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Curious As To Where People Stand Vis A Vis Ak Vs Chp . . .

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Hello--I'm new to the forum, having discovered it just last night! So excited to have discovered this. I have many questions on many topics and it seems there's a forum for them all. :-)One of the things I am looking for is a reality check about the political parties in Turkey. A bit of a background: I am American, my husband is Turkish, we've been married for 22 years and have lived all of them in the States save five months that we lived in Turkey 20 years ago. We are thinking about relocating to Turkey in the fall.

I do not have any hard-set ideas about Turkish politics. My basic observation has been one of great surprise when I went back to Turkey a few years ago vs. how it was when we lived there 20 years ago. It is much improved on various fronts. It seems (to me; I may be wrong) that the country was on a verge of a collapse 10 years ago, and that it has mightily risen ever since. I have read that inflation is better in Turkey than it is in England. The Turkish economy has been upgraded by Moodys, while the American was recently downgraded. If you look at the complete mess of Greece and other EU countries, Turkey is smelling like a rose. All kinds of new innovations like bullet trains are being built, and there is an explosion of new universities. One thing I personally witnessed on vacation in Kas was that a road was being re-built. They did one side of a good 2 or 3 miles in one day and the other side in another. Here in Chicago, that kind of work would have taken months. It was really shocking how fast it was.

I just remember "old" Turkey and it was such a completely different story. You wanted to use up ALL of your Turkish lire before you left the country because it would be completely worthless upon your return. I recall my mother in law telling me something like the TL to American dollar was something completely ridiculous, like 600,000 or something, when a few years before when we had lived there it was like 3100 to $1. The roads were so bad, there was only one private university which limited your educational choices, etc. I have been to a number of different cities in different regions in Turkey in the last few years--Cappadoccia, Kas, Serince, Gomusluk, Konya, Safronbolu to name a few, and the roads all seemed completely normal or in fact much better than the roads we have in Chicago. All I am seeing is things getting better and better and better in Turkey. Although this might be controversial, I support the lifting of the headscarf ban, too. I think people should be able to wear what they want, within reason (i.e. I think most people will agree that genitals should be covered for health reasons) but if a woman wants to cover herself, she should be allowed to do so. I have friends who both cover and do not cover themselves, and the ones that do have cried as they told me how humiliating it is to be forced to uncover themselves.

I attribute some of the process to the new party in power. Perhaps this is wrong--I am writing to hear other opinions. Myhusband's family is very old-school CHP. His mother makes comments that I cannot repeat here regarding Erodan. The sisters of his brother's wife hassel women who cover themselves, which makes me uncomfortable. His cousins are rabidly, rabidly against AK party. I don't understand. From an outside perspective, it seems Turkey has so improved under their power. But I'm the first to say that I really DON'T know, and that perhaps I really DON'T see or understand. I am very interested in others points of views and opinions.

On another note, we are in the process of applying for jobs, some of which are universities that are associated with the Gullen movement. Again, from an outside perspective, I think the Gullen movement is a positive thing. I associate it with (Catholic) Jesuits, who have ideals of education, service, and interfaith dialog. Articles in mainstream American press (US News and World Report; the Wallstreet Journal; Newsweek, etc) seem to be positive about Gullen as well, and the American press is generally pretty negative about Islam. I myself was born Catholic, never confirmed, and converted to Islam in 2004. I don't cover myself, do namaz only once a day. So I'm "religious" but moderate.

I welcome any views anyone would like to share.

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Very thoughtful post.

My husband and I just were talking politics last night and about the very same subject. It's because I shared an article with him that was in the NYT Style Magazine (I think that was the mag; I'll go home and check it out tonight and get back to you). It was about the Istanbul modern art scene and the current regime. The APK was mentioned, so I asked my husband about it and we chatted for the rest of dinner about it.

I think I'm similar to you, as that I, too, was born Catholic, fell away and then rediscoverd my faith in Islam and took shahada in Turkey this summer when I made our imam nikkah. His family is deeply spiritual (I prefer that to religious) and his family covers. I live near Philly and decided to cover, too. I am learning more and more about way of Islam and I thought that covering here is a good way to live. I enjoy it very much because I find it really opens people up to conversations I never would have had if I had returned from Turkey without wearning the scarf.

Anyway, my husband thinks that the present administration has, in general, been good for Turkey. The economy is better, there's improved healthcare and more rights for women. He still wishes that there wasn't so much discrimination against hijab, but it's improved a lot.

He thinks that the media is responsible for a lot of people's opinions. He said that on one side, some people don't like the VP because they fear his openness to Islam will turn Turkey into Iran. Others say that they don't like him because the fear he will sell out Turkey to the US. Then he starts to go into the issue about the PKK and you can't stop him, lol!

I'm not a person who gets too involved in politics, but I do like learning things by our discussions we have. And I do realize that his opinion is just that.

In the mean time, I say to him that we should get more involved politically on a local level here in the States. Our ICC needs to reach out more to the mainstream population (his mother owns and runs a prayer house in Turkey, so maybe she could help/inspire me to get more involved here when she comes here when her first grandchild is born in three months!) and I'd love to do more as a public educator, but I have to be careful.

So, that's a little bit of my views... Posted Image

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Mutlukadin! I'm very mutlu that you wrote! I was thinking perhaps the title was too controversial and people might think I was trying to stir things. I AM trying to stir things, but only conversation and an exchange of ideas. I have a hard time finding people in the middle. Easy to find firm believers on both sides. I'm interested in hearing more of both sides, but am delighted to find another middle person. Posted Image

Congratulations on your conversion and also on your decision to cover yourself. It's a big decision and takes courage here in the States. Such a positive attitude to say that it opens up to conversations you wouldn't otherwise have. I always feel very protective of my friends when I go out with them, as there can be a hostile vibe much of the time. I find it wonderful that you can take that and turn it into something positive.

I have heard the fear of Turkey turning into another Iran. I don't find this likely. I think people just want the right to dress as they please. As an American, it's hard for me to understand why people shouldn't be able to dress as they please, as long as it isn't obscene. I can understand not wanting to look at someone's private parts, but I can't imagine telling someone they can't wear a cross, or to take it off if you enter a courthouse. It seems very wrong.

Thank you for your comments. I hope others join us. I'm in the midst of learning Turkish but cannot read the newspapers yet, and google translations are too mashed up to get anything other than a very broad gist. All the parties have their own papers in Turkey, from what I understand, so once I can read them I can read the different sides. My husband grew up here so while he understands spoken Turkish superbly, he struggles with reading. He's working on improving his vocabulary so that he can have a better handle on the newspapers, too.

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I too usually avoid politics; it's not a subject that interests me. Here in the States, I feel it's just more of the same ole-same ole. Was very surprised and disappointed that Obama turned out to be pretty much is Bush Lite.

I understand and support people's decision to keep their opinions to themselves. But I yearn for a reality check because I simply don't have it right now. My MIL is over the top. In almost every conversation with her, she is screaming: you wait and see! There will be blood in the streets! But I don't see and the over exaggeration (surely it's an exaggeration?) makes it difficult for me to not dismiss her fears as hystrionic. My husband's cousin in a communist, and so I find his views extreme, and I certainly wouldn't want to live in a place where religious freedom is barred. I find my nieces hassling of covered women abhorrent, but then I dress pretty modestly at least for the States and I know I have made people very, very uncomfortable with my dress in Turkey, so much so that we have been ignored in one tea garden and while not often, I have been tsked by covered women on more than one occasion. And so: it's complicated. Is it truly scary and am I signing myself up for moving to Iran in 1978? Is Turkey on the upswing and its just sour grapes from the former ruling party? I don't know and can't determine. What I like about this site is that people seem like considerate adults who are helpful to one another, so I thought: maybe this is a good place to ask. I understand people's reluctance though. Politics can be divisive and why ruin a good thing here?

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On 23.03.2012 at 4:43 AM, 'Quinn said:

All the parties have their own papers in Turkey, from what I understand, so once I can read them I can read the different sides.

The 2 leading newspapers that are in English and available on line,. Today's Zaman (DEAD LINK) favours the AKP and Hurriyet Daily Turkish News the CHP, I add articles from both of them for forum readers.

So you can now get an idea by reading both.Posted Image

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I have tried to avoid getting involved in politics within Turkey, I have been around it too much in England and seen what happens with the changing in parliament first hand from working for the Civil Service for 6 years. What i found from English politics is at the start everyone has such different opinions, but in the end they turn out to do the exact same thing. I mean they tighten up on certain areas but only the bad is advertised xx

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The absence of replies from people who live here might say something about the direction freedom of speech is going in.

Yes it could be that and I think it could partly be due to two other things:

1. A lack of Turkish hence a lack of understanding of newspapers and TV news. Also it's very often difficult to understand the English language newspapers (quoted above) because the translation to English is so awkward and tortuous.

2. Apathy, as long as the sun shines and the cost of living stays cheap everything is alright and no need for us to worry about politics.

Both are our own fault, both are correctable however if we did know all about the politics here most of us can't do a damn thing about it anyway because we aren't citizens and can't vote so why get involved? (Not my opinion)

Mind you, I am living in the Turkish equivalent of Cornwall where other things tend to be more important in Daily life, we're mostly pretty ignorant of things that happen the other side of Kalkan. (Sweeping generalisation).

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I am not a political animal and like many of the members on this forum I am mature, informed and considerate, also like the members here I rarely discuss politics , I don't even tell people who I vote for.

If I read your post correctly your husband has grown up in the USA you met there and have spent over twenty years of married life there. You don't mention any children.

There are numerous "mixed couples" by that I mean Turkish muslim husband and non muslim wife and vice versa who live harmoniously in Turkey without feeling the need to immerse themselves in politics or religion stressing over the need to wear tesettur or not.

After being married for twenty something years you are not a young girl so I find it odd that Turkish people would be bothered about your style of dress after all you are a yabanci not Turkish.

I hope you find what you are searching for Posted Image

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After being married for twenty something years you are not a young girl so I find it odd that Turkish people would be bothered about your style of dress after all you are a yabanci not Turkish.

There are parts of Istanbul where you have to be careful what you wear so not to offend, as Quinn has already found out.
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The absence of replies from people who live here might say something about the direction freedom of speech is going in.

I wasn’t being entirely serious when I wrote that. This is an interesting subject, though, so I’d like to say a bit more in reply to the original post. Personally I don’t adhere to the thinking that says Turkey is on a downward path as far as freedoms are concerned. There is a lot of exaggeration in what people say about politics. I have chosen to live here and I have had my children educated here because I think this provides us with the best possible life for us now and in the future. I believe in Turkey and Turkish people.

Living and especially working in Turkey one should remember that it is usually difficult and unwise to express contrary opinions to people, and especially to express them to someone of higher status such as a line manager or future employer. For many employers or bosses the best person for a job is the person who agrees most closely with them, and they consider it their prerogative to select and favour people on that basis. That is just how things are, that is a particular local practice in employment and socially. I don’t think it is reasonable to say things are getting worse in that respect.

The ruling party is conservative, representing its conservative electorate. I don’t think anyone should be surprised that they support a conservative view for example concerning drinking alcohol, or a woman’s place (in the home and obeying her husband or father). The question is how far the government is prepared to go in requiring people to live the way they think is best. I can’t see any evidence to support the view that people are being, or going to be forced to adopt more conservative lifestyles, apart from the kind of social and work pressures that have existed for a long time that I mentioned above.

The fact is that the current government has managed the economy successfully and this has resulted in economic improvements over a longer period of time than has been achieved by any government in the last 50 years. Ironically, most of these economic measures were put in place by the previous government, but that seems to be forgotten in the current debate. The government has introduced a lot of measures that have brought benefits to the mass of the population: social housing, a proper health service, school books provided by the state. Turkey has great resources and potential, and is beginning to make real progress in many areas. I don’t think economic progress justifies conservative policies, but these subjects should be and are hotly debated and I cannot see any evidence that the position of women in Turkish society is getting worse. In any case, what people do in their daily life is more important than what they say politically, and I can see plenty of evidence that says people are as determined as ever to make their own choices concerning clothing and other aspects of lifestyle.

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Turks take politics very seriously, unlike most Brits, who change channels if political programmes come on.

They are generally divided into the AKP supporters and the Secularists - followers of Ataturk and the headscarf issue isn't so much about the actual wearing of a scarf but of political allegiance, hence the heated debates about it. Here we are not talking about a loose headscarf but the double one that prevents a single hair showing.

Also, many 'westernised' women see the headscarf as a sign of the oppression of women against which a continuing uphill struggle is being fought.

I fail to get excited by politics, even though I live in an area that is staunchly secularist, where a lot of people are genuinely worried about the direction the country is going and are talking about where they could go if an Iranian type situation arises..

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Fil, thank you for your thoughtful analysis. I read it outloud to my husband and he said: "yes, that's so true" about what you said about one's superiors at work. Yes, this is something I must remain very cognizant of, as here two of my closest friends are not only my manager, but her manager, and outside of work, we let our hair down with eachother. I knew intuitively Turkey is different--it is a more formal country, and I actually really like that and appreciate it. But I must remember to adapt my behavior accordingly. Thank you for underscoring this!

Sunny--I so agree with you. I am not a political animal. I'm interested in learning broad strokes (i.e. if it really was another Iran in 1978, I would want to know that) but the daily "this party did this and then this party said that" -- as the kids say these days, "meh." I did laugh out loud when I read "even though I live in an area that is staunchly secularist" and then looked at your avatar, hoping you would say where you live, and I saw Cesme! (forgive the anglicized letters--I'm on my husband's computer and don't know where to find them on a Mac) I love Cesme, and yes, holy cow, is it ever as you say. My husband's mother's family had summer homes in a compound for (old school) military families. And so now you know where I get all my information about Turkey and Turkish politics. Posted Image

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I have to say, I'm really enjoying Abi's links he provided. I was not previously aware of Hurriyet, and I had previously dismissed Today's Zaman as a "tourist paper". I'm enjoying finding the same stories and seeing how they are interpreted differently. It's exactly what I wanted.

I think the hardest thing for me vis a vis Turkish politics is that I have so little background that I don't know what I think. That is what made/makes me uncomfortable. Compared with American politics, the sides of which I understand and am thus able to form my own views. I don't feel a need to discuss those views, or to influence others' views. But I like knowing what my own views are.

This is helping me find my own views. Thanks again, Abi!

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Glad the links are useful Quinn. I'm actually a female, Abi is short for Abigail, but I can understand why you thought (as many others have) that I was a male given what Abi means in Turkish although it is pronounced in a different way. hehe.

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Re cover not cover. Turkey is going through a period of extreme and rapid change. İn Alanya you see many women covered well they wear the scarf and no hair shows, however the top is spray tight as is the knee length skirt and the outfit is completed by four inch heels. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is and what is not İslamic. İ am a very happy catholic and have no intention of converting nor has my husband or his family discussed the matter. İ would decribe my politics as socialist but would agree that a lot of the current regimes policies seem to be working. İ like the summer schools for older women teaching reading and writing in particular. Also we have a womens unit at the police station in Alanya dealing with domestic issues and it appears to take the matter seriously again a plus. However as İ do not have a Kimlik and therefore no vote İ feel İ am still a visitor to the country and have little right to pontificate on their domestic politics.

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İ like the summer schools for older women teaching reading and writing in particular. Also we have a womens unit at the police station in Alanya dealing with domestic issues and it appears to take the matter seriously again a plus.

Posted Image Excellent news
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  • 3 months later...

One thing I've noticed in the year-and-a-half that I've been living in Istanbul is that the football club allegiances (Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray in particular) seem to be more hardcore and more vocal than the political allegiances (AKP vs CHP). I generally try to stay away from politics, but I will say that, being in an AKP neighborhood, lots of improvements have been made in this area just in the last 1-1/2 years (road work, playground construction, etc) and, at least in this area, though there are many scarved women, there are even more unscarved. I'm not a big fan of AKP politics, generally speaking (I lean more toward CHP), but the visible political attitude of the people, at least in this area, is more or less, "meh!"; can't say the same about football, though Posted Image

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