My take on the recent referendum in Turkey

Monday, September 13, 2010 

Well, the ballots have been counted and the "Yes" side carried the day in Turkey's national referendum yesterday. The final vote was 58% in favor of 'Yes' and 42% against, a major victory for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP government.

The referendum, as I discussed in my post yesterday, permits Turkey's AKP government to expand the country's constitutional court from 11 to 17 members in a move reminiscent of FDR's court-packing scheme from 1937. 

The AKP was able to win such a big victory by first securing the support of people who are already inclined to vote for the AKP, and then attracting the support of non-AKP supporters by including several anti-military planks in the referendum (people could only vote on the entire package of amendments, rather than vote on each amendment individually). Thus, in addition to giving the AKP enormous powers in shaping the judiciary in Turkey for generations to come, the package voted on yesterday also allows for the leaders of the 1980 coup to be put on trial (something which was not allowed according to the coup-era constitution that Turkey is still working under). Military officers can now also be tried in civilian, rather than military, courts (see imperfect but serviceable English translation of the amendments here). 

On Turkey's referendum

Sunday, September 12, 2010 

Turkey's much-anticipated referendum on constitutional amendments is taking place today, with exit polling data indicating strong, if unsurprising, support for the "Yes" side.

The proposed amendments (here's an English translation) constitute a number of elements, but the most important thing is that the amendments--which are voted upon as a single package (i.e., no picking and choosing)--would give the current AKP government the ability to pack the constitutional court as well as the state body that appoints state prosecutors and judges. The constitutional court would be expanded from 11 to 17 members, with the (AKP) president and (AKP) parliament being given the opportunity to pick the new six members. The Supreme Court of Prosecutors and Judges (HYSK), meanwhile, would likewise be expanded from 5 members to 22, with the president and parliament again given the job of choosing the new members.

Meanwhile, the amendment package would also make it possible for military officers to be tried in civil, as opposed to military courts.

Entertainers only

Saturday, September 4, 2010
Jenny White has put up a link to an interesting story re transgender brothels in Istanbul. Originally I was going to just link to Kamil Pasha in the N & P, but I ended up writing so much I decided to make it a separate post. 

I always found the place of transgendered people in Turkey to be interesting. With the exception of Thailand, I've probably seen more transgendered people in Istanbul than anywhere else in the world. When I was living in Istanbul in the 1990s, I'd often walk home to Tesvikiye late at night from Taksim via Cumhuriyet Caddesi and Harbiye, where loads of transgendered prostitutes would hang out late at night, standing by the side of the road and looking for a date. I'm not sure if they're still there, but the market clearly hasn't diminished since then.

Many of the transgendered in Turkey have been the victims of attacks, and there have been several murders in recent years in Istanbul. 

But what is also interesting is the degree to which transgendered and other effeminate and/or semi cross-dressing entertainers have been popular in Turkey, a country that many people associate with "macho" behavior and/or "Islamic values" (whatever that means).

Years before Boy George seemed so risque in the US, Zeki M
üren was wearing long, flowing Mrs. Roper-style muumuus and wild costumes that appeared to evoke dresses. In his early days, however, he'd played a straighter public role, often appearing as the male lead in romance movies.  
A young Zeki Müren