Turkey Prays for Rain


Turkey has long been known as the crossroads of the world; an ancient land where Greek philosophy was born, where Cyrus the Great battled King Croesus for supremacy, where Alexander the Great won his first battle against the Persian Empire and where, according to Plutarch, Julius Caesar spent thirty-eight days as a prisoner of the Cilician Pirates, only to return and crucify them all upon his release.

It's difficult for me to separate my fascination for Turkey's past from the complexities of its present: The anger that Turkish minorities (Kurds and Armenians) have for their government, the necessity of the west to keep Turkey as an ally (and out of Iraq), the tug of war between the growing Islamic population in their manufacturing center and the freewheeling populations of their cosmopolitan coastal regions.
A situation that has grown more complex after what is being called an act of God:

The Turkish capital, which is suffering from drought and serious water shortages. Record-low snow and rainfall this past winter, coupled with searing summer temperatures, have shrunk the reservoirs of Ankara, a city of some 4 million people, leaving just enough water to last another three months.

This is not a simple drought. It is an absence of precipitation coupled with record temperatures and water-source-overuse (an act of Man) from agriculture that has resulted in extreme rationing, with water supplies cut off from the population for days at a time.

The Mayor of Ankara has gone so far as to suggest that his constituents take a vacation to other parts of Turkey while 750 of the cities' Mosques gather the faithful to pray for rain:

"We stand before you, we beg you to answer our prayers," said Fikret Latifoglu, the Imam of the Hacibayram mosque, one of the city's oldest, in leading special prayers for rain before the start of traditional Friday prayers. "Don't leave innocent children and the old, animals who cannot speak for themselves, the trees, the ants and the birds without water. We helplessly beg for Your mercy."

This is a population that is already torn between growing Islamic adherents, competing secularists, and right wing nationalists that have raised alarm bells across their country following the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was well-known for writing articles about the mass killing of Armenians by Turks in 1915:

"We are all Hrant Dink. We are all Armenians," Turkish demonstrators furious at the murder chanted.

There are the Kurds, who comprise a significant portion of the population, with a small, growing percentage of their youth joining the US/EU designated terrorist group, the PKK, encamped across the border in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

All of which indicates an increasingly complex Turkish national identity. A secular nation with a growing Islamism, those were the Turks from the varied backgrounds who demonstrated in support of the assassinated Armenian-Turkish journalist who'd criticized them; their secular military that had threatened a coup last spring if their Islamic Foreign Minister was appointed president; a long oppressed Kurdish minority with an outlawed terrorist faction, who, for the first time in twenty-six years, had twenty pro-Kurdish politicians elected to parliament:

Now the party of the aforementioned Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, whose nomination for president sparked protests that filled their streets with secularists fearfull of his Islamic connections (coupled with the threat from the secular military if he didn't withdrawal), has won the majority in the recent elections and Gul has just been elected to the secular post.

The Turkish armed forces said Monday that efforts were being made daily to undermine the secular republic, comments that came a day before Parliament was expected to elect a candidate with Islamist roots as president.

In a country where so many have turned to religion to pray for rain, the secular military, the Kurdish and Armenian minorities, and the extreme nationalists may see themselves at a growing disadvantage. While it does not mean the country will digress into violence -- Turks are a cautious people -- it does bear notice that such a strategic location, one that is still the crossroads of the world, is undergoing resource pressures through climate change that could impact both their geopolitical and secular status quo.