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Chautauqua Preview: Turkey as Model for Middle East

Photo by Chautauquan Daily

It's been a turbulent summer in Turkey.  Protests there turned violent in June.  While the turmoil has eased, Turkey's ongoing problems will be explored this week at the Chautauqua Institution.  WBFO's Mark Scott has our Chautauqua Preview.

The theme for this week -- "Turkey:  Model for the Middle East" -- was developed months ago, before the June protests.  But there is now a question of whether Turkey should even be considered a model for others in the wake of Prime Minister Erdogan's crack down on protesters and reporters.  The Guardian editorialized earlier this month that "Erdogan's Islamic vision seemed mild and non-ideological -- exactly the blend of hope and pragmatism that Europe and the Middle East need."  But the Guardian went on to say "that vision is fading fast."   Chautauqua's Education Director Sherra Babcock suggests Turkey is being influenced by competing forces. 

"The north African movements we saw in (Spring 2012) are quite likely to have a huge influence on Turkey as are the Democratic efforts in Europe," Babcock said.  "For a long time, Turkey was interested in becoming part of the European Union.  It has been spurned.  Now, financially, Turkey is looking more toward Asia right now."

This week's speakers include a key Erdogan advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, who will deliver the Amphitheater lecture tomorrow morning.  During the height of the protests earlier this summer, Kalin was interviewed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour.  Kalin rejected the notion that the Turkish prime minister was engaging in an authoritarian crack down.

"This is really a very meaningless statement.  You have similar regulations in the United Kingdom where Prime Minister Cameron says there will be zero tolerance for looting and plundering," Kalin said.  "When police in Istanbul act in the same way, it's called authoritarianism.  Is there are double standard?

The Turkish theme extends into the afternoon programs at Chautauqua's Hall of Philosophy where Religion Director Joan Brown-Campbell says Turkey's role as the crossroads for many religions will be explored.

"As much turmoil as there is, Turkey remains the one place in the Middle East where all religions are welcome," Brown-Campbell said.  "It doesn't mean there's no trouble, but they all exist in that country."

But the week is not all about controversy.  Turkey's culture will be celebrated Wednesday evening with a performance of Turkish Music and Dance at the Amphitheater. 

Credit Simon photo by Mary Ellen Matthews
Paul Simon and Billy Collins

In other entertainment offerings, singer/songwriter Paul Simon and poet Billy Collins will take the Amphitheater stage Friday night.  Vice President of Programming Marty Merkley says this will be a rare, joint appearance by two icons.

"They will talk about the process of writing," Merkley said.  "I'm sure there will be music.  But this is not a concert."

Then, on Saturday night, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra takes the stage to present what Merkley describes as a rarely-heard work.

"It's the Violin Concerto, Op. 48, by Kabalevsky," Merkley said.  "It's a light and brilliant piece."

If you can't make it to the concert in person, then listen in to a live broadcast on Classical 94.5, WNED, starting at 8pm Saturday.  

For this week's full schedule, check the Chautauqua Institution website.