SOAS University of London

April-May 2014 Edition of The Middle East in London Hits Newsstands

27 March 2014
Middle East in London Cover April-May 2014

This issue draws attention to divisions within Turkish society which have, in recent months, become more marked and potentially divisive as elections draw near. At the same time, the issue shows there is also much to celebrate as we look at aspects of Turkish culture – in the fields of art, music, history and food.

Gamon McLellan, in his Insight piece, highlights the threats to stability posed by Erdoğan’s policies, their unpopularity recently enhanced by corruption allegations at the highest level. Turkish economists call attention to the problems of Turkey’s construction-based and finance-led growth experience in recent years. Different aspects of the role of Islam in Turkey then and now are well described by Andrew Mango, who reflects on the uses and abuses of Islam in Turkish politics, and Banu Bargu, who focuses on the relatively new phenomenon of Anti-capitalist Muslims, a reaction to the perceived materialism and alleged corruption of the ruling AKP. Firdevs Robinson draws attention to the problems faced today by Turkey’s embattled journalists fighting to preserve press freedom against the intrusions of the courts, Prime Minister Erdoğan and the stalwarts of the AKP; Turkey now ranks 154th out of 178 countries in the Reporters without Borders’ press freedom index.

Turkish artist Ece Clarke, living mainly in London, in an interview with Nevsâl Hughes (who has provided crucial assistance and inspiration to your editors for this issue), also deplores the increasing fundamentalism of Turkey’s ‘Islamic government’. On the cultural side it is interesting to be reminded of the role of the British Institute at Ankara, amongst others, in elucidating the distant as well as more recent past of Anatolia/Turkey while the Turkish music historian Emre Aracı has written about Smyrna/Izmir as the inspiration for Edward Elgar’s In Smyrna, composed as a result of a happy visit paid by Elgar to Istanbul and Izmir in 1905.

Gerald MacLean traces on horseback the initial stages of the Evliya Çelebi Way across part of Cappadocia; the Way has recently been approved by UNESCO to celebrate the famous 17th-century adventures of this extraordinary Ottoman traveller. Sami Zubaida provides an historical overview of Turkish cuisine while Ionis Thompson tells us where one might sample it in London, to the gentle rumble of trains over the railway arches of Waterloo East. And Megan Wang draws our attention to Teslimiyet, a film on the Turkish underworld of cross-dressing and transgender in Istanbul, shown at last year’s London Turkish Film Festival.