11:33 AM

Professor Reviews Trip to Turkey for Galveston News

"Turkey - a dynamic, growing country" by Alvin Salee

Reprinted from the Galveston Daily News

The phone rings, interrupting my packing. "Are you watching CNN? You are not going to Turkey," states my world-traveled mother. CNN is looping a riot scene. After a few phone calls and a pampered 11-hour flight, we arrive in Istanbul, a city of 18 million people living in a modern, clean environment.

After five days of meetings with university, medical and business officials all across Istanbul, Izmir and Kayseri, there is no evidence of CNN's world. Istanbul is a booming (even by Texas standards) democratic, optimistic enterprise.

The evening we arrived, 150 demonstrators were in the park. Meanwhile, up to a million people peacefully attended a speech by the prime minister. At the same time, the student talent Olympics (Turkish Olympiad) was attended by more than 100,000 people. The closing ceremony was as spectacular as the real Olympics, except it celebrates poetry, music and singing for students from 140 countries. A young lady from Texas won a gold medal.

The next day, I met the young, engaging men who produce the show. Their idealist goal is to promote world peace through sharing the same experience. From the cheering crowd, they may be on to something.

Turkey is not without problems. Two CEOs of nongovernmental organizations I met with are working with more than 500,000 Syrian refugees along a 600-mile border. Their aid is overwhelmed by the numbers. Turkey jumped from 56th to 10th this year in hosting refugees. The cost to date is more than $850 million.

The prime minister has learned not to overreact and tear gas reporters. His mother just passed away, and he overreacted to his opponents. His approach has been modified, and the tree issue is in the courts.

Mother, we are safe and enjoying a dynamic growing country with large cities, landscaped freeways and very friendly people.

CNN should address why 200,000 Syrians have been killed, with more than a million persons displaced, while NATO and the U.S. do nothing but occasionally watch.

P.S.: No U.S. tax dollars were used in this trip.

Alvin L. Sallee of Galveston, director of the Center for Family Strengths and a visiting professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, is a frequent contributor to The Daily News.