Monday, 3 June 2013

Bother in the Bosphorus

Thoroughly depressing scenes have emerged from Turkey over the weekend. Anti-government protests were forcibly broken up in both Istanbul and the capital Ankara. Many are concerned that the Erdogan government is increasingly authoritarian and have made their voices heard. Interestingly there is also a fear amongst secular Turks that their country is heading in the same direction as Iran. Turkey has always been a rather unique country, between East and West. It seems that this division is much more than a geograhical one. 

In 2013 Turkey withdrew from the Eurovision Song Contest. TRT, the national broadcaster, cited that they were unhappy with the changes to the voting proceedure amongst other things. This is curious given that under the current voting system Turkey have fared very well, including finishing 4th in 2009 and second in 2010. Turkish friends of mine suggested that there were deeper issues at play here and that Turkey is moving away from Europe. Could it be that the withdrawal from the ESC was a reflection of developments on the domestic political scene? Certainly the furore concerning the Finnish same-sex kiss and the  last-minute decision by TRT not to broadcast the final suggests that the political elite in the country appear to have fallen out of love with Eurovision. And Europe. 

In Sweden this year, just days before the contest took place, the Greek group,  Koza Mostra, performed at the Euro Cafe for the fans. They opened their set by performing Turkey's entry from 2004, "Up". Given the history between the two countries this in itself was pretty symbolic, however, the accompanying statement went further. "Turkey we love you, Turkey should be in Eurovision". Given the developments going on in the country at the minute, as well as the continuing debates concerning Turkey's place in Europe more generally, I wouldn't be surprised if Turkey don't return to the contest in the near future. Yet another example of Eurovision reflecting the wider political discourses of the day.  

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