“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors, Members of Parliament, Honoured Guests and Friends. My name is Ibrahim Dogus, and I am the director of the Centre for Turkey Studies, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you to this, our 5th annual gala dinner.
Firstly, I would like to thank our staff, in particular, Edward Rowe and Buket Bora, as well as our volunteers and interns.
I wish to say a big thank you to our sponsors,Lord Karan Bilmoria from Cobra Beer, Phil Whitehead from Molson Coors, Rami Ranger from Sunmark Ltd, Altan Kemal from Altan & co and Metin Pekin from Xpo Online.
Moreover, I wish to thank our supporters, including Mr Jeremy Corbyn, who we are pleased to have with us here tonight. There are many others, who I cannot all name here now, but who have provided us with tremendous support. Finally, of course, I would like to thank my lovely wife, Raife, for all her support.
This year is a very special year for CEFTUS as we are celebrating our fifth anniversary. Tonight is an opportunity for us to reflect on all the hard work of the last years and all that we have achieved thanks to it.
When we established CEFTUS five years ago we had two clear goals. Firstly, to provide an independent, non-partisan forum for discussion about Turkey and the region for the British people, and for Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot communities. And secondly, to create dialogue between experts from Turkey and the UK, to build bridges between the two countries and their peoples.
Since then, we have done all this and more. What we just saw in this video is a fraction of what we do. We are now holding regular events, which inspire fruitful debate, with key commentators and actors in Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot politics, and in Turkey-UK affairs.
We are recognised as the leading name in Turkey-UK relations in Britain and Turkey. Our support is growing all the time, and we are setting our sights higher than ever. There is so much more we can achieve if we stick to our aim of promoting discussion and dialogue. And now we are starting our own research and consulting activities, marking a new stage in our development.
One of our driving principles is embracing plurality. We believe that bringing together a variety of voices is the best way to enrichen both ourselves and our world. By listening to different ideas and opinions, we find innovative solutions and healthy compromises. This is the way towards progress.
Part of Turkey’s wealth is its diversity and we should embrace this. We all know that Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot politics can get messy and acrimonious at times. We seek to break through this by providing a channel for those who want to engage productively.
Our platform allows us to discuss key issues and avoid typical partisan rhetoric, giving both sides a voice. This allows for substantive and respectful discussion. Something that is sadly often lacking in discussions about Turkey. No one else is doing what we are doing here. Ceftus is unique. And more relevant than ever.
The recent attempted coup is a reminder of the serious threats to democracy that Turkey and other countries in its region face. We condemn in the strongest terms any attempt to subvert the democratic process. We also call on the government to show restraint in their handling of the aftermath.
We are steadfastly non-partisan and believe in the power of cross-party political dialogue. Over these last years we have welcomed thinkers and actors in Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot politics from across the political spectrum. Following the change in leadership in the UK, we are as open as ever to working with the new government and the opposition.
We enjoy support from Theresa May, Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn, who we congratulate on his re-election as leader of the Labour Party.
We are committed to the principles of democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and minority rights. We believe that it is only with respect for these principles that can Turkey and its friends move towards a brighter future. These are key issues in Turkey currently. The interpretations and implementation of these principles have inspired passionate debate. We call on the government and opposition in Turkey to adhere to these fundamental principles.
Until 2015, Turks and Kurds had enjoyed several years of peace, harmony and progress. The collapse of the peace process put an end to this period of growth. It is vital that the Turkish government reconsider its approach and pursue a peaceful settlement to the current conflict.
Turkey is one of the most important countries in the region. It is a key player in the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict, relations between Russia and the West, and geopolitical energy issues. And Turkey’s plans to become a major energy hub have been brought forward by recent gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean. Above all, Turkey is a partner, a friend and an ally for the UK.
Turkey-UK cooperation in combating ISIS and intelligence sharing are vital to both countries’ safety. With this in mind, Turkey would be wise to spend more energy combating ISIS in its region.
Moreover, Turkey UK bilateral trade is hugely important. Turkey holds many opportunities for British businesses. Turkey is set to be the world’s 12th biggest and Europe’s fourth biggest economy by 2050. Interest in Turkey from the UK continues to increase, another reason why a platform for understanding the country, one that avoids sweeping generalisations, is so important.
We have done so much already, and there is so much more we can achieve with your support. In our magazine, available here this evening, you can see what we have been up to. Take a copy and please tell us what you think. What have we missed? What can we do better? We need your ideas and feedback. Without your trust, without your faith, all this would not have been possible.
So, now, time for the money bit! Please, be generous in your donations this evening. We pay for our office, staff, flights and hotels for guest speakers, our website, and our marketing, all on a budget of about £50,000 a year. We make every pound go a long way!
Maintaining our non-partisan platform is hard work. We do not make any money from events. And we are not funded by governments or universities or any other organisation. But this allows us to maintain our independence.
We need regular donations and financial support. So please consider becoming one of our members. We still have not hit our fundraising target for the evening. There’s a raffle and auction still to come. And should you not have cash, we accept bank transfers as well!
The growing interest in Ceftus reflects the desire and need in the UK to understand more about Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot society.
Current events are as turbulent as ever, conflicts rage, disagreements and prejudice abound. Through understanding, dialogue and breaking down barriers, however, we work to fight against these.
Enjoy your evening, and thank you for coming.”
Founder and Director