Turkey reiterates its commitment to NATO despite drill incident

Protestors wave flags and carry a banner during a demonstration against NATO military exercises on Nov. 18, 2017 in Ankara. (AFP / ADEM ALTAN)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Turkey reiterates its commitment to NATO despite drill incident

ANKARA: Turkey remains committed to NATO membership despite withdrawing its troops from the alliance's drill in Norway on Nov. 17, the country's chief of general staff has said.

Turkey withdrew from the drill after the name and picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the founding leader of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were used in an “enemy chart.”

Anti-NATO protests erupted in several Turkish cities of Turkey and a hashtag #NATOdanÇıkalım (Lets Exit NATO) pioneered by the Eurasianist Vatan (Homeland) Party trended on Twitter.

But Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said: “Turkey’s alliance with NATO should not be undermined, and NATO is the most successful and most effective military organization that has existed throughout history.”

Speaking about the drill incident while attending the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada on Nov. 18, he said: “NATO administrators responded timely and appropriately. We should not allow anyone to undermine our alliance and our solidarity.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg immediately apologized to Turkey verbally and in writing to Akar during the meeting in Canada.

A NATO member since 1952, Turkey is one of the key members of the Alliance contributing with the highest number of troops and supporting 14 missions in 11 countries.

The presence of Turkey in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, with its Muslim identity, reinforces the alliance’s mission. With the deployment of 659 soldiers for peacekeeping, Turkey is among the Top 10 contributor nations in Afghanistan, while two Turkish diplomats, Hikmet Cetin and Ismail Aramaz, served respectively in 2003-2006 and 2015-2016 as NATO’s top civilian representatives in Afghanistan.

Retired Brig. Gen. Haldun Solmazturk, who spent many years serving with NATO, does not think that the drill incident will cause problems. The incident occupied the domestic agenda for populist and political reasons, he said. He hoped that relations between Turkey and NATO would be strengthened.

“Although the strongest military alliance where Turkey takes part is NATO, the relations between both sides have never been so warm,” Solmazturk told Arab News. “As a member who has equal rights and powers under the Alliance, Turkey should take appropriate steps to render its ties with the Alliance much more effective.”

According to Solmazturk, Turkey should assign specialized experts to the missions within NATO, and support its membership with a political will.

“For instance, each year NATO organizes summits where presidents as well as defense ministers and chiefs of staff attend. I would suggest that Turkey should make public its positions regarding the critical decisions taken during those summits, but so far it has not been the case,” he said.

However, Nursin Atesoglu Guney, dean of the faculty of economics, administrative and social sciences at Bahcesehir Cyprus University, said the drill incident did not target only the Turkish president but also its founder leader Ataturk.

“The intensity of social and political reactions that were given afterward are mainly grounded on the fact that this incident was aimed at the Turkish republic’s existence,” Guney told Arab News.

“The exit of Turkey from NATO would weaken the alliance to a great extent, especially in terms of Turkey’s successful peacekeeping contributions to NATO operations in Muslim countries like Afghanistan,” she added. “Even the withdrawal of 40 soldiers from the drill resulted in the failure of the drill scenario of NATO.”

According to Guney, given the increase of geopolitical uncertainties in its region along with the threats of non-state actors and the rising capacities of some regional countries to develop weapons of mass destruction, Turkey’s identity as a NATO member country is a powerful deterrence against present and emerging threats.


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 21 June 2018
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.