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Letter: Turkish democracy

Turkish democracy

Sir: Andrew Kevorkian's outrageous claims about Turkey (Letters, 27 December) should not be left unchallenged.

One should always begin by remembering the degree of tolerance and religious freedom that existed within the Ottoman Empire. The fact that Jewish refugees, driven en masse from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, settled in Ottoman domains is perhaps the best-known proof of that tolerance. Things of course started to go wrong in the Balkans towards the end of the 19th century, but here again we must be careful not to overlook half the picture: before 1878 there were roughly as many Muslims as Bulgarian Orthodox in the territory of present-day Bulgaria. The emancipation of Bulgarians (as well as Greeks) meant the expulsion, murder, and subjugation of Turks.

As for the 20th century, it will not be wrong to say that, especially after the Second World War and until the mid-1970s, Turkey had a better record of democratic practices than Spain, Portugal and Greece (which were all under dictatorships).

This brings us to another important point: how EU membership helped secure democracy in these southern European states. Knowing that Turkey will never be admitted to the EU, a great majority of the population in Turkey expect the EU to at least share some of the country's problems and understand her concerns (over Cyprus, for example). The nonsense put forward by people like Mr Kevorkian may make even this impossible.