While traveling around in the United States these past weeks, many people asked me more about Turkey’s role in the region and in the world than about Turkish culture and etiquette.
I have always thought that however much of the local language you can understand, if you can follow any news at all in the local language it is a good thing to do. It will provide you as the foreigner a different perspective and angle of thought which helps you as the expat to better understand what local people think on issues. A few weeks ago I learned about an interesting and informative magazine available in Turkish that is similar to Today’s Zaman in that it attempts to present a balance in reporting. One of the differences in the two is that the magazine, Marketing Türkiye, is in Turkish. Marketing Türkiye magazine describes itself as being the leading magazine for the discussion of existing and emerging marketing practices in Turkey.
Certainly after the occurrence of the Arab Spring, the Middle East has been undergoing major changes and a restructuring process. Duygu Atahan, a writer for Marketing Türkiye, states that during this process, “Turkey is the perfect model for the Arab countries,” a sentiment echoed by Western leaders. Atahan states that this also creates a strong perception that Turkey is a regional power and that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will become the regional leader in the Middle East. Atahan adds that many see Turkey as a “model country for the Middle East” and “Erdoğan as a powerful regional leader.” For many Turks these ideas have become part of Turkish life and thought. These ideas are evident everywhere, even in commercials. It is common to see the prime minister in television clips with US President Barack Obama, Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Atahan says the aim of the clips is to emphasize both globally and domestically the idea of Turkey’s power and its regional leadership.
Atahan contacted a number of influential individuals involved in media who represent various opinions on life and politics and asked them to comment specifically on four points dealing with the topic regarding the perception of Turkey and Erdoğan in the Middle East and in the 21st century.
Here are the strategic questions:
· How did the Arab Spring affect and change the position of Turkey in the Middle East region? · Has Turkey been in the process of becoming regional leader? · What is the influence of Erdoğan in this process? · There is a strong perception in Turkey that Turkey is a regional power and that Erdoğan will be a regional leader and also a world leader. How do you evaluate this perception? Do you really think this perception is true? Why? Or it is just propaganda created by Turkish people for Turkish people. Why?
Let me share my response to the first question asked to various columnists and prominent personalities involved in media representing a variety of opinions:
· How did the Arab Spring affect and change the position of Turkey in the Middle East region?
Turkey is seen as a “Muslim democratic state” by most Westerners and others around the world. But it is not a Muslim state. Based on the 1982 constitution, it is a democratic, secular, parliamentary republic. It is one of the few majority Muslim nations to have a true parliamentary democracy. Many citizens of nations that have been part of the Arab Spring have observed the Republic of Turkey and its development since 1923 and would like to experience something similar in their own nations. These things don’t happen overnight, and Turkey has nearly a whole century of experience in operating as a republic. In some of the Arab Spring nations it is recognized that Turkey has turned its economy around in recent years, and those countries are impressed by this. The issues the Arab Spring nations are struggling with today resemble the struggles faced by Turkey in recent decades as the republic matured. The democracy movements in the Arab nations that we have witnessed in the past year or so represent individuals from different walks of life who believe it is their duty to protest against unemployment, economic ruin and alleged corruption. Turkey is seen as a role model in these spheres by many across the Middle East.
I will continue this piece in tomorrow’s column.
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey, 2005.” Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org