Program | Turkey’s Unraveling Democracy & Impact on US-Turkey Relations | Mar 29

You Are Invited

The Tennessee World Affairs Council and the Belmont University Center for International Business present a Town Hall

In Association With The Atlantic Institute

Turkey’s Unraveling Democracy & Impact on US-Turkey Relations

March 29, 2017
6:00 p.m.
at Belmont University
Frist Lecture Hall


Mahir Zeynalov
Distinguished Turkish Journalist

The Town Hall is open to the public and is free. We ask you to RSVP at the link and suggest a donation to support global affairs awareness programs in your community through the World Affairs Council.

5:30 p.m. – Registration/Networking
6:00-7:00 p.m. – Speaker Presentations and Q & A


Frist Lecture Hall, Inman Health Sciences Building (IHSB)

See map for building #6 [Link] 

Parking for visitors enter at P under building #6.  Take Inman Elevators to 4th floor 


The United States has had friendly relations with the people of Turkey long before there was a country called Turkey. In 1931 Washington established relations with the Ottoman Empire and renewed diplomatic recognition in 1927 after the Republic of Turkey was founded. In later decades the partners joined together in the NATO alliance starting in the 1950s to thwart Communist expansionism in Western Europe with Turkey serving as a critical bulwark in the NATO’s southeast flank.

In more recent times Turkish armed forces have served alongside U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and have continued cooperation on NATO and bilateral defense challenges. Thousands of American military personnel have been stationed on Turkish soil at facilities like the Incirlik airbase and elsewhere.

In other areas such as trade and investment and personal and cultural connections US-Turkish relations have been of the highest order.

Fractures in the bilateral ties are showing, however, especially in the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who began a five-year term of office in August 2014. The slip in relations were highlighted in the aftermath of a July 2016 failed coup attempt against the Erdogan government. Last summer, amid swirling conspiracy theories about American involvement in support of the coup, charges were filed naming three senior US defense officials over alleged involvement.

Tensions increased as Erdogan charged Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in the United States, as leading a movement behind the coup and demanded he be handed over by Washington. The post-coup period has seen a widespread crackdown by Erdogan using a state of emergency to bypass normal democratic protections and purge his opponents. Over 100,000 people — government workers, including judges, military officers, teachers, policemen and others — have been dismissed, suspended or detained as of October according to the Financial Times. The United States and European Union were slow to condemn the coup and have been at odds over the crackdown.

Syria and the battle against ISIL have also been the subject of dispute between Washington and Ankara. American backing of Kurdish fighters, the YPG, among the forces seeking to retake Raqqa is at odds with Turkey’s condemnation of the group. Turkey refuses to be involved in a campaign against ISIL’s stronghold that includes the YPG. And this month Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the United States risked major damage to the relationship over the issue. He told the AP, “If the U.S. were to prefer terrorist organizations over Turkey in the fight against IS, that would be their own decision, but that wouldn’t be something we would consent.”

The March 7th decision by Ankara to shut down Mercy Corps, one of the the largest US-backed humanitarian aid agencies providing relief in Syria was only the most recent signal of trouble in Washington-Ankara ties. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 15th called for answers from Turkey on the disruption of “lifesaving assistance” to 360,000 Syrians and end of support to 100,000 refugees inside Turkey.

The backdrop to fraying relations has been a warming of ties between Ankara and Moscow marked by this month’s summit between President Erdogan and President Putin. While thorny issues, like Syria, remain there is a concern that Turkey and Russia are becoming too close. Analysts cite potential Russian military sales of hardware incompatible with NATO systems is a worrying sign and is one more step in Putin’s effort to diminish the generations old Atlantic Alliance.

In mid-March an ugly war of words erupted between Erdogan and other NATO partners, Netherlands and Germany, over refusal to permit Turkish officials from electioneering among Turkish expats abroad on a government-backed referendum. Erdogan, in a televised speech charged the Dutch as responsible for the 1995 genocide against Bosnians in Srebenica and elevated the rhetoric saying, “The EU is fast going toward drowning in its own fears.” Marking their anger toward the Netherlands, Turkey cancelled a “two-town” arrangement between Istanbul and Rotterdam and order the removal of 40 Dutch Holstein cows.

So, how should Americans view the current state of the relationship between its long time friends and allies in Turkey with the US and the West? How will the post-coup crackdown on democracy in Turkey impact the ties? What will US-Turkish disputes do to bilateral and multilateral defense roles in places like Syria? And what will disruptions in relations do to the southeast flank of NATO?

To take up these questions the Tennessee World Affairs Council is pleased to offer an evening of conversation with a distinguished Turkish journalist who will provide insights and perspectives not easy to come by in a town hall where you can hear first hand about the situation in Turkey and the impact on the US-Turkish relationship. We look forward to seeing you at the March 29, 2017 town hall at Belmont University.

Mahir Zeynalov: Mahir Zeynalov is a Turkish journalist and analyst based in Washington D.C. Zeynalov first started his professional career with the Los Angeles Times. He later worked for Today’s Zaman until the Turkish government shut down the newspaper in 2016. He is writing columns for Al Arabiya and regularly contributing to the Huffington Post. He was the first journalist in Turkey to be imprisoned by Erdogan. He is also the first journalist to be deported from Turkey. He is a frequent commentator on developments related to Turkey in world’s major TV channels, including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and NBC. He rose to international prominence for documenting the massive crackdown on Turkish journalists and he is best known for reporting on the ongoing crackdown in Turkey.

In Association With The Atlantic Institute

The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at:  — Join / Donate / Volunteer

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