Turkish Policy Quarterly Vol 7, No. 1 (Spring 2008)
"State, Religion, Identity and Politics: Turkey Updated"

Nigar Göksel

Nigar Göksel
ESI Senior Analyst

From the desk of the editor

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Hakan Yılmaz

Hakan Yılmaz
Hakan Yılmaz is Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Bogaziçi University, Istanbul, and the executive coordinator of Bogaziçi University's Master of Arts Program in European Studies.

Based on data collected in research, the author analyzes the trends of conservatism in Turkey observing that conservatism is higher among rural and provincial residents, among people with lower education and income, and of more rightwing orientation. The author remarks that as a segment of society rises in socioeconomic status while being politicized through religious parties, there may be a trend of reinterpreting Islam to be more congruent with the modern city realities. Another possibility is that religion will be taken as an unchanging realm and instead a stark division will come about in cities, between those of different lifestyle and worldviews.

TPQ-article: "Conservatism in Turkey"

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Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol
Mustafa Akyol is the deputy editor of Turkish Daily News. This piece is an updated version of his article "Turkey's Veiled Democracy", published in The American Interest, November-December 2007 issue.

For many decades, Arabs and other Muslim nations saw Turkey as a lost cause, a country which abandoned its own faith and civilization. That why, despite the customary rhetoric, Turkey never served as an example of the compatibility of Islam and modernity. It represented instead the abandonment and even suppression of the former for the sake of the latter. But that a bad message for the Islamic world: When a devout believer is forced to choose between religion and modernity, he will opt and even fight for the former.

TPQ-article: "Turkey's liberal Islam and how it came to be"

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Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere

Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere
Ekrem Eddy Güzeldere is an analyst for the European Stability Initiative (ESI) in Istanbul.

The article explores whether the current Turkish government has a comprehensive plan towards improving the situation in Southeast Anatolia and granting cultural and political rights to Kurds. Since the landslide victory of the AKP in the July 2007 general elections, there has been much talk about such a plan, but hardly any concrete steps have been apparent. Though there is an abundance of ideas, the political will to implement them seems weak. Close cooperation with the military in the fight against terrorism as well as AKP's effort to cater to Turkish nationalist segments of society narrows the possibilities for political maneuver.

TPQ-article: "Was there, is there, will there be a Kurdish plan?"

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Filiz Bikmen

Filiz Bikmen
Filiz Bikmen is manager of institutional development and programs at Sabanci Foundation, Advisor to the Chairman, TÜSEV.

The author provides an overview of developments in the landscape, laws, and perception of civil society organizations in Turkey and the interplay with philanthropy. She points out that Turkish foundations have not yet made the shift from supporting the 'hardware' of institutions to 'software' community engagement, though there are exceptions budding in recent years. She further argues that a significant challenge ahead is the reform of the tax framework for philanthropy.

TPQ-article: "From hardware to software, charity to strategy: A roadmap for progressive philanthropy in Turkey"

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David Arnett

David Arnett
David Arnett is the Former U.S. Consul de General in Istanbul.

That the United States "has sought to use Turkey as a model of a moderate Islamic state for the Middle East" is a conviction which resonates widely in Turkey with far reaching implications, for not only Turkey-U.S. relations but also Turkey's democratization. The author refutes the arguments this conviction rests upon. Particularly delving into the changing currents in the Turkish military and the internal power balances, he points out the risks posed by conspiracy theories and the irresponsible evoking of notions of honor as Turkey "stumbles" into the 21st century.

TPQ-article: "Problems of perception and vision: Turkey and the U.S."

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Daniel Grütjen

Daniel Grütjen
Daniel Grütjen is a Political Scientist living in Berlin and Istanbul. He is currently working on his PhD thesis on the transformation of the Turkish welfare regime.

This article focuses on the division of social responsibilities among the state, market, and family in Turkey. This issue has nowadays been high on the agenda in Turkey due to recent social security reforms. This article puts the debates into perspective by highlighting the key characteristics of and trends within the Turkish welfare regime and offering its classification through cross-national comparison.

TPQ-article: "The Turkish welfare regime: An example of the southern European model? The role of the state, market, and family in welfare provision"

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Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson is the director of TurkishEnglish.com.

Turkey's pursuit of EU membership has been heartily embraced by the government of Prime Minister Erdoğan but the principles of an open society, which are prerequisites for actual progress on this issue, have hardly been implemented in a way consistent with Western norms. The degree to which any society can be characterized as "open" is best measured by the way that foreigners are treated by both the government and society at large. In this respect, Turkey's Ottoman heritage and experience still seem to inform attitudes and feelings about "foreigner policy" as reflected in the numbers of foreigners working in the country.

TPQ-article: "Driving towards the EU using its rear-view mirror: Turkey's "foreigner" policy"

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Cem Toker

Cem Toker
Cem Toker is chairman of the Liberal Democrat Party and Board Member of ARI Movement.

Assessing the Political Party Law, Electoral Law and Governmental Procurement Law, the author argues that the system and the politicians are creating what keeps the country from further progress. Pointing out contradictions between the Constitution, laws, and regulations and the systemic reasons leading already powerful political forces to consolidate their power, which create a very uneven playing ground, the author outlines a vicious cycle resulting in corruption and a deficit of democracy.

TPQ-article: "Why is Turkey bogged down?"

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Haluk Önen

Haluk Önen
Haluk Önen is the former president of ARI Movement.

There is a populist government in Turkey today. The party in power has been trying to represent divergent interests and ideologies at once, trying to cover the entire political spectrum. Though it may look like a pluralistic approach has been adopted and that democracy has strengthened, a closer observation of how problems are solved and how implementation is carried out demonstrates otherwise. Moreover, Turkey's foreign policy and security vision has become a factor of domestic policy. Rather than having an integrated approach, a position to every particular foreign policy question that comes up is set according to how it will effect daily domestic affairs.

TPQ-article: "The long path ahead in Turkey's integration with the world"

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W. J. Korab-Karpowicz

W. J. Korab-Karpowicz
W. J. Julian Korab-Karpowicz is an assistant professor at the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Before he started an academic career, he was a diplomat and a public official, Deputy Mayor in the municipal government of Gdansk, in his native Poland.

The author argues that in spite of its pro-European makeup, the AKP stands within the tradition of political Islam. The party supports Turkey's integration with the EU, foreign investments and privatization, but at the same time it undermines secularism, the fundamental constitutional principle of the Turkish state. It uses its pro-Western rhetoric and pro-business attitude as an instrument to achieve its political goals. It attempts to replace the secular identity of Turkey with an Islamic religious identity. It thus opens the gate for the country's complete transformation, from a secular to a religious state. Without secularism that the Kemalist establishment defends, Turkey will be neither democratic nor truly pro-European. Hence, the author claims, the AKP does not deserve the support it gets from the Western press and EU politicians.

TPQ-article: "Turkey under challenge: Conflicting ideas and forces"

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Ruairi Patterson
Ruairi Patterson is an analyst at Control Risks.

Nationalist feeling has been rising and support for Turkish membership of the European Union has been falling as conditions that led to a decline in levels of nationalism at the end of the 1990s have changed. The rocky path of the accession process since 2004 and an extended domestic political atmosphere of polarization and crisis have further provoked nationalist feeling and transformed much of it into anti-EU feeling. Global economic troubles and the prospect that EU negotiations could be suspended over the AKP closure case could lead to further increases in levels of nationalism.

TPQ-article: "Rising nationalism and the EU accession process"

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