians had been belligerents since the beginning of the war. Their commanding officers published books even asserting that the Entente owed its victory to the active support of the Armenians.

However, deception was another weapon of the war. The British were interested in collecting, publishing and circulating only those declarations which were critical of the enemy. The fact that human testimony should be treated with caution even in uneventful situations did not impress them to exercise more care when the passion and prejudice of selected anti-Turkish groups were dynamic and effective. Wellington House created the image that the Turks, and only the Turks were responsible for all inhumanity. This belief was implemented in the minds of the Western peoples. The British versions of events were censored, written over, mis-stated, or simply made-up. The circulated stories hid the names of the sources. Propaganda assumed more significance when hopes for early victory evaporated.

Collective hysteria

The so-called ‘documents’ in the Blue Book on the Armenians were straight from printed Armenian newspapers, from individual Armenians, Christian missionaries, and the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief. A few were from “trustworthy neutral witnesses.” While these were described as neutral “gentlemen,” the Turks were presented as “heartless, callous and pitiless Muslim rabble.”

Very few in the war years could challenge such collective hysteria. C.F. Dixon-Johnson was an exception. The Germans have been readmitted to the fold of “civilized nations.” The Turks are still waiting to be heard.

Arts :

Adnan Turani : A language of lines

by Sibel DORSAN

The works of Adnan Turani absorb immediately, conveying experience in dramatic lines. These are not the work of a moment’s inspiration, but the product of a life-time of study, teaching, travel, writing and reflection.

“I am excited by what I see around me. But the interesting thing is, there is no particular form or stylistic language in nature which excites me. This is my job – or the duty which I impose upon myself: to turn the forms of nature into a style which excites me. Of course, to discover this exciting style I always have to go through an adventure of hard work and research. It is an adventure where you choose not the forms of nature but the artistic formation of paint; not a depiction of things but a picture of spiritual life; not the colours of nature but the colours which are striking in images.”

It is with these words that Adnan Turani, one of the masters of Turkish abstract painting, explains the central philosophy which he has developed over long years of work, and which has left its mark on his paintings.

Born in Istanbul in 1925, Turani was to become a great traveller and prolific writer as well as an accomplished artist. The works in his Ankara studio display an extraordinary sense of line and pictorial competence. Immediately you sense the intensity of the experience and emotions which have gone into them. Detail, on the other hand, is sparse, and forms are unclear. Portraits, still lifes, landscapes… all have a charming, poetic atmosphere, frequently enhanced by a dynamic use of colour and careful composition – but what they teach above all is an appreciation of the abstract.

Music to models

Orchestras and musicians are a common Turani theme – and perhaps with good reason. As a schoolboy, the artist took violin lessons from Ekrem Zeki Ün. Ün had every confidence in his pupil’s talent: “Leave Adnan to me,” he said, “and in two years’ time you will have a fine virtuoso.” But Turani’s painting surpassed his love of music. He had already been permitted, on the recommendation of this teachers, to attend the Istanbul State Fine Arts Academy as a guest student every afternoon, and he would spend the evenings drawing the live models at the Adacemy’s ‘Cours du Soir’.

In perceiving the model from different angles, Turani took advantage of the views and criticisms of the Academy’s noted teacher Levy. However, in contrast to Levy’s approach, he found it easier to express himself in line rather than using the ‘modellé’ technique. Already, Turani was seeking to epitomise character in designs devoid of light or shadow.

Soaking up Europe

Turani graduated from the Istanbul Teacher Training College and went on to Ankara’s Gazi Training Institute. Another turning point came in 1953, when he was the only painting candidate to pass the state examination for graduate and postgraduate education abroad. As a result, he was sent to Germany for six years. From this moment on, his appetite for art knew no bounds.

Initially, Turani studied at the Munich Fine Arts Academy and became a student of Franz Nagel. He already knew some French, and he studied German intensively. He bought the books of every author and artist who attracted his interest. He read Goethe and Schopenhauer. He also took an interest in philosophy, especially the Greek thinkers. The 250 books he purchased and read in Germany formed the roots of his current library of almost 5,000 volumes.

The abstract era

Turani paid frequent visits to the Kunsthalle museum. Finding Nagel’s methods conservative, he proceeded to Stuttgart, where he studied first under Henninger and then under Willi Baumeister. Debates about abstract art were sweeping Europe, and Turani made every effort to understand the issues of the day. He was deeply influenced by Baumeister, who opposed academic rules in art and education, and upheld the searching for the “new”. At the same time, he decided he wanted to work with Trökes, a major representative of the pioneering art of the day. This decision took him to the Hamburg Academy.

The “freedom of abstract expression” suited Turani perfectly. 1956 can be described as a beginning of his abstraction period, which subsequently became more definitely abstract. At Trökes’ workshop, the artist also studied lithography. Meanwhile, he paid visits to Denmark and all the Scandinavian countries. In 1958, he visited the Venice Biennial. He went on to the French Riviera, visited Picasso at his house in Vallauris, and proceeded to Spain for a comprehensive six-week artistic tour via Barcelona – where he visited Miro – to Taragona, Granada and Madrid. He spent days at the Prado Museum in Madrid examining the techniques of Velasquez and the fascinating Goya.

An Ankara base

Heading northwards again at last, Turani visited the galleries in Paris and called on Mannesier and Soulage, two of the famous artists of that period, in their homes. He opened individual exhibitions himself in noted galleries in Hanover and Hamburg in 1958 and in Berlin in 1959, receiving warm accolades and selling many works. Back in Turkey, he returned to teaching, opting for Ankara and the Gazi Education Institute.

He was later also to teach at Hacettepe University and Bilkent University. He obtained his doctorate in 1972-3, became an assistant professor in 1978 and was named a professor in 1986. Turani opened exhibitions in Istanbul and Ankara in 1960. His Tel Aviv exhibition of September 1963 was a sell-out. The artist’s canvases of the 1960-72 period can be described as lyrical, abstract compositions bearing the marks of a struggle to transform the paint into excitement-inspiring forms. The technique is accomplished; the style original.

Perfecting the line

From 1972 onwards, it is more a question of looking at nature again and re-interpreting it in an artistic way with pictorial elements and values. Some archaic formal tendencies, already visible in the earlier work, can also be detected.

As of 1978, calligraphic lines come to the fore. The line, which is the most abstract element of painting, becomes a form of expression in itself. The design and the paintwork are closely integrated. The important thing is to be able to see and realise the whole. “I don’t draw what is apparent in nature; I draw the natural effect – in other words what I have perceived,” Turani says.

Writer and observer

Since he retired in 1989, Turani says, he has painted twice as many paintings as he had in his entire previous career. It is not difficult to believe, since he has been a busy man. Besides his many individual exhibitions, he has published fourteen books to date on art and art history, and has been invited to nearly 40 international exhibitions and biennials in various countries including Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Japan, the US, the Scandinavian countries, Italy, India, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Romania, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Iraq.

Throughout his working life, Turani has also continued to travel and study. In 1965, he went to Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Paris, Genoa and Venice. In 1990, he went to London and Madrid in order to examine the paintings of Goya and Velasquez. He realised that the body as drawn by Goya was a design independent of the living model; Goya’s nude was a body composition. This discovery was entirely in line with his own way of thinking. He re-visited Italy and contemplated the pictorial works of Tiziano and Tintoretto. He also stopped off in Padova and Florence. He visited Paris frequently, paying special attention to the Picasso and Pompidou museums. The Pompidou he describes as a “summary of 20th century art”.

Irresistible blend

Many of Turani’s own works now decorate the walls of museums and private collectors. Abroad, these include the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Amman, the Capri Museum of Xylographie and the royal palace in Copenhagen. In Turkey, the State Painting and Sculpture Museums of Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir, Hacettepe and Eskişehir Anadolu universities, İşbank, Ziraat Bank, the Central Banks, the Istanbul Modern and the Presidential Palace all possess products of Turani’s ideal blend of hard work and joie de vivre.

Philately :

Famous clubs

by Kaya DORSAN

As in many countries in the world, football is also the most widespread and popular sport in Turkey. The popularity of the game naturally increased even further when Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup and Super Cup in 2000 and the Turkish national football team came third in the World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002.

The Turkish Postal Administration could not possibly remain indifferent to these developments. The Administration had issued stamps featuring many branches of sport, including football, on numerous previous occasions. This time, it would honour the football clubs that were celebrating their 100th anniversaries.

Two celebrated

In 2003, a series consisting of four stamps went on sale for the Beşiktaş club. Beşiktaş was founded in 1903. Initially, Beşiktaş teams wore red and white; the colours were changed to the now-familiar black-and-white out of mourning for the soldiers who died in the Balkan Wars. In one international match between Turkey and Greece, the entire Beşiktaş team took their places on the field as the Turkish national team. Among the club’s famous supporters is Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The stamp series had a print run of 400,000.

Galatasaray, which is probably the most well known Turkish Football Club outside Turkey, was founded in 1905. For its 100th anniversary, the Postal Administration put on sale a series consisting of two stamps and two miniature sheets. One of the miniature sheets was perforated and the other imperforate. The imperforate sheet was printed only in sufficient quantity to meet the demand from collectors who had ordered it in advance, and was not sold to other collectors. As a result, this sheet became a rarity and began to gain value rapidly almost as soon as it was issued.

One to come

Both philatelists and sports fans now eagerly await the year 2007, when Fenerbahçe, the most popular football club in Turkey, will celebrate its 100th year. Arch-rival of both Beşiktaş and Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe has won the Turkey Premier Football League championship in each of the last two years. For now we must wait and see what kind of issue the Postal Administration will prepare for this club.

Speaking out

Professor Mehmet Bekaroğlu: Non-Governmental Diplomacy

The East Conference brings together intellectuals, writers, journalists, and activists of varying social and ideological backgrounds from Turkey and several other nearby countries. Institutionalised at a conference held in Istanbul last November, it aims to foster direct relations between the constituents of the civil societies of the Eastern countries so as to offer truly independent propositions and responses to common problems. We asked Professor Mehmet Bekaroğlu, the General Secretary of the Conference, to explain its rationale and outline its activities and aims. He presents the Conference as a model for non-governmental diplomacy.

We are living through a major period of historical transition that has become known as globalization. In this brief article, it is not necessary to go into details about globalization – although it remains an important phenomenon to be understood. However, it is necessary to say a few words about one major aspect of globalization that is particularly relevant to the topic of this article – namely, “world opinion.” Human beings can now engage in a dialogue on the international level. Rather than the community of states, it is world opinion that has become the basic source of legitimacy.

It is no secret that the Western powers wield very strong and effective tools for shaping and channeling world opinion. Yes, it is true that globalization is led from the West, bears the strong imprint of American political and economic power, and is highly uneven in its consequences. To many living outside Europe and North America, globalization looks like Westernization – or, perhaps, Americanization, since the U.S. is now the sole superpower, with a dominant economic, military and cultural position in the global order. Many of the most visible cultural expressions of globalization are American: Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, CNN, Disney, Hollywood… Yet, neither globalization nor world opinion is completely controlled. Nobody is entirely in charge of world opinion.

This situation creates new opportunities for those of us who are willing to challenge the direction in which the world is moving, and to seek alternatives to wars, massacres, imperialist aggression, the unjust consequences of the global economy, environmental disasters and the like. Civil society institutions and pressure groups that are not the creatures of particular states or vested interests can engage in a dialogue on the international level and make coalitions with other civil forces abroad, in addition to putting pressure on their own and other governments.

Transnational opinion

It is true that states may still ignore or manipulate pressure groups, and that the great decisions on war and peace are still taken behind walls soundproofed from the “unruly” crowd outside. Nevertheless, some of the preconditions for the creation of a more or less genuine transnational opinion are now being put into place along with the increasing influence of civil society.

When talking of a global civil society, we should be aware of a trap. Globalization also creates its own alternatives. Alternatives of this kind tend to veil, marginalize and even curse more seriously challenges. Such efforts to create user-friendly alternatives may include the increasing popularity of far-Eastern mysticism against materialism in the West, the spread of human rights rhetoric, the production of Hollywood movies such as Matrix or Fight Club that are considered to be critiques of modern life, the exportation of civil society institutions to the East, and so on. With the aid of such trends, the global system presents itself as a system that has self-insurance mechanisms. On the one hand, it creates a world of winners and losers, a “global pillage” rather than a “global village” – but on the other hand, it creates its self-critiques as well. By determining the boundaries of the critiques, it impedes those who would really challenge it.

Middle East revival?

At this point, it becomes clear why the leaders of this global system have directed most of their aggression, whether direct or more sophisticated, towards the Middle East. Why the Middle East? Why the peoples of this region? Is the only reason oil? The answer must be ‘No’, for there are more sophisticated tools for obtaining oil. We believe that the real reason is the capacity of these lands to challenge the global system as designed by them.

It is not necessary here to detail the great civilizational background of these lands. Nor will this article discuss how peacefully the diverse cultures were able to live together for hundreds of years, or describe the destructive role which the Western powers have played in this region. We have talked about these a lot. And perhaps we should continue to talk more. But at the same time, and more importantly, we must take concrete steps. And in order to do so, a revival is necessary among the peoples of these lands.

The East Conference was initiated with these thoughts in mind. Although it was the horrible and bloody attack against Iraq and the destructive consequences of this invasion which forced the initiators of the East Conference to come together, the primary goal was to search for a revival by which we could not only stand up to and confront the acts of aggression, but also produce genuine, original and authentic propositions and stances. For this revival to take place, the East Conference suggests that there are two crucial prerequisites.


The first prerequisite is not to fall into the trap of comfort and unproductiveness of describing the East on the basis of an antagonistic relationship with the West. Of course, nobody can ignore the negative effects of the domineering and exploitative policies of the West. The problems of our region have largely been created and deepened by these very policies. But at the same time a considerable amount of self-criticism is inevitable for any intellectual and social construction.

We believe that a new style of thinking and a new set of propositions can be produced in/by the East and that it can at the same time be meaningful for the West and for the entire world. So, we need not limit ourselves to “what the West did” or “what the West didn’t do”. One important implication of this prerequisite is to have the same degree of sensitivity about both the external threats and occupations that target our region and the authoritarian and autocratic regimes that impede the flourishing of civil society and exhaust the material and moral resources for their own sake.

Communicating again

Secondly, in order to accomplish the first prerequisite, we need to re-open the channels of communication between the countries/currents of thought within our region. These channels have been destroyed or narrowed in the past, but now we have to construct urgently new platforms through which we can transmit the historical-intellectual heritage of our region and the cultural-aesthetic products and experiences of our peoples. If this transmission succeeds, we will be able to know and learn about each other directly – after a very long interruption. The Eastern Conference initiative wants to undertake this primary and urgent task, by contributing to the institutionalization of dialogues about the common problems and questions of our countries and our schools of thought.

With these goals, we, intellectuals, writers, journalists, and activists from different backgrounds, have visited Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, and Armenia. We have looked for people to share these goals, and not surprisingly, we have had no difficulty finding our counterparts in these countries. The will was already there, but more effective platforms were needed in order to become more operational vis-à-vis the problems we are facing. Therefore, we decided to convene an international meeting in Istanbul. This event took place on November 9-13, 2005, with the contributions of approximately 150 people from seventeen countries.

Independence and institutionalisation

The East Conference was conceived of as a framework which will revive, develop and consolidate the direct relations between the constituents of the civil societies of the Eastern countries, not only with the aim of resisting imperialist threats and acts of aggression but also with the goal of producing a new set of propositions that are meaningful for us and for all the world.

As an organization which is free of governmental influence and does not accept grants from Western institutions, the East Conference faces financial challenges. However, it has been able to move ahead thanks to voluntary contributions from the initiators and contributions from some regional civil institutions, which do not have any ambiguous agendas, and which have always been openly declared to the public.

Our first goal – to institutionalize the Conference – was accomplished in the Istanbul Meeting. We have made many friends with whom we can walk side-by-side on our way to strengthening the ties between the peoples of the countries of the region. We also established an executive committee consisting of three friends from each of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Turkey.

Activities ahead

At the end of the Istanbul Meeting, we decided to hold one major meeting each year, in a different country if possible. We also decided to hold various activities such as book fairs, workshops on topics related to the idea of the East Conference, movie festivals, and the like. The preparations for a movie festival that will include all the major works from the Eastern movie makers have already started. It will take place in Istanbul, this winter (2006) hopefully. A committee of publishers was also formed. They will cooperate in deciding to translate and publish books mutually

We are working on a website that will operate in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and English. This website will include news from the region, commentary articles and more intellectual works on certain topics related to the idea of the East Conference. Via this website, anybody interested in the East Conference will have the opportunity to meet others, to submit thoughts, to hold discussions and to prepare for future occasions.

The overall ambitions of the East Conference are to articulate social movements and organizations and to increase people-to-people exchanges horizontally in order to enhance cooperation of mutual benefit, to stand against external aggression, and to produce a new set of propositions that are meaningful for the entire world. Not neglecting the differences of the peoples of this region, the East Conference believes that the similarities are numerous, and that there are many problems are common. In order to overcome the differences and to share our resources so as to take on our common problems, what we need to do is to re-open the channels of a relationship that can breed great potential. The East Conference is willing to undertake such a mission, and calls for contributions from all of those who believe that this is not the end of the history.

Nepal: Stairway to the heavens

by David O’Byrne

The vibrant settlements of the Kathmandu Valley remained largely isolated from the rest of the world until relatively recent times. Today it is possible to view the colourful spectacle which they present without foregoing any modern conveniences. The sounds and silences speak eloquently of religion and humanity – of ancient wisdoms and of the humdrum struggle for survival.

Forty years have passed since a far-away fashion for travel, self discovery and religious mysticism brought the first wave of Western tourists to Nepal. Since then, facilities for visitors have improved greatly. Hotels are clean, modern and well run, and most offer both high standards and excellent value. But the end of isolation has done little to compromise the unique other-worldliness that makes a visit to Nepal such a refreshing, if thought-provoking, experience.

Until the 1960s, these steep valleyed terraces leading up to the Himalayas had been an almost unreachable paradise. Too distant and too difficult for the colonial British, the country had remained a fiercely independent, unfathomably complex layer cake of intersecting cultures, languages and ethnicities built up over three millennia. Even today, much of the country remains comparatively untouched by the worst excesses of the modern industrial world, its inhabitants following a way of life which has changed little in over a thousand years.

Capital rites

For most first time visitors, the capital Kathmandu and the surrounding valleys will provide more than enough of interest. Kathmandu itself, the only real city in Nepal, is in parts frustratingly modern – not least the fearsome traffic. But equally large areas are still relatively untouched by modern life. There are hauntingly silent squares of traditional houses, and brightly-coloured temples and shrines lurk around every corner.

Kathmandu has been the political and religious capital of Nepal ever since it was first united under a single ruler in the 18th century. As such, it is home to some of the country’s finest devotional and ceremonial architecture. Religion is everywhere. From early morning until late at night Nepalis can been seen performing devotions and participating in a bewilderingly complex calendar of religious ceremonies and public rituals.

Maze of religions

Although most of the population is nominally Hindu, the religion as it is practised is deeply infused with elements of early Buddhism, which preceded it to the extent that most Nepalis would have difficulty in identifying where one religion ends and the other starts.

Uniquely for Hindus, Nepalis revere their king as a reincarnation of the god Vishnu. Even today, Kathmandu’s main Dhurbar – or Palace –square, the former home of the royal family, is a focus of much religious activity. This sprawling labrynth of more than 30 temples, shrines and royal buildings, most of which now date from the 17th and 18th centuries, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Changes of pace

Seldom less than crowded, the square is a veritable assault on the senses both in the relentless detail of the buildings – alive with delicate wood carvings and brimming with brightly painted statuary – and in the sheer colour and variety of the human activity that goes on there. But even this spectacle pales in comparison to the bustle in some of the capitals’ older and more populous districts, where every street is a teeming open market and every square is crammed to bursting with temples, shrines, statues and prayer wheels. All cheek-by-jowl with the omnipresent parked motorbikes – the vehicle of choice for most of the city’s young population.

Outside of the capital, life progresses at a slower pace. Up on a hill to the West, offering wonderful views over the city, stands the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath. It is just a pleasant walk from the centre, but a world away from its crowds.

Similarly the towns of Patan, Bhaktapur and Thimi lie only a few kilometres to the South and West of the capital, but reflect very different aspects of Nepal.

Open-air museums

Patan and Bhaktapur are ancient religious and political centres. The former has Buddhist shrines dating from 500BC – some of the oldest in the country. The latter served as the regional capital for 200 years before Kathmandu. Both towns are still important religious centres with enormous complexes of temples and palaces which are contemporary places of devotion as well as open-air museums for visitors. Uniquely well preserved and maintained, their main squares boast some of the densest concentrations of historical buildings in the whole of Nepal, and more resemble a fantastical Hollywood film set than reality.

Both towns have changed little in hundreds of years. Avenues of traditional brick houses, decorated with elaborate wood carvings, open out onto peaceful squares containing traditional water pools green with algae, smaller temples and shrines or elaborate communal water fountains where local women congregate to wash clothes.

Pottery town

Thimi by contrast, is very much a commercial centre – albeit one whose commercial prosperity relies on the production of pottery using techniques a millennium old. The Kathmandu valley is essentially a clay-filled dried-up lake, so raw materials are not in short supply. The clay is beaten into the form of huge pots and bowls with the aid only of a wooden mallet and years of practice. Piles of the finished articles can be viewed in the traditional open squares.

Firing is no more sophisticated. The pots are buried beneath rice straw and covered with a thick layer of ash, which serves to seal in both the heat and the smoke.

Strolling through the back streets watching a daily routine that owes nothing to the technology of the industrial era, it was impossible not to feel a nostalgia for a simpler existence which as a European I would only ever come across as a tourist.

Conflicting experiences

I realise that in Nepal, as in other countries which have seen little “development”, what appears picturesque and idyllic to the outsider may constitute tedious routine or even deprivation for the locals. Ever-charming to Western eyes, Nepal can offer most of its citizens only a poor education, poor health care, and minimal employment opportunities outside back-breaking agricultural labour. Poverty is omnipresent and lies at the root of the long-running armed conflict between the country’s conservative and autocratic monarchy and a secretive rebel army that takes its inspiration from the teachings of Chairman Mao.

Not the ideal holiday destination? Think again. Some areas of the country are currently “challenging”, if not actually dangerous, but most are perfectly safe. And for the responsible visitor willing to take time to make sense of the juxtaposition of old and new, Nepal is – still – a uniquely rewarding experience.

Capers: A shrub to relish

by Recep Peker TANITKAN

It took a long time for a naturally-occurring moorland bush with a peculiar fragrance to turn into an internationally-traded commodity. But in the meantime, the caper plant did not fail to become the topic of a great deal of folklore.

Centuries ago, in his famous travelogue the “Seyahatname”, Evliya Çelebi spoke of a fruit called “gebre”, which grew in sandy soil, and which local people pickled with vinegar. “This pickle is very beneficial,” he went on, “since it heals diseases and makes one sprightly, fit and energetic. And it is famous since it is delicious as well as beneficial.”

The caper plant (‘Capparis Spinosa’), to which the 17th century wanderer referred, is in fact a common sight both in the arid hinterlands of Mediterranean countries and in the dry regions of Central Asia, where it is thought to originate. A spiny grey-green bush growing both upwards and along the ground, it produces brief and beautiful flowers – a mass of purple stamina amid delicate cream white petals – which last just a matter of hours.

Today, the plant continues to grow naturally in Tokat and surrounding parts of central Anatolia, and is known as “‘geber’ grass”. It also proliferates in the Eastern Black Sea region and Southeastern Anatolia, and especially in West Anatolian provinces with a Mediterranean climate. But despite Evliya Çelebi’s observant remarks, it is only in very recent decades that Turks have recognized its commercial value as a dye, a pharmaceutical, a cosmetic ingredient – and a pungent delicacy for West European dining tables.

Feast or feed?

In Aegean provinces, the caper is termed ‘kapari’, and some 4,000 tons a year are exported. The foreign exchange so earned comes at the expense of the fragile flower, for the crucial bitter tang is encapsulated in the bud, which is harvested at first light before it can bloom, and freshly pickled in oil, vinegar or brine. The smaller buds are sought after the most.

Spicy and sour (unless overheated), caper buds contain significant amounts of protein, minerals and vitamins A and E. In Mediterranean cuisines, they are popular with cold meat and poultry. They are sometimes combined with pickled olives, and often included on ‘pizza’. They may also be used in conjunction with olive oil, lemon garlic and other Mediterranean spices. The buds impart a special flavour to wine and tomato sauces, and constitute a key ingredient of some complex recipes. Elsewhere capers serve as an ingredient of savoury salads and as a garniture for fish and game.

Left to its own devices, the flower would give way to a small cucumber-like seed-bearing fruit, from which would spring its next generation. This berry is itself sometimes pickled and traded, but its saleability is limited by its overpowering flavour. Curiously, this delicacy is also used as animal fodder.

Health and environment

Botanically, the caper is a relative of the cabbage sharing chemical affinities with cress, mustard and horse radish plants. In the wild, it propagates only with the aid of ants which inadvertently split open the thick skin of its seeds as they carry them off to their winter stores. Once growing, however, each plant can live for 150-200 years without watering or maintenance.

Healthwise, capers are said to have rejuvenating functions, and to regulate the functions of the liver. In Turkey, where capers are still most likely to appear on supermarket shelves in imported tins or jars, they have recently been launched – like other traditional products – as an aphrodisiac.

Less frequently, the bark of the plant’s roots has been recommended as a diuretic and cure for constipation. The prime virtue of the roots, which may descend for tens of metres, is their role in reducing the erosion of loose, dry sandy soils where little else will grow.

Profitable business

As a commercial prospect, the caper has been promoted in Turkey by Selim Sabit Pülten, of the Balova Farm near Bafa Lake, in Aydın. A sapling takes three years to start to produce buds, but eventually 15-20 kilogrammes may be collected daily from each root. The harvest stretches from April to August.

The product is exported, in brine or unprocessed, to Germany and the United States in particular, and also to Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa. Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Spain is itself a caper-growing country, but it also imported unprocessed capers for processing and re-export.

What’s in a name?

The name of the caper is of Arabic root and is similar in most languages: câpre (French), kaper (German), kappari (Greek), cappero (Italian) and caparra or alcaparra (Spanish). However, local Turkish dialects describe it by a wealth of other names. Among the most colourful are ‘Hint hiyari’ (Indian cucumber), ‘deve dikeni’ (camel’s thorn), ‘kedi’ tirnağı’ (cat’s claw) and ‘it kavunu’ (dog’s melon). Whatever the name, the plant’s extraordinary properties remain the same.

Safranbolu: An encounter with the past

by Capt. Piers STERN

What do we know of life in Ottoman times? The adjective summons images of luxuriating sultans and scimitar-wielding janissaries. But these tell us nothing of the everyday life of people like us. You can obtain a more balanced view by reading İrfan Orga’s Portrait of a Turkish Family – or by visiting Safranbolu, which at least has the advantage that it does not go out of print. We are in the well-preserved market town, some 240km north of Ankara, as part of DİPLOMAT’s series of articles on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkey. Let us start our journey where many ended theirs, at the old cemetery on Hıdırlık Hill…

I had walked up there because I thought it would be a good idea to begin with a bird’s eye view of the town. While gazing afar, however, I stumbled against a gravestone, and thus made the acquaintance – so to speak – of Bey-Zade Hasan Ali, who died in 1295 of the Hijra (1876 AD). It was a modest, middle-class gravestone, with a fez on it. It gave Hasan’s name, rank of major, death date, and the following lines in Persian: “Hasan quaffed the cup of death from the hand of fate, water of both worlds.”

A bird’s eye view

Surveying the town from Hıdırlık Hill one finds a prospect to the north-west of one of the two rocky valleys in which the town lies. This smaller valley cradles most of the town, with the ‘hamam’ (bathhouse), a series of mosques, and the solidly-built Cinci Inn (1645), where merchants and their wares could find shelter before the advent of truckers’ motels. Below the market were formerly leatherworkers and coppersmiths’ workshops, and, mercifully downstream and in a ravine, the tanneries. In spite of its name, the town’s income was more consistently derived, not from “safran” (saffron flowers), as from the less fragrant business of leather-making.

On either side of this valley are the narrow streets and projecting timber-frame and clay Turkish houses which have earned Safranbolu its status as World Heritage Site. Kıranköy village, in the larger valley, was formerly the Greek area. Now it is the modern town centre of Safranbolu. I was told that the stone ground floor of the houses was the work of Greek masons, while the upper floors were built by Turkish carpenters, but this presupposes a degree of co-operation for which I would need stronger evidence.

Above Kıranköy is the upper town, called Bağlar. Almost every family living in the lower town would also have a house higher up where they would spend the hot summer months. Prime Minister Erdoğan likes Bağlar enough to stay there every year. I would add my recommendation, and suggest a bracing walk (7.5 km) – drive if you must – further up the stunning Tokatlı Gorge until you reach the ancient İncekaya Aqueduct, which was rebuilt by another Prime Minister, İzzet Mehmet Paşa (Grand Vizier in 1794). The aqueduct is 116-metre long by 1.5-metre wide and it supplies the ornate drinking fountains of Safranbolu.

Lives and lifestyles

I am not a superstitious man, but it is clear that meeting Hasan Ali again during my visit to the Kaymakamlar House, one of several Safranbolu town houses open to the public, unsettled me. The house is just below Hıdırlık Hill. A typical Safranbolu house, it is on three floors, with a selamlık (reception rooms) on the first floor, and a separate haremlik (women’s quarters). I admit that I felt most at home in the sturdy fodder and stables area which makes up the ground floor, called the “hayat”.

I had inspected the beautiful pine and walnut latticework of the ceilings in the haremlik, and the yüklük built-in cupboards for storing bedding during the day, when my eyes fell on a glass cabinet with Ottoman school books. One was recognisably a maths text book, another was an edition of a poem for memorizing Arabic grammar. And there he was, in smudged ink on its inside cover: Bey-Zade Hasan Ali’s book, Safranbolu Süleyman Paşa School.

To my frustration I found that Hasan Ali kept recurring in my thoughts. The next house I visited was the Kileciler House. It has walls painted with flowers and calligraphic mottos saying “Patriotism is a religious duty”, and “Cleanliness is part of faith”. There is a folklore display with waxwork bridesmaids in embroidered dresses painting their hands with henna, and male guests sit in another room drinking Turkish coffee. I found myself thinking: “Could that young man in the fez be Hasan Ali?”

Water works

One feature of the Safranbolu house style is a large pool in the middle of the reception room. Wide and deep enough to swim in, they were in fact intended for keeping the room cool. A good example is in the Havuzlu Konak Hotel, which welcomes visitors. I am aware the Kileciler House and other houses have been restored by the Ministry of Culture in a way which respects the original methods and materials. Mümtazlar House, which unusually was designed by a woman, Nefise Hanım, has not been restored but is in good condition. However, in the case of some hotels I am obliged to make a side-swipe against that practice of demolition and replacement which passes for “restoration”. I had rather see no restoration at all than concrete in situ replicas.

By the way, Kileciler House has a loo with “100” above the door, which still today means water closet in Turkish slang. The Oxford Dictionary says that the origin of “loo” is unknown, but perhaps there is a connection? On that subject, I have pointed out that the Akçasu stream runs through Safranbolu in a narrow ravine. Under the market the ravine is hidden in a culvert, but you can see how deep it is if you ask directions to the loo by the Ironmongers’ Market.

Tourist attractions

A visit to Safranbolu is above all a visit to the town as a whole: its houses, open spaces, markets and public buildings. In the centre of town there are three mosques. Two are provincial-looking, the Köprülü Mehmet Paşa and Kazdağlıoğlu Mosques, but the İzzet Mehmet Paşa Mosque, given to the town by the Grand Vizier, is a clear statement of Istanbul elegance. Apparently İzzet Paşa lost his job when the Ottoman army ceded Egypt to Napoleon in 1797–1798.

The town attracts chiefly Turkish tourists, who often combine their visit with a trip to the Black Sea town of Amasra. This means there are some fine restaurants, as well as many cafés and kebab shops. There is also no shortage of the things tourists feel obliged to buy, from fridge magnets in the shape of Ottoman houses to those chewy sweets with walnuts which are supposed to be a local speciality (where are they not?).

On Castle Hill

Such trinkets are not for me. I was enjoying a pipe on Kale (Castle) Hill, watching builders working on the pretty old town hall, which is being converted into a museum. I got into conversation with an old couple, who had initially asked me whether I was Danish. The old lady became rather chatty when I gave a negative answer, and she had much to say about the old days. She was telling me how the women of the neighbourhood would get together to make preserves in preparation for the winter, when I saw him.

It was just a fleeting glimpse of a man in the window of the gutted town hall. A man in a fez. At the same instant I had the strong sensation that it was Hasan Ali. I turned in astonishment to the old lady, but she was gone.

Bath times

It had been a long day, and visiting Safranbolu can involve quite a lot of walking in the sun. There is nothing better to calm the nerves than a visit to the 14th-century Cinci Hamam for a Turkish bath. I was not disappointed. Half an hour later I was leaning back in the ‘sıcaklık’ (hot room), languidly watching the ‘tellak’ (bath attendant) rubbing down a customer with a ‘kese’ (flannel). There was something about this corpulent figure which reassured me. His type is as old as the very existence of bathhouses. As I recall, in ancient times the parabalani at the Roman baths were tough, no nonsense types. This man and I were one of a kind. I forgot all about the day’s little excitements.