Monday, November 03, 2008

Markus Urek's "Letters from old Civilizations"

Mustafa Akyol is a young Turkish journalist who writes for the English language Turkish Daily News. I have found his observations to be some of the most reliable on the situation there. His blog, White Path, is linked here. In a recent story in the TDN, Akyol references a series of articles penned by Markus Urek, a Turkish citizen, currently a Fulbright scholar in the New School of New York. Of more significance, in my view, is the fact that Urek is Suriani, an Oriental Orthodox Christian from southeastern Turkey. The TDN published 7 installments of Urek's observations from recent travels in Syria, Jordan and Kurdish Iraq. His unique background gives him an interesting slant. He has quite a bit to say about Turkey's evolving relationship with it's neighbors, democracy and/or secularism in the Near East, and the status of the indigenous Christian communities within these 4 countries. I quote at length from his last installment, but the entire series, linked below, is well worth reading.

The taxi left me in Ankawa, which is the most modern vicinity of the town. In everywhere in Ankawa, all kinds of drinks from Turkey and from all over the world are sold and are consumed by the pools in a great enjoyment.

At night I sat with two people from Ankawa by the pool and we had steak and Turkish Efes Pilsen beer to drink and started to speak about the life in Iraq. They were curious about the life in America and Turkey, but I was bombarding them with my questions about Iraq. As everyone there these two young men too wanted to go to America or Europe. I said your situation is very good. Look you have BMW cars, whereas I cannot use this car in the U.S.

“Yes, I own a BMW,” says one of them. “But we don't see the future. We cannot have a serious enterprise. There is no proper legal system. There is no proper education. Everything is bound by the words of the leaders. If one goes out and gets murdered, who can you go to to enquire about the murder? No one you can ask to enquire about it. That means you will die for nothing. This is not so in the U.S. and Europe. I don't know because I haven't lived there at all, but I think it is so there,” he continues to say.

The younger man was curious about the life in Turkey, especially in reference to the Turkish women who appear in the tabloid news. He asks whether that is the real life there. “Yes, it is true but that should not mislead you, it is not so all over Turkey. Look, the ruling party and the main opposition party in Turkey have divided the country into two groups – the believers and unbelievers – i.e. those from us and those from them. Both sides do not trust one another; this is why politics in Turkey is sensitive,” I said.

The BMW owner was not satisfied with the answer I gave, and said, “There is at least democracy there; there are efforts for the EU membership.” Agreeing with him I drank a bit of my Efes beer to cool myself from the enormous summer heat there.

Leaving the place after we had our meals, two villas that were protected by armored vehicles and barriers drew my attention. I asked the people there about who owned them and why they need so much protection. The answer I received surprised me: The houses were owned by American diplomats and businessmen. Wondering about this I asked a passerby why would the Americans built their villas in the Christian vicinity rather than Kurdish vicinity. The answer I received was as I guessed: “They are afraid to live in the Kurdish vicinity,” said the passerby.

Here I recalled the words in my fourth letter by the American commander who said we have come here for the Kurds not for the Christians. Even though they may have come for the Iraqi Kurds, they still could not live among them. Whereas the Iraqi Assyrian Christians are being threatened and murdered just because the Americans who although have no relations with them are considered to be co-religious and co-operatives. This has forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Assyrians to flee Iraq.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

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