First they killed him, then they went after his good name. In a statement posted on the Internet the day after the Istanbul blasts, a group claiming responsibility singled out British consul general Roger Short, 58, who died in the attack. The career diplomat was targeted, said the Abu Hafz al-Masri Brigades, because of his "experience in combating Islam and because he is considered the mastermind of British policy in the region." Whatever the truth of that claim of responsibility and U.S. officials doubt even the group's existence to the many Turks who knew him well, the depiction of Short as an enemy of Islam was a calumnious lie.
"Turkey has lost a great friend," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Short's widow, Victoria, the day after her husband's murder. Friends and colleagues that Short had come to know in the 34 years since he began his career in Turkey echoed those sentiments. He was not the British policy mastermind for the region, of course, just a Briton who fell in love with the place. His affection for Turkey took root during his first posting as a junior diplomat in Ankara. He became fluent in Turkish by lodging with a local family and impressed native speakers with his mastery of local idioms. Ihsan Gurel, a waiter at a café opposite the consulate, recalls Short greeting him each morning with "Ne var, ne yok?" ("What's up?"). Easygoing and gregarious, with a fondness for fine cigars, Short was equally at ease in the upper reaches of British public life. Two nights before he died he hosted Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. "It was one of the best parties of my life," he told Ian Sherwood, chaplain of Istanbul's English Church, the next day. Short took up the consular post in 2001 after serving as U.K. ambassador to Bulgaria and in the office of the High Represent- ative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was his third tour of duty in Turkey and would have been his last assignment before retirement next year. But Short's ties to the country and its people were so strong that he hoped to find a teaching job; he and Victoria had been flat hunting in Istanbul.
An enthusiastic advocate of Turkey's bid to join the E.U., Short viewed the trade relationship between Turkey and Britain as a key to the country's E.U. ambitions. He had become increasingly troubled by what he characterized, in a recent interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, as a failure of the governing party to break with its "Islamist past" and combat extremism. Short was no enemy of Islam, but he was acutely aware of the potential dangers Turkey faced from Islamic radicalism. Apparently, though, he did not take those dangers personally enough. Short and other top consular staff were working out of temporary offices near the perimeter of the official compound last week while the main building inside the grounds was under- going restoration. He and his assistant, Lisa Hallworth, 38, were killed instantly when the truck laden with explosives detonated near the gates. Short's death, along with the killing and maiming of dozens of other Britons and Turks, was a brutal validation of his fears for the country he had grown to love.