As the Changing Turkey team, we are delighted to publish the first Changing Turkey interview conducted by Mr. David Klein. Mr David Klein studies anthropology and journalism at Drexel University, and as a researcher on Turkey he will conduct interviews for the Changing Turkey readers. We extend our warm welcome to Mr David Klein, new Changing Turkey associate fellow. 



Dr. Erkan Saka is an assistant professor in the Communications department at Istanbul Bilgi University where he teaches courses about new media and cyber anthropology. He also heads the public relations and corporate communications MA program. He received a BA and MA in Sociology from Bogazici University, and his PhD in Anthropology from Rice University in Texas. He runs the blog Erkan’s field diary  which focuses on Turkish media. He runs a TV show “Sosyal Kafa“ which examines social media and accordingto his blog, he is a self-described metalhead and a Beşiktaş JK supporter.

CT: Dr. Saka, to begin, could you tell us your perception on the current state of freedom of the press in Turkey?

Dr. Saka: I think, in general, Turkey never had a very good record on media freedom. There was some substantial improvement maybe a decade ago, in the early days of AKP, but it has since deteriorated. I mean, I am now 38 years old, I went through the period of the secularist coup d’état we had in the 1990s, I think the situation at the moment is even worse than those times. I think with the exception of certain opposition newspapers, most of mainstream media is under the direct control of the government.

CT: However according to certain statistics, while much of the mainstream media in Turkey is run by only a few large media conglomerates, 65 percent of them hold an oppositional editorial line towards the government.

Dr. Saka: [the government] recently lost the support of the Gulen movement newspapers as well as the Doğan media group (Doğan alone 490-254accounts for 40% of Turkish media).  I think at the moment though, among the mainstream media, the Doğan-group newspapers have the most impact on public opinion. Gulen-movement newspapers, Zaman and such, have also done some very good journalism, but they are too integrated in the movement and have their own problems. They were also known for supporting pressure on journalists when they were aligned with the AKP government. The Doğan media group is still hesitant to be too oppositional because there is always the pressure of tax issues and such. Even to survive they have been forced to sacrifice some of their columnists. I think the issue boils down to this; AKP really doesn’t have enough manpower to use the media institutions they have as propaganda tools, yes they use them but it is very poorly done. I think most of the well-qualified media employees who had supported the AKP before belonged to the Gulen movement and now they have retreated; so, we see more and more amateurish mistakes in AKP media. Right now it is incredibly difficult to find a job in mass media here in Turkey because you have to be very partisan. In theory I agree with your implication, but I still think there is a lot of pressure from the government on mass media.

CT: What do you think is the future of Turkish media? What will we be seeing five or ten years from now? What do you think will change?

Dr. Saka: It depends on what happens with the business models, but probably, a lot of journalists and reporters who are not feeling so free in their current jobs, especially the columnists who may get fired, will switch to new media. But, of course, you need an income, so we will have to see what happens with the business models for these things in the coming years. What I am more excited about is that ordinary citizens can be producing this kind of stuff. Of course there will always be hierarchies, we all learn how to produce better work and there will always be levels of expertise. But it is surprising that we use new media so much to get our news. I think there is a high level of media literacy in the new media here and I am hoping that we will begin to see many battles [for readers with old media] coming from new media in the next five years.

 CT: Could you finally tell us about a few rising stars who are leading the new media charge here in Turkey?  

 Dr. Saka:  There is no one central figure, it is kind of always changing, though I think this is a good thing. There are some groups I could name, several citizen journalist collectives, such as @140Journos, and @dokuz8haber [ all on twitter], mobile photography collectives like Agence Le Journal, a few sites that are working on verifications issues, and some news sites like Vagus TV and T24 that were important during the Gezi Park resistance, but  are now closing due to financial issues. As I said, it is very decentralized, one stops and another starts but it is always moving. I think it is particularly in times of emergency when all sorts of new media emerge. During Gezi Park, there were micro blogs which were very specific: one which just documented police violence, and another that highlighted the architecture of police barricades. There are so many niche blogs that emerge in these emergencies. There is a new media ecology forming, which is fluid, with viewers flowing from one source to another for different pieces of information, rather than getting it all from one source. Thus most of these people are unknown, and it is all done in a sort of crowd-funded way with everyone contributing their part, but you can pick out some opinion makers and quality journalists in the mix.


S. Erdem Aytaç and Ziya Öniş (2014) “Varieties of Populism in a Changing Global Context: The Divergent Paths of Erdoğan and Kirchnerismo”, Comparative Politics, 47:1, pp.41-59.


“Our emphasis in the present article has been on highlighting and accounting for divergent trajectories of the populist practice in two major emerging democracies. We contend that both the Kirchner governments of Argentina and the Erdoğan governments of Turkey closely fit to the populist pattern of rule, yet their policies point to a leftwing type of populism in Argentina and a right-wing type in Turkey. A mix of domestic and external factors was crucial for this differentiation. Specifically, we stress the importance of the legacy of failed economic policies preceding the rise of populist leaders, distinct integration patterns into the global economy, the strength of labor, and regional dynamics that legitimized certain policy trajectories. While much of the literature on populism has focused on Latin American cases, we introduce a cross-regional dimension to the study of populism, a framework which could be useful for evaluating different populist patterns of rule elsewhere.

We should not assume that the left- or right-wing versions of populism depicted in the present study are necessarily stable. A major challenge to the populist equilibrium concerns the question of sustainability. In Turkey, the Erdoğan governments clearly benefited from large-scale capital inflows, especially during the favorable global liquidity environment between 2002 and 2008. The interruption of these inflows during the crisis of 2008–09, however, dealt a serious blow to the Turkish economy and to the support for the AKP government. The economy contracted by
a startling rate of 14.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009, and, in the March 2009 local elections, AKP registered one of its lowest levels of support during its ten-year rule. While capital inflows resumed in the aftermath of the crisis, the continuation of this pattern of growth is not assured given the precarious condition of the global economy. Indeed, there are signs that Turkey’s externally driven growth pattern is reaching its limits, and the country may be entering into a new phase of slow growth. The example of the 2009 local elections suggests that a protracted period of slow growth may present serious challenges to AKP for maintaining its broad-based electoral coalition.”




The withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 left behind a set of thorny and unresolved problems in the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) centered in Erbil, and the Federal Government of Iraq in Baghdad… The vague constitutional provision for a federal Iraq has been interpreted differently in Erbil, which has sought to maximize its autonomy from the center, and Baghdad. These differences have been given additional import by the KRG’s energetic attempts to develop its own oil and gas resources in the absence of a federal hydrocarbons law…

The “Arab Awakening,” especially in Syria, has further contributed to the tensions between Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad. Turkey’s support of the mainly Sunni opposition to the Damascus regime has been countered by the sympathies Tehran and Baghdad have exhibited towards the mainly Alawite Syrian government. Combined with Turkey’s unhappiness with Maliki and Tehran’s support of Iraq’s Shia leadership, a sectarian dimension has been introduced into these regional relationships. Furthermore, Turkey is also uneasy about the emergence of Syrian Kurdish groups seeking autonomy and deemed by Ankara to be aligned with its own troublesome Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Although the KRG leadership has sought to bolster more amenable Syrian Kurdish groups, its support for autonomy for Syria’s Kurds has introduced some disquiet into Ankara’s relationship with Erbil. Developments in Syria’s Kurdish areas have combined with the very existence of the KRG and Ankara’s relationship with it, to put Turkey’s own domestic Kurdish problems under the spotlight.

The investment of the major energy companies in the KRG and the construction of pipelines into Turkey, possibly in the face of 51eoYW58wjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_Baghdad’s opposition, has raised the stakes in the region. Currently, Washington still appears to be aligning with Baghdad’s view that the Turkey-KRG relationship has moved too far and too fast and that the development of Iraq’s entire energy resources is, and should be, primarily Baghdad’s responsibility. The United States is also contributing to Iraq’s rearmament, which Erbil feels poses a direct threat to the KRG’s security. This has created the paradox that Washington’s perspective seems closer to Tehran’s than to Ankara’s or Erbil’s. The United States is encouraging a search for consensus between Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad, but it is unclear that this is a realistic prospect. Iraq’s national elections are due in 2014, which is also the year that commercial decisions on whether to produce marketable quantities of the KRG’s energy resources will probably need to be made, which will, in turn, require the identification of export routes and mechanisms.

With so many moving parts, prediction is impossible and unwise. However, a failure to address the outstanding difficulties in the Ankara-Erbil-Baghdad set of relationships could find regional tensions worsen, possibly leading to a serious challenge to the current map of the region; a failure to bring the KRG’s significant energy resources to global markets; a burgeoning of Iranian influence in Iraq and in the wider region; an increasingly authoritarian, centralizing, unstable, Shia dominated and pro-Iranian government in Baghdad; and a challenge to Kurdish aspirations to wriggle free of some of those forces in the region that have so long repressed their aspirations.

Social Transformation and International Migration in Turkey

Venue and Date: Boğaziçi University, 8-9 January 2015

Organizers: Mine Eder, Ahmet İçduygu, Derya Özkul


Workshop rationale

At times of rapid change, such as the current epoch of accelerated globalization, international migration tends to grow in volume and to become increasingly important as a factor helping to reshape societies. This call for papers for an international workshop looks at the processes of social transformation in Turkey and aims to analyze the role of recent human mobility within these processes. Thus, our main departure point is that migration is not just a result of change, nor a cause of change, but an integral part of social transformation processes*

Turkey has gone through a series of changes in the last decade that constitute a neoliberal transformation: the developments in the economy, the rise in the urban middle class and the absence of welfare provisions are among the factors that have required the arrival of international migrants. As such, Turkey has increasingly become an immigration country. In this workshop, we are interested in papers with a clear theoretical perspective and strong empirical data on recent migration flows in Turkey from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives.

Papers may explore the following themes, and any further issues that arise from this outline:

  • Political economy and absence of welfare provisions in Turkey: need for low-skilled migrants;
  • Increasing international competition for highly skilled migrants and implications for Turkey;
  • Lived experiences of internal and international migrants: precarious work and informality;
  • Urban transformation projects and implications for internal and international migration;
  • Feminization of migration in Turkey;
  • Challenges to policy-making in migration and asylum seeking in Turkey;
  • Changing citizenship regime and challenges to national belonging in Turkey;
  • Turkey’s changing foreign affairs, regional flows and in particular Syrian migrants.


*Castles, Stephen. 2010. Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36: 1565 – 1586



As a result of this workshop, we are planning to publish the selected papers in a highly ranked academic journal. Our second aim is to establish an academic network for scholars interested in migration related issues in Turkey.


For those presenters who are traveling from outside of Istanbul, limited funding is available for travel and accommodation expenses.

Paper Submission Guidelines

Abstracts of approximately 500 words should be sent as Word document to the organizers by September 15, 2014. Please make sure that you include specific details of your theoretical framework and methodology of your paper. The papers that are suitable for the workshop’s aims and standards will be invited for presentation and a full paper submission.

All enquiries should be sent to:

Mine Eder

Department of Political Sciences and International Relations

Boğaziçi University, Turkey

Email: eder[at]boun.edu.tr


Derya Özkul

Social Transformation and International Migration (STIM) Network

School of Social and Political Sciences

University of Sydney, Australia

Email: derya.ozkul[at]sydney.edu.au

 The more they change… Change in the EU and its impact on neighbouring countries

Date and Venue: 9-11 October 2014; Atılım University Ankara, Turkey

 Deadline for abstract submission: 22 August 2014

PhD students and early career researchers are welcome! Please see the workshop rationale below.

Workshop Rationale:

In times of crisis, reform within and beyond the EU has been as pressing as ever. Have the internal dynamics in workings of the EU had an impact on countries in the neighbourhood, particularly those which seek accession? Current five candidate countries for EU accession, as well as further countries in the Western Balkan countries that have been offered the prospect of EU membership are in the focus of monitoring, assessing these countries’ capacity to fulfil economic and political criteria, and ensure societal stability much like countries in previous enlargement waves. Do dynamics internal to the EU impact on candidate and perspective candidate countries and their reactions to changes suggested by the EU? How are those countries sitting in the EU’s ‘waiting room’ interact with the changing interpretation of EU conditionality? Do accession and candidate countries push for reforms even though the nature of conditionality has changed? What role do other international organisations (e.g. Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO) play in drawing candidate states closer to EU? What role do other options available for countries in the European neighbourhood play in variant interpretation of norms projected by the EU upon accession states, candidates and neighbours? Has the nature of the Europeanisation process changed since the start of the economic crisis in Europe? What consequences can we expect for the ability of the EU to deal with future challenges of integration should current accession, candidate or neighbouring states become members?

Debate on how accession, candidate and neighbouring states deal with the changing nature of EU conditionality and respond to the changing perception about the role of the EU on the continent is overdue for refining the self-perceptions of Euro-critical/-sceptic publics in the EU proper. We invite papers that discuss how accession, candidate and neighbouring states deal with the changing nature of EU conditionality, re-shape processes of Europeanisation, address challenges of interacting with sets of international organisations and respond to the changing perception about the role of the EU on the continent. We particularly welcome papers that reflect on one of the above questions by using case or comparative studies. Early/mid-career scholars and PhD students working on topics related to those outlined above are particularly encouraged to apply.

Profs Tanja Börzel and Thomas Risse (FU Berlin) will deliver a keynote speech at the conference. Selection of the papers presented at the conference will be submitted as a special issue to a journal on European politics. Some assistance (costs of accommodation) will be made available to support attendance for early career researchers/PhD students presenting papers. Meals and refreshments will be available for all participants.

Timeline / organisation: Paper proposals of no more than 500 words, complete with author contact details and institutional affiliation, should be submitted via http://www.jotformeu.com/form/41674262878365 by August 22. Successful applicants will be notified by August 31 2014.

The workshop is organised by the UACES CRN Centrifugal Europe http://go.qub.ac.uk/centrifugalism jointly with the Atılım University Ankara (Turkey) and Queen’s University Belfast (UK). If you have any questions, please email Timofey Agarin t.agarin[at]qub.ac.uk  as well as Gözde Yilmaz gozde.yilmaz[at]atilim.edu.tr


We are pleased to announce Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey)’s public conference entitled “Europeanization of Public Debates and Civil Society in Turkey: The Kurdish Question and Secularism Debates Revisited” inalper which Dr. Alper Kaliber,  Marie Curie Research Fellow at European Institute, Istanbul Bilgi University will give a talk. This event will take place on Friday, 4 July 2014 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at Main College Buildings, Room 116, SOAS, University of London, WC1H 0XG. This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Development Studies, SOAS, Neoliberalism, Globalisation and States Research Cluster. Umit Sonmez of London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) will kindly chair the event.

You may find the synopsis of the talk and a short biography of Dr. Alper Kaliber below.

This event is free and open to public but it is a ticketed event that requires pre-registration. A ticket does not guarantee a seat. Please register using the form above or alternatively email toevents@researchturkey.org for registration.

Synopsis of the talk

Europeanization of Public Debates and Civil Society in Turkey: The Kurdish Question and Secularism Debates Revisited

Contemporary Turkish politics is characterised by fierce ideological, political and economic public debates flourishing in every segment of the society. These debates, which have been re-shaping both Turkey’s domestic politics and the trajectory of Turkey’s relations with the EU/Europe, have mainly revolved around such issues as the rise of political Islam, authoritarianism, and the Kurdish question and the peace process. Civil society organizations (CSOs) from all segments of the political spectrum have been heavily involved in these public deliberations dominating Turkish politics and polarising the society. These debates have been informed by distinct perceptions and representations of Europe: Europe either as a source of democratization and improvement of civil and political rights or as a source of insecurity threatening Turkey’s territorial integrity, the core characteristics of the regime and the ‘national will’.

This seminar aims to discuss the impact of the European norms, policies and institutions (particularly the EU) on the politically mobilised civil society organizations in Turkey. It focuses on the CSOs vocal on the Kurdish question and political Islam/secularism debates and on their distinctive perceptions of EU/Europe. It assesses to what extent and in what ways the CSOs formulate their political demands and deliberative positions by making reference to specific European norms, policies and institutions, in order to justify and express their political agenda and deliberative positions. The views of civil societal actors on the current peace process and the potential roles of the European actors in the process would be another focus of the seminar.

Against this background, I suggest a clear analytical distinction between EU-ization as an EU-induced process of legislative, institutional and policy engineering, and Europeanization as a wider socio-political and normative context. The impact of Europeanization is heavily conditioned by the extent of and the ways in which Europe is used as a context by domestic actors to promote their political/social projects. Civil society actors often support EU-ization reforms and consolidation of Europeanization as a political-normative context only when they think that this best serves their causes or deliberative positions. In such cases, they strategically emphasize norms and values which they consider resonate with those of Europe. When CSOs do not support Europeanization, they either ignore or make negative references to European norms and values. They try to explain how these roles conflict with the interests of the social groups that they claim to represent. Therefore, to get a better insight into the multi-layered impact of Europeanization, one needs to look at how Europe is politically and discursively constructed and used by domestic societal and political actors.

Short Biography of Dr. Alper Kaliber

Alper Kaliber currently works as a Marie Curie research fellow at European Institute, Istanbul Bilgi University and conducts a research project titled ‘Europeanisation of Public Debates and Civil Society in Turkey’. He completed his PhD in Political Science at Bilkent University, Turkey. Dr. Kaliber served as a research fellow at the University of Birmingham and he worked as a consultant and researcher in the SHUR project ‘Human Rights in Conflicts: The Role of Civil Society’, funded by the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme. He previously taught on European security, European Integration, Turkey and the European Union relations, foreign policy analysis and international relations theories at Sabanci, Yaşar, Istanbul Bilgi universities and at the University of Birmingham. His areas of interest include Critical and Regional Security Studies, European security, the Cyprus conflict, Europeanisation, civil society and conflict transformation and Turkish foreign policy. Among his recent publications are ‘Contextual and Contested: Reassessing Europeanisation in the Case of Turkey’ inInternational Relations, ‘Turkey’s Cyprus Policy: A Case of Europeanisation’, in “Turkey and the European Union: Processes of Europeanisation”, Çiğdem Nas and Yonca Özer (eds.), (Ashgate, 2012); and ‘Human Rights, Civil Society and Conflict in Turkey’s Kurdish Question’, in “Civil Society, Conflicts, and the Politicization of Human Rights”, Raffaele Marchetti and Nathalie Tocci (eds.), (United Nations University Press, 2011). He was recently awarded with Young Scientist Award by Turkey’s Science Academy (BAGEP).

Please find below a summary of the public conference entitled ‘Are Islam and democratic liberalism destined to clash?’ given by Turkish journalist, Mustafa Akyol today at Ashmolean Museum Lecture Theatre in Oxford. The event was organized by OXGAPS (The Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum) in collaboration with the Oxford University Islamic Society. Ali Aslan Gumusay (Lecturer in Management at Magdalen College, Oxford) acted as discussant.

Fotoğraf-0180Is Islam inherently incompatible with liberal democracy? This question is a challenging one and deserves serious attention due to its potential to problematize deterministic accounts. Mustafa Akyol suggests that there is a need to redefine Islamic theories and practice in line with a pluralist and liberal normative framework that has been generally applied -albeit imperfectly- in the Anglo-Saxon world. He rightly reminds that democracy is not only about free and fair elections; it is also about liberal values and norms that allow individuals to choose their own right and wrong during their lifetime. Akyol emphasizes the multiplicity of Islamic traditions and philosophies in order to reject the imposition of a singular version of Islam in the name of ‘sharia law’ in Muslim societies. He finds similarities between a pre-modern Islamic group known as ‘postponers’ and John Locke’s ideas in the sense that it suggested the ‘postponing’ of the discussion of which version of religious rule is the right one to after-life, facilitating the co-existence of multiple interpretations.

However, Akyol acknowledges the difficulty of dealing with Islamic traditions and notions that run counter to liberal values, such islam-without-extremesas the rule of death penalty against apostasy (renunciation of religion). Putting this rule in a historical context, he finds it irrelevant in the modern era. In his reading of Islamic history, apostasy meant joining the enemy forces during the war between Muslim communities and non-Muslim ones. In this sense, the crime of apostasy in those days could be comparable to today’s crime of‘high treason’. Multicultural societies of the modern era should no longer see apostasy as a vital threat against the Muslim community and should stop penalizing individuals for abandoning Islam. Also, Akyol reminds that penalties such as mutilating an individual’s body or hand or stoning to death were used during the pre-modern era when there were no effective institutions like prisons or courts. Criminals were penalized at the spot by the public. Today, such penalties have become obsolete. Another area where Islam seems to clash with liberal democracy is the area of women rights. However, Akyol stresses that rather than Islam, it is the cultural traditions of patriarchy that constitute the major source of gender inequality (since not only Muslim but also non-Muslim societies experience oppression against women). Such cultural traditions have often merged with Islam, and lead many to blame Islam for the violation of women rights. He agrees with ‘Islamic feminists’ that Islam is not against women rights.

Akyol’s criticism of Turkish (and French) secularism reminds of Ahmet Kuru’s thesis of ‘assertive secularism’. Kuru compared French and American secularist traditions and found a significant variation in their approach to religious rights and freedoms. While the French ban of religious symbols in the public sphere represents ‘assertive secularism’, American approach that does not allow the state to ban individual religious freedoms is ‘passive secularism’. Akyol does not use these terms but similarly argues that the Turkish secularism has been traditionally authoritarian and has oppressed Islamic segments of the Turkish society, pushing some groups to fundamentalism. He gives the example of Egyptian liberals adopting a similar pejorative view of towards Islam and supporting paradoxically military coups against elected Islamists. In this regard, Akyol suggests both secularists and Islamists to abandon the idea of ‘reshaping’ Turkish society in line of their own values. He criticizes the current AKP government for attempting to impose Islam-oriented moral values on Turkish society, which has proved counter-productive in terms of provoking anti-Islamic sentiments in some segments of the society. He believes that it is against Islam’s spirit to force individuals to follow Islamic practices and this would not only provoke resentment but also would reinforce hypocrisy.

As a response to the Changing Turkey team’s question about European potential to reconcile secularist and Islamist segments of Turkish society, Akyol gives a mixed picture. He suggests that there are many Europes and the answer would depend on ‘which Europe we are talking about’. He blames the European Court of Human Rights decision justifying Turkey’s headscarf ban in the case of Leyla Şahin for falling prey to French ultra-secularism that sees religious symbols in the public sphere as a ‘threat’ to individual rights and freedoms. He thinks that the ECtHR’s decision against Leyla Şahin led to the disillusionment of many Turkish Islamists with the idea of Europe representing rights and freedoms. In Akyol’s opinion, the European Union that follows liberal values and observes religious freedoms is capable of bridging divides in Turkey but it currently lacks both the capacity and the political will to do so due to the economic and political crises in Europe. Finally, Akyol argues that the AKP government no longer needs the EU membership to legitimize its domestic position since it has already curbed the political power of the Turkish military and other veto players in the domestic arena. In this context, it is crucial for the Turkish government to decide whether it will govern the society as a whole by taking a more liberal approach or continue to impose a certain version of Islamic values, which has already alienated certain parts of the society and damaged those very values in the eyes of many. To conclude, Akyol’s thesis needs much attention as it tries to merge two different ontological stances (liberalism and Islamism) that seem unbridgeable from many perspectives. It is to be seen whether Akyol will remain the exception in the Islamic world to take up this challenging task and whether his thesis will help the emergence and rise of a Liberal Muslim movement in Turkey and elsewhere.



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