Interview with Dr. Bahadir Pehlivanturk, Turkey's expert in international politics

Turkey, a major host for refugees under the Open Door policy
Her good relations with Japan would be holding the key

Situated at the meeting point of West and East, Turkey has historically tolerated and embraced different cultures and values. Today, the country is serving an important international role as a host for a large number of migrants and refugees under its Open Door policy.Yet, domestically, it has suffered a series of issues including terrorism and attempted coup d'etat. We interviewed Dr. Bahadir Pehlivanturk, Turkey's expert in international politics, about the country's 'now' and 'future', with some reference to Turkey's relations with Japan.

Interview Summary:

―Turkey has been hosting a huge number of migrants and refugees under its Open Door policy?

A lot of people came from Syria and Iraq, approaching about three million people in total. Only one million people went to Europe and it created so much problems. Three million people are in Turkey. It is almost a demographic change. A huge part of the society is very willing to take migrants in. But the number is so big that it has imposed such a big burden on Turkey. The government has been criticized because some believe that its policy has led to this migration problem. But the Turkish government has been praised internationally a lot because it is doing so much to help the refugees. The Open Door policy continues.Turkey shares an 800 kilometer common border with Syria. Once these people started to come desperately, closing the doors was not practically feasible.

―As a result of factors including economy, terrorism, refugees and so on, it seems to us that political and social environment in Turkey has become unstable.

Turkey has been dealing with these kinds of problems before, but it has intensified quite a lot and has an important psychological impact on Turkish public. Turkish public has been consolidated because of these problems. For one thing, the economy is still maintaining its stability, even though there are so many problems. It is now more than important or vital for Turkey to have very good international linkages with friendly countries. Turkish relations with Europe and the United States are strained. Because of the Arab Spring, Turkish relations with the Middle East are also strained. Now, Japan and Turkey have enjoyed very good relations historically and diplomatically to be good partners. Even though there is a certain level of unrest, because of what has happened, compared with other Middle Eastern countries, Turkey is still relatively stable. I think good relations with Japan will further stabilize Turkey.

―What did you want to focus on in your presentation titled "Security Issues and Responses in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea"?

Ordinary people who were trying to find safety in Europe lost their lives on their way there. When we are thinking about security and maritime security, we should focus more on the 'human security' aspect. Security is not about stopping migrants. It is about saving their lives at sea. Human smugglers are smuggling these people for profits. Only in 2015, almost 300 of them died. With regard to traditional security, I wanted to highlight whatever is going on in the Mediterranean Sea. Why is Russia so much involved in Syria? Russia and China have a totally different mindset, and are more focused on geopolitics, geo-economies and state security. I wanted to expose that different countries have different ways of understanding the world.

―What would you expect the role of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to be?

I really find a huge advantage in being a non-profit and non-partisan institution going beyond ordinary politics. In this world of polarization, theoretically speaking, the world is in an anarchic state. I studied international politics. From this perspective, there is no world government or state to organize things. Many different states are competing with each other and security problems are increasing. Inter-governmental institutions like the United Nations or institutions like the SPF and NGOs play a very important role.


View the video below for a full interview with Dr. Bahadir Pehlivanturk.

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