Norman Stone

A letter from Turkey

My Turkish never having got beyond intermediate, I always have the same conversation with taxi drivers. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘England, actually I’m a Scotsman,’ I say. Cue suppressed giggles about skirts and whisky from the driver, perhaps a mention of Braveheart. I ask: ‘Where are you from?’ Most taxi drivers in Istanbul are from

What’s eating Turkey

  Ankara ‘Islam, politics, economics — choose two’ is a great line, said by one of my Turkish students, and it would make a good exam question. Tayyip (the name means ‘very clean’ in Arabic — cf. ritual washing) Erdogan (meaning ‘strong hawk’, a Turkish nationalist reference) came to power in 2002 with a very

Blackmail, bribery and bullying

You can always tease Hungarians if you say that they have more Nobel Prize-winners than the Japanese, and that that really remarkable statistic is the abnormally high percentage of non-Jews among them, namely 17½. In 1900 Jews made up about 25 per cent of the Budapest population, and once abroad they hit the world with

Diary – 22 May 2010

The last election in which I voted was that of 1997. On Blair’s brave glad morning I flew to Edinburgh for something, and as we touched down the intercom said, ‘Welcome to Scotland, a Tory-free zone.’ I thought — not a good thing for the national airline to be taking sides. On the way back

My dream for Turkey, by Boris’s great-grandfather

Norman Stone on the dramatic life and death of Ali Kemal, one-time interior minister of Turkey and our mayoral candidate’s forebear Boris Johnson is one eighth Turkish. His great-grandfather (there is, if you abstract the fez and the moustache, a family resemblance) was a well-known writer, Ali Kemal (1868–1922) who came, because of his politics,

Diary – 17 November 2007

Istanbul I had a medical in Ankara not long ago. The doctor was a good sort, looked over her spectacles and read out the list: blood pressure all right, weight OK, cholesterol a little high, heart no problem, kidneys no problem Liver? No, nothing — but, Professor Stone, the lungs. Ah, I thought, at 66,

Turkey is right to fight for an end to the PKK

Istanbul Turkey at the moment is being swept by a great wave of patriotic rage. In the past several weeks a dozen or more young soldiers have been killed in the borderlands of Iraq, and even the most sober television channels again and again show their faces, their funerals, their weeping mothers and sisters. There

What has this ‘genocide’ to do with Congress?

Istanbul Two elderly shoe-shiners were shouting with rage outside my local in Istanbul. The subject was America, and they ranted on and on — first about the disaster in Iraq, then about the stirring up of the Kurds, and then about the latest effort in Congress to ‘recognise the Armenian genocide’. What is so very

A man, a plan, a canal . . .

Said Aburish, a Palestinian with excellent English who worked for years in Iraq, wrote a very good biography of Saddam four years ago. He brought out the full horror of the regime, and showed how Saddam’s hero was Stalin, even to the point that Stalin’s works were Saddam’s bedtime reading (such, at any rate, was