Volume 11, Number 1
21 September 2004

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This Week

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From Sweden, About Turkey

Well, I was supposed to be gone completely, but after Sibel begged me to write a few words for this new issue, I just couldn't help it. You know I got scared she would kill herself or something, and I don't think I have to remind you about her feelings for me. No, in fact I am just kidding. I just like the new format of the Bilkent News, larger, more colorful, and that's why I agreed to write once more. It has got nothing to do with Sibel's feelings, although she did almost cry in front me!

Never mind, I think this is enough for warming up. The thing is, I need to remind myself of the environment I knew in Turkey; otherwise I can't concentrate on writing for the Bilkent News again. That's why I had to mention how I hate Sibel and Atilla, and have some fun recalling the "environment"! Can I start now? Right now I'm in Sweden to complete my master's degree, and will be here for a year and a half. I was in my third year at Bilkent when I began writing for this newspaper, but I feel as excited as if I were doing this for the first time, although it's probably the last.

The international impression about Turkey has always been an interesting topic for most of us, first, because Turkey is a country foreign people are not very well informed about, and second, because we, as citizens of this country, feel the need to be understood correctly for several reasons. Right now, in Sweden, I can see that both of these are true, especially when I find myself trying every day to explain what Turkey is like and what it is not, and to put a stop to mis/disinformation, and sometimes prejudices.

The era of stereotyping Turkish people as riding on camels, or on the basis of the film "Midnight Express" seems to have passed, fortunately. People seem to have an idea that Turkey is indeed not just like any other "Islamic" country, "Islamic" referring to a Muslim-majority population. The generally supported determination to be a part of the European Union is a well-known matter, too. What to keep in mind about this, however, is that I am speaking only of better educated people here, i.e., university students or scholars. Average citizens? I can't say the same for their knowledge of the world or even of Europe. For example, I went to the health care center the other day with my Brazilian friend. At the beginning of the registration process he was asked where he was from. After he said he was from Brazil, the lady said: "Is that a European Union country?" He said, "Yeah, one of the founders!" Do I have to say more?

My experience of Europe is far from sufficient to make any kind of generalization. The only thing I can state with certainty is, there is no single West, there is no single Europe, or European, which I believe is the stereotype "we" have about the West. As the diverse examples above suggest, discourses, thoughts, and beliefs are not independent from the human factor of "individuality," the term that probably defines this place best.

"If I take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been."

Efe Peker (POLS/'04)

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