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Turkey's Political Battle: Secularism versus Democracy [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Mustafa Akyol, Opinion Editor and Columnist, Turkish Daily News
Presider: Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
May 25, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations


MUSTAFA AKYOL: (In progress) -- and number two on the best-seller list was a book titled "Moses's Children: Tayyip and Emine." The book was -- the Tayyip and Emine in question was Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish prime minister, who is accused for being an Islamist by some people -- he himself calls himself and his party "conservative" -- and Emine is his wife, Emine Erdogan.

And the title "Moses's Children" implied that he's actually a secret Jew working with the Mossad and international Jewry in order to destroy Turkey's secularism and Ataturk's heritage.

I actually brought you a copy of the book, which -- it has a very interesting tell-tale cover -- you know, a big Star of David encircling Tayyip Erdogan and, you know, his wife, and which is an interesting -- which is a pretty interesting book.

And the number eight -- the last time I checked, before coming here, the number eight in the best-seller list was another book, titled "The Gul of Moses," which presented Abdullah Gul, Turkish foreign minister, as another crypto-Jew working with the Elders of Zion to, you know, destroy Ataturk's legacy.

Well, you can say each country has its lunatics, you know, and Turkey has some, apparently. But I mean, that book was -- besides being a best-seller, it was powerfully endorsed by a Turkish columnist, Emin Colasan, who writes for Turkey's number-one daily, Hurriyet. And Mr. Colasan is known to be a very, you know, die-hard Kemalist and supporter of secularism and so on.

So -- and why did I tell you about this? I mean, this is just a case. But actually there is an interesting angle of the rising secularist sentiment in Turkey. It is, in many ways -- it has, actually, many anti-Western and anti-liberal sentiments inside. And it includes weird beliefs about Jewish conspiracies here.

I'm sure some of you have seen the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in Ankara or Istanbul or Izmir for secularism. Yes, they marched for secularism, but one thing that was rarely noticed in the Western media was that they were also quite anti-EU and anti-American in the way they framed their secularism, because in Turkey now there is a widespread idea that the United States is conspiring with people like Mr. Erdogan to cook up moderate Islam and that will, you know, decrease Turkey's secular legacy and you know -- so there's -- many secularists believe that there's a conspiracy between moderate Muslims and, you know, the United States or European Union and so on.

And I think that is an interesting phenomenon. I mean, it's true that in Turkey, traditionally, Islamic circles had used to be anti-Western and had used to believe in Jewish conspiracies and all those kind of fantasies. But in the recent years, tables have turned upside down. You see the incumbent AK Party being very pro-European Union in its policies, and then you see secularist people who dress like the Westerners, you know, or who have maybe a lifestyle like most of the Westerners, but they have become quite anti-Western because of this interesting rapprochement between Mr. Erdogan's party and Turkey's conservatives with the West.

And why is that? And is this just a fluctuation in Turkey's, you know, interesting politics, or does it have a more in-depth reason, and is it a long-term process? That's what I want to address.

And I think to address that, I just need to make a little bit historical overview with what's going on.

Well, perhaps even you could touch upon Turkey's creation myth, as I call it. The Turkish creation myth is that, you know, before 1920, Turks were in total darkness, you know, and it was -- the Ottoman Empire was a backward-minded and, you know, medieval kind of empire, and then we were enlightened by the very aggressive or, you know, die-hard secularist reforms.

But now historians who look into that creation myth with a de-mythifying perspective -- and I can mention names like Kemai Karpachev (sp), Martin (sp), towering figures in Ottoman history or social studies -- they actually have shown that in fact Turkish modernization comes from the Ottoman modernization. I mean, before the Turkish Republic, we had a long history of modernization, and that included a constitution, a constitutional monarchy, giving equal citizenship rights to Jews and Christians and all citizens, and so on, which were all accomplished during the 19th century.

And why? Because the Ottomans, having been the superpower of the Islamic world, they have realized that the West has advanced, and they also sort of realized to reform themselves, while the Arabs who were in the Middle East, stagnated and they didn't care that much. But the Ottomans saw the need to reform themselves.

And again, in the 19th century, many reforms has taken place under Ottoman reformers. And one thing about those reforms was the Ottomans were trying to reform themselves within the Islamic tradition. It was not a completely secularist reform, but they were, for example, defending democracy by using some arguments from the Koran, and so on. So it was a conservative -- it was an evolutionary reform that they had. And 19th century Ottoman intellectuals, for example, were influenced by Edmund Burke or some other British figures who, you know, defended democracy again with a theistic framework.

But a second tradition which emerged in the Ottoman Empire was mainly influenced by the French tradition of more strong secularism and anti-clericism, and they became known as the "Young Turks." And they thought that religion is an obstacle for progress and you had to minimize its influence in society as much as possible to be modern.

So these two modernization traditions were in the Ottoman Empire, and the republic inherited both of those modernization traditions. One was more friendly to religion and traditional values; the other one was taught that, no, you had to be -- just really push the religion aside as much as you can to be really modern. And again, maybe one of them was -- maybe we should call one of them "conservative modernization," the other was "radical Westernization," because modernization and westernization can be different things. There can be different modernities, and each tradition have its own modernity. But being a complete imitation of the West, that's something different.

Anyway -- but in the beginning of the republic, these two trends were there. And, you know, Mustafa Kemal and Kazim Karabekir and, other, you know, different war heroes were belonging to different trends. But what happened was the more radical Westernizing and secularist think won over the other one. And the other one, the conservative modernization project, was pushed aside. The party, for example, which advanced that idea, it was called (Terakkiperver Firkasi) the Progressive Party, headed by the war hero Kazim Karabekir, it was outlawed in 1925 because there was one article in its founding document said that we are respectful to religion. That was taken as a, you know, backward idea, and it was closed down, and so on.

And since -- because of that, you know, tradition -- well, that tradition still survived. And, you know, in Turkey, because of the Ottoman heritage, you have the idea of Islam and democracy as compatible, and Islam and science and modernization compatible. That idea remained in the republic, but not in the center; it remained in the periphery.

A third idea which, you know, emerged, and which was very much influenced by the Middle Eastern thinkers like Sayyid Qutb or Maududi from Pakistan, was Islamism. This said, well, we are losing time with all that, what we need is to go back to the Golden Age of Islam and just let's get rid of the West. That was the third line, the Islamist line.

And in Turkey, the conservative center right always has been met with suspicion because it was hanging to this conservative modernization, by the state, and especially the military. They thought that, you know, that is not secular enough. That's why in Turkey, military coups have been staged always against central-right conservative parties, which included Menderes in 1960, the Democrat Party in '80 and Erdogan and so on. So the military sided itself at the more secularist point of view.

Well, to make a long story short -- there's not time for the whole Turkish history -- but the AKP now which is in question, the AKP party, the party headed by Erdogan, who is called "a secret Jew" by some secularist, you know, fanatics -- this party is coming from the Islamist tradition, that's true, the tradition we said, well, let's turn back to Islam, the Islamic world, and let's get away from the Western world. That part is coming from that tradition. But gradually, by solving the mistakes of the Islamist policies and thanks to the socially emerging moderate Muslimhood in modern Turkish society, which includes facts like Islamic capitalism, the rise of an Islamic bourgeoisie, moderate theologians who articulate that, you know, human freedom is also what God has revealed and so on, thanks to all those factors, the AK Party has moved from that Islamist line to the conservative line, which is modernization within tradition, modernization by not completely rejecting your heritage, your lifestyle or so on, but modernization on the factual things, by, you know, having more foreign direct investment, by having, you know, a better society by more technology and so on, and by democracy and freedom. That party has come to that line, from my point of view.

There are some still traces of, you know, Islamist policies and -- (inaudible) -- you can find in the ranks of the party, but it has come to that point of view. But still, I think the secularist establishment sees that party and the rising new Muslim -- modern Muslimhood in Turkey still with that suspicion, because they presume that if someone is Islamic, if someone is thinking with Islamic terms, he has to be somehow backward-minded or, you know -- and he should have a hidden agenda to turn Turkey into -- back to Afghanistan or something.

So that's why I defined the secular spheres in Turkey as paranoia and not very realistic, and I think there are many reasons to support that point of view. There are many social studies done in Turkey by prominent think tanks. One is a think tank called TESEV, Turkey's prominent think tank, and they made a research in Turkish society to see the religious aspirations and what really -- how religion translates into politics, and they do this actually every seven years. And the recent research done by TESEV, which was announced last year, showed that only 7 percent of the Turkish society says that they want a(n) Islamic state. So a rule by Shari'a, Islamic law, is only demanded by 7 percent. And when some harsh measures of the Shari'a were asked, like the stoning of adulterers, that dropped to 2 percent.

But on the other hand, you have people who are very Muslim, who are very religious, who wear the head scarf, but who go to a Starbucks cafe to have a latte and who drive a nice car and who want to be in the EU and who are trying to find ways of being both modern and both a Muslim believer. And I think that -- since this is actually something very valuable that Turkey is breeding, it should not be sacrificed for the oversuspicious approaches by the states and the secular establishment, from my point of view.

Is that -- okay.

STEVEN COOK: That sounds great.

AKYOL: Okay.

COOK: Why don't we stop there, and we'll start with questions, and we know that people have a lot of questions. I will take the chair's prerogative for the first question, as I always do.

I don't want to get into the psychology here, mass psychology, but I'm wondering if, Mustafa, if you can talk a little bit more about this paranoia. Because what strikes me and what's so hard to crack into when I talk to Turkish secularists is that everything that the AK Party has done since it came to power in November 2002 is everything that a secularist, modern, Western-oriented, cosmopolitan Turk, you would think, would want.

Turkey is more democratic, it's more open, it's integrated into the global economy. The economy is growing. It's the most dynamic economy in Europe. So what is it, exactly, about AKP, Erdogan in particular, other than the fact that their wives wear hijab, that so unnerves Turkish secularists to bring a million people into the street? There seems to be no evidence that Iran -- Iranian-style theocracy is even a possibility here. So what is it that -- pardon me -- drives these people batty?

AKYOL: Thank you.

Well, there are both fears and some interests at stake, from my point of view. I mean the AK Party is transforming the Turkish society, and what it is doing -- and which people before the AK Party, like Turgut Ozal, I think did the same thing in the '80s. They're trying to bring the periphery of the society to the center, which means that you see new people in the civil services.

I mean in the past, all the bureaucracy was dominated by people with a secular lifestyle. Now you can see someone who's in the bureaucracy who has a wife with a head scarf. That's a different class. And there's this what people call class conflicts. I mean there's a Westernized -- Westernized in the sense that -- not accepting liberalism and individual freedom and so on, that's wrong -- Westernized is a lifestyle. There's a class in Turkey which is Westernized in its lifestyle but which doesn't believe in the Western ideas of individual freedom, the religious freedom and democracy and so on. They just want to maintain their dominance and, you know, prominence in society. That's one thing.

For example, one interesting thing is that the AK Party is also very visible as a diehard capitalist party. It is the most economically liberal, in the classical sense, government Turkey has ever seen. They're trying to get foreign direct investment all the time. And they have it. Jewish financiers, Middle Eastern financiers, Israeli and -- anything, all kinds. They say, we don't believe that the capital has any faith or nationality and so on.

For the secularist establishment, for some of the people, who think that the state should dominate the economy, that's a danger because they are being subsidized by the state. So there are some people who don't think that an open economy is good for their interests and so on. So that's one reason why it's criticized.

And of course, there's this idea that -- there is also the interesting nature of Turkish secularism. Unfortunately, in Turkey a secular republic is understood as a republic of the secularists, not all citizens. So to keep this republic secular, you should just have people in office who are not practicing Islam. If they are practicing Islam, they will somehow put religion into politics. Although, you know, there is no factual evidence for that, it's presumed.

So there are both, I think, fears, there some paranoias. And you know, to be frank, I mean I'm a Turk, I'm proud of my country and society and so on, but to be frank, we are a little bit paranoid society in many ways. Still -- I mean most Turks believe that the U.S. and EU are trying to divide turkey into pieces, to realize the Treaty of Sevres, which was signed in 1920, which nobody in the world remembers except us.

So there's always a suspicion about, you know, something evil happening to Turkey. It also gives you a sense of prominence if everyone is conspiring against you, so you must be something important, that sort of thing. (Laughter.)

I mean, and it's -- the same thing was true for the Kurdish question, too. I mean, we banned the Kurdish language for 80 years, thinking that if you allow them to speak Kurdish, they will establish a Kurdistan. Well, maybe they wouldn't like to establish a Kurdistan if they were free and, you know, speaking their language and so on. So just these ideas, don't allowing people freely expressing themselves, because they will, you know, dominate the system, or they will do something bad in the future. It's very much woven into the mindset, and you see it everywhere.

QUESTIONER: I'll ask you first a general question. Is it better to be a Jew or a Kurd in Turkey? But several times in the course of your presentation, you raise that book you have, as if to say that somehow you demonize an adversary politically by associating with people who are Jewish or being Jewish or within, as you put it, you mention the ancient superstition of the Elders of Zion.

How important is the Jewish issue in Turkey in terms of what's going on between the secular and Islamist? What role do Jews play there at all? Obviously the issue plays a big role in the Middle East as a major distraction. Steven Cook could talk on and on about it for hours much better than I could.

But truly in Turkey it didn't seem to me that that was much, little I know about Turkey, as a major issue. But you mentioned it no less than four times. In your last recitation, we were talking about finances and so forth, the four sources of finance. You mentioned Jewish and Israeli as two of them.

Now is there something about being a Jew which is special in Turkey, like being a Kurd?

AKYOL: Well, I mentioned the Israeli finances because most of the seculars accuse the AK party for bringing some Arab money into Turkey. And I mean, I just said, they also bring Israeli finances, so they bring everybody. So maybe if I said it two times, sorry for that.

QUESTIONER: That's okay.

AKYOL: But yeah, I mean, of course I have no problem about any ethnic or, you know, religious identity. But in Turkey there is not a real diehard tradition of anti-Semitism. And in Turkey we have a Jewish community which is generally safe and, you know -- excuse me.


AKYOL: 27,000, yeah, and they have a pleasant history in the Ottoman Empire, you know? The Ottoman Empire had problems with all its non-Muslim minorities except the Jews, who were not trying to establish a state. You know, they were just living in the empire. I mean, the Bulgarians rebelled and so on. Things happened, but the Jews have a very pleasant history, actually, in the Ottoman Empire.

In the -- well, since the Arab-Israeli conflict, there is a rising, yes, phobia about international Jewry. So maybe the synagogue in the corner is not a trouble for many people. But many people believe that there is a global Jewish dominance in world politics, and especially the United States.

And this has been strengthened by the recent Iraqi War, which many people in Turkey believe that war made for Israel. And you know, the Jewish identity of some of the neoconservatives and so on, that has been continuously mentioned and continuously misrepresented and, you know, exaggerated and so on. But the idea is there, and the idea is not in just one camp.

Islamists still, yeah, have some kind of anti-Semitic, especially in issues relating to Israel and Palestine, because of that especially. They have this kind of anti-Jewish stance. But what is interesting is that some of the secularists, you know, who claim themselves the enlightened ones, are buying into the same idea of a Jewish global conspiracy, and trying to accuse now the Islamic people with being in, you know, relationship with those imagined evil powers and so on.

And sorry, for being a Kurd, being a Kurd is okay in Turkey if you are not too Kurdish. (Laughter.) I mean --

QUESTIONER: Same thing in the U.S.

AKYOL: Excuse me?

QUESTIONER: Same thing in the U.S.

AKYOL: Same with the U.S.?

QUESTIONER: Yeah, right.

AKYOL: Okay.

COOK: Let me just add a little bit to that from my own experience.

It strikes me that both camps for their political purposes have sought to use anti-Semitism.

AKYOL: (Inaudible.)

COOK: Exactly. Right. I mean anti-Semitism is largely alien to Turkish culture. You did have die-hard Islamists who have long time had the sensitivities and hatreds towards Jews, but increasingly, you're seeing the secular camp doing that. I had a fascinating conversation with a young American military officer the last time I was in Ankara, who had attended the Istanbul Staff College. He went to Turkey's Staff College -- we have these exchange things -- and he said he had been there post-invasion of Iraq and said amongst officers of his rank who were there, they would say things to him, "You're a Jew. You're trying to destroy Turkey. Look what the American military has done in Iraq." This is extraordinary in the Turkish military -- sorry, Steven's Law; you talk about things you know, so now I'm talking about the military.

This is, first of all, a lost constituency for the United States and a very important constituency for the Israelis in their relationship with Turkey and a worrying, worrying trend that this is now affecting die-hard nationalist secular establishment.

AKYOL: And just to add one thing, I mean, I should also note that there are some very moderate Islamic circles who are very against anti-Semitism. One is the Fetullah Gulen movement in Turkey, which has -- which is the biggest Islamic community in Turkey with millions of followers. They established -- they published a newspaper Zaman and so on. They are die-hard anti-anti-Semitic, and they have very good relations with the chief rabbi in Turkey, and they're very -- you know, interfaith dialogue and so on. So that's another Islamic power in Turkish society.

So I think the real, you know, axis is nationalism. There are some Islamic/nationalists which are, you know, pretty harsh against anybody they don't like -- you know, that might be Jews, Armenians, Americans or Turks who are -- or Muslims who are not Arabs, like they hate Kurds, too; I mean, Kurds are Muslims, but they hate Kurds, too. And there are some secular nationalists; again, they are crazy in many of their -- from my point of view, in the world view. And then you have secular liberals and you have Muslim liberals.

So the axis is not actually between Islam and secularism. You have a basic -- you have -- actually, in Turkey, if you look at the Turkey media right now, which column is right for which pages, you see that older real liberal, classical liberal, you know, libertarian columnists write in Islamic newspapers like Zaman and Yeni Safak. It's strange. I mean, why do these people – it was really not like that 10 years ago. And there's a convergence of conservatives, which has an Islamic identity, and there's a liberal, you know, secular liberals. On the other hand, there are nationalists which have Islamic and, you know, secular trends in themselves.

COOK: Greg.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, I'd like to follow up a little on that because, you know, Jews and other ethnic minorities often end up being sort of the canaries in a coal mine for democracy, the indicators. When things get bad for minorities like that, often democracy itself is rather feeble. I'm a pollster by trade, and so I followed the polls fairly closely. And I know in Turkey only about 15 to 20 percent of the population, according to the Pew Center, says they have favorable attitudes towards Jews. And I know Turkish Jews who aren't that worried. They say we're caught between the Islamists who want to blow us up and the Islamists who want to grind us down.

They're worried about the alliance with Israel. And they're also worried even about things like the law about the Armenian killings. And they say if it is possible for the government to require, by law, that no one speak about another Holocaust, what could happen to the Jewish Holocaust, could that be written out of history too by the wrong sort of government.

So I'd like to ask really two things. One is, to what extent within Turkish society itself is there dispute and challenge to these kinds of attitudes, whether anti-Semitic, anti-Armenian, anti-Kurdish and so forth? Not just people who are not "anti," but actually who are working to challenge, oppose -- you know, to develop the capacity of Turkish society for self-criticism and to look at the uglier spots of its past? The difficulties of the Armenian conference, for example, suggested that that capacity is still a very difficult one to develop.

And the second is, you know, one of the things you and I have talked about a lot is the fact that in Arab countries there is nothing like the Anti-Defamation League. There is actually no organization that gets up and says, "Wait a second. This is an anti-Semitic calumny, this is a lie about minorities," you know, that actually positively creates programs that try to work for tolerance or to try to generate interaction. Are there any organizations in Turkey that do that?

AKYOL: Well, to start from the second question, there are some civil, you know -- yeah, like civil liberties organizations, not as, maybe, prominent as the ADL, but there are organizations which stand against and which, you know, demonstrate, organize demonstrations against the nationalism or any xenophobic idea. And, you know, when Hrant Dink was killed, murdered, the prominent Armenian journalist, like 100,000 people walked, marched in his funeral. They were really people who believe in, you know, freedom and human rights and so on.

So there is a power like that in Turkish society, that's the progressive or whatever you want to call it. But I mean the more -- the same people are -- those people are being demonized by the Turkish nationalists for being agents of the West, for being agents of the imperial powers who want to destroy Turkey and so on. And unfortunately, for example, the establishment -- which includes the military and so on -- doesn't -- from my point of view doesn't seem to be on the side of the progressives, but rather on the other side, the nationalists. Because, I mean, when you look at the statements done by -- for example, made by some generals and so on, you see, for example, in two oh two (sp) a top general said that Turkey is being targeted by the global imperialism and they're trying to come by their finances and so on and trying to destroy our country.

COOK: Was there anyone who got on the TV afterwards and said --

AKYOL: Excuse me?

COOK: Did anyone get on the TV afterwards and say, "This general is a crackpot"? Seriously.

AKYOL: You would get into jail for that.

COOK: (Laughs.) That's a really hard thing to say in Turkey.


COOK: That's a measure, then, of the wobbliness of Turkish democracy.

AKYOL: Okay. I used a more euphemistic tone and wrote something like that in a more acceptable language.

COOK: In English or Turkish?

AKYOL: Both languages. Yeah. Well, I mean, for example, recently our president, Ahmed Necdet Sezer, who is very secularist, said that the global system is trying to take over our modes of production, which is -- I mean, I'm not making it up. It's right from the Marxist-Leninist language, "modes of production," the term he used.

So there is this idea -- I mean there is a socialist also, you know, and protectionist idea. And you know why? Because, you know, in Turkey the idea of modernization was -- or Westernization -- was defined in the 1930s. In the 1930s Ataturk said, "Our target is the contemporary modern civilization." Very good. But at the time, the modern civilization included Nazi Germany, Mussolini and so on. And some of the ideas of those models actually went into Turkey and they still remain there. And again, it was a time when, you know, capitalism wasn't very well appreciated. It wasn't, you know, a crisis and so on. So -- but and their model of modernization froze in the 1930s, and they say these are eternal, unchanging principles of Ataturk that we had to keep.

I mean, there are other Turks like me who respect Ataturk as a great leader who found (sic) the country, but I don't think that I should wake up every morning and say what Ataturk would do if he was here. So Kemalism, which is, you know, core ideology, is there, and I think it's an obstacle in Turkey's progress. I think we should understand him as, you know, George Washington or some -- another leader who is really worthy and respected but, you know, time -- let's move on, that kind of thing.

Sorry. To come back to your question about --

COOK: The capacity of Turkish society to be self-critical, even if the establishment or the authorities are not --

AKYOL: Well, the society is self-critical, so you have very, you know, brave intellectuals who criticize, you know, all the, you know, fascist tendencies and so on.

COOK: But is there an echo to them?

AKYOL: Yeah. I mean, there is an echo, and that's why, I mean -- I mean, not everybody buys into the nationalist line. People rally against fascism and so on and -- but I mean, there's more way to go, apparently, yeah, yeah.

QUESTIONER: Yeah. I just want to go back to secularism and just go back to freedom of the press. The guy who wrote "Snow," Pamuk, I mean, not too long ago, decided to fly out (of) Turkey because he was scared for his life. So I'm not so sure that it's really such a freedom of press in the way that you can really say what you want in Turkey.

But I would like you to go back to secularism -- that's what I want -- and to go back to what is the specificity of the secularism. And what -- it's not really separation of state and church in Turkey, and I would like you to tell us exactly -- because from what I understand, imams are paid by the government; even the speech are made by the government. And I would like to know what do you see coming? Did you see any chance coming in this area in the last few years with the increase of the Islamic -- more -- Shari'a more rigid?

AKYOL: Okay. Well, yeah, Orhan Pamuk was threatened by Turkish fascists and, you know, he fled the country. That's a pretty big problem. Again, there are many people who criticize that stance. I mean -- just want to make sure that, you know, not all Turks think like that.

And as for your question on secularism, which is very important, yes, in Turkey, secularism has a very different meaning from what it has in the United States. It doesn't mean a separation of church and state; it means a dominance of state over religion. And that dominance changes and shifts from time to time, from place to place. Before -- in the inter-war period, '25 to '50, 1950s, or '45 -- the state really did everything to marginalize religion in society, to get rid of it as much as it can, to minimize its influence.

After the Second World War, the state changed policy because there was a new threat, communism. And they said, well, Islam is not bad against communism; if people are more Muslim, then we won't have the communism trouble. So there was a more, you know -- then new schools of, you know, Imam Hatip schools, like schools which give a religious education within the state system or, you know, ilahiyat fakulteleri, the faculties of theology, which were not there before. They were established in the -- after 1955 basically as a, you know, safeguarding against godless communism.

And -- for example, the Turkish military, who is very secularist in its approach, has distributed pamphlets in the '90s in the Kurdish areas about the Muslim Brotherhood between Turks and Kurds and verses from the Koran and so on.

So religion is manipulated. And that's -- I mean, the whole -- everything should serve the state, and religion should also serve the state. And if it is in that line, that's okay. That's not a problem.

But if religion becomes an independent force, and that independence might be very liberal. I mean, you can have a very liberal Islamic movement. You have such things. Then that becomes suspicious. Why are you not, you know, going with the state line?

And head scarf has become a kind of debate, because the state said that no, you should not wear a head scarf. Then how dare you wear the head scarf, although your state says so? I mean, there's a kind of -- like, they say it's become politicized, like a rebellion against the state.

So I think what we Turks need, and there are many people who argue for that, is a real separation of church and state. Let the mosques govern themselves. Then we will have more diversity, and the mosques will be more interesting places.

I mean, I'm a Muslim. I don't go to mosque every Friday. Because, I mean, I know what will be told there. You know, it's an issue statement by Ankara, and you can listen to a sermon about, pay your taxes regularly. (Laughter.) And not always that bad, but you know, there are also some good sermons. But you know, it's the official line. And you don't have any charismatic leaders who can inspire you.

I mean, the argument for that is that if you don't control it, it might go radical. Well, okay. If there are radical groups, yes, you should follow them. But if you control it, it doesn't become liberal, either. So you're just blocking the way for a development of a real, genuine, liberal, modern Islam, which there is a potential in society.

QUESTIONER: You see any political party right now asking for separation of church and state?

AKYOL: The common AK party, well, they -- many times their, you know spokesman or, you know, the intellectuals, said that we want the U.S. type of secularism. They said, the problem is the definition of the secularism we have. They said, we need a more liberal secularism, which grants more freedoms, religious freedom and so on.

And that's why, you know, the state has established -- that's one of the reasons they said, well, they're trying to destroy the foundations of the republic. You know, it's just a hideous step to take one inch and salami tactics. That's how it is seen on the other side.

COOK: That's why AK has staked so much of its legacy on getting into the European Union, is essentially so that they can pray how they want to pray, without being told by the religious affairs chairmanship.

QUESTIONER: I've been wondering if you could talk about how the negative messages coming from EU member-states have sort of maybe emboldened or added to the paranoia of the secular establishment. (Off mike.) I'd love to hear your thoughts.

AKYOL: Sure, well, the EU, they don't help. Not the whole EU countries I mean, the Brits are always good, you know? We love them. And you've been very helpful, I mean, the United States.

But I mean European leaders like a Sarkozy or Merkel and Austria basically. I mean, they've been opposed they openly said that, we don't want Turkey in. Well, even if you don't want Turkey in, don't say it that soon, you know? That's my argument, I mean, because the EU process helps Turkey. And we should continue with the process, which helps Turkey become more liberal, democratic, open and you know, economically more, you know, successful and so on. And those statements, they don't help. And also the decision by the French parliament about the Armenian so-called genocide issue was there, and it's a big reaction from a Turk society.

And based on those events, an argument was developed by the nationalists. And the argument is that the whole EU process is actually a well-designed conspiracy against Turkey. You know why? Because to get into the EU, we will give many concessions. They will get everything. We will give Cyprus; we will give our honor; we will give our undemocratic, wonderful system. And at the end they will say, no, we are not taking you in. Then we will have total chaos, and then they will come and occupy Turkey or whatever, all the evil plots. So that's a very powerful argument right now. And when you say EU, people say, "Don't tell me about it. I know they are, you know, (faking ?) us, and that was the design."

And the second part of their argument is that Tayyip Erdogan knew that from the beginning, that EU wouldn't take us, but they conspired secretly so in order to, you know, destroy the wonderful system we have and so on.

So EU didn't help. I hope they will in the future. And again, if you don't want Turkey openly -- I mean the European leaders, don't say that loudly and we can -- if we continue the process, we will come at a point in which maybe the EU membership will not be too important for Turkey because we will already -- you know, we have already formed ourselves and so on.

And the second question, sorry, the military --

QUESTIONER: Steven has talked about in terms of the military, in terms of -- (off mike). I hope I'm paraphrasing you okay.

COOK: You're doing a wonderful job.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike) -- some of their power, that there was a stage for them to sort of reassert themselves.

COOK: What I was saying was, as the popular support for EU membership has diminished considerably, from a high of 77 percent to 30 percent, it is providing more room for maneuver for people like Yasar Buyukanit and others to influence the political arena in not necessarily progressive ways.

AKYOL: Yeah. I mean now there's this sense of feeling that now we are against back at home and with each other and good old Turkish politics and no more EU vision and so on. There is a sense. I mean, there's still hope that things might go well in some part of society, but the diminishing of the EU hopes and the rise of nationalism is very much linked, and the rise of the military's influence in politics is very much linked with each other.

And if you want, let me just briefly mention what I think about the Armenian issue, which is a big issue about Turkey all the time. Well, I'm a Turkish liberal. I have no problem about criticizing my country on culture. But I don't think that we had -- the U.N. called it genocide, that we can call genocide, in 1915. I know my grandmom telling me about that the Armenians would, you know, kill us, and then we heard about that and we had a reaction and so on.

So many Turks think that the events of 1915, which was a tragedy, yes, a horrible loss for the Armenia people, was a intercommunal violence. The idea that they have killed many of our people, they have hit the army from the back and then the army decided to, you know, decided to send them back to Syria, and many of them perished, and which local people, you know, attacked them and so on.

It's a horrible tragedy, but I don't -- as a Turk, I don't define it as a genocide. And I think it's totally different from the real genocide, which the Nazis had with the extermination camps and gas chambers and so on. That's how I see it, just as a note.

It doesn't mean that I don't respect or I don't share the tragedy and the pain of the Armenian people for their loss. Just to give a figure, I mean, according to David McDowell, who's an expert on Kurds, the number of Kurds who lost their lives in that period -- the First World War, the War of Liberation, the Armenian clashes and so on -- is 300,000, and famine and so on. So, according to the Turkish mindset, we already died. So I mean we died too. That's the kind of mentality you have. That's just the Kurdish loss. There was also a Turkish loss.

So we see it as an intercommunal clash. And it was a horrible time and it was a horrible tragedy. And I go beyond the official rhetoric that's saying no, we don't care. We care. We should care more. But it was not a genocide like the Nazis did on Jews.

COOK: That's true. If there was a better comparison, it would be Rwanda, where intercommunial killing led to wholly disproportionate casualties on one side.

AKYOL: But something I would note is simply that inter-ethnic clashes have been the traditional response to allegations of genocide in every instance where it's occurred.

COOK: Okay. Let me just -- before we get to Herb Levin's question, let me ask, what would be the effect on U.S.-Turkish relations should the Congress pass a non-binding Armenian genocide resolution?

AKYOL: It will empower Turkish nationalism very strongly considerably because then older, you know, predictions about the West's evil plans about us will be again confirmed, because many Turks believe that once that is internationally established - that, you know, we've made a genocide, if everybody -- the whole world accepts that, the next step will be giving some cities to Armenia. That's what they say. Then we will have more reparations. What are those reparations? They will get some land. (So the ?) cities we will be forced to leave them to Armenia. Then Kurdistan will, you know, appear there, and we will leave some cities to the Kurds.

Again, back to the 1920, the infamous Treaty of Sevres, that's the general understanding of this. So they see it as a political, you know, game played the Armenians, the Kurds and all the enemies of Turkey to just, again, destroy us, destroy our country.

COOK: Herb Levin.

QUESTIONER: The Greek Patriarch refuses the money from the American Greek community to move to the U.S. or to go to Switzerland with Aga Khan, and he won't go to Mount Athos because he's more afraid of the Greek government than he is of the Turkish government. At the same time, you have these complaints that they can't have their divinity school and they can't do this or that. And I'm wondering, I realize there are all these tremendous plots against Turkey, but I wonder whether the Greek Orthodox plots against Turkey is so worrisome that what the Greeks Orthodox say, if these petty harassments are true, why does this go on? I mean, why not let these guys be happy with their divinity school and the cemeteries? What's going on?

AKYOL: Well, the Jewish -- I'm sorry. But like the Jewish conspiracy, the Greek conspiracy is so horrible, too. I mean, the idea is that the patriarch actually wants to re-establish the empire of Byzantium with Istanbul as the capital, and again, by salami tactics -- (inaudible) -- they are going for that. I mean, that's the fear that's, you know, created by a Turkish ex-Marxist turned nationalist named Aytunc Altindal in the `90s. And you know, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey is not called the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and that word is a heresy.

I was very attacked by many people when I used the term ecumenical because ecumenical means universal. And well, the Patriarchate called itself ecumenical since eternity, and the Ottomans, who, you know, were ruling the empire didn't see any problem in that. Nobody has seen any problem in that until 10 years ago. Then, this gentleman I told you about, this new nationalist, he said ecumenical means universal, then it means that his authority surpasses the authority of the Turkish state. What a horrible, you know, conspiracy. And then that means he's claiming authority for over the Turkish nation and so on. Now that term has become a real obsession. And again, the opening of the Halki ceremony is just -- Halki seminary, sorry, which is on an island near Istanbul, is a beacon of fear and hysteria about that.

And one thing, it is not the practicing Muslims and their intellectuals who have problem with, you know, these things. Actually, there are many prominent Muslim intellectuals who say yes, the Halki Seminary should be open, and we should also have our seminaries. Yes, we want religious freedom for everybody. And for Muslims, you know, they're "ahl al-kitab" -- "the People of the Book." I mean Christians are not, you know, by definition a danger or something. For the nationalists, they are the Greeks who invaded us in 1920 and who are still all the bad things.

So it is the nationalists, some of them who are very secularist, who are obsessed with all those issues. This includes also the missionaries. Missionary activity is a big issue in Turkey. And three missionaries were really killed horribly in Malatya. Well, this has a story behind. I mean there's a continuous propaganda by the nationalists saying that the missionaries are trying to destroy our national ethos. They're distributing one thousand dollars among the, you know, New Testaments and trying to make people buy them, and so on. There are a lot of stories like that. And again, it is not the practicing Muslims who are really so obsessed about this. A gentleman named Dogu Perincek, who is the head of Turkey's Maoist Workers Party -- now, it's not that Maoist anymore since Mao, the "Great Helmsman" is gone, thank God. But they are in a Maoist tradition. He's an atheist, and he's the one who really championed against the missionaries. I mean, why would an atheist care if a person is a Muslim or a Christian? He cares because he thinks that it's a Turkish national ethos that you should be Muslim.

So interestingly, I mean -- and this just corresponds to the idea of the ideal good Turk -- the ideal Turk, according to the state and the official ideology, should be Muslim, but not too Muslim. He should not be Muslim like wearing a head scarf or something, but he should be Muslim in order to distinguish himself from the Greeks and Armenians and the Jews and the Americans, and so on and so forth. So interestingly, although some of the very -- (inaudible) -- people are also very obsessed about Christian influence or rising Christian commerce, and so on, in society.

I know this is all very, you know, weird. And I'm also, you know, watching these events, and surprised (but it's so?), you know.

COOK: Maji (sp).

QUESTIONER: You had mentioned that -- earlier on, that only 7 percent of Turks, according to recent polls, supported an Islamic State.

COOK (?): Can you get closer to the mike? We can't hear you.

QUESTIONER: You had mentioned earlier that only 7 percent of Turks, according to recent polls, supported an Islamic state. Does that cut across rural and urban people, or is it primarily urban?

AKYOL: Well, that wasn't asked in the survey. I mean, I don't remember the data in the survey. But if you ask my impression, that would be probably more rural; yeah, the more rural people would probably more demand -- I mean, there are some, of course, Islamists who are, you know, urban and city based. So, I mean, if you're asking the demand for a real Islamic state in Turkey, in which circle, these are generally pre-modern Turkish Muslims, I would call them, who haven't been exposed to the Western world and modernity.

QUESTIONER: And so they would be more rural?

AKYOL: They would be more rural, yes. And actually, one thing interestingly, about being exposed to modernity -- I just want to mention one thing. As I said in my speech, you know, traditionally the Western elite was, you know, secular, and the (secularist ?) was Western, and the conservatives used to be, you know, not pro-Western, and so on. This changed in the '80s and '90s and 2000 when Turkey's devout Muslims have realized that the West is better than our Westernizers. What I mean is that, you know, Turkey has a very die-hard secularist establishment which doesn't allow free flourishing of religion, and so on. The Muslims, who just -- you know, Turkey's practicing Muslims who came to the United States, they saw that, oh, it's very good; people have mosques here, and it's not a problem. You can have an Islamic, you know, propaganda center or something. You can have -- and for example, the prime minister, he can't send his daughters to Turkish universities, because the daughters wear a head scarf. So where do they go? They're educated in the United States, University of Indiana.

So the Turkish prime minister can't take his wife to Turkey's presidency, because the wife wears a head scarf. But of course he can take her to the White House, you know, Downing Street Number 10, and no problem.

By seeing those things, they realize that all the authoritarian, you know, suppressive secularist mind-set they have been, you know -- they had trouble with, was not actually what the real Western world is; it's just a caricature of the West that was imported in the 1930s and which has remained there.

So they said: Then let's get the real West. You know, instead of being, you know -- sort of being suppressed by our elite, let's be like the Westerners. Yes, that's good. We want the freedom, freedom for everybody. That's why the AKP Party is the most die-hard proponent of the EU process, because they hope that EU will create a more free Turkey.

COOK: (To audience member.) No, no, no. Hold on. I've got a list.

QUESTIONER: No, just a point --

COOK: And I'm going to retain control of my meeting -- (laughter) -- because I'm graded on that.

AKYOL: Yeah.

COOK: And there are board members here.

AKYOL: (Inaudible.)

COOK: Speaking of which, Jamie Messing (sp).

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I'll try and put this into a question, but the impression I have is that oftentimes the U.S. or businessmen from the U.S. will go to Istanbul and feel they have seen Turkey and have a sense of Turkey based on just what's in Istanbul. And you know, clearly, if you go into other parts of the country, you get a very different impression.

And one of my concerns intellectually is that we do the same thing when we talk about the Turkish military, that the Turkish military is a single unit that thinks the same way about everything. And I guess I'm wondering if you could maybe comment on your views on that and in particular, you know, Turkish military officials who have been in the, you know, southeastern part of the country, dealing with the Kurdish issue on a daily, real basis for them, versus those who might be, you know, seconded overseas to NATO posts and the like, might see things very differently or not.

And then that leads me to the question, then, of the upcoming election, the presidential issue, again. And my take is that we have a problem delayed, not a problem resolved. But again, your thoughts on the military in that regard as well.

AKYOL: Thank you.

Of course the military is also diverse to a degree, like the Turkish society itself. For example, former chief of staff, the one before the current one, Hilmi Ozkok, he was recognized as a very democratic person. And while he was, you know, leaving office in 2005, I guess, he said the only thing urkey needs more is democracy. That was a great, to hear that from a general, top general.

And everybody knows or, you know, everybody thinks that, you know, the current chief of staff, Yasar Buyukanit, makes less emphasis on democracy and, you know, makes more emphasis on, you know, security and, you know, national strength and so on.

So there are -- even your personalities matter. There are different, you know, personalities, and there are different trends, as they say, in the military. But we really don't need those things that much, because the military is a closed box, I mean. The military doesn't speak to us, you know. I mean, they speak in a unified language, generally, so you don't really understand what's going on.

And there's another theory, which says that the younger officers are more radical, and they're continuously pushing the, you know, top generals to act more vigilantly on issues like secularism. And actually some people say that the soft, you know, warning that the military issued in April 27, you know, with a website message saying that we are strong on secularism and so on -- they said that the top general did it in order to appease the real young, die-hard ones, so that they wouldn't do something crazy, because they have done things crazy, in 1960.

In 1960 there was a military coup in Turkey, and it was done by the young officers, who imprisoned their generals, put them in prison, because they thought the generals are corrupt and they're not radical enough and so on. So that's one thing.

And about being exposed to the West, yes, of course. I mean, I know that many -- I mean, it is true that generals think that the Western world is -- most generals think that the Western world is Turkey's destiny. But they have a very narrow definition of going into that direction. They think that you can be modern only by homogenizing your society and making everybody a replica of the state and suppressing all different identities. Then you will become modern. That's how they see it, not all but some of them.

But there are also some generals, who have been, and one of them is the one who said in 2002, who said -- he was the one who spoke about imperialism and so on. He said then we should also consider rapprochement with China and Russia, instead of the Western world. So there are some socialists or whatever you call them, not maybe socialists, but, third worldists trend also I think in the army. And especially that's because of the Kurdish angle.

Like, since the beginning of the Iraqi war, most Turks and of course most military personnel, think that now the new ally of America is the Kurds. And Kurds are our arch enemy, according to the perception. And then now we are at odds with the United States. And yes, I mean, so there is also like a shift in there, too.

COOK: I can't resist here, because of my new book. So I just have to get a couple things in on the Turkish military.

Mustafa touched on a lot of it. But there's something I want to emphasize, is that when we look at the Turkish military, certainly it is a reflection of society. But it's also a very Prussian kind of military. So what the chief of staff says, and how things are developed as a consensus and then finally -- once he says it, it's obeyed. There was a movement amongst senior officers when Hilmi Ozkok became the chief of staff, with his known liberal and more democratic views, to extend the tenure of the previous chief of staff, because they didn't want Ozkok to be the person.

Then also on this question of the younger officers, you have to understand that Turkish military officers start a socialization and education process that begins at 14 years old. And they're sort of kind of beat into -- there's an amazing book called "Shirts of Steel," by a Turkish journalist named Mehmet Ali Birand, in which he talks about the educational curriculum of Turkish military officers, in which they are all kind of in this cookie cutter way have this world view. And there is debate. But ultimately on these kinds of core questions about the military's relationship to society and the relationship between state and religion, there is remarkable coherence of views on those issues. And so if you combine that kind of education and socialization with the kind of structures of the military and the kind of safeguards that the military put in place after 1962, when a bunch of colonels took over to prevent that kind of thing from happening, it's -- you can't talk about it as monolithic, but it's as close as you can possibly get in such a large organization.

AKYOL: Yeah, just one example, in military garrisons and military schools, only some newspapers are allowed, not all. If it's a too liberal or a too Muslim newspaper, the newspaper doesn't get in. It's completely, you know, banned.

QUESTIONER: And the election?

COOK: Oh, yeah, sorry. The election.

AKYOL: Oh, sorry. Well, that's the big issue. I mean, I'm awfully curious about election, what's going on and what will happen. Well, this -- I think the AKP will win the elections, that's for sure, from my point of view. But win -- like what percentage? That's the question. Again, I think it will be number-one party, but nobody can be sure from this point whether it will be a government by itself, you know, it will have enough votes to form a government without a coalition.

Now, if the AKP gets more, you know, than a simple majority of the parliament, it will have the government. What will happen? Then the question of the presidency will come. And either AKP might go for a consensus with the secularist parties and choose a president who is neutral, then we can go with this crisis, and I think we will have a pleasant four years.

If AKP says, no, my president is Gul, you know, my candidate is Gul, Abdullah Gul foreign minister and who is, I think, a very worthy name, but you know, the other people don't like him -- then we will have a tension. And I don't know what tension will lead to us.

There's a second -- well, a second alternative is that the AKP might not be able to form a government by itself but make a coalition with some other party, which can be the new center-right democratic party, you know, the -- created by the union of ANAP and Dogru Yol Parties. I mean -- or the MHP, the nationalist one. So those coalitions never work well in Turkey, but you know, it will be better than a crisis.

The most horrible option might be that AKP will get less than a simple majority, but it will still be number one, but the president will give the mission of forming the government not to AKP but to Deniz Baykal, the leader of the left-wing, secularist -- die-hard secularist -- and also nationalist CHP. Then that will really imply that a, you know, state is working behind the scenes to form a really weird government. And that will be a horrible government, from my point of view, yeah, I mean, by looking at the performances of CHP and Deniz Baykal, to be frank.

COOK: We've got 10 minutes left, and I have four people on the roster, and I'm going to keep it at that. And why don't we take them all in succession and then let -- well, we'll take two at a time, and we'll let Mustafa answer those two and then we'll wrap it up.

So first Jon Benjamin, then Patricia. Please ask in succession, and then Mustafa will answer those two.

QUESTIONER: Yeah. Okay, thank you, Steven. I was the head of the Political Section at the British Embassy in Turkey in the late '90s, and I'm very struck by the number of times various conspiracy theories have come up. I would never cease to be amazed on a daily basis of conspiracy theories I heard, including -- I was several times accused of sitting in the British Embassy rewriting the Treaty of Sevres, something I'd never heard of before. (Laughter.) I --

AKYOL: We know you were doing it.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, I was in fact doing it. I'll admit it. (Laughter.)

And I wonder if you could comment a bit on the theory that would say that the greater the prevalence of conspiracy theory, the less the amount of national self-confidence there actually is, and that it just betrays a huge lack of national self-confidence at some level, that there's a belief that everyone's plotting against you.

A couple of other very brief comments. A lot -- I'm Jewish myself, so I can say this -- only in New York could you get so many questions on Turkey focusing on the Jewish community. (Laughter.) I mean, the Jews, the Greeks and the Armenians together amount to not much more than 100,000 people. They're probably around 1 percent or less than 1 percent of the entire population, or a fraction of 1 percent. It's just -- they're just not statistically relevant as to merit this degree of attention, given that basically, in terms of their rights and their position in society, those few who remain are reasonably well-looked-after.

But on the Armenian issue, I do think, Mustafa, as a self-defined liberal, no offense meant, but you just have to get over it at some level. Because the definition of genocide is out there. It's -- there's a legal, internationally accepted definition of genocide. The question is, is whether the then-leadership of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 or so ordered actions to be taken against the Armenian population that led to the results that we know about.

And the only way of deciding that, seems to me, without politicizing it is to a) open every historical, archival reference that there is in Turkey, and then appoint some sort of respected international commission of historians to reach a conclusion based on all the evidence left. It's amazing to me, and it goes back to my point about the lack of self-confidence, that nearly 100 years after the events in question, Turks instinctively get so defensive about even an objective, rational discussion about the available evidence, all of which has still not been made public.

And very briefly on the EU question, I think joining the EU has always been a way of measuring that the Ataturk Revolution has finally crossed the finishing line, and Turkey has finally arrived. And that leads to a very simplistic discussion about whether Turkey is part of Europe or the EU or not, which doesn't recognize the hugely complex issues that have to be worked through if Turkey is ever to become a member of the EU.

QUESTIONER: Okay, just wanted to continue on the EU, just want to make a point. In fact when we look at the money that Turkey got from the EU, it's something like 20 billion euro or 20 billion dollars. I'm sorry; I don't remember. And nothing has been said by the EU, that they would cut subsidies in any way. The second point is, and this means that, I mean, what has been going on lately is maybe mostly due to a domestic issue, due to -- in France specifically, and the threat that Turkey wouldn't get into maybe the EU.

And the second point is about -- (inaudible) -- about the Western world. I don't think that Mrs. Gul would be able, if Mr. Gul was the French president, to get into Elysee Palace with a head scarf, because of the definition of separation of church and state in France.

COOK: Well, of course, because the Turks copied the French system. (Laughter, cross talk.)

QUESTIONER: No, no, no. That's a big difference. It's not a copy. French, you have a real separation of church and state. In Turkey, you don't have a separation of church and state. It's a big difference.

COOK: Do you want to respond to those two comments? Or should we take another question?

AKYOL: Just -- I can say that I'm not the greatest fan of France, either, so yeah. (Laughter.)

COOK: And to Jon's comments.

AKYOL: Oh yeah, well, I mean, getting over the Armenian issue, I just -- again, I mean, I know such horrible Turks said they can do anything. And I don't know. I mean, I'm not trying to defend. But there are many non-Turks, not many but some non-Turks, who think that it was not a genocide, like Bernard Lewis and so on. There are many historians.

QUESTIONER: A minority.

AKYOL: A minority, yeah. But I mean, if you look at their arguments, they also point to facts that the Ottoman Empire sent -- I mean, Istanbul sent some telegrams by saying that, don't kill these people; be -- safeguard them and so on. So there are many factual things which convince me that it was not a total, you know, planned annihilation.

I mean, I'm saying this based on the facts that I've seen. If there are other facts, I would love to see. And if we're opening archives, sure, and that's what Turkish government always says. They say, let's talk and look at all the archives.

I think we should be open on discussing, and what the outcome, I will accept. The only thing that the French did which was horrible was to say that you cannot deny that this is a genocide. I think, I mean, if U.S., you know, has a resolution, it will say, yes, we recognize that it was a genocide. What the French did is that we recognize it's a genocide, and if you deny that that is a genocide, we will put you in jail. I think that's not a democratic mindset, which again brings me to the French case.

COOK: Okay. Last two questions. Stephanie, and -- (name inaudible).

QUESTIONER: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the role of the military now and what you anticipate its likely role will be, the generals, especially, in the near future and what you think it should be. I'm wondering -- the military seems to be getting a really bad map, or the generals, lately. And I find people quite hopeful about the AK Party in a way that people no longer seem to be about the generals, when they seem to have proven quite important guardians of Turkey in the past. And I wonder if that's a sign of the end of an era or not, or whether they still have a really useful role to play.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Given the hour, I'm reluctant to raise a new issue, but you mention the Kurds. And the U.N. just conducted a counterterrorism visit to Turkey to see what steps they're taking. And of course, terrorism seems to be -- I mean, it's been a lot of Kurdish terrorism, clearly, but there's been sort of a change now. There have been some al Qaeda terrorist attacks recently. How is terrorism playing into this debate about democracy versus secularism?

AKYOL: As for the generals, as you well amply explained -- Steven explained in his book, I mean, they don't rule but their own government rule --

COOK: They rule, but they don't get -- (chuckles).

AKYOL: I mean, they don't get into politics unless things are fine from their point of view, you know. But if they see that the republic is in danger -- but that republic, from my point of view, is a euphemism sometimes for oligarchy or elite rule; you know, that elites should rule but not the elected people, and so on. They just don't, you know, touch -- I think we see past this crisis, which is mostly focused on the presidential election - will we have a president whose wife wears a head scarf or not? I mean, believe me or not, but that's the biggest question in Turkey. Right? People kill and die and whatever they do for it.

So if we cannot find a formula to go beyond that, and I think we should avoid -- I think AKP or other people should avoid trying to take revolutionary steps in Turkey. Democracy is an evolutionary process, and we should go evolutionary, (it's even ?) diminished through all of midstream politics, which we should. We should do it step by step so that the military people and other people who trust the military won't think there is a counter-revolution or something.

And I think the EU process will help Turkey a lot in that way. If we get just over this crisis and re-strengthen the EU hopes and economic prosperity and so on, I think there is life at the end of the tunnel. But now we are a little bit in a tunnel, to be frank.

And as far as your question, yes, terrorism is a big concern. I mean, al Qaeda is going to be a concern in Turkey generally because they did once bomb the synagogue and a bank, a British bank. And of course people hate that kind of terrorism too, but in general in Turkey if you say terrorism, that's the PKK, the Kurdish separatists. And now they're back on the scene with the Ankara bombing.

There are some people who suspect that these might be also the workings of a deeper state; you know, to find, to create a reason to invade northern Iraq, which is championed by some people. But that would be a speculation. I can't say, something like that. But there are some people who are actually confused and who are suspicious about the origin of those terrorist acts. But I think it was a PKK act. And it might force Turkey into northern Iraq, which is, I think, a very difficult and very problematic thing, if it will happen, because if you get into northern Iraq, once you start attacking PKK, maybe you start attacking Barzani and, you know, who knows what happens, and that will be a very messy affair if that happens at all.

And the government is like in a very difficult position on that because many people in Turkey are accusing the AKP government not just for being soft on, you know -- not being secularist enough, but not being Turkist enough, not nationalist enough, because the AKP has many Kurdish members. Many Kurds vote for AKP because. The Kurds who don't vote for PKK generally vote for AKP because the AKP is a non-nationalist party -- you know, the Ottoman heritage, we are all Muslims, so on and so forth. Turkey's nationalists hate the government also for that. And AKP also tried to have good relations with Talabani and Barzani, which was, again, very annoying for the secularist and nationalist establishment.

So yeah, that's a shaky question, and I can't foresee right now what's going to happen, but it's a -- terrorism is always a reason to suppress freedoms in Turkey, and that's what we have seen and what we can see, unfortunately, in the near future.

COOK: It's exactly 2:00. (Laughter.) Thank you all very much for coming today. And I think we can all agree this was a fascinating and important session. Thank you. (Applause.)

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