Black Sea – an environmental disaster by Ayhan Ozer

Black_Sea_mapWhen I was a child, I always wondered why the Black Sea was called “black”; as this name conjured up in my mind a dark, turbid and muddy body of water. Years later, when I saw the Black Sea I was pleasantly surprised; it was greenish blue and beautiful. Although my worry had been dispelled, the question that gnawed at my mind was not answered… until I came across an article in the New York Times. According to that article, the ancient Turks referred to the Northern direction as “black”, to the South as “white”, to the East as “red.”  This explanation seemed logical as we call the Mediterranean “Akdeniz”, and  the Red Sea is in the East.

The latest news about this beautiful sea are rather gloomy. As the modern world is plagued with the side-effects of the advanced technology and  the ever-increasing world population, these facts take their toll on the air we breath, on our water, and soil. According to the reports, the Black Sea is on the verge of dying, as it succumbs to relentless assaults of the toxic waste as well as human waste dumped by the four major rivers, Danube, Don, Dnieper and Dniester. When the Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986 in the former Soviet Union, now in Ukraine, the Dnieper river dumped radioactive fallout to the Black Sea, which was a major catastrophe with wide-spread effect on the entire eco system of the region. In addition to these main waterways, large and small some 60 rivers and streams deliver tons of waste and toxic materials from an area inhabited by about 160 million people. Turkey has three major rivers pouring into the Black Sea: Sakarya river, Kizilirmak and Yesilirmak – but none of them carries any toxic  waste.

The river Danube is cited as the main culprit that pollutes the Black Sea. It sweeps through the Central and Eastern Europe, and carries oil, lead, phosphorus and nitrates from farm discharge, and such industrial wastes like chromium and cadmium from Germany, Austria, Hungary,  Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova to the Black Sea. In addition, the Black Sea has been a dumping ground of the oil tankers and the freighters. They clean out their oil tanks, flush their ballasts, dump loads of dangerous sludge and waste with impunity, and gradually turn it into a cesspool. Also, with these ballasts tons of jellyfish from Atlantic ocean have been brought to the Black Sea. This new specimen, 4 inches long, is foreign to Black Sea, and thrives on polluted waters, and devours all fish eggs and the plankton on its path. This is another cause that brings the Black Sea on the verge of dying. Once seals and dolphins, caviar and fish were so plentiful,  now they are endangered species, and no one had thought such bounty could ever depleted.

There are scientific findings that the Black Sea is rapidly losing its oxygen and its ability to purge itself. The oxygenated segment, which is only about 300 feet deep, seals off huge hydrogen sulfide and methane segment underneath, but with the dramatic decrease in the living organisms these oxygen carrying elements are rapidly disappearing.  Researches indicate that today the Black Sea is four times more polluted than the Mediterranean. According to the Turkish government the Black Sea catch dropped almost 95 percent during the last years, from 340,000 tons per year to 15,000 tons.

Although this problem may seem like a regional issue, in the broader perspective it is an environmental emergency case which affects large segment of the population as well as our natural resources. With the ever increasing awareness in ecology, the affected countries need to focus on this common problem, because if not worked out judiciously every country will share in the disaster. It is time to cooperate across the borders to save the beautiful Black Sea.


October 1991

International women’s day and a new horizon by Ayhan Ozer

“Women’s conditions will never change – until men change!”  Gloria Steinham

Each year on March 8 the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, and  salutes women around the world for their perpetual struggles to reinforce their civic rights. The world fully recognizes the enormous contributions that the women have made to our civilizations by elevating the standards of our society.  On this day the focus is on the rich potential of women which is a cherished gift for any society, and the world extends gratitude to women for this blessing. Also, on that occasion we are deeply conscious about the joint efforts needed to eliminate the hurdles that impede women from achieving their exalted goals.

The International Women’s Day concept was first recognized on March 8, 1908, the date New York textile workers – all women – called a strike to demand safer working conditions and to condemn child labor. On March 8, 1917, during WW I, this time women in Russia engaged in a strike for “Bread and Peace”. Four days later the Czar Nicholas abdicated, and the new government under Lenin, declared March 8 an official holiday celebrating “The Heroic Women Workers of Russia.”  In 1975 the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on the same day, March 8. Two years later, in December 1977 the  U.N. General Assembly adopted a Resolution proclaiming the ” Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace” to be observed by the member nations.

In those celebrations, usually the agenda is crowded with a whole range of women issues, such as equal access to health care, educational opportunities, jobs and equal pay, prevention of forced abortion and prostitution, female infanticide to evade dowry, genital mutilation, wartime and marital rape and honor killings. Other peripheral issues that are historically part of the fabric in certain societies are also introduced to the platform for addressing. For instance, in most countries medicine is slow to address the female-specific diseases, schools  short-change girls, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. In certain die-hard societies the musty traditions are regarded by the male establishment as the foundation of their power. There are even religious injunctions against land and property ownership by women which relegate them to an economical pariah status. And, statistically about 60% of working women, worldwide, are sexually harassed at work.

On the bright side however, it is encouraging to see so many earnest women, even in the third world countries, strive to improve their conditions. Thanks to this newly raised consciousness more and more countries have taken positive steps in recognizing women’s plight and granting asylum to women fleeing inhuman conditions in their own countries, such as severe domestic abuse and various forms of culturally-motivated violence.

Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension. The growing awareness about women issues has become a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and their participations in the political, educational, economic as well as the artistic areas.

One persistent case in women issues is the women’s condition in Islamic countries. With the advent of Islam the lot of women had been hoped to improve. Alas, women’s social, educational and economic conditions in the Islamic countries are in a primitive level, mainly because Islam considers women inferior physically, intellectually and morally to men. A great majority of those abused women who seek asylum in the West come from Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

In those countries, the first visible hurdle for women to overcome is the dress code. Unless Muslim women discard their burqas, chador and head-scarves they can hardly achieve any progress in women’s rights. A woman with no face is deprived of her personhood, her name, her dignity, and her purchase on humanity.  A woman draped in cloth from head to toe can not be recognized in public, and therefore has no public persona, her existence is impersonal.

Any religion that requires total obedience without reasoning is not likely to produce people capable of critical thought with free and independent judgment. Such a situation is conducive to the development of a powerful clergy, and is  responsible for the intellectual, cultural and economic stagnation especially of women in the Islamic world for centuries. Before Muslim women can address any issue, the foremost battle they must wage is to revolutionize the way they present themselves in a society — both visibly and intellectually.

The International Women Day is a priceless opportunity to reflect upon the progress made by the heroic women all over the world. Also, it gives us inspiration and motivation to call for further changes and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and their communities.

Pennington, NJ

2nd March 2013

Remembering the “Day of Infamy” by Ayhan Ozer

This year on December 7 this country will commemorate the 71st anniversary of the “Day of Infamy”. On that day, without any provocation and any formal declaration of war Japan dastardly attacked on the United States. There were no hostilities between the two countries to justify Japan to commit a surprise attack. Peace prevailed between the United States and Japan; the American public was aghast and outraged; President Roosevelt called that day “A Day of Infamy”.

On that day, Japan surreptitiously came from a distance of 8,000 miles with an armada of 350 planes, combined of fighters, bombers and torpedo planes. A Task Force of 28 ships, including six aircraft carriers provided support for this surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Navy Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. They created an inferno where 2,403 military and 68 civilians were killed, and 1,282 innocent civilians were wounded, 9 ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk, 21 ships were severely damaged. It was a cowardly assault unprecedented in the annals of history.   [Read more…]

Mars Landing – A Tribiute to the engineers by Ayhan Ozer

For centuries, this country has been a fertile ground for the untold engineering marvels. The latest one on the list is the exploration of Mars. On August 6, 2012 America successfully landed a Rover on Mars. This was a flawless, triumphant technological Tour-de-Force for the American engineers and scientists. We salute them.

This enterprise began on November 26, 2011, and ushers in a new era of space exploration. The objective was to determine if the Red Planet, Mars, has the necessary ingredients for life. This was a huge project with a price tag of $2.5 Billion. Other than a big budget, it required the talents, skills, creativity, innovation and the collective mental energy of an army of top engineers and scientists in this country. The 8-month voyage of the spacecraft went smoothly, and it entered the Mars atmosphere at the appointed time, the thrusters guiding it toward the Mars crater worked perfectly. The parachute to help the landing of the “Rover” deployed exactly as intended.  [Read more…]

Patriotism Redefined By Ayhan Ozer

Patriotism is an essential ingredient for binding a society together, a pledge to protect the society’s standards and beliefs against outside challenges. The word “patriotism” comes from the Latin word, patria, meaning “country” or “nation.” It developed from the bonds of common history, language and values which gave birth to the attachment to a common land.

Patriotism is a product of Western culture. It is intimately tied to the nation-state concept. As the western culture is constantly evolving, within this matrix patriotism too goes through metamorphosis. In the past, long and destructive wars in Europe and the bitter race among Western European nations in the scientific discoveries created an excess of nationalism which went by the name of “jingoism.” Lately, with the formation of the European Union the likelihood of war in the continent has diminished considerably, and this has diluted the concept of nationalism. Common currency, lose borders, elimination of the customs, the truncated military, and the abrogation of visa have brought a new concept of “interdependency” among the European countries. They have willingly given away some measure of their independence, and this has brought the European countries closer. In the process, patriotism has gone out of favor and a new trend which we call “cosmopolitanism” replaced it. Many vital sources that have cultivated patriotism in the past have become obsolete, or people are skeptical about them.   [Read more…]

The Young Turks Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Current TV

During the 1 hour program on Current TV (Channel 107) on 14 February 2012, Cenk Uygur, the founder of “The Young Turks”, revealed that a documentary would soon be released on his unique public access show. Brief segments from the documentary were shown with Cenk Uygur telling the audience that he had a great law degree but threw it in the waste basket in order to contribute to the media in America that he loved so much. Appearing in the segments from the documentary, several of his friends commented on his ambitions and his father, Dogan Uygur, stated that he was surprise on his son’s choice of a career.

The Young Turks started as a Radio Talk Show ten years ago and continued as online TV. The show later moved to CNBCE, but was cancelled due to his harsh criticism of the developments in the political arena. His show appears daily on Current TV which is repeated several times each day. [Read more…]

Open Letter to Paul Theroux on his latest book “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star,” on the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar, Published in 2008

Dear Paul,


I read the first 5 sections of your new book while stuck at home during the worst rain storm that hit Istanbul, the town that you have written about and seem to like very much. It is a very interesting book like many that you have written before, including the Great Railway Bazaar which is re-created in the new book with additional comments. I had read Great Railway Bazaar in 1988 while working in Atlanta, Georgia, more then 21 years ago and will keep referring to it as I read the “Ghost Train” which may take some time.. However, I would like to point out several issues with your book now, which are quite bothersome and puts you in the same category of authors who tell only one side of the stories.


The first of thirty two chapters of “Ghost Train” is on the Eurostar and the second chapter on the Orient Express, which incidentally was in Istanbul just last week, despite the rumours that it will be discontinued. In Chapter three, the Ferry to Besiktas, you write about Orhan Pamuk and refer to his book “Istanbul” and his comments on the Armenians and the Kurds. Then on page 43, you make the following statement:

[Read more…]

Open Letter to the following writers in response to their articles noted below:

Harald Doornbos  –     Bye Bye to the Greatest Turk Ever

Sabrina Tavernise –    Turkey : Kemalism on the ropes

Dinesh S’ouze      –      Turkey Ready to Bury Ataturk

David Warren       –     Longing for Ataturk, The Ottowa Citizen, July 25, 2007

Hillel Halkin         –     Ataturk’s Turkey Overturned, New York Sun, July 24, 2007


Those who write with limited knowledge of the Turkish history and the Turkish Republic should know that Ataturk will never be buried nor the Turks will ever say goodbye to the greatest leader of the twentieth century, who will live forever,. The commentary below written back in 2003 should be sufficient to remind Mr. Doornbos, Mr. Souza, Ms Tavernise and anyone else who may think like them that, Ataturk was the greatest leader of the twentieth century and will remain as the guiding principle for the Republic of Turkey. No one, as suggested by the new deputy of the ruling party Prof. Zafer Uskul, will dare to change the Introduction to the Turkish Constitution, which states that the constitution is based on the Ataturk’s nationalism and his peaceful revolution and principles, and Article 2, which also refers to the Ataturk nationalism.

Osman Gazi, the leader of a Turkish tribe from Central Asia established the Ottoman Empire in 1299 in a small town called Sogut, giving his name (known in the west as Othman) to one of the longest lasting states in the history of the world. After conquering lands all accross Asia Minor, Europe and Asia and reaching its zenith during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificient, the empire fell prey to the games of the European states who created the Eastern Question in the ninteenth century in order to dismember the most tolerant empire in the world, which came to an end in 1922.


Mustafa Kemal Pasa and his newly established army fought against the imperialist forces of the west and Mustafa Kemal Pasa established the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. This took place following the liberation of the western part of Turkey and  creating the Grand National Assembly in Ankara on April 23, 1920, while Vahdettin, the last Sultan of the Ottoman Dynasty was collobarating with the occupiers of the capital city Istanbul , who eventually fled the country on a British warship. The Parliament acknowledged the greatness of Mustafa Kemal and gave him the name ATATURK when everyone in Turkey took last names in 1924.


Yuksel Oktay

Washington, NJ , USA

July 28, 2007

Butun Dunya (The Whole World) – Celebrating its 10th Anniversary – June 2008

Mete Akyol

Mete Akyol

One of the best and most educational magazines in Turkey, ‘’Butun Dunya’’ has reached its 10th anniversary with the June 2008 issue. One hundred and sixty page magazine has many book reviews, articles, memoirs, photographs of children and reproductions of paintings of Turkish artists; this time a beautiful painting ‘’Gelincikler – The Red Popies’’ by Bekir Ustun on the back cover..


Butun Dunya was published for many years starting back in the 50s, but disappeared in the 70s. Than in 1998, the magazine was re-introduced under the leadership of Mete Akyol, a famous newspaper reporter and writer who began his career while he was a student at Tarsus American College, also in the 50s. Today, the magazine is a cultural publication of Baskent University in Ankara, and Mete Akyol is the Editor-in-Chief. In his editorial, ‘’Cıktık Acık Alınla, On Yilda…’’ Mete Akyol, writes that magazines become a part of our wealth only if it has a readership, just like the concerts or thetares if they have audiences. The magazine not only has a wide readership but also a dedicated staff who give us a tremendous joy of reading with many wonderul commentaries and articles. Thank you Mete, thank you Cigdem, thank you Gulcin, our formner Tarsus teacher Haydar Gofer and everyone who contributes to this treasure of Turkey.


Among the many commentaries, a tribute to Leyla Gencer, tells the story of  Turkey’s greatest Soprano and her achivements, whose ashes were scattered over the Bosphorous, just like the ashes of Erol Erken, a Tarsus graduate, some years back. The article by Yener Erguven, a guest writer, brought back memories of four years at Talas Amarican High School where he was a classmate from 1949-1952.  Its title, ‘’Birakmaz ki, Ayrilmak Olanakli Olsun Talas’dan’’ tells it all. Yener writes that he left Talas but Talas never left him and tells us the a story of his appointment to a village school as a tecaher in lieu of service in the military and the bond of friendship among the Talas graduates.

Engin Unsal, also a graduate of Talas and Tarsus American College and a frequent writer for Butun Dunya, tells us about his home visits in 1948 to Kozlu, near Adana, and his love of books. He is thrilled when his daughter gives him a book by  Grigoriy Petrov ‘’Beyaz Zambaklar Ulkesi’’ as a birthday present, which he had missed reading during his high school years. We learn that Grigoriy Petrov lived briefly at the Gelibolu Russian Refugee Camp which was recently honored with a monument of their own.


the aricle also tells us that Ataturk had also read Beyaz Zambaklar Ulkesi and recommended to his commanders. The book tells the story of the creation of Finland out of the years of domination by the Russians. It is interesting that the book was rirst published in 1924 in Serbian language and translated into Turkish from the Bulgarian version. The book has been recently translated from the Russian version and published by Koridor Publishing House.


Metin Atamer continues with his series, ‘’Hem Malina Hem Mihina’’; this time writing about Ibrahim Bey, a retired railroad worker. The article by Ilyas Halil, ‘’ Longing for a Country’’ tells the story of the year 1939 when he was 9 years old.


I purchased the magazine in Ankara early on June 3rd, looking for an article on ‘’Allianoi’’ and started reading it in front of the newly opened D&R store near the ‘Kugulu Park – The Swan Park’’. May be it was the impact of the articles that I had read or my old age; the photograph of a bird drinking water from a cup held by a security officer in the final page brought tears to my eyes. ‘’A photograph is worth a thousand words’’, sent by Ilyas Goker.


Yuksel Oktay, PE.

7 June 2008, Istanbul

Only in Turkey – A Tv Program – Different Interpretations

A TV debate that went sour and pulled off the air.

NTV is one of the better TV channels in Turkey which has an excellent coverage of news and also several interesting programs. One of these was the “Different Interpretations – Yorum Farki”, hosted by one of the best intellectuals and Cumhuriyet newspaper columnists, Emre Kongar. For almost three years, Mehmet Barlas was his counterpart who presented an opposing view on the issues, sometimes agreeing but mostly opposing those of Emre Kongar, but usually in a civilized manner. When Mehmet Barlas moved recently to ATV channel to anchor the evening news, Cengiz Candar was picked as his new mate, a well known journalist and writer, who happens to be a graduate of Talas American High School and is a lot different from Mehmet Barlas. Cengiz Candar’s articles appear in the Turkish Daily News in English and Referans newspaper in Turkish.


During the May 14, Wednesday show, several current issues and the closure case for the AKP was being hotly debated. At one point, Cengiz Candar commented that Cumhuriyet newspaper was supportive of coup d’etats, which angered Emre Kongar, prompting him to ask Cengiz Candar if he was not ashamed of making such accusations. Cengiz Candar shut back by telling Emre Kongar that he should be more polite and that he forbids him making such ill-mannered statements. When Emre Kongar accused Cengiz Candar for de-faming people not present, Cengiz Candar asked Emre Kongar to bring any information that he has about him. This went on for a while and Emre Kongar closed the program for the eveining. Since then, NTV has put a sports program for the 20:00 PM slot and put an end to this lively discussion program.


We will certainly miss this program since many times I would listen to the program while stuck in the traffic driving from Esenyurt to Kozyatagi on TEM and going over the Fatih Bridge . I hope NTV will bring this lively show back after a cooling off period, as this kind of programs are needed on Turkish TV channels.


Yuksel Oktay , PE

Istanbul , May 22, 2008