By Elyse Yarrick
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – About 80 community members learned about recent turbulence in Turkey and its political effects at a lecture April 12 at Camden County College.
James Ryan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the lecture titled “Turkey in Turbulence” in Civic Hall on the Blackwood campus. The gathering was presented by the Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility.
Ryan primarily dealt with events in the last two years of Turkey’s history and their ramifications. He began by giving a brief history of Turkey.
“I’m very sensitive to the assumption that places in the Middle East are always dangerous … Turkey is not a place known for this kind of violence,” Ryan said. “It is important to point out that the kind of violence they’ve been experiencing is not normal. It is very, in fact, abnormal.”
He spoke of the rise of the AKP (the Justice and Development Party), Turkey’s role in the Syrian War, the nation’s assistance in the refugee crisis, and terrorist violence in 2016. Ryan noted the July 2015 coup attempt had a lasting effect on Turkey’s citizens.
“The initial response was somewhat predictable: immense national unity,” Ryan said. He added the country has been under a state of emergency that has been renewed three times since the coup attempt.
Ryan concluded by discussing the recent referendum and its possible outcomes.
Turkish citizens voted April 16 in what was considered one of the most critical votes in the republic’s history. The constitutional referendum was approved, thereby granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even greater executive authority. The vote was highly controversial and the majority was very slim. Many accusations have been made that the vote was rigged and many are finding it suspicious that Turkey’s High Election Board changed its policy on unstamped ballots right as polls were closing.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Ryan opened the floor for questions and answers. The audience asked many questions.
Among the attendees was Ruth Kravet of Marlton. Kravet said she often attends events held by The Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility. She said she was especially interested in this lecture.
“I find the Middle East is very paramount to what is going on in the world and Turkey is vital to that,” Kravet said. She noted she enjoyed the flow of the discussion and she would keep up with the aftermath of the referendum.
Dan Farrell, a Blackwood resident and student at the New York Institute of Technology, also attended the lecture.
“The most interesting point was their government was attacking their own people, the Kurds, instead of attacking ISIS. I didn’t know there was so much political unrest there,” Farrell said. He noted he, too, would keep up with the aftermath of the referendum.