February 9, 2016

Turkey contains many different views, says British consul-general


Turkey shelters many different views, British Consul-General Istanbul Leigh Turner has said in an interview with Hürriyet, while noting on-going changes in society and touching lightly on the country’s latest developments.

Speaking in Turkish, Turner said as a foreigner in the country he couldn’t say whether Turkey has become more or less conservative.

“I can say that I see some changes within society. I cannot judge Turkey as less conservative or more conservative. After all, here is a country which shelters many different views. Along with a conservative class, there are liberals, those who speak Turkish and Kurdish and many groups such as Sunnis, Alevis, Kurdish, Laz and Circassians on this soil. We can understand the potential of unity when differences come together.

For example, people do not find the working of women rights in some regions of the country and this may cause terrible situations such as violence against women,” Turner said, adding that the government has tremendous responsibility in terms of providing education to solve these issues.

Turner stated that only Turkish citizens could decide the course of the country while commenting on conspiracy theories, which he has also written about on his blog.

“I can easily say that Turkey is a very important and powerful country based on my experiences. I can also say that only Turkish citizens can decide what will happen in Turkey, again based on my experiences, because this country is not a country that can be controlled by powers abroad,” he said.

The consul-general also highlighted the need for freedom of expression, pointing out problems related to the rule of law and freedom of expression.

“Of course there are problems right now; journalists have been jailed. As I previously said, freedom of expression must absolutely exist for a powerful democracy. Otherwise you cannot make beneficial arguments about where the country heads. Unless such arguments exist, making healthy decisions becomes difficult,” Turner said.

Known for his support for LGBT communities, Turner said that the previous carnivalesque atmosphere in Istanbul’s pride parade, especially during the Gezi protests in 2013, would yield positive results for Turkey in terms of gay rights. He added that last year’s police intervention in the parade was caused by a miscommunication.

“I attribute the incidents in 2015 Istanbul Pride to some unfortunate reasons. The most significant one was the fact that the communication was really bad. People went there to be a part of a beautiful thing; however, they faced a sudden intervention while wanting to walk towards Istiklal Avenue. Of course the police would do its job but people fell in heavy action even though it was a non-violent environment,” Turner said.

Apart from the country’s current affairs, Turner also spoke of Istanbul and Turkey, emphasizing its cultural and historical wealth with examples from his visits to the country’s southeast including Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep provinces which he called fantastic. 

“First of all, I love Istanbul and Turkey very much and I clearly express it in my social media posts. Second, I am not a foreign agent living in your country. I can show that I am a normal person through my posts on Twitter and my blog,” Turner said.

Turner also said Turkish people who had achieved success abroad were significant as “symbols of Turkey.” He used Cem Özdemir, co-chairman of the German Green Party, footballer Mesut Özil, and Turkish Airlines as examples along with Turkish rakı and shish kebab. He also voiced his admiration for Turkish cuisine, especially for corn and simit sold on the street.

Turner said he was very excited about his next destination as the British Ambassador to Vienna, which he will take up in July.

“I have really enjoyed being in Istanbul but I am also excited about going to Vienna. There is no point to compare two cities as Oscar Wilde said, ‘Comparisons are odious,’” Turner said.

February/07/2016



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