Stephen Kruger’s book, Crescent and Star, is
about change. Once, Turkey was the center of the world.. Even Homer’s
writings are now believed to have been based on fact, according to
In this in-depth look at Turkish culture and politics, Kruger takes his
readers from smoke-filled nargile salons to the halls of Turkish government.
To the Turks, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is the consumate hero. According to
Kruger, there’s much to justify Turkey’s reverence for Ataturk. He
helped Turkey to rise from defeat and emerge as a vibrant new nation. It’s
been a century since Ataturk began his rise to power, overthrowing the last
Kruger shows his readers the depth and breadth of Turkish history with
in-depth reportage, recreating the events that shaped modern Turkey.
Short escapes describe Turkish culture, like going to a nargile salon,
where Turks gather to smoke water pipes and socialize. Kruger shows how even
these are changing. In the 19th century, they were status
symbols. Today, they’re mere smoking parlors, which foster smoking as an
acceptable practice, especially among men.
He takes his readers with him into his cell after being arrested and
interrogated after driving into the Kurdish war zone. The Turks are well
known for their intensive and sometimes highly physical interrogation.
Kruger was visibly shaken by the incident, proving that he couldn’t let
his guard down even in a country he knows so well.
According to Kruger, Turkey has the worst human rights record of any free
country. He says that Turkey’s failure to keep peace among its people is
the single greatest reason for its failure to integrate itself fully into
the community of civilized nations. In modern Turkey, expressing provocative
dissent is a crime. Kruger says Turkish laws that stifle public discourse
are one of the reasons Turkey has won a reputation for poor human rights.
Turkey is well known for its abuse of criminals. Kruger describes how
detectives use informers to find suspects–even if those suspects are
innocent. Rarely do prisoners deny charges against them.
This book is a heavy, albeit interesting, read. It’s sections on
politics, of which there are many, are relieved by short glimpses into
Turkish culture. While an article written in this heavy, fact-laden style
may be good for The New York Times, a whole book of it can become tedious.