Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1123, 22-28 November 2012-

Ahram Weekly

Of history and transformation

Democratic Transformation in Turkey, ed. Nazem Toural, Cairo: Mahrousa Centre for Press, Publishing, and Information Services, 2012 pp.269

Published and translated from Turkish by Mahroussa Press with the co-operation of the Friedrich Naumann Organisation and Democracy magazine, this book deals with the most important issues that should concern Arab leaders hoping to follow the Turkish model. The book is made up of seven chapters: seven articles written by experts in the fields of economics, politics, law and freedom of the press, the rise of political Islam, and the Turkish bid to join the European Union.
Addressed to those interested in international politics as well as experts in the aforementioned fields, the book provides first-hand accounts of consecutive Turkish governments from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. In a seminar that was organised by Democracy to launch the book, Toural pointed out that “it might be interesting for readers to see the problems we faced… the self criticism [and] the problematic areas we discuss in Turkey.”  
The book does not provide a magic potion with which to turn developing into developed countries, but it plunges the reader into the problems faced by the Turkey, the problems faced by its governments in dealing with these problems and the problems faced by citizens adapting to life in a country with such problems. It includes a record of how problems were solved, the shortcomings as well as the achievements of these solutions and a comment by each writer on what citizens working in each field should do to be on the right track.  
In the first chapter, Ardel Tour Kan addresses the economic transformation Turkey has gone through; that is, from a capitalist society to an open market with a blend of public- and private-sector economy. It delineates both the expenses that the shift cost the country and the incumbent advantages like greater exports and financial gains. In the second chapter, Reda Tourman addresses the legal transformation in Turkey, explaining how the Turkish legal system now, and stating its advantages and drawbacks by way of a conclusion.
Geneid Olsfer analyses concepts of religion, culture and paternalism in Turkey in the third chapter, assessing the experience of applying political Islam and giving information about different political parties and their historical background. He narrates how the ruling party, Justice and Development, came to power, analysing its maneuvers and slogans it used. In chapter four, Yaouer Beidar deals with the struggles the Turkish press has faced and its fluctuating fortunes in the ongoing struggle for freedom. A media history worthy of being read due to the striking similarities it has with some developing countries, this chapter will prove particularly valuable at the practical level. In chapter five, Kamal Koubroulou discusses the results of some polls and studies, enabling the readers to see for themselves how foreign policy is formed. He covers both regional and international relations, providing commentary.
In the next chapter, Jankeze Aktar tackles the Turkish efforts to join the EU. The chapter covers an array of legal reforms the Turkish government had to introduce to meet European standards. These included the abolishment of capital punishment and stricter human trafficing laws. Other landmark reforms in the Turkish legal system include adding articles to make sure that cases of torture are treated with due  attention, greater freedom of expression — if 48 hours pass before the judge has pronounced a verdict in a publishing court case, no prosecution is possible — as well reduced sentences for illegal publication. These laws also allowed publishing in other languages, giving a variety of groups the freedom to establish organisations without prior permission and to co-operate with foreign organisations, with the emphasis in issues of dealing with foreigners shifted from the criminal to the financial. Aktar believes that despite these modifications Turkey still has a long way to go in reform.  
In chapter seven, a report published by the EU evaluating the Turkish performance in political improvements in 2011 is republished. Thus, not only  does the book address specialised readers but also those curious enough to be willing to find out about Turkey, the country that has been dazzling  young Arabs for decades now and is frequently mentioned in international news stories. After reading this book, those hearing politicians say “We want to follow the Turkish model” will be in a better position to assess those politicians’ statements.

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