Light Millennium English Banner Logo of The Light Millennium Issue Fall 2001: Quotes
We have only one WORLD yet!
If we destroy it, where else can we go to? - 7th issue - Fall 2001
Turkey's Goodwill Ambassador: Stephen KINZER

"Geographically, culturally and historically, Turkey is ideally placed to be a key player in this emerging world. But to become such a decisive agent of change, it must itself change. If it does not do so soon it will lose its chance, it will lose its chance for greatness."
"Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds",  Stephen KINZER

Stephen KINZER, after his presentation at the Middle East Forum in NY.

By Bircan UNVER

Stephen KINZERs new book, Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds has been sparking various attention for Turkey's statuesque in US media since his book arrival this September. The translation of the book in Turkish will be publishing next year in Turkey by Iletisim Publishers.

Since the arrival of Stephen KINZER's new book in September "Crescent & Star:  Turkey Between Two Worlds", there has been sparking attention on Turkey's status quo in US media.  Iletisim Publishing will publish the translation of this book into Turkish in Turkey next year.

KINZER has captured his best writing reflecting the most important aspects of the heart of Turkey in his book.  Articles, interviews and reviews appeared in the American press and broadcasted on radio and TV, such as, The National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Servise (PBS).  Due to this, he keeps Turkey's image present in the American media and the public eye. Therefore, I strongly nominate him as 'Turkey's Goodwill Ambassador' in the United States.

In his book, Kinzer profiles Turkey in it entirety within its Great Revolution, its declaration of the Republic of Turkey; his admiration for the founder Mustafa Kemal ATATURK, its history, archaeology, weaknesses, richness, cultural and ethnic diversity, confliction between religion and secularism, the Armenian issue, the PKK puzzle, its social changes within the last two generations, and Turkey's highly expected role in the Islamic World as well as in Central Asia.

Crescent & Star introduces Turkey globally from a perspective that has never before been successful by others.

I may not be entitled to coin him as Turkey's Goodwill Ambassador to the United States, and I may not be a politician or be a part of a governmental agency, but because of his magnificent contributions to Turkey, he deserves that title.  As a Turk who has been living in US for almost ten years now and benefited from his articles published directly from Turkey from 1996 to 2000 as the chief correspondent of the New York Times, I received valuable recognition as well as most of Turks who have been living in the States.

Turkey's frontline into the American media was established when Turkey had an earthquake on August 17 1999.  It was an unfortunate and terrible disaster and a bad profile on Turkey's governmental incapability's.  The aftermath of the earthquake has still devastated the Turkish people.  Despite this, Kinzer's book has brought forth great attention to Turkey; it's potential, richness, capacity as well as its struggles and conflicts.  He is the only one to open the eyes of Americans towards Turkey and its place and role in the Muslim World as well as its future direction.

For many Turks living in the United States, they have many stories like mine, which I would like to share in the following.  My personal impression on Kinzer's correspondence from Istanbul had great impact over many Americans.  I will also illustrate below why I feel he represents Turkey's Goodwill Ambassador to the United States.  

Any individual who has been living in any part of US for several years as a Turk, probably has a similar story to mine. Still, I would like to share my own personal experiences regarding how KINZER's correspondence from Istanbul had a great impact over the Americans in addition to Turkey's recognition in America.


I came to New York for the first time in 1990.  Many Turks living in the United States feel that most Americans lack any knowledge of Turkey and its geographical location (sounds odd, but true). Meantime, I faced several shocking questions such as: if I had to throw away my veil at my arrival in JFK!!!

In my earlier years, while I was editing my video project at Queen Public Television (QPTV), I heard beautiful music coming from the other room, so I decided to go see who was playing the music.  I walked into the room and saw a man dressed in a religious garb.  I thought that he was a monk.  I said, "Good Morning, nice music!  What kind of music is it? It's Armenian music", he responded.  I said to him that it sounds very much like Turkish music. Suddenly, he became very angry and said, "You wiped out all the Armenians."  I was shocked and didn't really know how to act!!! 

Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of the subject much at that time because I couldn't recall anything from my entire education. Also I had long-lasting Armenian friends in Istanbul, and nothing confrontation like this came up! Suddenly, I felt as I'm the guilty one in his eyes or who to blame for, because I came from Turkey! After first shock was over, I thought a second and try to be calm, then said him: Just stopped here to say you good morning, bye.  That was the end of our conversation but it was also a flame of my awareness of something that I should know more about what he referred to!

I wouldn't be the ignorant one blaming others and putting them down.  There was a huge gap between what he was referring to and what I knew about it!  Of course, that wasn't the first and last verbal attack! After a couple of years later, a new producer came into the picture on the same subject again. We run into each other at the kitchen of QPTV. Someone at the kitchen, pointed me that I am from Turkey. And this younger, taller and modern day dressed person went much more further, saying that : You wiped out five millions Armenians in 1915 (Were there five million Armenian population at that time in Turkey?). As a result, he was the one who produced a television documentary on this issue at the QPTV.

But I was better prepared at that time deciding that we shouldn't discuss any historical fact since either of us is completely innocent and an expert on the subject. However, with a confidence, I responded him: Can you imagine if each country claim their historical lands and emperors, what would happen to this world?  The earth cannot be reshaped according to what happened in the past, but we can bring solutions as what we can do for a better world live all in a harmony. Now, it was his turn hesitating how to reply!

Briefly, my first four year experiences in Los Angeles and mostly in New York related to Turkey's recognition so negatively and falsely were my big disappointments.

With KINZER, right after his second and the most enthusiastic presentation
for the Turkish American Bussines Forum members in NY (on October 16).


Since KINZER's articles had began to appear at the New York Times (1996-2000), there were some major changes towards to Turkey's recognition and being a Turk in New York.  For example: While I was checking in my coat and talking with my sister in Turkish at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996, in the coat-check room, receptionist asked me, "Where are you from?"  When he heard my respond, he automatically smiled to me with an excitement, and then he referred one of KINZER's recent articles, which was appeared in that week at the New York Times.

Following this, the positive responses had become a pattern. Whenever someone asks me "Where are you from?" being Turkish and Kinzer's articles somehow come together and people know about us. Kinzer's effort to put Turkey in the American public eye is a great contribution.

Since the beginning of his very first article, he had created a new look and perspective towards Turkey in the American Public eye. News on Turkey was mostly related to country's current Political crisis, or corrupted mafia related system and only a few related on historical places or tourism.

He spotlighted Turkey with its cultural-social potential, ethnic diversity, archeological richness, current political crises and struggles underlining the importance of Turkey with a conclusion of his great expectations.

Turkey was represented as one dark country with no social or cultural life in the media. These involved the violations of Human Rights, the PKK, the Armenian issue, religion and secularism, Turkey's attempt to enter the European Union or its debates about changing the Turkish Constitution.

KINZER had laid out various mosaics from various roots and layers within many aspects of his subjects. Therefore, his articles and his new book, Crescent & Star, generate a great role in the US,
such as he is The Goodwill Ambassador for Turkey in the States.

He opened up Turkey's thick and layered curtains within each of his articles and his new book to the whole world. Kinzer's sophistication on Turkey creates an international awareness about the country. He is the only one, who internationally reflected Turkey's two-sided mirror as well as its future direction and "Godfather" role in the Middle East and Central Asia. He states in his book, "Turkey will certainly change in time, but Turkey does not have time. At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is presented with an opportunity that does not come often in the lives of nations." (Crescent & Star, The Prize, p.224)

Turkish meze (appetizer) - raki, or known as "lion's milk", culture and incomplete democracy is one of his extraordinary analogies in his book as well as in his various presentations. Why hasn't this main course still arrived? Everything is ready and we've waited long enough.  We can even smell the aroma of main Course, but it isn't arrived yet.

His comparison between Latin America and Turkey in terms of military power, is very sharp and astonishing. In his comparison to Latin America, when the military gained power, the people were suffering, when the people overthrew the military, they were very happy and social life was increasing. In Turkey, Turkish people have integrated with the military. He underlines the differences by saying that; "I had to change my scale."

In KINZER's observations, he noticed the increasing social conflicts and a demand for a complete democratic system. His felt that there was a need among the Turkish public that the military should step back in terms of controlling every aspect of social life and democratic rights. What the Turkish military believes is in national security; he refers to it as an incomplete democracy and restrictions on social life.

He addressed a speech in the Middle East Forum (New York, Oct. 16, 2001), and drew Turkey's importance and its increasing new role in The Middle East. He also stated that Turkey can be a great model for the fifty Islamic countries if Turkey changes itself. Turkey is the only country that prepared this role better than any other country. No other country can play this role other than Turkey. There were several disagreements on his statement.  The argument was that Turkey's existing conflicts will not allow Turkey to be a model country for the fifty Muslim countries, and also how other Muslim countries will be convinced that Turkey is a strong Islamic country. His response was based on his comment in his book, and it is as follows:

Geographically, culturally and historically, Turkey is ideally placed to be a key player in this emerging world. But to become such a decisive agent of change, it must itself change. If it does not do so soon it will lose its chance, it will lose its chance for greatness. By the second half of the twenty-first century, Turkey will be politically and socially developed enough to serve as a model for countries from Morocco to Macedonia to Malaysia, but that will be too late. Those countries will long since have found other models, perhaps much less positive ones. That will be an incalculable loss not just to Turkey and the Turkish people but also to the world. (Crescent & Star, The Prize, p.224)

During KINZER's book signing at the Marmara Manhattan Hotel

Before his presentation at the Marmara Manhattan Hotel, he was signing his books to his readers in the early evening (October 16, 2001) at the terrace, there wasn't enough light and he was autobiographing his book in half dark. I was on the line, and realized that the existing light wasn't enough, and then I said, "You need a candle."  His analogy was remarkable. "This is very Turkish. You have everything. You have light, heat, a place to sign the books but we are at the terrace, in the dark and cold!" I suddenly realized that he could transform any moment from our daily lives into a great analogy referring to Turkish culture or the political system. Short after, he gave one of his most energetic and enthusiastic presentations to the Turkish-American Business Forum members. More than one hundred members attended with great interest and excitement. It was obvious that the Turkish community also benefited from his articles over the years and by welcoming his book and views.

In his another presentation, which was organized by the Turkish-American Society in New York (Oct. 17, 2001), he made an outstanding comment on the Armenian issue. He visited Kars (Turkey) and Armenia. During his trip to Kars, the mayor told him that he had considered opening the borders between Armenia and Turkey! Armenians are much more aware that Turkey is their neighbor and will be their neighbor forever. In this context, they consider how to establish mutual relationships between the two. There was a reaction to his new statement. He highlighted it very clearly by asking, "who sponsors the Armenians? America and Russia." In this new coalition against terrorism in the US and Turkey may help lift up all those sponsorships. This is the most incredible approach to look forwards to for Turkey and Armenia's positive relationship in the near future.

Accordingly, if I'd be an official authority, without doubt, I would like to honor him as Turkeys Goodwill Ambassador in the US.

Another his book presentation & signing took place at the Dervish Restaurant and organized
by American Turkish Society in New York

In contrast, one or another reason, some Turks or official representatives may not feel comfortable when he points out our struggles, conflicts, critics on military's control controling the government or the democratic rights or an urgent needs to change and etc. 

In this approach, Turkey's expectations are like a teenage girl who is either aware of her weaknesses, her likeable or unlikeable sides, or becomes a self-contained person, and not dealing with her problems but rather acting, as she is perfect. Then when a friend of hers or someone points out to her that she is not perfect, she gets mad and blames others instead of finding out what caused and created the negative impression about her in her surroundings. Turkey wishes to present itself as a perfect country without any wrongdoings, historical mistakes, or major social and economic crises and problems between the elite and almost all of the population.

Turkey is like having too much make-up whenever she needs to present herself.  If Turkey were to accept what didn't work for the country or what won't work, then the great change will be in progress.

KINZER's contributions to Turkey didn't end when he left Turkey. His new book added a rich, attractive cream on his "Turkish cake" or a crown all his painstakingly effort towards to Turkey, which is his book, "Crescent & Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds."  Overall, he expects that his book will bring out several issues on the table to debate about Turkey's options and possibility's for the solutions internally and internationally. His book has already prompted this process and it has been happening.


"I actually loved almost all of the countries I've covered"
Reflections of "Crescent & Star" in the US Media
A Comment
New Book About Turkey

This issue is dedicated to such distinguished artists and author as (alphabetical order):
We will be celebrating the second anniversary with the Winter-2002 issue.
Deadline: January 7, 2002
This e-magazine is under the umbrella of The Light Millennium, Inc.,
which was granted a NOT-FOR-PROFIT organization
status based in New York since July 17, 2001.



© The Light Millennium e-magazine was created and designed by Bircan ÜNVER. 7th issue. Fall 2001, New York.
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