Posts tagged with: turkey

ISIL flagStrategy Page has an excellent piece on Iraq’s ISIL and the political crisis there. Here are some of the most salient points.

    • ISIL is Al Qaeda’s arm in Syria and Iraq.
    • ISIL began as ISI or “Islamic State in Iraq” and was seeking to regain power for Sunni Muslims. “…
    • “…after U.S. forces left in 2011 the Iraqi government failed to follow U.S. advice to take good care of the Sunni tribes, if only to keep the tribes from again supporting the Islamic terrorist groups. Instead the Shia led government turned against the Sunni population and stopped providing government jobs and regular pay for many of the Sunni tribal militias. Naturally many Sunni Arabs went back to supporting terror groups, especially very violent ones like ISI.”

    (more…)

    Blog author: jballor
    posted by on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    Catching Fire

    In this week’s Acton Commentary, “Tyranny Is the True Enemy,” I explore the latest film installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire.” I pick up on the theme that animates Alissa Wilkinson’s review at Christianity Today, but diverge a bit from her reading. As she writes, a major aspect of this second part of the series has to do with fake appearances and real substance, and the need to “remember who the real enemy is.”

    Wilkinson is upset with the marketing buzz surrounding the film, arguing that it “declaws” the substantive message of the books themselves. There’s an element of truth to this. It comes home especially when watching an interview like this, in which Jennifer Lawrence seems to embody the idea that for a celebrity in today’s culture, “you never get off this train,” as Haymitch puts it to Katniss and Peeta on their own promotional tour.

    But in focusing on the distracting nature of commercial merchandising of the films, I argue that Wilkinson ends up distracted from who the real enemy is. There is much that is morally problematic about the way that the Capitol operates. Wilkinson rightly shows the shallow consumerism and sensuality of Capitol couture. But the fact that this isn’t the real enemy, so to speak, can be shown by a bit of thought experiment.

    Suppose that the consumption habits of the Capitol were far less odious to our moral sensibilities. Suppose the citizens all lived chaste, upright, and responsible lives in their city. Their oppression of the districts would be no less troublesome for all their virtuous consumption. The decadence of the Capitol only puts the real tyranny over the districts into sharper relief. John Tamny argues that to read Catching Fire as “anything other than a polemic against communistic, brutal government is a certain act of willful blindness.”

    I won’t go quite that far, and I don’t agree that the film/book has nothing at all to do with critiquing consumerism, but I do think that such alternative readings often forget who the enemy really is. As Tamny (mis)quotes from Catching Fire, Katniss herself identifies the enemy as the one “who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.”

    In the opening sequence of “Catching Fire,” Katniss is illegally hunting in an attempt to provide much-needed protein for her family. At one point, Katniss and Gale come across a flock of wild turkeys. This image is especially striking at the release of this film during the Thanksgiving season.

    Far from promising a “turkey in every pot,” President Snow has no regard for the welfare of anyone in the districts. The citizens of the Capitol are all that matter, to the point that people like Katniss have to resort to illegal hunting and the black market for basic necessities like medicine and food.

    There is a connection between hedonism and what might be called a “soft” form of tyranny characteristic of the vicious circle between the citizens of the Capitol and the government. And while tyranny in all its forms is to be rejected, the real enemy in the Hunger Games is the hard tyranny of President Snow and his jackbooted thugs. Everything else is, in the end, a distraction.

    Orthodox-Bishops-KidnappedTwo Syrian Orthodox bishops have been abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo in Syria as they were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey). While both clergymen are believed to be alive, their driver was killed during the attack:

    Syriac Orthodox bishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo Paul, who also happens to be the brother of Patriarch John of Antioch and All The East were abducted en route to Aleppo from a town on the Turkish border where they were carrying out humanitarian work.

    As they neared the city, they were met with an armed group in the village of Kfar who forced them out of the car. The driver, who was also a deacon was killed during the attack.

    The bishops are believed to be alive and efforts are ongoing to secure their release, NNA reports.

    The Greek Orthodox diocese of Aleppo declined to comment on the incident. The Russian orthodox church has condemned the act.

    In May 2011, International Christian Concern said that the Christian minority—Christians make up less than 10 percent of the Syria’s 23 million people—are more afraid of the opposition forces than of the government, because under the Assad regime there has been tolerance towards religious minorities. Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations, noted that his close contact with the bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Church made him believe that “in those places where the authorities are replaced by the rebel groups, Christianity is being exterminated to the last man: Christians are expelled, or physically destroyed.”

    Update: Some news agencies have been reporting that the bishops have been released. But the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch says the reports are not true.

    The Halki seminary near Istanbul was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from 1884 until the Turkish parliament enacted a law banning private higher education institutions in 1971. ALeqM5joRHWNahzI013E9-PkQKkKTe2m3gFor more than 40 years, the law has kept Orthodox clergy schools closed. But in an encouraging development for religious liberties, Secretary of State John Kerry is urging the Turkish government to reopen the seminaries:

    “It is our hope that the Halki seminary will open,” Kerry said during a press conference in Istanbul after two days of talks on the Syrian crisis and the Mideast peace process.

    Kerry said he discussed religious freedom in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey and the possible re-opening of the theological schools in talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

    The Halki seminary, where Orthodox clergy used to train, is located on an island off Istanbul and was closed in 1971, after Turkey fell out with Greece over Cyprus.

    Kerry also met on Sunday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whom Turkey considers the spiritual leader only of Turkey’s tiny Greek Orthodox minority.

    Both the United States and the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, have increased pressure on Ankara to re-open the seminary as well as introducing further rights for religious minorities in the new constitution it is currently drafting.

    (Via: First Things)

    Blog author: jcouretas
    posted by on Friday, January 16, 2009

    The Acton Institute released a new short video to mark Religious Freedom Day. The proclamation from President George W. Bush points to religious freedom as a fundamental right of Americans and, indeed, people of faith all over the world.

    Religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society. On Religious Freedom Day, we recognize the importance of the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. We also celebrate the first liberties enshrined in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which guarantee the free exercise of religion for all Americans and prohibit an establishment of religion.

    Our Nation was founded by people seeking haven from religious persecution, and the religious liberty they found here remains one of this land’s greatest blessings. As Americans, we believe that all people have inherent dignity and worth. Though we may profess different creeds and worship in different manners and places, we respect each other’s humanity and expression of faith. People with diverse views can practice their faiths here while living together in peace and harmony, carrying on our Nation’s noble tradition of religious freedom.

    The United States also stands with religious dissidents and believers from around the globe who practice their faith peacefully. Freedom is not a grant of government or a right for Americans alone; it is the birthright of every man, woman, and child throughout the world. No human freedom is more fundamental than the right to worship in accordance with one’s conscience.

    More on religious freedom from the Acton Institute:

    China’s March Against Religious Freedom. By Ray Nothstine
    A Patriarch in Dire Straits. By John Couretas
    Review of “Catholicism and Religious Freedom: Contemporary Reflections on Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty.” By Marc D. Guerra
    Turkey: Islam’s Bridge to Religious and Economic Liberty? Interview with Mustafa Akyol
    Review of “The American Myth of Religious Freedom.” By Marc D. Guerra
    “The Birth of Freedom” official site for documentary trailer and added features.

    New from the Heritage Foundation:

    “Religious Liberty in America: An Idea Worth Sharing Through Public Diplomacy.” By Jennifer A. Marshall
    “Religious Freedom Day: A Timely Reminder.” By Ryan Messmore

    Bartholomew I

    My commentary this week looked at “Encountering the Mystery,” the new book from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Orthodox Church.

    In 1971, the Turkish government shut down Halki, the partriarchal seminary on Heybeliada Island in the Sea of Marmara. And it has progressively confiscated Orthodox Church properties, including the expropriation of the Bûyûkada Orphanage for Boys on the Prince’s Islands (and properties belonging to an Armenian Orthodox hospital foundation). These expropriations happen as religious minorities report problems associated with opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship. Many services are held in secret. Indeed, Turkey is a place where proselytizing for Christian and even Muslim minority sects can still get a person hauled into court on charges of “publicly insulting Turkishness.” This law has also been used against journalists and writers, including novelist Orhan Pamuk for mentioning the Armenian genocide and Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds.

    In a 2005 report on the Halki Seminary controversy, the Turkish think tank TESEV examined what it called the “the illogical legal grounds” behind the closing and how it violates the terms of the 1923 peace treaty of Lausanne signed by Turkey and Europe’s great powers. TESEV concluded that “the contemporary level of civil society and global democratic principles established by the state, are in further contradiction with the goal to become an EU member.” And, because of its inability to train Turkish candidates for the priesthood, TESEV warned: “It is highly probable that the Patriarchate will not be able to find Patriarch candidates within 30-40 years and thus, will naturally fade away.”

    The Turkish Daily Hürriyet is reporting today on a proposed government revision of the “insulting Turkishness” law.

    The European Union has been calling Turkey to amend the article 301, which has been the basis for charges against past cases against Turkish intellectuals such as Hrant Dink, Elif Safak, and Orhan Pamuk.

    [Justice Minister Mehmet Ali] Sahin, also said the deputy parliament leaders of AKP will decide when to send the proposal of the amendment to the parliament.

    According to Sahin’s statement, the article’s new status would be as follows:

    Article 301: The insulting of the Turkish people, the Turkish Republic, as well as the institutions and organs of the state

    1-A person insulting the Turkish people, the Turkish Republic, the State, the Turkish Parliament, the government of the Turkish Republic, the justice organs of the state, as well as the military or policing organizations of the state, will receive anywhere between 6 months to 2 years prison sentence.

    2-Statements explaining thoughts which are expressed with the purpose of criticism are not to constitute a crime.

    3-Any prosecution based on article 301 is to be tied to specific permission from the office of the President of the Turkish Republic.

    Read “A Patriarch in Dire Straits” here.

    Blog author: jcouretas
    posted by on Wednesday, September 5, 2007

    Bilal Sambur, Ph.D., is assistant professor on the faculty of divinity at Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta, Turkey. He is a guest scholar this summer at the Acton Institute.

    Islam, Democracy and Turkey

    By Bilal Sambur

    The inauguration of Abdullah Gul as Turkey’s new president has provoked a great deal of discussion — and anxiety — about the rise to power of a man who is an observant Muslim with a background in Islamic politics. Instead of anxiety, the world should be celebrating Gul’s election as the greatest breakthrough in the history of Turkish democracy and a sign of hope for Muslim nations all over the world.

    In July elections, Gul’s Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turkey) won 47 percent of the popular vote and came to power without having to form a coalition. But the main message to the military and secular elites who have run Turkey for so long was not about religion. It was about reforming Turkey’s government.

    Today, the biggest problem in the Muslim world is the absence of liberal democracy. Unfortunately, with the exception of Turkey, there is no true democratic rule in the Muslim world at the present time. Most Muslim countries are ruled by militarist dictatorships, kings, monarchs and totalitarian regimes. Under these anti-democratic and illiberal regimes, Muslim people have no opportunity to participate in the political life of their countries.

    After the collapse of Soviet Union, a number of former communist countries established democracy rapidly and successfully. Although some former communist regimes have been transformed into democracies, the Muslim world has not been influenced by this new wave of democracy. The anti-democratic regimes of the Muslim world have successfully isolated themselves from this third wave of democracy. And everything seems to be the same as it used to be in Muslim world.

    Liberal democracy has taken root in many places outside its birthplace in Europe and the United States. India is the best example of that. Although India has Hindu culture, it is the most populous democratic country in the world now. Having a liberal democratic rule or a totalitarian/autocratic regime is a matter of choice. But Muslim societies have not, for the most part, been given an opportunity to choose between a liberal democratic rule and anti-democratic regime. Recent developments in Turkey show that Muslim people choose democracy when they have a chance to choose it. (more…)

    Blog author: kschmiesing
    posted by on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    It won’t be news to anyone that the pope is currently visiting Turkey. It is tempting to read too much into a single visit, which can only accomplish so much one way or another, but it is true that the implications and symbolism of the visit are manifold. One of John Paul’s great disappointments was a failure to improve relations with Orthodoxy—and Benedict is meeting with the ecumenical patriarch in what used to be Constantinople. Then there was Benedict’s Regensburg address—and now, in one of his earliest trips abroad, he visits Turkey, which is at once a testing ground for a secular government in an Islamic nation and a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. And the pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, is already on record expressing doubts about Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union.

    Full coverage of the trip’s official meetings and addresses can be found at ZENIT.

    More anecdotal coverage from on the ground comes via Jim Geraghty at NRO.

    Find stories and commentary also at John’s Allen’s NCRcafe.