Young Turks lay claim to a leadership role: A new generation wants to rise above present stagnation and old traditions. Hugh Pope reports from Istanbul

A NEW movement is stirring in the grassroots of Turkish politics. At last, a new generation is staking its claim to live in a progressive, tolerant country and rejecting years of backsliding towards militarism, crude nationalism and gross abuses of human rights.

At its head is the New Democracy Movement, the biggest of some 40 clubs and associations thrown up in Istanbul alone by a recent ferment of political activism. The snowballing of such civic associations, as well as Islamist and ultra-nationalist groups, is little short of revolutionary in a republic long dominated by the state.

At a typical recent evening meeting of the New Democracy Movement, debate focused on long-suppressed questions such as: Why the torture? What to do about the Kurdish war? How to deal with the Islamic upsurge? And what can overcome the ideological and financial bankruptcy of the Turkish state?

The 200 people present, among the best and brightest of Turkey's 30-something generation, were determined to get beyond party politics. All wanted to find a way out of a system lost in a devil's triangle of Islamists nostalgic for the old Ottoman Empire, resurgent Kurdish radicals, and Turkish nationalist secularists who worship the statist ideology of Kemalism, attributed to the republic's founder, Kemal Ataturk.

The New Democracy Movement's headquarters gave little clue to its growing influence, hidden in a developing Istanbul suburb of half- finished concrete buildings, shiny new foreign cars, messy back-streets and hectic street- life. In an anonymous chair at the back of the low-key, beige meeting room sat the movement's spokesman, Cem Boyner, the rich son of a family of textile manufacturers who is rapidly finding his feet as the most charismatic figure in Turkish politics today.

The movement is now the only audible Turkish voice demanding a change of policy on the Kurdish insurgency, a courageous stance as the state harshly represses Kurdish nationalists. Hundreds of people have been murdered by death squads since 1991.

Ironically, however, public access to political news and debate has greatly increased in the past two years. A wide variety of views is fed to Turkey's 60 million people by expanding private television networks. Around March's nationwide local elections, unprecedented and heated television debates ran into the small hours.

The success in those elections of the pro-Islamist Welfare Party did more than anything to awaken Turkey's silent majority, especially the upper classes, closeted behind the walls of their compounds of villas and luxury flats. Blind secularism and lapel pins showing Ataturk's profile were no longer enough.

The New Democracy Movement's 6,000 members include many women among the young owners of successful businesses, economists, professors and managers. They are the Ozal generation, formed by the more colourful, enterprising and open-minded Turkey that Turgut Ozal presided over until his death last year.

Some accuse them of being over-idealistic, cocktail-party democrats. But Mr Boyner and his wife, Umit, have moved from the society pages of Turkish glossy magazines into the political columns.

'We need a Turkish perestroika. We have to decide if we want to be in the first league of countries or not,' Mr Boyner told a spellbound audience of 500 civic leaders in the deeply conservative eastern provincial town of Tokat, where only 17 years ago politicians bringing progressive ideas were met with a hail of stones.

The New Democracy Movement plans to hatch out into a formal political party in the autumn, and rightly prides itself on its collegiate, grassroots style. Organisation may well be be completed in time to contest the 1996 general elections. By then the other main force in the field is likely to be the Welfare Party's Islamists, who also say they are breaking the mould of Turkey's 'system' and are also in undoubted close touch with ordinary Turks.

'Will the Welfare Party come to power in 1996?' asked a worried young owner of an import-export agency as Tinaz Titiz, Mr Ozal's former tourism minister, wound up an evening debate. Mr Titiz smiled. 'I cannot say,' he said, 'for a man to predict when someone will arrive, first he has to see how fast that person can walk.'

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week