The following letter to the NY Times reflects the massive opposition to the war within Turkey.
Forwarded to portside by Carol Stevens Yurur in Istanbul. — portsideMod]
Mass opposition in Turkey to war on neighboring Iraq
Subject: NY Times Mis-Information on Turkey
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 20:22:42 +0200 From: Ayse Gul Altinay Subject: Your coverage of Turkey To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Filkins,
I have been reading your articles on Turkey’s position in relation to Iraq with great surprise and disappointment. I understand that you are based in Turkey, yet there is little evidence of that in your articles. Your piece on February 4, for instance, reads more like the press briefing of ‘an anonymous US diplomat in Ankara’ than an informed understanding of Turkey’s reaction to the current situation. I do not understand journalism to be a one-sided coverage of government policies and statements. Unfortunately, your coverage of the current situation in Turkey has been damaging the credibility of the New York Times –in my eyes and in the eyes of many people I know.
Particularly troubling is the ‘misinformation’ you provide regarding the anti- war sentiments of Turkish citizens. Here are two quotations from your recent pieces:
“There have been few sizable public demonstrations against war in Iraq. Many Turks say they would like nothing more than to see Saddam Hussein ousted from Iraq, and in recent days, a number of journalists and business leaders warned of lasting damage to the crucial alliance with America.”
“Still, opposition to the war has been mostly muted here. There have been relatively few public demonstrations, and even fewer that have drawn sizable crowds. Many Turks say they would like nothing more than to see Saddam Hussein ousted from Iraq, and in recent days, there was a growing chorus among Turkish journalists and business leaders that Turkey was running the risk of seriously damaging its half-century-old alliance with the United States.”
Unfortunately, you have missed the very significant point that the ‘growing chorus’ in Turkey has not been that of mainstream journalists and certain businessmen, it has been that of organized as well as individual opposition to the war. The people you cite in making your claim have remained in the small minority and have faced serious criticism from all fronts.
Are you aware of or have you reported the recent polls which suggest that 94% of the population strongly oppose this war? Have you interviewed ANYONE among this 94%?
Have you reported the fact that there are DAILY protests all around Turkey coming from all sections of the population? The massive protests in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Mersin? The Assembly of the 100s last week where more than 2000 people, among them Turkey’s most prominent names (academics, writers, artists, actors- actresses, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers), made a joint peace declaration?
Have you been reading the numerous press statements issued by the Turkish Bar Association, Doctors Association, Academic associations, human rights organizations, labour unions, the Anti-War Platform of 162 NGOs, the Peace Initiative of Turkey, etc.?
Have you reported the four-day visit of your fellow citizen Ryan Amundson who lost a brother in the Sept 11 attacks and represents ‘Seprember Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows’ in Turkey? He was on at least 3 national televisions (including CNN-TURK, NTV, and TV 8, at least one primetime live interview)and all major newspapers last week. He met with the Deputy Prime Minister Yalcinbayir and the Speaker of the Parliament Arinc in Ankara and asked them to oppose the war IN THE INTERESTS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, as well as those of Turkish and Iraqi people. Have you interviewed him about his views of the Turkish peace movement and learned about how surprised he was to see the union of such a diverse group of people from all over the country being so active together?
Amundson reads the NY Times regularly. One reason why he was surprised is because none of this has been reported in the NYTimes (by you or anybody else).
Let me go back to your remark regarding anti-war opposition in Turkey having been ‘mute’: Have you, Mr Filkins, asked the politicians in Ankara how they feel about the thousand messages they have been getting in their mobile phones in the last three days? Or the faxes and emails? Have you asked them what they say to the senders of these messages when they callor write them back? Have you asked them whether they felt like they were representing their voters and the citizens of Turkey as they voted for the modernization of Turkish airports for US use today? Have you asked them about the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of anti-war signatures that were presented to them in the last couple of weeks?
Have you interviewed the telephone operators of the Turkish Grand National Assembly who are overwhelmed with the protest messages they receive via the phone every day?
Most importantly, have you asked ANYONE if they have seen such grassroots political activism coming from all sectors of Turkey’s diverse population since the military coup in 1980?
You are right about one thing, Mr. Filkins. The majority of the Turkish people could not care less about Saddam, if anything they know what a cruel dictator he was. They are well aware of the biological weapons he used only 10 years ago (which had met no opposition from the US at that time). Yet, they are STILL overwhelmingly against this war because they know that war is not the answer to this problem, that war will only trigger the use of the weapons he is believed to have, that the hundreds of thousands of deaths that this war will incur provide a more imminent threat to peace and security in the region than Saddam’s regime who has begun to collaborate with the UN. –This is my interpretation, perhaps you have a better one. But you ARE obligated to provide an explanation as to the fact that 94% of the population in Turkey oppose this war WHILE AT THE SAME TIME opposing Saddam and his cruel regime. You are also obligated, I believe, to present an OBJECTIVE account of Turkey’s response (both the government AND the people) to the current situation whether this picture suits US government’s interests or not. Otherwise, we will all conclude that the New York Times is nothing but an official news agency of the US government.
For your information, I am attaching to this message a summary of last week’s peace events (only a selection of them over the weekend of 25-27 January), the Peace Declaration of “the Assembly of the 100s”, and the letter that I sent individually to 550 parliamentarians in Ankara. Mine was among the thousands of such letters.
Ayse Gul Altinay Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology Sabanci University