US public diplomacy chief: "Turkey's false image is a thing of the past"
In the eyes of the American people, Turkey is no longer the country falsely portrayed by movies such as "Midnight Express," US State Department Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Judith McHale said in an interview yesterday. The infamous 1978 movie, presenting a highly fictionalized story of a young American imprisoned in Turkey for drug smuggling, painted Turkey as an undemocratic, underdeveloped country with little regard for human rights violations, and damaged Turkey's reputation worldwide. But McHale said Turkey has shaken off this false image, saying, "Everyone is aware of the strategic and critical role that Turkey plays in a difficult region." Stating that Turkey has emerged stronger from the global economic crisis, drawing praise for its remarkable economic performance and major industrial investments in recent years, she said, "Turkey is a highly important country in one the world's toughest regions. It plays both a critical and vital role. That's why we're making efforts to better understand Turkey." The US largely supports the role that Turkey plays in this region, she added. Stating that President Barack Obama kept his word in withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, McHale said, "The continuation of our partnership with the Iraqi people, as well as our cooperation with Turkey on Iraq, carries great importance. Turkey plays a very critical role in Iraq. The US wants to continue working with Turkey to strengthen Iraq." Asked about the US' poor image in Turkey, especially since the Iraq war, only 14 percent positive in recent polls, McHale said such polls can be misleading, urging, "Instead we should see the bigger picture, the fundamental and indispensable partnership between our countries." She added, "I'm here to remedy this situation … There are many factors that affect the findings of opinion polls. Our diplomats maintain close communication with thousands of Turks. I've had talks as well. For me, such polls don't reflect the real perception of the US among ordinary Turkish citizens. The current atmosphere, I believe, stems from the reaction to certain US policies." Stating that the US has several programs to improve relations with the Turkish people, McHale added, "We want to bring young filmmakers and entrepreneurs from the two countries closer to each other. We're going to increase dialogue with the Turkish people. We're launching projects to help us better understand each other."