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Ashley Faintuch


By Ashley Faintuch, student at University of Winnipeg, March 30, 2011

On March 24, Hillel hosted a Lunch and Learn with Dr. Ahmet Seyhun at the University of Winnipeg. It was a shame that the event was poorly attended (aside from  myself there were four students, and three Jewish Fedaration staff.)  I learned of the event from a Faceboook page that was posted about ten days beforehand

Dr. Seyhun was born and raised in Turkey, where he studied and served in the Turkish military presented interesting albeit controversial opinions. Currently Dr. Seyhun is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, and teaches History of Islam, History of the Ottoman Empire and Islam and the West.
The style of the event was “Q+A” – a question and answer period on any topic related to the Middle East, Israel, Islam, or Turkey. Dr. Seyhun’s gave his personal analysis and opinions.

What was very surprising to all of us was that he believes that the world is wrong in thinking Iran is the threat. According to Dr. Seyhun, Islamic terrorism does not come from Iran, but is actually from Saudi Arabia.  Seyhun, who completed his PhD at McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies in 2002 stated that Saudi Arabia “is the most anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and anti everything but themselves”. He went on to say that this creates a tricky situation, because the Saudi Royal family funds terrorism, (eg. donating to Al Qaeda) but is also a major ally of the United States. 
Dr. Seyhun, who has a Law degree from the University of Istanbul, and a Masters degree in History from Bogazici University, is of the view that Iran is not a nuclear threat. He says that Iran does not have a bomb and even if it did, it does not have the capacity to deliver it. He feels Israel is a hundred times more advanced and has the capability to deliver, thus making Israel the threat. He did not present any  supporting material for his view (i.e. he did not refer to any reports, analysis from think tanks, etc)
This discussion turned to Turkey’s role in the Middle East. Seyhun believes that Turkey’s role is to provide stability. He stated that Turkey has of the world’s largest economies,  and it plays a moderating role in Middle East politics. Since we were now on the topic of Turkey, the conversation naturally shifted towards last May’s flotilla.

Readers will recall that the Mavi Marmara, the ship transporting weapons, was boarded and the Israeli soldiers were attacked. Once provoked, the Israelis responded with force. Dr. Seyhun believes that two mistakes were made. The first was that the Turkish government did not properly check the ship nor did it check who was on board. He believes the second mistake was that Israel  “attacked the ship in international waters and opened fire”. He claims to have watched numerous videos depicting this, and refused to acknowledge that the ‘ Israelis initially used paintball guns as “weapons”. (Writer’s note: Israel did not expect resistance because they thought the passengers were peaceful activists and therefore were ill prepared for the vicious assault by the so-called “peace activists” on board).  
Seyhun said he a very optimistic view on the future for the Middle East and Israel. He is supportive of a two-state solution and his vision includes a democratic, peaceful Israel sharing safe and secure borders with a democratic, peaceful Palestine; two nations “living side by side benefiting from and cooperating with each other”. He sees Israel as a beacon of science, technology, innovation and research.

“This is great, but Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbours and they need friendly neighbours…[peace is] possible with a little bit of compromise from both sides,” he said. 
When questioned about Egypt, and what would happen if the Moslem Brotherhood takes control,  Seyhun’s response was that a spokesperson of the Moslem Brotherhood  he saw on television said they would honour the peace treaty with Israel (Writer's note: Of course, other spokemen for The Moslem Brotherhood have said the opposite]. Seyhun said that he is of the view that and that no one, including the Moslem Brotherhood, " can afford" to sustain hostility."

The economy and economic cooperation along with democracy are very important values, Seyhun said.

“Abu Mazen is corrupt, Hamas is very radical, although elected, and they will change, so I believe change will occur”,  he said. 

Seyhun also sees Gaza as becoming democratic (through uprising) in the near future.

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