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Turkish ambassador speaks on weight of democracy in America

October 15, 2011

By David Edwards

Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan

Turkish ambassador Namik Tan discussed the importance of democracy in America with the Cleveland State community during a speech given Saturday in Fenn Tower.

Tan discussed issues such as taxation, volunteerism, human rights, accountability, transparency and trust. Tan stated that while these values also exist in Turkey, they can be improved upon. Tan expressed trade relations between Turkey and the United States were limited.

Tan noted that while Turkey’s population is five times greater than Ohio’s, Turkey’s economy is only three times as large. Tan attributed this difference to the American approach to education and the aforementioned value system.

Tan said the foreign policy agenda of the U.S. and Turkey overlap. He used the fight against terrorism and energy independence as examples.

“Turkey’s relationship with America is growing stronger,” Tan said. “It is the only Muslim country that has a secular, free-market, democratic system.”

Tan also commented on Turkey’s application to the European Union.

“Turkey’s membership to the European Union takes some big thinking on the part of the Europeans,” Tan said. “If they want to bring diversity, both religious and cultural, and social diversity into their civilization project, they have to accept Turkey as an equal partner.”

Some experts in the Middle East look to Turkey as a strong example of democracy in the region.

According to Suat Aricanli, president of the Turkish American Society of Northeast Ohio, democracy in Turkey is very important.

“Turks are very passionate about politics,” Aricanli said. “There are people who are socialist, communist, liberal, conservative, nationalist and on the religious right,” Aricanli said. “Our men and women will never give up the right to vote.”

Most of the people who attended the ambassador’s speech were Turkish students from different colleges.

Biomedical Engineering student, Apler Axu said he enjoyed the speech, but wished the ambassador was more specific.

“The presentation was okay,” Axu said. “But, it still has some missing parts such as scholarships for Turkish Students, a database for connection among Turks living in the U.S.”

Axu added Turkish students in America are industrious and should be offered more assistance by the Turkish government.

“Turkish government should care about our education and financial situation more,” Axu said.

Tan’s visit was arranged by the Turkish American Society of Northeast Ohio in partnership with the Turkish Student Association of Cleveland State and UTURK Turkish Student Union of Case Western Reserve University.

Prior to his appointment to Washington, Tan served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was in charge of bilateral political affairs and public diplomacy. He was previously Ambassador of Turkey to Israel from 2007 to 2009.