Turkey's impressive decade of growth through 'calm revolution' offers lessons to Arab nations
Nine Arab journalists were recently invited by Besir Atalay, the deputy prime minister of Turkey, to gain closer insight into that country's success. The comments of one of those invited shows how impressed they were.
Turkey's success story is only 10 years old. In this short period, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has positioned his country among the fastest- developing nations in the world, remarked Taoufik Bouachrine in the Moroccan paper Akhbra Al Youm.
A number of factors attest to this progress. Today, Turkey's per capita income is $11,000, up from $3,000 a decade ago. "A greater income means fewer problems", as a senior Turkish official told the visitors.
The once-all-powerful Turkish army has returned to its barracks. Its role now is to protect borders, while staying away from politics. The once-politicised Supreme Court has also changed.
Now, Turkey is about to make a constitutional amendment with a view to introduce a US-style presidential system, and a parliamentary system that ensures minority representation.
Granted, Turkey still has some issues tracked by rights organisations. Yet it is among the full-fledged democratic nations, where elections are fair and freedom of expression guaranteed.
Asked by Bouachrine about the secret behind the popularity of the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (JDP) despite 10 years in government and a rooted secular legacy, Mr Atalay replied that the party has made a calm revolution, by first building a new party with a new way of thinking.
After heated debates on the JDP's identity among conservative and progressive figures, the party was consensually defined as democratic and conservative, driven by the need for public service, not by ideology.
"Our party is like an umbrella that embraces anyone willing to get underneath it, and it does not place restrictions on any one willing to walk out," Mr Atalay said. "This is why the JDP has now 8.5 million supporters, including 3.5 million women."
Mr Atalay noted that Mr Erdogen used to comfort party members when they felt worried, saying "Don't be afraid of freedom and have trust in society … we are a democratic party that doesn't permit its members to run for parliament more than three terms, or its premier to last in office more than three terms".
Turkey offers a good example of democratic transition and economic progress for a country with more than 70 million population.
"Are you one of the JDP's supporters," the writer asked a Turkish shuttle bus driver. "No," he said with a smile.
But, asked "Did you vote for Erdogan's party in the last election?" he replied "Yes". He explained that "I voted for Erdogan's JDP because my income as a cab driver increased after the JDP fixed the roads and solved some of the traffic jams."
Protecting Arabic must begin at home
Leading linguists and researchers from around the world gathered in Dubai May 7-9 for the Second International Conference on the Arabic Language. The meeting's theme: "The Arabic language in danger: We are all partners in protecting it".
"Yes, we are all partners in protecting it, but how?", Iraqi novelist Shaker Nouri commented in the UAE-based Al Bayan.
When English as a foreign language overshadows native Arabic, there is good reason to worry. Arab pupils do not learn English the way western countries learn foreign languages. In each western country, the mother tongue has top priority.
"Some Arabs, especially the young generation, are so culturally alienated that they ignore their mother tongue in favour of another language," he wrote.
"In France, I saw that Arab communities, particularly those hailing from the Maghreb, have become alienated to the extent of forgetting their mother tongue. The responsibility for that lies chiefly with parents."
You cannot blame other nations for seeking to assimilate immigrants and erase their languages, he wrote, and this is part of wider policies of "la francophone" and the "anglosphere", he wrote.
Rather, the really worrisome problem is parents pursuing such policies with their own offspring. "Let's be real partners in protecting our language; let's start with our children," the writer urged.
Egyptian cinema gets sick but never dies
"'Egyptian cinema gets sick but it will never die … this was my answer to a question from the [Tunisian] veteran filmmaker, Nouri Bouzid, who asked me about the current state of Egyptian cinema," wrote Khaled Mahmoud in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.
"I realised what Bouzid meant," the writer said. "I could see it in his eyes." There is a sentiment among Arab elites that Egyptian cinema has gone downhill, and no longer enjoys the aura and glamour it once had.
The Egyptian film industry has been marred by a lack of creativity. A number of producers and distributors have imposed their commercial products through trite dialogues and clichéd scripts, within an escapist vision that aims solely to maximise profits, he argued.
Against this backdrop, filmmakers who once contributed to the heyday of Egyptian cinema have shrunk from the spotlight. High-calibre artists like Daoud Abdel Sayed, Mohamed Hamed and Khairi Beshara - and others who have fresh idea - are lamenting an Egyptian cinema industry that repels their creativity.
But this setback will pass, and the doors of cinema shall open to the talented filmmakers, especially the youth who must not get disappointed as the veteran ones did.
* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni