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November 15, 2012, Thursday

Roll with the punches

The topic of death sentences crops up at different times and places around the world. It was about a half a century on from its abolition that on the streets of England there were cries to bring back capital punishment by some.

In the United States the argument continues to this day. Some people favor it and others oppose it. Opinions vary from state to state and even within the state.

According to Gallup’s most recent survey in 2011, 40 percent of Americans say the death penalty is not imposed often enough, resulting in the lowest results since May 2001, when Gallup first asked, “Are you in favor of the death penalty when a person is convicted of murder?”

Here are some other facts from the Gallup poll on the issue in the United States:

 Twenty-five percent say the death penalty is used too often, the highest such percentage yet that Gallup has measured.

Twenty-seven percent say the death penalty is imposed about the right amount of times.

Almost three-quarters of Republicans and independents who lean Republican approve, compared with 46 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic.

Men, whites and those living in the South and Midwest are among those most likely to support the death penalty.

Americans under 30 are less likely to support the death penalty than are those who are 30 and older.

Francis Welch explains in the article “Our dedication to the death penalty” (Guardian, April 5, 2011) that a YouGov research agency survey in 2010 showed that 51 percent would back the reintroduction of the death penalty, with only 37 percent committed to its abolition.

This week in the news Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened a debate about reintroducing the death penalty in Turkey, reminding listeners that the death penalty exists in countries like the United States, Russia, China and Japan. Stating that it exists in these countries makes it appear as though it is alright, but is it?

Cambridge University Professor Vic Gatrell, author of “The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People,” explains that the public spectacle of hanging was designed as a visual show of the state’s power and to “testify to the anger of the king.” But this was before the Victorians established a penal system and a police force.

Jack Straw wrote in The Times piece “No ifs or buts, Turkey must be part of the EU” (Nov. 8, 2010) that David Cameron told the Commons in June that “we should back Turkey’s membership wholeheartedly.” I do wonder what Mr. Cameron would say now.

Part of Turkey’s application process to meet requirements to be accepted as a member of the European Union has been to abolish the death penalty. Wikipedia explains that since October 1984, Turkey has not executed any prisoners. Prior to that date executions would usually happen after military interventions. By August 2002 the death penalty was abolished for peace time offences. The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in July 2004. Turkey ratified Protocol No. 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights in February 2006.

In my previous piece, “Strain in relations” (Nov. 14, 2012), I concluded on a more or less positive note in response to a reader’s comment about Turkey and the Cyprus issue and the EU, stating that over the decades there have been hopes that a successful solution would be reached, according to different deadlines and added that the “green line” is beginning to look like a permanent partition. But you never know, as it was not too long ago that the Berlin Wall came down.

The idea of Turkey becoming a member of the EU has become cloudier and some Turks are becoming increasingly dismissive of the EU. Perhaps Turkey’s role as a regional power is a better one. What do you think?

Basically, this whole journey of the process to become a member of the European Union can be equated to how daily life is for the average person living in Turkey: You take one step forward and two steps back. You have to learn to roll with the punches. One thing is for certain and that is that any expat who has lived here for any length of time and Turks are survivors!

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: [email protected]

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