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Senator Collins' Speech at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul

Senator Collins' Speech at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul

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Published by: Susan Collins on Oct 28, 2011
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10/28/2011

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Senator Susan M. CollinsSpeech at
Bahçeşehir
UniversityOct. 24, 2011***As Prepared For Delivery***
Vice President Shimshek, thank you for welcoming me to this beautiful university. I am deeplygrateful to be invited to speak with you today.Before I begin, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the people of Turkey who have beendevastated by yesterday's horrible earthquake. I have talked with the U.S. Consul General here inIstanbul, and I have asked for further information on how best our country can help the Turkish peoplein this time of need. Just as the United States stood shoulder to shoulder with Turkey in the aftermathof the 1999 earthquake, so I am confident that the United States will stand with Turkey to provide thenecessary aid and relief to victims of this awful tragedy, just as other nations, like Israel, have offeredto provide assistance as well. I know this disaster comes only one week after 26 soldiers lost theirlives fighting the PKK. I join you in mourning the loss of these brave soldiers, and we will continue tosupport your efforts to counter terrorism wherever it is found.I come to you from the state of Maine, a place known for its lobsters, Navy shipbuilding, and itsproud history of electing pragmatic, independent thinkers to Washington. Some of the former Senators
from Maine include George Mitchell, who recently served as President Obama‘s Envoy to the Middle
East, and William Cohen, a Republican who served in a democratic administration as President
Clinton‘s
Secretary of Defense.I arrived yesterday from the World Economic Forum in Jordan. Maine does not suffer from theextreme levels of unemployment found in the Middle East, but the global economic downturn hasaffected my home state, as it has affected Turkey as well. When I decided to search overseas for newtrading partners to create jobs for Maine businesses overseas, I thought of Turkey because youreconomy is growing at a rate that makes much of the world envious.As a person who cares deeply about the U.S.-Turkey relationship, I believe we must be wary of assuming that the security ties of the past will assure the closeness of our friendship in the future. Anentire generation of Americans -- and Turks -- has not grown up with the permanent frost of the ColdWar. And so I wanted to come here to learn more about your country and to see how
 – 
together -- wecan engage this quickly changing world to the benefit of both of our countries.Expanding bilateral trade is one of the most effective ways to strengthen the ties between ourcountries. Opening trade was the basis for the beginning of U.S.-Turkey relations when the American-Ottoman Treaty was signed in 1830. Although the American economy is now the largest in the world
and Turkey‘s is the 16
th
largest and growing, we are not major trading partners. We should do morebusiness together.While the great distance between Turkey and the United States creates a barrier for the trade of some goods and services, this distance can be shortened through the forces of technology, creativity,and political will. It might surprise you to know that during the last two years more than 14,000 headof American cattle have been shipped from a cargo port in my State of Maine, to Turkey to strengthen
 
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 your dairy industry. I worked hard to help secure the necessary licenses to increase livestock shipmentsto Turkey.
Turkey‘s economic success is well
-known, but your growing achievements in education,infrastructure, and humanitarian assistance are no less im
 pressive. Nationwide, Turkey‘s blooming
university systems will graduate more than 700,000 students this year. As I toured this magnificent cityyesterday, I was awed by the history and by the palpable energy that is making the most modern city inthis striking country ever more modern, while respecting your storied past and hallowed traditions.Turkey is also engaged on the world stage in a way that it has not been since before the FirstWorld War: 18 new Turkish embassies are now located across the African continent alone. As Turkeycelebrates its 88
th
anniversary next week, the progress of the last decade can be summed up by the
words of Ataturk 10 years after he founded the Turkish Republic: ―We have accomplished great things
in a short period of t
ime.‖
In the same address, President Ataturk called on his countrymen to accomplish even greaterthings to achieve his vision of a country that is among the most prosperous and civilized in the world.As the centennial of the Republic approaches and the drafting of a new constitution is being considered
in this country, it is apt to remember that his famous phrase, ―How happy is the one who says ‗I amTurk,‘‖ was not only a boast, but also a challenge.When I am asked about the trajectory of Turkey‘s
future, there are two simplistic questions that
often come up in the West, and in Washington, in particular: ―is Turkey turning toward the East or West?‖ And, ―is Turkey becoming more secular or more Islamic?‖ Unfortunately the either/or 
approach of these inadequate
questions fails to appreciate the rich diversity of Turkey‘s people and
culture, and the strength it provides to your great country.
Elif Shafak said it best when she said that ―if modernity is a project fraught with uncertainty, we
can per
haps say this much: it is alive and well in Turkey.‖ This is Turkey‘s time. It is at a crossroads.
 So i
n my mind the key to Turkey‘s stronger role in regional and global affairs rests in whether Turkey
is becoming more moderate, more democratic, and more protective of human dignity at home, andabroad.I know Turkey has hesitated to label itself a model for the region, but it is obvious that yourrecent successes qualify you and your country as sources of inspiration for young, impressionableaudiences in neighboring countries during the Arab Spring. Since it became the first majority Muslimcountry to hold free multiparty elections in 1950, Turkey has proven that a Muslim-majority countrycan elect a secular representative democracy.Turkey is also suited to promote democratic values because Turkey is complex and not easilydefined or assigned a stereotype. As a result, people watch it more closely than other countries. I canattest that this principle applies equally to American politics as it does for countries like Turkey.Washington has become more partisan in recent years than in the past, and my reputation as a centristmeans I am criticized from both ends of the political spectrum. But my colleagues frequently reach outto me precisely
because
 
I am willing to pursue pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to our nation‘s problems.
Turkey, too, has the opportunity to be at the center.
The ideas and narratives that emanate from Turkey‘s leadership will increasingly carry beyondTurkey‘s borders in t
his age of digital technology and a 24/7 news cycle. The ideas and narratives that
 
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 define individual behavior, identity, and allegiances no longer respect national boundaries. Given thecompeting voices in the region, your country has the opportunity to set an example of an inclusivedemocracy that respects the rights of minorities, empowers women, and allows a free press. Turkeyshould seize this opportunity.
Ataturk said that the Turkish ―nation has never lived without freedom, cannot and never will.‖
Aculture of democracy includes elections and civilian control of the military, but it also includesadherence to the rule of law, the robust protection of minority rights, and the maintenance of institutions capable of checking the power of government. These institutions include a meaningfulpolitical opposition, a fully independent judiciary, and a free press. Unfortunately, the strength of someof these institutions in Turkey may have diminished in recent years.Turkey has one of the highest rates of imprisonment of journalists in the world. More thansixty journalists currently sit in Turkish jails; some have been there without charge for more than twoyears. 4,000 lawsuits have been filed against journalists, and Turkey ranks 138
th
on the Reporters
Without Frontiers‘ 2010 press freedom index.
Online, access to the internet website YouTube.com hasbeen irregular in a country that has the fourth largest number of Facebook users in the world.
These circumstances do not match Turkey‘s proud tradit
ion of an open society that is tolerant of dissenting views. A mature democracy has nothing to fear from a free press, and I encourage Turkey tostrengthen protections for the freedom of expression of its journalists and internet users. I joinPresident Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Ambassador Ricciardone in urging Turkey to uphold freedomof religion by reopening the Halki Seminary.
Turkey has historically been a leader in women‘s political empowerment as well— 
Turkey gavesuffrage to women in 1934, a
nd women hold 14 percent of the seats in Turkey‘s parliament, which is
only three percentage points less than the percentage of women serving in the United States Congress.You have had a female Prime Minister, and you should be proud of that.Nevertheless, I was shocked to learn that the number of women murdered in Turkey increased1400 percent between 2002 and 2009. Surely, every step should be taken to reverse this trend muchmore quickly than it emerged. Increasing opportunities for women to work outside the home for those
who want to will also empower Turkish women and continuing Turkey‘s economic success story.
 As your country considers rewriting the constitution, expect your political leaders to safeguardthe freedom of the press, the protection of minorities, and the rights of women. If they do, it meansleaders from all political parties have taken courageous action to protect the long-term progress of thecountry, even at the expense of their own political power.During his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New
York, your Prime Minister‘scall to action to address the humanitarian crisis in Somalia reflected Turkey‘s global leadership as a
protector of human rights and dignity -- a role that goes hand in hand with its strong democraticculture. In Libya, your country helped evacuate many civilians, including Americans. By cutting off personal ties with the Assad regime and supporting calls for Syrian forces to suspend their crackdownon civilians, your government has stood by these principles, extending its hand to the Syrian people byassisting thousands of refugees and providing medical aid to the wounded.If democracy and respect for human dignity are two of the hallmarks of Turkish foreign policy,it is no surprise that Turkey has historically been friends with the only other consistent democracy in

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