Turkey's Many Treasures
A Spotlight on Turkey
|Written by Nancy Frachtman|
Turkey is a land of many treasures with its natural resources, rich cultural and historical heritage and geostrategic location. It is formally called the Republic of Turkey, “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti” in Turkish. It is often referred to as the cradle of civilization as its lands have been home to a variety of tribes and nations of people since the Neolithic Age, and its largest city, Istanbul has been the seat of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires throughout history. Istanbul is the only city located on two continents, Europe and Asia. The European portion of Turkey is known as Thrace while the Asian side is known as Anatolia or Asia Minor. The official language is Turkish and its currency is the Turkish lira. It is the birthplace of St. Nicholas, the location of two of the Seven Wonders of the World—the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus-Bodrum, the site of the City of Troy and the mythological Trojan War, where the tulip originated, where the Mawlawi whirling dervishes were founded, and so much more. It has many natural resources which include: coal, iron ore, copper, and hydropower to name a few. The main industries are textiles, auto manufacturing, mining, steel, shipbuilding, petroleum and tourism. Turkey has a vibrant culture with its music and authors, coffee, cuisine and sports: soccer, basketball and wrestling and the people of Turkey enjoy sharing their culture and history with others, visit http://www.byegm.gov.tr/docs/Turkiye2011/english/index.htm for more information.
The Republic of Turkey is about the size of Maine and Texas put together. It is divided into seven regions which are further divided into eighty administrative provinces. It is a predominantly Muslim country with a democratic, secular social state governed by the rule of law. There is a separation of powers in its governmental system. The President is largely a figurehead and has a ceremonial role, while the executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. The Legislative power is vested in its unicameral parliament known as the Turkish Grand National Assembly. And the judiciary power is made up of independent courts and a supreme judiciary. The current President is Abdullah Gül and the Prime Minister is Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey’s history is filled with significant world events dating back to the Stone Age with one of the first human settlements at Çatalhöyük. It is impossible to capture Turkey’s entire history in these next few paragraphs, so it has been condensed to highlight some points of interest. During the 5th and 6th centuries BC, the Persians conquered Anatolia. It later fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Subsequently, Anatolia was divided into a number of small kingdoms, all of which had succumbed to the Roman Republic by the mid first century BC. In 324 the Roman emperor Constantine I chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Roman Empire. He renamed it New Rome which later became Constantinople and eventually, present day Istanbul. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it became the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire existed for more than a thousand years from its genesis in the 4th century until the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Many historical events transpired between the Ottoman conquest and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey had allied itself with the Axis powers and when they were defeated, the Allies agreed to partition the Ottoman Empire among them. However, in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a Turkish military commander led a revolt against the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire and won. As a result, on July 24, 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed which led to international recognition of the sovereignty of the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" as the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, and the republic was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923, in the new capital of Ankara. Turkey remained neutral during most of World War II, but entered the war on the side of the Allies on February 23, 1945, as a ceremonial gesture. On June 26, 1945, it became a charter member of the United Nations and seven years later, it joined NATO. Several events have occurred since then and can be accessed on the Internet.
Turkey has many consulates around the world, including one right here in Houston. The Consul General of Turkey to Houston is Cemalettin Aydin. Mr. Aydin was born in Anamur/Mersin, Turkey. In 1996, he began his career as a political officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara. The following year he served in the Turkish Military. Afterwards, he was posted to various embassies around the world between 1999 and 2008, with varying degrees of responsibility. In 2008, he returned to Ankara and was appointed as the Chief of Section Advisor at the Office of the Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2009, he was posted to the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC, as Counselor and in July, 2011, he was appointed as Consul General to the Consulate General of the Republic of Turkey in Houston, Texas. The Consulate’s jurisdictional area encompasses Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Mr. Aydin was kind enough to participate in this article and stated that “the Consulate tries to boost cultural, economic, and commercial relations between Turkey and Houston.” (http://houston.cg.mfa.gov.tr/). Additionally, Turkey tries to increase awareness of its country through higher education scholarships, offered every year to thousands of students from all over the world. Students from more than a hundred-fifty countries continue their university education in Turkey. Interested applicants can obtain more information at www.trscholarships.org.
Due to the economic reforms beginning in the 1980’s, the Turkish market has gradually opened its doors to foreign trade and investments. Turkey has affiliated itself with major trade and customs organizations and signed free trade agreements with various nations in the last thirty-two years. It became a member of the WTO in 1995 and in 1996 Turkey joined the European Union’s Customs Union. “It has placed special emphasis on its commitment to reduce customs duties in order to align itself with the Common Customs Tariff,” said Mr. Aydin. As a result of its commitment to integrating regional and international trade norms, Turkey has attracted an estimated 110.5 billion dollars in foreign direct investment in the last eight years. Turkey’s new and highly developed technological infrastructures in transportation, telecommunications and energy, are attracting foreign investors. Additionally its geostrategic location bridging Europe and Asia gives it access to 1.5 billion customers all over the region, making it very appealing to businesses. “Turkey’s regulatory environment is extremely business-friendly,” said Mr. Aydin and it is possible to establish a business in a day with the appropriate trade registry.
At the state/city level, Houston is the first trading partner of Turkey in the U.S. It is also a sister city with Istanbul. “Houston’s economic climate, transportation, population, geographical location, port, business friendly environment and of course the hospitality of its people, attract Turkish investors and traders to Houston,” said Mr. Aydin. Additionally, Houston is home to forty foreign government nation trade and commercial offices, twenty-three foreign chambers of commerce, and twenty-five foreign banks representing thirteen nations; making it an inviting location for foreign businesses and investors. In 2011 the total trade volume between Houston and Turkey peaked with a 98% increase and reached 3.6 billion dollars. Turkey would like to increase its trade volume with Houston. Some potential products Turkey would like to provide to Houston businesses include: pipes, pumps, valves and steel. Additionally, it would like to participate in the production of offshore platforms for Houston energy companies. Conversely, Turkey needs raw materials for the enhancement of its steel industry, like scrap metal, and Houston companies may be able to provide these materials. The biggest challenge to business negotiations between Americans and Turks is that Turks still honor a person’s word and Americans prefer the written word in the form of extensive contracts. Another minor obstacle is that all U.S. citizens require a VISA to visit Turkey. VISAS may be obtained prior to leaving the US at the Turkish Consulate (houston.cg.mfa.gov.tr) or upon arrival at theTurkish airport.
Mr. Aydin pointed out that “we share a lot of values and assets with Houstonians including but not limited to promoting peace, democracy, human rights, respect of others, gender equality.” It is estimated that there are approximately seven thousand Turks living in the Houston area and more than ten Turkish-American Associations are located here to support them.Two of those associations are the American Turkish Association (www.atahouston.org) and Raindrop Turkish House (www.raindropturkishhouse.org), which host two elaborate Turkish festivals a year. The festivals showcase Turkish culture, folklore, cuisine and music; for more information visit www.turkishfesthouston.com and www.turkicfest.org. There are also other organizations in Houston that promote collaboration and celebrate Houston’s international community, such as the World affairs Council, Greater Houston Partnership, Global Houston, Houston’s Junior Chamber of Commerce, and so many other groups. This year the Republic of Turkey has been selected as the featured country for the Consular Forum 2012 and 61st Annual Consular Ball for the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce, for more information visit, http://www.houstonjaycees.org.
Turkey is a land of many treasures and if visiting the Republic of Turkey and have limited time, there are some must-see sites that Mr. Aydin recommends and they are: the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, the Grand Bazaar, the Basilica Cistern, Troy, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Pergamon, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Mount Nemrut. Mr. Aydin leaves us with a final wish, “Türkiye’de görüşmek üzere,” which means “See you in Turkey.”
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