Erdogan and Libya

Sunday, March 20, 2011
There's been a fair amount of chatter in the Turkey-related blogosphere lately about Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's allegedly soft line regarding Qaddafi and his reluctance to sign off on force in Libya. Louis Fishman, echoing the sentiments of many people in Turkey, called upon Erdogan to return the "peace prize" (and the money associated with it) that Qaddafi awarded him last year, calling into question Erdogan's integrity in the process. Meanwhile, a couple of days ago in Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog Howard Eissenstat argued that Erdogan is more interested in Turkey's trade and financial dealings with Libya than in the cause of freedom:
With only the barest lip service to democratic values, Turkey has made clear its opposition to international action in support of the revolution in Libya. It used its effective veto to stifle discussions within NATO and Erdoğan publicly and loudly criticized the unanimously approved UN Security Council sanctions on Libya imposed on February 26. It has made its continued opposition to international intervention clear, arguing that sanctions will only bring more pain to the Libyan people. To its credit, Turkey has indeed been at the forefront of sending humanitarian aid to Libya.
True, true, all true, both Fish and Ice make good points here, particularly with respect to the necessity of at least calling on Qaddafi to step down (something that Erdogan has now done). 
But as far as the question of intervention is concerned: is it really necessary for Erdogan to be corrupt, or to only be interested in money or trade, in order to oppose NATO (or non-NATO) air strikes on Libya? Is it not possible that there might be other, less nefarious, reasons behind this opposition?

Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi may well be on his way out--but only if he can take some Jack Daniels with him

March 14 N & P

Monday, March 14, 2011
Awesome times here in the imperial metropole. On Saturday I tested out one of DC's Red Bikes, a public rental system of bicycles that is run by the municipality.
It isn't bad. There are bike stations, each holding several bikes, set up at metro stations around town. You have to buy a membership--lasting one day ($5), five day ($15), a month, or a year ($75)--before you can rent a bike, which is a bit of a drag. I bought a one-day membership at the bike station (anything more than five days you need to buy online). Together with the rental itself everything came out to about ten bucks.

Ibrahim Tatlises shot by unknown assailant: full JMB coverage here

Monday, March 14, 2011

Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises has been shot!

Here's the story:
Ibrahim Tatlises, a Turkish singer of Kurdish descent who has millions of fans in Turkey and around the Middle East, was in critical condition in an Istanbul hospital yesterday after being shot in the head by unknown assailants.
Tatlises, 59, was shot as he left a television studio after completing his regular show there around midnight on Sunday. Buket Cakici, an assistant of the singer, was also hurt when at least two people opened fire with automatic weapons and then sped away in a black car.
[Here's the story in the Hurriyet Daily Bugle].

Tatlises, of course, has long been rumored to be connected to various mafia-type elements in Turkey. I remember back in the 1990s there was a scandal when a dude Tatlises was with shot somebody after, it was alleged, Tatlises had told him to do it.

Unsurprisingly, speculation is that this was a hit related to organized crime. Here's what the National article sez:

Persistent reports in the Turkish media linking Tatlises to the Turkish Mafia have been fuelled by the fact that prosecutors questioned him in connection with investigations concerning several organised crime groups, and there were at least two attempts to shoot him in the past. He was injured in one shooting in 1990 and escaped unharmed in the other, in 1998.
"Tatlises was the first one who carried the music and the lifestyle of the south-east to Istanbul," Prof Karahasanoglu said, adding that in the course of the singer's career, his business interests seem to have taken priority over the musical side. Many people in Turkey knew that Tatlises, whose name translates to "sweet voice", was reported to have ties to criminals, but loved him anyway because of his music, she said. The professor added Tatlises was not unlike Frank Sinatra in that respect, because the American singer also combined musical stardom with reported links to organised crime.

There was intense media speculation about who may have been behind the attack on Tatlises. Some news reports said Kurdish rebels may have been responsible, but there was no indication as to why the rebels would target Tatlises, and there was no official statement and no reaction from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a rebel group fighting for Kurdish self-rule since 1984.
Izzet Yildizhan, a singer and a friend of Tatlises, told the CNN-Turk news channel he suspected that Tatlises' business interests in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the singer has been involved in a housing project with Iraqi partners, were behind the attack. "All signs are pointing in that direction," he said.
Ibrahim Tatlises during a moment of reflection

Tatlises is one of my favorite singers. Just last December I wrote a couple paragraphs about him, reminiscing over a concert of his I saw in Russia back when I was a graduate student. This is what I wrote back then:
While I began admiring Ibrahim Tatlises' music early on in the 1990s, I didn't see him in concert until he came to St. Petersburg, Russia in the early winter months of 2004. I was over there doing dissertation research, having fled the frozen temperatures of Kazan for the relative warmth of the humid capital.

As part of the Fulbright grant I'd received, I was able to spend up to $3000 for language study. This was a great opportunity: in Kazan I read first printed, then various types of handwritten documents written in Arabic-script Tatar from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In St. Petersburg, I worked with a Persianist from St. Petersburg State University who was by nationality Azeri. She was the chairwoman of the Azeri Society of St. Petersburg, and they were somehow involved in the organization of the concert.

Ibo, as Ibrahim Tatlises is known, appeared in tandem with a forgettable Azeri singer named "Azeri Kizi." Apparently she'd had a couple of hits in Turkey.

Ibo completely undermined her. Apparently she hadn't been singing, but rather was using a CD. Ibo, with a mischievous glance to the audience, went over to a corner of the stage and started messing with her CD, then announced "CD bozuldu" ("the CD is messed up"). He went up to her and offered to sing a duet with her—one of her own songs—but Azeri Kizi refused.

Ibo then came out and performed for three hours. No CDs were used. A very hardworking man—he put on a hell of a show.
So yeah, he can be a jerk. And perhaps a killer in his own right,'s getting kind of difficult to feel bad for him, but still: he's a human being and a great artist.

And besides, all by himself Tatlises makes Turkey about 1.5% more fun to live in.

Our thoughts are with him in the Borderlands...
***More coverage below***

Updated, Tuesday, 8:13 pm, DC time

Global Perspectives: Ibo's condition "more positive, still critical." 

Hey Mehmet Ali Bey: he's not dead! 
Tuesday, 12:26 pm

Hide under the bed!: Hurriyet Daily Bugle sez culprits still at large!

The police seem to be making a big show of looking busy, as do the politicians (see below for Gul and Erdogan's involvement in this story).

From the Bugle:
The Istanbul Police Directorate has assembled 10 police teams involving 30 policemen to investigate the attack, for which no motive has been reported. As of Tuesday, police had questioned 110 people regarding the incident.

News & Propaganda: Metro Center Edition

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's a rainy Thursday morning here in the imperial metropole, and I have to head to the office! I love the fact that the name of the metro station near my workplace is "Metro Center," aka the center of the metropole, the center of the very center! It sounds a little like it could have been the subway station Winston Smith used on his way to work. But for me, it's just exciting. It's fun to walk out of that station and then down to Pennsylvania Avenue, and from there to the Reagan building. It's less fun to get the TSA treatment when I enter my building but still, I guess even that can be somewhat exciting.

It's fun taking the metro to work

Anyway, here's some news from the metro center, as well as from other parts of the world. In other words, it's your N & P:

On the upcoming Muslim hearings...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I think Ruth Marcus' take on Congressman (NY-R) Peter King's upcoming hearings regarding "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response" is a thoughtful one, but I can't say I agree with it. 
Marcus writes that, on the one hand, we can't hold an entire community or faith responsible for acts that are carried on in its name, but that on the other hand we can't let political correctness prevent us from asking difficult questions.

But the unavoidable fact is that, however much violent terror reflects a distortion of the tenets of Islam, it is not only practiced by adherents of the religion but practiced in its name.
To ignore the religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb to politically correct delusion. To ignore the homegrown religious nature of the terrorist threat is to succumb even further.
As Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified last month before the House Committee on Homeland Security, "One of the most striking elements of today's threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens." 
Napolitano wasn't referring to right-wing militias or lone-wolf crazies. She was talking about "terrorist groups inspired by al-Qaeda ideology." And, she pointed out, "This threat of homegrown violent extremism fundamentally changes who is most often in the best position to spot terrorist activity, investigate and respond."
True enough. But there is a difference between investigating political radicalism and investigating an entire community. This difference is spelled out by Congressman Keith Ellison, who is quoted at the end of Marcus' column:

Special Women's Day N & P

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I've been getting mail from readers about the N & P. Where's our N & P?, they ask. Why can't you get us our N & P?

Well folks, it's not like N & P grows on trees. And even if it did, that would mean I'd have to pick it. And who has got time to pick N & P when you're trying to write some B & A?

(Books & articles)

But today is a special day, people. It's International Women's Day. And while this day isn't really observed in the US, it's a big deal in the ex-USSR. It's also observed, to some extent, in Turkey.

So International Women, this N & P is for you!