Natalie Martin

Oliver Quie

On Wednesday 6th May IR Soc hosted Natalie Martin in a joint event with the University of Oxford European Affairs society. Having worked as a broadcast journalist for the BBC for just under a decade, she is now a Politics and International Relations Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. Her talk was titled “The President, the preacher and the Turkey - EU accession process.” The event landed on the eve of the UK general elections and but a few months before the Turkish population head to the polling stations, thus her presence in Oxford could not be more significant.

For those unfamiliar with the political climate of modern Turkey, Natalie provided a neat synopsis of the country bounding leaps towards illiberalism and away from a society compatible with the founding principles of the EU. This change, she argued, is propelled by the present AKP leader and President of Turkey; Tayyip Erdoğan.

Both Erdoğan’s undemocratic clamp down on dissent and the EU’s failure to address it are not secrets to the international community. However, the nuanced insight that the talk really offered was the analysis of the interplay between the AKP’s political shift and the Sufi cult figure Muhammed Fethullah Gülen.


The President, Daniel Bayliss, with Natalie Martin

The President, Daniel Bayliss, with Natalie Martin

As the world focusses on the misogyny and conservatism of Erdoğan, she portrayed how the spread of Gülen brand schools around Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and even Western Europe is subtly building the preacher’s influence and power globally. She brought into question whether Erdoğan’s popularity could hold firm against a religious and political revolution sparked by what is now commonly known as the Gülen movement.

Regardless, while the international community grapples with the rise of IS, the talk underlined how this crisis is emphatically irresolvable without healthy dialogue between Turkey and the EU. Part of forming this dialogue, she showed, demands asking: is Turkey European?

The President of OU European Affairs Society with Natalie Martin and Daniel Bayliss (President)

The President of OU European Affairs Society with Natalie Martin and Daniel Bayliss (President)




Andrew Harding

Natan Bram

On Wednesday of first week, Hilary Term 2015, IR Soc welcomed BBC Africa Correspondent Andrew Harding to Exeter College. With over 20 years experience as a foreign correspondent he spoke about some incredible experiences he has had reporting on some of the most important events of the last two decades.  From driving through war torn Chechnya in the late 1990s to meeting a woman who’d escaped after being kidnapped and forced into marriage by al Shabab in Somalia to interviewing President Robert Mugabe, Harding had some fascinating experiences as part of his rich career. However the heart of his talk and the discussion afterwards was about the job of being a foreign correspondent more broadly. 

His message was that foreign correspondents face a host of challenges but that their role remains highly important.  A foreign correspondent must escape from behind the laptop in their office and avoid the bubble of foreign journalists and instead try to meet ordinary people. If they can overcome these challenges he argues then they can be very worthwhile.

Unlike a London based journalist who flies into a country when a crisis breaks out, foreign correspondents have local knowledge and extensive contacts on the ground. Harding praised local journalists and individuals reporting on events on social media. However he argued that foreign correspondents can still be helpful in providing an outside, broad perspective on an issue and backed up by the resources of organisations like the BBC or al Jazeera, have the wherewithal to go places like Somalia and Syria where ensuring your own security is costly.

Harding admitted that the era of the 5 minute correspondent’s report on the 10 o’clock news may soon come to an end but whatever becomes of the foreign correspondent he provided us with a fascinating insight into the profession.