10 December 2004
As the freezing winter days arrive, here in the capital Ankara, relations are getting even colder. After ‘«›the Fellujah disaster', things will not be the same again, at least for some Turks.
For years America was the friendly face of ‘«›the Anglo-Saxon Imperialism' compared to Britain. Most of the Turkish people stick to their primary education history books which tell stories about the Atat+-rk fighting against the British in Gallipoli, Greeks in Izmir and French in the South. Oh, of course don't forget the Russians in the East. After all this ‘«›historic brain washing', most of the Turkish people seem reluctant to use praising words for the British, Greeks and French. But Americans were different.
When Ocalan, leader of the PKK, was backed by Italy, the streets of Istanbul soared with protests against Italy. In the case of French, it was boycotting the French products when the French Parliement accepted a bill based on Armenian allegations. But Americans never had a taste of this crowded protest.
Nowadays, there is an ongoing and silent protest against "American" brand.
No thanks, remember Fellujah!!!.
This time it is different, silent, growing.
In Ankara there are two kind of people, one in Ulus (the old city) and the second group of people in Kizilay (modern face of Turkey). Ulus is a historic place with a citadel that can be seen from everywhere and lots of religious monuments. Not only Muslims but also Romans chooses the old city for building religious temples. There are remains of ancient Roman Temple just meters away from Haji Bektash Veliy Mosque. All this sums up to the lifestyle of the people of Ulus, they are more conservative, more religious in some sense more articulate.
Contrast to this, Kizilay hosts more secular, modern and "stateside" people. For "Kizilarians" this entire Fellujah thing is a "some kind" of war in "somewhere far away". Maybe this is the result of the media filtering of some events, maybe Iraq is really somewhere far away. But in Ulus things are a bit different, with a taste for protest.
When it comes to protesting, world has seen Americans protesting French Buggets, Arabs burning Turkish biscuits and Chinese hackers attacking American sites. Don't end the list there, because there is a recent protest from Turkish Barbers. In Ulus some barbers are refusing to cut one of the popular hair cut styles in Turkey: "American style"! American style is mostly popular among young people. The recipe is quite simple "Sides short, top medium and back curved" or something like that. The name American is claimed to be used after Turkish soldiers learned this hair cut style from their American colleagues in Korea during the Korean War. As a result, this hair style marks the years of the Korean War where Turks and Americans fight together against "Evil". The protest seems to tell something more than a bunch of hair.
The barbers said the events in Fellujah and attack to the Muslim holy sites made them feel impossible to ignore the events. One of the barbers claim: "What you expect us to do? This is our way of earning money and this is our way of protesting". Whether or not this protest will result with anything, they just want to protest. Even some of them has posters attached to their front doors: "American style will not be cut in this shop". So you can not just enter one of those shops and tell them to cut your hair "American style". Although their protest is quite peaceful, their aim may damage Turkish ‘«Ű American relations "streetwise". This peaceful protest started to dominate the Ulus and areas nearby. The old city bazaar in the Ankara Citadel is also peacefully rejecting American customers. Americans were so used to this bazaar, even Ambassador of America Mr. Edelman's relatives claimed to do their shopping in this bazaar. Last week there were rumors about Mr. Edelman's discomfort about this event, he asked Abdullah Gul (Turkish Foreign Minister) to help. The shop-keepers in the bazaar says "We don't want their dirty money. It smells blood".
These are hard words to swallow for Americans. But maybe there are people out there to understand these protests.
Americans just seem like "eyes wide shut" and ears filled with plaster. Even their long time Muslim friends can't stand this. The silent protests are just growing in the suburbs, may be Kizilay doesn't give a damn about it. But the people in Ulus, fought with Americans against Korean, not the people of Kizilay. And the historic roots of friendship and cooperation seem to shatter down from the streets. This may lead to an unhappy relationship between Americans and Turks that could harm both parties.
All this Fellujah and Iraq event reminds us a wise word: "Friend shall speak truth even if it may bitter you". The man on the street is starting to speak bitter, but the other guy just dismisses.
Baris SANLI, Analyst at USAK/ISRO