ESI debates - Turkish Islam - Bosnia - Armenia and Cyprus

4 February 2006

Dear friends of ESI,


Please find the first ESI newsletter in 2006, reflecting the expanding range of ESI's activities.


1. Debate in Turkey on Islamic Calvinists

Public debate often follows ESI publications, ever since our first report in 1999 on Bosnian Power Structures. This was the case with Ahmeti's Village (on interethnic relations in Macedonia), Travails of the European Raj (on the Bosnian protectorate), People or Territory (on the divided town of Mitrovica), The Lausanne Principle (on Kosovo Serbs) and recently Breaking out of the Balkan Ghetto (on EU policy).

No ESI report, however, triggered a more vigorous national debate than our recent study of social change in Central Anatolia, Islamic Calvinists.

In recent weeks Turkish commentators in all large national papers used this report to take a new look at the relationship between the Turkish state, Islam in Turkey and economic development. The report was the main topic on five national TV shows. More TV debates are scheduled next week, as the debate continues in all Turkish media.

One commentator in the most popular daily paper, Hürriyet, wrote that "The report sheds light on developments that even Ankara from time to time is blind to, whether you call it Anatolian Tigers or Anatolian Lions." Daily Bügun wrote on 3 February "These conclusions will be important for Turkey, the Islamic world and the West." Some radical critics, profoundly misunderstanding our message, charged that "Because we don't know ourselves, people who seek help from [...] Protestantism and Calvinism are able to drag the poor masses along!"


2. A new look at Bosnia

Meanwhile ESI is taking a new look at Bosnia and Herzegovina. An interview with ESI president Gerald Knaus, announcing new ESI research, was front-page news in Bosnia's main daily Dnevni Avaz last Sunday.

The beginning of negotiations of an association agreement with the European Union (SAA) in January and the arrival of a new High Representative, Christian Schwarz Schilling, in February mark the beginning of a new era. As Schwarz-Schilling wrote in an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune:

"This requires a shift in mind-set both among Bosnians, who have grown accustomed to an intrusive international presence in their country, and within the international community, which has grown accustomed to intervening in all levels of decision making. One consequence of seeking to avoid using the Bonn powers could be a slowdown in the perceived pace of progress in the coming year. But neither stagnation nor a return to the zero-sum attitudes that once characterized Bosnian politics are inevitable. Indeed, I believe it is possible that Bosnians surprise us and prove to the world that the caricature of their country as a "failed state in Europe" is no longer accurate."

3. Turkey, Armenia, Cyprus

ESI Turkey analyst Nigar Göksel is taking a new look at controversial issues as editor of Turkish Policy Quarterly's new issue "Turkey and Neighbours: Moving beyond the Past". These articles, expressing the personal opinions of the authors, are certain to take forward much needed debates. As Gerard Libaridian writes:

"Genuine scholarship freed from the burdens of legitimation of power, political leadership freed from the need to preserve the status quo, and a re-humanization of the 'other' are making it possible to redefine identities, challenge identity politics as we know it. Turkish-Armenian relations may yet have a future."

All articles, and more, on the ESI website:

4. In recent weeks some 900 people visited the ESI website per day. To continue to provide policy-relevant research to our demanding readership we are further reinforcing our research teams.

We are very glad that Nicole Pope joined the ESI Turkey team. Nicole, a Swiss national fluent in Turkish, covered Turkey for 16 years as correspondent of the French daily Le Monde. She has also lived and worked in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Bahrain and Cyprus. Nicole is co-author of the best-selling Turkey Unveiled. She also wrote a lot on women's issues in Turkey and has just completed a new book on honor killings.

Best regards

Gerald Knaus