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Dear Reader,

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Istanbul Office of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom,

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We are in the middle of a hot and humid Istanbul summer longing for the Kurban Bayram holidays to approach. We enjoy ourselves: No hail storm on its way (hopefully), no earth quake announced (so far), no flooding (for now), electricity and water supply in a sound shape (luckily!). What more can you expect? We allow us to ignore the concern-provoking headlines of the daily news  - for the sake of a peaceful summer break.  We may try to leave the Megalopolis - and if it is only for the prolonged official holidays around Kurban Bayramı. We are in the mood for relaxation and resting our minds…..

Well, not everyone is!  While an entire country is supposed to take its time for a break (and, by this, to come to the aid of the deeply suffering Turkish tourism industry!), the political environment is far from becoming more relaxed. On the domestic as well as the international arena polarization, conflicts and violence dominate. While writing this introductory, news about two most recent Islamist terror attacks in two very distant and diverse European cities drops in. About 20 people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs were doomed to die, almost 200 were injured. What for? Simply because 17 or 18 year old boys proclaim their intention to “wipe out” all “infidels” from this planet. Simply because they want to “free Al Andalus”, which used to be a Muslim dominated part of Europe during the Middle Ages (after being predominantly Christian for roughly 400 years, they easily forget or rather: don’t know about!).

And what does Turkish media, in recent days as in recent months? They red-flag growing “islamophobia” and right-wing tendencies in Europe -  in spite of the fact that elections results in various European countries have proven the minority or even marginal character of right-wingers, nationalists and xenophobic tendencies. There is a proverb in many languages telling that you should rather not throw stones while sitting in a glass house. What we experience here, is the reverse effect: As one lives in a democracy in constant decline, as one lives under a “rule of law” that has become nothing more than the rule of those in power, it is the fashion of the day to finger-point to the other side. It is the time for (alleged) “double-standards”, which are supposedly used by those who grudge Turkey’s rise to become a world super power – if not till 2023 than at least till 2071!

In recent days, a Turkish political analyst from the young generation published a column under the heading “The heavy bag for the European Union: Turkey”. I guess, almost every political stakeholder in Europe would agree to this heading – with a deep, deep sigh! However, reading the column you won’t get anything else than an illustration of the attitude which dominates Turkish politics since a couple of years: Attack is the best form of defence! We will not learn about the profound problems of relaunching a process of Turkish-European realignment. We will not learn about divergent interpretations of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Much less, we will learn about divergent perceptions of the respective future in a dramatically changing world. What we get to know in fact is features of the notion why the European Union is becoming “a heavy burden” for Turkey!

Well, these kinds of columns are, for sure, pleasing those in power. They prove the fact that the rift in interpreting the present and the future of Turkey is cutting deep not only in the social structure but also in the respective generations in the country. Those who started to create a “New Turkey” 16 years ago, those who will soon celebrate the “New Turkey” on the fields of a Medieval battle in 1071, they left their traces for good, at least for many years to come. Turkey in the customary summer of 2017: a country torn between megalomania and deeply rooted frustration.

It is highly recommendable to finish an introductory with a positive note. Thus for now, it is the fact that we were able in May to celebrate 25 years of the foundation’s presence in Turkey. We were able to celebrate with many friends, partners and colleagues of ours. It was heart-warming to see that there are quite a few people around cherishing our work. They appreciate our everyday efforts to support democracy, the rule of law and liberal values in Turkey. They appreciate our work for a modern, secular, democratic and liberal Turkey – an indispensable part of an integrating and democratic Europe!

We promise to continue – as much and as long as the circumstances allow.

Have a nice and relaxing summer - wherever this message might reach you.

 

Hans-Georg Fleck