Friday, September 25, 2009

Interesting comment from the Turkish Press

The following is quoted from an article in the Israel Forum:
"Despite overwhelming support of the United States, the Turkish government refused to field author-singer Zülfü Livaneli for UNESCO director-general on the argument that it was the Arab world’s turn to hold the post. The refusal was interpreted as an explicit support for the Egyptian candidate, Education Minister Faruq Hosni, who drew ire for controversial remarks that he would burn any Israeli books he found in Egyptian libraries. Hosni later apologized for his statement.

The Bulgarian diplomat won the race against the Egyptian candidate by 31 to 27 votes in the final round, becoming the first Eastern European to lead UNESCO.

“There are plenty of mistakes in this case. Turkey backed a wrong candidate and that candidate failed to win,” said Batu.

In comments following the vote, Livaneli, UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador since 1996, said in a critical tone, it was the first time ever that a government opposed its own citizen’s candidacy.

“I congratulate Turkish officials for their foresight,” Livaneli said. “Mrs. Bokova must be grateful to the government of the Turkish Republic for this big accomplishment because our presidency and government refused insistent requests from Western countries and UNESCO regarding my candidacy, arguing it was the Arabs’ turn and instead supported Egyptian candidate Faruq Hosni. However, everyone knew Hosni, making such remarks about burning books if necessary, would be unable to head a culture and education agency like UNESCO.”

Some other allegations disclosed that the government refused to give a nod to Livaneli’s candidacy because of his political affiliation as former Istanbul CHP deputy. Livaneli had resigned from the party in early 2005.

“Livaneli is an invaluable intellectual. He quit the CHP but he is also against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. No matter if it is a political motive or willful negligence, Turkey has lost a significant chance to improve its image,” said Batu.
Comment: So much for the charges that the U.S. was opposed to a Muslim Director General for UNESCO! Does Turkey, with a per capita GDP count as the South? It would be at the top of the Middle Income Country classification by the World Bank.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear. A little knowledge - very little in this case - is a dangerous thing. Let's leave aisde for the purposes of this opinion piece the fact that you ran the shodow Turkish candidacy story weeks ago on your "neutral" elction page.
Bulgaria has a sizable Turkish minority, which in the latter years of the Stalinist-type Zhivkov regime was subjected to forced Bulgarisation, including the slavonisation of their names. Turko-Bulgarian relations have never really been the same since. So naturally, the Turks - or at least some of them - are fuming that a Bulgarain has now become director general of Unesco.
But, more seriously, of course the US wanted Turkey to run a candidate. Turkey is Israel's (and the USA's, after Israel itself) closest military ally in the region - ties that have barely suffered even under the Erdogan government, for all its islamist leanings. Yes, Turkey is a predominately Muslim state, but it is not Arab and is not a member of the Arab regional group at Unesco. I'm sure the US would have been delighted if a secular Turk had stood for the post and so would Israel. Does that answer your question? How the Arabs would have felt about it is another matter, especially as they already felt they had been unfairly passed over when Matsuura won.

John Daly said...

لا فشله هزيمة ولا فوزه انتصار – فهمي هويدي

Check this article from an Egyptian intellectual writing in Arabic. Among his five points, he questions the question as to whether this was a defeat for "the Arabs", pointing out that the differences in culture from Morocco to Iraq are greater than the similarities.

Anonymous said...

I've heard it all now - or read it! The Arabs do not have a uniting, defining culture! Given that language is the root of culture and that they share a common language - at least classical Arabic as a lingua franca - the suggestion that they do not constitute a discrete cultural region beggars belief. And whatever the differences may be between their states and within them - and they are indeed many - the fact remains that they are a single electoral group at Unesco.

John Daly said...

So you and I and a billion other people speak English. Do you hold that we all have a common culture. I am pretty sure that the English speaking people in India, Nigeria, and England would hold that they were very different culturally.

But of course, I was not saying that speakers of Arabic do not form a single "people" in the cultural sense, but relaying what an Egyptian scholar said. Of course the efforts to create pan-Arab state have failed, adding some credibility to the supposition that the Arabs are not a single, unified people.