Monday, April 21, 2008

Turkey: Fight the good fight in God's Army

Madame Arcati is back from Turkey! I travelled about 2,500 kms by road – I won’t include the internal flights – in a week, from Istanbul in the north-west to Antioch (Antakya) in the south, close to the Syrian border, via Izmir, Konya, Adana and so many other places. I shall write about the trip at some point: I couldn’t file because of a tight schedule, and finding “I” on Turkish keyboards was irksome.

I saw the very best that the country has to offer – Christian historical and archaeological sites, hotels, restaurants, people, people, people. Then on the flight home fate seated me next to an Anglo-Turk who offered me another perspective on Turkey. She is a mountain tourist guide: she had just skied and trekked 9,000m down one Turkish mountain (I won’t name which to protect her identity) with her party.

“I detest the Turkish government,” she said. “Erdoğan [the PM] is gradually Islamicising the country – and the EU chooses to ignore this. We have conscription and the army adverts used to say something like: ‘Serve your country’. Now they say: ‘Fight in God’s Army’. Gradually the educated middle-classes are being eased out of the civil service and replaced by Muslims.

"Our government is meant to be secular but it isn’t now. And the mass tourism industry will destroy our environment. We have a severe water problem – last year Istanbul came within three or four days of running out of water. Even mountain weather trends are changing – I had to abandon part of my trip because it was too hot and the mountain villagers are running out of water. The ground is bone dry – the snow just evaporates. Yet the government allows the building of these great hotels which are often empty and make no money because everything is subsidised. The tourists don’t contribute much to the local economies because they stay in their hotels drinking cheap beers or buying leather jackets in the lobbies. The only good thing this government is doing is improving the roads.”

She's certainly correct about the roads.

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