Turkish cartoons and Greek cars

I saw this the other day- wonderful!

a homage to Remy the Stunt driver in “the Italian Job” – original here:

And here are two cartoons that I did for the Turkish press. Following the vote on the Presidential system, one MP bit another and a particularly outspoken MP chained herself to the Speaker’s desk.


Last year, I did a speech about the change in system and particularly suggested that, in a modern democracy, it seemed the army should no longer play a central part in political life. One hour later, there was an attempted military coup. The coup was thwarted. Things change slowly.



Turkish coup

I was due to give a talk at a conference in Ankara yesterday. I made a video for the conference, finishing it just a few hours before the attempted coup.

I have now posted this online and added a brief introduction. I am pleased it has attracted some attention, and one particularly brilliant person added the following:

The military coup was not handled with a precise hand. It was a sloppy grab at power and hopefully Turkey won’t forget the collateral damage. And instead of letting it justify more death and destruction, will use it as a motivator for peace and civility.

I kind of want to get some things about debate off my chest. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but modern debates often suffer from a type of information overload. I should probably point out that I am from the USA, so I have a very limited perspective on European events. I think if you asked any common person in any system, they are well aware that politicians shift focus and are masters of rhetoric designed to conceal any information they desire to conceal. But this isn’t really what I mean by information overload.

It seems to me that any “viral” idea or claim can become popular without any evidence or relevance in a post internet era. I see this constantly on social media and have been both a victim and a perpetrator of spreading some of these fallacious and incorrect views.

It was interesting to see that happen with the EU referendum. Claims that could not be substantiated and debate that was more nationalistic than informative spread much quicker because people got more caught up in the message rather than the truth.

So debates often end up being events where experts try to clarify why certain ideas or views lack evidence. But in these modern debates the side with the confident leader that recapitulates their views with impunity often ends up being more popular. I guess what I am trying to say is that people are more concerned with how people perform, in a sort of theatrical way, instead of challenging ideas and views.

This ended up being more of a rant than I wanted it to be, but I would love to see you do a video on effective debate as mentioned above. And thanks for the great content.

He is right in so many ways. How Erdogan deals with the army will determine the rest of his Presidency and the future of Turkey, but it will also send out a message to other states controlled by a powerful military. Personally, I see no real distinction between what happened on Friday night and what happened in Nice- both events seem to me to be a form of terrorism and innocent men, women and children mindlessly killed.

A gift at the end of Ramadan!

Turkey has been variously criticised by the EU and pilloried in the recent Referendum debates, but as Ramadan ends, it has announced that over 3 million Syrian refugees are to get automatic Turkish citizenship: this goes much further than Merkel’s demands for harbouring returned migrants and it is a statement of solidarity with the dispossessed that should make the whingers in our own referendum debate hold their heads in shame.


The care for victims of warfare is a feature of all three of the great religions that come from the middle east and it has been shocking how slowly we have dragged our feet while still whittering on about Christian values.


As Ramadan finishes tomorrow, therefore, we can celebrate with some satisfaction that at last there is a proper response.

More worryingly, there is news coming from Athens that former German Transport Minister, Peter Ramsauer, part of a delegation headed by the German Vice Chancellor, and already linked to allegations of anti-semitism, apparently told a photographer, I understand, both in German and in english, “don’t touch me, you filthy Greek”. I suppose his bilingual effort was to ensure no one thought this was an accidental bit of racism.

peter ramsauer

Peter Ramsauer is known to want to refuse Greek any further bailout money, and he is also famous for making a fuss, rather like the French have occasionally done, about borrowed english words used in modern german, so it is odd he should have translated his bilious comments, if indeed he ever uttered them. He went on to facebook yesterday to claim that he had said nothing. It is all the fault of the photographer “who later appeared to be obviously Greek” and who had pushed him. I wonder how this photographer can have appeared so obviously greek at a later stage? had he not appeared so Greek earlier? The good Dr Ramsauer would be well advised to avoid using the word “obviously” in all instances- as a rule of thumb, if something is “obvious”, it does not need to be mentioned and if it is not “obvious”, then the word is inappropriate.

I had dinner a few nights ago with a German minister who is married to a Greek. Both deeply charming! I wonder how Herr Ramsauer deals with that couple in the vaulted corridors of the Reichstag? The story of this exchange makes some of our own British bigots look positively cuddly.


part A: A common Policy for Asylum

Today the EU has put forward plans for sharing asylum throughout Europe. This is a review of the Dublin convention of 1990, Eurodac and the Dublin regulation of 2003. Since 2009, there has been a uniform procedure throughout the EU for dealing with asylum requests. This grandly announced that it was having the last word on asylum policy- “les dernières briques de la protection internationale sont posées”, but clearly not! In practice, the 2009 directive means dealing with integration difficulties, clarifying the criteria for accepting an applicant (“membership of a social group” for instance, including gender) and establishing the rights to health-care and housing that are granted both to successful applicants and to those whose asylum status is not quite established but who have leave to remain in the host country.


The biggest issue specifically addressed on paper in 2009 was to ease the burden to the host state, but I am not sure that such  has actually been achieved. Greece, for instance, continues to struggle, as in the news daily, we see the struggles of the Italian islands. The statistics, however, hide the fact that there is a big difference between the numbers of those granted asylum and those in the country requesting asylum. In Greece, for example, 625 people were granted asylum in 2012 in contrast to 22,165 given asylum in Germany. But to get a better picture, just note that in Lesbos in just a few days in 2012, 4409 people attempted to enter the territory. Of those, 2,600 were arrested in Turkey. Until 2012, 90% of immigrants entered europe through Greece.  Thanos Maroukis estimated in 2012, that 390,000 people entered Greece. Of these, 625 were granted asylum. It puts the problem into perspective and it has only got worse since then.


Because of the ambiguity of the language, therefore, I am not really sure how, in practice, the new proposals will happen, though I have listened to what debate was available. Many asylum seekers find their appeals rejected. Some are genuinely bogus and some are unable to provide sufficient proof to make their case. Some simply have bad advice. At what point in the process, will they be dispersed? There is what the newspapers call a “surge of migration” across the mediterranean, which places even more pressure on Italy and Greece, two of the weaker Nations, to provide care under the original Asylum directives that a migrant should be processed in the first country he or she reaches in Europe. For all their belly-aching about migration, this means that very few migrants should genuinely have been treated by the UK because, logically, anyone making it to the UK must have passed through another member state in the process. A lack of proper documentation makes it harder to deport people because it is unclear where they first made land, though in 2008, the UNHCR asked the EU not to return Iraqi asylum seekers to Greece. Clearly, this Dublin regulation’s approach to “readmission” is unfair both to the migrants and to countries like Greece. Any new plans must be better.

immigration asylum 2

above frans timmmermans, below federica mogherini

immigration debate

The new plan is that a “mass influx” will trigger an emergency distribution system that will spread the load around the rest of Europe on a quota system basis. Again, it is not at all clear whether this will be administered by the country experiencing the “mass influx” and whether the quota distribution is of applicants on processed refugees. The new Government wants to help police the mediterranean and protect those caught up in trafficking, but it does not want to be part of the quota system.

Scotland welcomes Refugees

Humza Yousaf, however says very clearly that Scotland would welcome its share of a quota.

Theresa May & Opt Out

Theresa May however says, “We must — and will — resist calls for the mandatory relocation or resettlement of migrants across Europe.” Britain is not going to veto the proposal: it can’t. It is simply using its opt-out of something that is subject to a majority vote and likely to pass. Angela Merkel sounds more promising and she has already welcomed about 1/3 of all those seeking asylum, a total of 626,000 asylum applicants over 2014: “We and our European partners are fundamentally convinced that we must act urgently with regard to the dramatic refugee developments in the Mediterranean.” However, if the new proposals go ahead, she will be inevitably taking less asylum seekers and it is likely if the new proposals overturn Dublin 3, that Britain will no longer be able to send people back to their country of first entry. The fall out from this is that, ironically, the UK may end up accepting more immigrants than before and indeed offering greater help. Today, in fact the Royal Navy rescued 400 migrants.

Part B- refugees

There is a second part to this proposal which is a resettlement of refugees from camps outside the EU. This presumably includes people from countries like Turkey which has taken over 1.6 million Syrian refugees since the outbreak of the syrian crisis in 2011 and spent over £3 billion granting free healthcare to Syrian refugees. Some of these are in 22 government-run camps near the border but many are welcomed into the towns and cities. I remember getting my hair cut a few years’ ago in Istanbul and meeting a young lad who was sweeping the floor and was a Syrian refugee. He must have been about 12. There is a problem. Turkey does not give the Syrians official status as refugees, and instead calls them “guests”. This is both helpful in removing any stigma but it also means that there is less security and local people might begin to resent unregistered business ventures and competition. The impression given by recent Amnesty reports is that Turkey is reaching saturation-point and AFAD calls out for help. Meanwhile there are calls on the Turkish government to regularize Syrian workers so that they can pay proper tax.


Meanwhile, today (may 13th) is the anniversary of the birth of Vesta Tilly, the lady who first made famous the character of Burlington Bertie.

Gazi Ahmet Pasa Camii

Gazi ahmet pasa camii fisrst

Gazi ahmet pasa mosque istanbul

Gazi ahmet pasa mosque istanbul2

gazi ahmet pasa camii 3

Finished picture:

gazi ahmet pasa camii finished

This is a mosque in Fatih district in Istanbul, in the area that is named after the Column of Constantine, called “Çemberlitaş” and built by Sinan.This is part of the traditional and authentic Constantinople Proper and is enclosed by the wall, and close to one of the main sites where the wall was breached by the Turks in the conquest in 1453.

This is one of the background images we shall use in our film “Following Lear” It is also an image we are using in a series of cards we are preparing for the Istanbul council.

fatih Bellini

(22nd April: the ottoman troops drag their ships across the land to attack the bay and made the wall of the Golden Horn vulnerable to attack. This was followed 7 days later by building a bridge between Ayvansaray and Sutluce. On the same day, the emperor rejected an offer of peace. It was a month later before Ulubatli Hasan erected the Ottoman flag on the Byzantine wall in Belgradkapi and towards noon on 29th May, the city fell and the Emperor was killed. The first act of Fatih Sultan Mehmed II was to turn Hagia Sophia into a Mosque.)

The pictures above show the progress in drawing. The pictures below show the interior and architectural plans

Istanbul, Gazi Ahmet Pasa Mosque 3 northwest balcony Istanbul, Gazi Ahmet Pasa Mosque floorplan from the age of Sinan

47639515_mps6HJQECD6MZP5YNcHOHUMiSVFKqahkB6GLZdCgCKIinsidesigninside 2inside 3minaret night

Paul Nuttall. Question time

paul Nuttall

Here is a man who said in 2010 that he wants to ban the Burka.

As a Roman Catholic, he should be familiar with images of the Virgin Mary or nuns – almost inevitably wearing a version of the veil.

In a debate then he was challenged by Sir Christopher Frayling who said, “If someone wants to wear the badge of their faith, why shouldn’t they? It’s not harming anyone.”

The point is really that this is becoming a fairly defiant statement.

In Turkey it is a political issue and the political faction can be determined by the way the scarf is tied.

I would like to hear his views now. He was particularly good responding to questions about a dual funded private/public NHS though UKIP is committed this election to a fully free and publicly funded NHS, albeit also committed to trimming the bureaucrats and cutting back PFI contracts.

I have promised a video on the variations of Islamic veiling… somehow the video list seems to get bigger and bigger.

I am scribbling this at 2am. there never seems to be enough time!


Galata Bridge Galata Köprüsü

Just completing work on Galata Bridge in Istanbul

galata bridge 1

galata bridge 2

This is a bridge over the Golden Horn built in 1994. The market below was opened in 2003.

Here is the latest version:

galata bridge 3

and here is a picture that I began about 3 years ago and have started to work on again: this is a scene also for the “Following Lear” project and shows the Albanian Coastal town of Durres

durres1 a

durres 1a

yallah 2


A while ago I wrote about the Elgin marbles and the Pergamon marbles might be seen as a similar problem, though their origin is in Turkey, not Greece. Today, we tried to see them in their museum in Berlin and what a misery it was. It did not help that as we approached the museum, it began to rain, but maybe that was a divine message, a rebuke maybe. We made our way to what appeared to be the front door of the museum which, like so much in berlin is in the process of restoration, so the whole thing resembled a building site.


And there in the rain was a sorrowful queue stretching around the block. I thought this must have been for the special exhibition hosted here on Babylon but no! It was for the Pergamon marbles, the altar of Zeus and the price- astonishing at 12e each! Now the real issue is that in a matter of weeks, the Pergamon exhibition itself will be closed for the next 5 years and the altar will be denied the public till about 2019!

The Zeus Altar was built in the third century B.C. by the founder of Antalya, Attalos to commemorate the victory over the Galatians. The German excavations led by Carl Humman took place between 1878 and 1886 and involved an elaborate jigsaw puzzle of the various sections of the huge altar. The sultan, Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, was believed at the time to be saving antiquity by inviting scholars and archaeologists to explore, catalogue and if necessary ship back to Europe a variety of priceless artifacts.

Legal Evidence for retaining Pergamon

In 2002, the then Cultural State Secretary Fikret Üccan said in Die Welt, “They tell us, the Pergamon Altar and other artefacts in the Pergamon Museum were carried out of Turkey with a permission. We can’t verify this. They show us old letters, some of them written by people without much responsibility in that time.” Other Turkish officials have been more forthright about the legal rights to the Pergamon marbles but they ignore an “irade”, an order of the Padisah, a high Ottoman official, where the sultan abstained from every right to the findings in Pergamon in exchange for 20,000 Marks.

Like Greece’s call for the return of the Elgin marbles, Turkey’s current Prime Minister echoes his predecessor, in demanding the return of the Pergamon altar. Countering this, German officials say that Turkey has scant regard for its own antiquities and insufficient experience of exhibiting them properly. They point to the flooding of Allianoi in 2011. But like the Elgin marbles, there is a question about the legality and the morality of keeping the acquisitions.

Muted and limited requests

Ömer Çelik, however, the culture and tourism minister in 2013, was less abrasive than his predecessor Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay and said in an article printed in Der Speigel that the altar was not in fact up for negotiation: “This particular artifact was turned over to German authorities, with the necessary permits, during the time of the Ottoman Empire. We are not asking for the return of such artifacts. However, we do want to work, through negotiations and simple persuasion, to bring back items that left Turkey without permits and therefore illegally.” He goes on to list the five items specifically requested: “the sarcophagus from the tomb of Haci Ibrahim Veli, a fisherman statue from Aphrodisias and the prayer niche from the Beyhekim Mosque in Konya. We are also asking for the return of a window frame from the same mosque, and of Iznik tiles from the Piyale Pasha Mosque in Istanbul.” All of these items were exported from Turkey at a time between 1884 and 1906 when exports of art was prohibited except on the personal orders of the Sultan. No such orders exist to cover these items. In response, Hermann Parzinger for the Museum accused Turkey of “chauvinism”, pointed to the return of the Hittite Sphinx of Hattusa (“as a voluntary gesture of friendship”*) and says the rest of the claims are baseless. Making the matter worse is the poor maintenance of a German excavation site in Miletus and the theft of a statue at Göbekli Tepe in 2010 which was also being excavated by a German-led team. Celik says, “I’m not saying the head of the excavation team stole the statue, simply that he didn’t take the necessary security measures. Germany paid a fine for what happened.”

*The statue had been taken to Germany initially for what was called “restoration work” but it was then added to the permanent collection in the Pergamon museum.

the charge of Chauvinsim

The claim of “chauvinism” is peculiar but becomes more understandable in the light of German frustration to borrow a portrait head of Alexander the Great. The insurance became so great, the loan became impossible. At the same time, the Germans say that Turkey wants many antiquities to be sent back to Turkish museums, either as part of their permanent collection or as fairly permanent loans. the deal, from the German point of view, is unfair. The British museum had identified and arranged for the transport of 35 objects for the “Hajj” exhibition in 2012. Because it has not returned the “Samsat stele”, the 35 objects destined for the UK were denied an export licence and the British museum had to scrabble around to find suitable replacement pieces. The director of the British Museum said of the Stele, “At no point between 1927 and 2005 have the Turkish authorities, who were fully aware of the stele’s location, suggested that it has been improperly acquired or should be returned.”

Turkey counters with reference to the repatriation of works looted by the Soviets from Germany. “In his interview with Der SPIEGEL,” says Çelik,Mr. Parzinger said that all the treasures the Soviets stole from Germany during and after World War II must be returned to Germany. We consider this legitimate. It is then also logical to say that everything that was exported from Turkey without a permit should be given back. We can’t say that one thing is right but the other wrong.”

All this talk of repatriation is echoed by a former culture minister in Egypt, Zahi Hawass. “Countries that have had their heritage assets removed by other nations need to fight together to improve their chances of having them returned,” he said a few years’ ago.

Refocusing the debate

I think the debate here is mistaken. One of the positive aspects of the British museum position is that access to the marbles there is free and relatively painless. The Parthenon museum in Athens is expensive so the public get a better deal in London. I think it is difficult to argue with that. On top of that, the sale of the marbles to Elgin is fairly straightforward, the legality of the sale was debated in Parliament and a special gallery was created to house the marbles.

Three points need to be made:


Regarding the Pergamon marbles, I see only one legitimate reason for their return, and that is fairly strong -that is that the Berlin museum charges tourists to view the artifact. Free access is reasonable especially if the artifact itself is questionable acquired.

Legal position:

The legal position is fairly clear. We cannot invalidate a contract without good reason even if our attitude to the trading of national artifacts has changed since the 19th century.

National heritage:

The third and final point is that Turkey must ask whether the Pergamon altar is really part of its own national heritage- it could legitimately be claimed to be part of the Greek heritage and Greece might one day add the Pergamon marbles to its list of demands for repatriation to the Acropolis museum.

Meanwhile the Turks have built a replica altar in Pergamon with a sign saying that the original is currently in Berlin and it is hoped that a “museum of the civilisations” will open in 2023 in Ankara and that it will be stocked with Turkish themed loans from a number of international collections.

Sadly, the Turkish government, like the Greek government cannot have it both ways. You cannot call a person a thief and then ask the same person to loan you some of his (probably stolen) stuff, particularly if you make a fuss about claiming a moral right to possession of the stuff anyway. Who would sanction such a loan? What guarantee would there be that you would ever return the stuff (especially when we know you think it is really yours)? This is a moral minefield but the climate is changing.

In the Economist in May 2012, the thenTurkish Culture Minister Günay wrote, “I wholeheartedly believe that each and every antiquity in any part of the world should eventually go back to its homeland.”