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  • Author: Cengiz Candar, Michel Nawfal
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over which he presides, they call him "Professor" rather than "Mr. Secretary." The same holds true for his colleagues within Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Indeed, he speaks like a professor come to politics and diplomacy from academia. Addressing his interlocutors in a soft voice and modest manner, he reflects the environment of his early childhood in Konya, an environment shaped by the Turkic traditions his family brought with them from Central Asia when they migrated to Anatolia during the sixteenth century.Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu carries himself with casual elegance. He is fond of talking about his enchantment with Istanbul and its world, but says he could never loosen the bonds that tie him to his mountainous birthplace in the Konya region. He considers the great Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din al-Rumi, who ended his days in Konya and whose followers established the Mevlana order there, to be a personal and spiritual bulwark. His father, a pious shopkeeper, moved to Istanbul so that his only son could get a suitable education, going against the current of his traditional and conservative upbringing to enroll the boy in the Istanbul Erkek Lisesi (Istanbul LycĂ©e for Boys), where the language of instruction was German. The young Ahmet was thus exposed from an early age to Western culture, becoming an avid reader of Goethe, Kafka, and Berthold Brecht. A brilliant student, he went on to study at Istanbul's Bosphorus University (originally Robert College), where he received BA and MA degrees in economics and political science and a PhD with honors in political science and international relations in 1989.Turning down several offers from U.S. universities, Davutoglu accepted a teaching position at the International Islamic University of Malaysia in 1990 so he could pursue his interests in Eastern philosophies (especially Buddhism) and Islamic movements and trends in East Asia. While in Kuala Lumpur, he established and chaired the political science department at the university, which made him associate professor in 1993. Before returning to Turkey, he spent time in Cairo and Amman to perfect his Arabic.Back in Istanbul, Davutoglu taught at several universities, notably Marmara University and Beykent University, becoming a full professor in 1999. He also established the Institute of Arts and Sciences. A dynamic professor, he attracted an enthusiastic following, especially among Muslim-oriented youth. Later, many of those who studied under him would serve the AKP as a cadre whose Islamic base was cross-fertilized with Western knowledge.When Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Turkey's prime minister in March 2003 following the AKP's 2002 victory at the polls, he appointed Davuto?lu as his primary foreign policy advisor and ambassador at large. By that time, Davutoglu had already published the influential Strategic Depth (2001) and several other books, including Alternative Paradigms: The Impact of Islamic and Western Weltanschauungs on Political Theory, and Civilizational Transformation and the Muslim World (the latter two published in English). As Erdogan's chief advisor, he played an increasingly prominent role in shaping Turkish policy in the Middle East. He strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and in general set out to reshape Turkey's Arab diplomacy, including forging a relationship with Hamas. Soon recognized as the principal architect of post-Kemalist Turkish foreign policy, he became a distinguished player in global diplomacy and in May 2009 was appointed minister of foreign affairs. Davuto?lu's trajectory could serve as a model for a new generation of Turks from the Anatolian heartland who want to combine their geohistorical heritage with the Turko-Islamic confluence to restore their ties to the Arab world and the wider Islamic East.Our interview took place on 13 February 2013. Arriving at the Foreign Ministry at the appointed hour, we were greeted by one of Davuto?lu's aides, who told us, "Normally, the professor's busy schedule does not permit lengthy interviews, but since the topic is Palestine and the organization you represent deals with Palestine, he has given it priority over other pressing concerns." The secretary himself greeted us graciously, and carefully examined the latest issue of our quarterly, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, reading the titles on the front cover aloud in Arabic and then turning to skim several abstracts. He had not asked to see the questions beforehand, and after we outlined the main points we wanted to discuss, we began. It is no exaggeration to say that our meeting with Dr. Davutoglu was a lesson in the theory and application of Turkey's foreign policy, particularly its Eastern face, addressing a range of topics from the Arab legitimacy crisis and Turkey's ideas for a new regional system to the problematic relationship with Israel and the future of the Palestinian issue.You are considered the architect of the new Turkish foreign policy. What can you tell us about the achievements related to your vision of Turkey's "strategic depth" and the "zero problem with neighbors policy"?
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: Turkey
  • Author: Diana Allan, Curtis Brown
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: Within hours of Israeli commandos' deadly raid on 31 May 2010 on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish aid ship attempting to break the siege of Gaza as part of a six-ship Freedom Flotilla, the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) official public relations (PR) and media body had uploaded a series of videos of the attack on the flotilla to YouTube. Edited from footage confiscated from professional journalists, pro-Palestinian activists, CCTV cameras onboard, and IDF surveillance, these videos shaped the U.S. media's understanding of the raid. While the journalists and activists were held incommunicado for days, Israel used the media blackout to present its narrative, justifying the killing of civilian activists by claiming that soldiers were forced to open fire in self-defense. The video footage, we were told, spoke for itself.
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: United States, Turkey, Israel