The World Policy Institute understands that policymakers and opinion leaders need creative ways to catalyze innovation and engage wider coalitions in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. By working with artists focused on the same issues, this cross-cutting initiative seeks to build a new, collaborative model for social change.
In Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World, World Policy Institute Senior Fellow Ian Bremmer illustrates a historic shift in the international system and the world economy—and an unprecedented moment of global uncertainty.
"Turkey: Democratization, Human Rights, and Security" is a World Policy Institute program that aims to establish a multifaceted dialogue around significant issues in Turkey's democratization process –minorities and security, historical memory, and democratization and the political system – and to ensure that developments within Turkey are taken into account by US policymakers.
The program seeks to broaden the traditional security-oriented perspective on US-Turkish relations by focusing on aspects of Turkish society that directly affect Turkey’s place in Europe and the world, including its relationship with the US. We hope to contribute to the evolving process of democratization and reform within Turkey by working closely with Turkish partner organizations to promote dialogue around a range of issues affecting human rights, security, and democratic change. We are primarily interested in bringing together and disseminating, within and outside Turkey, a range of Turkish voices and views, and in bringing Turkish actors together with activists and experts from the US and other countries, in order to provide a comparative perspective on shared problems.
Memorialization and Democracy in Turkey
We are currently working with the Center for Truth, Justice and Memory (Hafiza Merkezi), based in Istanbul, and the Fetzer Institute on a project entitled “Memorialization and Democracy in Turkey”. The Center is Turkey’s first organization devoted to transitional justice, which studies the ways in which societies dealing with legacies of violence or dictatorship cope with these legacies as they transition to more peaceful, democratic and pluralist social forms. A central aspect of transitional justice is the effort to develop shared narratives of history, particularly where this history involves violence and repression. Memorializing past events is a key element in developing shared historical narratives.
History and historical memory play a central role in Turkey today, as evidenced by the lengths to which the Turkish government has gone to combat recognition of one particular event in Turkish history, the Armenian genocide; Turkey has shown itself willing to endanger relations with important allies, including the United States, rather than allow essentially symbolic recognition by foreign governments of what is, ultimately, a relatively distant historical event. Turkish society has only recently begun to grapple publicly with other instances of violence and repression, both historical, such as the pogroms of Greeks in the 1950s, and ongoing, such as the Turkish conflict with its Kurdish minority.
Yet grassroots efforts to commemorate past violence and forgotten victims are growing. The project’s first task is the compilation of a catalogue of existing memorialization efforts in Turkey--including initiatives as varied as the restoration of a fountain in a formerly Armenian village, monuments to casualties of the Kurdish uprising, and a museum on the Circassian minority. We will then hold a workshop for the initiators of some of these projects in eastern Turkey, where they will discuss various questions surrounding memorialization and develop “best practice” guidelines. The workshop will also invite activists and artists from Germany, Israel, and other communities dealing with remembrance of groups that have been subject to repression, expelled, killed or erased from historical memory in their own countries (for example, artists in Germany have planted paving stones with the names of murdered Jews in front of the buildings in which they once lived, Israeli activists have worked to memorialize expulsions of Palestinians, and Poles have resurrected Jewish music and restored Jewish cemeteries). Attempting to restore the memory of these forgotten groups, and correcting biased, state- centered ways of remembering, can help to promote a public discussion of history that is still in its early stages in Turkey.
Belinda Cooper, director of the program on Turkey: Democratization, Human Rights and Security, is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute.
Meltem Aslan is the executive director of the Center for Truth, Justice and Memory (Hafiza Merkezi) in Istanbul, Turkey. Since its founding in 2010, the Center has organized groundbreaking conferences in Turkey on aspects of transitional justice. She is also the executive director of Anadolu Kültür, an organization devoted to fostering mutual understanding through arts and culture. In this capacity, she has overseen dialogue projects among Armenian and Turkish young people, publication of children’s books in several languages, multicultural art and film programs, and a wide variety of other projects aimed at promoting intergroup and intercultural collaboration, reconciliation and empathy. She is a recipient of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s Cape Town Fellowship on Transitional Justice.
Harun Ercan, Researcher.
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