Worldwatch

4 minute read
LILLIAN KENNET

Unfurled Passion
Turks have been gripped by patriotic fervor. The national flag was on display across the country — flying from homes, taxis, city buses, banks and store fronts — after television news showed two boys trying to burn one during the Kurdish new year festival Newroz, when Kurdish nationalist sentiment traditionally runs high. Even Turkey’s reticent but powerful military General Staff weighed in, issuing a statement describing the incident as an act of “treason” by “so-called citizens.” Civilians, too, felt scorned. “Burning the flag is a slap in our face,” said Ahmet Güney, a shop clerk in Istanbul’s busy Taksim district. “We must show that we will not tolerate this.” Turks have always been patriotic, but the flag-waving may be more than a response to a relatively minor incident. “Left- and right-wing nationalists are uniting on what they call an anti-imperialist agenda,” says political commentator Ismet Berkan, editor-in-chief of the national daily Radikal. The reaction may be symptomatic of deepening national insecurity as relations with Europe deteriorate over eventual E.U. membership and recent allegations of

Performance

of the week

After decades of experimentation, the world’s first black hyacinth, Midnight Mystique, has arrived. The three “ancestor” bulbs whose genes helped create the dusky shoot of bell-shaped florets were bought for over $93,000 each. But the fashionable flower promises to recoup that investment and then some. Bulbs will sell for $15 each — over 10 times the norm for hyacinths — and gardeners worldwide are already clamoring for the dark side of the bloom.

police brutality. Ties with the U.S. are also frayed over uncertainties about post-war Iraq. Observers note that the country’s best-seller lists currently include Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf and Metal Storm, a fictional debut by two local authors in which the U.S. invades Turkey. “This is just the beginning,” warns Berkan. “I expect this wave of nationalism to grow.” — By Pelin Turgut

Hard Times
UNITED NATIONS Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed reforms to the global body, including enlarging the Security Council and establishing new rules for authorizing military force. The broadly welcomed proposals were overshadowed by further criticism over management of the Iraqi oil-for-food program and new calls for U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo to face charges of sexual abuse.

War Stories
BRITAIN Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is to review the government’s decision not to disclose advice from Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on the legality of the war in Iraq. The review follows increasing pressure on Prime Minister Tony Blair to reveal why the Attorney General, who reportedly questioned the invasion’s legality in early March 2003, might have changed his mind and backed the war. Thomas will decide whether the document should remain secret.

Open Verdict
LEBANON President Emile Lahoud signaled support for an independent investigation into the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Harari as a U.N. report concluded that Beirut’s own inquiry was flawed and inconclusive. The U.N.’s report did not name a culprit in the bombing but cited Lebanese security failures and polarizing tensions with Syria as factors in the killing.

Putin’s Promise
RUSSIA President Vladimir Putin extended an olive branch to business leaders shaken by the state’s controversial breakup of oil giant Yukos. He backed a proposal to exempt privatizations that took place over three years ago from judicial investigation. The announcement aimed to boost confidence and revive investment in Russian business.

Mission Incomplete
INDONESIA The U.N.’s refugee agency pulled out of tsunami-hit Aceh ahead of new regulations for foreign relief agencies that could severely restrict aid workers there. The organization, which has experienced tension with Jakarta in the past over its support of Acehnese political refugees, was told the absence of refugees in Aceh made its presence unnecessary. Thirty-three million dollars raised by the group for reconstruction may now have to be returned to donors or diverted to other causes.

MEANWHILE IN JAPAN…
Sumo Squabble
Guardians of the ancient Japanese sport of sumo blocked moves to allow competitors to wear short-like “sumo pants” rather than the traditional loin-cloth. Amateurs had hoped to spur youth interest by allowing more modest gear, but the professional body insists it has “no intention of allowing children in pants into the ring.”

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