dispatches aperture poste restante etcetera

The Earthquake Dividend
By Gregg - 23 Oct, 1999

Page 3 of 3

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Within this cloud, a silver lining is becoming apparent. Greece—Turkey's long time arch-enemy—announced that as a gesture of goodwill they would no longer block European Union grants and loans to Turkey. The Greek foreign minister George Papandreau proclaimed (a bit over the top), "Out of this tragedy there was a human warmth that came out between the two peoples… a first in diplomatic history." (Just days after Papandreau's statement Athens was hit with its own killer earthquake.)

More significantly, in the wake of Turkey's earthquake, liberalization and freedom of expression are on the rise. Despite the fact that, under Turkish law, even an implied insult to the president carries a hefty prison sentence, a columnist in one of the major Turkish dailies wrote, "(President) Suleyman Demirel and people like him are responsible for most of the deaths."

The quake exposed the Turkish state as inefficient and outdated. Change is in the air. Even the powerful military seems to acknowledge this. When the imprisoned Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his followers (the PKK) to renounce their armed struggle and withdraw from Turkey, Turkish military leaders were skeptical. They considered this a tactical move designed for Western public opinion. This was two weeks before the earthquake.

Just a week after the earthquake, the PKK said they'd begun withdrawing their forces ahead of schedule. "To unilaterally stop the war at this time of heavy disaster is the greatest support to the state and people of Turkey," read the statement.

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This time the Turkish military was taking the PKK seriously. The military chief of staff gave the first indication that the military wouldn't object if the Turkish government decided not to implement the death sentence passed on Ocalan in June. He further intimated that greater cultural freedoms could be granted to the Kurds.

These statements stunned the PKK leadership. "The solution he envisages is close to our solution," said one of the most hard-line of the PKK's field commanders. "It was unthinkable for the Turkish state to immediately respond to the steps taken by the PKK. We did not expect it."

Only ten years ago the Turkish government denied the existence of Kurds in Turkey (although one in six Turkish citizens are Kurdish). Even to use words such as "Kurd" and "Kurdish" was forbidden by law. Now the chief justice was saying, "Every culture has a value. Cultural discrimination is a crime against humanity. I want to see a pluralist democracy in Turkey."

He continued by launching an unprecedented assault on the constitution (which was introduced in 1982 under military rule). "Turkey should not enter the new millenium with a constitution whose legitimacy is close to zero," he said. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit was quick to agree saying, "As soon as we have done everything for the victims of the earthquake, then we must change the constitution."

These are profound words indeed. But will change really occur or is this the typical lip service of politicians? Time will tell.

Our bus pulled into Goreme at about 5:00. After finding a room we went out to wander in the town. It's a small, touristy town—only 4500 residents—so we weren't surprised to run into Ahmet—a tour guide we met two weeks ago at the southeastern tourist destination of Nemrut Dagi.

Ahmet invited us to have tea. I noticed he had a Turkish newspaper and asked him to translate the front page story about the earthquake in California. According to the article, some sources were reporting 7.0, others as highas 7.6. Fortunately the epicenter was out in the desert—quite some distance from the population centers. So although the earthquake was felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, there were no fatalities.




  Flying the Friendly Roads
  c/o Turkish Hospitality
The Earthquake Dividend

  New York
    New York City
  West Africa
    The Gambia
  Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"If you stand, stand. If you sit, sit. But don't wobble!"
-- Zen Master Ummon
  © 1999/2000 ~ Cervezas frijo served.