February 1 N & P

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The big news this week is Egypt, of course, and now Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has gotten into the game as well, calling on Egyptian President Mubarek to resign (or rather,  to "meet people's demands for change without hesitation").

Meanwhile, in Russia, fallout continues to fall out from last week's bombing.

And here in Washington, DC? Snow, loads of work, and a Girl Talk concert to go to this evening, so I'm tossing you your N & P on the fly this morning. Enjoy! 

Turkey & SE Europe
The Wall Street Journal has a rather good piece on what the crisis in Egypt might mean for Turkish diplomacy in the region.

Turkey’s policy makers are watching Egypt’s political crisis with a mixture of anxiety and relish. The reason: they’re worried about an economic backlash but potentially are poised to enhance their diplomatic influence since the Turkish political model could become a possible replacement for the region’s teetering autocracies.
The antiregime protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen draw attention to Turkey’s relative success at wedding democratic freedoms with religion. For that reason, the aspiring European Union member could emerge as an alternative model for countries that might soon have to choose between a democratic or Islamist administration.
The piece also discussed the Turkish economy, which is viewed as vulnerable.

Fighting for their right to publish: journalists for the Istanbul Daily Taraf, a newspaper which has been at the forefront of leaking documents embarrassing to Turkey's military in recent years, gave their opening statements as 38 trials against the newspaper and its columnists got underway.

Many employees of the nation-wide Taraf newspaper gave their statement in not less than 38 trials at the Kadıköy (Istanbul) Courthouse on 28 January. Among the defendants are the General Publications Director of the daily, Ahmet Altan, and his deputy Yasemin Çongar.
Altan gave his statement in the scope of two cases pending against him. The journalist is indicted over allegations of "insulting İlker Başbuğ" (former Chief of General Staff) on the grounds of an article entitled "The lie of the General Staff". He is furthermore charged with "inciting the public to hatred and hostility" based on his articles "Mehmet Nuri" and "Dark Friday".

Fighting for their right to drink on the streets: Turkish youth took their beer cans to the street to protest AKP restrictions on alcohol consumption in Turkey.

So sez the HDN:

Turkish citizens protested new regulations on alcohol and smoking recently approved by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government by drinking alcohol in public Saturday in an event organized by the “Let’s Drink to the AKP” campaign.
The protesters, mostly young people, organized via social networking website Facebook. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Moda Seaport, in Ankara’s Kuğulu Park, on Edirne’s Saraçlar Street and in Bartın’s Cumhuriyet Square with bottles or cups of alcoholic beverages to protest the regulation.
I don't entirely understand what they were protesting, although the article does say something about the drinking age being raised. I hadn't really known there was a drinking age in Turkey, though I guess in the last decade there has been an increase in campaigns against selling to minors, with respect to liquor and tobacco (as far as I know).

I hear every once in a while about new taxes or seemingly minor restrictions on alcohol (it was after Erdogan became mayor, if I remember correctly, that the sale of alcohol at municipally-owned establishment swas banned). My sense is that the protest was probably more against what they perceive as a more general anti-alcohol climate in Turkey. 

People were also protesting in Izmir, Ankara, and Edirne, apparently.

Some 500 protesters gathered in İzmir, shouting, “We are drinking to [Deputy Prime Minister] Bülent Arınç and AKP.” The protesters in Edirne also toasted, “For our freedom and reproving any official that tries to prohibit alcoholic drinks.”
Certain parts of Istanbul and certain parts of Turkey have long had much more liberal attitudes towards alcohol consumption, and particularly outdoor alcohol consumption. Nightlife areas, to be sure, but also a lot of neighborhoods. I remember kids drinking on my street in Muradiye (near the pazar), something I really rarely see in DC or saw when I lived in NYC. In the US, where I've seen public drinking most is probably Montana, and so I guess that's something else that (some parts of) Montana and (some parts of) Turkey have in common.
When I first moved to Turkey in 1993 I was, frankly, a bit surprised by the degree to which people drank alcohol outside (at least in some places, but at first I had a difficult time differentiating). People seemed a lot more relaxed about things than in the United States or Canada--obvious high school students have trouble buying beer, but they can probably find a way a lot more easily than their American counterparts. 

Also in the HDN: Al Jazeera apparently intends to set up a channel in Turkey.  I think that's great--I'm familiar with Al Jazeera mainly through the links I sometimes put on this blog, but otherwise only with their international cable news that can be found in hotel rooms in Turkey and former Soviet space. I've often been struck by its journalistic quality, at least compared to competitors like CNN or MSNBC.

Al Jazeera, which is preparing to launch a Turkish-language news channel based in Turkey soon, has offered to pay $21 million to acquire the Cine 5 television channel, which had previously been seized by the government.
There already are a number of good Turkish-language news channels in Turkey (I'm not saying CNN Turk and NTV and the others aren't flawed, but still I find them more serious than their American counterparts), and I bet this channel (which will also be Turkish-language, apparently) will add something exciting to that scene. 

Russia & former Soviet space

Here's a longish article from Reuters on "Islamist violence" in the north Caucasus.
Neiba scrapes out a meagre income selling soil-caked clumps of wild garlic she picks in the forests of Russia's poorest province -- an occupation a growing Islamic insurgency has made increasingly hazardous.

"I will only go to the forest with my husband, and even then, we are terrified every time," said Neiba, 43, as she adjusted her bright red hijab at the sprawling outdoor market in Nazran, Ingushetia's largest town. "What if we see a rebel?"
It's interesting that even as Neiba is quoted as referring to the militants as "rebels," the author refers to them as constituting an "Islamic insurgency."

While it's true that many of the groups fighting Moscow's power in the north Caucasus are doing so at least partly in the name of Wahhabist Islam, the reasons behind anti-Russian feeling in the region are more complex than that. This is something that I wrote about a bit last week. 


And don't forget! The winter Olympics are coming to the north Caucasus in just three short years!

Hundreds protest in anti-government rally in Moscow
A crowd of about 600 chanted "Freedom, Freedom!" in sub-zero temperatures on Moscow's Triumph Square, heavily outnumbered by riot police, who dragged more than a dozen activists off to waiting buses after detaining them at a metro exit as they headed to the rally.
I haven't been keeping up with this as much as I should, but it seems like the anti-Putin demonstrations have been getting a bit larger and more frequent in recent years. Or am I just falling for somebody else's  N & P?

Here' s a funny post about a guy's travels in Tajikistan. And here is a link to his photos.

The Soros-financed Eurasianet.org sez Egyptian protests are reverberating in Baku.
A group of 100-plus non-partisan and opposition candidates, along with activists from political parties and non-governmental organizations, gathered on January 29 to urge the Azerbaijani government to either hold new parliamentary elections, or brace for popular protests similar to those seen in Egypt and Tunisia.
The leaders of the group’s main opposition parties – Musavat and Popular Front of Azerbaijan -- have not said whether or not they would be the ones organizing protests. Azerbaijan’s opposition is not known for its political muscle, but one political commentator, Shahveled Chobanoghlu, notes that events in Egypt and Tunisia have shattered myths about political change in Muslim countries.

That was your N & P for today, my friends!

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