GÜL DEMİR and NIKI GAMM
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
Agreement was reached yesterday between Dr. Faruk şen, the director of the Center for Studies on Turkey (TAM) in Essen, Germany, and North Westphalia Minister Armin Laschet over Sen's future. Under the agreement the director will continue to serve as head of the Center until 31 December 2008 and from January 2009 until 2010, he will direct the German University Foundation in Izmir.
The Minister and TAM Board Chairman Dr. Fritz Schaumann expressed their pleasure over the university project at what the latter characterized as a turning point in Turkish-German relations and as a contribution to the development of cultural relations between Turks and Germans. They also noted the many years of work that Sen had put into TAM and into studies on the Turkish worker in Germany.
Sen noted that he was happy the problem that had arisen over an article he had written in May in the Turkish newspaper Referans concerning the Turks as the new Jews of Europe had been resolved. He also said that he considered the agreement that was reached honored the work that he had carried out over the years.
Şen article pointed out a painful reality
Şen was called to account for his comparison of Turks as the new Jews of Europe in his May article. For that he was confronted with the possible loss of the position that he has held for 23 years.
Energetic, focussed, disciplined, capable of juggling many things at the same time, patient in research, impatient when it comes to expressing his opinion � this article was rather typical of Sen. Born in Ankara in 1948, he studied at the Istanbul German School and then at the beginning of the 1970s he went to Munster University in Germany concentrating on management economy. He received his Ph.D. from the same university with a thesis on �Turkish Worker Companies in Federal Germany.� Sen taught at Bamberg and Essen Universities and then on 1 October 1985, he took on the directorship of the newly established Center for Studies on Turkey in Essen and has continued in that post until today.
When one says he is active, he has supervised a large staff, promoted TAM, taught courses at Essen University and written many books and articles. Could anyone do any more than that?
The work carried out at the Center has been thorough and reliable backed up by interviews and frequent, extensive surveys on topics of importance to the Turkish community in Germany, the German and Turkish governments and the European Union. Sen's background in economics ensures that any statistics cited are accurate and, unlike many professors, he sees to it that reports are readable and understandable by people who are not necessarily grounded in statistical analysis.
Sen has been eerily correct in some of his surmises. For example in1994, he was predicting that the so-called Visigrad countries � Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would be the next countries to join the EU and would make Turkey less appealing as a full member state. He believed at the time that it was essential for Turkey to be admitted to customs union with the EU or it would become much, much harder for it to become a full-member state. Actually Turkey today has a customs union but is still far away from becoming a full member. At the same time Sen pointed out that there was some hope to be had where France was concerned when it was to hold the EU presidency in 1995. Today it is again holding that position but whether or not one can hold to the same hope is a moot question.
Sen has told the TDN that he sees the EU's policy towards Turkey as ambivalent. Both sides agree to final membership but the future significance of Turkey to Europe is unknown. �This leads the EU to conflicting decisions such as approving economic support and pledging assistance for the developing democracies of Central European and Baltic countries while, in some eyes remaining opposed to Turkey's membership, although Turkey is indisputably more economically and politically stable than the other countries.�
Since Sen frequently is quite frank in his opinions, perhaps it is not so surprising that a flap over his article. Entitled Europe's New Jews, the article pointed out that there were 5.2 million Turks living in Europe and facing discrimination. This made them more sensitive to the issue of discrimination against Jews, Armenians and Greeks of Turkish origin in Turkey and more sympathetic because they were essentially in the same boat.
In the article, Sen was supporting the view of businessman / industrialist Ishak Alaton who had claimed that there was state-sponsored discrimination against Jews in Turkey. Sen used the analogy of the way that Turks in Germany were treated as comparable to the way Jews were treated in Germany before World War Two. This article shouldn't have become so very important and Sen explained that his comment was misinterpreted. He even apologized. Prominent members of the Jewish community in Turkey including Alaton and members of the Jewish community in Germany have come to the support of Sen who was forced to accept compulsory leave from the Center and faced the possibility of being removed from his position of 23 years.
One interpretation of the flap is that Sen has made enemies over the years as director of the Center and these people wanted to see him ousted. Well, who doesn't make enemies if he or she is successful? Some people might also want to see a change in direction for the Center, perhaps away from its evenhanded, apolitical stance. Or perhaps Germans are still supersensitive where remarks about Jews in Germany can rub on a sore spot.
Perhaps Sen should not have written about this issue, given his close ties with Turkey and Germany. On the other hand Britain's first Muslim Minister, Shahid Malik this month has claimed that the Muslims in Britain are being made to feel as if they were targeted like the Jews of Europe. Malik's comments are backed up by polls and he further refers to places in Europe where Muslims are also discriminated against.
Pointing out reality can sometimes be painful.