KRVS

Peter Kenyon

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

Turkish voters will decide Sunday whether to replace the Turkish Republic's parliamentary form of government with a strong presidency. It's a vote that could alter — or, opponents say, endanger — the democratic traditions of this key U.S. ally. Turkey is a NATO member helping fight ISIS.

If the referendum passes, it will increase the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Polls released late in the campaign showed a narrow lead for "yes," with a large number still declaring themselves undecided. Erdogan is predicting at least a 55 percent margin for "yes."

A late March snow descends on a modest farmhouse in central Anatolia. An oil stove hisses away inside, as afternoon gives way to twilight.

A heavyset man with a thick black mustache adjusts his cap, takes a deep breath and fills the room with a piercing, impassioned cry. The small audience settles back for an evening of traditional dengbej singing.

For centuries, dengbej songs served as a combination news bulletin, history lesson and evening's entertainment. Master singers built up large repertoires of songs — and could recite the historical events they describe.

During his first trip to Turkey as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson said the U.S. and its NATO ally were struggling with "difficult choices" on a strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

The U.S. has been trying to balance its reliance on Turkey in the fight against ISIS with its support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria — which infuriates Turkey. Tillerson said he and Turkish leaders discussed options for how to clear the extremist group from its remaining strongholds, such as Raqqa, and stabilize those areas.

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