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The Saturday Salon: May 13 edition
Welcome back to our fortnightly cultural gathering. This week, we focus on the upcoming elections in Turkey.
Arguably the most important presidential election this year is set to take place tomorrow when Turkey’s citizens flock to the polls to determine their country’s future.
The May 14 vote is expected to be a crucial test for incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has held power for two decades. Erdoğan is facing a significant challenge from Turkey’s opposition, which has collected into a six-party coalition headed by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a former accountant and longtime bureaucrat. The coalition is united under the sole aim of removing Erdoğan from power and restoring the country’s parliamentary democracy.
The emboldened and united opposition, coupled with years of economic mismanagement and poor policies in the fallout of the calamitous earthquake, have led to the most competitive race in Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.
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The tense and highly polarized political climate has also led to incidents of violence across the country. Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul and a member of the main opposition party, was forced to cut his campaign event short after a group of more than 200 protesters began throwing stones at him. Seventeen people required medical treatment.
One of the key issues in the election has been the state of Turkish democracy. Over the past few years, Erdoğan has grown increasingly authoritarian in his policies. He cracked down on political opposition, jailed dissidents and limited press freedom, leading to concerns about the erosion of democracy in the country.
Meanwhile, the opposition has promised to restore civil liberties and promote greater political pluralism if they come to power.
Is this the end for Erdoğan? Can Turkish democracy be restored? Share your thoughts on this and many other topics in this week’s edition of The Saturday Salon.
Shameless Self Promotion
The execs who steered the UFC from freak show to billion-dollar property are trying the same with a new skateboarding league – by partnering with the go-to streaming site of the right
“I live like you, I have a humble life like yours,” Kılıçdaroğlu told a field packed with people waving Turkish flags and others bearing the image of the founder of modern Turkey and the CHP, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Kılıçdaroğlu, who presents himself to voters as Erdoğan’s arch-opposite, held up his hands in a heart shape, his signature gesture. He prides himself on running a campaign that avoids the kind of barbs Erdoğan has become notorious for, claiming he would decline to live in the presidential palace and would move into a more modest premises that belonged to Atatürk if he wins.
“In recent weeks, more than a dozen politicians, activists, judges, trade unionists and a leading independent editor have also been arrested in what Amnesty International has called “a politically motivated witch hunt”. Many fear it is the end of democracy in the country.”
“The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) reached a record 71.1 million worldwide last year due to conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and climate calamities like the monsoon floods in Pakistan, according to data published on Thursday.”
“The Concordia University theology professor André Gagné says that deliverance is a growing practice due to its experiential dimension. It promotes spiritual gifts such as healing, which gives believers supernatural abilities to respond to certain people’s needs. “It’s about Christianity with power, and exercising that power over sickness and demons,” says Gagné. “For some, going to church and reading from a hymn book is deadening – this is about feeling a connection.””
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Arguments & Essays
“No longer is it just war correspondents who face extreme danger. These days, the dominance of authoritarian governments around the world make life hazardous for all kinds of journalists. Local and regional reporters around the world may bear the brunt most, partly because they don’t have the protection and legal resources of large news organizations.”
“Historians generally agree on dividing the history of the House of Saud into three periods: the period of formation and establishment under the name of the "First Saudi State", followed by the "Second Saudi State", and finally the "Third Saudi State", which extended until 1932, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially declared with its present-day borders.”
“It is now 175 years since Bonnerjee’s first recorded matches appeared in British chess publications of the time. Today, the ancient sport of chess is enjoying a renewed vogue in India, thanks in part to the holding of the 44th International Chess Federation (FIDE) Chess Olympiad in India’s “chess capital,” Tamil Nadu, in August 2022. Despite a growing pantheon of Indian grandmasters and international masters, over the past three decades, the sport has largely remained associated with just one person in India — five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand. Bonnerjee’s 19th-century exploits are all but forgotten in the pages of time.”
“As much as motherhood is celebrated in May with grand marketing campaigns and touching commercials (yes, I cry when I watch them), women are still challenged when it comes to parenting their children and playing professional sports. They don't always have the most necessary parenting resources like childcare support or even changing tables in arenas and stadiums.”
“A big reason that the AI hype machine has been in overdrive, issuing apocalyptic claims about its vast power, is that the companies selling the tools want to make it all feel inevitable — to feel like the future — and have you believe that resisting it is both futile and stupid. Conveniently, most of these discussions eschew questions such as: Whose future? Whose future does AI really serve?
The answer to that is “Big Tech” and, to a lesser degree, “your boss.””
On a Saturday night in early March 2021, Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, appeared on live television, seated at a long wooden table and flanked by the country’s prime minister and interior minister. Vucic said he had an important announcement to make about the arrest of an underworld gang responsible for multiple murders. The interior minister warned viewers to move their children away from the TV. A series of images flashed on the screen behind him: a severed head, a headless body, a torso. Vucic spoke slowly, often pausing and staring ponderously at the table in front of him, his 6-foot-6-inch frame hunched slightly. He praised the police and intelligence agents who investigated the gang; they had narrowly escaped being killed themselves, he said.
DIGITAL SMORGASBORD and have launched the Everything Is Horrible podcast, and their first episode Tucker Carlson's departure from Fox News and how the antiwar left got wrong with regards to Russia's war on Ukraine. , a political scientist and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, has also launched his own podcast. Make sure to check out his work on .
Some interesting documentaries:
THE LITERARY HUB
This week’s literary recommendation is Cold Nights of Childhood by Turkish author Tezer Özlü. This is the author’s first book in English translation, published earlier this month.and while Özlü died nearly four decades ago, her work continues to inspire a new generation of feminists.
Here is the synopsis:
The narrator of Tezer Özlü’s novel is between lovers. She is in and out of psychiatric wards, where she is forced to undergo electroshock treatments. She is between Berlin and Paris. She returns to Istanbul, in search of freedom, happiness, and new love.
Set across the rambling orchards of a childhood in the Turkish provinces and the smoke-filled cafes of European capitals, Cold Nights of Childhood offers a sensual, unflinching portrayal of a woman’s sexual encounters and psychological struggle, staging a clash between unbridled feminine desire and repressive, patriarchal society.
Originally published in 1980, six years before her death at 43, Cold Nights of Childhoodcemented Tezer Özlü’s status as one of Turkey’s most beloved writers
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As someone who came of age under authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships, I implore those of you who reside in democratic countries not to take that democracy for granted. Once it is gone, it is exceptionally difficult to restore.