Hi everyone, I'm Joe - I’ve been based in Istanbul for three years and have in that time covered Turkey, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the uprisings across the Middle East. I joined WSJ in 2007 in London.

The past year has been a bumpy one for Turkey with last summer’s hopes of winning the 2020 Olympics giving way to street protests, financial turbulence and now a sprawling corruption scandal that has shaken Turkish politics. You'll have no doubt read that just last week the government moved to ban Twitter.

I’m happy to chat about whatever you like – from the upcoming elections and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the country’s stuttering European Union bid and its role in the Syrian conflict.

I can also talk endlessly about where to find Turkey’s best kebabs and Baklava. But you guys take the lead.

Here’s a link to my WSJ profile and recent stories: http://topics.wsj.com/person/A/biography/7835

Here’s my twitter account: https://twitter.com/JoeWSJ


Thanks everyone for your questions - its been fun! You can follow me on Twitter @joewsj

Comments: 103 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

KLCRM11 karma

Hi Joe, I´m Emre from Hannover, Germany. It´s a pleasure to be able to chat with you. What are your thoughts on the current political atmosphere? The situation seems to be heating up every day, so I wonder if you think whether or not Turkey will face another Gezi style protest wave.

JoeParkinson7 karma

Hi Emre, good to be here. I'm sure that it appears from reading the daily headlines that politics in Turkey is becoming more antagonistic and more polarized. It feels that way here in Turkey too. That's largely because we are approaching a series of elections which are likely to dictate the political settlement in the country, with different groups seeking to influence the process. Turkey has been through a lot of political crises in previous decades but it feels as if we are entering another difficult period. Many people hoped that the March 30 local elections would provide a kind of pressure valve to reduce the political tension, but most analysts believe that political volatility will remain a problem for months and that could lead to more street protests. Whether those protests will resemble the broad coalition of interest groups that joined forces in the Gezi protests is unclear. Right now, people are focusing on the local ballots on Sunday.

thromar6 karma

Do you expect FDI inflow to slow down significantly given the political turmoil the country is going through on top of the Fed's tapering decisions? If no, why not?

AnswerEveryQuestions-7 karma

I'm not quite sure.

JoeParkinson10 karma

Hello. sorry for delay. Attracting FDI has been a perennial problem for Turkey - even when the economy was chalking up 10% growth in 2010/11 the vast majority of the capital inflows were speculative and short-term. The current political turmoil appears to be intensifying that reluctance BUT we have to look at all of this in the context of Fed tapering. In that context - where investor appetite for EMs including Brazil and South Africa has been declining - its tough to separate whether the problem is the macro environment or the political risk. One other factor is that there's also not many obvious FDI targets as most of the state monopolies have been privitized over the past decade.

Bottom line: As Turkey's growth is expected to slow this year because of both of those drivers, its hard to see FDI not slowing in tandem.

holy_maccaroni5 karma

Hey Joe, what's your favorite Team in Turkey?

JoeParkinson16 karma

Besiktas seninle olmeye geldik. BESIKTAS!!!

sandravdr5 karma

Hi Joe,

What do you think Turkey's chances on joining the EU are and how much longer will they want to wait around for it?

Ps. Best baklava is Koska on Istiklal I think :)

JoeParkinson11 karma

Hi there. When i arrived in Turkey in 2010, there still appeared to be some momentum in Turkey's EU bid and i thought it would be one of the top issues i would write about. I have written about the EU bid occasionally since then, but usually to chart the diminishing appetite from both Ankara and Brussels to meaningfully press ahead with the talks.

The situation now is more problematic than at any time since i arrived: EU parliamentarians and the commission have repeatedly (and increasingly assertively) criticized Turkey in recent months for the government's reaction to the corruption probe: alleging that it has curtailed freedoms and rolled back democratic reforms. PM Erdogan has increasingly sought to accuse the EU for meddling in Turkey's affairs. The EU is in a difficult position as some lawmakers would like to freeze accession talks with Turkey while others are nervous that a suspension could mean a permanent rupture in ties with the consequence of Turkey reorienting its politics.

Bottom line: its not going to happen any time soon. The period after the Turkish and European Parliamentary elections in the coming months could be crucial.

p.s. Koska not as good as Guluoglu.

wfa195 karma

Joe, Mets or Yankees?

JoeParkinson29 karma

I'm British, so i'd have to say Arsenal.

TongueDartTheFartBox5 karma

Did you catch the match this past weekend? The gunners put on quite the show...

fonze19831 karma

Hi Joe, Tom here you might know me. I'm interested in your response to this one.

JoeParkinson29 karma

As Turkey's coach Fatih Terim would say: "This is the football... what can i do sometimes?"

ruthie18011 karma

Fenerbahçe or Galatasaray?

JoeParkinson17 karma


canongrrl4 karma

And that said, let's talk Syria, the downing of the Syrian jet and today's alleged cross border agitations as reported earlier by Turkish armed forces- in the light of the change in ToE - as well as the fact that any potential armed conflict, should Turkey enter into war w/Syria I.e., could postpone reginal elections by at least 1 year.

JoeParkinson10 karma

Hi there. The Syrian conflict is now 3 years old and the war has been impacting Turkish communities - socially, economically and in terms of security - for that whole period. While a lot of news organizations (and readers) have got fatigued by the war, the fighting along the Turkish border has been continuing and in recent weeks it has intensified.

Your question flicks at what some people in Turkey have been alleging; that the timing of the jet shooting - one week before local elections - could be a move to divert the public's attention from the corruption scandal hitting the government. The government has dismissed those allegations and labeled them "irresponsible."

I can't comment on what the government's motivation is here because i don't have the facts. But what we do know is that the military does seem to be acting within the rules of engagement adopted after the Syrians shot down a Turkish jet in June 2012. We also know that this kind of thing has happened before when Turkish forces shot down a Syrian helicopter in September last year.

Bottom line is that its hard to know precisely what is happening on the border and how it is altering the army or the government's calculations.

Still, i don't think the increased tensions will derail Sunday's elections - and at this stage its hard to see them delaying other ballots due in the summer or beyond.

JoeParkinson3 karma

I'm going to wrap up now. Any quick fire questions for me?

ImOnRedditNow19923 karma

Have you ever been forced by your bosses to write something with a partisan slant or found that you work had been edited without your approval to include such a slant?

JoeParkinson11 karma

This is a question i hear almost every day in Turkey. The view here is that news organizations are beholden to commercial and political interests that prevent them reporting fairly and often mean that they are used as tools to advance certain agendas. The polarization of politics here has been mirrored in the press, so many Turks' frame of reference is that each newspaper has a definitive bias on certain issues. The perception is that this bias and polarization is growing.
That means that we've been repeatedly accused of bias from the government and from anti-government activists who have taken exception to our writing on Turkey. I can say honestly - (and i know some of you roll your eyes in disbelief) - that i've never been pressured to write a story in a particular way. The editing structure at the Journal means each story gets input from experienced journalists and editors which helps us ensure accuracy and quality. That's how it is.

thromar3 karma

From a non-Turkish point of view, how do you make sense of the continued strong support for government (my guess is still near %40, will see this weekend) even in the face of tangible proof of grand corruption? Do you think that the AKP will lose either İstanbul or Ankara municipalities?

JoeParkinson4 karma

Hi there. This is good question that many people are curious about - they see the drip-drip of negative headlines from Turkey and wonder why Erdogan and the AKP retain such a high popularity.

The reasons are many but one key factor to explain the appeal of Erdogan is to think of what came before him: a succession of corrupt, and often incompetent coalition governments that saw Turkey seesaw through political and financial crisis in the 1990s.

Read this story by my colleagues @wsjemre and @dowjones_yeliz from the industrial city of Bursa on how Erdogan retains strong popularity in Turkey's swing districts. http://on.wsj.com/MC302F

On Ankara and Istanbul - right now not many pundits betting against AKP but the polls appear to be narrowing, especially in Ankara. Here's our story from today looking at the Istanbul race: http://on.wsj.com/1mqOWZA

dick_wool3 karma

Is Turkey a good vacation spot?

JoeParkinson11 karma

Yep. Absolutely.

mondenyo2 karma

Turkish politics seem to be messed up.

  • Involvement of Gulen movement and the recent 'ugly divorce'
  • No honest mainstream media
  • Anti-democratic military coup regimes in the past
  • Unstable neighbours (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Greece etc.)
  • Corrupt government, no trustable judiciary system
  • Discriminated minorities (Alevites, Kurds, non-muslims)
  • and dozens more...

All Turkish people I know are very worried about the future of the country, and they have very little hope. Do you feel the same?

JoeParkinson4 karma

Great question. The bullet points you listed certainly make for depressing reading and i understand why many Turks are increasingly nervous about the direction of their country. I'll address those points shortly but first its important to say that although we have entered a period of troubling political developments, the picture is not all bad. Take the economy: despite all the bad news it has shown remarkable resilience. Inflation and interest rates are still at comparatively historic lows. Healthcare coverage has been expanded dramatically and many people who were previously shut out of politics have been brought into the fold.

That said, the picture does appear to be becoming more concerning as we now have a coalescence of negative events that are aggravating one another and threatening to resurrect some of the old dividing lines in Turkish politics and in Turkish communities.

All the issues you mention are causes for concern that call for cool responses from political leaders. To my mind and for many Turkish friends and colleagues, the most alarming trend now is polarization - which we see in a more and more parts of public life. Communities are finding it more difficult to understand one another and the real concern is that one day that could mutate into the kind of anger and street violence that roiled the country in the 1970s and precipitated a military coup. I don't want to be alarmist and we're some way away from that scenario right now, but more and more analysts are talking about the dangers of community divisions' hardening. See our story from last month: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303730804579437152016849092?KEYWORDS=joe+parkinson&mg=reno64-wsj

barlitos2 karma


JoeParkinson4 karma

Even at the best of times, Turkey's central bank has repeatedly missed its inflation targets, drawing widespread criticism from economists and investors here and abroad. With the FED tapering and the increased political risk in Turkey, Governor Erdem Basci is poised once again to miss his year end forecast of 6.6% not to mention the official target of 5%. Already, businessmen's year-end inflation expectations have deteriorated to 8% according to the central bank's own survey.

NDaveT2 karma

Is Ataturk still revered by most of the Turkish population? If so, how does Erdogan's party square their semi-Islamism with Ataturk's attitude toward religion in politics?

JoeParkinson9 karma

Short answer is YES, but its complicated and would take me at least 2000 words to get close to explaining it. Put it this way, it'll make a good PHD thesis for someone.

ozziess1 karma

Please do tell us more about kebaps and baklavas. What are your favourite restaurants?

JoeParkinson7 karma

This is bound to be controversial with Turkish readers but the received wisdom goes: Baklava in Gaziantep, Kebab in Adana, Manti in Kayseri, and Iskender in Bursa.

(On that point, when i first arrived here i ate so many Iskender Kebabs - the sauce, yoghurt and fat-covered doner meat served on squares of bread - that i basically became addicted.)

GodOfThunder691 karma

Hi Joe :)

Best 3 spots in turkey outside of Istanbul ?

JoeParkinson6 karma

There are just too many, but i love; Kas, Hatay, Diyarbakir.

TryNstopME024-1 karma

Turkey seems dangerous as a u.s. Citizen. Any horror stories?

JoeParkinson28 karma

I'm glad you asked this as its my chance to clear a misconception. i'm sure the Television images you've seen in recent months give you the impression that Turkey can be a scary place that is wracked by political turmoil. There certainly is some political instability here but Turkey is a safe, welcoming, wonderful country that you absolutely must visit if you get the chance. Istanbul is a city of 15 million and there are of course some sketchy pockets but no more than any american cities. The most unstable place right now is along the Syrian border - where the civil war is increasingly overlapping to hit Turkish communities. We put together a video project about that issue - take a look here: http://graphics.wsj.com/BORDERLANDS/