Whether due to the economy, its political strength, or cultural influence, is not my concern in this article. I am simply stating a fact made crystal clear to me at the cinema this week: Turkey is a big deal.
Taking a seat during the trailers, I watched with amazment as an advertisment for the new Ben Affleck movie, Argo, flashed before my eyes to include several scenes set against the Blue Mosque, followed no less, by another trailor for Taken 2, the Liam Neeson spy thriller entirely filmed in Istanbul. Finally, the opening scene of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie began – a twenty minute car chase through Sultan Ahmet. And it is not just Hollywood that has suddenly discovered the beauty of the city, the BBC home page is now regularly bombarded with photo features, video clips and news on Turkish affairs. The Guardian and the New York Times having kept it a secret as best they can with their more regular commentary.
With the country in the lime-light, information is being sought-after. For foreign observers and journalists alike, turning to Turkish politcal affairs can feel like tuning into the seven-hundredth episode of the most complicated Byzantine political drama on Earth. This is not helped by the terminology used by the sharp divisions amongst the Turkish press, or generalizations favoured by the foreign media. As Emre Kızılkaya notes, "Seculars vs. Islamists" generalization is a popular cliché for many outsiders who seek to understand Turkey. Clichés are convenient but they tend to deprive us of genuine details because of the nature of overgeneralization.”
This is where good, varied and up-to-date English-language resources come into play.
Joel Thomas is a man with a “foot in both cultures”, and has been interpreting and translating between peoples and cultures all his life. Anyone who lives in a foreign country long enough will tell you this extends far beyond mere occupations.
Joel has put his talents to good use by providing a service, Dragoman, for those looking to keep up-to-date and learn about Turkish affairs through regular observation. Subscribers get a regular update, every morning, of several big headlines from Turkish-language newspapers and magazines on a variety of issues, with the opening paragraphs and important information translated and summarised, with links also provided.
It is definitely preferable to flicking through various news sites at the risk of distraction or disappointment, so I was happy to tell Joel I’d rave about the service on my blog.
Those who sign up may refine their criteria to specific areas of interest. In his own words “my general areas are current affairs and the economy, since my clientele is made up of journalists and business people. But for example I have a customer who's specifically interested in the energy sector, so I make sure to cover energy headlines. I had someone say they were specifically interested in editorials, so I told them to suggest some specific outlets whose editorials they found interesting and on which subjects”.
But there are a plethora of sources that can give a more in-depth picture, I’ve listed a few below and will talk about their merits in further articles.
Other English-Language Resources on Turkey
Dragoman – Daily summary of the day’s headlines. Subscription required for best results.
HürriyetDaily News – Hürriyet is a good resource for observing opposition opinion and debate. Op-eds vary in quality.
Today’s Zaman – Pro-government newspaper with good coverage of affairs, especially good for keen observers to analyse trends and debate within the government.
SETimes - American state-funded new site aimed at coverage of the Balkan- Eurasian region.
SilkroadStudies – Really insightful, university-based analysis. Good observations and very accessible.
FrederikeGeerdink – Wonderful, Dutch journalist resident in Turkey. Great hard-hitting articles and interviews covering a variety of issues.
İstanbulian – Emre Kızılkaya’s wonderfully thought-out observations as a journalist in one of Turkey’s most popular newspapers, Hürriyet. Intelligent and thoughtful government critiques.
The WhitePath – Mustafa Akyol is a generally pro-government writer for Hürriyet. Good for discussing state abuse issues, and also social-religious trends.