OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT: The Monitor's Ilene Prusher went to Kayseri, Turkey, to interview Abdullah Gul, the man tipped to be Turkey's next prime minister (page 1). "I could have interviewed him in Ankara or Istanbul, but traveling to his hometown provided much better access and insights," she says.
"We got to see him on his home turf and were able to talk to people who grew up with him," she says. Also, since Kayseri is about a four-hour drive from Ankara, the capital, there were no other journalists there but local ones. That meant less competition for his time.
"I think the local journalists were surprised that a foreign news organization would bother to come to Kayseri, since many national news organizations weren't around there much. People were very welcoming," says Ilene.
At one point, Ilene asked her interpreter to stay close to Mr. Gul as he campaigned on the street, so she could eavesdrop on what shopkeepers were saying to him. "She told me later that she was surprised to see him stop into a bar where men were sitting around drinking alcohol in the early afternoon. When Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of AK Party, was mayor of Istanbul he barred any place on government property from selling alcohol due to Islamic religious prohibitions against alcohol and it was controversial at the time.
"As he approached the bar, everyone looked at Gul as if they didn't expect him to go in, but he did, anyway. The people inside looked uncomfortable, my assistant said, and it was a little dark inside so it was sort of awkward to have him there. But it seems likely that it is part of his campaign to show he is open-minded and tolerant. He also shakes women's hands, and some Islamist politicians do not."
David Clark Scott