The Doha Debates
This House believes Turkey is a bad model for the new Arab states. (#804)
Istanbul, Turkey: Ankara's human rights and media freedom record came under sustained attack at the latest Doha Debate, as a majority-Turkish audience told Arab states not to follow their country's example.
The debate, at Bosphorous (Bogazici) University, overlooking the historic waterway, provoked heated arguments between panelists and audience members before 59% voted for the motion: "This House believes Turkey is a bad model for the new Arab States". Ece Temelkuran, an award-winning Turkish journalist and author, who was recently dismissed from her newspaper, drew applause whenever she cited examples of the government's crackdown on critics, including journalists, students and academics.
"Arabs should talk to Arabs about which model is best for them," she said. "They should hear their own voices...Turkey cannot be a model because Arabs already have enough problems."
Her co-panelist, Hassan Mneimneh, senior Transatlantic Fellow for Middle East and North Africa at the German Marshall Fund, said Arabs should learn from scores of other models of good governance. And he added: "beware of the use of the Turkish model as a cover for the insertion of Islamism into positions of power where the Islamists would be really entrenched in the Arab world. "
Opposing the motion were former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, and Aboubakr Jamai, award-winning Moroccan journalist and co-editor of the Moroccan news website lakome.com.
Both argued that the Turkish model had shortcomings, but was a work in progress and therefore offered an example to Arab countries in political turmoil.
"This is a workable model for us because I do believe that Islamism can evolve in our countries and because our population relate to this model," said Jamai.
Ulgen, said that for reasons of geographic proximity, culture, religion and tradition the Turkish model worked for the Arab world, where Islamists in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, long banned by autocratic governments, have achieved significant electoral success.
He also drew attention to the popularity of Turkish TV soap operas with Arab audiences. "That," he said, "tells us something about Turkey in the Arab world." [48 minutes]
This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.