On 7 September 2016 the Turkish cabinet decided to observe Daylight Savings Time (DST) year round, and the clocks will not be turning back on 30 October. I will let the Hurriyet Daily News explain:
Before this newly introduced practice, Turkey was acting in accordance with European countries regarding the practice’s [Daylight Savings Time] beginning and ending dates. The decision means that Turkey will be three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter as well as summer and two hours ahead of continental Europe in winter.
Personally, I have no qualms with this issue since I believe that the United States should follow this practice as well. After all, the days after the time change—in both Autumn and Spring—are often deadly. Time Magazine notes that DST can be dangerous. Time quotes Steve Calandrillo, a University of Washington Law Professor who studies DST polices:
More people are active during the evening, including kids, and the additional sunlight that DST provides helps provide drivers with the visibility necessary to see pedestrians. “At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” he [Mr. Calandrillo] said. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”
Time adds that:
Adding an hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually, according to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The lives of nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.
Others note that “the Monday following the start of daylight saving time (DST) is a particularly bad one for heart attacks, traffic accidents, workplace injuries and accidental deaths.” In fact, there is a twenty-five percent increase in heart attacks on the Monday after DST starts compared to a normal Monday, while
a researcher from the University of British Columbia who analyzed three years of data on U.S. fatalities reported that accidental deaths of any kind are more likely in the days following a spring forward. Their 1996 analysis showed a 6.5 percent increase, which meant that about 200 more accidental deaths occurred immediately after the start of DST than would typically occur in a given period of the same length.
According to data presented in one article in the Los Angeles Times, staying on DST year-round would mean “195 fewer drivers and passengers and 171 fewer pedestrians would die each year.” Indeed, a New York City news station says “A study analyzing a decade’s worth of data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System showed a 17-percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after clocks spring forward”. This is certainly food for thought.
Meanwhile in Turkey (and the ethnically divided island of Cyprus) there have been negative reactions to the decision, which I also understand. Commentator Ismet Berkan notes that (and I must admit he has a point): “In Istanbul, in winter months, the sun will rise around 7:30 a.m. Besides the unpleasantness of waking up in the dark, we may even leave the house in the dark.” No one likes getting up in the dark—after all, it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the unpleasantness of joining the rat race—and this is something I can sympathize with. Another issue, that Zulfikar Dogan makes clear in his column for Al-Monitor, is that the decision to make DST permanent might be influenced by a desire to become closer to the Arab states:
Opponents claim there are religious motives behind the decision. Turkey will now be in the same time zone with Saudi Arabia and most Middle Eastern and Islamic countries. Theologians have been constantly bickering over prayer times, Ramadan hours, and the beginning and end of Eid holidays. With the new arrangement, prayer times will be the same as in Mecca and Medina. There were also objections that the real intention of the change is to distance Turkey from Europe. Some critics even said Turkey’s switch to Saudi time might well be a prelude to changing Turkey’s weekend to Fridays instead of Sundays.
Aside from the economic concerns—being on the same time as Europe helps businesses, after all—Mr. Dogan brings up another interesting point: the cultural dimension of sports may be one segment of society that will be most affected:
The decree will really shake up sports schedules. The European football body UEFA starts Champions’ League games at 9:45 p.m. and European League [UEFA Europa League] games at 8 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. With the new hours, Turkish teams will be starting their games at 10:45 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. local time. Games will end at midnight or in the early hours of the next morning. In major cities such as Ankara and Istanbul, fans won’t be able to return home before 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.
The fact that Turkey’s membership in UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) is in itself rooted in geopolitics (like Israel’s membership in UEFA) makes this development especially interesting. In order to tie Turkey to the West during the Cold War, the country was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on 18 February 1952 and, two years later, it became a member of UEFA after the football governing body was formed in 1954. As is the case with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), another intergovernmental organization, many of the republics of the former Soviet Union joined UEFA immediately after the demise of the USSR. These kinds of international bodies—whether focused on military power (like NATO), or soft power (like UEFA)—help to form the definition of a country and “where it stands”, so to speak, culturally. Is it European, a member of the West? Or is it, instead, an “eastern” and culturally “othered” state? The decision to change Turkey’s time, in many ways, affects this relationship with Europe in the realm of “soft power”.
Whether Turkey’s decision to stay on DST year-round was rooted in science or politics, it is important to realize the role of culture in relation to politics. Since the UEFA Champions League represents an important part of Turkey’s relationship to Europe—allowing Turkish football teams (and by extension, Turkish society) a chance to compete with Europe—distancing the country from the competition may well serve political motives. We shall see what happens in time (pardon the pun), but the important thing to recognize is that culture—and sport is a big part of culture—can often be used as political tool, and the modern nation state is not oblivious to it.