“Turkish people” vs. “people of Turkey”

So my blog seems to be turning into a blog about Turkish blogger Mustafa Akyol. This is another post of his about a speech a Turkish general recently gave. In the speech, the general referred to “the people of Turkey” instead of the customary “Turkish people”. This seems like a minor semantic difference, but it has major implications, especially in a country as nationalist as Turkey. “Turkish people” implies an ethnicity, whereas “people of Turkey” is a much broader definition that encompasses Turkish citizens of minority ethnicities.

The speech created a controversy because Turkey likes to pretend that there are no ethnic minorities in Turkey (the fun example about there being no Kurds in Turkey, only “mountain Turks” comes to mind). Thus, the general’s speech implied that there was room for ethnic diversity in the modern Turkish state. Shocking!

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Inching towards the g-word

This post by a Turkish blogger I’ve been following all semester comes closer to acknowledging the Armenian genocide than any other Turk I’ve read about. The post praises Obama’s use of the phrase meds yeghern to refer to the genocide. Meds yeghern means “Great Catastrophe” in Armenian and is the phrase Armenians use to describe the genocide. The blogger liked Obama’s use of the phrase because it doesn’t carry any legal baggage, but it doesn’t contradict Obama’s previously expressed view of the events of 1915 as genocide.

The blogger says that there is no reason for Obama to deny something he sees as a historical fact. This is quite a radical position in Turkey, even if the blogger goes on to say that Turks view an entirely different set of historical facts and that the Turkish interpretation of history is equally valid. Surprisingly, he recognizes that the Armenians’ pain is legitimate, although he also rehashes standard Turkish arguments that Armenian “terrorists” committed atrocities of at least an equal scale against Turks. Overall, I was incredibly surprised to see a Turkish blogger embrace the term meds yeghern. The refusal to use the word “genocide,” though, displays the power of the word. Even though it is basically a synonym for meds yeghern, it carries much more legal and moral weight in the international community.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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‘New’ and ‘Old’ Media in Armenia

A sign of the influence bloggers can have on the public sphere, even on people who don’t read blogs:

This is a blog post, about a daily Armenian newspaper that wrote about (in Armenian), the views of an Armenian blogger (also in Armenian).

Clearly, the views of bloggers are making inroads into the Armenian public sphere if a ‘traditional’ media outlet is referencing them. It’s pretty incredible that the opinions of bloggers are being heard by people who don’t even have an internet connection. Also, considering all the debate about the impending death of the newspaper, it’s interesting to see sort of a symbiotic relationship between ‘new’ and ‘old’ media here. The blogger benefits by having his audience increased substantially, and the newspaper benefits by being able to publish new and interesting content. This sort of relationship, though, is probably uniquely suited to a developing country like Armenia where most people have limited internet access or none at all. In the U.S., almost everyone has access to the internet, so publishing a blogger’s views in a newspaper would be redundant.

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Satirical take on Twitter

In case you’re not sick of all the discussion about Twitter we’ve had in class lately, here’s a short satirical video about “Flutter”. If Twitter is micro-blogging, Flutter is nano-blogging. Enjoy.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

‘Muslim’ doesn’t mean ‘anti-American’

Newsweek published an interesting article about a Guantanamo guard who converted to Islam. The guard, Terry Holdbrooks, recounts how after he converted, his fellow soldiers staged an “intervention,” which involved forming a circle around him and yelling, asking if he had become a traitor and to remember who’s side he was on. The experience of Capt. James Yee is also referenced. Yee was a Muslim military chaplain at Guantanamo who was arrested for among other things, “aiding the enemy”. All charges against Yee were eventually dropped. Both Yee and Holdbrooks accuse the military, particularly the command at Guantanamo, of making systematic attempts to vilify Islam.

This attitude is a major obstacle for America in the global war on terror. It’s been said over and over, but yet frequently forgotten, that only a tiny percentage of Muslims are extremists, and even fewer are terrorists. However, if the U.S. continues to paint all Muslims, even those who volunteer to serve honorably in the U.S. military, as ‘traitors’, it will only increase the number of extremists and terrorists. When the U.S. says that Islam is the enemy, then it creates millions of enemies that didn’t exist before. Instead of being ostracized, men like Holdbrooks and Yee could be valuable resources in understanding Islam and understanding what separates an ordinary Muslim from a terrorist.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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Language and Genocide

I came across this Turkish newspaper article that talks about the possibility of normalizing Turkey’s relations with Armenia. Throughout the article, the author refers to “allegations of genocide” “made by the diaspora” as an obstacle to normalization. Of course, it would be impossible to ever write about “genocide” in a Turkish newspaper, so the use of the word “allegations” isn’t surprising. What’s more interesting is that the writer makes a point of distinguishing between the citizens of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, and goes on to blame most of the problems on the diaspora. My first reaction was that this was just a way to justify normalizing relations without having to acknowledge the genocide; Turkey effectively saying that  the problem’s not Armenia, just those deluded and annoying members of the diaspora. However, there is some validity here.

I’m sure that genocide recognition is something all Armenians would like to see. However, insistance on symbolic recognition of something that happened almost a century ago, while incredibly important, is a luxury of Armenians living in the U.S. and Europe. Armenians in Armenia have more pressing needs resulting from living in a developing country. If better economic relations with Turkey help alleviate some day-to-day concerns, then that might be more important to Armenians than diplomatic acknowledgement of the genocide.

Published in: on April 1, 2009 at 9:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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