Prague, 9 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Attempts by Islamic traditionalists in Turkey and Afghanistan to establish governments strictly according to religious doctrinal principles captured the attention today of Western commentators.
LONDON GUARDIAN: Turkey's government faces the threat of a no-confidence vote
The paper today carries a news analysis by Chris Nuttall writing from Ankara. Nuttall says: "Turkey's first Islamist-led coalition government is facing the threat of a no-confidence vote after a foreign policy fiasco over attempts by the prime minister, Necmettin Erbaken, to strengthen ties with Muslim states in Africa. Mesut Yilmas, leader of the main opposition Motherland Party, described the trip -- which saw Mr. Erbakan holding talks in the outcast state of Nigeria yesterday after receiving a diplomatic knee in the groin from Colonel Moammar Gadhafi in Libya -- as 'the biggest foreign policy scandal in Turkey's history.' "
Nuttall writes that Erbakan had accepted mildly the Libyan leader's harsh criticism of Turkey's policies toward its rebellious Kurds and merely "replied politely that Turkey had a terrorism problem not a Kurdish problem."
WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Turkey's leader should pick his friends more wisely
The paper today calls the incident "a Turkish embarrassment." The newspaper says in an editorial: "Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan sure knows how to pick his friends. For those who missed this Keystone Kops version of foreign policy, Mr. Erbakan grandly announced recently that he was going to Libya to strengthen trade and diplomatic ties with his 'Islamic brother.' "
The editorial says: "At their first meeting in a tent in the Libyan desert and in front of about 50 Turkish journalists, Mr. Gadhafi lectured Mr. Erbakan on Turkey's treatment of the Kurds." It says: "Mr. Gadhafi went on further to criticize Turkey's ties with the West."
The paper says: "Needless to say, most Turks -- accustomed to their leaders' getting a modicum of respect on foreign soil -- were taken aback by the Libyan leader's bark. But they seemed even more outraged at Mr. Erbakan's mild response to the insults." And concludes: "Either Turkey's leader will have to pick his friends more wisely -- or the ambivalence toward Turkey of her nominal friends in the West will become more pronounced and a bigger problem for the stability of the region."
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Regard for Arabs has never been high in Turkey
"New York Times" writer Stephen Kinzer in Istanbul writes in a news analysis published today the Tribune: "The stunning public confrontation between Turkey and Libya continued to shake the pro-Islamic government of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan yesterday, and he could face a parliamentary vote of confidence soon." Kinzer writes: "Because Mr. Erbakan sat silently and refused to disassociate himself from Colonel Gadhafi's remarks, leading politicians are calling for his resignation."
The writer says: "Colonel Gadhafi's criticism of Turkey's foreign policy struck sensitive nerves in a country where national pride is strong and regard for Arabs has never been high."
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Will the Turkish army intervene?
In an analysis in today's edition, Gerd Hohler writes: "There is also speculation in Ankara that the Turkish military might intervene. The General Staff has denied recent press reports saying that the army leadership demanded in a memorandum to President Suleyman Demirel that he remove Erbakan from office. Yet rumors persist that the generals -- who understand themselves as guarantors of Western-orientation and of the worldly-minded order of the constitution -- could deprive the Islamic premier of his power by a coup d'etat."
LONDON TIMES: Women in Kabul are effectively under house arrest
On Afghanistan, press commentary primarily expresses Western dismay at what are perceived to be Draconian elements of Islamic rule. But today's Times offers a reminder in an editorial that "Afghanistan does not represent the whole Muslim world."
The editorial says: "The Taliban, the Islamic zealots who now rule Kabul, yesterday insisted that they would not retreat from their harsh restrictions on women's rights. Not only do women now have to veil themselves completely when going outside, but all those in the Afghan capital are effectively under house arrest, forbidden to work." The editorial quotes the acting minister of information as saying, "Islam does not accept change." It says the minister appropriated "to himself the right to speak for the world's thousand million Muslims and to attribute to his co-religionists the most narrow-minded interpretation of Islamic law," and adds: "Millions of Muslims will be embarrassed by his remarks."
LONDON TIMES: The ruling mullahs are stunned by reaction to their restrictions on women
Also, Christopher Thomas writes in a news analysis: "International agencies in Afghanistan warned the Taliban Islamic regime yesterday to relax its severe restrictions on women." He writes: "The hostility of aid organizations to Taliban has stunned its six-man ruling shura, made up of hard line mullahs who have closed girls' schools and ordered women to stay at home." Thomas writes: "The council also has been shaken by a warning from America that Taliban cannot expect to receive international recognition or foreign aid while it continues its extremist policies against women."
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The Taliban are tools in the game for power and oil
In a news analysis in today's edition, Pierre Simonitsch writes from Geneva: "The United Nations and its special organizations have spent thousands of millions of dollars for reconstructing Afghanistan, sweeping mines and caring for over four million refugees. Now high UN officials are gritting their teeth as they see their efforts destroyed and their world organization maneuvered out again." Simonitsch continues: "Apparently some great powers don't want the world organization to deal with the situation in and around Afghanistan." The writer concludes: "In this game for power and oil, the Taliban are only tools."
FINANCIAL TIMES: The Taliban will be as unpopular in cities as communism was in the country
Columnist Edward Mortimer comments today in the British newspaper: "Defenders of Islam are going to have a hard time with the latest events in Afghanistan, a non-Arab Moslem country." He says that the Taliban "purports to impose Islamic peace, benefiting from popular disillusionment with the feuding resistance groups." Mortimer adds: "But the Taliban's style of government will be as unpopular in Afghan cities as communism was in the countryside."
LONDON GUARDIAN: Dostam favors a broad-based government
In a news analysis today, the paper reports on a military setback facing the so-far victorious Afghan Taliban: "The tide was turning against Afghanistan's Islamic Taliban militia yesterday as the northern warlord, General Rashid Dostam, reportedly engaged them in battle for the first time." The paper says: "The Taliban militia may not easily be pushed back, but (Dostam's resistance) will undermine their hopes of creating a strong government and a united country. The fundamentalists may be forced to do a deal for what General Dostam already has said should be a broad-based government."