Hoş Geldiniz students!
I was pleased to see so many of enjoyed the music scenes of Istanbul and Turkey, and also about your own musical tastes. Many of you expressed your interests in music from places varying from China to India, to Europe. I would strongly encourage you to look into what kinds of music are happening in these places, both traditionally and modern (sometimes they uniquely get blended!) A good place to start is of course the good ol Internet (I sent some recommendations out about last.fm) but there is no shortage here. If you are wanting something a little more closer and personal, a good place to look is at cultural events and universities in the Portland area. Often there are free (or inexpensive) events that are hosted to help bring cultural awareness to residents.
One thing I do have to mention as well. I have been a little occupied with my school midterms over the past week, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to personally respond to everybody’s comments from the blog. But rest assured I did get to read them all!
This week I chose to talk about a topic that may seem somewhat political at first, but has much deeper implications in Turkey. Istanbul is well known as being the only city in the world that rests on two continents, and shows in daily life… people will often say “I have business to do on the European side..” or “I’m going to visit my family on the Asian side..” But many people ask: Is Turkey more European or Asian in general?
We’ve touched on the history of the country several times over the course of this blog, and you’ve all seen that Turkey has been ruled by various civilizations over the centuries. This gives Turkey a unique blend of feeling “west” and “east” often at the same time. While adhering to Islam for centuries, the country was pushed quite suddenly towards the West with the reforms of Ataturk. But even today, many Turks feel a sort of “identity crisis” in how to label themselves. This is one reason why I choose this week to talk about Turkey and the European Union.
In Short: The EU
The EU is a group of countries that have formed a union based on a common market (for example, most members have the same currency, the Euro), common political and cultural views, and common law. It started half a century ago, and has slowly evolved into its current form. When a new member state wishes to join the EU, they have to go through a series of tests and checks to make sure that their economy, politics, and societies are in-line with the common EU values. Just last year, Croatia was the newest member to join, before that many of the former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe had joined. These countries viewed as a step towards more stability, more prestige, and having a better livelihood for its citizens. Turkey however, has been applying for membership for over 20 years and is still a candidate in waiting. (as you can see from the yellow shading in the map above)
This has caused some bad feelings on both sides. While many leaders of the EU have vocally supported Turkey trying to join and Turkish leaders attempting to join, the people of both sides have often felt different. In Europe, there are some who worry that Turkey would be “a burden” for the rest of the Union. If a country joins the EU, people and workers are allowed to travel across borders very very easily and European worry that many Turks will come to their countries and take jobs and use government assistance. Some also worry that Christianity is a common European value and the addition of a Muslim country, with sometimes different ideals will change this
The Turks initially were very excited about joining the EU. They felt that they were just as European as the other countries, and that they wished to be a part of this Union. But the EU has frequently cited that Turkey denies basic human rights to some of its citizens, that is hostile towards some of its neighbors, and does not allow for more freedom of speech (Turkey has the highest amount of journalists in jail because of the stories they write). All of these requirements the EU says are fundamental values that a new country must have to join.
But after waiting for nearly 20 years and with the Turkish economy actually doing better than some European countries, Turks are starting to rethink if they actually want to be in the EU
If you take a look at this graph from a few years ago, support IN Turkey has gone south over the years, with more people thinking that they can survive as a country on their own.
Well, Turks have been involved in Europe for years. After the second World War, when Germany and Europe were in ruins, the German government began a program to bring Turkish migrants to the country to help rebuild Germany. During the 50’s till the 70’s, tens of THOUSANDS of Turks especially lived in Germany. Everybody thought that once the work was done, they would all return home. But many of them stayed, because living in Germany turns out to have been much better. They got payed better wages, they had better services, they started families and lived their lives. After English, Turkish is the next most spoken language in the country. But for a long time, the Turks were treated like second class citizens. They were reluctant to learn German and incorporate into German society and the Germans viewed them as a nuisance. This has thankfully started to change and the two societies are living amongst themselves better. When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I would walk through little neighborhoods where everything was spoken in Turkish, I didn’t hear any German! I could have been in Turkey for all I knew!
So because there are already so many Muslims living in Europe, this is part of the argument anti-Turkey-into-the-EU people make; what if more come? what if they don’t work? or what if so many come that they can change our laws?
When I was sitting with my roommates talking about this issue, they asked me “Isn’t it the same way with immigrants coming from Latin America to the US?” After I thought about it a bit, I think they are definitely some similarities between the two issues. You have groups of people that are coming here to America hoping for a better life, but they face lots of challenges and are not always welcomed with open arms.
Another friend of mine here made a different analogy: “It’s like when you are children and you make a fort. You say to your friends ‘If you are this tall, you like this food, and this music, you can join..’ but then when some kid you don’t know comes and says like all these things and they wants to join, you tell him no”
There are lots of factors that play in this process, probably why it doesn’t look to have a solution anytime soon. Cultural, religious, political parts play in the picture. For the time being, Turkey will remain a neighbor of Europe.
Some questions for you all now:
1. What were your thoughts on this blog?
2. Thinking about the tense relationship between EU and Turkey, what are some similarities that you can see elsewhere in the world. What I mean, people wishing to join another group/country often have various struggles, what are some of these?
3. Thinking about the analogy of the fort, was there a time when you witnessed somebody being “selective” like this?