With 70 million people of a variety of ethnic groups and religions, eight international borders and a growing economy, Turkey is a real up and comer in both the region and the world. Yet, smack in the center of the Balkans, Middle East and Caucasus, all notoriously violent regions, it is in a vulnerable and yet strategically important position.
Readers know that I’ve developed quite a liking to Turkey over the years (despite a similarly strong liking for the Kurds) based on reading and especially travel throughout the country. As time goes on, I’ll be focusing more and more on Turkish issues and regional issues involving Turkey. Therefore, as the year comes to a close, I’d like to take a look back at developments in Turkey.
- Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered by a 17 year old Turkish nationalist.
- The conservative, pro-western and free-market-oriented AKP wins a massive 46% of the vote in parliamentary elections in July.
- The ban on wearing headscarves in universities still stands denying thousands of women their right to education.
- Turkey continues to grow as an important energy transit route with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline and Nabucco Line.
- Bombings continue in southeastern Turkey
- Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code which criminalizes insulting “Turkish identity” remains on the books.
- A railway from Kars to Tbilisi, Georgia and on to Baku, Azerbaijan is underway, promising to radically improve regional transportation and commerce.
- Abdullah Gül ultimately becomes president after a showdown with radical secularists and changes to the constitution.
- The Turkish economy continues to grow.
- Vicious attacks on Christian minorities in eastern Turkey.
- US-Turkish relations are badly damaged by the potential passage of a resolution recognizing the alleged Armenian Genocide
- Turkey begins looking to others for help as relations with the US and EU sour.
- Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk receives Nobel Prize.
- The son of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Arat Dink was given a 1 year suspended jail sentence for “insulting Turkish identity” due to an article about the alleged Armenian Genocide.
- The Turkish/Kurdish conflict in southeastern Turkey flared up again.
- Turkey began an ongoing series of operations against the PKK in northern Iraq.
This year has seen many challenges to Turkey and 2008 will surely be no exception. Stay tuned for a discussion of the coming year.